Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Five times the usual sweet prince

Best Friend is our school's substitute librarian when the regular librarian is off track. Every day I go eat lunch with her in the library.

This week she got a massive shipment of books. They're mostly nonfiction, science books and stuff about dance. It's a magical fairy land of information in there.

As I was watching my panini heat up in the microwave I started nosing through the rack of DVDs still wrapped in plastic on the book cart.

Mel Gibson Hamlet. Olivier Hamlet. Jacobi Hamlet (and really, could Derek Jacobi be any more British?). Plus a DVD of nothing but Shakespeare soliloquys including three from Hamlet.

I already own the Kenneth Brannagh version.

I can now do that thing I've always wanted to do. Read Hamlet. Discuss Hamlet. Write about Hamlet. Do a group project on Hamlet. Show the same scene in five different Hamlets to discuss literary interpretation.

Those kids will love Hamlet if it kills them.


Tuesday, January 29, 2008

I love the crazy chicken guy

The other day I brought up an inside reference in my short script that caused some consternation among the members of my writers group. Mackey reminded me that such a phenomenon is called a two percenter (or is it one percenter? eight percenter? Fifteen and a half percenter?) where only a fraction of your audience will get the joke.

Last week's episode of Psych had a beauty.

Shawn, the hilarious and adorable fake psychic detective, investigates a murder on a Telenovella by taking an acting job on the show. At one point Shawn's father starts ragging on Shawn's acting ability and his Spanish.

"You sound like the El Pollo Loco guy," the father says.

"I'm trying to sound like the El Pollo Loco guy," Shawn replies.

I clapped and laughed with glee because one of the actors playing a star of the novella IS the El Pollo Loco guy.

Not every state has El Pollo Loco so not everybody will know what Shawn is talking about, but those of us who work across the street from one are intimately familiar with the delicious tostadas you may find there and the commercials with the ridiculously melodramatic Latino guy who cocks his eyebrow at you while discussing the sexiness of roasted chicken tortilla soup.

And probably not every single person realized the actor on Psych that day was the same guy. And probably some of them realized it only when Shawn mentioned El Pollo Loco and they went Ohhhhh, hey!

It's a great inside joke, especially on that show because Shawn always makes pop culture references so even if you don't get it, you don't worry too much about it. But if you do get it, you get to giggle incessantly at the joke.

And it makes you feel smart. I get you Shawn, even if these other people don't.

By the way, if you're not watching Psych (USA network Fridays) you really have no excuse. It's pretty awesome.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Hurricane Emily hits Disneyland

Yesterday I went to Disneyland for the first time ever. And those of you who live in LA might remember that yesterday the sky flowed with elegant torrential rains off and on all day.

We hid out from the rain for two hours at a bar in Downtown Disney.

Ever rode Space Mountain? Ever rode Space Mountain while drunk? Way better the second time.

The Indiana Jones ride is not that much to write home about, but it's infinitely better when you scream at the top of your lungs like the Cloverfield monster pops out from every corner.

"Oh my God, scarabs! Oh my God it's a fucking cobra! Holy crap it's animatronic Indiana Jones! Get the hell off my fake Jeep animatronic Indiana Jones!"

At first some Disney employee told us the Pirates of the Caribbean was closed. "That's gay!" I shouted. "But not in a homosexual way!"

My cohorts looked around fearfully as if we were about to be attacked by the gay Disney mafia. But I think my cunning tactics worked because ten minutes later the ride was open again.

Did you know that ride goes right by people dining outside in a fine restaurant? Not a good idea. We'd just come off the Indiana Jones thing so we were kind of punchy and loud. To that guy who's shirt I made fun of as we were floating by, I'm sorry.

One of the members of my group is a writer on an ABC Family show, so I bugged him all night for stories about his experience. He was very forthcoming and cool. We had a lengthy discussion during the Pirates ride about the thought process Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio must have used to get from this low-key ride to the well-written film that was the first Pirates movie. We decided that another actor might not have made Jack Sparrow work like he did and that if nothing else that film proved that any decent director needs to let Johnny Depp do what Johnny Depp wants to do.

