Monday, June 30, 2008

Freaking technology

There will not be a zombie preparedness video uploaded to Youtube this week because the archaic video camera we used refuses to acknowledge my computer. All the footage that we shot and that I'm supposed to use to practice my editing skills is useless because it won't come off the camera.

Not that I'm not grateful for the use of his piece of shit camera. I don't have a piece of shit camera of my own, so I have to envy his.

So Ex-Boyfriend is going to see if he can solve the problem the easy way first - putting the tape in another camera, trying to upload the footage to another computer. If all else fails we will get another camera and videotape the footage from a TV. I would like to avoid that for obvious reasons, mostly because it would look terrible.

Freaking technology, man.

I can sit here on my laptop with my Ipod charging, downloading pictures off a digital camera while I transfer files from my flash drive to an external hard drive as I cruise the Internet for porn.

But I can't upload my cheapo tutorial video footage into my computer because the camera is too old and my computer is too new.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Good news about the Expo

This is me at a party:

Me: Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah.
Other People: Blah?
Me: Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah
Other People: Blah.
Me: Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah.

So the point is, I talk a lot. I have a lot to say. I feel like I have so many thoughts that if I don't talk about them they'll build up in my brain and then I'll have to burn a safety pin and pop it into my skull to release the pressure in my head like you do when you have a blister. It's probably safer just to talk.

I just wanted you to know in case you ever meet me, like at the Expo or something. Come up and say hi, but only if you're okay with competing for conversation time because I will talk to you. Unless I'm feeling quiet that day which usually happens at 7 am or after I've watched a depressing movie.

And speaking of the Expo, I have news. Last night I met Bill Donovan, the owner of Creative Screenwriting, who is a delightful man and did not appear to mind my constant blathering. Unless he was just being polite.

Also, he makes the best tasting salmon the world has ever seen.

Anyway, if you're on the CS mailing list you got info on the Expo this week. The website is up. There's not much information yet because they're still recruiting speakers, but there are some early details.

The first thing you'll notice is that we're back at the Convention Center. So no more traveling between hotels, cramming into tiny rooms, navigating the bizarre layout of the building, getting trapped in the elevator.

And for those of you who don't live in the LA area, there is public transportation available. The blue metro line stops immediately in front of the Convention Center and there are hotels within walking distance. Parking is expensive - $10-15 a day I think - so this is good news. I'll probably ride my bike to the station and then take the train from there.

And if you went last year, which the numbers suggest you didn't, you may have noticed the volunteers. Or rather, you may not have noticed the volunteers since hardly any showed up. That's because while in the past volunteers showed up and worked one day, then got the rest of the Expo free, last year volunteers worked two days and still had to pay $5 a class like everybody else. Why the hell would anybody volunteer for that?

People with the Gold Pass are allowed in any class they want but everybody else is supposed to buy tickets. Since there were no volunteers, anybody with or without tickets or Gold Passes could walk into whatever class they wanted, rendering the Gold Pass useless.

That won't happen this year. The company that handled the volunteers has been replaced. I don't know what will happen, but I do know that volunteers won't be treated like indentured servants.

One of the other things Bill mentioned is how a lot of people stopped coming to the Expo because it tended to be the same presenters and the same presentations every year so there was nothing new on the table. He's working to offer something new this year because thankfully, he is really open to input from others. I really feel like he respected what I had to say.

So really, it's all good news. The only downside of the Convention Center is that there aren't a whole lot of places to go for lunch, but I'll do a post when we get closer of where to go if you don't want to buy the boxed lunch or go to the expensive cafeteria. If you don't mind hopping on the train for a minute, finding food is actually really easy.

I think the Expo this year might be worth the money. I still won't be paying because I'll be volunteering somehow for somebody. Because I don't actually like sitting in classes nearly as much as I love running around talking. And talking. And talking.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

A few things you need to know about teaching in a public inner city Los Angeles year round school

I had a few questions recently about what I do, and since it's possible some of you may decide to make a character a teacher - well I'm only too happy to help encourage realism in screenplays.

I teach at a school just south of downtown. We're on three tracks and I'm B track. B TRACK!

There's some pride there. I don't know why.

In most of the year round schools here there are three tracks. Each track works 16 weeks, then takes 8 weeks off. This is mostly the case in high school - middle and elementary do it differently. A track is the closest to a regular schedule and C track has an early vacation, but B track is complicated. B track gets to have an extra break because we get two weeks over Christmas, but we have the awesome distinction of ending school on Friday and starting a new school year the following week. So this week's exhaustion from doing grades and selling yearbooks and cleaning my room is paled by next week's exhaustion from learning 60 new names and introducing myself to 60 new kids and coming up with three new plans for the year.

The thing about year round that is the most frustrating is the room changes. Because we share, nobody can keep their room all year. EVERYBODY moves and a lot of people travel. I don't travel because I do yearbook and yearbook doesn't travel. It's part of an excellent deal I made two years ago. And I just learned today that we're finally getting a newspaper, so I will be swapping my room with the newspaper adviser and no one else all year.

It's complicated, but just know that having an extra curricular assignment helps you get some privileges at any school. Every time somebody asks me to do something I just shrug and say, "yearbook" and they nod with understanding. Apparently I look like I should coach cheerleading. People always ask me to do cheerleading. I don't know shit about cheerleading other than what I saw from my perch in the marching band, but it's good to know my coworkers think I was once hot and popular.

Anyway, the main thing that sucks about year round school is that there is never a single time when all the teachers and students are in the school at the same time. Now that may not sound like such a big deal, but trust me - it is. Especially when you run a program that's not a core class. Yearbook on a three track system is a nightmare.

And if a kid fails a class, there's no summer school. There's intersession or adult school, but there's no fucking space. We cram kids in where we can fit them.

