I’ve just returned from a very delightful trip to Nashville, Tennessee. I travel to a lot of places these days, but I have to say this was one of the best sojourns I’ve had in a long time.
And chief among the reasons is the fact that the people of Nashville are the nicest people… on… the… planet — I am not kidding.
The illustrious Will Akers is standout among these. Mr. Akers teaches screenwriting at Vanderbilt while maintaining an active career in all forms of writing and producing film. This weekend at the home of Mr. Akers, overlooking the amazing Tennessee hills, and drinking in some of the freshest air imaginable (keep in mind I live in L.A.), Will and his wife Cissy had an open house for a few of his closest friends including Coke Sans, Nashville film legend, and Dub Cornett, ditto, who, along with Will produced one of the best films I saw at the Nashville Film Festival, The True Adventures of Real Beverly Hilllbillies. This is the story of a famous incident in recent years that began when Dub sold a reality show to network TV. The pitch: what would happen if a family from the hills was sent to live in the hills of Beverly, much like the fictional Clampetts. The family that was set to star in this CBS series was fired, and the show cancelled, when it was denounced from the floor of the Senate, and eventually all over the media, by those who hadn’t met the participants, but claimed they were being exploited. The documentary shows how Dub kept his promise to the family he handpicked for the series, and took them to Los Angeles anyway, on a road trip Dub introduced as “The Grapes of Wrath meets The Griswalds.” I can’t describe what a heartfelt and hilarious journey this is, and how wonderful this family is. CBS’s loss is our gain. I hope everyone gets a chance to see the film.
At the William Morris party Sunday night, hosted by L.A. transplant and WMA agent Carey Nelson Burch, I met Nashville songwriters Stacey Widelitz and Anthony Smith, who are in charge of the film festival for next year and have promised to give me a panel to call my own. And even though Stacey is primarily a songwriter, he is also a Save the Cat! fan, quoting lines from the book to me right there at the party — but again, maybe Nashville citizens are just nice that way? Stacey and I talked about how the concept of coming up with a song is so similar to creating a concept of a movie — as long as you know the tricks! I also had a chance to meet Tessa Atkins, one of the film commission board members, and her sister Eva.
It wasn’t all parties and premieres. I also went to Nashville with my publisher, Michael Wiese, for a rare and really marvelous get-together with the sales team at Ingram. In the fast-changing world of publishing (very akin to the rapid changes in the music and movie business), Ingram has become a powerhouse of distribution in the book business. Nashville is now as famous for publishing as for music, and I got a chance to meet with the folks who will be out there this fall with Save the Cat! Goes to the Movies. I had a moment before I went on to tell about my book, as I walked down the long hallway and saw the signed posters of other authors who’d been invited to speak including Janet Evanovich, Anne Rice, Robert Crais, David Baldacci, Patricia Cornwell, and many others — and I felt truly honored to have been given this privilege. I am really excited about all the events we are working on with Ingram to unveil the book this fall. I’d like to thank Phil Ollila and especially Judy Allen for their hospitality! And give a shout out to Russell Harvey, Kevin Moran, Sara Juday (who wants me to come up and give a talk in Alaska — yes!), Art Carson, and Robb Soriano — thanks for the warm reception and the fun luncheon talk afterward!
But now, we have work to do to prepare for my trip to Toronto in two weeks. Also look for me this Sunday at the Los Angeles Times Book Festival at UCLA at 3 o’clock, where I will be giving a short talk at the Writers Store booth. Can’t wait to see you all there!