The rain made things interesting. We rode the Matterhorn and every time we came out of the cave we got drenched, then went back into the cave again, then came out and got drenched, then back in. I thought it contributed to the realism of being on bobsleds in Germany with yetis attacking you.

They won't embroider anything onto the ear hats except your legal name. How lame is that?

I bought a hat and a Jack Skellington purse. That's right: a Jack Skellington purse. They also make Jack Skellington earmuffs and a Jack Skellington alarm clock which one of my group members who makes like eight times what I do at his job kept trying to convince me to buy him. I did not.

They make a Jedi Mickey and a Darth Goofie. Darth Goofie? Really? If anybody's Darth anything it should be Donald Duck, I think. Goofie should be the wookie.

All in all a fun experience was had by all. A the bar we watched a group of teenagers all dressed in matching black hoodies and carrying matching wallet chains line up neatly for their rebellious Social Distortion concert held at The House of Blues at Downtown Disney. It's possible that we heckled them.

We were very bad boys and girls.

When I go back I'll make sure it's sunny out and I'll buy more Jack Skellington paraphernalia to round out my collection.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

The education continues

This week on Teaching Thursdays it's multiple camera comedies. Writers from traditional sitcoms will be around to give you suggestions and wisdom. Do not try to get them to read your script.

They'll be at WB gate 2 from 9am to 12pm.

And if anybody went last week, please share your experience with the rest of the class.

In the meantime...

I did some grading today and that means writing assignments. So it's time to share. These three are eleventh graders:

1) Some things that might surprise people about me is that I look friendly but if u meet me I don't act friendly cuz I get mad easily is hard for me to like a person. Im very special in that point of view because lowkey I judge people without knowing crap about them.

2) (referring to an excuse essay in which the student lied her ass off about why her paper was late and I believed every word) I finally did a story in which Ms. Blake got tricked! I have discovered the path to wisdom and intelligence.

3) (in response to a logline for a short story idea) There was a Camaro that people thought it wasn't gonna get fixed no more. But they prove people wrong.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Do you know what Croatoan means?

If I haven't returned your email or phone call recently I apologize. Mondays and Thursdays I have Spanish class, Tuesdays I work out with Trainer, and this week I had a writers group meeting last night. Grades are due tomorrow (so watch out for the next installment of Interesting Things My Students Write) and I've taken on a job rewriting a short film. Plus, I'm trying to get together with my new editor to recommence post production on Game Night.

Also, the yearbook deadline is fast approaching and I really want to finish the first draft of Not Dead Yet this weekend. And somehow, someway I need to start up my production company's website. Apparently I also have bills to pay.

Time is a vague concept to me now.

But I still managed to hop across town in the torrential downpour last night for the writers group meeting. There was pita bread and hummus, which is really all anyone has to provide to get me to go anywhere.

I brought a short film I wrote recently with the intent to pass it along to some young, hungry director who needs something to film on the cheap. It's a story about one guy going crazy in a room so it can be shot for very, very cheap.

There was some great feedback from the group, mostly suggestions to cut some of the description and cover a few minor plot holes, but there is one suggestion I found interesting and want to mention here.

At one point I make a big deal about the word "Croatoan" written on something in the room, then never refer to it again.

Nobody got it so everybody said they spent the whole time reading the short wondering where that was going to matter.

"Croatoan" was the only clue left behind by the Lost Colony. When they vanished into thin air, that word was carved on a tree where dozens of families had lived years before, never to be seen again, and nobody knows what the hell it means. My character was dealing with a similar experience so I put the word out there as almost an inside joke.

I like the reference. I like putting inside jokes into scripts. There is a whole section in Game Night where two characters talk about The Red Badge of Courage in reference to the term "Big wafer in the sky" and nobody else but me could possibly understand why they make the reference. But in context you don't have to. These two people get it, and another character even makes the point that it's odd for them to get it because nobody else does.

So that's the thing, I guess. If you hang a lantern on it or put it in context you can keep your inside joke. One suggestion that came up was to have my character actively writing it in the middle of his fit of crazy. That way it feels like less of a clue and more of an odd reaction to the cirsumstances.

