Ok kids now listen up. So, for maybe ten years some of my very generous friends have been telling me I should have a blog. What an awful word, blog. The thing is, even, as anyone will tell you, I think of myself as pretty awesome, I’m really loathe to the idea of a public journal entirely devoted to myself. People aren’t really that interesting. I mean, if you’re Leonard Cohen or Albert Einstein or frigging Hemingway sure, but also you realize one of the prime reasons insanely interesting people are so hyperbolically awesome is that they have real things to talk about other than themselves.
So this morning I woke up with more than a little sting from the alcohol wash last night at my good friend and coworker Patrick’s going away to a new job (congratulations, you deserve it) drinks. You have to understand sometimes the right kind of hangover puts me in a strange superhuman zone. I showered and went on an hour run through one of the fancy LA neighborhoods and listened to PAINKILLER by the Heavy Metal Monsters Judas Priest over and over again.
The thing is, Painkiller isn’t just some metal song. To me, it’s kind of the metal song. Obviously, reasonable heads will disagree. That’s saying it’s better than THUNDERSTRUCK by AC/DC, better than Motorhead, Black Sabbath, Blind Guardian, and even the denim Metallica years. But if there’s anything I’m about, it’s knowing what I like, and liking it’s fucking face off, so I’m saying it, Painkiller is the fucking metal song of all time.
What the hell does this have anything to do with anything? Well Buster, let me tell you. So the song falls into one of the few categories of Priest tunes:
Giant, indestructible monsters of both terrifying and somewhat unknowable origin. To the quote! —
Mankind’s on its knees
A saviour comes from out the skies
In answer to their pleas
Through boiling clouds of thunder
Blasting bolts of steel
Evils going under deadly wheels
He is the Painkiller
This is the Painkiller
Faster than a lazer bullet
Louder than an atom bomb
Chromium plated boiling metal
Brighter than a thousand suns.”
(–Written, Rob Halford/Judas Priest)
A THOUSAND suns?! Rob, what the fuck am I going to do about that?! But that still doesn’t get at it. When you hear these classic Priest songs, they are fucking diamond rocket falcons of screeching guitar triumph. They are Gandalf the Grey riding a goddamn velociraptor with wings through a land of candy mountains wearing Mad Max’s armor and wielding a golden battle axe forged by Ziggy Stardust and Dr. Who in a past so ancient Bill & Ted still can’t get back from it. I don’t care if you’ve never seen a sword or know what a studded gauntlet is, or you’re an orphan in a deep jungle tribe, untouched by modern society, when you hear this song you will see every wolf, bolt of lighting, and shining knight that has ever been on a t-shirt at a kiosk at the mall.
Also, half of Judas Priests songs, possibly including this one, may be about Rob Halford’s secret (at the time) homosexuality. How it was secret I don’t know, because no straight man has ever warn more than 1000 studded pyramid studs on a costume of purely black leather. Ever. It’s just not physically possible, the vest would fly off your body and fly straight to the Castro in the SF Bay, where it could -not- mate with other vests of its own kind.
But for all intents and purposes, PAINKILLER is about a gigantic juggernaut war machine of doom that is somehow simultaneously unstoppable, mindless, and the savior to mankind. Just because it’s awesome, I didn’t hope you were assuming it would make sense.
So when I hear Painkiller, my brain resurrects this feature script idea that I’ve had for years, that’s been slowly evolving in stutters and steps when I’m in a very metal mood:
The structure of the story would be something in the ball park of THE NEVERENDING STORY, about an innocent boy who opens a parallel world of dangerously vivid imagination, and triumphs over evil by maturing through the toils of his in-fantasy avatar, thus granting him a new lease on life in the “real” world.
Instead of a young boy though, my main character is a 20’s stoner metal-head who lives in a multimedia fantasy world of Rock Band type video games, and a WoW (world of warcraft for all you people over 35) MMORPG (incredibly nerdy online video game played by people simultaneously all over the world, tech., “massive multiplayer online role-playing game”) where he is an ultimate triumphant badass.
Instead of finding an ancient tomb bequeathed upon him by a craggy old bookstore owner, said metal dude would smoke an unholy bong, which would lead him to a craggy old video store owner, who would bequeath upon him a magical laserdisc(/k) player, and a secret silver disc, which when played would launch him into a world of magical metal fantasy mashup insanity that is some cocktail of WoWarcraft, Alice/Beyond the Looking Glass, German freakout Neverending Story creatures, and ill-intended Candy Land-esque metal celebrity villains in hyper versions of themselves (Alice Cooper, Ozzy, Marilyn Manson, Lemmy, etc. This category is currently fluid, so don’t be a troll).
As you might guess, in real life (irl), this dude is kind of a flat, milquetoast, non-success, and a little bit of a push over. The overall arc of the story would really be about his transition to true dudeliness via the above-mentioned badassery, probably in the form of some great Princess-in-a-tower fantasy movie cliche with a Hess-flavored twist on it.
