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Fun Joel's Screenwriting Blog


-- On Screenwriting and Related Topics

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Location: Los Angeles, CA

I moved from NYC to LA in October, 2003. And though I still think NYC is the greatest city in the world, I'm truly loving life here in the City of Angels. I'm a writer, reader, and occasional picture-taker.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

The Grove, Las Vegas

This is the story of how, this past Saturday night, I went to the movies and ended up in Vegas (Baby).

It starts with me and two friends heading over to The Grove to see a movie. My Lord! Don't ever go to see a movie there on a Saturday night! $12.50! I could simply not believe how much they were charging for a movie there. I mean, sure, I am in favor of different ticket prices for different times, and even for different movies (if crappier movies cost less, they might actually get people to go see them anyway at the "sale" prices). But still, I was actually offended by the ticket price.

Plus, I wasn't even going to see a brand new movie. We thought about seeing Munich, but I wasn't so in the mood to see it. And while we were deciding, it sold out. So no problems there. We ended up going to see Walk the Line. Not a bad flick, but nothing special either, I thought. The acting was solid, and the music, of course, was great. But I just as if I'd seen this movie so many times before. Sure, the Cash-Carter romance aspect was a bit unique, but overall, this was not much different than so many other music-themed biopics.

Regardless, that was all besides the point here. We saw the movie, and when we got out it was about 1 or 1:30 in the morning. We're in the car, heading out, and one of my friends asks, "What do you want to do now? Feel like hitting a bar?" Surprisingly, I wasn't so interested (not that I would've said no, had that been the decision). Then my friend who was driving says, "You wanna go to Vegas?" Neither me nor the other guy said no, so we just kept driving down Fairfax. We get to the 10 freeway and start to wonder, are we really getting on? We do. I think that basically none of us wanted to be the one to chicken out, so we kept going, and by the time we passed downtown, we realized we were really in this together, and started making some minor logistical plans.

One friend called someone to check that his car would be parked legally the next day. I called my roommate, who happened to be working Vegas for the week (he's a comedian) and told him we were on our way, and would probably want to crash in his room for a bit. I also made one demand of the others -- "Whatever else we do, I need to get some deodorant!" We had nothing but the clothes on our backs.

Maybe it was the Vegas-like setting of The Grove, with its faux-European architecture and poor-man's choreographed fountain (Bellagio Lite), but somehow we were in the Vegas frame of mind, and went for it.

We traded off driving and pulled onto the Strip at around 5:30 or so. Hadn't seen the new Wynn yet, so we decided to head there first. Nicely done, but too expensive for us to play at! We headed next door to the Venetian (my favorite, aesthetically speaking, of the ones I've seen), but of course it too lacked the cheap tables this poor screenwriter and his friends sought. Thus, we figured the way to go was slightly cheesey, and headed across the street to Treasure Island. There we found a nice $5 Blackjack table (I was not of the mind to sit and play poker, and craps was too complicated for that hour. After some ups and downs, I ended up down $5. We got the car, hit the drugstore (for that deo, etc.) and went to Harrah's (where my roommate was staying) for breakfast. After that, we headed up to his room and crashed for an hour or two of sleep, then got up, got some more food, and headed out of Vegas.

But I didn't finish down! In the Harrah's casino, and then later at the gas station on our way out of Nevada, I played some (mostly Quarter) slots and actually made up my losses and then some. Finished up around $10. And even breaking even in Vegas is a win! Of course, I didn't do as well as my one friend. He had been down $30, and as we walked to our car he said, "I'm just going to put a hundred on red." He dropped a $100 bill on the roulette table, it came in, he picked it up, and walked out! Then the "big winner" bought our pizza for lunch!

And in the long run, I didn't even lose on the gas money. Splitting three ways, we each owed about $15, but then last night I went to a friend's place for poker. He has a weekly game, which I don't play at all the time, but once in a while. Low stakes -- $10 buy-in and nickel ante. The guy who drove was there as well, and I handed him the $15 I owed him (we forgot to settle up on Sunday evening when we got back home). Well, last night turned out to be very good for me. I turned my $10 into $39! I'll happily take a near quadrupling of my money any day!

So, what does this all have to do with screenwriting? Well, admittedly not that much, but I'll find a few things!

On the most basic, and somewhat negative level, it pushed my writing back a bit. I was hoping to get a lot of writing done on Sunday, and did none. And then work came calling, so while I have made progress on Hell on Wheels' first draft, and may finish it by tomorrow, I still haven't completed it. But definite progress, so I'm still pleased.

On a silly level, maybe we could say that being economically sodomized by the movie ticket prices, I was extra motivated to try to get some money back.

But there's more to it. This is part of the screenwriting life (not to be confused with the capitalized The Screenwriting Life). Part of it is living in L.A. and driving to Vegas is just something L.A. people do. It's also about experiencing life, and having small adventures. People asked me, "Why didn't you just go to Commerce (a local poker room in L.A.)?" I explained that the point of the trip wasn't the gambling; it was the experience.

Being a screenwriter is about finding those moments in life that have something to them. Some resonance. Moments of spontaneity (like driving to Vegas because you have no reason not to). Moments of slight madness (like laying $100 on red). Moments of text and subtext (like none of us wanting to be the one to put the kibosh on the adventure).

And if you find those, maybe you'll even come out a few bucks ahead in the end!

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Blogger Matt Waggoner said...

Heh, I don't mind paying $12.50, or even $14 for a movie ticket. As long as it's at the Arclight. :)

9:58 PM  
Blogger Writeprocrastinator said...

Ah, the greatest advantage to being both single and without child, the spontaneous road trip.

I hate you...in the nicest possible way. Happy New Year!

9:28 PM  
Anonymous The Constipated Writer said...

You have just described why I want to move to the west. Now if you could just convince my girlfriend...

9:38 PM  
Blogger Tamara said...

Wow, sounds FUN...Joel :) You know, I grew up in LA, and have only been to Vegas 3 times. Does that mean I lose my L.A. status? I guess when I moved to San Diego at 22 I skipped the Vegas days. I dunno, but glad you had fun!

9:49 PM  
Blogger Shawn said...

Ah, the spontaneous journey to Vegas. An LA tradition. Me and few friends tried it once piss-drunk one Memorial Day weekend. Never made it out the living room. Maybe next time...

12:14 AM  
Blogger Fun Joel said...

Shawn -- If you were piss drunk, it's probably a GOOD thing that you didn't make it out of the living room!

12:31 AM  
Anonymous Kathleen said...

now that was a good read. way to be spontaneous.

1:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's it? $5 blackjack, two hours of sleep and breakfast?! You gotta go to Binions. That's where the characters are. The newer casinos are like playing poker at Nordstroms! Glad you went through with it but if you're gonna make that drive would hope for more "adventure." Last time we were there we ended up at Binion's around 3am. Craps. Poker. And football picks from a toothless pit boss who after she finished each thought would bark "Bank of America!" Turns out four of her five picks won! THAT'S the REAL Vegas, baby:-). Enjoy the blog. Thanks for library references.

5:50 PM  
Blogger Fun Joel said...

Ha ha, Anon, I'd have liked to be there. Funny shite!

4:24 AM  

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