Cowboys & Engines

If you aren’t an actor, you’ve probably never heard of Backstage West. It’s an expensive little newspaper that survives feeding off the meager resources of acting hopefuls all through Southern California. They aren’t alone in this; there are a lot of pilot fish around the feeding shark that is “working actors” in L.A. Photographers, videographers, acting coaches, agents, managers, audition sites, workshops… It’s an entire cottage industry, really.

Backstage West was originally largely devoted to theater, the L.A. analog to Backstage, it’s New York City big brother. An actor can make a living doing stage work in new York, but if that’s your goal, L.A. is the wrong place for you. Beginning years ago, Backstage West began pushing to get film auditions as well, first in the newspaper, then on the website (once they finally got one). Unfortunately, most of these were tiny little independents and short films. This is because there’s a very elaborate, legally-sanctioned system in place to keep actors from finding out about real auditions. This system is called Breakdown Services. Every real part being cast in a movie or TV show or commercial is posted in these listings, and in order to get them (legitimately) and use them, you have to be a licensed, registered, tagged agent or manager or casting professional who’s had blood drawn, genitals cuffed and a barcode tattooed on your tongue.

Or something.

The point is, actors never know about genuine auditions, or at least, that’s what the system aspires to. Why? Because actors are needy, grasping, niggling, annoying, egotistical, self-centered douchebags (trust me. I am one) who everyone in the entertainment industry despises. Casting directors only want to see the actors they’ve asked for, and then, only out of dire necessity.

But here’s the thing; to put your project in the breakdowns, so that it goes across the desk of literally every agent & talent-hustling pro in Hollywood? $50. That’s it. Once we get our SAG contract in place? It’s free. Yup. Nada dinero.

And there are a hundred other casting sites that actors can access to submit themselves for stuff. Now Casting, LA Casting, etc. To post there? Yeah. Free.

Now, Backstage West does have some… content… in it’s print publication. It has reviews of plays that no one who wasn’t in the cast reads. It has advice columns with actors you’ve never seen or heard of explaining how to be a working actor no one has ever seen or heard of. And it has casting notices in the back that are so stale by the time they see print, you might find out how you could have submitted yourself for DeMille’s Ben-Hur. The original, silent one.

The institution itself is a dinosaur, so I was a bit surprised to learn that, to post a casting notice on the website to be seen in SoCal, you have to print it in the newspaper and magazine. Which costs $140 per week.

Suffice it to say, we’ll live without the handful of submissions we might have gotten solely from Backstage Online, because those fucking idiots can blow me. We’ll settle for Breakdown Services.

Here’s another sketch for Cowboys & Engines I finished up last night. This is the Myrmidon, a reanimated dead soldier planted in a steel housing on tank treads.

Mischief decreed it “looks like the Terminator fucked a tractor.” I highly approve.

Last night, I plopped down and did a couple of sketches of Guinivere Wheeler, the lead female character in Cowboys & Engines. These are mainly to figure out her wardrobe in a couple scenes. And, yeah, I know they suck… but at least everyone will kind of be on the same page, even if that page was poorly drawn. My first thought looking at these this morning is, I hope our lead actress has bigger boobs.

Having gone to bed with the movie in mind, when I got up to pee at 4:45 I was thinking about the Myrmidon, an FX-heavy character who’s gonna be a big pain in the ass. When I laid back down, I had a sudden realization that I could solve one of our big effects issues regarding him with football shoulder pads. No, really. You have no idea how exciting this was, but when I tell you I’ve been up since then because my brain turned on, it gives you some sense.

Tonight, after I finish writing The Worst Porn Parody Script in History, I’ll probably do a couple sketches of Cade Ballard, our main guy. At least I don’t have to worry about getting his tits right.

First off, welcome to my newly-redesigned blog. Hope you like it, ’cause I did it myself. Well, me and a fresh install of Artisteer.

Vega’s been out of town (way out of town) for a while, now, so things are quiet on that front.

Blue came over Wednesday night. We had an amazing time — as we always do — and I finally sent her home around 2:30am. During the course of the evening, we looked up the origin of the phrase roman à clef, decided I need a memory foam mattress and realized I need to take her to the breathtakingly strange and awesome Museum of Jurassic Technology. It was a delicious evening. And I needed it, as this week has been intensely bittersweet.

On Monday, I got word from a company I’ve done lots of work with that I’m going to be relegated to directing the shittiest, low-budget features you can possibly do and still complete a movie. It was a real slap in the face. The kick in the balls was swallowing my pride and taking it with a smile because I’m in constant, dire financial straits and can’t afford the luxuries of ego, self-esteem or convictions. Still, I can’t help but wonder how many fucking awards you have to win…

I made the mistake of trying to vent to the wrong friend, and was utterly shut down. That was fun. Luckily, a different friend was there to rant right alongside me several hours later, and I was able to laugh it off the next day. Y’know, in a bitter, dying-on-the-inside kinda way.


