Author: jperotti89

Joey Perotti was born on April 10, 1989. He studied film at California State University, Monterey Bay and attained his Bachelor’s degree in Teledramatic Arts & Technology with a concentration in screenwriting and directing. His capstone film, Back Home , a short documentary about two veterans from different eras dealing with post-war life, earned him an award of merit from the Best Shorts Competition in La Jolla. Shortly after graduating, Joey worked as a production assistant and assistant editor for Loteria Films in Berkeley, California. He then moved on to teach film and video at his alma mater, Archbishop Riordan High School in San Francisco, and Video Production & Storytelling at Notre Dame High School in Salinas. Joey continues to write, and his screenplays have been finalists in the Carmel Art & Film Festival, Cinequest Film Festival, the Nashville Film Festival, and, most recently, first place in the ReelHeART International Film Festival. Joey is also the co-host of the Top Five5 podcast with his best friend, Shaun Day, and the two record music as thesexeffects . He lives with his wife and dog in Monterey, California.

Red Valley – Chapter XVII

So when I converted the blog into a website, I thought I’d lost the ability to post. But really I’m just dumb. Anyways, here’s the next riveting chapter. Cheers.

 

XVII

Colby County Jail was but a room of cells. Only three, in fact. The little stucco adobe had seen little action and Officer Bass, the young, lanky cell guard, was happy to have see some action, even if it only was the aftermath. Billy sat with his back against the wall staring at the bars as Marshal Long signed papers on the desk.

“Just sign there, Marshal, and we can take it from here.”

Marshal Long hesitated before signing. He smiled that bastard smile of his and raised his finger to the guard. He walked over to Billy’s cell and waited to be acknowledged. When the acknowledgment never came, Marshal Long grew annoyed.

“Boy.”

“I said, boy.”

Billy raised his head and glared at Long.

“Now I’m gonna remind you that I did not kill you back there. I could have, and believe me, I wanted to. I kept you alive. I hoped…in your… gratitude…that you would tell me everything you know about West Steel. What he’s up to. Where’s he’s goin’. Why he’s back. But you have remained silent. Now as soon as I sign this release, you’re in the county’s hands. And they don’t take too kindly to niggers.”

Billy looked over and could see Officer Bass watching and smiling.

“You’ll be hanged. Without so much as a second thought from that son of a bitch you’re keepin’ mum to protect.”

Billy took a deep breath and returned his attention to the cell.

 

Red Valley – Chapter XVI

So Thursday night I finished the first draft of Red Valley – the adaptation. It barely scratched 98 pages once in iBooks Author, which feels embarrassing. I don’t know when the hell I’ll get around to working on a second draft. For the moment, I’m satisfied that it’s out of my system and I can say that I’ve done it. I celebrated with Lagavulin and Warren Zevon. It was mostly not fun, because a lot of the time I was literally just converting tenses. But there were parts I did enjoy. Where I got to embellish and such.

What else? Haven’t been feeling great. Friday night I passed out before 8. No good. But I’ve been in a real creative mood despite getting down with the sickness. Finished storyboarding a buddy’s short screenplay. That was fun. I’ll be reading another friend’s screenplay tomorrow. I’m very excited to dive into that. Just trying to stay creative, no matter if it’s reading, writing, drawing, podcasting or what. This is the most consistent I’ve been in a long time and I don’t want to break the momentum. Anyways, another short chapter. Hope you enjoy. Cheers.

 

XVI

West and Charlie had high-tailed it so fast out of Fat Frank’s Saloon that they were already a mile gone before they realized young Billy Douglas hadn’t escaped with them. Charlie noticed first and slowed to a stop.

“Wait! Hank!”

Annoyed, West slowed and rode back around to Charlie.

“What?”

“What about Billy?”

“What about him? He’s probably dead. That was a good thing he done but we’re too close to Ellie to turn back now.”

“I ain’t goin’ no further with you unless we turn back for Billy,” Charlie said, shaking his head.

