Friday, December 29, 2006

The year in music

Instead of completing the revisions I should be working on (I'll get to it in a minute, dammit!) I decided to make a new mixed CD. If you've ever watched High Fidelity, which is one of the awesomest movies ever, then you know. I'm like that guy. I don't just throw songs I like on a playlist and hit "burn" all willy-nilly. I've been at this CD for two hours. It's art.

I listen to CDs when I'm in the car. I can't stand silence when I'm stuck in traffic and the radio bores me, so I have a big case of CDs I switch between that all serve different purposes. I have a CD I listen to to get me jazzed about working out at the gym, one that makes me sad, one that makes me generally happy, one that's made up entirely of bands that have cute boys in them. Seriously. It's mostly Lifehouse and John Mayer. I worship at the altar of John Mayer, despite Writing Partner's assertion that he is a "pussyass bitch". Writing Partner can suck it.

My favorite so far is a CD that tells the story of a relationship from glorious excited beginning through all the screwed up things we do to each other to the eventual resignation that we'll be okay apart. Each song fits a piece of the story so they bleed into each other. So the songs start out happy, then ease into depression, then come out at bittersweet.

Today's CD was the story of the year I've had. When the year began I thought I was getting married in June. (I know. Go ahead and gasp audibly everybody. You know you want to.) Instead I jumped ship and launched myself down a windy path of self discovery that began with some wild times (Remember Halloween? I don't.) followed by a lot of worrying that the wild times were carrying me away to a very scary place. Then I sat down with myself and said, "Self?" And I replied, which is a little frightening since I was the only one in the room. Actually it probably would have been more frightening if I hadn't been the only one in the room.
"Self?" I said.
"Yes, Emily?" I replied.
"What the hell is wrong with you?"
And I've been working on that answer ever since.

So to comemorate my year of becoming a real grownup I have made my most carefully thought out CD to date. Because sometimes the songs tell the story.

I call it "Clarity"
Here's my playlist:

Just - Radiohead
Crucify - Tori Amos
Broken - Seether
Your Heart is an Empty Room - Death Cab for Cutie
Long Day - Matchbox 20
They - Jem
Your Misfortune - Mike Doughty
Speeding Cars - Imogen Heap
Fix You - Coldplay
Overkill (accoustic) - Colin Hay
Today's the Day - Aimee Mann
Drive - Incubus
Precious Things - Tori Amos
Don't Wait - Dashboard Confessional
Who Needs Shelter - Jason Mraz
Fighting in a Sack - The Shins
You've Got to Learn to Live with Yourself - Ben Folds
Good Enough - Lifehouse
Clarity - John Mayer

It's not procrastination, it's research!

Oh, man, this is funny.

Go make a horror movie logline. You'll laugh and laugh....

Here's mine:

Fifty years ago, Blublubollious, a 100 foot-tall scientific abomination, was created by a top secret government agency and then locked in an abandoned missile silo in the Sleepy Little Town of Crampton, Mississippi, never to see the light of day. But now, that missile silo is becoming a children's library, and Blublubollious' slumber has been disturbed. Now, head architect Luke Fallow (Kirk Alexander) must team up with traveling salesman Horace (Dooby Johnson) and Crampton's voluptuous head librarian Hannah Hump (Meryl Streep) to stop Blublubollious before it destroys the town, and eats every human being it can find! It's terror on a gigantic scale in Hankenfren Milkmannus' epic tale of horror, Dirty Laundry!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Why did The Island suck so very much?

SPOILER WARNING! Like you care.

I didn't pay for it, fortunately, because I have HBO. My stepdad had it on so I thought, let me watch this piece of Bruckheimer and see if it's really as bad as they say. And it is.

I learned something from this film. I kept thinking to myself, why don't I believe this movie? How can I suspend my disbelief so much for other films when this one has me rolling my eyes every ten seconds? Is it the constant obvious product placement, like when the camera held for a couple of seconds on a close-up of a beer bottle so our dashing male lead could drink one swig and forget about it? That's annoying, but that's not it.