Okay so that's my rant about year round school. The only positive to the year round schedule is that we get lots of vacation time.

Unfortunately if you want any days during the school year, you're in some bad shape. You can call in a substitute using the subfinder system, where you call a computer and then the computer calls a sub and tells them to come in and work for you. The thing about that is, if you don't find a sub that you like you end up losing time.

Like 90% of subs do one of two things - they ignore your lesson plan completely and do their own lesson plan, or they ignore your lesson plan completely and do nothing. I was fortunate enough to have a best friend who's a sub and actually followed my plans until recently when she decided to go back to full time teaching.

The upside of that is that she is at my school now and B track (B TRACK!) so we will be able to eat lunch together and take vacations at the same time (look out, Palm Springs!)

The downside is, now I have to find a new sub. They get paid about $80 a day to do what you tell them, unless you're an asshole teacher who leaves no plan at all, in which case I'd like to punch you in the face because you're the reason subs keep making shit up.

Like that time I left a sub a play to read with the class and he decided it was more important to watch the NCAA tournament and break my stool. Or that one time I left a sub a movie to watch but he was too lazy to press play so he just told the kids to kick it.

There are a lot of people in education who don't do their jobs. I am not one of them. Actually I'm kind of defiant about it. Fuck pedagogy. I teach.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Things you didn't know about J.D. Salinger

Okay seriously I can't not share this. This semester in my American literature class we read Catcher in the Rye. The final exam question was this: Is Holden Cauffield a hero in any sense of the word? I got some really great essays because I told them they could use any definition of hero they chose as long as they explained themselves.

This one kid said that a hero is someone who finishes what they start and gets what they want. Holden is not a hero because - get this - he wanted to have sex but he stopped and didn't screw the prostitute. If he'd been a hero he would have fucked her.

Wait - that's just the prologue. I actually graded the finals early, then went back and finished grading some classwork assignments I'd never gotten around to reading. So here is that same boy's letter to J.D. Salinger. If you read my blog, J.D., this ought to bring you out of hiding.


Dear J.D. Salinger,

I have a few questions to ask you about this book. Why did you decide to write this book/story? Was it about you and your experiences throughout life? Do you think you're a phony yourself? In the story, it clearly shows that you are a phony yourself but don't realize it. Also the character Holden fantasizes about sex and the things he would want to do to your sex partner but end up chickening out. For even the dumbest reasons ever - because they're phonies, you get nervous, they're not the right one, or just don't even want to do it..... Like come on dude get over it. You had so many chances and you blew it man. If you blew so many chances I might think you're gay. Another thing - why are you hiding? Is it because you're ashamed of what you are.....Huh. In the story when you talk about the carousel and you see your sister riding it what did you see and do you know what really made you happy. When you come out from hiding you're going to become more famous than any writer in the world.

Your book reader

And that, ladies and gentlemen, was the awesomest letter I've ever graded.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The power of a quick conversation

Our school does something kind of retarded. We give final exams on Monday and Tuesday, but we still have school Wednesday through Friday. As you can imagine, we have a lot of absences those three days and there's not a whole lot you can do with kids whose grades are done, so the kids like to refer to those three days as "Movie Days." That's all anyone can do with them. For almost eight hours they watch movies.

Some teachers will put in whatever they have available to keep the kids entertained but this annoys me because there's no reason you can't show a film relevant to the material that you can still use to teach. Every film I show in class I use to teach, even on Movie Days.

So today I'm showing O Brother! Where Art Thou? (because it's a modern retelling of The Odyssey) to my sophomores and The Joy Luck Club to my juniors. And as I'm sitting and listening to O Brother, I noticed why this film is so much genius.

After Everett (George Clooney), Pete (John Torturo), and Delmar (Tim Blake Nelson) break out of prison they try to jump onto a train. And after they are unsuccessful they discuss their situation. Everett clearly takes the lead.

Pete: Wait a minute. Who elected you leader of this outfit?

Everett: Well Pete, I figured it should be the one with the capacity for abstract thought. But if that ain't the consensus view, then hell, let's put it to a vote.

Pete: Suits me. I'm voting for yours truly.

Everett: Well I'm voting for yours truly too.

They both look at Delmar. He looks at them.

Delmar: Okay... I'm with you fellas.

So look at what we've learned about these boys within the first five minutes of the film. We've established that these boys are chained together and escaping from prison. We know that Everett fancies himself the leader and an intelligent man. We've learned this is a comedy. We know that Pete resents Everett's leadership. And we've learned that Delmar is kind of slow.

Right there in that one moment, we know where we're headed. We can see that this will be an adventure filled with hijinks as these personalities clash against each other. Their voices are completely clear from the minute they open their mouths. Brilliant.

I don't love everything the Coens have made but this film is right at the top. They don't waste any time letting us know what we can expect from this film and making sure we enjoy it.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Three things

1) I just noticed a bunch of comments that never got emailed to me and were still waiting for moderation. Sorry about that. I wasn't blocking your comment, my email ate them.

2) I was trying to practice my editing skills today but I don't have much footage to work with so E-Boyfriend came over and we made an instructional video about preparing for a zombie attack. That was fun, and another excellent learning experience because I got to see a few more things from the actor's perspective and think about making sure cuts matched and as a writer I learned about improv on set. We had some problems uploading the footage so I won't actually have anything to edit until Monday, but hopefully next week I'll have my first fully produced short film up on Youtube.

3) The Rouge Wave has big news. Remember when I mentioned that Silver Screenwriting Contest (deadline July 3)? Well it was already pretty cool but now the grand prize has just gotten bigger. An Academy Award nominated screenwriter will have lunch with the winner. And a good screenwriter. The film he was nominated deserved the award. In fact it's probably one of my favorite films of the past year. And no it's not Norbit. So don't forget to enter because lunch with this person is so awesome you might want to lick his or her face. But don't.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Death by software

I was supposed to go to the Creative Screenwriting screening of The Wackness yesterday but I didn't make it. I wish I'd been able to go because I read the script and it was fantastic, and it won the audience award at Sundance so I have a feeling it's worth seeing. I'll just have to pay my $12.

