October 16th, 2009

Finally done:
A Good Day in Hell

Posted in Death, Movies, Writing by ed


I began this darn script on August 18, 2006. Day 22 !!!

Tonight, after many developments, drafts, distractions, derailments and deaths, including baby steps toward a low-budget production and Wall Street blowing its brains out …

Tonight it seems perfected: properly abandoned.

On Day 1,184. Good dog almighty …

The prior six scripts received no more than four months of attention. But this, the trouble and time of a novel.

A toast is in order. Let’s see …

Well, modest — but tasty: the superbly bitter Rye Pale Ale that Michelob has put out to compete with all the artsy crafty beers.

Tomorrow back to business.

And, in the evening, perhaps, a bit of wild Decompression.

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  1. ed says:

    The statue is the very statue carved by Thomas Wolfe’s father (who did graveside ornaments for a living) and then meditated upon by the protagonist of his son’s first novel, Look Homeward, Angel.

    The statue now sits in an old cemetery in Hendersonville, North Carolina, just south of Asheville, whence Wolfe hailed.

    I own a tiny house, or a big cottage, just outside the cemetery gates.

    Or, rather, I should say Countrywide — or rather Bank of America, in the New Normal — has first dibs on the place. My name’s merely on the contract as buyer.

    But it’s lovely to look upon and walk in the graveyard and to chat with Wolfe’s angel.

    October 17th, 2009 at 3:42 am

  2. Judy says:

    Way to go, Bill! Hope to see it around.

    October 17th, 2009 at 7:48 am

  3. Michael Gushue says:

    This sounds very intriguing. Why do you think this one took longer? And congratulations!

    As someone who spends a year and half working on 50 lousy lines, I suppose I’m not shocked. Of course, for me, length of time is no guarantee of success, just of stubbornness.

    October 17th, 2009 at 8:48 am

  4. ed says:

    Thanks Judy.

    Mike, re stubborness and success: Have you ever seen Martin Amis’s howling short bit where he transposes the businesses of poetry and movie-making? Let me try to find it …

    Eureka. Howl!

    Re your question:

    It took longer because after the first bashed draft I took a film production course, then a directing course — and thereafter all that excitement and thoughts and tiny bits of action toward producing the film elbowed out perfecting the script.

    Then too there were distractions — life — long stretches of not working on it (rather than the compressed few months of all the priors).

    But then again, this story and the characters are more novelistic than those of the other scripts (all of which had a somewhat Thrilling political spine to keep the eyes open) — and the upside of repeatedly dropping and coming back to it is the richness that develops.

    (My second novel — unpublished masterpiece for sale — took ten years. Err, twelve … )

    There IS a ticking bomb in this script: the heroine’s birthday, three weeks away at open. But aside from that, the action is largely spiritual. So the script kept being too … slow.

    None of which mattered when I was under the delusion of producing it myself. But once one begins to Show It Around, well, all the Readers (whether at production companies or agents) are teenagers or recent college grads and they want page-turners.

    And they want the thing to conform at first glance to the Formula, which everyone who teaches script writing echoes and insists upon — theory being that there is only one Story and if your script doesn’t tell it everybody knows this is nowhere.

    A Good Day in Hell does conform to the formula, does relate a Hero’s Journey, but perhaps not at first glance, and in any case … slowly. The journey is toward death, or at least departure hence. Relationships are being shut down, not built. And so the finish must be orchestrated to Slow Down, rather than accelerate into a head-on crash ending happily. Palestrina rather than Mozart. (?)

    The other problem (Reader related) that took time to solve was the dreadful Page Count: always much too long — 160 pages — to Show Around.

    Again didn’t matter — in fact was good — when under the spell of self production. But Readers will toss anything over 129 pages, and will hate you and tell their boss the script sucks if it’s more than 110.

    So I’ve been fussing — trying to juice the thing up, in detail, while making it much shorter. Now 128 pages.

    A Good Day in Hell is the thing being worked on and whined about here.

    That it’s about the last three weeks of her life — about facing death — is another reason it took so long. My morbidity these past years, brought on (I suppose — but who am I? — supposedly the last to know) by close people dying, made me fuss with it beyond what was likely wise.

    As if I were Wolfe’s father carving an angelic memorial for the ages.

    It WAS fussy and perhaps foolish, to so dawdle — in that no one in the business thinks of a script as a finished product, as an art form. It’s just a blueprint, a starting place, a marketing tool to sell the Movie to people further up the food chain. A Movie prospectus.

    So it was silly, in a serious way, to spend three years tinkering as if it were a thing like a novel of self-possessed self-sustaining substance.

    Get a life, dude! Bang it out!

    That’s the ticket.

    October 17th, 2009 at 10:21 am

  5. Peter Gilbert says:

    Congratulations, Bill. Enjoy your Michelob. I’m looking forward to reading the screenplay, and even more so to seeing the movie.

    (Now, if I could only get done with this book on Bekkos…)

    October 17th, 2009 at 11:51 am

  6. Federico Antin says:

    Hello Bill:

    It sounds good, confusing, but good…

    Best wishes, as always,


    October 26th, 2009 at 1:24 pm

  7. ed says:


    THOUGHT it was done.

    But just finished another entire draft, cover to cover.

    With spectacular results.

    Now …

    NOW …

    Now it’s about perfect.

    And two pages shorter. Mon triumphe.

    November 18th, 2009 at 12:58 am

  8. ed says:

    Again into the breach
    And yet again Perfected
    Yet another round
    More Perfect than before

    The provocation was a set of comments from Michael Gushue, poet and friend, who read it with energy and it seems some enjoyment. The protagonist herself is a local New York poet.

    The changes were small but numerous and all addressed things I was unhappy with, and had asked MG to focus on.

    Ready to ship off for the May 1 Nicholl Lottery (the Oscar academy’s annual screenplay contest).

    (Of course there’s no hope in Hollywood, but, nevertheless, one must go thru motions.)

    it’s really quite beautiful. Imagine. One might expend a life doing nothing else.

    Celebrating with a Chilean Carmenere and roasted peanuts.

    April 25th, 2010 at 11:56 pm

  9. ed says:


    The Nicholl people are now accepting only PDFs. No hardcopy, no other computer files.

    Problem is that the PDF maker shrinks the page by about 3 percent (while imposing a new margin around it) as it creates the PDF.

    The effect: THe script appears to have been written with 11 point type rather than 12 — which will make the Nicholl Reader scream and reject the script out of hand.

    Situation Normal. All Fucked Up.

    Not that this story had a chance with Hollywood readers anyway.

    Oh well.

    April 26th, 2010 at 8:37 am

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