“That’s your goddaughter, you sick son of a bitch.”

“I realize that, Hank. But Billy saved our hides. Twice now. It’s the right thing to do.”

West gritted his teeth in frustration and looked out into the distance in front of him.

“I know you don’t think there’s such a thing as good guys or bad guys,” said Charlie. “But you actually have a chance to be the good guy here, Hank. If you continue on and save Ellie, it’ll only be half a victory. You’ll live the rest of your days with that regret you were tellin’ me about back there.”

West shot Charlie a glare and turned back to the horizon in front of him.

Red Valley – Chapter XV

Writing is no fun. The actual, physical act I mean. Before that though – the brainstorming, the theorizing, the pure world and character creating – that’s what I live for. Most writing (at least speaking for myself) happens on the whiteboard and in Moleskine notebooks. Typing that sucker out into whatever the appropriate word processing software is the final, final step (before editing those choices, of course).

It can be a bit of a drag, and sometimes it makes me feel hot beneath the collar. An urge to just get it done!

I can’t believe I have the audacity to post the first draft of this adaptation here, but I doubt anyone’s paying attention anyway, so that makes things easier.

Anyway, we’re getting into the thick of mini-chapters here. A nice quick read and then you (the imaginary audience) can go happily about your day. Cheers!

 

XV

Father Alberto Sanchero lit the large red candles on top of the altar. Typically these duties would be carried out by the nuns of the parish, but something about the way the wax ran down the sides of the candles always made Father Sanchero feel at peace. He was a large man, pudgy and bearded, and his fingernails were grown out past the polite length. Father Alberto lit another candle and smiled before the front doors creaked open, letting in a draft that extinguished the flame. His smile disappeared.

“Uncle Alberto,” hollered a familiar voice. When Father Sanchero turned, he saw Roberto and the rest of the gang inside standing in front of the main doors of the church.  He marched purposefully towards the gang and Roberto extended his arms for a hug. “Uncle,” he smiled, but he was met with a strict slap across the face.

“I told you never here.”

Roberto glared down at his uncle. They were both dangerous men.

“Never in the House of God.”

Roberto broke into a grin.

“But uncle, we’ve brought you a present.”

Megedagik approached carrying the chicken cage with a blanket covering it and brought it forward. Roberto removes the blanket and Father Sanchero looked down upon Ellie in the rusting cage and smiled. He knelt down so as to be eye-level with her. She was gaunt and dirty and her skin was turning grey and in Father Sanchero’s eyes she was perfect.

“So you have.”

Father Sanchero reached into the cage to touch Ellie and she tried to push back but there was nowhere for her to go. Father Sanchero brushed her cheek with the side of his palm and took a deep breath. Then he stood and faced his nephew.

“She will do just fine.”

Chico smiles and let out what might have been a laugh.

“Come. Let us pray first.”

“We’re not really the prayin’ type, padre,” said Juan.

“Do you wish to eat?”

“Eat? Shit yeah, we’re starvin’.”

“Then you will pray. Come.”

Father Sanchero smiled at Ellie through the cage once more and then led the gang to the back of the church.

Red Valley – Chapter XIV

So this is the chapter that caused me such grief. It was roughly twenty pages of script and it all just seemed so daunting. But I got over it and have been speeding through ever since. I’m currently on Chapter XXII (22, for the lay person) and I would love to have it finished before my first Central Coast Writers meeting on the 21st. If I keep up at this pace I think I could make that happen.

The chapters since have mostly been very short, which was nice after adapting such a long one. But the new ones have barely taken up a full Google Docs page. Again, this is going to be a very short first draft. But at least it will be complete.

Anyways. Hope you enjoy, my imaginary audience. Cheers.

XIV

West and Charlie and Billy were tired. They’d been riding for days without any real sleep and it was finally catching up to them.
“Wasn’t there a place we used to hold up in in this town?” asked West.

“No. … No, I don’t think so,” said Charlie with false conviction.

