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Wednesday, December 29, 2004

The Die Is Cast, Maybe

Thanks to a few bits of good fortune, I am probably going to form my production company, The Beefstake Mine Company, some time in the next month. I need to consult an attorney or someone else who is knowledgeable about these things to determine the proper form (I'm thinking probably either limited partnership or LLC), and then file the necessary paperwork.

Then the search for money can begin in earnest.

I already have a website devoted to the show that has script excerpts and the proposal of the show on it as pdf files. I think that and this blog will be two of the cornerstones of my fundraising effort. Feel free to direct interested parties to either.

The website, by the way, should have chat and messageboard functions working sometime soon. If you have any ideas about how I can pull this off, please feel free to post a comment or e-mail me. I'm very interested.

Monday, December 27, 2004

"If Five Will Get You Ten, Ten Will Get You Twenty"

All those years of scheming had to come to something. I have finally decided to form some sort of a production company, to be called The Beefstake Mine Company. I am working on the business plan for it, and hope to have it finished in time for the New Year. Unfortunately, this is not a kind of writing I enjoy, although I do try to work in a joke or two from time-to-time, just to keep my hand in.

If I can just wheedle a distribution deal out of PRI, I would have a bit more leverage on potential investors. Unfortunately, until then, I will have to rely on my wits and persuasive skills, neither of which is in long supply.

I will, however, say this: If you happen by this blog and if you also possess a wheelbarrow full of cash that you do not have earmarked for other endeavors, please feel free to e-mail through the link on my profile. I'd be more than happy to discuss a few pear-shaped propositions with you.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

The Pilgrim's Progress or Not So's You'd Notice

In the last few days, I have gotten back on track and have started converting the typescript fragment of "Plant Your Wagon" Episode Three into a computerized and digitized (but not bowlderized) form. Scene One is done and Scene Two is halfway there. After that, I step back into the void of having to make it all up as I go along. Such is the writing life.

I'm trying to figure out the business end of this whole thing. I'm going to try to write up some sort of prospectus to use in conning--er, I mean, convincing--investors. I'll probably end up with a prospectus, a PowerPoint presentation, and the air of a carnival barker. But sometimes you have to do what you have to do.

After Frank D. Gilroy wrote "The Subject Was Roses," he sent it around to the usual producers, but got no takers. But instead of throwing it in his lower desk drawer and moving on to his next failure, he decided to sell shares and raise the money himself. He raised $125,000 (this was in 1964) and got his show on Broadway. It ran for 832 performances and won four Tonys and the Pulitzer Prize.

This is my model.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

When in Doubt, Adjust

I have changed my proposal to PRI slightly. (I did this by e-mail the other day.) I am no longer asking them to fund the show, just to market it and distribute it. The Program Manager e-mailed me back to wish me luck on the fundraising end and to tell me that I should be hearing from her soon. Which would be great.

I think the money part may have been holding them up, but if I can get them to--even provisionally--agree to distribute the show, I'm pretty sure that I can find the money. I'm actually thinking about tryting to get investors or some venture capital to put into a production company. There are a lot of details to this, but the basic idea is to pay a return on the investment from sales of CDs and memorabilia.

The thing is, I'm just not a public funding kind of guy. I've been embedded in the private sector for over 20 years now, and I know that world, the money-grubbing, sell-your-mother-for-the-right-price world. These are the people I'm comfortable doing business with.

I guess it's a case of going with your strengths, right?

Monday, December 13, 2004

It's Been a Long, Long Time

December has not been my month as far as blogging goes. I've had the best of intentions and the driving desire to say "Look at me! Validate me!" that all good bloggers need. But I've lacked two things: time and energy.

As far as the show goes, there's not much to say, either. I haven't worked on "Plant Your Wagon" or heard from PRI. I am considering pursuing funding in new and different ways, but I don't know that it would be a good idea to get into that too much right now. Maybe it would. I don't know. Who has time to think anymore?

I do feel that, come what may, I need to make some kind of a move on this in the new year. It can't wait forever.

I'd like to at least get a pilot recorded as soon as possible. Excerpts from scripts or even scripts in their entirety are fine, but not as good as hearing the thing performed. I've come to realize that people reading the scripts can't hear what's inside my head; they need the help that comes from performance. Unfortunately, that takes money, which leaves me off right where I began. That's the funny thing about rabbit holes.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

The Firesign Theatre

This post is long overdue in several ways, and it comes about because I've taken time the last couple of nights to listen to a majority of the Real Video clips showing The Firesign Theatre at work on the show they did for XM Radio back in 2001-2002. A few minutes after listening to the three parts of “The Fuse of Doom” (which harkens back to one of my favorite albums, “The Tale of the Giant Rat of Sumatra”), it occurred to me that I hadn’t provided a link to their website or to Planet Proctor or Fie, I say! Fie!