I didn't go because I was waiting for the UPS man. He finally showed up at 8:30 with an external hard drive and a copy of Adobe Premiere.

I got all excited as I loaded it up. I downloaded some footage to play with. I hooked up the hard drive to make sure I had enough memory. I got ready to edit a movie.

And then I drooled on the keyboard with my apelike moth open, completely mystified.

I have no idea what the fuck I'm supposed to do here.

Normally when I get new software I kind of look at it for a second and start pushing buttons and I'm off. I don't know diddly shit about hardware but software is my bitch. Not this time. I started again this morning pushing buttons and typing things but so far I've still got a blank screen. I guess I'll have to actually read the manual.

I've got some tutorial stuff I plan to watch today instead of penguins so that should help, but man this is some complicated shit. Like Photoshop, because let's call a spade a spade - Photoshop is a bitch to learn. Damn Adobe.

Anyway, I called up Ex-Boyfriend in a panic last night. HELP! I said. He's coming over Wednesday with a camera and his brain to show me the ropes. And no, we're not shooting dirty videos. You stop that thought right there, pervert.

To sum up, this shit is complicated.

Monday, June 23, 2008

I am not a penguin

Long ago I had Blockbuster Online and the disks were always scratched and refused to play and then I sort of stopped watching enough movies to justify keeping it so I canceled the subscription. But after realizing that I just end up buying movies I would otherwise rent because they don't have them at the Blockbuster store on Larchmont and that I end up spending about $15 a month on movie rentals anyway, I decided to go back. Except after looking at the prices and remembering how many scratched movies I got before and that Blockbuster doesn't offer online movies, I decided to go with Netflix.

And wow, I forgot how many awesome movies I haven't seen yet. Already my queue is loaded with stuff I'd never go out and intentionally rent because usually if I get something at the store it's an action film. So I never saw Half Nelson or The Last King of Scotland or Once. And now that the TV season is in its slow stage there's plenty of time to watch a movie once a week or more.

And I've been ever so pleased already at being able to watch movies directly on my computer. Today during my planning period I watched March of the Penguins and now I want to take a little baby penguin home and let it live in my bathtub. Of course, given that it's currently 800,000 degrees outside he might not enjoy being removed from the South Pole.

By the way, my school administration seems to think the best way to combat 800,000 degree weather is to turn the air conditioning to -456 degrees. There is currently a thunderstorm forming over my classroom door.

Anyway, penguins are awesome. I finally got to see why that movie was so good. And before you go BUT EMILY! I'm paying taxes so you can work, not sit and watch movies about adorable mating penguins! know that I do A LOT of work at home. I like to stretch out on the couch and grade papers with a beer on the table in front of me, not cowering for warmth in a -456 degree classroom with a thunderstorm at the door.

But even as I curled up in my chair with my two sweaters on, I marveled at the boy penguins and their ability to withstand freezing temperatures for two months for the sake of their tiny adorable babies. Cool stuff. And yes, I am about ten years behind everybody else on the planet, but thanks, Netflix.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

How movies that suck get made

I was watching Secret's Out today and I saw a clip about a movie called Brick Lane, a story about an Indian housewife in London who learns to assert herself thanks to the attention of a hot young neighbor. It looked interesting, so I looked it up to see if it was out on DVD yet. It is.

But as I got to the website to look up information on the film you can probably imagine what advertisement screamed at me from the home page: The Love Guru. And given what I was looking up at the moment that advertisement bordered on offensive for how horrible and vacuous it looks.

Little Miss Sunshine was a comedy, but it was well written and with a solid message. Even The 40 Year Old Virgin used a lot of physical humor and dirty jokes to sell its story, but it still had a solid script and a clear message. So it's not about the fact that the film is a comedy because comedies can be freaking awesome. And since my best script thus far has been a zombie tale, I'm certainly not going to attack a movie that doesn't feature "important" subject matter.

What looks so appalling about The Love Guru - which has 10% at Rotten Tomatoes - is that it looks like the studio just slapped together some elements and Mike Meyers showed up for his paycheck. Did you see him on The Daily Show? He looks bored and dejected and maybe drunk. I think he needs to do an independent film soon or he's going to lose it.

Here's how I picture the meeting between executives as they designed this film using their approved list of ideas:

EXEC 1: Hey, we need to get more young white men into the theater. What do they like?
EXEC 2: My son appears to enjoy Jessica Alba.
EXEC 1: Yes! She's very attractive. Let's put her in a movie. Do we have a superhero movie we could toss her into?
EXEC 2: Female superheroes don't make money. Let's make her a comedic sex object. Good Luck Chuck made money, right?
EXEC 1: Yes! And that movie had physical comedy. Let's make a movie with a lot of prat falls.
EXEC 2: Who does pratfalls anymore? Will Farell?
EXEC 1: He's busy making a movie about a Russian curling team. And Adam Sandler is looking for a movie with a plot to maintain his street cred right now. Who else was on Saturday Night Live?
EXEC 2: Mike Fucking Meyers, man. People love Austin Powers. I bet we could get Mike Meyers. He's probably tired of being an ogre. We could get him to do a joke every thirty seconds and then look away like he just farted.
EXEC 1: Yes! Mike Meyers and Jessica Alba. Oh and a midget! Is Mini Me available? Mike could probably get him, don't you think? Adolescent males love midgets.
EXEC 2: And hockey. Jessica Alba, midgets, Austin Powers and hockey.
EXEC 1: We'll be rich! And we won't be fired! Who can we get to write it?
EXEC 2: Oh Mike will write it. It's just like a really long Saturday Night Live sketch - he can handle that. All he has to do is follow our template.
EXEC 1: We'll still need black people.
EXEC 2: We'll make the hockey player black! That's edgy!
EXEC 1: Yes! We'll need something for the women so the guys can bring their dates.
EXEC 2: My niece is in love with Justin Timberlake. And he appears to have been amusing on Saturday Night Live. So he'll be good in this because it will be like a long sketch.
EXEC 1: Brilliant!
EXEC 2: Brilliant!

