Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Reading is hard

I have some really cool screenplays on my computer that I haven't read. Thanks to some of you and your awesomeness and the general awesomeness of other people, I've been lucky enough to have about 100 screenplays on my laptop right now. I've read about 5 of them. Some of them I've been wanting to read for ages.

I think the reason I haven't read most of them is that they're just so time consuming. It's easy to read a novel when you're waiting for your oil change or sitting on the toilet or generally bored or getting ready for bed. You can read one chapter or two and stop whenever you're ready, picking up right where you left off the next day.

But for some reason I can't do that with a screenplay. You're not supposed to watch a movie in half hour increments, you're meant to plant your ass in a chair for two hours and glue your eyeballs to the screen. And since a script is usually terse and only includes necessary information you kind of have to pay attention.

And that means devoting at least an hour of your time to reading it.

I try reading them at work sometimes but it's hard when you have five bored seniors eating lunch in your room and drawing rainbows and shit all over your paper covered desks while they giggle and flirt.

They want me to tell them which girl in their class I think is most likely to get pregnant. They also eat a lot of Cheetos with lime.

I really want to read the new Will Smith movie about the alcoholic superhero but it seems that every time I settle in to reading something comes up. And it's just so hard to understand what's going on when your attention is sapped every two minutes by some kid who wants to know if you've seen his textbook.

My yearbook staff is working on an art project they seem pretty pleased with. It's a Project Runway style thing where I had them choose an image in a magazine and use that as inspiration for a two-page spread. So far they have done some really creative shit.

But they really only need me to walk around periodically and make suggestion, so I think I'll attempt to read that screenplay during fourth period today. I hope it's good.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

I don't want to be a copy cat

Usually when I start a script I see the first 15 or so pages clear as a bell in my brain. It takes like five minutes to get them down.

This time, though, I have kind of a dilemma. It's not that I don't see the scene, it's that I'm not sure I can use it the way I want to.

I want to open with a scene of two white girls getting out of a cab and two Latino boys mugging them. Only before the mugging I want the boys to have a conversation that makes them seem relatively innocuous so we are first threatened by their appearance, then relieved when we hear them talk, then threatened again when they mug the girls.

And that would be cool and all except Stupid Paul Haggis and his stupid Oscar winning script already did exactly that in Crash. The story opens with two guys talking social issues and then robbing two white folk on the street.

First of all, I liked Crash very much.


My story will not be nearly as heavy handed and preachy, and it will follow one kid and one woman instead of hitting all the racial groups around LA. And the story is so vastly different that I might make a few comparisons (It's Crash meets some random coming of age story to be determined later), but all in all my story is different enough that nobody will really accuse of anything nefarious.

Except for this stupid intro scene. Of course my dialogue will be different and the outcome of the scene will be different, but the first three minutes will probably seem eerily similar.

So what do you think? Do I go ahead with my planned intro and risk people turning off because they think I'm a copy cat? Or do I start right off with the mugging and skip the dialogue but lose some of the intended perspective on the scene? What would you do?

Monday, April 28, 2008

I feel good about this

The more I think about this 15 year old Latino boy script the more I like it. Except now he's not 15 anymore, he's 17. Last night I couldn't sleep because vacation has messed with my ability to go to bed before midnight, so I stared up at the ceiling and remembered things that have happened to my students over the last three years, things I can include in my story.

I went to Barnes and Noble on Saturday and bought two books on life inside gang territory. My kid isn't in a gang, but he lives in a gang infested area and there will be some mention of them. I want to be accurate. Plus now that school has started back I can use my students as a resource. I told them today that I was working on a project about gangs. They immediately volunteered to tell me all about it, probably because they enjoy anything that sounds like a distraction from learning about the difference between metaphor and simile.

Not Dead Yet worked because as I wrote the story in my head it naturally came together. One moment lead to to the next until each setpiece was a natural progression from the last. It was nearly effortless. I almost stalled out on this whole tidal wave scene but I called a friend and we worked through it together.

The superhero movie wasn't as easy. I knew the beginning and I knew the end, but I had no idea how to get from point A to point B, and that's why it inevitably failed. The pieces refused to cooperate and make it easy for me.

And that's also how I know this one will work. Last night as I lay there, wishing I had done a better job of readjusting to my work schedule, I watched the characters in my head move from one moment to the next out of necessity. I didn't have to push them anywhere; they pushed themselves. It was effortless.

Of course, I haven't actually tried to write anything yet so this could all be complete bullshit.

Still, I feel much better about the possibilities of this script than I did about my superhero thing. I may even write this first since the only reason I started a Pushing Daisies was to distract me from the fact that my script wasn't working. I need a second solid feature, this could be it.

I also like the idea of writing this because although it will still have the requisite gunfire and fist fights constant in all my work, it will be much more serious on a Sundancy kind of level. (And if I get any indication that it can be finished in time, I will send it to the Sundance thing so thanks for the suggestions in that direction.) This is the kind of story that people think of as deep emotional shit. You have a hard time convincing people your zombie story is deep emotional shit, but mention your coming-of-age story about a Mexican American boy who's just trying to fight his way out of gang infested South Central, and people immediately see the potential for depth.

That's good, right? One story about zombies, one story about poignant shit. That should get me some attention. Right?

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Hi ho, hi ho

Yesterday morning I went to work convinced I'd be traveling and teaching 9th grade. Oh, and for those nonteachers, "traveling" means moving to a different classroom every period because there aren't enough rooms for everyone to have their own. I haven't traveled in a long time because I've always had to stay in one place for yearbook, but now the book is finished so I figured it would be my turn. And without yearbook class I just knew I'd end up with freshmen.

I dislike freshmen. They're obnoxious and childlike and haven't figured out what to do with their hormones and growing limbs. They annoy me. But I could handle all that if the curriculum didn't suck so much. LAUSD has decided that every 9th grade class must be taught the exact same way with very little room for creativity. I'm terrible at following directions and one of the things that keeps me in the classroom is the fact that I can change things up all the time.

Also the benefits and supportable salary and four months of vacation and the ability to talk about books all day, but other than that it's the creative ideas I can explore.

So anyway, I went to work yesterday just knowing my year of awesomness was going to catch up with me and I was going to have to move from room to shining room filled with ADHD infected 9th graders.

I forgot how much my boss loves me. And after this week I will never question her wisdom ever again.

I'm pretty sure none of you will understand just how much joy I felt when I found out that I am not only in the best classroom in the school all day, but I have a yearbook class.

We're done with the yearbook. Do you know what this means?

I'm guessing you don't. Unless you've taught yearbook too, then you can probably imagine.