For those who are not familiar with The Firesign Theatre, I'll give a quick introduction. First, the Firesign Theatre is four guys, now in their sixties, who created a kind of audio theatre back in the late Sixties and Seventies that has never been successfully imitated or surpassed. They are Phil Austin, Peter Bergman, David Ossman, and Philip Proctor. They came together by an accident of fate—much as some cosmic dust once came together to form our Sun, the heating system (A Firesign joke)—at an FM station in Hollywood back around 1966. Peter Bergman had a show on this station called Radio Free Oz and he was known as The Wizard. Phil Austin was on the staff. David Ossman had been on staff, had moved on to ABC, but still frequented his old haunts. Phil Proctor was (and is) an actor, fresh out to the coast from NYC who knew Bergman from their days at Yale School of Drama.

They didn’t start out by saying, “Hey! Let’s make ourselves into The Firesign Theatre!” It just happened and evolved. The chance came to make albums, and they did, with a vengeance. “Waiting for the Electrician or Someone Like Him,” “How Can You Be in Two Places at Once When You’re Not Anywhere at All,” “Don’t Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers,” and “I Think We’re All Bozos on This Bus” all appeared between 1967 and 1971. Considering that they were also creating radio shows, performing live, and doing pretty much whatever they needed to in order to make a living, that’s not bad.

These albums are absurdist, sometimes surreal, and often flat-out, double-over-laughing funny. Two more albums from 1974/1975 round out the classics for me, “Everything You Know Is Wrong” and “The Tale of the Giant Rat of Sumatra.”

Aficionados of The Fab Four or Five can toss around lines from these albums with a dexterity that would flummox even most Monty Python fans. These are comedy albums that withstand repeated listening. In fact, I’d say I’ve listened to “Dwarf,” “Bozos,” and “Giant Rat” over forty times each. “Giant Rat,” in particular, is interesting to me because (due to it being a Sherlock Holmes parody and due to the constant use of “cocoa” by the hero) it goes at a breakneck pace. (I’ve only recently come to understand that it is their tribute to the Goon Show, and I think they do Spike, Peter, and Harry proud.) However, the more you listen to it, the more it slows down. And more subtlety and ambiance comes to the fore. And nobody does ambiance like these guys.

In fact, back when I was invited to an acquaintance’s apartment by a mutual friend to play around on the analog four-track recorder he had just gotten, I immediately thought of The Firesign Theatre. And we worked together for two years and produced work good, bad, and middling, but we never became another Firesign Theatre. You can’t make these things; they happen on their own.

The scripts that I am writing for “Next in the Series” are not Firesign-like. Some are silly, some are a bit strange, but nothing like that particular world that is The Firesign Theatre. I had to make this my own.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

He's Back, and This Time He's Exactly the Same

Last night, I got out the script for Episode Three of "Plant Your Wagon" and started transcribing and redrafting it on the ol' PC. I'm back thinking about radio. The month off did me some good, I think.

In fact, yesterday was a good day for me in thinking-about-radio terms. You see, once I finish off "Plant Your Wagon," I've got a searing political drama (actually a searing political comedy) called "The Political Thing" to write. That, when done, will get me up to eleven episodes of a projected thirteen for the first series. Now, I've been bouncing around different ideas for the last two, and now I think I'm halfway there.

A few years ago, my wife and I were stuck in traffic and happened to notice a house by the wayside that had a sophisticated model sailing ship in the window and a rainbow flag over the door. Out of that justaposition of images, an idea was born.

So, I've been dragging this idea around with me for several years now, never quite being able to get it to jell into an actual story. And the bus I ride in the evening goes right past that house, although neither the ship nor the flag are there anymore. But still, it makes you think. So, anyway, yesterday, I'm riding past there, and I think, "You know, I should make this a story about the Bitlle and Bettle Joinsoin characters from 'Bitlle Joinsoin's Adventure Through the Watching Glass.'" (See, it's a story about an older couple who buy a rainbow flag without understanding its greater cultural significance.) Yeah! That felt right, felt good.

And then I thought, "As long as I'm cribbing characters from one of the existing scripts, why not crib Mel from 'The Anniversary Schmaltz' and his wife and his friend and make them the neighbors who extrapolate the wrong information from the rainbow flag? Brilliant! I love it!"

So, that's what I'm going to do. That will tie these three stories together, which is a feature I like, and allow me to do more with characters whose potential has not been tapped entirely yet. It's going to require a small amount of rewriting of "The Anniversary Schmaltz," but that's okay. It'll be worth it. And there were a couple of parts of that that I wanted to revisit anyway.

So, I guess it's "Once more into the breach, my friends!"