Is it the fact that our heroes keep experiencing the best luck in the world, like landing in a batch of netting while they fall a zillion feet inside a giant neon letter off the side of a building and end up with like, one scratch over an eye? No. I've seen that before and completely bought it in various Terminator films.

Is it the fact that our heroes, who boast the education of a 15 year old, keep outsmarting our borderline retarded professional hunters? We're getting warmer.

Maybe it's the fact that the head professional hunter suddenly decides to be a good guy at the end. Maybe it's the fact that all the clones who've been taught from conception to fear the supposedly contaminated world outside wander happily into the sunlight when given the first opportunity. Maybe it's because every plot twist or character quirk was visible miles ahead of itself. Maybe.

But I think it's because the seams were showing. The action scenes were action scenes. The love scenes were love scenes. The exposition was exposition. Even the one-line comedy bits were chucked in like missing puzzle pieces. Nothing was more than one thing. When Steve Buscemi's character tells our cloney heroes what they are, he's sitting in a house drinking booze and casually throwing out those Steve Buscemi-like sarcastic faces. I was bored. I thought about how much cooler it would have been if Ewan MacGregor, who's supposed to be very smart and curious, figured out the truth through clues Steve Buscemi didn't want to give away, all while they were trying to escape from the big bad meanies. Then we could have had some action, some exposition and maybe a little character development all at the same time. Instead, we just had exposition.

From now on, I'm not letting a scene of my script go until I've found a way to make it accomplish at least two things at once.

One of the themes of this film was that people will do anything to survive. I know it's the theme because they kept telling me that. But nobody actually had to do anything questionable to survive. They did exactly what anybody would do. When someone points a gun at you, you fight. No good guy had to sacrifice any innocent victims. Wouldn't you think in a movie about clones fighting for survival, the occasional moral conundrum would come up? Maybe you'd have to allow some decent person to die so that you could live? Nope. Bad guys are bad, good guys are good, and Sean Bean can always be relied upon to play the stuck up British guy who wants to have power over everybody.

Thank goodness this film tanked at the box office. I'd fear for the souls of us all if it did well. It's bad enough that Con Air made money.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

I can make anything violent

Here's a scene from my House spec, as promised. This should make Christopher happy. The husband, Jacob, has MS and is in a wheelchair. The wife, Amanda, is the patient and nobody knows what to do with her as usual. Foreman has been having constant problems with the husband's attitude.


Foreman checks Amanda's vitals as Jacob looks on. Amanda watches carefully everything Foreman does.

So what do you think I have?

We're honestly not sure. We've stopped the seizures, but we still don't know why they happened.

Or why I turn into a lunatic at regular intervals.

That too. What we really need is a biopsy.

A biopsy? You want to cut into her brain? Why?

This problem is very likely neurological-

Like what?

Well, there's a possibility that it could be brain cancer.


Amanda drops her eyes and stares at her hands.

No, she has MS. She needs a spinal tap. I want another opinion. Where is Dr. House?

Dr. House believes her disorder is centered in the brain. He's the one who ordered the biopsy.

Then I think-

I meant, what do you think I have, Dr. Foreman?

Foreman stops short and chuckles a little.

I think it has something to do with the headaches you've been getting lately.

Headaches? What headaches?

(to Foreman)
How did you know about that?

How long have you been having them?

You've been getting headaches? Why didn't you tell me? I could have taken care of you.

Amanda grabs Jacob's hand.

I was having trouble seeing. Like double vision or something. It was making my head hurt. I probably just need a new contact lens prescription.

Double vision is a sign of-

MS, I know. But it could also be a sign of a neurological disorder. Or it could be a result of an old prescription. Or it could be a coincidence.

Why won't you help my wife?


Only one person in this room has a medical degree.

Jacob rolls up close to Foreman. Amanda breathes heavily.

Dr. Foreman...

I am not going to watch her go through what I went through! I am not going to let some Affirmative Action hiring paralyze my wife!