It means I can really teach. I can do all kinds of cool projects and spend time actually teaching design concepts and preparing for next year and creating a distribution event and take pictures for next year and - here's the kicker - set up the school newspaper. This semester another teacher and I are starting our school's first paper. It's so super exciting I can't stand it.

(And no, RP, I'm not using an exclamation point. I get excited on the inside. Outside my face is stony, just for you.)

I'm also teaching a section of 10th graders under a new curriculum so I have a lot of work to do before school starts on Monday, and I've decided to teach Catcher in the Rye this semester for the first time to my 11th graders. So I will be very very busy this semester because I have three completely different classes ("preps" we call them) that will all involve different approaches. To be honest, though, that's how I like it.

Somehow in all that I still have a spec Pushing Daisies to finish and a new script to write and a short film to preproduce, but I'll figure it out. I promise I will still try to write a post every day during homeroom, but there may be days when I'm whirling around like a dervish and can't get to it, so don't go anywhere if I don't post. I won't disappear for more than a day.

I guess I'm never truly happy unless I'm up to my eyeballs in stuff to do.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

My life as a 15 year old Latino boy

Tomorrow I go back to work.

So on my two month vacation I finished Not Dead Yet (I'm going to talk more about that soon) and threw it out to the world. I started a script and abandoned it, I started a Pushing Daisies which I plan to finish in time for Disney, and I thought up a new idea.

There's just not enough time to do all the things I need to do. I never did write up the proposal for journalism class I planned to put together, mostly because I was distracted by episodes of Blind Date.

I do have a tendency to drop scripts when they get too tough. I had this idea about a character with superpowers and some major social anxiety. The problem is no matter what I did I could never get the plot to work. Every page felt like garbage because I didn't believe in it, and if you don't believe in it the script won't be very good. So I'm dropping it until I figure out how to solve my plot problems.

Then the other night I was thinking about what sets me apart from other writers and what kind of individual experience I bring to the screenwriting industry. Just one thing: I'm a middle class white teacher of poor Latino kids.

Whenever people find out what I do for a living they always say either "Ooooh like Freedom Writers!" or "Oh, like Dangerous Minds!"

Sometimes they'll say I'm just like Michelle Pfeifer! One guy, when I told him I teach in South Central, asked how I liked teaching Ebonics.

Yeah I don't really like talking to racists, asshole. Besides, my kids speak Spanglish. Get it straight.

Anyway, those movies are all well and good but not horribly realistic. Most movies about teachers in the ghetto are about some white teacher who comes into a classroom where the kids are out of control and turns them around through his or her wacky methods.

Yeah that happens about never.

I don't go to my kids' homes and try to convince their parents they should care more about their children. I don't spend half my salary on supplies. When I go home, I grade papers and I think about my lesson plans, but I don't stay awake at night dreaming of how I can change their lives.

That doesn't mean I don't care. God, I care. I gave one little felon my cell number and told him to call me when he gets backed into a corner and has nowhere to turn. I teach my ass off in that room. I counsel those kids all the time. But most of the time my class is pretty standard and the kids behave like normal teenagers, and I learned my first year of teaching that if you try to "save" every kid you will drive yourself crazy with the painful futility of it all.

But that doesn't make for a good movie.

So I realized the other night that I want to write a story that's a little more realistic. I want to show that most of the time these kids have so much going on at home that although teachers can help, they can't save a kid from a crappy home life. I want to show that most teachers are not saviors and they're not evil overlords. Most teachers are human beings who care but don't kill themselves over the job.

I'm also tired of seeing movies where every Latino kid goes home to a single parent home and deals with gangs and drugs and that's his life. Most of my kids aren't in gangs. Most of them don't do anything harder than pot. Most of them don't even know how to shoot a gun. Many of them have both parents at home.

Yes, my kids are more exposed to crime than most. Every one of them could easily travel down the path that leads to prison. But in the end they have to make the decision for themselves about where they plan to end up, and their teachers can give them advice but they are in charge of their own lives. I just don't see that enough in film.

So I'm going to write a story about a 15 year old Latino male in South Central Los Angeles who has to decide whether to lead a life of crime or take the hard road. And he has to do it on his own. And he has two loving parents who have jobs and nobody beats him and he goes to school and has normal, responsible teachers who don't always know about the personal issues that sometimes make kids behave like little asshats in the classroom.

The upside of this undertaking: I feel like I have a really clear idea of my mission and my plot. The downside: my protagonist is a 15 year old Latino male. I am none of those things. I can only hope my experience with my students will be enough to let me voice him accurately. I'm going to refer to the script as Jacking.

And I really hope I don't ditch this script halfway through.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Introducing my boxing movie

Thanks to some prodding from people who want to see it produced, I've decided to go ahead and start preproduction on The Corner. The Corner is a 15 minute short about two amateur boxers who have to deal with the issues they have outside the ring during a fight in the ring.

The entire story takes place inside the ring and focuses mostly on the drama created every time each man heads to his corner.

I wrote this short for three reasons: I always wanted to write a boxing story, I needed a second short to develop one of the characters from Game Night, and I promised I would write something two of my excellent actor friends could star in. It doesn't hurt that this will be a film staring two hot dudes with their shirts off, pummeling each other. Sorry ladies, a friend of mine already has dibs on being the spray bottle / towel girl.

I really like this story. I think this is the best of the eight shorts I've written and I'm very excited to shoot it. The biggest challenge I face here is probably getting ahold of a boxing ring where we can shoot this for cheap. I have several leads, and I think as soon as I make a few calls I may have a beaten down gym that will suffice.

If anybody wants to participate in any way there are plenty of things I could use. When filming comes I will be needing plenty of extras to sit in the audience and cheer for the boxers. I'll also need a DP, a gaffer, and an AD.

I'll also be looking for two actors. They both need to be forty something former boxers who have become trainers. One must be white with a strong jawline and high cheekbones with blue or green eyes or a willingness to wear contacts (yes, it matters) and the other can be anything as long as he's sarcastic and muscular and looks like he could beat somebody's ass.

I hate casting. HATE IT. It's my least favorite part of the film process. So if you know anyone who fills either of these two roles feel free to pass their names along because I'd rather cast someone through a recommendation than through a casting notice.

On the off chance that anyone is interested, I have also put up a donation button on the sidebar. I would use this money for filming the short ONLY. This money goes straight to my savings account, where it doesn't come out again until I have to pay for filming costs. Anyone who would like to invest would get invited to the premier of both Game Night and The Corner as well as a thank you in the credits for The Corner. If you'd like to read the script before donating I will shoot you the PDF.

I'm not asking anybody for anything, of course, but a few people have emailed me and asked how they could help so I thought I'd post it here.

