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Friday, October 31, 2008

A Day in My Life

Ah....Halloween. Day of masks and ruses. And candy. The day before the day before the carved pumpkin starts to collapse and smell weird. Five days before a historic election and two days before the time change. It's a time to reflect and to ....okay I think I've pretty much milked that dry.

So I spent yesterday finishing reading and covering a FANTASTIC novel for Seed Productions. The main character was unforgettable as he introduces himself as a thinking man, entrepreneur and murderer. I think I signed some kind of non-disclosure something or other a couple of years back when I started reading for them so I'm not supposed to talk about what properties they are looking at. But geez, it was amazing. The trick with covering a novel is that one has to then indicate, in the notes, whether this property might make a good movie. Difficult thing to assess, since the narrative in a novel is significantly more complex than a script, and buried deep and twisted around so much internal character stuff. So one has to pluck that narrative out like the thread of a sweater and ask if that narrative is: adaptable, original, interesting and accessible to a wide audience, castable and of course, one must muse upon the expense of the whole thing. I gave this one a big thumb's up but did note that it would be expensive due to exotic locations and this falls under the category of Important Movie (aka Oscar bait) rather than a Friday night blockbuster, necessarily. I hope Seed pursues the property and that if they don't, someone else does, because I'd go see this movie in a red hot Hollywood minute.

I also cleaned my desk yesterday - I actually work at a funky dining table which sits next to two huge, old fashioned windows (in my very old place). I found, at the bottom of the stacks, no less than six scripts from casual acquaintances (to be defined as: neighbors, people I meet at events, etc.). These are scripts that they want me to peruse quickly. No such thing as perusing quickly. I did eliminate about three very quickly by doing the read-3-pages-while-standing-up-with-coffee test. I hate when I say yes I will give a script a quick look when in fact I always have so much else to do. I wind up feeling guilty and the scripts gather dust. My paying clientele has to come first. At the end of a long day of reading other stuff and administrating my business (which in fact is really three businesses) the last thing I'm in the mood for is - another script. And really nice dude I met at the Fade In Pitch Fest - you know who you are - you had a great pitch and I said I'd look at the script and it passed the read-3-pages-while-standing-up-with-coffee test and I know I said oh no biggie when you mentioned your script wasn't bound - but it is a big, fat bummer - if you bring scripts to events, three-hole punch and put brads in it!!

I also deal with business stuff on a daily basis. Answering approximately oh, these days even with my assistant running interference, 20 to 25 emails a day. Sending my bio here and there, figuring out where The Script Department booth will be located at the CS Expo and how many volunteers will be a the booth when and getting all the materials ready for that. Putting together class descriptions for an event in June 09. Fielding requests to announce or publish stuff on the Rouge Wave. Following up on scripts I am getting read on behalf of my clients at agents and managers. Dealing with the various bank accounts associated with my business(es). Making calls about ad buys past and present. And about 9,000 other things which are too specific to be of even mild interest. But you don't care about that stuff. It just keeps me quite busy is all I'm sayin'.

Which is why my favorite thing to do is to sit down with a script and a cup of coffee and a pen and just read quietly. I'm not really making decisions or judgments in that moment; I just read and let the pages fly by and absorb what I'm reading. I stop and make small notes but I think it's best for the story if it just flows like a river while being read. I make the judgments and comments later, when I'm done and I shift into note-giving mode. I really feel it's a luxury to sit and read scripts versus juggle the other, more odious things I mentioned above. And thankfully, these days I don't have to read three scripts a day so I am relaxed when I read now and give each script my all. When I used to do only production company reading I got into Reader Mode which is go, go, go, go and one gets jaded, burned out and exhausted. As I have said on the Rouge Wave many a time - this is who is reading your scripts if you don't have me read it first, so just know that. No use beating that horse again, you all know how I feel about the wisdom of getting notes before you throw your script into the lion filled colosseum of bored, tired, cranky-ass readers.

And then there's my personal life. (Insert long, uncomfortable moment of realization here).

The lines between my business and my personal lives are so blurred they are almost indistinguishable. My friends are my colleagues. Dinner, drinks and get-togethers always turn to scripts, the business, this or that agent or manager. I stay up very, very late at night since that's when I can catch up on emails and make decisions about things in a more thoughtful way. Those of you who may have gotten an email time-stamped at 2am know this about me. I also don't ever schedule anything - NOTHING - before 10am because I'm not really, truly awake until then. On those rare, awful occasions when I do have to be somewhere before 10am you'll notice I am quite pallid and inarticulate.