Be warned that at various times, I will refer to myself as “Hess”, and when it refers to my family, it will be intentional and obvious. Hence the name, “hesswords”.
Anyway, so the fat of the story will be his discovery of this cannabis/magic-laserdisc induced world of sword, sorcery, Trimph motorcycle knights and vinyl-thieving goblins, and his knightly avatar’s defeat of various foes and mystic puzzles. The parallel to Neverending Story isn’t as thorough as it first appears, the first obvious thing being there will be no Atreyu equivalent stand-in in the magical world, it will be Dude himself, which is more fish-out-of-water Looking Glass style, and is a more natural entre into the narrative than having to constantly cut back to the kid in the attic eating the sandwich and pumping his fist over the snake book. If that sentence made no sense to you, go out and buy the blu ray of THE NEVERENDING STORY right now, and be very very ashamed how sad your life has been without this world of magic and childish wonderment. I bid you good day.
Now, to the rest of you who have had full lives and are not currently on your way to Target to correct the wrong your parents were wise enough not to put upon you, shit’s about to get real in here.
So what the hell am I blogging? NOW we’re into the thing. This is the corn beef in your brisket sangwitch, kids.
The thing that really occurred to me when I was pounding the pavement through Hancock Park and air-guitaring to Judas Priest was not a bunch of plot points for this movie (gonna have a blog about titles coming soon, and I want help), but about the process of writing the script. Years ago before I went away to the deep Saaath to film school, I published via Facebook a ton of totally unformated, word document constructed pages of what I thought a feature film script might sound like for a ridiculous B-Movie called CLAWS, which was about Santa Claus being bit on Xmas eve by a Werewolf and and getting hunted by a Mulder and Scully-esque pair of Special Elf Agents (noted, there is an awful Z-movie script of with the same name and premise which I discovered after starting said project). This was an awesome idea and still is, but I had ZERO FUCKING IDEA what I was doing, and thus, I was essentially practicing the art of typing and looking productive in a cafe (which, by the way, about 100,000 people are practicing all over LA, every day of your life, forever).
However, this idea, like the snake on the fucking ancient tomb, came back around to bite its own tail. Turns out that after writing that dumb Facebook non-script thing, I moved to Savannah, went to grad school for making of the movies, downloaded Final Draft, ate shrimp with my parents, moved to Hollywood, got an internship and job at a talent agency, read about fofty-thousand and blammo scripts, made great friends with smart young Hollywood people willing to tolerate my particular brand of acerbic charm, and know slightly more than nothing about screenwriting now. Whoa quicksplanation.
Also since then the avenues and tools for doing things online in a live, transparent, fun, and collaborative way have exploded like the American economy in scary, awesome, impressive ways. There is a built in otherness and opacity to life in LA, the entertainment industry, and all creative processes, both for good and less than good reasons. I’m probably insane, and it’s very possible someone else has done it before, but my plan is to write a feature script entirely in public. I will describe, to the best of my ability my inspiration, references, process, tools, terrible and not-so-terrible habits, in a way that is hopefully both palatable and compelling to whomever, regardless of their interest in the industry or me as a specific person in the world. If you know me you know I think I’m pretty cool, but I’m not a subject for my own damn journal. The things that I think are inherently amazing and awesome, why I think they’re so amazing and awesome, and how that can be articulated into a separate entity from myself, a piece of consumable art that we refer to as a film, may just be compelling enough as its own raison d’être.
There are inherent dangers with this. There are copyright and privacy issues and people might imagine I’m begging for my ideas to be stolen. If you know me though, you also know that, like everything creative anyone does, it’s not (s)exactly what I say, but the WAY I say it. This is why robots don’t play violin, this is why we live life in person. Art has textures that you can’t replicate, and thankfully most of my ideas are both too terrifying and ridiculous to bother replicating. I covet my own ideas in a highly personal way, which alludes to the next obvious risk, the over-adjustment of my idea based off my reaction to the crowd and their/its comments. Ideas are precious and difficult flora. They require being nurtured and protected up to a certain point before they can stride into the world and starting getting behind velvet ropes at parties. Hopefully by picking an idea both bizarrely original, fun, and pop culture, and whatever amount of authorship I maintain, regardless of how the process of crowd-sourcing the amazing thoughts and comments of YOU GOOD PEOPLE!, I will remain fully at the helm of this grossly mixed metaphor.
I hope I can make this worth reading my exceeeeeessively windy opening entry. Brevity: not always my strong suit (Right Prof Auer!?)
As something as a PScript, be aware I’m totally making this shit up as I go along. I know how to write a script, but the process of smearing the bloody entrails of it on the lucite screen for everyone will take some discovery and back and forth. Enough belly-achin’!