Jacob stop.

Affirmative Action? If anybody here has been given special privileges, it's the cripple with the-

Jacob socks Foreman in the gut. As Foreman doubles over in surprise, Jacob reaches out and punches him in the jaw. Out of instinct, Foreman pulls back his fist and punches Jacob, knocking him over.

You son of a bitch!

Foreman pulls his fist back and stares at it in surprise. He leans over and offers his hand to Jacob.

Look, I didn't...

Get away from me! You are so getting sued.

Monday, December 25, 2006

You gotta get comfy

Thanks for the Christmas wishes and the links and the appreciation of my post. I'll put some pages up soon I think.

In the meantime, in honor of the digital camera I got for Christmas, here's where I do most of my writing:

Yes, that is Alex Epstein's Crafty TV Writing on the shelf, which I've been reading for the past two weeks for a few minutes each morning. It's an excellent book, full of practical advice. He doesn't harp too much on form because he assumes you know it. He spends his pages sharing his knowledge of how to operate in the room. Good stuff.

Here's where I do most of my research, although you can see I am currently playing with pictures:

Okay, so I have a lot of books. And clutter. Also, Wyle E. Coyote is kind of my hero. He never gives up.

Merry Holliday, everybody!

Friday, December 22, 2006

How to spec a House

Clearly, nobody knows what to do about my query situation.

But that's okay, because I got a question! Thanks, Cecil!

Okay, so Cecil wants to know how I researched my House spec. I heard an interview once on NPR with David Shore, who said that he has a really close friend who's an amazing doctor with lots of stories about crazy medical situations nobody knows what to do with. So they don't have to spend days, nay weeks, scouring the various internets for rare diseases to use on the show. They just call old Morty.

We don't have that luxury. Unless we have a brother who's an intern or something, but most of us don't. That's why Al Gore invented WebMD.

Whenever I watch an episode of anything, I think about things I want to see. For instance, on Firefly I always wonder why Jayne is so devoted to Mal. We never really see Mal do anything that shows why Jayne is so desperate for Mal's trust, and I don't count that one time when he tried to mutiny in "The Train Job." That happened before we established a throughline for the characters, and that episode was written over a manic weekend. Anyway, I always wanted to see more between Mal and Jayne. So if Firefly was still on the air I'd write that, because that's what I want to see.

So for House, I thought of something I want to see. I thought up a character dynamic I'd like to see and how I could turn that around to a lesson about one of the main characters. House always solves the mystery by thinking about something that's going on in his life and connecting it to the situation, just like Sherlock Holmes.

So I started with character first. How can I show elements of their personality that I want to see? What kind of characters can I create that will bring out those elements?

Once I had my characters I went to WebMD. I looked up a myriad of rare diseases until I found one that intrigued me. My main goal was to find one that looked like a lot of other diseases and had a ton of ambiguous, common symptoms so that I could give my characters lots of seizures and hives and stuff and perfectly intelligent experts in their fields would still not know what the patient has. After I chose a disease I looked up everything I could find about it, then sent away for more information from the organization that promotes research for it. Then I made a list of every disease that had similar symptoms. The whole process took about a week.

From that point on it was just plug and play. I developed a scene around the characters and plugged in a symptom. Then I went on for an act doing more character stuff and plugged in a more specific but misleading symptom. Then I just did that until one tiny clue everybody has previously dimsissed led House to make the personal connection that blew the case open, although for my spec I concentrated a lot more on Foreman. That was the A story.

Then there's the clinic story. For that I just lifted a woe-filled tale of a really disgusting and rare medical problem that happened to a charismatic friend of mine. I put him in the clinic exactly as he is and made him treated by the doctor that most contrasted his personality, in this case Chase. Then I figured out a way to keep the clinic story in line with the theme of the A story so the whole episode felt connected.

The medical stuff is just a means to an end. It's always about character first.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Query time!