I also plan to make sure the film will be edited faster so that I can send it to festivals a lot sooner than Game Night. Now that I've done one film I feel a lot better prepared to shoot this one. Either way, come September I will be shooting my boxing movie.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Game Night keeps on keepin on

I originally shot Game Night, the story of two couples in the middle of a game of Taboo that turns sexy and violent, in September of last year. I lucked into a terrific crew and some really great actors and shot it in my apartment on a weekend.

We had fun and we made some great shots. Preproduction and production went beautifully. It's post that's been a massive hassle.

My script supervisor/AD was volunteered as my editor. I screwed up there. Someone else spoke up for her as my editor and she never disagreed, so I stopped thinking about it. I didn't budget for an editor because she was going to do it for free.

Then my DP and my AD started to get real jobs, not free student shorts that would never make any money. And I certainly can't blame them for moving on because they have to make a living and they did a lot to help me through this process.

So three months after we shot all the footage my would-be editor told me she didn't have time to put the footage together.

I went looking for a new editor, but I hadn't budgeted for one so I knew it would be tough to get a good one to volunteer. I was lucky enough to get a recommendation for a guy who actually works in a professional studio. The downside is he's busy as hell and doesn't have a lot of free time. So I still have no completed footage almost 8 months after we shot it.

I missed some deadlines. My actors are very politely harassing me about footage for their reels, my composer has probably forgotten I exist, and I don't have any scenes to put up on my website.

But it's getting done.

I learned from this process that next time I need to set aside enough money to pay a professional editor and insist they edit quickly. In the meantime I might pick up some software and learn to do it myself so I don't have to rely on others in the future.

And tomorrow I'll talk about exactly what that next project is.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

An ode to the best shows ever

Some of you already know this, but when I was a kid I watched way too much TV so my parents forbid me from watching it. I was allowed to watch the news and Twin Peaks. I'm not kidding. Fraggle Rock was forbidden but a show about a man who boffed his own daughter was completely okay.

I got pretty used to not having a TV. When I went to college I didn't have one in the dorm my first or second year, and man was it good for my grades. Then when I moved into my first apartment I finally bought this 1997 cabinet television a friend was getting rid of. It weighs 800 pounds and sits on the floor and I still have it. It cost me $35.

One night I was flipping channels and I came across this intriguing little image. It was a little gray puppet wandering all over a space ship. It was "Exodus from Genesis," the third episode of Farscape, and I was hooked.

Farscape was true genius. An American astronaut gets shot into space by accident and ends up on a space ship full of escaped alien prisoners
who then become the subject of a universe-wide manhunt. Sometimes the show went way out there, but even though it was full of crazy puppets it still always had real emotional content. I cried, I laughed, I loved those characters.

Then one day I was flipping channels and I saw this redheaded chick give a pair of pez dispensers to some little werewolf dude. It was season three of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and I was hooked. I loved that show. Every episode left me with a smile or a tear or a gaping open mouth. It always elicited an emotion because I cared about the characters.

On both shows people changed drastically from who they were when the story started. People died, people were flawed.

On Farscape they were always making life worse for people when they came around. Not on purpose of course, but it seems every decision John made on that show resulted in multiple deaths. It was a hell of a responsibility to take on. And Buffy was responsible for protecting the world from evil. So I guess that's the key to a good show for me - a flawed individual with enormous responsibility surrounded by people who grow and change under extreme circumstances.

They inspired me to watch more television and still today I regularly pop in my DVDs and run marathons of both shows. Sometimes I'll remember a line or a moment I want to remember so I'll watch an episode, and once I watch one I have a strong desire to watch the next one so I just keep on going until I get to the end.

These are the two shows that inspire me the most.

When I'm done with Pushing Daisies I might go back to my feature idea, but if I'm not ready for that yet I'll start in on my pilot. It's in the space bounty hunter genre. And it will definitely have a flawed hero with lots of responsibility surrounded by friends and enemies who change and grow over time. Because that's what I like.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

The epic question that is Predator vs Alien

I will answer more comments' questions later, but first I have a debate for you to weigh in on.

The other night Ex-Boyfriend came over - yes the one who shocked himself in the eyeball and yes we are still on excellent terms because he is hilarious and likes to do violent things to himself which is always entertaining - and we watched Alien Versus Predator Requiem.

This fine film of course elicited a great deal of philosophical debate that got so intense I was concerned the neighbors would call the cops to report a domestic disturbance.

Question one: Would you rather live in a world with five Predators and five Aliens, or five velociraptors and five tyrannosaurus rexes?

Of course I went with the dinosaurs. For one thing, they don't have a specific vendetta against us and none of them bleed acid, and I'm in agreement with all those scientists who think the T-Rex was a scavenger, not a hunter. However, the velociraptor is very scary and after it claws you in your stomach you are alive when it eats you. Sam Neil said so and I believe it. So then Ex-B said, what if instead of a velociraptor it was a brontosaurus? Well of course I am not afraid of a brontosaurus. But then he said that would be worse because a brontosaurus would smash the building you're in and you'd be crush by debris and he'd rather be eaten than crushed by debris. But a brontosaurus is so big you'd see it coming so you could run out of the building, whereas if a raptor came after you it would be all up on your grill before you knew what was going on.

Question 2: The obvious - who is more awesome, the Predator or the Alien?

I know I'm in the minority on this one but the Alien scares the bejeezus out of me. Ex-B can ramble on about the virtues of Mr. Dreadlocks all he wants, I'm going with the creature that plants its young in your stomach and bleeds flesh-eating acid. You can't reason with an Alien, it's only desire is to make a hole in your skull and have more Alien babies. Plus it can swim fast.

Ex-B pointed out that Sigourney Weaver took the Alien out all by herself in her underwear. Yeah, but she had to use the vacuum of space to do it. Twice. And the third time she had to trick it into a big pool of lava. And I don't remember what happened the fourth time - I think it was the vacuum of space again, but I don't really care because that movie was kind of terrible. But the Predator? Just shoot it enough times and it will die.

Question 3: Would a true Predator vs Alien movie make bank?

This is the question I'd love to have your opinion on. Apparently Robert Rodriguez once pitched a film where the Aliens would invade the Predator homeworld or the Predator would invade the Alien homeworld - I don't remember witch - and the whole film would be based on that. And there would be some deep space exploring humans who get caught up in the story but mostly it's strictly and Alien/Predator thing.

I think that sounds kind of awesome. I admit, when I was watching AVPR I wanted more hot Predator on Alien action. I was kind of rooting for the Predator and I don't feel like the film gave me enough of his story because it was so busy making me follow around these annoying humans with their stupid relationship drama. And I never felt like I got enough Predalien (or "Alietor" as Ex-B referred to it because "Predalien sounds gay") because the scenes with that crazy motherfucker were brief and shot in very quick cuts. I wanted to see the thing in an epic battle - instead it was all cut short.