As they rode down the main street the quiet town became quiet no longer, and wild piano music and unruly voices could be heard emenating from down the street. West grinned.

“Oh. That’s right,” said West, and he rode ahead. Charlie let out a heavy, burdensome sigh.

Fat Frank’s Saloon was a large, two-story building that served as the source of the noise the boys had heard down the street. Lights shown through the many windows and lit up the street in front of it, attracting West and Billy like moths. Charlie was more resistant.

“Not here, Hank.”

“Here’s as good a place as any.”

“I’m a married man.”

West didn’t reply and instead dismounted and hitched his horse. Billy followed his lead.

“Looks good to me,” said Billy.

Charlie gritted his teeth and inhaled slowly but violently before he, too, got down from his horse and followed West and Billy inside.

If they’d thought it had been loud outside they were deafened by the noise inside. The piano was playing a fierce tune and had a good crowd singing along. Then  of course you had your usual gamblers and drinkers and swine making their usual threats and outbursts. And that’s not even accounting for noises of love – in some form or another – coming from upstairs. It was a good place, all and all, and if you belonged you felt right at home. Billy did not belong.

While West, Charlie, and Billy were intially greeted by Layla, a seductive aspirant, it didn’t take long for Fat Frank to march up to the boys in a huff.

“You boys don’t come no further. We don’t serve their kind here,” Fat Frank said, pointing at Billy. Billy’s eyes narrowed. Fat Frank was a rotund being, sharply dressed, but Billy could take him. He didn’t dare, of course, because it was suicide, even with West by his side, and he knew that. Instead he stayed quiet and fantasized about putting out ol’ Fat Frank’s cigar on his obvious bald spot.

“Frank, don’t you remember me?”

“I remember you just fine, West.”

“Well this here’s Billy, and he’s ridin’ with me.” The hate within Billy subsided for but a moment. Then it all came back bubbling.

“Well ain’t that cute. We still don’t serve niggers.”

“Now I –”

“It’s okay,” said Billy, “I’ll just be outside, keepin’ a look out. ‘Sides, I don’t take drinks from no ignorant-ass peckerwoods.”

Billy walked out of the saloon, never taking his eyes off Fat Frank. Once the door closed, Fat Frank turned to West and nodded his head. West nodded back.

“C’mon, Chuck, lemme buy you a drink.”

“No.”

“You’ve come all this way with me, at least let me buy you a drink.”

“I quit drinkin’ when I got married.”

“Wish I’d learned how to do that.”

“Yeah, I wish you’d learned how to do some other things, too.”

West knew Charlie was referring to Mary…and Ellie…and a lot of other things that West would have liked very much not to have been thinking about at that moment. Maybe Charlie for the first time could see the humanity in West’s eyes. Maybe he always could. Maybe he simply decided the hell with it, but that night Charlie took West up on his offer. At first it was only going to be one, then just one more, followed by a one on the house. Before they knew it, Fat Frank was handing them their seventh shot each. As they sat there, good and drunk, West began looking over his shoulder at the merchandise on sale. Even in his redenned state, Charlie noticed, and he did not like what he saw.

“Hank.”

“Yeah, Charlie?”

“Were you ever faithful to my sister? I mean, ever, truly faithful?”

“I loved Mary.”

“If you loved her so much, why’d you bed every town you stepped foor in? Because you’re ‘West Steel, steel of the west.’ It all comes with it, am I right?”

“Knock it off, Chuck. I ain’t touched another woman since Ellie was born.”

“You were with Mary for a long time before Ellie was born.”

“…I… I always loved your sister, Chuck. Always. I… probably shouldn’t have married her when I did, but I knew that… if I didn’t, somebody else would. And I just couldn’t bear the thought.”

“So while you was out stealin’ and robbin’ and makin’ a name for yourself, she was home worryin’ and prayin’.