It's almost time. You know, that time when you stop stockpiling scripts and start asking people to ask people to pay you for them. Of course I queried my very first script, just like everybody else, then realized after I'd embarassed myself that I'd poked my head out too early. That was four years ago.

But I don't know how to do it. There are a ton of posts and articles all over the internet about how to write query letters. The best one is probably this from Terry Rossio. But there's not much on how to pitch yourself as a TV writer.

Partner and I are revising a project we very much believe in. It's a spec pilot based on my teaching experiences. I've also written another spec pilot that needs one more revision pass and have two functional spec episodes, a House and a Supernatural. The House is really damn good. The only thing I've written with Partner is the one spec pilot, but we plan to continue our partnership with a feature. I'm also working on a feature by myself.

So how do I seek representation with this set of material? Should I even bother querying? Do I just talk about myself and mention the partner as a secondary thing? He has a nice, comlimentary set of skills, so maybe I should introduce us as a set and add that I have my own side projects. Should I concentrate just on the pilot and vaguely mention that I want to write features too?

I probably already know how to do this. I once had to write a letter to some dude to convince him to give me my teaching license even though the class I took wasn't exactly the one I was supposed to take. I got my license. But I wasn't competing with a zillion other people for the job; they kind of need teachers.

Maybe if I was a little less shy I wouldn't even need to write a query letter because I'd have wowed all the brilliant writers in LA with my winning smile and charming personality. Instead I'll just have to do this the hard way. Me and everybody else in America.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

I can't hide in the corner forever

Hung out with Maggie from Bootstrap Sunday. She feels bad about the mix-up over Battlestar. Don't feel bad, Maggie. I liked learning about St. Catherine and her exploding wheel at the Getty Center Icons exhibit. Maggie knows things.

I was at the Getty Center to meet a bunch of other writers but I couldn't find them. The two of us had fun anyway. Fun with turkey soup and brie sandwiches. Mmmmm brie.

One of the best things about writing a blog is the opportunity it gives you to connect with other writers. I sound all obnoxious and outgoing in my posts, but I'm actually kind of shy in an unfamiliar situation. If I have a mission - say, stamping people's hands at boxed lunch distribution at the Expo or directing a wild herd of meandering teenagers into their classrooms - I'm fine. I know the rules, I've got clear instructions. But a new room with new rules and new people throws me for a loop. When I finally land that staff writing job, I doubt I'll say anything at all the first time in the writer's room. The second time they won't be able to shut me up.

And don't get me started on how much I hate phone calls. I spent a whole miserable five months of my life a a small town news reporter before I realized how much I hate calling strangers on the phone.

But these are things every writer must be able to do. Pitching I'm not worried about. Pitching is teaching; you have a mission, an expectation and an act to play out that you can plan ahead of time. What worries me is the networking.

Every writer must be able to walk into a room filled with industry people and come out with a dozen business cards. You have to wow people with your storytelling ability and convince them that you're an up-and-comer. You have to cold call agents and their assistants and smooth talk them into agreeing to read your brilliant spec.

The thought of these things fills me with terror. I once stood right next to Paul Haggis for a full ten minutes. I avoided all eye contact. At the Battlestar Galactica showing I watched Jane Espenson walk right by me and didn't say anything, even though I knew she'd come there with Maggie and I had a legitimate reason to talk to her. The show's writers stopped to talk to the dorks in front of me over and over. Did I say anything? No. Then I blamed it on my looks.

That's why the Scribosphere is important. It's almost impossible to avoid meeting new people when you fall into the daily blog reading. Everybody's so nice. One of the reasons people tell you to move to LA is that everybody here is out to help each other. That's very true. People you've only just met are perfectly willing to go out on a limb to give you a leg up because somebody gave it to them once. It's a very pay-it-forward town. There are assholes, of course. There are people who only help you if you can help them. But they're few and far between. Most people in LA are very nice.

But you have to able to say hi to them first.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Hanging out with the fan club

Update: There was a brawl yesterday at lunch. Twelve students expelled, four arrested. One of them was Little Round Boy, who, it turns out, is in a gang. He was instigating the fight in which a student went to the hospital for a major cut over his eye. Good job, you little asshat. No more Little Round Boy.