Friday, June 20, 2008

It hurts when people punch you

So first of all, I think Trainer broke my rib last time we sparred. It hurts to breathe and laugh and sleep.

Last Comic Standing was really funny last night but it almost killed me because laughing makes my chest hurt. That Israeli impressionist was flat out the funniest thing I've seen on the show this season.

I'm really worried because Trainer honestly didn't hit me that hard, and since this is the second bone injury I've sustained this year and my grandmother has Osteoporosis - I'm seeing the doctor today so we'll see what happens. My usual doctor always tells me I'll be fine - just use a heating pad - but today I'm going to urgent care so maybe I'll get someone who's reasonably competent.

I have a theory that this combined with my skin issues and my tenuous gumline means I have a vitamin D deficiency. Or maybe I've been watching too much House. I wish I had his number. Instead I asked a nurse who follows around one of my disabled students and she told me to get a back X-Ray. I think she was really happy to be asked because her job is incredibly boring.

Anyway, today because I'm in some degree of pain and the semester's almost over, I brought two movies for my first period to choose from
- Osama and The Princess Bride. Could they be any more different? If you haven't seen Osama you are missing out on something truly beautiful. It's about a girl in Taliban controlled Afghanistan who has to pretend to be a boy to help her mother. It's depressing and in subtitles.

And then of course there's The Princess Bride, happy, funny, actiony love story about a pirate and his princess and a giant and Wallace Shawn. And guess which one they picked?


The class wanted to watch Osama, subtitles and all. And for the most part they were riveted to the screen.

Sometimes kids still surprise me. I'm kind of glad they picked the depressing story because I don't think my chest could have taken any comedy today.

UPDATE: Trainer says it's not broken and I don't have Osteoporosis and to stop being such a fucking whiney baby and take my hits like a man.

UPDATED UPDATE: Doctor says it's strained. And in retrospect I don't think it's Trainer's fault at all. I think it's Bicycle's fault from when I rode it up to Larchmont yesterday and bought a cupcake and some tinfoil.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The failure of Operation GTTMPAIRMZS

Trainer got a new client a couple of months ago. New client is a literary agent. So Trainer and I concocted a plan.

This is what Trainer was supposed to say:

"Hey, you know I have a client who wrote a zombie script and she keeps telling me how worried she is that no matter how strong her script is no agent will want to look at it because it's about zombies so they'll assume it's a B horror film when it's really a big budget action script. What should I tell her?"

I know, right? Eh? Come on, gimme some credit for that. That's good manipulative material right there.

Because at this point Potential Agent will say "Ooh, that sounds interesting. I'd love to read a big budget zombie action movie! Tell her to send it to me! Here's my card!"

And yaaaaaaay Emily gets an agent!

So here's what Trainer actually said:

"Hey, you know I have a client who's trying to be a screenwriter. What advice can you give her to get her story out there?"

So there went that cunning plan. Next time I'm writing it down.

Her advice, as it turned out, was to go to pitch fests. I find this difficult to hear because I've always been very anti-pitch fest. They take your $300 and out you in a room with hundreds of other desperate people and you all launch your stories at the agent who would most likely enjoy being anywhere else other than here right now. And somehow that's supposed to be your big break? Pfffft.

And she told Trainer that yes, most of the pitches are bad. And yes, only a tiny fraction of them ever lead to anything. But she also said a tiny fraction of them do. And if you've got a great pitch that stands out among the tumbleweeds then you might just break through the barrier.

Of course, all this was told to me via Trainer, and we've seen how well he listens.

I still don't know. Maybe I'll do the pitch fest at the next Expo. We'll see. Any of you guys have stories with pitching at these things?

I still don't believe in them, but Operation Get Trainer To Manipulate Potential Agent Into Reading My Zombie Script (GTTMPAIRMZS) failed miserably, so I guess I might as well give a pitch fest a shot.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Help me help some kids

I'm going to take a minute for some cross promotion.

Have you been to Donors Choose? is a website where teachers post items they need for projects in their classes. They post anything from construction paper to overhead projectors to dead frogs. You can go on the website and browse the projects and select one you like, then donate any amount of money to help make it happen. In return you get a thank you package from the kids and the knowledge that you will help further their education.

I can vouch for this program as reliable. They took like a week to analyze my proposal to make sure it was legitimate and that I am legitimate. And if a teacher gets the money and doesn't send back the thank you package they are never allowed to ask for money again.

I put a project up last week: Learn to Use a Real Camera. A soon as it gets approved there will be a photo on the proposal but it's not up there yet. I got tired of asking and asking for equipment to make the yearbook so I asked society for what my school won't provide. My kids are using a Gateway camera. Yes, Gateway makes cameras and they're every bit as crappy as you would imagine. But it's all we have. So I've asked for a sports camera - not even a great one but one that will do for now.

I'm not asking you to donate to my project necessarily, but I would love it if you donated to something. Teachers get great ideas all the time for some really cool learning experiences but money often prevents us from making them a reality. You may not consider yearbook and important class, but maybe you loved science in school, or art or history or any one of the subjects represented on that site. And if you don't have the money to donate, tell people who do.