But in a film that was just Predator and Alien and no humans at all, you would see nothing but awesome. I think it's a great idea.

But here's where we differed. I don't think a film like this would ever make money. There would be no dialogue - just that gargle sound the Predator makes and the rattling juicy Alien noise and nobody would ever say anything.

And admittedly that sounds so revolutionary and awesome. You could still have lots of cool subtext, but it would all have to be done by creatures who are not human at all. It would be actors in suits and CGI and animatronics. It would be truly original.

But I think it would also keep people from seeing it. Ex-B brought up Apocalypto. But even that film featured humans and had subtitles. If you try to add subtitles to the Predators it becomes comedic, not badass. And people don't go see an AVP movie because they love to read.

I'd love to see that movie, but I don't see why a studio executive would take that kind of risk.

So I want to know what you think. Would you go see it? Do you think it's a good idea? What if velociraptors joined in?

Friday, April 18, 2008


Thanks for all the posts yesterday, everybody. I liked reading all the comments. Although I was kind of surprised by how many people seriously thought I didn't know how to look up words to spell them correctly when I made it so abundantly not clear at all that I was making a joke. But thanks to everybody for such nice compliments.

Anyway, I will begin answering questions. Today's topic is why the hell don't I ever use exclamation points?

Stuff does not bother me much. People are always asking me if I mind things, and usually the answer is no. I used to get bent out of shape about stuff but now, eh, things tend to work out. No reason to stress it.

I tend to be happy all the time because of this. I'm a silver lining kind of gal. People call me when they feel like crap because they know if there's a positive outlook to have, I'll know what it is. It's my special skill.

This is why I have a nonexistent relationship with the exclamation point. It was recently pointed out to me that I never use them. And as I examine my past posts I realize that it's absolutely true - the exclamation point is a nonentity in my life, kind of like my real dad.

I think one of my favorite benefits from my no-exclamation-point policy is how much it frustrates uptight people. The other day some guy got all bent out of shape and yelled at me because I didn't want to give him my contact information and I just sort of looked at him. And then he yelled some more and I just stood there, leaning. You're a lot cooler when you don't use exclamation points. And when you lean.

Exclamation points are annoying! When you read forty student papers in one day and they use exclamation points at the end of every single sentence you start to want to stab everybody you see! Because they use that form of punctuation to elicit fake enthusiasm! Like when they describe a character going to the store! Or being raped! Or picking his nose! All of these things are very exciting! And by the time I'm done reading my eyebrows are around my hairline!

Ugh. It's just exhausting dealing with all that forced emotion. It also reduces the impact of the symbol when you use it constantly. Chances are if I use an exclamation point, it's a very significant moment.

My thesis director once said, "Your entire writing career, you get two exclamation points that aren't dialogue related. That's it. After that you've gone too far." And although I don't usually take well to hard and fast rules, that's one I find appealing. Rich bottle blonds named Bridget who carry around chihuahuas in a little pink Prada bag use exclamation points. Low key Emily Blakes do not.

So I only use exclamation points in dialogue when characters yell at each other. I almost never use them in prose form. I might go "Wooo!" or "Thanks!" but I'm never going to go "Read my script! It's about zombies!"

That is just too much bouncy fake emotion for me. I prefer to keep it cool.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Pushing Daisies and stuff

I'm having fun with Pushing Daisies. I think the hardest part so far is trying to fit in the narrator. I'm a big fan of subtle, but Pushing Daisies is kind of the opposite of subtle, given that you have a narrator telling you what everybody's feeling every thirty seconds. At first I was having trouble figuring out where to put him, but I started the second act this morning and I'm starting to get into the flow so my narrator's voice is improving.

I've been watching episodes on and learning a few things. For one thing, the show is in six acts. Not a teaser and five acts, but six official acts. It says so in the pilot. I haven't yet seen official scripts for other episodes but I'm on the lookout, if anybody has one.

Anyway, every episode begins with Young Ned learning some lesson that applies to the episode at large. Then we learn about today's victim, then we solve it. And at the core of everything is Ned and Chuck and their inability to touch, so every episode must be in some way about people who distance themselves from each other.

That's kind of right up my alley so this is turning fun. Plus I'm writing about something I've researched a great deal in the past, which makes the plot flow easily. I forgot how much fun writing a spec TV episode was.

In unrelated news, today's topic sucks because I couldn't think of anything more exciting to write about. Anybody got any suggestions? I'm not a pro writer or anything, but I am good at Taboo. And drinking people under the table. And straight kicks. And cooking chicken parmesian, which Firefox says is spelled wrong but won't give me an alternative spelling and I am too lazy to go to my dictionary and look up.

You're reading this for some reason, so what do you want me to talk about? Also, say hi or something because most of you never say anything and I'd like to know who you are.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Single white entertaining

Tonight I went to a taping of the pilot for the newest Fred Savage sitcom, Single White Millionaire.

I'm not a sitcom person, really, especially sitcoms with a laugh track. In fact the last sitcom I watched that had a laugh track was Friends, but tonight they were willing to pay me $15 to sit and be entertained so I figured, what the hell.

Two years ago I went to the WB lot to watch another Fred Savage sitcom, Crumbs, film an episode. This was the same soundstage and the set looked exactly the same.

Thank goodness, this was funnier. I hope the show makes it on the air because there were a few times when I did a throw-up-your-head-and-guffaw kind of laugh. It still had some formulaic sitcom elements, but all in all it was way funnier than any multi-camera shows currently on the air. At least, that's how it felt in the audience.

The last time I saw a taping I'd never been on a set. Now that I've produced and directed Game Night I had a different perspective on what I was watching. I liked watching the way the jokes changed. For instance, in one line Fred's character Rick says he's tired of being a "spinster." That got crickets from the audience. On the next take they changed it to "old maid" which received uproarious laughter.

On the way out I overheard a guy ask his date what "spinster" means. I didn't realize that was an unfamiliar word but I guess it was.

Barney the cat was my favorite part of the show. Rick has a beautiful gray fancy cat that according to Fred was perfectly fine until the audience showed up. He absolutely refused to sit still despite the desperate pleas from his trainer.

That resulted in a mistake for the script, I think, and now I begin to wonder how often this kind of thing happens. There was a scene where Rick was supposed to talk to his cat about the hockey games that were coming on that night, but in take after take the cat took off as soon as he yelled out a celebratory line. So Fred suggested taking the cat out of the scene and having him yell "Oh, baby!" instead of yelling the cat's name.

The problem with that is instead of talking to the cat he was then talking to himself, which is a much weaker decision for the story. But what else can you do when the cat won't sit still for the camera?

