Sunday, May 17, 2015

Title Change


So I wrote a play a while back that was very well received. So well, in fact, that a friend of mine wanted to film it as a short movie. I was thrilled, so I adapted it into a screenplay, we cast the actors together and we filmed it. After that, the friend more or less disappeared off the face of the earth for close to a year, along with the footage. I asked him several times how it was looking, if he needed any help editing, etc. I kept getting the same reply: "I got this. Don't worry about it." (This should have been a red flag). The actors in the film asked me numerous times if I knew anything. All I could tell them was that the director kept assuring me that he "got this." Four days ago, he sends out a rough cut of the footage to everyone on his email list (he didn't even send it to the cast and crew for review first, as is custom on short films like this). Some of the edits looked really good - which was exciting. But he changed the title. Which I didn't expect. And the change was not a positive one. He also made some editing choices which I felt interrupted the flow of the action. But most upsetting to me was the title change - mainly because we had numerous discussions about the script and he never once discussed a possible title change - and if he had, I would have fought him on it tooth and nail.
I sent him a very long email describing my concerns about the rough edit - both positive and negative comments, with most of my concerns revolving around the title change, since it violated our contract.
24 hours later, he has not replied to me at all, but he sends out a mass email to his email group:
"Thank you very much for your emails. Your kind words regarding the film are greatly appreciated. And yes, to the request I heard from many of you, you can provide a link to the film even though this is what those folks in the software industry call a “soft launch”.
Kind Regards,"
My response to this email:
"I have to be honest, ____. You never once suggested that you might change the title. Not in any of our discussions, or even in the contract does it suggest that you were considering changing the title. I take it as a serious slap in the face that you would even think about changing the title without discussing it with me first.
I am angry and I feel betrayed. When you and I spent several hours discussing this project, I thought "Man this guy really gets it." I told my wife that I finally found a director I could trust. But I was wrong. I fully expect that if I ever sell a script for thousands of dollars to Hollywood, they'll have the right to change whatever they like. But I didn't sell this to you for a dime. I gave it to you freely because I believed in you and I thought you would bring my vision to life. But I'll never make that mistake again.
At this point, I'm so disgusted I don't even want my name associated with this project. Please remove it. Thank you."
His reply:
"I'm sorry you're taking this so hard. I never imagined this would be your reaction to the title change. To take your name off would be dishonest."
My reply:
"Why did you change the title? And why did you never think to discuss it with me? I made zero dollars off of this. I gave you my script for free, out of respect and out of trust. Didn't you think that I might be a little bit upset by a major change of this nature? Why keep it such a secret from me? Did you not trust me? Did you not respect me? I feel absolutely betrayed. And the fact that you're sharing it publicly AFTER I shared my feelings about it tells me that you don't give a fuck how I feel. If you told me in advance that you wanted to change the title, I would have refused. And I think you knew that. Which is why you waited until now to just surprise me with it. Well, color me fucking surprised, man. But even more than the title change is the lack of common courtesy to even tell me about it. That's the part that stings. You didn't buy this script from me. I GAVE it to you. And the only thing I asked in return was a little bit of respect. You fucking failed in that department, man. I'm angry. Really angry. It case it wasn't clear."
His reply:
"Let's revisit the reality of the financials, I funded the entire project. There's never been an expectation of earnings coming out of this, so I'm operating at a loss -- but I have no complaints."
My reply:
"Well I have a big complaint. Please remove my name from the project. Thank you."
Then I followed with:
"You can put "Alan Smithee" in there if you like. But I want nothing to do with it."
Then I followed with:
"Plus I offered to pay half. You turned me down every time I offered. So please don't act like you have some financial foothold over me. I'll be happy to reimburse any and all costs right now if it would sway you to change the title back. Just let me know."
24 Hours later, the video was still up on YouTube with my name on it, and he had not replied. So I sent him this:
"I have requested three times now that my name be removed from this project. My next "request" will be in the form of legal action. You have altered my script beyond recognition and beyond the scope of our agreement. Furthermore, you have treated our friendship and collaboration with utter disregard and contempt. I appreciate and encourage creative differences between collaborators; but lies, disrespect, and outright breaches of contract will not be tolerated. Remove my name or be prepared for an unpleasant legal battle. You have 24 hours to comply." Within 6 hours, the video was removed. I hate that it went down like this, and I'm still sick to my stomach over it, but at least I know he's reading my emails.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