It's something to think about, anyway.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

RIP Heath

Here is a list of actors I'd like to nail.

Jensen Ackles
Jeremy Sisto
Christian Bale
Damian Lewis
Neal McDonough
Ron Livingston
Okay I admit it, the entire cast of Band of Brothers
Eric Bana
Adam Baldwin
Barry Pepper
Robert Maschio (That's right, The Fucking Todd, get over it)
D.B. Woodside
Cole Hauser
Matthew Fox
Greg Grundberg
Milo Ventimiglia
Sendhil Ramamurthy
Okay I admit it, the entire cast of Heroes

And one Heath Ledger.

And now he's gone.

I've loved Heath Ledger since the moment he swept Kat off her feet in 10 Things I Hate About You. That accent, that bad boy with smarts attitude, that sense of mischief - what's not to love?

Then he was a boy with a dream in A Knight's Tale and he did a crazy dance to an excellent David Bowie song. And I don't care what you say about that movie, I love it and him.

And speaking of that film, I'd also like to nail Rufus Sewell.

Heath was so very cool in Lords of Dogtown. It wasn't the greatest film ever, but he was the greatest thing in it.

Same for The Patriot. I spent that entire film trying to quell my disgust with Mel Gibson's frizzy ponytail, but when Heath's character faced his death I got a little weepy.

And of course he was in Brokeback Mountain, a film that could have destroyed his career and instead created it.

Unfortunately it's the film he will always be known for because he never got a chance to trump it.

But anyone who dares to say he can't act needs to shut up and watch that movie. I don't care if you're gay or straight or into monkeys, that film defines love better than any I've seen, and the scene at the close of the film with Heath crying over his two bloody shirts is absolutely heartbreaking.

A lot of actors could have played that role. Not a lot of actors could have made me believe it.

And now he's gone. No more hotness, no more talent, no more of that sexy Australian voice that only had 28 years to speak. And we're all worse off for it. I wanted to see what the man had left up his sleeve. And I wanted to nail him.

Monday, January 21, 2008

I'm doing stuff

Whew. I wrote twelve pages today. I didn't mean to. It's just a really gloomy day and I don't have to go to work and I didn't feel like getting out of my pajamas and I need to clean my apartment, grade papers and write zombie pages along with a few other obligations I don't want to get to right now.

And killing zombies was the most fun thing on the list.

I put on some music and just started writing. I'm almost at the climax now and that makes it easier. Usually the first few pages and the last few pages come together quickly.

I killed some people too, finally. The next writing session I get to set a castle on fire with a flame thrower.

More good news. This morning I finally got myself and editor for Game Night. He's talented and has equipment and doesn't need me to pay him and he liked the script. So there you go.

Now I just hope to God my former editor gets me the footage soon so he can start working.

This whole thing has taught me that I need to take some classes and learn how to do everything, especially the editing. Right now I have all this footage and this great movie waiting to be made but no way to make it. I don't even have my footage at the moment. So I'm helpless until somebody else sends me what I need.

Next time, though, I hope to have money. That will help.

So I guess I either have to learn to edit or be able to pay someone. Because money is power.

But I've been very lucky throughout this whole process and now I feel lucky to have found a quality editor. Hopefully we'll be able to privately screen the film in a couple of months. Ideally sooner, but I'm being patient.

Also, my company logo is almost finished and I'm meeting with Lead Actor tomorrow to talk about putting together my website. That's what he does to make money and he's willing to help me out because he's my Johnny Depp.

So pay attention. This blog will be moving soon. Not tomorrow or anything, but we're getting official up in here.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

John Conner can't change the future, dammit.

Last night while I was waiting for my friend to pick me up and take me to parties I watched Terminator 3. When I first saw the movie I thought it was terrible, but last night I didn't hate it so much.

As I watched it I began to think about time travel philosophy. Here's the thing. We learned in the first movie that John Conner sent his friend back to become his dad. If he hadn't sent him back, John would not have been born. So the past didn't change. It always was as it will always be. If Sarah hadn't been chased by the machines she wouldn't have raised John to be a soldier. And if the Terminator hadn't come back in time to take him to safety John wouldn't have survived the holocaust.

