In spite of the resurgence of the pandemic, which is both a national tragedy and a national disgrace, the creative wheels continue to turn and this week has already brought an few unexpected doses of good news.
As the image above tips off, all three of the scripts I submitted to this year’s Final Draft screenwriting competition have made it through to the Quarter-finals. Two features and a sitcom pilot. This means that for 2020, I went eight-for-eight with my script submissions. ALL of them placed somewhere in every competition I entered. As I tell writers all the time, even established writers much more successful than I am, the legit contests are one of the very very few places you can get a real evaluation of your scripts at a low cost. Let’s face it, your friends are going to be too nice, and those “script reading” services can cost hundreds of dollars. But a $25-$40 “entry fee” is a small investment in a script you believe in and think might be “good enough” to put out into the world. True, great, sellable scripts get rejected by contests all the time, but if you submit a script to 3 or 4 competitions, if it really is as great as you think it is, it is going to eventually ‘pop’ in competition.
Now the anticipation builds while I wait for them to announce the Semi-finalists. lol.
I received an email yesterday from an editor at the Los Angeles Times. They are putting together a book of “Greatest Hits” from their LA Affairs column and they want to include my 2012 submission in the collection. That, plain and simple, is pretty thrilling.
Good news of any sort has been in short supply this year – for me, for everyone I know, and probably for you too. So I am both thrilled and grateful for these bits of blue sky.
Stay Strong & Stay Safe Everyone.
A small but influential “Blackbox” theater in Hollywood closed its doors tonight for good. This isn’t an unusual happening here in Los Angeles, in fact, small theaters “go permanently dark” with alarming regularity. …but this time it was different. This time it was my theater.
By “mine” I don’t mean I had any financial stake in the place, I didn’t pay the bills. I just showed up there. A lot. For nearly 15 years. I had done some improv classes before, both in Boston and when I first got to LA. I had also done a tiny bit of stand-up in Boston, but not much. After a couple rounds of improv classes at some of the better-known LA improv venues, I audited a class at bang. that was being taught by the founder & creative director, Aliza Murrieta. Within ten minutes I knew that I had found the place I needed to find. I started as a student and went though the program & graduation like most people would but then — I didn’t leave. I stuck around for years of “Master Classes,” weaseled my way into more shows than I could possibly list here, became a teacher and even, for a little while, an actual “Board Member.”
Bang was special because they wanted “alumni” to keep contributing. No idea was too outlandish to pitch to Aliza. A 36-hour improv marathon? Sure! ….oh, you’ve never done more than 10 minutes of stand-up but you want to do a one-hour one-man show? We’ll give you a Saturday night slot! I couldn’t have asked for a better, safer place to really figure my shit out, to “fail epically” a million times and still feel welcome back on the stage to do battle again. As I said, I couldn’t possibly name all the shows I was a part of, or all of the great people I performed with… There is just too much to remember.
As often happens when humans congregate regularly, bang. became more than just a theater for many of us. I agree that the whole “family” thing is a cliche’ but one thing you do need in a big anonymous city like LA is a central place for your creative self that also gives you some real human connections. A “home field” kind of place. So bang. wasn’t just about the shows & the comedy. Some of the longest-enduring friendships of my life were started there. We’ve attended weddings, and funerals together. Nearly every paying job I’ve had in the past decade has come from a bang. connection. Heck, I even (accidentally) made my first, and I’m pretty sure only, real “enemy” there… a painful, but very useful lesson. What I’m saying is, okay, I’ll avoid the word “family,” but I’m going to have to go ahead with the word “community,” because that is what it was, a very family-like community. There is just one problem with being the “best-kept comedy secret” in Los Angeles…. No one knows you exist.
Tonight’s last show was, fittingly, a Student Group Graduation night followed by an alumni jam. Nothing fancy, just bang doing what it always did: Improv for Improv’s sake. I’ll miss it. It would be lying to say otherwise, but I also know that it would be doing all of my improv training a disservice if I didn’t keep looking forward and saying “yes, and…” to whatever is going to come next. …because something always comes next.
…at 8:00pm on Thursday September 10th I’ll be reading one of my punk rock stories at the monthly “Sit and Spin” show at the Comedy Central Stage at the Hudson Theater. This is a FREE show people… In this troubled economy you can’t do better than that – a bunch of funny folks reading some great comedy for FREE… but you HAVE to call ahead and RESERVE a ticket. Click HERE for full directions, details & phone numbers.