Friday, April 28, 2006

From the Mailbag

The best letter of 2006 to date, from a loyal reader...

Hey, John! While I was doing some sort of drudgery at work, I came up with a great idea. My idea involves you writing and directing the low budget movie of your dreams and somehow you cast me in a role and the film becomes a big smash! Critics and the public embrace it and you are the newest form of hottness! Soon you make more movies while my role generates some mild, cult-like buzz that gets me cast in other independent movies. Soon I'm asked to do some voiceover work for a pilot on Adult Swim. The pilot doesn't get picked up, but one of the suits likes my stuff and I do guest shots on other shows. Soon I land the fourth banana part on a substandard sitcom (ala According to Jim or Yes, Dear) that nobody really watches, but it surprisingly lasts four years. Of course, I invest my sitcom money wisely and I'm rich! Not Bill Gates rich, but Estelle Getty rich! And when people ask who do I owe it all to, I would choke up a bit and say "John Oak Dalton!". Then I had to go to lunch.

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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

50 Cent Reading List

The other day I mentioned small pleasures in life. Today our local library was having a book sale. Scrounging all the coins in my car seats and my desk at work I had five dollars even. And here is what I found for that:

John O'Hara, Appointment in Samarra

Irish Murdoch, A Severed Head

Carson McCullers, The Member of the Wedding

Raymond Carver, Short Cuts

Joseph Gangemi, Inamorata

Umberto Eco, Baudolino

Richard Russo, Empire Falls

Walker Percy, The Second Coming

Willa Cather, My Mortal Enemy

Flannery O'Connor, The Complete Stories

It is a cold and rainy spring night, but I can see warm summer nights of reading ahead. Some days that is enough.

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Monday, April 24, 2006

Bigfoot Sightings

I know this goes against my loyal readers' view of me as a rugged Hemingwayesque scriptwriter, but sometimes when my wife is out of town I have trouble sleeping at night. As it was Saturday night at 1 a.m., and I was surfing the channels. There was some sort of paintball competition and a minor league arena football game out of Fort Wayne and a great wave of informercials.

Then I came across the opening minutes of a bigfoot movie on Sci-Fi Channel with Lance Hendrickson. I settled down to analyze it next to my own bigfoot movie, which has a special place in my heart because although it was not my first sale it was the first to the shelf. I rather dispassionately tried to analyze this new bigfoot movie's rickety plug-and-play construction and mapped out the beats.

I am allowed to do this while I am alone, but not in the company of my family, who get angry when I set the entire course of events in front of them and, like a b-movie Nostradamus, they come true one by one. Most recently my teenaged daughter flew into a rage when I singled out the killer in "Cry Wolf" in the very first shot she appeared in in the movie.

At any rate, I watched it unfold until "Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex" came on, which I enjoy but I promptly fell asleep watching. I think my mind was at ease, because I could tell myself that my bigfoot movie was better, with or without Lance Henrickson. The world is full of small consolations. My bigfoot movie was better, so I slept like a lamb.

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Saturday, April 22, 2006

The Roof is on Fire

I've always thought Micro-Film Magazine was pretty cool. Now I think it's even cooler.

Now, from the mailbag, and frequent reader Jason:

Do people make any money with these movies? Or are they about in the same boat as microcinema film makers, as in they do it more as a hobby and hope to either break even or just have people watch their stuff?I guess I need to become more involved in the scene, because at this point I am interested as hell in finding out how the biz works, but have no idea who to talk to. There are very few people that I know that ‘work’ it like a business. Most of them just have it as a very expensive and oft stressful hobby.

Jason, there are a lot of ways to approach this question. Of course people would like to make money. Cash money is good, though a good sandwich and some bikini photos of a b-movie starlet or two ain't bad either. Sometimes trade-outs can work to your advantage, trading your services in exchange for "future considerations" (as they say in baseball) on a project you might want to do; then everybody benefits from getting experience and gets projects out there.

