Get Lost!

I got lost over the weekend while driving through Columbus, Ohio (I was scouting for a documentary that I’m producing and directing, but more on that later).

While I was trying to figure out how an interstate that ran East and West could all of sudden run East and South, I realized two things:

1.  I’m buying a GPS.

2.  Getting lost is OK.

Sure, I was an hour late and lost my voice screaming at the Lord of the Highways, but I still made it to my destination.

Whenever you’re lost, you always end up getting to your destination eventually, don’t you?  You never just pull over and say, “That’s it.  I’m done. I’m going to sit in my rental car until the scavengers pick over my bones.”  No, you stop, regroup, pick up a McDonald’s fountain Coke, ask for directions, get mad, listen to music, get mad again, call friends for help, and then finally, you make it.

Remember this the next time you’re writing or producing a project and are frustrated that you’re not reaching your deadline on time.

It’s OK to be late . . . The Lord of the Highways knows it took us 4 years to get Altar Boyz right and we took many a wrong turn along the way (remind me to tell you about the time that Abraham’s name was Leonard and Luke was addicted to Vicodin).

Sure we would have liked to have gotten there a lot faster, but making sure you get there is the most important part.

Just ask these guys how happy they were that they didn’t turn around and go home at some point during their 7 year trip.

Sorry for the tease.

In my last blog, I said . . .

“An example of something I just learned from one of the biggest American marketing machines tomorrow.”

And then . . .nothing. 

I received thousands of emails from concerned readers all wondering if I had been kidnapped by Bruce Cohen’s family or if I had caught the same illness that
affected Michael Crawford when he signed on to do Dance of The Vampires

I am happy to report that I am fine.  (You can stop sending the thousand emails a day now, Mom.)

Here’s what happened.  I wrote the follow up to that blog that same night and thought I was really cool when I figured out how to automatically post it the next
morning since I was going to be traveling all day.

And, as you know . . . it didn’t work. 

Sorry for that mishap.  I’m re-writing the blog now and it will be up later. Hopefully this version will turn out better anyway.  I had to rewrite my high school graduation address in 1990 when my Commodore 64 crashed, and that worked out OK.

Rewrites generally do.

So the next time that you lose a paper, an email, a version of a script, or a well constructed and almost award winning and publishable blog entry (ok, I’m
exaggerating), take it as a reminder that the key to writing is rewriting.

Sure you can bang your head against the wall and take TypePad’s name in vain . . . or you can just sit back down, stop bitching and make the next one even better.

Or you can use your situation as inspiration to write something brand spanking new.

Like I just did.  Wait a minute. I didn’t mean to do that. That wasn’t my intention when I started this entry.  Dang it!

The follow- up coming soon.  And I mean it this time.   

My favorite food is Stake.

During last night’s performance of my favorite improv troupe,  The Nuclear Family  (they improvise a complete musical at each performance and they’ve never failed to have me doubled over in laughter), one of the cast members reminded me of one of the most important elements of all forms of entertainment.

In the middle of a scene, the actor noticed that the drama and conflict had slipped out of the improvised story line, so he feigned a phone called to a Starbucks and asked if he could order up a “double whipped low fat high stakes latte.”

I told you they were funny.

Any successful drama, whether on television, film or on the stage, requires high stakes. This is especially true for musical theater, which is a heightened form of expression by nature.

So if you’re writing a musical you better have some porterhouse-sized, rare and juicy stakes to go along with it.

Wait, there’s more. 

As I type this, Grey’s Anatomy is on in the background (It’s on just for the noise.  I’m not really watching it, really . . . but . . . . is this George and Izzie thing gonna last?). Television understands the need for high stakes.  So much so that it continually repeats the same types of shows.  

There are three common types of prime time serials:  legal dramas, medical dramas, and police dramas.  Hill Street Blues, St. Elsewhere, LA Law, Perry Mason, Matlock, NYPD Blue, Columbo, The Practice, ER, and yes Grey’s.  And I could go on and on.  Why the repetition? Because life or death, the highest and juiciest stake of all, is built into the stories of each one of those types of professions.  Writing one of these dramas is like buying a car and getting the power windows, the GPS and the seat/butt warmers for no additional price.  The high stakes are included.

So either Hollywood is really, really smart to keep wading in the same pool of subject matter because it has this necessary component . . . or Hollywood is really, really lazy because it refuses to look for and create high stakes elsewhere.

You know what else is interesting?  

Police, legal and medical dramas, those successful prime time serials . . .  do not work on the musical stage. 

By the way, the best stake of all is here.

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