Last night I went to a mall in Culver City to see tonight's episode of Battlestar Galactica on the big screen, followed by a Q&A with a few of the writers. The ep was good, full of mysteries and intense moments and a frustrating cliff hanger that made the whole audience groan with the pain of anticipation. If you are not watching Battlestar Galactica beat yourself in the head. It moves to Sunday nights in January, so you have no excuse.

I was supposed to meet Maggie there but Maggie doesn't answer her phone, people. I feel both hurt and betrayed.

Just kidding, Maggie. Oh, I understand how important it was for you to hang out with your fancy professional writer buddies who have lots of pull and can jump you in line while I wait for hours all by myself. No, seriously, it's cool. I was totally fine once I cried myself to sleep.

The line for this thing was very long. I missed the cutoff for the first showing by 9 people so I stayed an hour for the second, which ended up better because the Q&A went longer for that one. But I was in line behind the two dorkiest dudes in West LA. It taught me something about human nature.

I've never looked like the dork I am. On top of that, I project an aura of shyness in an unfamiliar situation. That combination made me invisible last night. Five different writers and producers went down the line at various intervals to thank people for coming and have brief conversations about the show. All five of them stopped to chat with the dorky dudes in front of me. None of them even glanced my way because I look like some random girl who stumbled on the screening by accident and has no idea what she's getting into. It was nice because it allowed me to listen to everybody else's conversation.

I make a big deal about my nerdiness, but I have nothing on the guy who showed up wearing an actual Galactica uniform and handed out flyers for the fan club made to look like Galactica memos, complete with cut off corners and the proper show font.

One of the beautiful things about Battlestar is that you don't have to be a dork to appreciate the excellent storytelling. You do have to be a dork to drive from San Francisco to Culver City to wait two hours in line to watch a 48 minute TV show at a mall. Those people were so adorably excited about the whole thing.

I've been in LA for over a year now and the only screenings I've been to are filled with industry people, mostly writers. This was not that kind of screening. The people here were fans, pure and simple, with limited knowledge of the business. They actually booed the WGA when the writers explained how contract negotiations put the BG webisodes on hold. Booing the WGA because they want to give the writers more money? Huh?

Then there was the guy beside me who seemed nice until he started talking about how "Some guy named Ronald Moore" was a bad writer and should stick to producing but should "never put pen to paper again." Doofus.

One of the writers polled the audience on how they watch the show. About half download it on ITunes. About half Tivo it. About five people actually watch the commercials.

The writers said they use actor input tons on the show. Many of the actors have opinions about the direction their characters should go, which makes sense since they spend all day being this one person. So a few of the upcoming episodes about Apollo and Starbuck will use several of the ideas the actors themselves suggested. It sounds like such a nice, collaborative place to work. The writers were really funny, especially Michael Rymer. That dude speaks only the language of sarcasm.

It's good to hear an audience of fans instead of just listening to the writer's perspective all the time. They were so excited and so eager, and had only nice things to say about the series. I guess they would, since they waited in line for two hours to see a show that comes on tonight. On SciFi. At 9.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Sharing is Caring

I'm finally showing the Kenneth Branagh Hamlet in my senior English class. As Kate Winslet lay on the floor going bat shit crazy, one of my students blurted out, "I love Hamlet." My work here is done. Now I can get back to writing about writing.

With that in mind, this partner thing is working out. Writing Partner and I have written half the spec pilot we're working on in a week. I'm a pretty fast writer, but I've never matched that pace before on my own.

I write my 2-4 pages for the day and email them to Partner. He opens them, reads them and calls me to discuss. Then he gets to work on his 2-4 pages, emails them to me, then I read and call, then start over again. We do this every day. It turns out that if you put everything in RTF you don't have to change as much to convert it between Word and MovieMagic, so we're doing that until I can mail him my copy of MM.