NBC Universal Application

So I recently applied to do a workshop with NBC-Universal. It's a 4-day workshop with some of the head writers of "SNL", "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon", etc. One of the assignments was to write an opening monologue for a late night comedian, filled with topical jokes from contemporary news and media sources. This is what I came up with. (Keep in mind that I completed this a few weeks ago, and so some of these jokes are a few weeks old):

So, North Korea’s in the news again. Apparently, their internet was down for 9.5 hours the other day. That’s right. 9.5 hours. That’s actually how long it takes for Kim Jung Un to walk three blocks, so it really wasn’t that noticeable to him.

Meanwhile, President Obama said that it was a mistake for Sony Pictures not to show "The Interview" in national theatres on Christmas Day, since that would set a bad precedent for terrorist groups to strip away our freedom of speech. Almost immediately, the director of Kirk Cameron’s latest feature "Saving Christmas" said that it was a mistake for national theatres not to show his movie as well, since that would allow public consumers, and audiences, and fans of quality cinema to erode his freedom of speech as well. (Beat) We’ll see how that turns out.

In other media news, Kanye West recently teamed up with Sir Paul McCartney for their new single "Only One", which is ironic, considering McCartney’s previous collaborator John Lennon once claimed that he “was bigger than Yeezus.” (Beat) Which is… of course… the name of Kanye’s 6th album, "Yeezus".

In further Kanye West news, his wife Kim Kardashian, aka Keezus, recently tried to “break the internet” with a picture of a champagne glass on her butt. In response, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has blamed Ms. Kardashian for their 9.5 hour internet outage, and has threatened to shoot a nuclear missile warhead up her ass. In lesser news, he states that all champagne glasses are considered enemies of the people, and must be summarily shoved up Seth Rogan’s butt.

Speaking of Seth Rogan, marijuana is now legal in Alaska. There’s no joke there. It’s just a train of thought from one subject to the next. But yes, marijuana is now legal in the state that once elected Sarah Palin to its highest office. Could it be that they’re just trying to forget?

And speaking of forgetting, Sylvester Stallone just announced that he’s making a new "Rambo" movie. That’s right. He’s forgetting that nobody gives a sh-t. He’s also forgetting that he’s 70 and he needs his heart medication before he blows up some North Koreans – which is… presumably whom he’ll be fighting in this latest movie. In retaliation, of course, North Korea has threatened to kill Stallone, and… anyone who likes "The Expendables".

Recently, Play-Doh released a toy that looks like a penis. Sylvester Stallone said that this was ironic, because his penis is starting to look like Play-Doh. In fact, he says he has to leave it out of its container for a couple of days whenever he wants it to get hard again.

Meanwhile, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is developing a revolutionary product that will convert human feces into palatable drinking water. This is true. Of course, the purpose of this product is to purify the streams and rivers in third world countries that often have human waste dumped into them. It’s a terrible problem, and it makes absolute sense that someone would create this product. And the fact that it’s Bill Gates makes even more sense – since he’s been sh-tting all over us for years with products like Microsoft Windows 8 and Internet Explorer. So… yeah. Way to clean up the mess, Bill.

