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SCREENWRITER'S WEEK IN L.A

Michael Herrmann, recipient of ScreenWest's 2005 Bill Warnock Award for Screenwriting, is let loose in Los Angeles to sell his scripts. It’s an eventful week ranging from a ‘puerile’ Aussie film to a splendid Q&A with Charlize Theron at the Hollywood Film Festival, plus a near miss with the Playboy limo. This is his revealing diary from those nine days in October.

Monday
Full up with a head cold (damn that German man who coughed and spluttered all the way from Frankfurt!), I arrived in La-La Land today in the midst of a torrential downpour. I remember Joe Gillis' voice-over from Sunset Boulevard about even the rain here being 'over-sized'. It's true. So I jumped on a shuttle bus to collect my hire car at LAX and then spend two hours in a traffic jam to get to my hotel - the Farmer's Daughter on South Fairfax Ave. Fun and ever-so-camp (it looks like it's decorated by Maryanne from Gilligan's Island), I had a bite to eat and am about to cough and sneeze myself to sleep.

Tuesday
Up early for breakfast across the road at the Farmer's Market and then it's down Wilshire Boulevard to Santa Monica to see entertainment lawyer Michael Blaha as well as President of the LA-based organisation Australians in Film (AIF), Paula Paizes. Pleasant chats/coffees all round and then was over to the Hollywood Film Festival in Beverly Hills to collect my HFF pass. Somehow I manage not to get lost - a minor miracle. I return to the Farmer's Daughter to make calls and then go to an AIF screening of Me and My Stupid Mate at Raleigh Studios, opposite Paramount. Lots of chatty ex-pats in attendance, which is nice. Film, however, is puerile rubbish (the general consensus), so after world's shortest Q&A session with director, we all hit the bar.

Wednesday
Chats with literary agent Brent Rose and manager Stacey Testro result in script deliveries around to their offices. I then have lunch with Jake Wisely from Clear Channel subsidiary Bicycle Music before dashing over to Warner Chappell Music Publishing for a How'd ya do meeting re my Ramones musical Gabba Gabba Hey! before returning for a quick wash and brush up prior to the Hollywood Film Festival screening of North Country. Really good film - sort of Silkwood in a coalmine. Its star, Charlize Theron, and director, Niki Caro (Whale Rider) then have Q&A with audience and are a hoot. Cool, savvy, talented gals both - although I felt they were patronized within an inch of their lives by some local film scribe who acted as moderator and seemed to think that whenever women collaborate on a production then it must have a 'message'. Which in this instance is true, but as the Uber-lovely Ms Theron countered: 'Look - I'm just here to entertain people.' Onya Charlize!

Thursday
Saw the Music Export Development Officer Tony George at Austrade and then down the corridor to see the vivacious Tracey Montgomery at Ausfilm this morning. Tracey then referred me to Alex Proyas' producer Topher Dow, so I went over to his office on Sunset for a chat/script delivery. Back to Beverly Hills for a fun meeting with Ethan Antonucci at Gersh before it's back to the Arclight Cinema for the HFF premiere of Bullets Over Hollywood - a doco about the history of gangsters in American film. Turns out Hugh Heffner is its EP, so minor snickers from yours truly when HH made a grand entrance with sundry bunnies just before the screening began. Doco is very mediocre and I later almost run into the Playboy limo when I have a momentary lapse and forget which side of the road I'm meant to be driving on. After-party at the too-hip Tropicana Bar at the Roosevelt Hotel is a curious mix of slashies (actor-model-whatevers) and elderly Heffner cronies. I down a couple of margaritas, chat with a couple of Playboy Channel suits and depart. My voice by this point is sounding way too much like Marianne Faithful. I arrive back at the Farmer's Daughter to find a message from my mother - my father has been diagnosed with a form of leukaemia today. This week is turning out to be memorable in more ways than one. I'm determined to down several vodkas before bedtime.

