Sunday, May 31, 2015

Los Angeles, Day 3

Unlike the previous two days, this morning was not good.
I got up plenty early. A couple hours later I was supposed to meet two of my new screenwriting friends for a real Hollywood style breakfast. (You guessed it: Denny's).
But I started to realize I hadn't truly researched the people who were going to be asking me questions at this morning's PitchFest. At least, not the way I would have as a journalist. I guess you could say I was gripping a little bit.

* gripping *
(verb) To choke or lose control; lose your grip on an object or situation; scared.
When LeBron got to the free throw line with the game hanging by a thread, he was gripping and shot a brick.

So I called them up and told them I wasn't going to make it to Denny's. "I am not prepared," I said. And man, did I mean it. I did my best to map out what I was about to get into. But what did that mean? I'd never done this before (or known anyone who had).
Furthermore, I had to be smart about my strategy and not waste time. Not every project is for everyone, no matter how good it is. Most executives were there to hear about unproduced screenplays. I could certainly talk about the ones I've written, but what I really wanted to do was go to bat for our little documentary.
Then the event started and ... what can I say? When the lights come on, I'm ready to play.
Three takeaways ...
1. Our name and our logo, both created by Jon Pic, took me a long way. In fact, I've got a hell of story to tell him when I get back.
2. If someone out here does know anything about Kansas politics, they probably learned it from The Daily Show.
3. "Out Here In Kansas" is an awesome idea for a documentary. Not that I had any doubt about that.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Los Angeles, Day 2

Another fortuitous start to my morning.
I was the last one to walk into the first of many screenwriting classes they offer at this festival. Before I could sit down, the instructor asked me to pick a number between 1 and 15. I chose 14, and the rest of the class groaned as he announced I was the winner of a new watch.
(Which is kind of funny, because I actually flew out here on an airline ticket I won in a similar contest a few months ago. A ticket that expires on Monday, by the way.)
Anyway, I spent the entire day inside the hotel, going from one class to another. Some of them were focused on the craft of screenwriting. Some were focused on how to better network in the movie business. Many of them were focused on being prepared for tomorrow's "PitchFest," which is the main reason most of us are here.
To be sure, Sunday is going to be crazy. There are a lot of Hollywood executives and agents here to listen to pitches, and there are 500 of us. Naturally, a lot of people are nervous.
But I'm not. Because I've got nothing to lose. Since I've been here, I've already made many people from across the county, and a couple overseas, aware of "Out Here In Kansas." It's going to be made - and worst case scenario, we're going to have an excellent independent documentary that invokes discussion about an important social topic.
The night wrapped up with a party on the hotel patio, followed by a trip to In-And-Out. I can't believe how many fellow screenwriters I've become friends with since I arrived here. Probably more than a dozen. This afternoon I met a guy named Erik Harshman, and if you saw us side by side you would think we had nothing in common. But we're both from the Midwest (he's a St. Louis native), we both teach college remedial English (he teaches high school as well) and we both think the original "Robocop" is one of the most underrated works of genius ever made (and think last year's remake was a crime against humanity).

Friday, May 29, 2015

Los Angeles, Day 1

It's been an eventful trip so far, and the fun started before I even left Wichita.
In the wee hours at the airport this morning I ran into former Congressman Todd Tiahrt, a man I've gotten to know just a little bit over the years through various events and mutual friends. My timing was great: He was behind me in line at Great American Bagel and picked up my tab.
He was on his way to D.C. and asked why I was going to Los Angeles. Of course I told him about "Out Here In Kansas," which is a film that centers around the topic of gays, Christians and their relationship with each other.
Tiahrt, in case you didn't know, is a conservative Republican whose stance against gay rights is well documented. (And in case I didn't know, he reminded me.) But he wished me luck and said he hoped to see it soon. At least, I think that's what he said. It was awfully early.
The first thing I did when I arrived in Burbank was meet up with my new friend Paul Thomas Arnold for lunch. Paul is an LA native who has been acting most of his life, not including the several years he took off to serve in the military. Amazingly, he returned to acting immediately afterwards and finds plenty of work between stage and screen. I have to admit, I took a sudden interest in Paul when I discovered he'd been on the Adult Swim cult favorite "Eagleheart." I started following him on Twitter and ... well, a year later here we are. He's a funny guy, a great storyteller, and less menacing than he looks. Believe me when I tell you, he's a Hollywood actor you should admire.
Tonight, there was a great social event in which we got to discuss ideas with several other screenwriters. Off the top of my head, the ones I met were from LA, Sacramento, San Francisco, Washington, Connecticut, Texas, Iowa, Michigan and Alberta, Canada. I know I'm forgetting a couple, but it's been a long day. Actually, I just realized I've been up for 23 hours. More tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

