Shut Up, Little Man!

“I Know How To Tap-dance” : Some Notes Toward a History of Shut Up, Little Man!

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“I Know How To Tap-dance” — Pete and Ray at the Sundance Film Festival

In the Spring of 2000 I had just left Seattle for an extended sabbatical to China, when it came to pass that Shut Up Little Man had been accepted as a workshop piece at the Sundance Festival. Literally, two days after I arrived in China, I received an email from raconteur, underwear model, and Andalusian screenwriter Duane Dell'Amico explaining that Pete and Ray were on their way to the Sundance Festival. Years prior, Duane had written a complex and inventive screenplay based on Shut Up Little Man for Greg McClatchy, one of the developers to whom we had sold the film option rights years ago. As noted previously, Duane and I had met in San Francisco when developing an earlier version of a Shut Up Little Man film, and we had bonded over a comment he had made about Surrealist poet Paul Eluard. We had maintained contact over the years, never ceasing to share enthusiasm and laughter. However, I was out of the country and unavailable for an extended time, and besides we no longer had an option agreement with Greg McClatchy (who technically owned Duane's script). So, naturally, this was an ideal time for Shut Up Little Man to be accepted into Sundance. Hastily, we cobbled together a film option contract long distance, navigating the awkward time 14-hour time difference and the lawyers. The thing got done, and like a superhero against the conspiratorial forces of boredom and mediocrity, our man Duane took Shut Up Little Man to Sundance. And, as could be expected, things got weird.

I returned to Seattle from Hong Kong about a week after Sundance was over. I operate a used rare book business as my primary means of living. During this time period I was receiving about three housecalls a week from private parties who wished to sell their book collections or estates to me. Just after I returned from the Far East I received a call from such a woman. When she noted that her home was in the best neighborhoods in town, I was eager to see her collection. I arrived, combed through the books, discovered a couple of treasures, and made an offer to the owner. However, while I was looking through the library, I couldn't help but overhear a man in the adjacent room speaking fluent Hollywoodese to someone on the telephone. I made an offer to the woman, began loading the books into the car, and then asked the woman what it was her husband does. She responded: “He's a screenwriter.” I asked: “Has he done anything I might be familiar with?” She replied: “A number of things. His most famous film is Rebel Without a Cause. We just got back from Sundance.” I told her that I had a project that was just work-shopped at Sundance. She asked me what the name of it was and I told her Shut Up Little Man. Her eyes widened: “Stewart just worked on that project!” A strange synchronicity. I mean, if I lived in Los Angeles or even New York, something like this would be infinitely more likely. I took it to be a positive sign. From the Sundance encounter we made a large number of contacts. Robert DeNiro invited Duane (the screenwriter) and Greg (the producer) out to New York to give a pitch for Shut Up Little Man to his Tribeca film production company, but eventually decided not to purchase the property.

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