In California this year the governor plans to cut billions of dollars from our education budget because people don't want to give up any more money to teach the future leaders of our country. The first programs to go will be the arts. Then our classes will get bigger. Then one by one anything that's not strict classroom instruction will fall by the wayside.

I'm not trying to sound like Sally Struthers over here - but you know how sometimes I post essays my kids write and you guys go JESUS CHRIST how stupid are our children?!

You remember that? Yeah, well here's what you can do to help. Pick a project. Help make a kid smarter.

Monday, June 16, 2008

The best movie ever

Saturday Michael from Red Right Hand and I began talking about what movie each of us chucks into the DVD player when we're bored. Not what your official favorite is, but what's the one you never seem to get tired of watching.

Because when people ask what my favorite film is, I usually say Hero. I LOVE that movie, but I have to be in a particular mood to watch it because it makes me cry and it's got subtitles for me to read, although the awesome martial arts do make it easier. In the theater I instantly fell in love with the film the second I saw Yimou Zhang's brilliant use of color to visually enforce the theme.

But that's not the movie I go to when I'm looking for pure entertainment. And as Michael and I were talking about our favorite film cures for boredom we realized how much that choice says about each of us as a writer.

I personally love the anti-hero and bad guys who are good guys and good guys who are bad guys. I love bittersweet endings and surprising and meaningful deaths. I love fight scenes and beat-the-clock-or-die scenarios. I love a story that never loses sight of its theme.

I realized after I said what film I love to watch that it's a film that has all of the things I love for a film to have. Which makes sense.

So what movie exemplifies all the things I love in a film? What movie do I throw into the DVD player when nothing's on?

Pitch Black.

What's yours?

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Game Night exists


Nine months - that's right, I could have gotten pregnant and had a baby by now - after we shot Game Night, I finally saw the first two scenes put together today. I knew I chose Editor for a reason. So far it looks really good. Even the temp music is excellent.

So far I got some unexpected laughs. I had everything pretty set in my head, so seeing cuts I didn't expect was kind of cool. I laughed at things I wasn't expecting to laugh at because of the way they're cut.

For instance, there's a scene where Billy passes a gun to his girlfriend Valerie. That scene is in slow motion, and then it cuts to Sheila, who's watching the gun pass take place and I'm not sure what she was actually looking at, but the look on her face is hilarious. When you watch the footage straight through her facial expression at that moment is not even something you think about, but coming off that previous scene it keeps making me laugh every time I watch it.

So even though it took a million years, I'm really glad I had someone else edit my film because it's allowing me to see the way you can put a few shots together to really alter how you see the film.

Hopefully I'll have a rough cut in a week or so.

I'll tell you one thing about waiting this long to see your movie - it really makes you appreciate its awesomeness.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Inane Questions from Unk's blog

The Unknown Screenwriter has been inundated with questions he just can't answer so I thought I'd lend a hand. These are absolutely 100% serious answers and if you don't follow my advice you'll die alone and unsuccessful in a dumpster behind Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles.

1) Should I type FADE IN: at the beginning of my screenplay?

Never. Every screenplay should open with an explanation of your journey through this story and why it's the best thing since string cheese.

2) Should I number my scenes?

Yes, but show some creativity. Do them in square roots or something. 1, 2, 3, 4 is really cliche.

2.75) Generally speaking, about how many parentheticals should I have in my screenplay?

Every line of dialogue should contain a parenthetical. Otherwise, how will the actors know what facial expressions to make?

4) Can I just type FIN at the end of my screenplay?

Is that your name? That's a stupid name. Smack your parents.

5) Do you use Celtx?

I'm rooting for the Lakers.

6) If I use Celtx to write my screenplay will I have a better chance of selling it?

I don't know, but I hear Paramount only accepts scripts written with Photoshop.

7) Should I sign my screenplay?

Not if your name is Fin.

8) Should I include my email address on my screenplay?

Email is too advanced for Hollywood. Try telegram.

9) Why do I have to put my character’s name in caps througout my screenplay?


10) What do I do with my screenplay when I’m finished with it?

Line your parakeet's cage with it. Or use it to wrap fish in. Or use it as toilet paper. Look, I can't solve all your recycling problems for you, you'll just have to figure it out on your own.

11) Can you take a look at page 69 of my screenplay and tell me if it’s correct?

I only read porn scripts if they feature a love scene during double anal.

12) Should I send my screenplay to you in a box or an envelope?

I only accept scripts from the hands of hot young shirtless male J Crew models.

13) If I pay you $5000, will you help me sell my screenplay?

Sure. I'll call all the PAs in town and tell them to ask around.

14) If I pay you $10,000 will you help me sell my screenplay?

Sure. I'll stalk Colin Farell until he agrees to sex me, I mean read it.

15) Will you marry me?

Are you Colin Farell, Jensen Ackles or Michael Trucco? That's your answer.

16) What font should I use to write my screenplay?

Zapf Dingbats.

17) Can I just write my screenplay in Word?

Yes, I suggest you always use words when writing screenplays.

18) How many pages should my screenplay be?

Exactly 378.5 with no exceptions. Ever.

19) How long should each act of my screenplay be?

Whatever a third of 378.5 is.

20) Is it okay if my hero and villain both have the same name?

I think it would be much cooler if you called them Good Guy and Bad Guy.

21) Is it okay if my Protagonist is Hillary Clinton?

Will she be wearing a cape? That's your answer.

22) Is it okay to thank my Mom in my screenplay?

Is your mom Hillary Clinton? That's your answer.

23) Is it okay to thank my husband in my screenplay?

If it comes during the double anal love scene.

24) Is it okay to thank YOU in my screenplay?

If it comes during the double anal love scene.

25) Do you accept credit cards?

Absolutely. I have even a Pay Pal button!

26) Do you live alone?

