Tuesday, April 12, 2005

The book and the movie

MentorColleague mentioned our book idea to one of his bigwig friends while in town, who happens to be a big muckety-muck in my department, and muckety-muck told him that he wants our university's press to have first option on the book. Apparently, according to MentorColleague, the book is already sort of in demand without having been written. Weird. I don't know if Muckety-Muck has connections within the university press or what, but knowing who he is in his field, that wouldn't surprise me. I was also told my MentorColleague that MucketyMuck really thinks highly of me, which took me by surprise because (a) I hardly know him and feel like I have nothing to say to him when I try to engage in conversation, and (b) I'm not all too sure that he's high on the creative-work-as-scholarship issue. Or, at least, I wasn't sure... but now I'm thinking he's fine with it. It does't hurt that the Dept Chair's assistant told him about my recent festival/screenplay competition placement (top 4 in a fairly major competition)...

Back to the book: so on his flight home, MentorColleague worked on an outline, a chapter list really, and sent it to me for my notes and thoughts.

I ran this whole thing by Dept Chair, and she was supportive, though not ecstatic (I was asking her about how it would affect my tenure -- i.e., is publishing a book, for me, a big enough plus to make it worth it?).

The issue is that I am supposed to make films and write scripts for tenure. And I've been doing that. Making a feature this summer, entering scripts into competitions, etc. My thinking is that a book such as this would only help my case, especially with those factions within any university that just don't "get" creative work as scholarship.

Plus there's the issue of my ego. Seeing my name on a book cover -- hmmm, hard to pass that up. I started out my writing career wanting to be a novelist and a poet (yeah, there's a lot of people making a living as poets), so even though I am making films now, part of me really wants to walk both sides of the aisle and be respected creatively and intellectually. It's a hang-up I have, I guess -- I want people to think of me as an intellectual. Seems kind of shallow when you say it out loud, and I'm certainly no literary theorist. I think like an artist.

And the idea of being asked by MentorColleague to co-author a book -- just that, in itself, is a big deal to me. Trying not to get stars in my eyes about all this. It will be a lot of work, if I do it, and Dept Chair's point was just that I shouldn't let it distract me from the main focus of my tenure case -- creative work. Which is a good point.

In any case, I won't be able to do much with it until the fall, because the film is occupying my every waking moment right now.

This week, we're sending out casting notices to every place we think will be useful (focusing on regional talent -- we really just don't have the money to bring in talent from NY or L.A., though I have a few actor friends on the east coast who I'd like to cast, who in fact were cast when I was producing this film a year ago, before I moved and had to uproot the whole production and move it here.

We worked on our miniscule budget this week, trying to pare down how much we're spending on food and lodging. How is it that food and lodging are the major expenditures in our budget right now? That drives me nuts, because you don't see it on the screen. In reality, you do, because if you take care of your actors and your crew, you'll see the effort in return, but I hate spending this much on these things and having nothing left to attract a name actor.

Speaking of which -- I realized this week I have a connection to an actress, someone who is sort of a "name" but who hasn't worked a lot lately. by her own choice. So I asked my friend about getting a script to her and guaging her interest. He is willing to approach her about it, and he quoted me her minimum weekly rate. Basically, to cast her in one of the leads, it would cost me my entire budget. This doesn't surprise me -- it just disappoints me. Here I have the actual opportunity to cast a legitimate name actress (albeit a minor name, a former TV star, and not someone who was huge, but nevertheless a name who could help me sell the film), and I can't do it because of money -- and not a lot of money, but just more than I have access to.

So I'm rethinking and trying to see if she would be interested in a smaller part. Maybe her day rate would allow me to bring her in for a couple of days of shooting. We'll see.


At 2:15 PM, Blogger Kristen said...

Good for you. All of this is great news. I think you should go for it and do the book. I mean, I'm a nobody and know nothing about tenure except what I hear from my friends, but I agree -- it seems win-win for you to write a book. And you're already making a movie -- what else could they want from you? You're doing it all.

At 7:41 PM, Blogger Laura said...

It's interesting what you say about needing to play both sides of the fence. I feel that way too. I was/am a writer, but I like the intellectual stimulation of writing more "academic" prose. I am no theorist either and it would make my head hurt and I couldn't hack the footnotes.

The film sounds interesting and I think the book will be a good thing, too.

At 10:51 AM, Blogger TerminalMFA said...

General comments I'm hearing from everyone are basically that I should do it, it would be good, etc. as long as it doesn't distract from from my primary goals in filmmaking and screenwriting. Generally, I think it would be a good way to show that I fit into the academic community and have something to say outside of my films (not that I ought to have to have something to say outside my films -- but it doesn't hurt to get tenure)...


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