FINALLY available online, here is the short film adaptation of "The Boyfriend Trials" from last year's "The Cheat Sheet" Film Festival.
THE BOYFRIEND TRIALS
It seems the older I get, the pickier I get about my boyfriends.
Back when I was seventeen, I'd date a guy if he simply had a car to drive me around in. It didn't even matter if he was a pothead burnout with no greater ambition than getting to see Phish perform at Bonnaroo.
When I was twenty-one, I'd date a guy if he could simply make me laugh til I nearly peed my pants. It didn't even matter if he had dropped out of college to pursue a career in burrito construction.
When I was twenty-five, I'd date a guy if he simply had the ability to make me have an orgasm so powerful I nearly passed out. It didn't even matter if he was currently getting his law degree after having already gotten his MBA after having already gone to med school, now entering his second decade of perpetual higher education.
But now I'm thirty...
If you want to read some more of "The Boyfriend Trials," click here
I was talking to a good friend yesterday. We're real friends but we're also Facebook friends, and she "LIKES" my celebrity (or whatever you're supposed to humbly call it) Facebook page, and I think she might even follow me on Twitter, and she's certainly on my Mail Chimp mailing list and perhaps even subscribes to my blog's RSS feed. Oh, she also happens to date my manager.
Any way, we were e-mailing--I told you we're friends--and she asked when the winning film from The Cheat Sheet Film Festival would be posted online for her to see.
I was stupefied.
Why? Let's see:
*I'd twice written blog posts about it.
*I'd posted a link to the Vimeo upload of it on my Facebook page and posted additional links every time I'd written further blog posts about it.
*I'd done likewise on my celebrity Facebook page.
*And, I'd Tweeted about it ad nauseum.
I don't bring this up to slam her. She did nothing wrong. I did. I am apparently doing something quite wrong.
How does an artist make the unaware aware?
This isn't an isolated incident. It happens quite a bit. People that want to hear about me, desire to hear from me, are curious to hear what I'm doing, have given permission to me to market to them, oh, and are actively looking for and anxiously waiting for my newest shit...MISS IT. People that spend a lot of their lives online as well.
What am I doing wrong?
Why is my stuff getting lost in the online ether?
What can I do to fix it?
It's scary that I'm not even batting 1.000 with the people that crave my content.
Here's the winning film from "The Cheat Sheet" Film Festival. An adaptation of "The Ambiguous Woman" called "Cool & Relaxed."
THE AMBIGUOUS WOMAN
She had given him her business card (Molly Stone/Weber Shandwick/Acct. Mgr.) and not just scrawled her number on a cocktail napkin, which seems less formal, tackier, less personal, but which he would have much preferred. He would have thought she really liked him if she had snatched his Blackberry from his hand and manually entered her number into his phone like he'd seen other girls do before, maybe added a personalized contact entry for herself, “Molly the cute girl at Gingerman,” which would have actually filed itself under T as “The cute girl at Gingerman [comma] Molly,” like the descriptor was her full surname, but still he would have liked that a lot better. He would have definitely called her if she'd done that. But, no, she had just said, “Well, gotta go meet my friends for dinner. Here's my card, shoot me an e-mail.” Shoot her an e-mail? It was her business e-mail. Shoot? Shit.
If you want to read the rest of "The Ambiguous Woman," click here
Or, buy the entire collection here.
MORE FILMS FROM THE FILM FESTIVAL TO FOLLOW...
The first ever (but I'm guessing not the last ever) "The Cheat Sheet" film festival was a bigger success than I would have ever imagined. Certainly something I didn't completely think would ever come to fruition when I began writing the first story from the collection, "The References," less than two years ago in December of 2009.
In the movie business there's a term: high concept.
It refers to a work that can easily be described in a succinctly stated premise. One sentence or so.
Now, this term is often used disparagingly, but I don't think it needs to be. In fact, I intentionally wrote all eleven "Cheat Sheet" stories to be as high concept as possible (check out the succinctly stated premises on the book's Amazon page). I wrote the stories with an eye for them one day being adapted for screen--and easily at that.
Most short stories are pure literary exercises, writerly masturbations--a man lying in bed dying while thinking about his life, for example--which is about as low concept and un-exhilarating for screen as humanly possible.
But, just because a story is high concept, just because you set up a strong plot backbone in the original material, doesn't mean the film will be great. Execution is key and it's so easy to fuck up a good idea with a few errors here and there, a little bit of uncontrollable bad luck. Until you've made a film yourself, you'll just never know how damn hard it is.
These Syracuse students that participated in the adaptation process via Tula Goenka's upper level filmmaking class worked tirelessly on the films from late January when I first came to class to tell them the assignment all the way to, in some cases, putting the final edits on a film a few hours before the festival!
It's grueling work turning a twenty-five page story into a fifteen minute movie, but the kids--I call them kids--pulled it off. All four films were damn good. Not flawless, of course, that will come with time and finer honed skills, but still damn good and impressive in their own way. These are kids I'm going to be begging to work with me soon, begging to work for eventually perhaps.