Another thing that fascinated me was the Prop Master because 1) He was fucking hot and I'd gladly let him be my next bad decision and 2) He was totally obsessed with props. I'm a sucker for a man who loves his job and properly fills out a T-shirt. When every single person who wasn't him was watching the scene play out on stage, he was staring intently at his prop table or running around adjusting details or writing things down or taking pictures of his setup. The actual story going on around him was only a mild concern. The important thing was that he had the spare cat toy ready when the first one broke. I want him to be my prop guy one day.

He could also be handy in my efforts to sleep my way to the top. So far I'm still at PA. Prop Master would be a step up on the sexy food chain.

Just kidding. Maybe.

Anyway, I hope CBS picks up Single White Millionaire because overall it's pretty good which is a real compliment coming from someone who doesn't watch sitcoms. If it airs, watch it. And listen for my loud guffaw. And check out those hot, hot props.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Back to TV again

I'm bouncing back to TV again.

I used to think I wanted to write movies, then TV, then movies again, then TV again. I like both, but this cruel world makes you choose.

I only have the one really reliable film script so I was determined to write a second before I went back to TV again. I've written a couple of posts on the subject. But the feature is bothering me.

Something just doesn't feel right and since I'm not on any actual deadlines I'd rather sit with the script until I figure out the solutions than force it and end up with another mediocre script. Hell, Not Dead Yet took longer to write than anything I've ever done and it was the best thing I've ever written. Coincidence? Maybe.

I was driven to think about this when I read Unk's advice to sit with your script and get really comfortable with it - for a year if you have to - before trying to write something that's not ready.

And while I have a vague idea of what I want to do with the feature I have a really solid idea of what I want to do with Pushing Daisies. The storyline is clear and I can definitely pull off the voices, so I'm going back to TV for the next project. After all, Disney is coming up soon. I might as well write this now rather than rush to get it done.

And when I land an agent I'll let him or her deal with telling me what to write next. For now I might as well write what I'm ready to write.

In the meantime I have a final logline for Not Dead Yet, in case anybody wants to know some more details about the script:

Twenty years after the zombie apocalypse wipes out life as they know it, a married couple learns that they are not alone, and must learn to repair their damaged relationship as they take their children on a dangerous thousand-mile journey to save the life of a woman they’ve never met.

So there you go. I continue my obsession with dead people coming back to life, apparently.

Monday, April 14, 2008

The stories are all around you

I got a questions yesterday about where one comes up with ideas. A lot of people have written about this over the years, but I guess I have my own view of it because I'm one of those people who always has more ideas than I have time to write. Most writers are, I think.

I have an active imagination. Always have had. While other kids watched TV and played Super Mario Brothers, I had access to neither of those things. I didn't even have satisfactory Barbies. Instead I would grab the plastic gun and run around my house pretending to be in the CIA or I would run down to the lake and imagine I was hiding from a gang of evil warlords. So most of what I do comes from the fact that I am incapable of only seeing the world as it currently is. For good or bad, I'm always in a bit of a fantasy.

That's where the idea for Not Dead Yet came from. Ex-Boyfriend and I were sitting around discussing our plan to defend against a zombie attack and it started to sound like a cool story, but one that's been done a dozen times over.

So I thought, let's say we did survive. What then? We've been going out for three months now and I'd suddenly be stuck with him for the rest of my life if we ended up being the only survivors. What if we weren't that compatible after all? I wouldn't have any choice.

So I decided to write a script about that.

The Pushing Daisies I'm working on is based on a man I once knew in Martin County, NC. In fact he may be the most interesting thing in Martin County. He had one major hobby and it's all he ever talked about, so I want to write a story around him. Pushing Daisies ended up being a perfect opportunity for that.

Game Night was based on a game of Taboo I played with a few friends that ended up being way more dramatic than was necessary.

The Corner, the short I'm currently prepping and will talk about some more later this week, was based on the fact that I wanted to write a boxing story I could film with two of my actor friends in the lead roles.

For years I've been marinating a story about a queen based on a project I did in a college French class. I haven't ever written it because it's so far off what I normally write that I don't think I should write it until I establish myself.

Ideas come from all over, but you have to be ready to recognize them when they hit you. All an idea really is is a big WHAT IF moment. What if I'm stuck in a troubled marriage after the zombie apocalypse? What if someone had brought a gun to the Taboo game? What if Batman was afraid of clowns?

The world around you is filled with stories. When people talk, listen. My House spec came from a story a friend of mine told about a time he had to go to the hospital because a spider had laid eggs in his ass. That is not a joke.

And if that still doesn't work, try these websites for inspiration. Fark is a site where people submit odd news stories. Etiquette Hell is a site where people tell stories about horrible wedding behavior - perfect fodder for people who write romcoms, Something Awful posts quirky tidbits from around the Internet. All of these are places to find inspiration. And you can also try reading the newspaper.

But if you try all these things and you still don't see the story, you might want to try being a producer.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Stop making excuses

Last night, instead of going out to some club or bar, Best Friend and I decided to stay up until 5:30 talking about whatever. It mostly consisted of me looking at her bookcase and going, "Oh I read that book. Didn't read that book. Would like to read that book. I really enjoyed that book. Can I borrow this book?"

We are big enough nerds that this is what we call fun.

Best Friend is very well read - much better read than me - and has long wanted to write. Last night she told me about a novel idea she's had in her head for three years and never actually tried to write.

It's a fantastic idea. A best seller kind of idea. A touring, Oprah Book Club, show up on The Colbert Show to talk about it kind of idea, and I'm not the first person to tell her that. But here she is, sitting on it, afraid to write a word.

Why? I asked her.

She said she didn't feel justified writing anything until she'd read everything else. Then she admitted that that was kind of ridiculous. She said she wanted to know every detail of the story before she started writing anything down. Then she admitted that she knew that was a mistake. She said she worried about what her mother would think when she read the stuff she pulled from her family. Then she admitted her mother was more likely to be flattered than angry.

Eventually she admitted that she's afraid it will be terrible. What if she does all this work and pours her heart out on paper and it turns out to be garbage?

And it occurs to me that there are probably hundreds, if not thousands, if not millions of people in the world who feel the same way.

If I never try, I can always suffer under the delusion that I am awesome, I just never had an opportunity to prove it. But if I try and fail, then I'll have to face the fact that my lifelong dream was a fantasy.

So I smacked Best Friend on the head.

Okay, not really, but we did talk about ideas on how she could start working on the project. I'm going to harass her about it regularly from now on because that's what friends do. If she doesn't write this story the world will be deprived of a brilliant idea and she will always wish she had made it happen.