... And boom goes the dynamite

A former co-worker of mine at KWCH walked up to me in College Hill this afternnoon, right as I was about to pour a package of Mentos into a 2 liter of Diet Coke.
"What are you doing?" he said.
"Um ... working," I replied.
And I actually kind of was. Kenny and I spent part of the day experimenting with a specialized camera we're using for a one-time shoot on June 6. This was his idea (and this picture I took while we were watching it on his television screen doesn't do the explosion justice).

Saturday, May 23, 2015

The next couple of weekends

So here's my Memorial Day Weekend so far: It has rained and rained and rained. But I have been able to spend some time with my kids, and pretty soon we're going to go to the movies.
My son and I are going to see the David Lynch cult classic "Eraserhead" (which I recently read was Stanley Kubrick's favorite movie). It's been a good 20 years since I watched that one, and I've never seen it on the big screen. My daughter and her friend are going to see a movie called "The Longest Ride."
What does this have to do with "Out Here In Kansas?" Nothing.
But it does lead me into talking about next weekend, when I'll be in Los Angeles to promote our film. And the weekend after that, Burt is coming into town especially for a complicated shoot we're been planning for a long time. There will even be an acting coach on hand. And there are a lot of other people involved. And it's outside. So please say a little prayer that it stops raining by then.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Back to the drawing board

Every day I walk by a poster board on which I drew an outline - complete with illustrations - for "Out Here In Kansas."
And every day I chuckle a little at this drawing I made of Burt Humburg (left) and Pastor Joe Wright having their much-anticipated discussion/debate, which is the climax of the movie.
I made Pastor Joe look like Clark Kent. And I made Burt look like Drew Carey.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

My new pastor friend

I've never been to College Hill United Methodist, but I've been told I needed to meet its pastor. So yesterday, I did just that.
Kent Little was a delightful man to talk to, he's on board with what we're doing with "Out Here In Kansas," and he even offered to help us in any way he could.
This is important. You may recall a couple years ago, it was at College Hill United Methodist that gay Christian advocate Matthew Vines chose to premiere a coming-out YouTube video that people have been talking about ever since. College Hill United Methodist has many gay members and is definitely one of the churches that has earned a reputation as welcoming the LGBTQ community.
At one point, I flat-out asked Pastor Kent if he believed being gay was a sin. He said he didn't. I was talking about that with my daughter (who took this picture) on the way home, because we were both waiting for a "but." It never came.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Q&A: Bradford DeVine

Full disclosure: Bradford DeVine, the narrator for “Out Here In Kansas,” is my uncle.
Is he qualified to do this? Let me put it this way: Uncle Brad was a regular voice-over and actor in television commercials and shows before I even met him. He and my mother, and their sister, were orphaned and went their separate ways at a young age. By the time I met him, I was maybe 10 years old. (Imagine what was going through my head when the bartender from the “Riunite on Ice” commercial was standing in our living room.)
While he’s still a member of the Screen Actors Guild, Uncle Brad has done so much more than acting. He’s a true Renaissance Man. He speaks several languages, he’s a gifted writer and he’s even good with woodwork and building projects. Still, the acting thing is what fascinated my brother and me. When your uncle is on “Miami Vice” in the 1980s, that kind of trumps his ability to carve a cigar box.
Then … we discovered Uncle Brad was an extra in “Caddyshack.” He’s in several scenes, most of them involving following around Rodney Dangerfield. He was uncredited, which drives my brother and I absolutely insane. Caddyshack is a classic. It may be the most popular comedy ever. Uncle Brad has patiently answered our dozens of questions about Caddyshack over the years, but we’re always left with the feeling it’s a much bigger deal to us than it is to him.
Of course, that drives us even more insane.

