6/2/09

"BUDDY'S TAVERN": THE TRYING TRAUMA OF TELLING "TWO FAMILY HOUSE"

twofamilyhouse

Onward, blog-ho. Here's how we got here, re: this musical of ours, "Buddy's Tavern", now playing in Norwich, Connecticut. But first, click here for Wikipedia's unexpectedly informative page about my film "Two Family House", on which the musical is based.



"Two Family House" began life as a screenplay which I wrote at the end of 1993. The previous year I had won a Nicholl Fellowship in Screenwriting for a screenplay I'd written called "Begin The Beguine"--twenty large was bestowed upon me as a gift for having been one of the best five scripts picked from a few thousand. The deal was, you couldn't just collect your check...it had to used as a STIPEND while you were producing new material. "Two Family House" was the script I chose to write during that stipend period.

Why? Simple. It was the least commercial idea I had in my drawer. Since there was plainly no way in hell such a script would ever get sold, much less made into a movie, I thought it a neat trick to at least collect twenty g's for its inception. (A more clever--and venal--man would have reasoned that the twenty g's would be good support while writing an incredibly commercial, blockbuster script that would then sell for a massive amount of money...making the twenty the small stake at the casino table that lures the large game. For whatever reason, I was born lacking the gene that produces this kind of good, solid reasoning).

Anyway I wrote the script and it instantly attracted no attention whatsoever. But as my father--a professional writer for sixty some years--always said to me about scripts: "every one of those scripts in your drawer is money in the bank!" I never quite believed this--until, six years later, I met a lovely fellow named Alan Klingenstein who, with his partner Jim Kohlberg, wanted to enter the indie movie game. They'd seen my first film, "Cafe Society" (which I'd made just a year and half after writing "Two Family House") and wanted to know what else I had up my sleeve.

I liked Al and Jim a lot upon first meeeting them. They came from investment banking, had no pretensions about their show-biz desires and were looking to spend a fixed amount of money (a couple of mil) on whatever script they fell in love with. By then--it's 1999 now--I'd written a pile more of unproduced screenplays...some commercial, some less so. Perversely, I decided to give Al and Jim my least commercial script to read...you guessed it, "Two Family House". Why? Because I still loved it and knew--in my heart and soul--that it would never, NEVER get made...so why not take it out of the drawer and give it a little air? Sort of like taking an aging, beloved sports car--a Jaguar, say, no longer fit for the highway--out for a spin on the back roads...

A few weeks passed by. And then I got a strange call from my producing partner Anne Harrison. "They loved it", she said. "They want to know if it can be made for the amount of money they want to spend and how soon you'd be available to get started." Oddly, I remember where I was when this phone call happened. At a resort in Arizona (Arizona, for Goddsakes!) where my wife's then company was having some sort of corporate retreat. Before I knew it, the little script that I'd never thought would see the light of day had--as it were--come out of the closet...

Tomorow I'll back up and discuss the plot orgins of the script. Meanwhile, as the movie (and show) are set in Staten Island in the mid-fifties and concern an everyday guy who dreams of becoming a singing star, how about a little mid-fifties singing star stuff? Here's Perry Como on his TV show with the McGuire sisters, circa 1958...




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