December 23, 2007

Catherine McNeil, Christmas and the Dip at Beverly and Crescent Heights...

Today I tore a spread out of Vogue, immediately struck…this photo, the love child of two of the great crushes of my life. I’ve had…four actual ones. Something in the expression, I tell you. Half…okay, yes, Natalie Portman again, though she’s not actual. The other half is someone from side actual, someone who gave me her lips once and never again, someone I never quite figured out…

It’s Christmas Eve and I’m spending it in Los Angeles. Last year, on the beaches of Camps Bay, way down in the SA (sorry, writing a musical), all I could think of was getting back to the cold and snow and country of states united. This year, all I can think of is Christmas Story marathon, alone with nostalgic glory in my apartment on Kings Road. Things change. Themes remain the same.

Because I’m so predictable, I can tell you something. Christmas night, finding myself suddenly over a mid-day drunk, I’ll stand on my back balcony, look to the sky, wait for an impossible snowfall to come, hope for visible breath, a chill before losing balance of mind…which will drive me to head out, likely first to Mulholland then later the dip. The dip happens not far from where I live, just as you pass the light on the north side of the intersection. There’s a big yellow sign just off to the side, “DIP.” Though, I doubt with sincerity this offers relief to any drivers green to the intersection of Beverly and Crescent Heights.

Most of the time, late at night, I begin my northern creep between Beverly and 3rd street, waiting for the light to change from red to green. Sometimes, when traffic allows, I’ll sit idle in the middle of the street, waiting. I wonder what the locals think of me. I wonder if I’m lore…sometimes think about how much I yearn to be.

When the light does finally change, I go. The first time I hit the dip, accidentally going 20-25, I shot into the air, remember thinking something to myself, something along the lines of “Fucking LA.” Then later, “Fucking awesome LA.”

Over time, I worked my way into the 30’s…later to the 40’s…last week flirting into the 50’s. And yeah, life permitting, I think I enjoy it...among other things.

"I’m finished."

December 06, 2007

Mostly Juno...

So I get home from Juno and go to the I-Tunes store, immediately pick up Mott The Hoople’s “All The Young Dudes,” so I can set it on repeat to try and replicate the feelings I constantly fear losing, to recall my initial intentions of landing on this island that’s actually nothing like an island and makes me wonder from time to time what the fuck I’m going on and on and on about…

Oh, Juno. Brilliant. It will be for some time to come…hopefully forever.

Because above other things, this movie has a scene, a moment where I forgot where I was, and this flooding dodged its way through my ribs and into my stomach. Like juices of euphoria…like I had just fallen in love, a love I would never again fall from and all I could do was smile, let ‘em fall. I want to see it again, again and again, already so deeply missing that feeling.

After the show, I met my friend Allison, who was in the movie. She was fantastic, always fantastic. When Jason Bateman and Diablo Cody ( and Jason Reitman came by, I did this priceless thing I often do that’s part genius but honestly, mostly awkward, where I want to meet them and tell them that in that moment I want to be them but actually look for something like a flat screen TV and basketball game to distract me so that I don’t have to deal with the reality of being smaller than anyone, ever, in this life. Sad, isn’t it?

And drinking a round around a dark table of a dark bar somewhere on Pico, all I could think to myself, over and over…when will I make my Juno?

Today, I got notes back on a project from a man whose work in this town I seriously respect and possibly revere. The project is a feature I kicked out in an inspired 7 weeks. A couple months ago, when I was winning agency looks with a TV hook, I also managed to impress this aforementioned auteur with my keyboard moves. Things were happening. Things were moving. Then, the strike hit. I lost support from one agent who left the agencies behind, didn’t yet have a pilot ready to win another agent who dug my shit…still don’t. I think he’s waiting? I felt naked…still do. The town felt dead…still does. Fucking strike, man.

So I wrote this new spec. It’s ambitious. Ambitious…that’s a funny word. It’s a word often pinned on my face, somewhat unfortunately I think. But ambitious…it’s like commending a heroin addict for using home made needles, right? When I’ve failed, without exception, it’s because I’ve gone big…and call me blue or green or whatever, but I find comfort by seeing little shame in that.

I was recently out to Mozza for dinner, with a friend, and remember telling him of the man reading my script. My friend, a high ladder Hollywood vet, was seriously impressed. Though I remember being fairly deep into some fine Italian red, I remember saying something like…

“You know what I want…you know what I really want. I want him to read it and toss it back in my face. I want him to look at me and ask if I know who the fuck he is and who the fuck I thought I was giving this to him…an early draft of a new piece. I want him to rip it to pieces.”

What did he actually say? Well, let me preface that by something else, what he said to me in an e-mail dated October 1, 2007 about another piece, Billy Bambino:

“You’re a very talented writer – already. Very touching, funny, surprising. Good scene structure, great dialogue, well-drawn characters, even the minor ones. No doubt in my mind you’ll be making a living in this field before much time has passed.”

At our following meeting, he echoed the same sentiments. Note: I often precede severe blows by padding them in pillows of praise…self preservation at its finest.

So when he read the new piece…

“I loved the first number…from then on, I have lots of notes to give you. I think it’s really ambitious.” Then he told me kindly, well, basically what I asked for, drunk, perched atop the bar stool at Mozza.

So I went into Juno needing something…a cinematic hug out and so much more. And you know what, I got it. And I could have thanked those responsible outside the theater, but I didn’t, because of my personal style or behavioral retardation or something like it.

It’s after one on a Wednesday night, and still, after getting drilled today (not really, but it feels like it) I’m good. I’ll be good. On Monday, when we meet, I battle for my wild and brilliant and bashed piece of work to a brilliant and successful man...with open ears, start another roll from there.

I don't expect it to be my Juno. I’m not there yet. But when I have my Juno, I’ll know who to thank…and by then I just may.