And speaking of messes, Bill Cosby has been accused by two more women of sexual assault – bringing the total now up to 23 women who have openly accused Bill Cosby of some kind of sexual wrongdoing. Of course, many detractors have been referring to some classic Cosby routines, such as the “Spanish Fly” bit on his 1969 album It’s True! It’s True! in which he refers to purchasing Spanish Fly in order to get women to sleep with him. (Play segment of the track) It’s pretty condemning stuff. However, another fan discovered more recently, an even more condemning bit. See for yourselves. (Roll tape of Fat Albert, with a clearly dubbed voice saying “Hey, hey, hey. I’m Fat Albert, and I can’t get laid unless I drug some b-tches.” Back to host) Hmm, yeah. So there’s a lot of ambiguity in this situation, folks. We’ll see what happens…

In medical news, ebola is still wildly out of control in many countries – due in large part to people drinking poo water. So… hopefully Bill Gates will get that product up and running very soon. But in the meantime, several Nigerian princes are reporting a new scam. It appears that white Americans are writing them and offering ebola vaccines in exchange for their Social Security information. So… Interpol is looking into the matter as we speak.

And finally, actor Steve Carrel is gaining a lot of attention for his role as a wealthy aristocrat in the new movie "Foxcatcher". Carrel donned a prosthetic nose, fake teeth, and a terrible haircut in order to capture the essence of Donald Trump. (Looks at paper) Oh, I’m sorry. I meant John Du Pont. Sorry. Easy mistake. Sorry.

But anyway, that’s the fake news. Good night, and have a pleasant tomorrow!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Mr. Burr

INTERVIEWER: Tell me a story from your childhood that would best personify your personality today.

ME: In seventh grade, I had a math teacher named Mr. Burr. He was an older, mostly bald white man who always carried a comb in his front pocket, and spoke with a thick New Yawk accent. When the students would fall asleep, he'd kick the metal garbage can and yell, "Wake up! Wake up! What the hell you doin' to me? I'm trying to teach heah!" (New Yawker for "here"). In the winter, he'd open up the windows and let in the snow, and again yell "Wake up! Wake up! You lazy sons-a-you-know-whats! What the hell you doin' to me? I'm tryin' to teach heah!" And then he'd bust out the comb and run it up his bald head like Arthur Fonzarelli. So one day, I wrote a comic strip about him.

I had the man dressed up as Batman (Burrman), and had him do battle with the evil garbage pails who wanted to take over the world, using their freeze rays. Of course, Mr. Burr was impervious to cold, and his weapon of choice was a swift old kick in the garbage "can", if you get my meaning. My classmates loved it so much, I wrote more. I eventually had Superburr, Luke Burrwalker, Burrassic Park. You name it. I mean, it was just endless. I was not a popular kid in seventh grade (I had buck-teeth, bad acne, overweight, you name it) but my classmates LOVED "The Burr Files" as they were eventually called. I wrote comic strip after comic strip, and they ate that shit up. The only math lesson I remember from that class was "PEMDAS" or "Parentheses, Exponents, Multiply, Divide, Add, Subtract" in that order. I remembered this because of his mnemonic "Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally" which he repeated over and over again. Eventually, Aunt Sally became a character in the comics - farting, belching, removing her clothing in inappropriate places, and Mr. Burr would always have to excuse her, even while trying to save the world.

I eventually branched out to parody other teachers, but Mr. Burr was always the easiest and ripest for parody. Towards the end of the year, in English class, I was asked to write a poem, and so I chose to write about Mr. Burr (I'll never forget this line: "Bash, bash! Now the garbage can's dented. / Whew, said he. Good thing it was rented!") The English teacher loved it so much that he showed it to all of the other teachers - including Mr. Burr. A day or two later, I was walking down the hallway, and a GROWN MAN grabs me by the shoulders and shoves me into an empty classroom. It was Mr. Burr. His face was pale as a ghost, and he goes, "What the hell you tryin' to do to me, kid?! The entire staff thinks I'm some kind of moron! Oh marone. You're ruining my life!" And I realized he wasn't kidding. The entire class of students (And apparently the faculty) thought my work was hilarious - but he didn't get the joke. Here I had nearly 100 comic strips all making fun of this man, and the butt of my joke did not appreciate it at all. And that's when I realized the human cost of parody.

I really don't like hurting people, but I love parody so much. I crave sarcasm and satire in my life, but I'm always mindful of that look in that man's eyes when he realized I was making fun of him. And had been doing so for months and months on end. I like to think I still write satire, but it's satire with a conscience now.