Uncle Brad, thank you so much for narrating oufim. What made you want to be part of “Out Here in Kansas?”
Adam, as you know, I have been out of the acting business for some time now, but I wanted to do something for your obviously important documentary.

Your voice has been of great use in many of your professional endeavors. How would you describe it?
Well, Adam, one of my theater directors once told me that the little old lady in the balcony could hear me and understand every word. That said, I have been hired on projects that I was not perfectly suited for physically, but my voice got me the job. Go figure.

You’ve always had family here in Kansas, but have lived in other parts of the world. What do you think is the biggest misconception outsiders have of Kansas?
I believe that most people who live in other parts of the country think of Kansas as "waving fields of grain," and don't really know much about the state beyond that.

You’ve done so many things in your professional life, and at one time you had a highlight tape of your commercials and television shows. How important was acting to you?
I sort of fell into the acting field when I arrived in Florida and my next-door neighbor was a film director. Like you, he made documentaries and promotional films. He invited me to be in one of his films for Fisher Island, and it sort of took off after that. At first, it was a nice way to make money and have fun. Then I discovered that I really enjoyed the lifestyle, and continued for many years. 

What do you remember about being on the set of “Caddyshack?”
Caddyshack was so long ago I don't remember too much of it except Bill Murray was a HOOT and Rodney was, well, Rodney.  They would give him the script, and then he would just do Rodney.  I remember it was one of the most fun shoots I ever did.

You did have one speaking line in "Caddyshack." Can you give me your best guess what it was?
I haven't a clue what the line was.  It has been more than 30 years and I have said so many thousands of words since then, I suppose I would have to watch the movie again. I know you and Jeff have watched it, so maybe you know better than I. If you do, let me know. 
(Editor’s note: The line comes after Rodney uses his “no, no, yes” contraption to help him sink a putt. Uncle Brad can clearly be heard saying “Very good, sir!”)

Do you get tired of Jeff and me asking you questions about Caddyshack?
Yeah, enough about Caddyshack, okay? No offense!

Fair enough. Your most recent movie was playing a judge in 2008's "Recount." What do you remember about that experience?
I really enjoyed portraying Justice Wells. He sent me a note on Supreme Court stationary saying that he was glad I was playing him, because I was so much better-looking. What can you say to that? It was great working with Kevin Spacy, Bob Balaban, and others, and of course the director, Jay Roach. 

I don't think I've ever seen you sit still long enough to watch a movie. Are you a movie buff in any way?
I do enjoy movies.  Some of my favorites are “Charade,” “From Here To Eternity,” all the Harry Potters, “The Great Escape” and “Giant.” As a member of SAG, I receive copies of the new releases so that I can decide which ones to vote for at the SAG Awards. I usually watch them all, at least for a few minutes. Some are real stinkers, believe it or not, and go on to win awards.  (Michael Keaton's latest, for example).  But who am I to judge?

Saturday, May 9, 2015

For those of you thinking about donating ...

There are still a couple of weeks remaining in our fundraising campaign, and we've tried to make it as easy as possible for you to contribute to "Out Here In Kansas."
There is our Indiegogo campaign, which allows you to either pay directly with a credit card or through PayPal.
If you have a PayPal account, you can transfer money directly to our email address:
You can make a deposit into the checking account of our business, Brain Of Burt Productions LLC, at Andover State Bank.
You can write us a check, made out to Brain Of Burt Productions LLC.
Or just can just give us cash. Many of you have done that already, and we're thankful for every dollar.

Monday, May 4, 2015

One full weekend

It seems like I've barely had a minute to update this blog these last couple days, but I would be remiss if I didn't try to catch you up with what's going on.
We'll start with Friday, which is when we held our #HugTheHateAway benefit concert. MariaElena and I went on The Brett and Sierra Show (you can see that here) to promote the concert. I then hightailed to the airport to pick up Florida's own Hollis Smith, and it's safe to say we hit it off right away. (This picture is of her trying to keep me from butchering "It Ain't Me, Babe.")
It was a fun concert and also a real thrill actually meeting Hollis for the first time, as we've been communicating for a few months now. I was able to spend some time over the weekend showing her around Wichita. We were even joined for awhile by a fan of hers from Denver, who drove in just for the show.
Today I taped a segment for the Internet-friendly Real People Real Life television show. The media has been good to us - and so have you, with your interest and financial support. So thank you for that.