Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Dog Day Oscar Ceremony

I recognized someone profiled in the "In Memoriam" part of the Oscar Ceremony. He was the one who nearly destroyed my writing career. Am I still bitter?

Frank Pierson had written the film Dog Day Afternoon and Cool Hand Luke, and then spent much of his retirement teaching at a film school. He almost failed me out.

During my mid-life crisis in film school, we had to produce a short film. A Korean director asked me to write The Silver Cross, the story of a contemporary detective who gets hypnotized and goes back to the middle ages to catch an evil wizard, all in thirteen pages. I would write five drafts, each seemed to be more confusing then the last. What we had here was a failure to communicate...

Our four days of production was difficult to say the least. We were trying to make Lord of the Rings on a Clerks budget.  Incidentally, the guy who played the detective's partner would go on to star in the Geico commercials where he would ask "Can Geico save you money on car insurance?"

After the screening of our student film, Frank Pierson called us back to his office and told us that we had made the worst project, ever. He would call leave us all a message that someone would fail. He asked to see my drafts to see if it was my fault or the director's.

Well, he spent a long weekend reading all five of my drafts and determined that the director was at fault, not me. As the Director was a foreign national on a student visa, he was subject to deportation. I was subject to having doubts on my writing for the rest of my career. I  was deported myself in a way, I thought of Frank when I left Hollywood twelve years ago and moved back to New Mexico and gave up screenwriting.

Still, I never gave up writing, and I now have eight novels to my credit.

When I saw Frank's face during the ceremony, I thought about The Silver Cross for the first time in years. He was a good teacher after all, and he was right, our film was terrible. If one of my projects ever becomes a film and I get to thank someone, I will certainly thank him!

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