Saturday, June 13, 2009


Sometimes I miss blogging.

When I miss it most is when I need to write something else on deadline, like my column for SIGHT & SOUND, and I realize halfway through the first paragraph (or sentence!) that my journalistic/criticism muscle has gone flabby from underuse. If this blog was ever good for anything other than entertaining you, it was for keeping this muscle in shape, and I'd like to get it back.

In case you're wondering what I've been doing... At the end of January, my path fortuitously recrossed with that of Diane Pfister, an old friend from my high school art class, after a gap of 35 years. Diane is a successful fine artist who lived and taught in London for twenty-five years before relocating with her husband and daughter to Connecticut two years ago. (You can visit her website and see some of her paintings here.) She and I began an enthusiastic correspondence, sharing ideas and comparing notes on life and art. One month into our letter-writing, Diane surprised me by admitting that she'd had experience in London in the late 1980s as an assistant director on various features and television series (including Jim Henson's THE STORYTELLER), during which time she had also written a screenplay. Naturally, I asked to read it. THE WEIGHT OF SALT AND SOUL, as it's called, turned out to be a rough diamond; its presentation was raw and it was actually unfinished, but its rich cast of characters and profound story -- an historical fish-out-of-water saga about a lone Native American and the well-meaning people who come to his aid -- were so impressive that I proposed helping her develop it into something saleable.

It was two days after receiving her script, on February 26, that I wrote the eight-line poem "845" that signalled my adieu to this blog. I knew I was getting involved in a big project, and that it has been.

Since March, Diane and I have developed her original 95-page acorn into a 190+ page oak that has since been pruned down to 175 pages, though it still lingers perhaps 10-15 pages shy of completion. We will be keeping the longest draft on file as insurance in case a cable miniseries should become its ultimate port, but we would prefer it to become a feature, which may mean losing as many as 50 of its pages. I'm not altogether sure it can be done. SALT AND SOUL is full of life and magic and incident and is easily the most commercial project I've ever been part of. While its drama and comic elements have broad mainstream appeal, it also has magic realist aspects and also some macabre touches. So, for most of this year, my mind has been more or less completely absorbed by this story and our process. I expect to finish the first draft within the coming week; then begins the work of getting feedback on what we've done, determining what if anything else remains to be do, and trying to place it.

Work on this project overtook my ongoing work on the ME AND THE ORGONE script, which is halfway finished though a complete treatment exists and won the approval of the book's original author, Orson Bean, and some other readers. Once I finish with SALT AND SOUL, I will most likely go back and try to finish ORGONE quickly. In the meantime, Diane and I also have another project we are discussing, a story that would initially take shape as a book (fiction or non-fiction, we're not sure; perhaps a combination of both) but eventually become another screenplay. We will see.

So my screenwriting muscle is in pretty good shape these days, but other material needs to be written each month if our bills are going to get paid, so I need to focus on getting my other muscle back as best I can. That muscle is in a different area of my head, and there are days when I miss that old plug-me-in-and-let-'er-rip efficiency.

So it's possible you may be seeing more activity here in times ahead. I still don't want to go back to the article-length entries I used to post here, but surely there's another, more reasonable way to go about this.

In case you are wondering, yes, VIDEO WATCHDOG #150 is running late -- more than a month behind schedule, unfortunately. All of the material is finished, in place, and illustrated, but Donna wants this special issue to include some special sale offers and is working on some new ads. It will be our June-August issue, and I will drop a note here when it is finally sent to our printer. Thank you for your patience, and please spread the word.

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