“If I learned anything from those days… it’s that you only got one shot at this. And for a long time I felt like… if I passed up an opportunity, I’d regret it for the rest of my days. I regret it now. But if I didn’t then, I’d be on the opposite side regrettin’ it just the same. So what’s the difference?” Charlie just looked at West. “Go have fun tonight. ‘Cause like I told ya, I’m goin’ after these guys. All out. No tellin’ what’s comin’ next, or when we’re goin’ home, so enjoy it while ya can. Or at least before Liz pumps out a couple ‘a little Char –”

Before the words even left his lips West felt shame. He’d made a mental note earlier in their journey not to broach the subject of children with Charlie, but the whiskey had dulled his already-failing mental filter.

“Jesus, Charlie, I’m sorry. I –”

Charlie shot back the last of his drink.

“I’m going to bed.”

Charlie got up and walked away. West sat there, staring into his drink. He shot it back and before he could protest the bartender poured him another. Then he heard a voice he’d not heard in a very long time, yet it remained familiar all the same.

“Well, well, well, if it ain’t ol’ West Steel, the steel of the west –”

West turned around and put his hand up in protest.

“Please, no more of that stupid shit,” he said, cracking a smile. “It’s good to see a familiar face. How are you, Salma?”

Salma was the best looking saloon worker in any of the saloons West had ever visited. And he’d been to most of them. West found her light brown skin exotic, and in his mind her accent almost made her seem innocent. Almost.

“Been a while.”

“Been too long if you ask me, that’s for damn sure.”

They smiled at each other, their eyes dancing.

“So. What brings you to Colby?”

West smiled uncomfortably and bowed his head, ashamed with himself.

“My family.”

Salma felt rebuked.

“Oh.”

“It’s not like that. …They killed my wife. Took my little girl.”

“Jesus, West. That’s awful.”

“You ain’t seen me for a while ‘cause I been bein’ good.”

He smiled the saddest smile and she just wanted to make it all better for him but she knew that was impossible.

Charlie couldn’t sleep. He layed in bed and stared at the ceiling. He ran his hands over his face several times but his eyes remained wide open. He paced the room several times and thought maybe another drink would knock him out. He walked out of his room on the second floor but before he headed down the stairs he saw West and Salma. He stopped and watched them, a rage building inside of him.

“Do you have any idea who would…” asked Salma.

“Calls himseld Sanchero. I ain’t ever heard the name before in my life, but apparently the gang holds up in a ranch in Red Valley. So that’s where we’re headed.”

“You know… a few towns over, in La Fe, there is a church there, Our Lady of Guadalupe… and a priest… Father Sanchero.”

“Is that right?”

“…He comes here often,” said Salma, unable to look up at West. “It may be worth checking out. It’s on your way to Red Valley.”

West nodded his head. The plan was already forming inside his brain and Salma knew she only had precious little time to procure his attention. She took his hand gently in hers.

“Come to bed with me. You can think about all this la mañana.”

Stretching on her tip toes, Salma met West’s face with her own and kissed him softly. Upon seeing the kiss Charlie retreated back into his room and slammed the door. West looked up, startled by the noise, but Salma just chuckled.

“It was just a door, you paranoid old man.”

West looked down at Salma, and her beautiful face smiled up at him.

“Come on.”

She took West by the hand and led him upstairs to her room. It was a nice little place, elegant for the surroundings, and she kept it up well. She took West’s coat from him and nudged him to take a seat on the bed. Something was different, though. West seemed distracted. Something she’d never observed in him before, even when he had half the country’s law on his tail. No bother, she’d retained the attention of much more distracted men before, and her charms never came up short.

She kissed him passionately and deeply, and for a second she thought she felt resistance. But only for a second. She pulled away and smiled up at him. Then she stood up and blew out the candle lighting the room. In the dark she felt even more powerful, and she crawled over to West like a panther stalking its prey. She took his shirt off and kissed his chest. Then she straddled him and kissed him on the mouth. Her tongue darted into his mouth and he was grateful that she knew how to use it. He put his arms around her and she pulled herself closer to him. Still, his eyes were shut too tight and his mind was not fully present.