I'm lucky - or maybe just oblivious - in that I've never been afraid of sucking beyond brief moments of self doubt. I usually figure I may suck this time, but I'll just try again and get better until I figure it out. Because a sucky idea on paper can become a good script or novel with some effort, but an idea that never sees daylight will never have an opportunity to be more than just a brainwave.

Everybody's first screenplay sucks. Except Diablo Cody, but she's a freak in more ways than one so we're going to pretend she didn't just break every rule in Hollywood and keep to the theory that everybody's first screenplay sucks. Your first screenplay sucked, didn't it? Mine sucked less than my first short story, but it still kind of sucked.

If you haven't written your first screenplay yet, how will you ever get through the sucky one to get to the good one? If you don't put it down on paper you'll always be stuck in suck mode. Fix it.

Write. That. Shit. Down.

And keep your eyes open for Best Friend and her brilliant novel, coming soon to the best seller list.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Thoughts on the film: The Forbidden Kingdom

When he saw how sad I was at missing out on the screening of The Forbidden Kingdom last week, the awesome Christopher Stack invited me to join him at the cast and crew screening of the film last night. Jackie Chan showed up before the film and smiled and waved and looked adorable, then went home.

The security guards were a little mad with power. They searched purses and wanded people and when the phone rang as I was walking into the theater 15 minutes before the movie was even supposed to start one of them made me stand outside the theater to talk. If I'd gone into the theater before answering the phone he would never have known, so that seemed a little silly.

The neatest thing about sitting in on a cast and crew screening is the random cheering that takes place at moments during the film. Of course there was clapping and cheering all through the credits as the major players showed up on screen. But all through the movie an extra would squeal when she saw herself, and at the end the entire audience stayed for the length of the credits to watch their names roll by. I was trying to be respectful by also staying but I really had to pee. I stayed, although it displeased my bladder a great deal.

Anyway, the movie.

A solid C+.

The fight scenes were awesome. This was definitely reminiscent of a traditional Chines martial arts film complete with crazy moves and of course the expected fight between Jet Li and Jackie Chan which was appropriately badass. And that white boy is one quick bastard in a stick fight. He has a strong background in dance which makes sense. He looked like a martial arts master by the end of the film, but like so many Chinese martial arts stars, did it by learning a routine. It fooled me. I was convinced he was a real fighter.

The film had a lot of Mortal Kombat / Jade Empire feel to it. And I mean that in a good way.

The comedy was perfect. I laughed regularly during this film, mostly because of Jackie Chan's terrific facial expressions. I think this is probably the best work I've ever seen him do. He looked like he was having a lot of fun. And Jet Li did some cool stuff too but man does he look old all the sudden. It's like the last thirty years of his life suddenly caught up with him all at once. Still, he pulled off a surprising lot of comedy here.

Unfortunately the story didn't match up to these cool elements. The story itself wasn't a bad one - a white American boy (Michael Angarano)
obsessed with kung fu movies but having no actual skill comes into possession of a magic fighting stick he must return to the frozen Monkey King in fairy tale China to stop an evil Jade Warlord from his tyrannical rule over the kingdom.

The problem was the way the story unfolded. Exposition for ten minutes. Then a fight. Then some conflict. Then a fight. Then a training montage, then some more exposition, then a fight, etc. It was one thing at a time for the whole film so it never felt pushed to the ending.


One of the major problems was the character of Sparrow. I can almost say with certainty that the script was written and ready when some studio exec said, hey! He needs a love interest! So they tossed her in. In every single scene she was extraneous. It seems to me like they didn't even change the story at all, just threw in a few extra scenes.

For example, during the training montage there's this random scene where she practices throwing darts by herself in the woods. The white boy, Jason, learning martial arts from two great masters, why can't she show him how to throw darts? Then, not only would this scene not feel out of place in the middle of the training montage, but it gives the young lovers a minute together actually doing something other than just talking, as well as setting up something for the future of the story. When she becomes incapacitated in the final fight he could use the skills he learned from her to continue the fight. But none of that happened. It was just a random scene that had very little effect on the story.

Here's the other thing about that. Sparrow fights with this evil witch lady at the end. Why? Because they're both girls. Apparently they hate each other, although we've never been given a reason why. Then Sparrow gets distracted or something and a male character takes over the fight. Why? I'll bet you a bazillion dollars it's because that's how the fight went before the studio executive told the writers to put in a love interest. So they tossed an extra girl fight scene, then spliced it with the original scene they had before she was a part of the script.

They should have left her in the fight. The male character who takes over for her is an immortal. The evil chick he's fighting isn't. So when he's hanging over a precipice and might fall in you're not really worried about him. He can't die. Sparrow is not immortal. The scene would have been a whole lot stronger if Sparrow had continued the girl fight to the end where there would have been some real peril for her character. That would also have been really effective if Sparrow and the evil lady had some kind of history together.

The thing that frustrated me is a lot of these story problems were really easy fixes. With all due respect to John Fusco, who wrote Young Guns so he will always be a hero to me, this story was kind of written half ass. Maybe it was the studio, maybe it was the director, but this movie had the potential to be really incredible and it falls flat.

But if you want to see some badass fights and some terrific comedy, this film is excellent for that. Just don't expect to be moved by the story points.

Friday, April 11, 2008

The script is out there

As soon as I put some pants on I'm walking over to the post office and sending Not Dead Yet off to the Nicholl. Many of you have done this many times, but for me this is my first.

I've submitted screenplays to contests before but never the Nicholl. I think it's because deep down I knew there was no chance I'd place with my previous efforts but with this one I can see the finals within my grasp. I mean, hell if Brett can win with some sissy story about gay pilots, I'm a shoo-in.

Last night as I was hole punching and paperworking I decided to do something I hadn't done since my first script - I queried.

When I wrote my first script I was all excited - you, know, the way you are when you have no idea how much you suck - and I sent out all those SASEs all over town. I did one smart thing I will always remember and I will pass on to you right now. One agent's website had pictures of her cat all over it. I also have a cat that I love. So in my query I mentioned how pretty her cat was and that I also love my cat. She requested my script.

Of course since it was a mediocre script at best, I never heard from her again, but that tool went into my arsenal of persuasion techniques.

Of course I got no other responses. Then I realized what a massive waste of time querying is so I never tried again.

But last night I started thinking about how much better this script is and how much more I know about the business now and really, if I think this script is good enough for the Nicholl why not throw it out there?

Also I was bored and trying to procrastinate on doing my taxes.

So I got out my Winter 2006 copy of the Hollywood Creative Directory that I never actually used because after I bought it I realized I wasn't ready, and I went page by page through Agents and Managers and looked only for businesses that had websites so I could have updated information. Then I went to those websites and if they took online queries I queried. That was I was only sending my info to businesses that were actually looking for it.