There are enough distribution horror stories told by directors and director horror stories told by writers and writer horror stories told by everybody else to indicate that it can be hard for everybody to get a nice slice of the pie, if indeed there is ever any pie to slice up. When you look at how many failed projects are out there I think you have to acknowledge that regardless of how much money you made at some point it is important to have something that exists, and to perhaps use it to leverage into something else that you can do better with.

I believe that in the last five years I have worked on about a dozen screenplays that were in various stages of development and production, in Variety and the Hollywood Reporter and on and on, and today five of them exist where you can actually see them; and most would recognize that that's a pretty good batting percentage.

I have a day job, so I can't speak to how to make it a fulltime job exactly, and it seems like a lot of people I know doing it have other jobs on the side, writers who either own property or teach and directors who do corporate work and actors who work at Old Navy and so on. You do have to treat it like a business and not a hobby as hobbyists do not move forward in the business, professionals do. And no matter how big or small your project you should conduct yourself as a professional; there is no such thing as "just" a little b-movie or a "quickie" movie. Everything takes time and effort and work, even "quickies," and if you are going to be involved in them you should try to do the best you can and make them worth your time. If you try to phone it in, fans will smell it. I think it helps if you promise yourself that you will always do work that you're proud of; no matter how the final project turns out.

I wish you luck! If it's your dream, as it has been mine, all you can do is keep moving forward and hoping for the best, and waiting for that lightning strike.

The mailbox remains open at

Monday, April 17, 2006

The O Face

The "Arrow in the Head" website reviews Christopher Sharpe's SEX MACHINE here, and draws comparisons to oral sex. Even I didn't enjoy the movie that much, guys. Thanks to my pal Trent at the comic book shop who first tipped me off to this link.

Two students with not a lot of good ideas for interview topics asked to videotape me for a class project. One of the first things they asked me was what some of my favorite bad movies were. Bad movies? Is that what Scorsese and Spielberg and all those guys get asked right off the jump? I wonder. So I told them the truth--"Triumph of the Will" is the worst movie ever made, as it shows how powerful the medium is as an instrument of evil. I think they wanted to hear "Plan 9." Oh well, there are no such things as easy A's with me.

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Friday, April 14, 2006

What's The Buzz?

We had our usual Easter tradition of watching "Jesus Christ Superstar" during the season and more and more I realize what a cool movie it is. There is no greater avatar of 70s badass cinema than seeing Carl Anderson's Judas coming down on that crane in his white jumpsuit with the fringe sleeves. Even though he runs kinda funny, I think he would still put a beat-down on Samuel Jackson's Julius from "Pulp Fiction." Though Julius would be like, "Thirty pieces of silver? I don't even roll out for less than fifty."

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Friday, April 07, 2006

Mo' Reviews

Reviews are coming in for SEX MACHINE; here are some links, courtesy Christopher Sharpe:

Creature Corner seemed to like it.

The review at Mondo Schlocko included what will probably be my epitaph: Dalton is better known whether good or bad to many as being a screenwriter for the Polonia Brothers.

And SEX MACHINE will be making its festival debut at the DeadCenter Film Festival in Oklahoma in June.

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Monday, April 03, 2006

DST Plus One

Today I surfed the a.m. radio in the car on the way home to catch baseball's opening day. Bush threw out the first pitch at the Reds game but didn't hit any WMDs. Nonetheless the Cubs dropped a bomb on the Reds as expected. I welcome baseball season because I've always enjoyed writing while having a baseball game on the TV or radio (and players names end up creeping into my scripts, like Galaragga and Sheets and Klesko and so on). There's something peaceful about the rythyms of baseball that eases my mind for writing.

I had taped the first few episodes of the Doctor Who relaunch currently playing on Sci Fi, and finally caught up with them, and now have this to report: it is fun and cool, almost a distillation of everything that was ever good in it, perhaps strangely enough as good as you remember it being before you watch them again and realize that spaceship was really a soap dispenser on a piece of string. No wonder it's been a big hit in England all over again. Definitely worth looking for.

Overheard at a diner on Saturday: "How can somebody tell us it's three o'clock when we all know it's two o'clock?"

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