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"From An Audience Of Brass Fasteners To ?Must-Meet status' for the Big Brass."

Paul Buscemi's Column for Monday August 20th, 2001. Buscemiarts@hotmail.com

I've been averaging about 4 hours sleep a night lately. Between writing, meetings, rehearsing pitches and my day job - it has been an exhausting week. The other night, I was writing and assembling script copies at the same time. I was so tired; I fell asleep at the keyboard with pages of script waiting to be bound with brass fasteners sitting nearby in their box.

I had one of those dreams that unfold like an acid trip in some exploitation movie from the 1960's.

In the dream, I am at my desk, typing as the area in front of my keyboard melts away, leaving a vast chasm. There, in the void, an amphitheater forms. An audience fades-in. They are in rapt attention - riveted to the keys and words as they form on the computer screen. As sentences complete, the audience cheers or gasps or just waits on the edges of their seats, for the next exciting sentence to finish.

When I awoke, in front of my keyboard, were neat little rows of brass fasteners - all lined up like an audience in a theater. I have no idea how they got there. This left me pondering a Psychology 101 analysis:

We struggle in a vacuum seeking an audience for our work and one day we awake to find a "packed house" at our fingertips. The story has played out again and again. Writer makes one sale and now everyone wants to meet with him. This is great of course. A dream come true. But deep down, the writer is no different than before the sale.

I have no idea how the audience of brass fasteners got in front of my keyboard. It freaks me out to think about it. I haven't dared move them. With my luck, that would start some sort of Blair Witch chain reaction.

To better understand what happens after the audience forms around your keyboard, I sought the wisdom of screenwriter Howard Klausner. Klausner co-wrote Space Cowboys, (with Ken Kaufman) a spec screenplay that sold in a week. Although he had written twelve screenplays before Space Cowboys, it was that rapid spec sale which elevated him to must-meet status with the Hollywood brass.

But the story really begins in Tennessee....

"I grew up in Nashville and I came to L.A. - like so many people from that part of the world - to be a star," notes Klausner. "I was an actor. My credits for about five years included one Sizzler commercial and that was about it. So I decided, that maybe this thing I used to do in high school (writing all the skits and plays) was something I should (now) turn my attention toward."

Klausner then attended the USC Film School as a Critical Studies Major. Upon graduation, he began looking for writing work through the various production jobs he held. He quickly learned, "the two just don't co-exist. If you want to be a writer - you have to write." Klausner adds, "You're not going to get a writing job, just hanging out on the set."

Around this time, Klausner moved away from L.A. altogether and began teaching in Colorado. "I finally figured out I was procrastinating the inevitable and came back (to L.A.) It took me 13 screenplays before (the first sale). About 7 or 8 years before I finally popped one, and that was Space Cowboys with Ken Kaufman."

Howard Klausner's life has certainly changed since that first sale. He's now working on three projects, one of which will likely begin shooting in January. We'll speak more of that next week, as well as Klausner's thoughts on the writing process, career building, pitching and the writer's life. Stay tuned....

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