Friday
A conference call this morning with the programming folk at the South By Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas re GGH!. They seem very taken with the production, which is pleasing. Chris at New Wave Entertainment calls and wants to set up a meeting for next week, as does entertainment lawyer Eric Feig and rock PR supremos the Mitch Schneider Organisation, so I get all of that sorted for Monday and Tuesday. I leave messages for Henry Rollins' agent at Evolution and the guys at BinderSpink, dope myself up with flu tablets and then it's over to the Standard Hotel to meet with Rob Masala, who entertains me with tales of life in LA's botoxed entertainment trenches.

Saturday
Decided to have a HFF-free day, so gobbled down a late breakfast before visiting the LA County Museum of Art and the La Brea Tar Pits. What a hoot! I then headed over to the Grove to nab some souvenirs for the folks at home as well as an early dinner before seeing an advance screening of Capote, the new Philip Seymour-Hoffman flick. Totally amazing. He and Catherine Keener can do no wrong in my book. I hope they pick up a swag of awards over coming months.

Sunday

Visited the Frank Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall this morning - truly an amazing building - and then went for a wander around downtown. LA's Broadway is certainly a lot different to its New York namesake. Close your eyes and you could imagine yourself in Tijuana - Latino everything for miles (literally). Had a late lunch at the Farmer's Market and then went over to the Arclight for the HFF closing flick My Neighbour Totoro - a Japanese anime that Disney has picked up and re-voiced with not one but two Fannings - Dakota and Elle. If I could have committed seppuku after 20 minutes I would have. The film is so cute it's nauseating. Came back to the hotel and watched The West Wing before turning in.

Monday
It's raining again today. Or, more correctly, drizzling. Roads are wet and traffic banked up everywhere. Went over to Sherman Oaks for a meeting re Gabba Gabba Hey! with the Mitch Schneider Organisation - one of LA's top rock PR firms - before back for a quick bite to eat and then out to a meeting with legal eagle Eric Feig, who was recommended to me by Martin Brown.

Just returned from the HFF Awards Dinner at the Beverly Hilton. What can I say? A very starry night indeed - Jennifer Aniston, Halle Berry, Keanu Reeves, Cameron Crowe, George Lucas, Quentin Tarantino, Diane Keaton, Goldie Hawn, Jodie Foster, Sam Mendes et al - all in attendance. My table comprised a couple of tourists from Manchester out for an evening of celeb spotting, a fellow writer from San Francisco and two couples from a film equipment hire firm. Akira Goldsmith gave a nice speech accepting his award for Screenplay of the Year for Cinderella Man and Sam Mendes joked at the concept of an awards ceremony which was handing out gongs for films like Jarhead and Memoirs of a Geisha that haven't even been released yet. Tres LA or what? A fun night all round and certainly the social highlight of my trip.

Tuesday
Slept in a bit this morning, made some calls and now off to have lunch with my LA theatre lawyer Chandler Warren. No other plans for today except for a call with my New York lawyer Lana Cantrell re Gabba Gabba Hey! and then packing in preparation for leaving tomorrow. I've handed out all but one of the fifteen screenplays I lugged over here, so my suitcase is thankfully a lot lighter for the return leg back to Perth.

Have felt a bit like an Antipodean Johnny Appleseed these past days - running around and seeing folk, leaving scripts and CD-ROMs here and there for agents, managers, producers and/or lawyers to read - so it will be interesting to watch over coming weeks to see if any sprout and bear fruit. It's been a great experience and I hope that my film adventures can be captioned: 'To be continued...'.

Published November 24, 2005

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Michael Herrmann, recipient of the Bill Warnock Award
(photo by Frances Andrijich)

The Bill Warnock Award was created to provide Western Australian Screenwriters with a unique opportunity to experience one of the world's premier international film festivals in Los Angeles. The award gives both newer and experienced writers the rare chance to meet and talk personally with Hollywood scriptwriters, agents, producers and industry high-flyers in a professional setting.






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