Coming closely on the heels of my “Happy Hanukkah, Mom” post, I’m taking a personal moment again…but this time it’s connected to my usual blogging topics, so we’re all good. I need to raise a glass to two good friends of mine who both got a bit of attention on Monday in their long-time efforts to break into the business of show.
First, a young man by the name of Ryan Corrigan. He was a quiet lad when I met him at summer camp in 1991 in our native Massachusetts, where we and our castmates lit up the teenage theater scene with a hilarious one-act production of Neil Simon’s Fools. His mild-mannered persona belies a knack for getting into comic misadventures, and his rapier wit and spot-on skill for lampooning pop culture has served him well in writing, directing, editing and acting in personal, just-for-fun video projects for years along with a small group of equally smart and funny friends. Their banner is called Worst Party Productions, and while I’m disappointed that their website – which I was honored to contribute some text to – is currently lost somewhere on the dark remotes of the Information Superhighway, their videos are readily available elsewhere online. Among my favorite Worst Party offerings are their celebrations of the awesome awfulness of Michael Bay, and their Hott Car Tipps series.
What’s my point in all this? Well, Ryan recently earned a position as a writer on an upcoming web series called Ghost Ghirls, which will air on Yahoo! in a few months, and on Monday the project was publicly announced, its noteriety perhaps attributable to its producer: Jack Black. The series was briefly covered online by Entertainment Weekly and The Hollywood Reporter, and I have to assume that the part where Black praises Ryan’s talent and proclaims him on the verge of grabbing Hollywood by the balls was edited out due to space issues. If I remember the details correctly, Ryan is one of five writers on Ghost Ghirls, along with its two lead actresses (one of whom, Maria Blasucci, plays Becky in Michael Bay’s Movie Club above…and will soon be seen on Christopher Guest’s HBO series, Family Tree). He wrote at least five of the 12 episodes, I think, and his scripts are helping attract some impressive guest stars even beyond those mentioned in the linked articles. Sorry, I’m sworn to secrecy; it’s top secret, and I’ll have some heat on me if blab.
Anyway, Yahoo! has been showcasing some impressive web series lately; seriously, if you didn’t see Burning Love last summer, you must begin watching it immediately…though as I’m attempting to provide you with the link, I’m seeing that the first several episodes no longer seem to be available online…which makes a lot of fucking sense for a web series. Nice job, Yahoo! Well, here’s the trailer, at least.
Sorry…I’m getting away from the point of this post, but I saw an opening to recommend Burning Love and I had to take it. Hopefully the full series will be back online soon. Bringing it back around to me bragging about my friends, Burning Love set a impressive precedent for Yahoo!, and I’m excited for Ryan and his involvement in a series that hopes to carry that torch. You can bet I’ll be promoting Ghost Ghirls when it hits the web this spring.
Now I turn to a Dallas, Texas native named Brantley Aufill, who came all the way to upstate New York for college, where we met on our first day when he moved in next door to me. It was Fall 1995; I was plastering Reservoir Dogs stills on my wall; he showed me the ginormous Pulp Fiction poster he’d just hung on his. Then I didn’t see him for three weeks. Seriously, to this day I don’t know what happened to him, but the dude was gone as if he’d never been there. I started to think I’d imagined our meeting. Then one day he was back, and we became friends, roomed together the next year, and thus did I learn that this guy is an idea machine. His brain never stops working. He is constantly writing, outlining, developing, and researching multiple stories and scripts at a time, and his ideas always sound great. There are some he told me about back then that he’s long since abandoned but which still pop into my head sometimes and make me think, “That would a be a really cool movie.” Aside from his relentless work ethic, he’s also the most well-rounded movie fan I know, immersing himself in classics, foreign films and documentaries as much as contemporary Hollywood fare. He knows movies, he knows movie history…he’s a true student of film, and that deep well of knowledge informs a voice that is original yet infused with an awareness and appreciation of what’s come before. He’s been hard at work of late with several irons in the fire, just waiting for something to ignite, and he got a huge boost on Monday when one of his screenplays, called The Hooverville Dead, was included on the 2012 Black List.
What is that, you ask? Here’s a nice, short article on the origins of the Black List that appeared in Entertainment Weekly a few years ago, but the gist is that it’s a compilation of the most well-liked, unproduced screenplays that have been floating around Hollywood during a given year. Nearly 300 studio and production company employees submit a list of their favorite scripts of the year to the Black List’s organizers, and those scripts that come up most often get included. It used to name every script that was mentioned even once; now a piece has to be cited at least six times. And this year, Brantley made the cut. The Black List is big news in Hollywood, and the fact that all the writers’ names are mentioned in publications like Variety and The Hollywood Reporter is just for kicks next to the real reward of attention this shines on the writers and their work.
Those articles mention some past Black List scripts that eventually went on to earn Oscar nominations or wins, but there are a ton more that have been made since the list began in 2005, including The Hangover, 500 Days of Summer, Superbad, Burn After Reading and Babel. Some that made the list a few years ago or more are finally now in production, including Martin Scorsese’s next project. The current film Hitchcock was on the 2007 list, and Quentin Tarantino’s imminent release Django Unchained was on last year’s list. Of course, while people like Tarantino, Seth Rogen and The Coen Brothers don’t need the Black List bump to get their movies made, unknown or up-and-coming writers like Brantley stand to benefit significantly. Not every Black Listed script will wind up getting made, and not all that do will turn out to be good, but getting included can lead to great things. With all the projects I know Brantley’s got going on, I’m certain this will result in the career surge he deserves and has been working so hard toward. Hell, his work has already been performed at Carnegie Hall. Carnegie fucking Hall!! Unfortunately I don’t have any videos of his work to plug as I did Ryan’s, but he does have a blog…and unlike my rambling posts, his are tight, fun and informative. I highly suggest checking it out, especially for his short and sweet reviews of older movies.
Needless to say, I’m excited to see good things start to happen for a couple of guys whose talents have too long been enjoyed by too few. So congratulations to my friends Ryan and Brantley for this week’s big strides toward unleashing those talents on the masses. I’m rooting for both of you, as always, not just because I look forward to enjoying your success, but because I desperately and unabashedly seek to benefit from it directly. Seriously, I’m totally down with being a personal assistant. I will fetch your ice cold sodas and steaming hot lattes. I will book your holiday travel. I will pick up your dry cleaning. I know you’re both going places; for the love of God…take me with you.