Speaking of funny, while I was tidying up my place before Blue’s arrival, it struck me that I’ve decorated with a lot of broken clocks. I contemplated for a moment, then this struck me:

I like surrounding myself with broken clocks. They give me the illusion that I can stop time.”

Of course, that’s what this blog is. All writing, really, is just an exercise in freezing a moment of time. Writing is photography for the mind.

On the upside, I’ve added several scenes to Cowboys & Engines, to flesh out the story and the world, and I’m really happy with what it’s become. I’m getting to that stage where I wake up thinking about it, and it runs as a subroutine in the back of my brain all day long. I’m excited about this like I haven’t been in years. I sent the script out to several people whose opinions I value, and the response has been overwhelming. If we can pull this off, it’s going to really shine.

Had a great meeting with Satine Phoenix, who is going to do some of our character design for the piece. Got everyone on the crew started on their own projects, and things are moving along.

Last night, I got together with Amber Rayne at a downtown ramen place that I believe K & I discovered and introduced to the porn community, by and large. Now it’s a common spot for the DTLA porn crowd. Red goes there all the time, and while I was waiting for Amber to show, Kimberly Kane, her boyfriend Igor, and Nate Liquor arrived.

Amber had actually already done some rough sketches based on the script, and I can’t wait to see what she comes up with.

Today, I have to make the Grand Circle Tour into the Valley of Timesuck, then come home and pound out what promises to be the worst parody script I’ve ever set hand to. I mean bad. Should take three hours to write.

I’ll post some choice bits of dialogue. When I’m done, it’s back to work on C&E… because I can’t stop thinking about it, and that’s a miraculous thing.

I got up at 5 am Friday morning to head to Comic-Con before traffic got horrendous. My plan was to get to San Diego, find parking, grab breakfast and have time to prowl the exhibit hall for most of the day. And it worked. The drive was relatively painless, and I only had to wait in line for half an hour to get a breakfast sandwich at Subway.

I should interject here that I am one of those people who thinks Comic-Con has completely outgrown its fishbowl, and continuing to have it in San Diego is a disservice to the fans it claims to cater to. Of course, having to wait 45 minutes to pay $19 for a cheeseburger will do that to you… but that’s a blog for another day.

The fact is, I’m not a very good geek. I don’t care about meeting comic book writers or artists. I’m unconcerned with how the LGBT community is portrayed in genre fiction. I don’t want to know how to cosplay any Buffy characters. During a normal SDCC trip, I spend the majority of my time prowling the exhibit hall anyway. I just don’t have the patience to wait for hours to get into the ballroom or hall H to see 5 minutes of a film that isn’t coming out for a year, or listen to Shane Black answering questions only a fan would ask (i.e., retarded ones). Watching all this going on around me, I decided Comic-Con is just Burning Man for people who read books.

I would have skipped it completely, but this year I had two reasons for going. The first was to make face-to-face contact with as many steampunk craftspeople as possible to source props and costumes for the short I keep mentioning, and in that regard, I was very successful. The second was to attend the screening of Natural 20, a short made by my friends John & Brusta, which was screening in the SDCC Film Festival. That went very well, and they won best humor short.

Not the worst Black Widow at Comic-Con. By far.

As it happened, this was my first time being at SDCC by myself, and it was a fairly lonely experience. I would see something cool or interesting, and had no one to discuss it. Two years ago, Comic-Con was all unfortunate mother/daughter Silk Spectre teams, which Mischief & I mocked mercilessly. Last year, it was bad Baronesses. This year was a plethora of embarrassing Black Widows and Harley Quinns, and I couldn’t share the pain. Tweeting “Huh. Batman is 5’2″ and fat. Who knew?” just isn’t the same thing as getting to say it in the moment.

Since I had a spare professional guest badge, I had originally planned for D to come down with me for the day, but our mutual poor communication skills fucked it up. Then, when she realized I was there alone, Vega began threatening to come down and join me which wasn’t going to happen. Again, too high-maintenance for Comic-Con, and I wasn’t about to add that stress. So we text-fought over that for a few hours while I walked the halls.

Alice & 50 Baht arrived that night. I met them for dinner after the Natural 20 screening, gave them my badges so they could spend Saturday & Sunday at the con, and headed home.

I spent most of the weekend editing a piece I shot for a pay-per-view channel, although I did get talked into going to Vega’s house Sunday night… See this conversation to figure out how that happened. We didn’t end up making a screening of Savages, so Vega got to sit through Prometheus, which she hadn’t seen, with a butt plug about the size of a coke can stuffed in her. Scary movies get her excited anyway; as a result, I don’t think she could even tell you what happened in the movie.

When I got up to leave around 3 am, she kept her promise and didn’t say a word about me staying. Tonight, I turned down a cooked meal to work, and I don’t know when I have a free night to see her again. I have plans Wednesday, I’m doing the Dark Knight marathon Thursday, seeing Blue Friday, and covering the Urban X Awards Saturday.

In the meantime, I had several ideas for Cowboys & Engines on the drive to SD. The more progress we make, the more excited I get about this thing.

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You can’t fix crazy by sticking your dick in it, but you can get it to shut up. — Bryn Pryor