So this is clearly a world where you can't change the future. Everything you do has already been determined because you did it the first time.

If you think too hard about it your brain will fry.

The point is, the Connors keep trying to stop Skynet, but they can't stop Skynet. They already tried. The future doesn't change.

So there is a built-in problem with the new Terminator series. It's based entirely on the idea that the new Terminator brought John and Sarah forward in time into an alternative timeline where Skynet didn't go online when it was supposed to. So Terminator 3 never happened.

But that doesn't make sense. The world as it is established is a timeline that can't be altered. I get why they moved the story to take place in the present; it's a hell of a lot easier for the writers to pull off. But it also would have been cool to watch John Conner run around in the '90s listening to Nirvana while he fought off the robots in his oversized flanner shirts.

I like the show overall, and I'm big on suspension of disbelief, but I don't like it when I have to suspend my disbelief from the rules already set up in the story.

But hell, it's time travel. It doesn't ever really make sense anyway.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

This is Harrison Bergeronish

I really hate golf. I find it to be the world's most boring game and when I turn on the TV on a Saturday afternoon and find eighteen channels airing all-day golfathons I immediately put in an episode of Family Guy just to stop my brain from panicking.

I had some friend who used to watch golf while I was around and that's how I learned that there is an Indian golfer whose skin is so dark if I were him I'd hide in rooms with the lights out wearing all black and scare people all the time. I'd be a ninja golfer.

Hey, if they had ninja golfers I might actually care about the game.

But I couldn't help hearing about this:

On January 4, Golf Channel commentator Kelly Tilghman said golfers who wanted to win should "lynch Tiger Woods in a back alley."

If the golfer she was talking about had been white, this would have been a comment made in poor taste but people would have rolled their eyes and moved on.

But Tiger Woods is not white, and Tilghman is fucking stupid.

She could have said strangled or stabbed or shot or anything but the word lynching. She chose the one violent act that is most offensive to the black community. I doubt it was an accident that her brain went there. Too bad her mouth followed.

Golfweek magazine ran an issue where the cover story was this lynching thing and on the cover was a noose. And the editor was fired for it.

Okay, the girl was stupid. The magazine was not.

Is this where we are now? We can watch ever increasing gore in the continuing escalation of torture porn, and we can watch a show like Rome where the nudity is so graphic it's difficult to see how the actors are not actually fucking each other, and we can have a movie like Hounddog where a 12-year-old Dakota Fanning is raped onscreen, but that picture of a noose to accompany a story about a woman using the term "lynching" - oh, that's too offensive.

I remember the story of a local politician who used the word "niggardly" in a speech once. It immediately caused a shitstorm. It didn't matter how many times he or anyone with a wide vocabulary explained that the word means stingy, the voices asking for his resignation overpowered the voices of reason and the man was forced to step down.

Sure, Kelly Tighlman needs to be beaten with reeds for her stupidity and ignorance. But now we're firing people for using images that make us uncomfortable? That's what a reporter's job is - to tell you the uncomfortable truth, even if it is about the most boring sport in the world.

Where are we going with this? Are we really supporting the most violent, vile bloodfests and women hating entertainment while anything that challenges our minds is seen as offensive? Don't think about race issues - don't discuss them. Don't look at images that remind us we used to be a not-so-bright-and-shiny nation. Pretend it didn't happen. Quick - look, it's a naked woman being beaten to death!

We are so fickle about our freedom of speech. It really chaps my hide.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Teaching Thursdays

This is cool. I got this email just now:

Gate 2 at Warner Bros. has come up with a stellar idea: "Teaching Thursdays," where writers of various genres would join us on Thursdays, making themselves available to discuss story, structure and everything in between to aspirings if the aspirings would be willing to come out and pick up a sign.

For our inaugural Teaching Thursday we thought the best way to kick it off would be with blood, guts and glory! Yes, it's MEDICAL DRAMA DAY! We will have writers from hit medical shows at your bidding! Not sure how to structure HOUSE? They'll have answers! Not sure what story has NOT been done on ER? One of their writers will probably know! Not sure where your patella is? Look it up or ask a GREY'S or PRIVATE PRACTICE writer...