Still, West tried to enjoy Salma’s kisses. He never remembered it being this hard before. She took off his trousers and knelt down between his legs. With a sly little smile she took him in her mouth but it wasn’t working. After several moments she brought her head up and looked at him with a puzzled expression. He took her head in his hands.

“What’s wrong? Don’t you like me anymore?”

“I like you. I like you plenty. I just… my wife…”

“She never stopped you before.”

“Yeah… well. She’s stoppin’ me now.”

Salma looked at West with hurt and rejection in her eyes. He gave her a sorry grin.

“You can blame it on the whiskey if you like.”

Outside, Billy had fallen asleep outside the stables. He awoke to the horses’ neighs and was instantly alert. He gathered himself for a moment and listened. He could hear the galloping of the law – they all rode the same way, with gleeful abuse. Finally, a posse of five, led by Marshal Long, came into view and Billy knew they were in trouble. As Long dismounted from his horse he could feel Billy’s gaze upon him and so he turned around and smiled his most vicious smile.

“You wanna see some fireworks, boy?”

He gargled a laugh and he and his posse entered the saloon.

As soon as Fat Frank saw the lawmen enter his establishment he clutched a shotgun he had stashed away just below the bartop. Marshal Long approached the bar and smiled condescendingly at Fat Frank.

“Well look-y here. Fat Frank himself.”

“What do you want, Long?”

Marshal Long reached behind the bar to grab a bottle. His fingers nearly grazed the barrel but he found a bottle first. He poured himself a shot and downed it.

“Now this is some good whiskey. Best whiskey I’ve had in the last four towns.”

Fat Frank clutched the gun even tighter.

“Most expensive, too,” muttered Frank.

Long smiled at him and proceeded to pour himself another shot. He finished that one the same way.

“I don’t appreciate your tone, Frankie.”

“I don’t appreciate your men comin’ in here and bustin’ up a good time.”

“Fair enough. We’re lookin’ for the outlaw known as West Steel. You seen him?”

“I don’t believe in ghosts.”

“‘Course you don’t.”

Long went to pour himself another shot but the bottle was empty. He reached back around the counter for another bottle when he heard the cocking of a gun. When he looked up, Fat Frank’s shotgun was staring him in the face.

“Now I told you I ain’t seen him. If you wanna walk outta here with your head on your shoulders, put down my whiskey unless you intend on payin’ for it.”

Long laughed.

“Oh, Frank.”
One of the posse shot Fat Frank square in the head and he fell back into the bottles on the shelf behind him.

The gunshot startled West and Salma up from bed and they could hear Long downstairs.

“Alright, everybody! We have reason to believe this establishment is hiding the outlaw known as West Steel!”

Salma looked at West with worry, but he only seemed annoyed. This was the old West she remembered. He put his ear to the door and continued to listen.

“Now hear this! For every minute you continue to conceal yourself I will kill one of these not-so-innocent young whores!”

West bowed his head and grinned sadly at Salma.

“It was nice seeing you again, Salma.”

Marshal Long had his pistol aimed at one of the young prostitutes. She was crying and this only seemed to excite him.

“I’mma count to three! Understood? One! … Two!…”

“Marshal!”

Long looked up to see West. He smiled a sick smile at him and pulled the trigger, shooting the poor girl dead.

“Three.”

West grit his teeth.

“Now get your ass down here, boy.”

Charlie stepped out from his room and joined West on the stairs. The two shared a look of somber acceptance and made their way downstairs. They stood face to face with Marshal Long.

“How’s the leg?” asked West.

Long let out a rage-filled laugh.

“I have waited a long time for this. I’m gonna take my time with you. Maximum. Enjoyment.”

“Well, will you get to it then?”

At that moment the saloon doors bursted open and young Billy Douglas came in firing. Chaos erupted, and as Long turned around West punched him in the back of his head and took one of his guns. West and Charlie then made quick use of one of the tables, turning it over on its side for cover. It was just like the old days again.