Okay, stalker. I have a viscious man-eating cat living with me and he's very jealous. And furry.

27) What’s your favorite color?

Blue. For reals.

28) What’s your favorite food?

Tortas from that Mexican grocery near my school. When I finally leave that place I will drive down there once a week just to buy a $3.00 sandwich. Seriously.

29) What’s your favorite drink?

Today it's Orangina.

30) Do you smoke?

Only if I'm on fire.

31) Do you drink?

Only if I'm on fire.

32) What color are you eyes?

I believe the technical term is Fucking Blue as Crap.

33) When’s the last time you had sex?

Whenever your mom was over last.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Plans and stuff

I realized yesterday that if I bought Avid my computer would explode. So instead I ordered Adobe Premiere and an external hard drive (both still with the educator's discount), because I like my computer and I don't want to blow it up.

I'll practice on my Game Night footage so that by the time I go to edit Guthrie I'll have an idea of what I'm doing. And if I end up sucking as an editor, I'll turn to one of the people I know who's better than me. But I'd like to give it a try first, and it's not an absurd amount of money. It's not cheap, but it's not going to bankrupt me either.

Now I just have to buy a camera.


The Great Dramatic Irony Debate: The Sequel has begun over at Wordplay. It never ceases to amaze me that so many people can be confronted with a dictionary definition of a term and refuse to admit that they're wrong. I got a little carried away the last time and some girl told me I was a horrible teacher and implied that I was a cunt - yes that word and yes, over a goddamn definition of a fucking literary term - so I'm trying very hard to stay as clean as possible in this one. Still, I can feel the ire rising again. Just when I think I got out, they pull me back in.

And, I should add, Terry Rossio will now forever know me as the girl who pissed him off by criticizing his vocabulary on her blog.

For the record, I've met Terry and I think he's fabulous and wonderful and makes a bazillion dollars more than I do and I really liked The Mask of Zorro and I wish he'd stop hating me.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Emily the editor

As I thought about my next film project I started to piece together a crew in my head. I was going through my mental rolodex, trying to find all the DPs I know (2), all the sound guys I know (1), all the gaffers I know (1), all the composers I know (3), all the PAs I know (378), and all the editors I know (3).

And then I stopped a bit on that editor thing.

Game Night was filmed in September. And I plan to shoot again in September or maybe sooner. And I don't want to spend another year waiting for somebody else to edit the film.

The main reason I had someone else edit Game Night is that I didn't want to practice editing on something that cost me a grand to make. I wanted it done by somebody who knew something. And that has been the bane of my existence ever since.

If I'd bought an editing program when I shot the film I could have learned how to edit my own stuff by now.

So the lightbulb zapped me in the face and yesterday I ordered a copy of Avid so I can use my Game Night footage to teach myself how to edit.

But Avid is eight hundred bazillion dollars! you say.

Nope. Not if you're a teacher. Just like I got MovieMagic at a steep discount, I get Avid for like 90% off or something if I can prove I'm an educator. Just like I get a discount on car insurance. I guess they have to do something to make up for the fact that I spend all day putting up with your children.

Just kidding, I love your children.

Anyway, it's time this lady learned to do something for herself. So pretty soon I will be adding Editor to my list of qualifications. I have no idea how to edit so I hope I don't suck.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

How do I fake a winter wonderland for cheap?

While I'm still building my plan to eventually film The Corner, I am for the moment concentrating my efforts on Guthrie, a short I can film for ultra cheap with two actors in a studio apartment.

I'm contemplating playing the female role myself. She only has like three lines and half of them are from the other side of a closed door and I got a big head from my acting debut so I'm gonna try it.

I have one big problem with the short: It takes place in Oregon during the middle of winter. The guy never leaves the apartment so it doesn't impact the filming that much, but there is a scene where he looks out the window and sees the mountains and the snow-covered street below. There are no people, just empty street and I want his breath to fly out into the scene.

Clearly I do not live in Oregon, but I do live near the Hollywood Hills. And of course it never snows here, but it occasionally does there.

So, effects people, how do I do that? How am I going to fake a guy looking out a window into the quiet winter wonderland for next to no money? If I have to fly to Oregon it kind of defeats the purpose of doing this cheapo short. And no, I can't ditch the location. It's 100% relevant to the plot.

Any ideas?

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Comedy that makes you cry

Right now the "Jurassic Bark" episode of Futurama is on Comedy Central. This is the episode where Fry finds out what happened to his dog after he disappeared in 2000. It's this amazingly beautiful story about loyalty and love and sacrifice. And grown testosterone-filled men are reduced to weepy little puddles of mush at the end. It's one of the best episodes of television ever.

But isn't Futurama an animated comedy, you say? Why yes, it is. And I promise you will cry if you watch that episode. No one is immune to its sappy charms. But before you cry, you will laugh.

Remember that episode of Friends where Ross and Rachel broke up? I laughed my ass off at Joey eating leg wax in the bedroom, then cried a little as Ross broke down and begged Rachel to forgive him while she tried to stay immune to his pleas.

Or that Scrubs episode where Dr. Cox lost all his transplant patients because he neglected to test the donated organs for rabies.

There's a scene in Catch 22 (the novel - I've never seen the film) where these soldiers are all out in the ocean being goofy and playing in the water and calling each other names. The first time I read that scene I had a big old grin on my face and probably laughed out loud at something one of the guys said.

Then I turned the page and one of the guys was cut in half by a low flying plane. And my face went from a smile to an open mouth shocked state to a teary frown. In like 30 seconds.

That's the best kind of comedy, I think. The kind of comedy that is so consistently funny that the sad parts hit you harder. You're laughing, laughing, crying. And crying hard because you weren't expecting to be so serious.