I'm not expecting anything to come out of it, although it would be cooler than cool if the management company on Larchmont wanted to take me on because then if I got a job at Paramount I'd officially never have to drive anywhere ever.

That's how I make decisions - how far will I have to drive? I was looking at companies in Burbank and going - ehhhh, fuck the valley. What's in Hollywood?

In the end I queried two boutique agencies and five management firms. You never know. I think my synopsis is awesome but I suck at loglines. I'm too verbose to sum shit up in one sentence, but if I can just get you in the room for five minutes I'll have you wrapped around my adorable little pinky, I swear.

Now I'm off to the post office to become a Nicholl finalist.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Beware the business card scam

It's surprising how hard it is to find a good, inexpensive place to get business cards printed in this town. I thought for sure in a city where every third person needs headshots, I'd be able to find a good printer. Not so, it would seem. That shit is expensive. Actors, you have my sympathies.

Lead Actor and I worked together - okay he did most of the work - on a lovely design for a front and back card. The back part is posted above, but not the front part because I'd be nutty to give you crazy stalkers my phone number. Anyway, Lead Actor did it because his day job is as a graphic designer. He designed my website and the current version of the blog.

Anyway, since I had a design and everything I did a mad search for the past couple of days to find a place to get them printed. Staples was reasonable for one side, but doesn't really print on both sides and since my card is very black I didn't want one side black and one side blindingly white and blank. Blech.

I looked at a lot of places in town but they either had no idea how to give me an estimate without making me drive over there or looked particularly incompetent. One place had typos on their home page. I'm not using a printer who doesn't proofread.

That left me with the major online places. I didn't want to use them but I have financial constraints so I sucked it up.

That's when I came across a scam I wanted to point out. There is a company called VistaPrint that offers to print 1,000 cards for like $30. Since most places wouldn't do it for less than $70 that set off some alarm bells so I did a little research.

Every positive reference to this company was a press release. Similar press releases referred to four other companies that are part of the same "network" of printers. I can't remember all their names, but check them against Vista. If they're cheap as hell they probably look exactly like the Vista website because they're all part of the same scam. One of them I remember was U Print.

Here's the scam: You pay your $30 for your $1,000 cards and think you got some kind of major deal. But you didn't read the terms and conditions when you agreed to them. The policy you just signed allows Vista Print to give any third party your contact info AND CREDIT CARD INFORMATION in the interests of "better serving the customer". So you think you bought some cards at a bargain price when what you really did was sign up for a monthly program that charges your card directly without your even being aware of it.

I went to Overnight Printing instead because even though I was paying a little more I know I didn't get scammed and they have some pretty good reviews. I'll be better able to judge when they arrive.

So that just reminds us all - remember to read everything you sign and if it sounds too cheap to be true, it probably is.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

This is not a movie review

Okay so I was all excited because I was supposed to go to the Creative Screenwriting screening of The Forbidden Kingdom followed by the usual Q&A. You know, the movie with Jackie Chan and Jet Li.


I don't care if the movie is any good. I want to see Jet Li quietly beat the shit out of Jackie Chan while the latter cracks jokes and makes silly faces. And if that doesn't happen I still don't care because JACKIE CHAN AND JET LI ARE IN THE SAME MOVIE TOGETHER.

I didn't have time to make potatoes and bratwurst so I snarfed down a microwave pizza. I didn't have time to blow dry my hair so I ran out with wet hair and struggled through traffic and drove myself crazy trying to find parking in an area where nobody is allowed to actually park and sauntered up to the theater and got in line. I was two minutes late for the start of seating.

And they had filled the theater already. And I turned around and came home.

So there will be no review today of that movie. And I am sad.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

The voice is strong within some people

A question was posed on Wordplay today about character voices. How do you make your characters have a voice? The guy asking the question said his characters all had tons of dialogue but a reader said they had no voice. So how do you fix that?

I think this is a good example of how, even if you don't plan to write for television, doing a spec episode of your favorite show is a good idea.

On an episode of Pushing Daisies, for instance, Chuck talks at a mile a minute with no real sense of punctuation. Ned is terse and understated and tends to use a monotone. Emmerson speaks in a high pitched, constantly irritated speech. He says every line as if he's rolling his eyes, because he usually is. And Olive has a typical Southern bell style way of talking where she's all sweetness and light to hide the fact that she's a gossip hound.

Each character on the show has a distinct, established voice. Some of that is what the actor made it, but they only made it that way based on what was in the script. The monotone was Lee Pace's choice. The calm demeanor of Ned was clear in the pilot episode.

If you write an episode of Pushing Daisies, you have to capture the essence of their speech on every page. A feature is no different.

I have a tendency to cuss a lot. I say "For Christ sake" a lot too. In Not Dead Yet I originally had every single character say "For Christ sake" at one point or another until it was pointed out. So I went through and took them all out except for one character. Now she says it all the time but nobody else does. With some characters I dropped cusswords completely. I did one pass specifically through the script to make sure each character sounded like his or her own person. I'm pretty sure I succeeded, but voice has never been a big problem for me.

In my mind, though, nobody does dialogue with a clear sense of voice than JD Salinger. Just look at "A Perfect Day for Banana Fish" from Nine Stories (my all time favorite short story collection, I have it linked in the sidebar). You cannot take the words out of the little girl's mouth and put it into Seymour's. It wouldn't make sense.

So I guess I'm saying that if you want to be an expert at dialogue with a voice, write a spec TV episode and read Nine Stories. That should do it.

I just noticed I haven't written anything funny lately. I will try to rectify that tomorrow.

Where do baby ideas come from?

I wasn't planning on going back to TV writing for a while, but sometimes you can't help when the story hits you.

The other night, while having dinner with a few excellent writers from around town, one of our group told us about her teenage job working at a mortuary. One of her stories was about a Samoan funeral she worked on and the peculiar way in which Samoans grieve.

Well I began to have all kinds of ideas about Ned the Piemaker touching a Samoan lady and her getting up from the slab and attacking him and then dropping to her death on the floor where they would all have to figure out how to get her enormous body back up on the slab.

But then I couldn't figure out a way to not make it a series of fat jokes. And I don't particularly like fat jokes. So I decided not to write the episode after all.

But then last night I was thinking about ways you could make Samoan death funny without making fun of their size - I'll give you a hint: There are none - and I remembered a screenplay idea I'd been simmering on the back burner for a couple of years. It was an idea that lends itself to nothing but comedy. Trying to turn this into a drama would destroy its integrity, but I was determined to make the story one day.

Of course, as we all know, Emily does not write comedy. I do dark, biting sarcasm and repetition and a few other categories of humor, but I do not do "jokes" per say. So I'd never fleshed out this particular idea and there it sat, together with about three dozen ideas I've never found a way to use.