Billy shot one of Long’s posse through the neck. Marshal Long took cover behind the bar next to Fat Frank’s corpse. Billy shot another of the posse in the head and then took cover in the doorway.

“Well who knew you’d be the one supplyin’ the fireworks!”Marshal Long shot at Billy and missed, but only barely so.

West took out another member of the posse, shooting him in the stomach, but it was his last bullet.

“Fuck, I’m out. Where’s your gun?”

“Upstairs.”

West looked at Charlie like he could have killed him.

Billy swung around the doorway and fired three times, killing the last member of Marshal Long’s posse.

“Come out Marshal! Your men are all dead and we’ve got you outnumbered.”

Long slowly rose from behind the bar.

“Drop your gun,” ordered Billy, but Long just laughed.

“I would. However, if I heard correctly, Mr. Steel is out of bullets. His companion has no weapon. And if I’ve been counting your shots correctly, you are out as well.”

Billy fired twice at Long but Long was right. Billy was empty. Long turned to fire on West but Billy threw his gun at him and the cold two pounds of steel hit Long in the head.

“Run!”

West and Charlie took the opportunity and made it out the front door. Billy began to follow but a bullet whizzed passed his head, stopping him in his tracks. Marshal Long walked up to Billy, his gun drawn on him the whole time.

“Now you’s a good shot for a nigger.”

Marshal Long smiled at Billy.

 

 

Red Valley – Chapter XIII

So I’ve finally gotten back into Red Valley. It’s been tough. A screenplay has rules and guidelines. Even if it’s hard, you at least know the format and that can often help you if you get too far into the weeds. With prose, almost nothing is off the table. I’m sure a real prose writer wouldn’t agree but…

Anyway, I took the advice of my good friend (and hell of a screenwriter), Steve Warren, and did a couple more edit passes on LP. Steve had some wonderful ideas that helped tighten the story and really ratchet up the tension.

Once that was marked off the list I decided it was time to return to Red Valley. And once that’s done, then I’ll tackle my new screenplay idea. I would love to get to the point where I can switch between projects and have a full plate of different stories to work on, but until I’m doing this professionally it’s a little too difficult with a job and a life and whatnot. We’ll get there.

Hope you enjoy the latest chapter. Cheers.

 

XIII

Empty booze bottles littered the safe house floor. The Sanchero gang was getting restless. They were all getting on each others’ nerves, and with a band of misfits like that, touchy nerves could be dangerous. The whether was finally starting to clear and Roberto was anxious to get back on the road.

Chico sat playing his guitar like he always did, his skills having never improved despite the amount he played. Juan and Francis played poker by the fire and both were deeply invested in the game. They’d get annoyed when Cullen would interrupt their concentrations, and they’d always turn him down when he asked to join in.

“C’mon, fellas, just deal me in this once.”

“Fuck off, Cull. Can’t pay your debts, can’t play the game.”

“Well maybe if you deal me in I can win some scratch and pay you fellas back.”

“No thanks,” said Francis.

Roberto stood by the window looking out. He’d become quieter than usual, and the boys knew that with Roberto a storm always followed the calm. In fact it was his quietness that seeded much of the tension in the house, and it was this tension that Juan and Francis sought to escape by indulging in their card game. Finally, the bickering and the terrible music was too much for Roberto and he lashed out at Chico and ordered him to stop playing. Chico did as he was told. Then Roberto wandered off into another part of the house.

Megedagik entered the house carrying an empty plate, and before he even had both feet inside Roberto called for him. The others looked at Megedagik knowingly and he knew he must be in trouble. He found Roberto sitting on the edge of his bed rocking back and forth. For a long time neither men spoke, until Roberto finally broke the silence.

“You wanna tell me what you’ve been givin’ that little girl?”

Megedagik didn’t respond. He just looked at him, waiting for the accusations.

“I know you’ve been givin’ her more than just scraps.”