This way is working for us for the moment and it's kind of interesting leaving off a script when you're not sure where to go and letting the next person figure it out. Partner called it a "choose your own adventure" style of screenwriting.

But I am curious about other ways to work the partner situation because there are so many different ways it could be done. If you've ever written with a partner, how do you work the process? Are you friends too? What's your method?

Monday, December 11, 2006

Get out a kleenex

Okay, Martha made me feel kind of bad for Little Round Boy.

But only for a minute; then I remembered what a jerk he is.

Still, after reviewing my past posts I realized I've sounded a little harsh on my kids a lot of the time. And if you can't say anything nice...

Actually, if you can't say anything nice you should just be honest because somebody else is probably thinking it and clearly, it needs to be said. But I digress.

Know what's the best thing about teaching? The kids. If you're good they adore you. They can tell when you care, so even if you put up a mean, ornery front like I do they see through it in a second and know that they can trust you to tell the truth. They'll skip other classes to hang out in your room and even when you're pushing them out the door telling them how much you can't stand the sight of them and go to class for god's sake, they know you're kidding because they know they can always make you laugh. Sometimes kids I've never met know my name and wave at me like we're old buddies.

And yes, South Central has many problems. Even my brightest kids have trouble with writing because they've been brought up speaking Spanish by parents who aren't well educated. But they try and they learn and they ask really good questions. They look up at you with those cute little faces and can't wait to watch me do the crazy Hamlet dance. I can't always get a laugh with adults, but I kill in a room of 16 year olds.

The other day I was standing on the balcony of my school watching them all as they listened respectfully to the drumline play at lunch under the clear LA sky. I couldn't stop thinking about how beautiful they are. There's so much for them to overcome, so much craziness they've already survived and so much stacked against them in the future. But they show up at school every day and start again, convinced that this is the way out of the ghetto, which for most of them is true. It's the most beautiful thing I've ever seen in my life.

That's why I'm a teacher.

Meet my nemesis

Let me tell you about Little Round Boy. Little Round Boy has been suspended multiple times, but here he is again at school, not going to class all day. He gets to school at 7:15 a.m. and spends the entire day wandering, sometimes with friends, sometimes by his own little round self.

Little Round Boy appeared on my radar when I saw him skipping one day and told him to go to class, at which point he made up a million conflicting lies about why he wasn't there already and proceeded to wander around campus some more, flaunting it in my face that I couldn't make him go.

I know Little Round Boy's real name now, but I find it so much more satisfying to refer to him as "Little Round Boy." My classes all know about him. My students call him the nickname I gave him and tell me when they see him around.

A haiku by one of my students:

The little round boy
Walking around campus
Ditching every class

Because he knows I've made it my mission to destroy him, he frequently wanders past my classroom as if to say, "What are you gonna do, bitch?"

At first I just got annoyed, then I realized how much power I have to really screw with this kid. I've told every security person on campus about him so they're all looking for him. If he's caught he'll be thrown out of school again. He knows this, so every time I see him I pull out my phone and act like I'm calling security then laugh as he runs away as fast as his chubby little legs can carry him.

Today I started actually calling him "Little Round Boy" to his face and it's really pissing him off. "Look everybody, it's Little Round Boy!" I said as he sauntered past on his way to skipping homeroom.

"Why you fucking call me that?" he said with his scrunched up face of irritation.

It is my goal to make that his permanent nickname. If he's fifty and people are still calling him "Little Round Boy" I will be filled with joy. Actually by that point I probably won't even remember him. Even better.

Petty, yes. But so much fun.

Sometimes embarrassment is your only weapon. Do not screw with me, kids.

Friday, December 08, 2006

The office supplies are organizing.

Thanks for the good advice on my slang issues.

Yesterday began with a coordinated attack by two seemingly independent staples on my thumbs. One sliced into my skin as I pulled it out of a stapled set of song lyrics I wanted to photocopy to use as contemporary poetry. The other poked me in the knuckle as I pulled out a stack of them to replenish the stapler. I have a snoopy bandaid on each thumb. So watch out for staples, people. They're out for vengeance. You know, when you go in for all those pedagogy classes they make you take to get your teaching license, they never warn you about staple injuries.