I can't figure out why my TiVo isn't recording all of the shows it's supposed to. I'm excited to vote this Tuesday. I left the fridge open again last night and the porch light is too high for me to fix myself. There's laundry in the dryer and six scripts staring at me and three important phone calls I have to make today. It's Halloween and I'm dressed as me - thinker, writer, entrepreneur, decider, mother of two and mother to many, a lover of movies and a lover of writing. Happy Halloween.

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R.A. Porter said...

Unless those exotic locations are truly and inextricably linked to the story, they can probably be changed pretty much at will without causing any problems.

I loved the movie Angel Heart back in the day and tracked down the source novel. Same narrative, but whereas in the movie they had gone to New Orleans for all the voodoo priestess stuff, in the book it had all been in Central Park! The movie actually chose *more* exotic locations than the book had. But even if they had gone to the Gilligan's Island sound stage and filmed it, it would have been (almost) the same movie.

Julie Gray said...

Yes, R.A., I know of this technique of substituting one locale for another in order to cut down on expenses. Being that I do this type of work a lot. This exotic location is inextricable.

Seth Fortin said...

I kept waiting for the part where you figured out how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall....

R.A. Porter said...

Julie, sorry. I wasn't trying to imply you didn't know what you were doing. I just couldn't think of many narratives that are that location-dependent. And the Angel Heart change from cheaper to more expensive always struck me as a strange choice for the filmmakers to have made.

Obviously you've *read* the book and know whether it can be translated to cheaper locations better than I.

Anonymous said...

Hi Julie,

This article of yours is called "A Day In My Life". Odd.

But in that day do you write your scripts?

What kind of scripts do you write?

Just curious, you're so busy, where do you get time to write scripts.

Are you working on scripts right now or are you taking a break or just busy managing this great company of yours.


Julie Gray said...

@RA - no worries. I answered you in a slightly cranky way. I've just earned a living making these types of observations and judgments for some now so....

@Anonymous - I rarely get time to write these days. I write psychological thrillers and some comedy as well. I am at peace with the fact that my lot (or choice, or destiny, whichever) right now, as a small business owner, is to put 150% of my energy into my business. I pine for the day when I can back off of it a little bit and get back to writing. If I am doing everything right, that day will not be long in coming :)

E.C. Henry said...


I sent Seed Productions a query letter once about a script I'd written that I wanted to get permission to send to them for Hugh Jackman's consideration. Don't know if this is something you or Seed Productions is intersted in doing, but I would LOVE for their evaluator of material to at least give me a shot at seeing if this something they'd be interested in doing.

The script I've written is "Cowboy Alien Diaries." The role for Hugh's consideration is Dan Bennett. Dan is the son of a pastor who relocates his family from Independence, Missouri to the Colorado frontier in effort to give his wife, Margret, a fresh start. This story takes place in the 1850s. It is a supernatural western thriller with a love story at its core. Originally I envisioned Dan and Margret played by Bruce Willis and Niccole Kidman, or a Hugh Jackman/Naomi Watts pairing. Do I have the goods which warrant such a pairing? Hope to get a nod in your direction to use your services to evaluate this material for Seed Productions consideration.

Is this something you and Seed Production would be interested in?

- E.C. Henry from Bonney Lake, WA

Julie Gray said...

Hey EC - I can't speak for Seed Productions; I read what they ask me to read and only occasionally do I recommend them a piece of material that comes my way. Hugh often gets period cowboy stuff so right away that probably knocks your story out of contention. The supernatural element finishes the job, full stop. I feel pretty certain about that. In addition, and this is really consideration number ONE: Seed does not read unsolicited and unrepped work. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, EC. Keep up the hard work :)

Luzid said...

That's a hard day's work already - and then you have to deal with people who *still* don't get that this blog isn't a place to pimp their unsolicited material?

I could never do your job. I don't have nearly the patience you do (or the kindness - after the second time someone asked for an unearned favor, I'd blow my stack).

E.C. Henry said...


Closed door. Okay, I get it. Thanks for the reply. I just hope you cue me when I have an open door...

- E.C. Henry from Bonney Lake, WA

just me said...

When I spent some time as a reader, I would really enjoy reading the scripts (even the bad ones) but writing the summaries always killed me.

Like...sucked out my soul.

Don't know why.

Luzid said...

"The supernatural element finishes the job, full stop."

Julie, could you expand on this? I'm curious why, in general, this would be an enthusiasm-killer. Is it that too many bad screenplays have failed to synthesize genres together?

Julie Gray said...

@Luzid - because I know what Jackman is working on, ergo looking for.

@EC - sorry honey bun; you gotta use the proper channels for these types of things.