If you're a writer for a medical show and want to show up, please know:

No one will solicit you to read their brilliant spec script. No one will ask for your phone number or email address. No one will expect anything of you other than your ability to answer some story/structure/dialogue questions.

If you're an aspiring who wants to take advantage of getting some truly great advice from the folks who have lived, eaten, breathed it:

Definitely join us -- all you need to do is pick up a sign! What you should not do: solicit the writers to read your brilliant spec script. Do not ask for phone numbers or email addresses. Do expect brilliance, because that's what you'll get!

MEDICAL DRAMA DAY: Thursday January 24th, 9 AM-12 PM, Warner Bros Gate 2.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Read a book

From now on when I have to teach a lesson on life skills I'm just going to show this video. It says all there really is to say.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Don't ever let 'em see you cry

I wrote this to someone earlier today:

Oh I was messed up in the head but out loud I was all like, "No, I'm fine. You can't help it, right? If you don't love me you don't love me. Let me get my stuff and I'll go home."

He was all, "You'll find somebody."

And I was all, "Of course I will. You don't think you're the only man on the planet, do you?"

Then I went home and waded in my salty lake of tears.

And the response I got reminded me of something Jane Espenson once said that I think needs repeating. And for all I remember she may well have gotten it from someone else, but I got it from her so I'll give her the credit.

She said it's a lot sadder to watch someone try not to cry than to watch them pour out buckets of tears with no effort to hold it back.

So true. I was watching Glory the other night and was reminded of how incredible that cast is. There is a scene in that film where Denzel Washington's character stands naked from the waste up while his drill sergeant whips him, but it's obvious from the massive amount of scars down his back that whipping is something he knows well.

As the whip is drawing new lines down his back he stares straight at his commanding officer, played by Matthew Broderick, and refuses to cry out. But after a few hits a his eyes well up and despite his struggle to remain completely defiant tears start to creep down his cheek.

It's heartbreaking.

But when you see people just wail and cry it's usually kind of comical. There's a deeper sadness, I think, when you see the tears of someone who's trying desperately not to let you know how much they're hurting. It's powerful stuff.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

I would gladly share a cell with Michael Scoffield

With the TV season all screwy there's not much fiction available on TV. I've been catching up on Life on Mars and other shows that are in reruns that I never really got into.

The studios should just bust out some old series that were cool. If they started showing episodes of Angel from the beginning I'd totally watch that every night. Or Farscape. NBC owns Farscape but it never aired on the network except that brief period before the Peacekeeper Wars. They should toss that on the old satellite signal.

Firefly's not on the air. You know what is? Prison Break.

Now I would absolutely wreck Wentworth Miller or Dominic Purcell, and the first season was a perfect demonstration of putting characters in a bad situation and making it worse. I spent a good portion of my time watching that show trying to figure out how the hell they were going to fix the mess those guys created.

Then they escaped from prison and went on the run. Okay, I guess, there were still some twists and turns to follow. The conspiracy from season one hadn't been concluded yet so there was an ongoing thread to follow. And I really liked Agent Kellerman's (Paul Adelstein) character arc.

This show has always required a massive amount of suspension of disbelief, but this season has just been absurd. My brain can only handle so much denial.

The brave choice, and the one that would have been more interesting and less limiting to the story, would have been to change the cast up significantly. By trying to keep the same characters involved in the story the writers really screwed themselves. One character ending up in a Panamanian prison I get. Two guys together would even make sense if they worked in collusion on whatever landed them in the jail, and you could still keep some of the cast having adventures on the outside. But four Americans who all know each other ending up in a prison in Panama for different reasons? Come on.

And I don't really get what the hell is going on anyway. A prisoner runs the prison except when the story doesn't need him to run the prison. People run around throwing chicken feet at each other. T-Bag has one hand but it never really seems to be a problem anymore, nor does he seem that despicable anymore even though I know he's a pedophile. He's been kind of nice lately. He's a gentle pedophile. He could babysit your kids with his one hand.