And suddenly I realized that idea would never work for me as a feature, but it would make a fantastic Pushing Daisies story. I told the story to my friend who works on the show and he nodded. A very good Pushing Daisies story indeed.

I've got to finish my current project first because dammit, I said I was going to and I'm tired of leaving shit half finished and it's got some potential as a good spec. But while I work on the feature script I will think about Ned the Piemaker so that by the time I'm finished with the feature I'll be able to dive right into the TV spec. Then there's the pilot and my portfolio will be complete. For now, anyway.

This is the plan. I will stick to the plan.

And if you want the Samoan thing, knock yourself out. It's all yours.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Do not bait and switch your logline

As soon as I began working on my new script people started asking me what it was about.

"It's about a modern day superhero with social anxiety disorder who must overcome his fear to save the world from an evil queen."

To which everyone immediately said, "That sounds funny!"

Yeah that's pretty close to high concept right there. You can start thinking of ideas immediately, doncha think? Hilarious ideas?

Except it's not a comedy. In fact this is possibly the bleakest thing I've ever written. Everybody betrays you in the end. No matter who's in charge, we're all screwed. Nobody is who they say they are. Well, all except that one guy, he's pretty cool.

That doesn't mean there won't be funny moments but all in all it's not a funny story. Except that my logline give you a pretty obviously funny setup.

I can either change the story to fit the logline or change the logline to fit the story. Since I'm not much of a comedy writer I have to say goodbye to my perfect little logline. The story is only slightly altered here to prevent thievery, but the gist is there.

But the tone is all wrong and I can't have some executive going Oooooh this will be funny! then reading it and sinking slowly into depression.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Necessity is the mother of your story

The first script I wrote after I moved to LA - my second ever completed script - was an action flick about a former henchlady for the mob who was in witness protection. She had to get from one part of town to the other withing a matter of hours, but she was coincidentally being chased by another henchman for her former boss as well as a couple of cops for no apparent reason.

I'd love to go back in time and give myself notes. Instead I sent the script to a contact who sent it around his management firm where it was universally panned. So I blew that opportunity. On the upside I learned some things about my strengths and weaknesses and that I was nowhere near ready for a professional writing career.

There were a lot of things wrong with that script, but the biggest problem was my lack of a force propelling the story forward. I knew the beginning and I knew the ending and I figure I needed some fights in between. So I made them.

Story get dull? Make a fight happen. My protagonist stumbled on some cops and decided to beat them up for a really stupid reason. Then later on the story was getting dull again so I decided I should have a car chase.

Basically I came up with a story without any depth and made up fight scenes to make sure it was long enough to qualify as a feature.

I learned not to do that anymore.

Instead, I let the story guide the events. A character is shot and needs to get to DC to stop a government conspiracy. The other day I was thinking, I don't have enough story here. I need some fight scenes. And then I went, nooooo don't do that, dumbass.

Think. Where would this story go if they were real people?

A character is shot. What would a person do if they were shot? They go to the hospital. So my character goes to the hospital, the bad guys track him there, he has to get out of it because he still needs to make it to DC.

This seems like common sense, but it's amazing to me how I didn't think of it when I was writing my ill-fated second screenplay.

Events have to push the characters to make decisions and the story comes out of those decisions. You cannot put a bunch of scenes together and make a story.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

A new competition rears its silver head

There is a new contest out there. It's called The Silver Screenwriting Contest and it was just started by Julie over at The Rouge Wave. Julie is a professional script consultant who makes cupcakes.

I've met Julie, I've hung out with Julie, I've entered Julie's contests before. Julie is the real deal.

The contest is her brainchild but it is sponsored by The Script Department and Jim Mercurio. Prizes include $2500, a plane ticket to LA, two nights accommodation, some meetings with industry pros and cocktails with Blake Snyder. Julie is also trying to get at least one A-level screenwriter to donate their time to the winner.

This contest is more about exposure and education than money.

It's a really terrific opportunity for out-of-towners. This gives you access to people and opportunities usually reserved for people who get to go to all the fancy LA parties, especially since it provides travel and accommodations. And since it's the first year of the contest, lots of people don't know about it and your chances of winning are a lot better than they will be once word gets out.

The final deadline is July 1st. Good luck.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008


Welcome to the new blog, which is a lot like the old blog but better.

Because I've got my production company website up and running I decided to give White Board Markers a facelift. I lifted it so much it's not even recognizable anymore. I have a new look, a new name and a new address.

Please make sure to update your links. All the posts are still here, I've updated the links list and my photo and added a better list to Amazon to suggest some stuff screenwriters might find useful, but other than that everything will stay the same. I'll still be irreverent and sarcastic and I'll still post cat pictures whether you like them or not.

And if you like, feel free to saunter over to my new website, There's not much there right now but it sure does look purty. It was designed by a friend of mine who will gladly design your page too if you pay him.

So enjoy the new me.

Trying a new method

Now that I'm done with the zombies I need a follow-up script, so I'm going to try to use my time off to whip through a first draft of Fear of Clowns, a modern, real-world female superhero story in the vein of Unbreakable. That title will probably change to give a more accurate connotation, but for now I like it.

I'm approaching this script very differently from how I approached every one before it. Normally I carefully plan out all the major beats and write out a thick stack of index cards before I even start to write. This time I'm going to try jumping in without so much preparation. I still index carded, but I only wrote five of them. And what I have right now is not long enough for a feature. I know the beginning, I know the end, and I know a few beats in between but I'm missing large chunks of story I have to fill out as I go.

So we'll see what happens when I have a really developed backstory but not a clear sense of my events. So far it's been easier than I thought. I wrote 15 pages yesterday without batting an eye.

We'll see how long I can keep that up, and if my brain will keep ahead of my fingers on the keyboard.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Under construction

Clearly changes are afoot here. A friend is redesigning my pages for me so every time I go to this page it's different from when I left it, which is fun. In the next couple of days I will move the blog to my new website so be prepared for that. I'm movin' on up.

And leave the panda alone. I know the bamboo stalk in his mouth is sketchy, but it was drawn by one of my students and I like it and if you can't figure out it's bamboo when the name of the company is Bamboo Killers, well that's your freaking problem.

So there. I love my angry panda. Don't hate.

Perhaps I should clarify that last comment since I'm still getting some nasty little notes on that issue.

Ahem. I like my Panda. I LIKE MY PANDA. And since it's my logo that's all that matters. I don't care what your opinion is. If you don't like it, keep it to yourself or go rant about it on your own blog. Then fuck off.

In unrelated news, I finally got the last two Starburst editions of Farscape and watched one of them last night. Did you know there were two whole episodes I'd never seen? I did not know this. It was the most wonderful discovery since the time I found a long lost $5 in my gym bag.