I don't really write much comedy, but if i did I'd want to write like that. Make you laugh, then punch you in the gut with emotion.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Protests, Roger Rabbit and the Prom

This morning I joined my colleagues for a one-hour strike outside our school. I was glad I had practiced by picketing with the WGA a couple of times because I knew what to expect. I made it my mission to smile and wave at all the people who honked their support - and there were many. If you honked at some teachers this morning, thank you.

For those outside California - the state is planning to cut 10% of the education budget this year because somebody somewhere screwed up. These cuts are going to hurt schools like mine the most because my kids don't have rich parents who can donate computers to make up for the losses. We're in danger of losing arts programs, teacher positions, extra curricular activities. We'll probably have 40 kids to a class in some places. So we called attention to the plight this morning by yelling a lot of chants on Washington. I also protested by eating a chocolate iced donut.

While I was standing out there I struck up a conversation with one of our drama teachers. I mentioned my time on the lines with the WGA and he mentioned that he was in the WGA. Turns out he used to work at Disney. Apparently there is a sequel to Who Framed Roger Rabbit? lost up there in development hell. Perhaps it will some day reappear.

I didn't get a chance to mention my own writing aspirations because another teacher started talking about his film class, so now of course I can't go back to my Disney friend and be like "Hey remember when you said you worked for Disney? Got any friends there who want to see a zombie script?" Perhaps I can bring it up in another conversation some day.

Tonight I attend my eighth prom. You know, they start getting boring after you go to that many proms, although it's a little better when you bring a date and I am lucky enough to have one this evening. And at least our prom is pretty nice and there's good food. I like taking pictures, but I'm starting to run out of pretty dresses to wear.

Stay away from The Roosevelt Hotel on Hollywood tonight unless you want to be surrounded by horny teens in strappy dresses.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

I'm learning not to bite off more than I can chew

I've been super stressed this week. Ooof.

Yearbooks came out Tuesday. Yearbook Day consists of putting together a slide show and presenting it to the senior class, then giving out presold yearbooks, then selling yearbooks, then listening to every student in school tell me how much the yearbooks suck and how many things we got wrong. I tell my kids not to expect anybody to say anything nice about the book. Even if it's the most beautiful and comprehensive book ever made, all anyone will notice is that you misspelled Mr. Okuwoke's name on page 57.

But at least this year I didn't get an angry parent complaining to the principal ten minutes after the books appeared, so there's that.

In between yearbook and English class and having a social life, I've been trying to put together a shoot for The Corner, the boxing short film I've been in love with ever since I wrote it. My actors keep asking me when I'll be ready to shoot. People have been offering their crew services. Everybody wants me to direct this film.

But I don't want to direct it. I want to produce it. I don't have that director gene, that element in your personality that drives you to tell people what to do and accept no excuses. Sure, I manage a classroom, but in there it's a lot of negotiation, they're all younger and less experienced than me, and if they don't do their work it usually hurts only them, not the whole class.

Directing is different.

I never meant to direct Game Night. It just sort of happened. And on the set I felt lost. I only ever wanted to get all the talented people I know in a room and watch them work - I never wanted to tell them what to do once they got there. So on set I was relying heavily on help from people who knew what they were doing. Fortunately I had a great crew and terrific actors, but I can already tell that if I end up with some prima donna DP he'll walk all over me. Actors I get, actors I know how to talk to. The crew is a mystery to me.

I loved producing, though, so I want to do that again as much as possible. I'm the kind of producer who chooses you because I like your work, and when you step on set I'll trust you to do your funky thing with the script that I wrote. That makes me happy.

So a couple of weeks ago I asked Ex-Boyfriend if he wanted to direct The Corner. He read it and although he liked parts of it, he said it was too serious to appeal to his directing style. He prefers ridiculous comedies and straight-up action stories. So he won't be directing the film.

And I had kind of a mini panic attack, partly brought on by that being the moment I had a plumbing incident that resulted in a minor flood exploding onto my floor, but also because I suddenly felt convinced I would be forced to direct it because for this particular project I want to use someone I know and trust, not some random guy I picked up on Craigslist. This post is not about me looking for a director, either. It's just me venting my frustration and admitting that I'm not invincible.

But then after I mopped up my floor Ex-Boyfriend told me I needed to take the pressure off. I don't even have Game Night finished yet (3 weeks to a rough cut, swears my editor) so I'm jumping the gun on planning something that requires a boxing ring and a host of extras.

But I already promised my actors I'd have a part for them in September, I said. They'll all be so let down.

So let's make something simple instead, Ex-Boyfriend said.

And then I realized I had this 9 minute script I'd been trying to submit to student filmmakers. It's a script I wrote that's sort of like a darkly comedic Twilight Zone episode to involve two actors and one location and can be shot for hellacheap. All I need is a studio apartment, which I could probably replicate in a hotel room.

Even if Ex-Boyfriend doesn't want to direct it I think I could handle this project. It's simple, more like a project between friends. And the minute I realized that, my stress dissipated.

So The Corner is on hold for the time being. I will produce that script because I love it, but it won't be this year unless I suddenly come into a vast fortune. Instead I will be producing Guthrie, something much, much simpler and less likely to make me freak out.

I will update my sidebar accordingly soon.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Just like riding a bike

This has nothing to do with screenwriting.

Some time ago Bill Martell wrote a post about wanting to get a bicycle and when I read his post I was like - hey, why don't I have a bicycle? I live near tons of stuff and gas has gone way up and because of my foot I still can't run but am still supposed to get five days of cardio a week, so I should have a bicycle.

So I went on Craigslist and found this lady who bought a $130 bike but discovered her body couldn't handle it, but accidentally damaged the back reflector so she couldn't return it. She sold it to me for $75.

I've turned it into the bike version of a souped-up Honda. I put on a bell, whose purpose so far has only been to fill me with glee when I ring it as I cruise downhill yelling "Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!"