“…”

“Say somethin’ ya red piece of shit! Don’t tell me you’re goin’ soft on me, now. Where’s that savage I found all those years ago? Remember when they slaughtered your tribe? I told you if you ride with me and do as I say, you’d have your revenge on the white man.”

“Man. Not little girls.”

“Oh what’s the difference?” Roberto took a breath. “Now I know it’s hard because of your savage mind, but you are capable of doing the smart thing. And the smart thing here is following my orders.”

Megedagik did not respond.

“You will not bring that girl any more of our food. You will not undermine my punishments. You will not show her affection. Or you will be introduced to the end of my barrel. Is that understood?”

They looked at each other and Roberto knew that Megedagik would not say anything and it sickened him to have such a savage in his ranks.

“I’mma take that silence as a ‘yes.’”

Roberto stood up and exited the room. Megedagik could hear him giving orders to the gang.

“Alright boys, let’s pack it up! We’re goin’ to spend some quality time with Uncle Al.”

Megedagik stood there, motionless, a quiet rage inside him building.

In Defense of Affleck

Oh how quickly fandom can turn. August 2013, Ben Affleck was cast as Batman in Zack Snyder’s then-still-Man of Steel sequel and was greeted with worse fan reaction than Michael Keaton in the same role or Heath Ledger as the Joker. The mood quickly changed as cooler heads prevailed and people remembered that, oh yeah, Affleck’s actually one hell of a director. Anyone else still on the fence about his casting was converted after Zack Snyder posted the first picture of Ben in the Batsuit. It was everything we’d ever dreamed about: Batman in his grey, Dark Knight Returns-inspired outfit complete with the short ears and chunky bat logo.

And then the movie came out.

Still, other than a meme set to Sound of Silence, Affleck remained largely unscathed by the critical pummeling BvS took and was often cited as one of the best things about the movie. Fanboys placed their faith in Affleck the director. Even if Justice League didn’t quite hit the mark, at least we’d have Ben Affleck’s The Batman.

In the year following the release of BvS, Affleck has been made into this sort of Messiah-figure for fanboys. Just like Chris Nolan, we put our trust in him, and when others had doubts we encouraged them to do the same. Of course Ben Affleck was going to deliver us the greatest, most iconic Batman film of all time – one that he would write, produce, direct, and star in.  We expected a lot from this man who just a year earlier we bemoaned at his casting. Never did we take into consideration that starring in BvS, starring in The Accountant, writing, directing, and starring in Live By Night, cameo-ing in Suicide Squad, and executive producing and starring in Justice League – all within a two-year period AND while going through a divorce, mind you –  might be just a little too much for one guy. After all, he’s Batman.

Even when reports started coming out that cast doubt on the next cinematic interpretation of Batman, we clung on. Affleck can do it. He’s talented. He’s won Oscars. He’s a fan of the character. More importantly, we clung to this idea that Affleck could save the mess that is the DCEU – and that he could do it alone. Dammit, he had to do it. For us.

And then news dropped that Affleck would in fact not be directing the next solo Batman feature. Whether it’s because the poor guy is just overworked or WB got cold feet after Live By Night suffered a $75 million loss is anyone’s guess. While the news disappointed, it didn’t necessarily surprise. And almost immediately I saw it happen – the fanboys turned their ire on Affleck once more. “How can’t he come up with a decent Batman script? It’s his job.” “He’s letting all of us down.” “He’s too fragile.” “He’s to blame” for the DCEU – which was a new one.

So let’s tackle these subjects one at a time, shall we?

Writing The Batman – how could he have possibly turned in a sub-par script? The man has an Oscar for screenwriting. Truth. You know who else does? Akiva Goldsman. You know what he wrote? Batman & Robin. Screenwriting is tough when it’s the only thing you’re doing. I can’t imagine the difficulty of trying to pen an original screenplay while also starring in, directing, and executive-producing five other projects simultaneously. Factor in the microscope of incessant fanboy nagging of “when’s it gonna be done?” and the pressure to not only follow up Chris Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy but to exceed those expectations? No thanks. (And yes, I know Terrio did a draft as well – this doesn’t inspire any more confidence).

