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Next American Revolution on the Big Screen…


The following is a transcription of the 29th episode of the podcast RevolutionZ. Other episodes typically present comments about social and economic vision, activist strategy, and/or the election cycle we are now enduring. This episode is different, not only shorter, but different in kind, as you will see below. Please give it a read, and consider giving RevolutionZ some attention, in particular the new sequence of Episodes, but the past ones, too, if you find the content useful.

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Hello, my name is Michael Albert and I am the host of the podcast titled RevolutionZ.

This episode, the 29th, titled NAR 0: Introduction, begins a new sequence that joins the Vision, Strategy, and Election Sequences of RevolutionZ.

NAR stands for Next American Revolution. The 0 indicates that NAR proper, so to speak, begins next time. This, the 0th episode, will just set the scene and introduce this new, unusual, and rather experimental Sequence.

In 2017 I self published a book, putting it on Amazon and promoting it on ZNet. It was my first novel and I would wager it will be my last. The product made clear that my intellectual resources for writing fiction were highly limited.

The novel is titled RPS/2044. RPS stood for Revolutionary Participatory Society, which label has, in the book, a dual reference. On the one hand, RPS named a vision for society. On the other hand, it named an organization seeking that new society. The 2044 was just the last year that the book’s oral history addressed.

The limits that the project revealed, which limits I in fact well knew when I undertook it, are that I have no talent for inventing rich characters, for creating a flowing plot, for describing personal pathos, and other aspects that are typically essential for writing fiction. So, if I knew that, why write a novel?

I wrote RPS/2044 for a reason you have probably already realized. I wanted to convey insights and lessons bearing on the goal and methods of seeking a Revolutionary participatory society in a more engaging and congenial way than I had ever done before. I also thought trying to envision and then describe through the words of the participants central features of twenty years of fighting highly successfully for revolutionary change would perhaps unearth some new elements not before offered.

To avoid my writing inadequacies subverting my hopes for the book, I made it an oral history of seeking that new Revolutionary Participatory Society. I had it relayed to us from a parallel world, very like our own, but time shifted from ours. After all, I am very familiar with interviews and I thought I could do an acceptable job of presenting a whole bunch of them, even if having to dream up their content.

I named the interviewer Miguel Guevara. Miguel, some thought, was named for me, but actually it was for a Venezuelan friend. The Guevara part of his name of course came from Che. Indeed I named all the book’s interviewees for historical and current social actors, one actual person providing the first name and a second actual person providing the last name of each RPS participant.

At any rate, even as I was finishing writing the book, I was setting it aside. It wasn’t that I didn’t like it, it was, instead, that I felt that while it was a bit better vehicle than I had ever tried before, it wasn’t the best vehicle for the stories my characters conveyed. Indeed, I thought film, a movie, would be better. So even before the book became available, I was intent on adapting it for the big screen.

Now this was on its face even more ridiculous than my trying to write a novel. I have seen movies, but that is it. I knew zero beyond that, literally nothing about the incredibly complex products that are movies.

Well, I guess that I knew one thing. I knew my part of the overall task was to generate a screenplay that I could hopefully arouse interest in from someone who could actually make it happen. And even as I was just gearing myself up to give it a try, I also knew who that someone would have to be.

It would have to be actors or a director. And of course they would have to be inclined toward the substance the screenplay would propose. And I also knew, again, just starting out, that that would be a tremendous long shot. A ridiculously long, long shot.  Because I knew that whatever I had to leave out, or to add in, the essential substance of the emerging screenplay would be the same as the essential substance of RPS/2044.

At any rate, first I had to get some idea of how to do a screenplay.

It turns out a screenplay has an incredible number of very strange formatting requirements. I knew I had to abide those, or nobody would give it a glance, much less a serious read. So, I did two things – I read, carefully, the screenplay of the Damon/Affleck movie Good Will Hunting. And I also read about Hollywood and film, and about screen writing in a couple of books by the hugely successful screenwriter William Goldman.

And, just as an aside, if you want to know how Hollywood works, and the crazy ins and outs of a host of films, and lots of lessons of the process writ small and large, I highly recommend Goldman as a tour guide.

He is always entertaining, often hugely funny, and always incredibly sharp and on point. His books taught me about the outsize role of stars, the centrality of personal struggles and conflicts in film, the three act structure of film, and on and on, and the total absence of it all in what I was going to do.

No aliens, shoot outs, corpses, births, love affairs, high tech wizardry. My film would be an outlier even among outliers. No matter. Outside the box? Hell, I wouldn’t get anywhere near the box.

But I’d still have a shot, I thought, because the Times, They Are Indeed A-Changin – or they better be – and some truly progressive film folks would know that, and would come through.

So, I wrote – or adapted – RPS/2044 into Next American Revolution. Draft in hand I got help from a screenwriter teacher living n Japan, who heard of it, and was into Parecon, and from a film videographer I had met on a speaking trip to Ireland years back, who was also into Parecon. Both loved the idea, and the screenplay too. With their advice, I got the formatting into shape, and refined some other aspects as well.

But then along came the reality that Goldman had posthumously warned me about.
Truncating two years into mere minutes in the recounting, the upshot is that I searched out places I could send the product. Not easy.

