What Should John Do Next?

10. Join the ranger squad at Texas' Big Bend National Park.
9. Start a spring clean-up yard service in the Hudson Valley.
8. Attempt to win this year's Okie Noodling competition.
7. Follow up on Bat Boy by investing in more plays like The Chupacabra Monologues.
6. Form a partnership with Joel Silver, John Sloss, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Open City Films, Robert Redford, DMX or Bingham Ray.
5. Program a three-screen art cinema in the 'burbs, northern Westchester to be precise.
4. Write an all-new (or at least 30% new) edition of Spike, Mike, Slackers & Dykes called Spike, Mike, Tigers and Pederasts.
3. Act in a first feature with Mr. Big himself, Chris Noth.
2. Teach film at UC Santa Barbara for a year.
1. Create a new exotic, globe-trotting film series for HBO's documentary division.

And the winner is:

You voters actually did a good job of separating the real, the wishful, the imaginary, and the just plain goofy. Park ranger, yard boy, and Okie noodler brought up the rear of the poll. (Although I'm happy to report that the excellent and inspirational Okie Noodling documentary that premiered at SXSW will show at Toronto, just like How's Your News?) Rounding out the second division, plays and partnerships left you cold. Your relative lack of enthusiasm for more live theatre investment may have been prescient since it remains unclear (at least through late summer) exactly how big the Bat Boy returns will be. Go now! I've been solo or partnered only with my wife Janet for so long that you all knew the partnership idea was suspect. However I really admire John Sloss' ever-expanding Cinetic enterprises, and I'm truly excited that Bingham Ray has been handed the reins to United Artists, a now undefined studio that has a great legacy.

Now the five remaining items on the poll are, or were, quite real. Once again voters showed little interest in the suburban art cinema, and in the end, I couldn't muster much either. However, the Burns Film Center (www.burnsfilmcenter.org) in Pleasantville, a collaboration with the Film Society of Lincoln Center, opened in late June and is doing quite nicely without me - even if it's not exactly cutting edge. There will be a slightly revised edition of Spike, Mike, Slackers & Dykes near the middle of 2002. Same old title, although I was recently told that marketing wizard Harvey Weinstein always hated it - and not just because of the commercial difficulties sparked by the word "dykes." I did have an immensely enjoyable time shooting scenes with Chris Noth that turned out to be fairly crucial for a first-time feature called Searching for Paradise written and directed by Myra Paci. It was produced by industry veterans Janet Grillo (who hooked me up) and Ruth Charny who are hoping for a premiere at Sundance. It's true that I play an interviewer,but I swear it's acting. His name is Jim Johnson, and his show is called "Inside The Lens" - not Split Screen.

And now for the winner and runner-up. Janet and I had been debating the idea of moving our family to Santa Barbara for one school year since last November. I would teach four or five courses in the Film Department at UCSB, a program that's coming on strong. It's taking forever for the school to get an approved budget to invite me officially. In the meantime, I've scaled back to, at most, a two-quarter stint starting in January, 2002 and the Pierson family has completely bailed out. At this point, I don't know what I'll say if and when department chair Constance Penley finally calls with the offer.

So this leaves us with the top vote-getter, the HBO "exotic globe-trotting film series." The tally is undoubtedly slanted by the fact that everyone who ever worked on Split Screen wants a new show and they cast their ballots accordingly. I'm more interested in the globe-trotting, movies-around-the-world part - starting with my recent return to the 180 Meridian Cinema in Fiji (as featured in episode #51). For me, this project should start as a new book, then work its way back to television. That's how I've begun, and I'll keep you posted.

FijiJohn PiersonThe BookSplit ScreenSplit Screen Streaming on The Criterion Channel

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