Then there's Hamlet. I wanted to show the Kenneth Branagh Hamlet yesterday in my Senior English class and the kids are all stoked and ready to watch, but the damn movie is not available on DVD. Why has Warner Brothers not released this movie yet? Seriously, what the hell is wrong over there? Anyway, trying to find a VHS copy would involve way more driving around LA than I care to do and I don't have time to wait for delivery. Then I discovered that Amazon offers movies for download. You buy it and download the player from their site and poof - there's the movie, ready to be hooked up to a projector, straight from your laptop.

I've had a few bad experiences with Amazon. I usually buy my stuff through, but I'm a little stuck in this situation so I clicked all the clicky buttons and cleared space on my laptop for the movie and waited for the download to start kicking in.

That was Wednesday. This morning I was still waiting. After an hour on the phone with Tech Support Guy yesterday I discovered the file is corrupted and would not be fixed in time for my class, but he was putting his "special team" of crack file repairmen on it. I bet those guys are hot.

I put emergency lesson plan into effect. Instead of a movie, the kids got a quiz and an essay assignment. They were understandably overjoyed.

It turns out, the file will download, just not to my laptop. Even though I cleared enough space on the hard drive to accomodate the 244 minute production, the file is not happy with bearing the responsibility of almost half my hard drive. So I downloaded it to a school computer and it appears to like that better. It is still taking like two days to download though, so it'll be Monday before I can show it. Thank goodness for group projects.

If that doesn't work, I've got a VHS copy of A Midsummer Night's Dream. Not the same, but at least it's Shakespeare.

So that's computer problem number one. Then there's computer problem number two.

I use MovieMagic. I love MovieMagic. But I loaned my copy of the disk to a friend to try it out. Friend has sort of faded into mild aquaintance and I never see him anymore, so I haven't been able to get my copy of the software back from him to upload to Writing Partner's computer.

I don't have Word at home. I have Wordperfect. I don't have anything on my laptop other than Wordpad. So here's what we have to do to write the script. I work on the pages in MovieMagic and save them on my desktop to convert them to Wordperfect. Partner opens them in Word and adjusts the margins, writes four pages or so and sends them back to me. I open them on my laptop in Wordpad and convert them back into MovieMagic. But when I do that the character names disappear and the dialogue reverts back to action. I'm working on the system, but it looks like until I get my software back I'll only be able to write at work. That's no good.

In the meantime, I'm going to ram more staples through my hand.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

To slang or not to slang

And I don't mean drugs. And it occurs to me that if you don't teach in South Central you may not know that "to slang" is slang for dealing drugs. I like homonyms. Or are they homophones? Does anybody care?

But here's the point. After reading my first ten pages Writing Partner is concerned that my writing is "too slangy". Okay that's not a direct quote because the word "slangy" is too slangy. He actually said my writing style is "a lot like a thirteen-year-old".

He loves my dialogue. Loves the plot points. But my voice is a teenage valley girl. Like, whatever, okay?

That prompted a long discussion over how much voice a person should use in a screenplay. Is slang a bad thing? My boy went to NYU film school so he knows a thing or two about screenplays. I've got a big fancy graduate English degree on my wall from one of the nation's premiere party schools, so I know a thing or two about going to class hung over. Oh, and classic literature.

Here are a few examples of what we discussed:
1) "His mom busts in the door." Partner believes "busts" is taking him out of the script.
2) "She wears way too much makeup." He feels the use of the word "way" is where my inner teenage girl takes over.
3) "She went through the spinny door." He prefers "revolving." The nerve on that guy.

We are shooting people in this script, after all. Lots of depressing bloody scenes. Flippant writing will not do.

I do find it odd that he dislikes my adjectives. I always considered myself a minimalist writer. Shows what I know.