The winning film was "The Ambiguous Woman" adapted by Amy Paterson, Lindsay Steinkamp, and Xiu Qing Wu. Truth be told, going into the screening, I thought they were a longshot to pull off the victory. Not because of their talent or anything, but because "The Ambiguous Woman" seemed to me one of the harder stories to adapt due to an abundance of interior monologue in the main character's head. But, their execution with such a degree of difficulty was unique and skilled, especially since they flawlessly cast the male lead. A lesser actor truly could have botched the entire project. They even had the balls to change my title, opting for "Cool & Relaxed," a naming which nearly made me vomit when I first saw it on the festival program, but which I was completely sold on by the time the credits rolled.
The other three films were also good, all having their own moments of brilliance [a tour de force sex montage cut to Led Zeppelin's "Black Dog" in "The References"; a truly trippy "Twilight Zone"-esque portion of "Gross Humans"; and a stunning ending to "The Boyfriend Trials"] but a few more problems here and there ultimately cost them.
Filmmaking is a "failing promiscuously" kind of art form. You have to fuck up countless times in order to actually get good at the many aspects of it. So, I'm glad I was able to help the students get a few more fuckups out of the way early in their careers.
The kids seemed very excited at the work they did this year and the opportunity the festival afforded them. I even heard some filmmaking students that weren't involved express dismay that they didn't get such an opportunity! I hope I get to do it again next year with a new batch of kids, perhaps a new batch of colleges even.
It was a massive success.
And, I can't wait to show you the films soon enough.
Special thanks to Tula, Craig, Jake, Jules, and all the filmmakers and actors involved in the films.
Yesterday, I was invited up to Syracuse University as THE CHEAT SHEET was on the syllabus of a class. But this wasn't just one of those boring classes devoted to contextual studies of some literary work. You know, read the work, then discuss what it could all possibly mean, relate it to feminist theory, queer theory, Marxism. For one, my book says what it's about right there in the subtitle: the sexes, sex, and sexiness in New York. No, this was going to be a much more interesting assignment:
Select a story from The Cheat Sheet and adapt it into a short film.
With only twelve students in the class, I figured my participation would be minimal and it would be a quick little engagement. Speak, let them ask questions, snicker in my head at the dumbest questions, bolt after thirty minutes and hit the bar (good practice for when I do eventually become an honorary and lazy adjunct professor). Instead, this class ended up being super intense!
Before I arrived, the students had already read the entire collection and my manager/producer Craig and I (plus professor Tula Goenka) spent a good two hours with the twelve students discussing their two favorites stories from the collection and what resonated with them most. They each pitched Craig and me as to how they would go about adapting the stories, and we offered critiques.
The students were sharp! I can't lie. A lot sharper than I was when I was their age. And, based on how acutely they grasped the materials, they seem a lot more knowledgeable about "the sexes, sex, and sexiness" than I did when I was in college. Bully for them. (These kids are born in the 1990s if you want to be freaked out.) Honestly, the students had such great ideas, such amazing insight, that there really wasn't much for us to say. I was impressed. They even did some minor "contextual studies" of the material that made me seem a lot smarter than I really was. ("I just loved how you included that symbolism of the picnic basket...as if their life isn't always a picnic like they'd want it to be." Smile. Nod. Enjoy the undeserved ego stroke.)
When all was said and done, "The Ambiguous Woman" and "Gross Humans" were far and away the winners, with 9 of the 12 picking the former, and 5 the latter. "The References" and "The Boyfriend Trials" were also much beloved. All eight stories were selected at least once though, which made me proud. After that it was on the students to turn from a group of twelve individuals into four production teams focused on each making one of the films. The students were surprisingly wed to certain stories and refused to back down. It took a good twenty minutes of intense negotiation and putting-foots-down before the groups were finally formed.
Now it's time for them to make the films. They'll adapt the stories into scripts, rewrite them to perfection, then produce, direct, edit, and make complete 10-12 minute films by the end of the semester. I'll be Skypeing in with them on most Mondays to go over the work like some futuristic overlord. I'll return at the end of the semester for a big Cheat Sheet film festival.
It was an exhilarating experience to say the least and I'm starting to like academia. I'll keep you posted as the films start to develop.
An unexpected highlight of the day was at the end of the class as I was gathering my things. A polite young woman approached me with a somewhat nervous "Aaron, I just had to..."
I assumed that sentence would be completed with some great praise:
- "...tell you that How to Fail" changed my life."
- "...inform you that you are perhaps America's most celebrated satirist."
- "...alert you that the entire campus is buzzing about your appearance here today."
No. Instead she completed that sentence:
"Aaron, I just had to ask...why do characters eat Thai food in all of your stories? Do you really like it or something?"
I'd honestly never noticed I did that. Curious. (And, embarrassingly enough true after I investigated.)
Craig and I left to grab some chicken satay and curry before we headed back to New York.
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