Affleck has let all of us down. Sure. Actually, no. We let him down, didn’t we? It was our constant yammering to hurry up and get to it that probably turned him off. And does he owe us anything? Not really, no. We’ve been against him, then for him, then held him up as our only hope, and then tore him right back down again when he seceded directing duties. He doesn’t owe us a damn thing.

Another one I saw is that he’s “too fragile,” that he can’t take the criticisms, even though it’s his job. Well, Affleck still tells people in interviews that he thinks BvS is a good film and that he stands by it. So there’s that. But really think back a decade ago – to Daredevil, Gigli, and Bennifer. The dude was a pop culture punchline. “But he’s a celebrity, he asked for it, it comes with the territory.” To a point, sure. And Affleck turned around his image. He started choosing his projects with more care and tried his hand at directing and suddenly he wasn’t the butt of every joke anymore. He clawed his way to the top and won the Oscar for BEST PICTURE. And then history started to repeat itself. That’s gotta be rough on anyone. I don’t think Affleck is too fragile, but I do think he wants to make quality pictures and only quality pictures. And I can’t blame him for that.

Finally, I’ve been seeing people say that Affleck is to blame for the state of the DCEU, at least partially, since he brought Terrio onto BvS and Justice League, and he himself executive produced the latter. But here’s the thing, both of those projects were already in active development before he got involved, and both had Zack Snyder’s fingerprints all over them. “But he was basically co-directing JL! He’s an EP on it! He has a lot of control!” True, but how much control does one really have on a production that was in motion long before he was bumped up to EP? A big, special-effects picture like Justice League is going to have the major pieces (action set pieces, costumes, sets, anything to do with design) cemented and in place long before principal photography begins. And since Affleck was only made an EP months after BvS and JL started filming just a month after BvS… You can do the math.

Look, this is disappointing news. It sucks. I really wanted to see a Ben Affleck-directed Batflick, too, but not if his heart wasn’t in it. And how could it be? Look at the mess over at Warner Bros. Launching into anti-Affleck tirades won’t solve anything, because that dude is not to blame.

Been a Minute

So it’s been a minute. I haven’t made great progress forward with Red Valley. I came to a scene that’s nearly thirty pages long and that alone felt too daunting to even attempt to turn into a chapter. That, coupled with the fact that I’m doing some re-writes on LP and have started crafting my next screenplay, is why I haven’t updated in a minute.

This is usually how it goes for me. Once I’m in the middle of a project and it starts to feel boring or like work (and Red Valley has, since I’m not discovering anything new or creating the story from scratch), my mind starts wandering and exploring the possibilities of other characters and stories and scenes. And I can’t be mad about that. I’ll listen to the muse whenever she wants to chat. You have to.

But I also know splitting my time between three big stories is a lot, and I wind up spending more time just feeling overwhelmed and staring at the whiteboard than I do actually writing, but so long as I’m writing in my head then I suppose that’s okay. I recently joined the Central Coast Writers, a branch of the California Writers Club, so hopefully that will not only give me a shot of motivation but also give me a chance to pick the brains of other writers and learn and grow and wank wank wank.

Anyway, I’ll eventually finish all three of these projects. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about myself the last few years it’s that I can finish a story. That’s the hardest part. Anyone can start one, and lord knows I’ve started many many more stories than I’ve finished. But Red Valley and LP simply require me to sit down and do the work, which oftentimes is the hardest part. They’re already finished works, I just need to finish them again.

The other project? Once I actually spend time sitting down and crafting it it will come together. I just need to actually put in the work. Whether it’s any good or not is an entirely different thing. It may very well be shit. But at least it will be complete. I’ll take a shitty story that’s completed over a brilliant first act and nothing else any day of the week.

But that’s just me.

Cheers.