But that has left me pondering a question. How do you know the difference between a healthy amount of writer's voice and too much editorializing? Half the books say to leave all personality in the dialogue and leave the prose to only the necessary bits. The other half of the books say to embrace your voice so that you stand out and give the script personality. What do you think? How do you balance your natural voice with the need to only write what you see? And is slang acceptable?

I would tell Writing Partner to suck it, but he'd probably just criticize the slanginess of the word "suck".

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Ode to The Wire

Houseguest left for Canada Saturday, which makes me very sad, but he has become long distance Writing Partner instead. So Writing Partner and I are hard at work on current project and we are stoked. I'm a little concerned that he doesn't have the time I do to dedicate to the project, but if it doesn't work I can always take over and finish the whole thing myself. I could do it myself right now if I wanted to, but I really like his ideas and think it will be fun to collaborate.

Writing Partner is very picky about what he watches. I could spend 24 hours straight watching television and still not clear everything in my DVR, but Partner would much rather practice his guitar than sit down to catch an ep of Prison Break. He considers that a waste of time.

There are four shows we agree on: Friday Night Lights, which he likes but dismisses as "guilty pleasure", Ali G which he's completely obsessed with, Family Guy and The Wire on HBO.

We've been watching a lot of The Wire. The show's just finishing up its fourth season and if you haven't seen it you are missing in a big way. It's about crime and education and politics and everything that is fucked up in Baltimore. But it's also about everything that's fucked up in America in general, and Baltimore is the microcosm. Nothing on TV is as real as this show because it's run by a former cop and former teacher who have experience working in the ghettos of the city. They don't pull any punches. Although my school isn't quite as bad as the one on the show, I frequently see my kids in the ones we follow. I see myself in the teachers. A lot of their problems are our problems.

It is definitely not escapist material. You won't watch The Wire and get a warm fuzzy feeling of hope. You will get a dark hole of despair in your soul that will fester and grow until it consumes you. But in a good way.

I would love to write for that show. As Maggy pointed out, I do have a ton of experience with Latino kids and I am a teacher, and that gives me a unique experience relevant to the show and where it's headed, but the staff of that show has an amazing track record of accolades. I was recently labeled "cool" by several of my students.

I'm fairly certain that if the project we're working on now got us any attention from David Simon, Writing Partner and I would both cream our respective pants.

Monday, December 04, 2006

There is no escape

Our principal has this theory that piping in music over the intercom will mellow out our kids enough to prevent them from shooting each other. He doesn't pipe it into the classrooms, just the hallways and the cafeteria. At first I didn't mind. It was benign jazz, not too noticeable, and it was drowned out anyway by the fact that my classroom is located directly ustairs from the band room.

Then they started playing more adult contemporary music. Our school population is mostly Latino teenagers. The adults are mostly in their 20s. But we were suddenly listening to songs that only appeal to 40-year-old white suburban housewives who drive unecessary SUVs to Wholefoods for pulp-free Florida orange juice. Seriously, aside from John C. McGinley, who listens to Michael Bolton?

This morning it got worse. They're now playing Christmas music all day. Nothing else. Is that legal? I mean, granted, aside from our one Muslim and one Seventh-Day Adventist, I'm pretty sure our kids are all Catholic. But some of our teachers are Jewish, and it's the principle of the thing. Church music at a public school?

I might not mind so much if they just played something by the Muppets.

Most of the songs have been of the "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer" caliber. Is it wrong that these songs make me feel like shopping? What does that say about the meaning of Christmas?

They also remind me of my four years in school when I worked at Boston Market. I could never escape "Sleigh Ride". There are thirty thousand versions of that song and it seemed like the radio people would save them all up to play while I mopped the floor, just to give me extra incentive to get the hell out of there. I will always thank my friend Katie for the mixed tape she made to drown out the cheery holiday cheesiness. Maybe now as I'm forced to hear "Sleigh Ride" for the second time this morning, I can replace it in my head with "Joey" like I did when I was a teenager.