The what? You heard me. I’m thrilled beyond recognition — thrilled to a crisp, in fact — to share the exciting news that I’m one of 24 writers selected out of 16,100 entries in the first ever Amtrak Writers Residency. Not without its fascination and controversies, the residency has been covered microscopically in the New Yorker, New York Times, Washington Post, CNN and HuffPo over the past 8 months. For my money, Boris Kachka wrote the best overview in New York Magazine. Basically, we each get to travel for a week or two in a private cabin on the Amtrak routes of our choosing during the next year as kind of a moving residency, as opposed to being isolated at a cabin in the woods or holed up at an artists colony like Yaddo where I have also stayed.
This unique residency program started because last year in a PEN interview, novelist Alexander Chee said that he did a lot of writing on trains and that he wished Amtrak had writers residencies. He was joking but Amtrak got wind of his remark, thanks to a grass roots Twitter campaign, and decided to heed his call and launch such a program for established writers.
One of the writing samples I submitted was my Washington Post story from last year about my crazy spiritual experience aboard a commuter train between New York City’s Penn Station and Philadelphia. However, my primary writing sample was an excerpt from my award-winning, yet unproduced (anyone?) screenplay Lords of Light, an historical drama about Nikola Tesla and his rivalry with Thomas Edison, written while I was a graduate student at NYU Tisch School of the Arts. Speaking of this, I can’t help but proudly mention that (continue reading…)
Back when the infamous Terri Schiavo case was running at full throttle with Jeb and George Bush and a lot of other men sticking their paws into her dead brain and playing politics with her corpse I wrote a short, satirical play about it called Lady in a Box which was performed at Chashama in Times Square and featured downtown performance artist Michael Weiner. After that I kept getting requests from people wanting to produce it in evenings of short works, including from my friends at Eastcheap Rep Theatre Ensemble. I then adapted it into an award-winning short screenplay, then a short film in 2006 which I directed starring Mississippi Masala‘s Sarita Choudhury (currently Mira Berenson on Homeland), John Lordan, Luke Rosen and Sean Hayden and which aired around the world.
Here we go again and again in 2014, this time with Mrs. Marlise Munoz in Texas and a 13-year-old girl in California who I won’t name here. May they rest in peace.
As the vultures, mostly men, pick and peck over their corpses — over ownership of these women and girls who can’t speak for themselves — I’m reminded of what inspired me to write Lady in a Box in the first place and make a little movie of it eight years ago. Enjoy the trailer–
The full 15-minute short is available here.
[photos via Dallas Morning News and wikipedia]
A few days ago I tweeted and facebooked, “American Hustle is what Argo wanted to be.” It wound up sparking a lively and unexpected debate.
American Hustle is not David O. Russell‘s finest for sure (it’s no Three Kings, mind you). It’s slowly paced for one thing and virtually plotless. I know that a lot of plot appears to be happening but after awhile it’s just so many circular subplots frustratingly knotted together. If watched at home I’d be starting and stopping, catching it in 30 minute chunks over the course of a week. It was, frankly, boring. Christian Bale‘s heart pills entered late in the movie and came out of left field, feeling like a tired plot device, and it never made me feel sorry for him if that was the intent. Glorification of criminals, that’s our culture. And Bobby De Niro as…surprise, a gangster. That was sad. As my old Italian accountant in Brooklyn who hates Bobby D. always sez, “Robert DeNiro is the Stepin Fetchit of the Italian-American community.” Enzo’s words, not mine.
What I do like about Hustle is the performances and the dialogue. But it kept reminding me of Ben Affleck‘s Argo, which I loathed, another cute caper movie that celebrates/parodies 1970s pop culture, but it pretentiously insisted to audiences that it was a “true story” which any fool could see was ludicrous. I had one knock down, drag out fight after another last Oscar season with my undergrad film students at two universities who hated me for hating Argo because, they insisted, it was “true.” I had to remind them that real life doesn’t happen (continue reading…)
All this time I thought it was Downtown Abbie and that it was a docudrama about Abbie Hoffman’s early years on the Lower East Side. Suffice it to say the season 1 DVD was a big letdown for me.
For all of you who enjoy paying for things with pounds (or have to) please enjoy a really inexpensive download of my award-winning 2006 short Lady in a Box in one more new location online. It features the likes of Luke Rosen and John Lordan along with Indian star Sarita Choudhury and featuring the ambient trance hit “Sweet Lassi Dub.” Check it out at MiShorts.
And don’t forget…
Thrilled to have been voted the winner of the IFP pitch presentation today by the panelists at the Internet Week Cross-Media seminar (my pitch, PATRIOTS FIGHT TOMORROW, included a screenplay with videogame tie-in). Panelists included acclaimed indie producer Jason Kliot, MyDamnChannel’s Director of Content Jesse Cowell, New York Television Festival head Terence Gray and The Gersh Agency’s Mira Young. The panel was moderated by ShootingPeople’s Editor-in-Chief Ingrid Kopp and introduced by IFP Deputy Director Amy Dotson.
Great fun, nice prizes bestowed upon me as the winner, I got sound advice on how to improve my pitch in the future, and made a few new friends. All around a terrific experience.
Come hear me pitch a new screenplay & videogame in NYC this Thursday 5/17 at 1pm at the Tribeca Grand Hotel. I was just chosen as 1 of 5 IFP members who get to pitch to an industry panel at the Cross-Media Mixer, a networking event for professionals from the television, advertising, new media, and independent film worlds. Presented in collaboration with the New York Television Festival, and NY Internet Week. Come cheer me to victory or ply me with drinks if I crash and burn.
Wish I could tell you the logline but that would be spoiling it. Come find out.
Panelists include producer Jason Kliot, Rob Barnett (founder and CEO of mydamnchannel.com), Terence Gray (New York Television Festival), Ingrid Kopp (Shooting People), and Mira Young (The Gersh Agency).
Full info and tickets here.
[image via yourkillinmesmalls.files.wordpress.com]
It’s my pleasure as a Plays & Players board member to invite you to the 3rd and final 100th anniversary reading and fundraiser next Monday 5/14 at 7pm. All year long we’ve been presenting readings of plays that were performed at Plays & Players 100 years ago during its first season in 1911-12.
This final reading is the most star-studded of them all. The play is An Ideal Husband by Oscar Wilde, directed by Daniel Student, and features features Sylvia Kauders (Witness, American Splendor, The Wrestler, Sex and the City, The Sopranos); Fox 29′s Good Day co-anchor Karen Hepp, City Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown, Revenue Commissioner Keith Richardson, restaurateur Jack Roe, Barrymore Award winning actors Madi Distefano and Amanda Schoonover; Joe Turner’s Come and Gone‘s Kash Goins and Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens creator Isaiah Zagar among others.
This final reading and fundraiser kicks off our Next 100 Years campaign to renovate and restore our beautiful old building which is a National Historic Landmark. For the past six months the acclaimed nonprofit Community Design Collaborative has been working with Plays & Players to create a 10-Year Master Plan with recommendations on sustainability and accessibility under the direction of Philadelphia’s leading architectural firm Studio Agoos Lovera. The May 14 reading will feature raffle drawings, a silent auction, and a chance to hear about the Master Plan.
$50 VIP – Reading and Meet the Cast post-show reception from 9-10pm at Quig’s Pub
$25 – Reading
$10 – Reading artist/industry ticket
Thanks so much, and I hope to see you there.