It wasn’t just that Hollywood persona are private, even very progressive ones. It was that they are targets for endless, most often dysfunctional, and even ludicrous petition. And they have to ward off almost all of it without even a look, much less a full read. Otherwise, looking, much less reading, unsolicited submissions would be all they had time for.

50,000 screenplays are registered with the screenwriters guild each year. You heard that right…50,000… And all the screenwriters behind those 50,000 screenplays a year are trying to reach Hollywood.

If they could hand their work to Danny Glover, Matt Damon, Susan Sarandon, Viggo Mortensen, Ava Duvernay, Ben Affleck, Oliver Stone, Wallace Shawn, Ken Loach, Emma Thompson, Adam McKay, Michael Moore, Boots Riley, John Cusack, John Steppling, Jesse Williams, Emma Watson, Sean Penn, Mark Ruffalo,  or about twenty others I sought to reach, every one of those Hollywood notables, and all others, would be inundated to the point of suffocation, in a flash.

Hollywooders’ private addresses are, unsurprisingly, hard to get. And even if you get their publicists’ or agents email, as I did, and you try and try, getting anywhere beyond that is immensely difficult.

Why? Well, again, imagine their inundation level if reaching them was easy…

So they ward off without a look anything improperly formatted. Indeed, the formatting requirements are, I believe, mainly, a filter. But I got by that one.

They also ward off anything not from an accredited agent. That one stopped me dead, over and over.

If actors or directors do look at something unsolicited, and we are talking incredibly rarely, they want a note cleverly conveying a catchy idea – and a reference, and so on.

I got by one publicist this way, but not to the client, though she said she wrote him.

What also works, at least sometimes, is when someone who knows them conveys the package. For the most part, I don’t know people who know them, or who know people who know them – Stopped, again – except for three more, reached that way, all the way to the destination, because those three all knew ZNet, and me too.

Those three, my successes of a sort, all liked the idea, and even liked the writing, but despite a relative tsunami of emails and some replies, they never got around to conveying more substance than the initial like.

I am told that Hollywood works like that – lots of interminable delays, silences, and, worst, promises that go nowhere.

So – I have a book, long done, but not my idea of the ideal vehicle for the message I hope to convey. If you have some time, you can get get a copy on Amazon .

I also have the screenplay, liked by a bunch of folks, including in or near the film profession, but unclaimed. Next American Revolution is clearly so far out of the box in style and structure, and so far from anything politically in current range of Hollywood, that it is going to take someone getting behind it, and then getting a few more industry friends to get behind it, and then all of them together making it happen, against what will be a gaggle of naysayers.

Long shot…indeed.

So what do I do?

Well, as you know, I have some time ago started a podcast, RevolutionZ. So wHy not present Next American Revolution, not just this brief account of the history, but the actual screenplay, or rather description of the film I hope it will become, as episodes of RevolutionZ?

That is, why not offer a spoken account of the film, as if conveying it to someone who can’t sit down and watch, but who wants to hear all about it, both the visuals and the dialog – all of it.

Well, I guess the reason why to not do that is because I have no idea if doing it would work at all, or just be boring and odd.

Still, presenting Next American Revolution is precisely what I propose to do in this new sequence of episodes of RevolutionZ. I think it will take maybe ten or twelve episodes, supposing it is worth continuing beyond the first couple, to do it in total.

During this experiment, I will try to do my usual one episode a week of RevolutionZ’s vision, strategy, or election focused episodes, as up until now.

But I will also try to do one or even two episodes of Next American Revolution, each week, as well. Honestly, I am not sure I can manage all that, but I will try. I am also not sure it will work.

I hope that the Next American Revolution sequence will be engaging, entertaining, and have useful content. But I don’t know. We’ll see.

I would like to ask you to help, however.

First, if you find yourself liking the movie as audio episodes, I urge that if you know anyone who may know anyone who may know anyone in Hollywood – for example, anyone who may know anyone who may know someone in the list offered earlier, or know anyone like them – that you will tell that person you know about the podcast and try to get them to listen and to pass it on to the inner sanctums of film creation. I trust my reason for asking for this help will be obvious.

More, to do that, ultimately you, or the person who knows the person who knows the person who can aid Next American Revolution, will need a pdf of the screenplay. You can get that just for the asking from me directly, by writing me at sysop@zmag.org – or you can get the screenplay at http://rps2044.org/screenplay/ which is linked from the top page of ZNet, center column, near the bottom.

Second, perhaps on hearing the audio episodes you will have ideas about the proposed film. If so, feel free to write me at the address above.

Finally, I bet you can guess that the novel and the screenplay, so far, haven’t defrayed any life costs. No income for any of it. And you may even correctly guess that my monthly social security check, after decades of movement wages, while essential and critical, doesn’t cover much more. Which is to say, if you like RevolutionZ, and, more important, if you think it has social value, I hope you will consider pitching in a little bit to help me push it along, and top push Next American Revolution along with it.

You can do so by becoming a patron at www.patreon.com/RevolutionZ

And, all of that said, and hoping to hear from you once I get a few Next American Revolution episodes to you, this is Michael Albert signing off until next time, hopefully just a couple of days away, for RevolutionZ and NAR 1 – 12…

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