I got a fancy lock so it won't get stolen easily and I added a basket I can take right off the front of the bike and go into the store and put groceries in it and put it back on the bike and ride home. And I bought a stupid looking helmet. So all in all my accessories are worth as much as I paid for the actual bicycle.

Every few days I've ridden it further than I rode it the time before, which has made riding easier and easier each trip. Today I rode it to the rental office to pay my rent and made it there just before everybody went home. My building Manager, who was shocked to find I lived in his building since he didn't recognize me even though he's the guy who came to check up on me when some jerkwad complained about the crew in my apartment to film Game Night. Anyway, Manager was all amazed that I'd ridden the bike such a long distance.

And it probably seems like a long distance to someone who isn't all that physically active. Hell, it seemed like a long distance before I started riding the bike. But once I got into the habit I found that I didn't even feel tired when I rode. What I thought would be difficult was a piece of cake in the end.

When my mom first taught me to ride a bike she put me on one and told me to ride it to the Stop sign before I was allowed to come in and eat dinner.

I haven't ridden a bike in like five years, but of course you know the saying about remembering how to ride a bike. I found myself instinctively posting as I hopped over potholes and weaving around obstacles like I'd never been away. Because once your muscles and your mind know how to do a thing they never forget. Then it's all about putting on the little bell and knowing you can do it.

And there's a metaphor in there somewhere.

Monday, June 02, 2008

A grain of salt with your podcast

Lately as I planned lessons and graded papers I've been listening to Creative Screenwriting's podcasts from the post-screening Q&As. These are usually great interviews conducted by Jeff Goldsmith with the writers and sometimes the directors or actors involved in bringing the film to the screen.

You should definitely listen to them. They're chock full of information and good jokes. I particularly enjoyed the one from The Forbidden Kingdom, which reminded me that Chinese people have the awesomest sense of humor of all the nations. Some of the films screened have been truly terrific and the resulting interviews have added to my understanding of technique.

But here's the thing. And I get that Jeff Goldsmith is in a tough position here because even if the entire audience loathed the film he still has to pretend it's the greatest work ever or piss off the artist sitting in front of him.

But it still made me a little ill today when I listened to him kiss Uwe Boll's ass after a screening of Postal.

By the way, right at the beginning of the interview some girl brought Boll a bouquet of flowers and called him a genius. I wonder how much he paid her.

Anyway, Goldsmith told Boll he'd like to take his literature class. He lamented that Boll hadn't spent more time showing the world his genius comedy chops. He was just complimenting the man left and right.

Now in Goldsmith's defense, Boll is known to threaten physical violence to anyone who doesn't think he's the biggest genius in film, so there may have been genuine fear going on there.

Still. This happens a lot. Goldsmith never screened a movie that wasn't terrific. I guess in his position even if he hated the film he can't tell somebody to his face that his story blows, but I guess it's the volume of compliments I've heard the man pay to Lions for Lambs, Postal and a few other less than stellar films that makes me question his opinion on the quality of a movie. Then again, he's not a reviewer so why should I care?

And certainly I'm grateful to him for always being polite as hell as he checks us all off and makes sure everybody who can get in gets into the screening and for setting up the screenings in the first place. For that, Goldsmith is an awesome dude. But I wish he wouldn't fawn over films that weren't all that great.

So I guess I'm saying, listen to the podcasts if you don't already because they can be really great, but be prepared to have to occasionally roll your eyes at the sound of how awesome everybody is.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Real reality TV

I decided to have a relaxation weekend. I got a much-needed massage, I rode my bike to the farmer's market, I read, I wrote some pages, I sat around and watched TV.

And as I flipped channels I discovered two shows I am an idiot for not watching before, two shows that are great examples of creating story from the world around us.

I first watched Kitchen Nightmares. I've avoided this show because all I've seen of Hell's Kitchen is some angry British dude berating people in the kitchen because they can't brine a shrimp properly. I really don't want to watch a show about an asshole who abused his power because he can.

But that's where I forgot about the nature of American reality TV. It's all manufactured bullshit. Because what I learned from Kitchen Nightmares, a BBC show where Gordon Ramsey travels around the UK helping restaurant owners save their failing businesses, is that he's not really like that asshole he plays on Hell's Kitchen.

I watched this one episode where this couple did nothing but fight with each other and the customers, and it had driven away all their business. Ramsey convinced them to change their menu, bringing less stress to the kitchen which caused fewer fights between them. Then he taught the wife to stop being so antagonistic toward customers because you can't be rude and expect people to come eat with you. And that's the exact opposite of what he displays on his American show.

The best thing about this episode is that he not only saved the restaurant, he saved this couple's marriage. The wife started smiling. The couple stopped fighting. Their business doubled. Their shouting matches ceased. That was a cool story and it really happened. It was so beautiful I was almost moved to tears.

BBC shows don't force the drama the way the major network shows do. They let it happen and use editing to tell a story, whereas American producers ten to prod and poke the people on the show to create story even if there isn't one. I'd much rather watch a sweet story about a couple who lost their way and needed a guide to help them get their direction back than some angry man berate his chefs because they left too much salt out of the soup.

Then I was flipping channels and stumbled on Meerkat Manor. How the crap have I not been watching this? This show is fucking fascinating. I put it on in the background while I was sending emails and reading things and before I knew it I tossed everything else aside and stared at my television, completely enraptured by these little guys. The narration is key, because without it we wouldn't necessarily know what's going on, but the writers on this show tell a brilliant story about love and war and family and general awesomeness.

I know everybody and their mom discovered this show before me, but I'm glad I finally got around to figuring out why it's so great.

On both shows, it's a natural story that the writers and editors clean up and focus so we really see the drama. It's far more fascinating to me than some show with manufactured drama.