I liked that episode last season where we saw why T-Bag was so messed up. It made me feel sorry for him, but not sorry enough to want him to go free. This season he just seems toothless.

Oh, Prison Break. You could be so much more awesome if you just got a little more reasonable.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Four things that made me happy today

1) I have been watching American Gladiators. It's not as good as the original, but it's still filled with awesome cheesiness. I really want to start up some kind of regular AG watching night where I hang out with some people and we make jokes about the show MST3K style as we watch.

And I totally want to hang out with Titan at a party. I mean, look at him:
2) I started using Aussie shampoo and conditioner last night. My hair feels like a satin rainbow. I was shaking my head in slow motion all day like those sexy women in the commercials and I kept running my fingers through it and going "Look at that shine!" It was really freaking the kids out.

If I were David Letterman I would now hear a knock on my door and open it to find eight boxes of Aussie products in my hallway. Hey, Aussie, I could really use some antifrizz.

3) Today was a dazzlingly beautiful day. I took my kids outside to write haiku. This was my favorite:

Ms. Blake walks around.
Sporting her light blue jacket
And stunner shades

4) In Spanish class tonight my writer brain was in full swing. I'm doing pretty well in there. The other class members called me and my reading partner the class "Stars" which fills me with pride because I always want to be that kid who knows all the answers but doesn't really like to talk about it. My pronunciation rules because I'm surrounded by Spanish all day.

Anyway, as the class was reading through this dialogue where these people were introducing themselves before they went on a field trip together I couldn't help but notice that the plot was just a tad thin. So while we read about Ines being from Mexico I imagined Maite just hauling off and pounding her fist into Ines' face.

Since I know lots of Spanish cusswords I was able to write the story in Spanish in my head. Kinda.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

For your consideration

One of the great things about awards season is that you can always get movies for free. Some people get screeners of the new films and if you are a guild member you get in free to movies at the theater.

And for the rest of us, we can read the scripts for free.

So if you want to read a bunch of screenplays trying for academy nominations this year, here they are:

-A Mighty Heart
-Into the Wild
-The Kite Runner
-Margot at the Wedding
-There Will be Blood

-American Gangster
-The Bourne Ultimatum
-Elizabeth The Golden Age
-The Kingdom
-Knocked Up

-No Country for Old Men
-The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
-Gone Baby Gone

Fox Searchlight
-The Darjeeling Limited
-The Namesake
-The Savages

Go. Download. Read.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Women be shoppin'

It turns out the reason I had to walk with a cane was because my shoes are practically soulless. The devil is in them. Did you know that you have to replace shoes every now and then? Even if they don't have holes in them?

Trainer ordered me to get new shoes this weekend so I can get my ass back up and running and stop using foot pain as an excuse for avoiding exercise.

I went to the Nike store at the Grove today expecting to pay $70 or $80 for new running shoes that would be an investment in my poor pained feet.

First of all, I discovered that my feet have gone down half a shoe size. How does that happen? I suspect, though, that whatever bizarre genetic freak out my feet are having may also be part of the reason I'm feeling pain when I run. My shoes are too big.

The sales girl handed me the nicest, most cushiony, arch protecting, ankle cradeling, air ventilating pair of shoes on earth to try on first. Bitch.

They were glorious. And perfect. And I felt like I was running on a layer of firm down pillows. Plus, they were blue.

Every other shoe I tried on after that was insignificant because I had fallen in love. Just like that first true love makes every other man you meet a complete let down, I didn't want those crappy second-best shoes I might have loved enough had I only tried them on first. I wanted the good stuff.

How much did this fantastic pair of shoes cost, you might ask? $130.

So I have no money now. Immediately after I bought the shoes I went to the grocery store and invested in lots of sandwich meat and carrots. It's a steady diet of turkey sandwich for the next couple of weeks. I might splurge and have spaghetti on Tuesday.*

I think I'll call the power company and explain to them that I would have paid my electricity bill, but the money is on my beautifully comforted feet. So worth it.

*There is a slight possibility I might be hyperbolating

Friday, January 11, 2008

Make me a super douchebag

I succumbed. I watched Make Me a Supermodel.


This show on Bravo takes men and women off the street and weeds them out by letting people vote online to decide who goes home until there's only one left. It's hosted by Tyson Beckford and Niki Taylor.

The first thing Tyson did after the models moved into the house was take them out in the middle of New York and have them "throw away the symbols of their old lives." In other words, they had to throw their clothes into a big trash can fire. If anybody didn't want to get naked Tyson told them they "weren't as committed."

Then an agent looked at them one by one and told them how fat they were. Except for the one guy who lost 20 pounds after the casting session when the same guy told him to lose weight.

I've watched America's Next Top Model since it began, but I have never felt so disgusted by the shallow world these people live in. They don't just tell you to get a haircut. They tell you your hair is fucking stupid.

And the models. Oh, the models. They're just so egomaniacle and empty. Not like I expected them to discuss Sartre between purgings or anything, but man. Do you think of anything but your body fat percentage?

I do like the way they used the quote "I rocked out with my cock out" while the guy saying it strolled down the runway in sunglasses and man panties.

I think on America's Next Top Model people aren't quite as mean and they edit the models a little warmer. It's probably not as realistic but it's a lot easier to stomach as a member of the general public.

I'm really glad I'm not a model.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Me llamo Emily

Today I started a beginner Spanish class sponsored by LAUSD. For $20 I get three months of classes complete with snacks. Today we learned to say what our name was. I feel smarter already.

In addition to language acquisition I get three salary points, which is all I need to get a raise.

For our ice breaker activity we were supposed to say our favorite food so I said "tortas con queso" because that's what I had for lunch so it was the most delicious thing I could think of at the time. In order to learn our names the teacher replaced our last names with the food and that's what we called each other as we learned the three ways to ask someone their name.

So I was "Emily Tortas Con Queso" all night. I probably wouldn't have mentioned the cheese if I'd known everybody was going to have to keep saying it for two hours.

I kind of hope the class moves faster but I'm not sure that's going to happen given that the majority of our class is old fat guys, one forty year old large lesbian gym teacher and the Chinese girl who got really pissed when she couldn't understand why we kept calling her "Jene Tofu".

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Evil pandas are a go

The students are all silently reading their magazines. They are adorable.

Ha! I tricked them into silent reading.

I got a couple of kids who were at a loss as to how to turn an article into a story so I gave them Harold and Kumar. Two stoners go out for burgers. Once you hear that, no idea sounds stupid.

I've been trying for months now to get a student to design a logo for my production company. I'm calling it Bamboo Killers, partly because that's the first script I've been a part of that really has the potential to be something and it was fun to write, but also because I just like the concept and the way it sounds.

I've asked like three boys who were amazing artists if they'd draw me an evil panda destroying a stalk of bamboo. I offered them money and the ability to see their logo on a film, and they were all really enthusiastic and first and never finished.

Well, that's not true. One kid finished the sketch but the panda had one eye bigger than the other so he looked more like whacked out developmentally disabled panda.

Yesterday I noticed one of my kids had spent class drawing the entire Aztec calendar on his hand with an ink pen and still managed to contribute to class discussion, so I asked him to give the old evil panda a whirl. Today he came in with a sketch of an angry muscular panda bear just owning a piece of bamboo. He's really excited about the idea of his logo appearing in film.

He's going to ink it in, then I'm going to ask a friend of mine to photoshop it with lettering so I'll have my logo.

Then I start a website for the production company and I'll eventually move the blog over there. That's all you need right? A logo, and address and a blog? And maybe one day an actual movie? Yep. I'm a producer.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

The story project continues

My junior English students are writing short stories.

First of all, I must take a moment to say how glorious my semester is right now. I have two classes of Contemporary Composition, which is awesome since I've never had the same class twice in one day before and I'm excited to only have one prep. (The other class is yearbook so I do most of the work for that class during class.) And so far both classes are amazingly well behaved. They listen and pay attention, but they also aren't afraid to contribute to the discussion. I had one kid join me for the first time today and he started off giving me attitude but by the end of class he was paying attention and even laughing at my jokes. Putty, I tell you. These children are putty.

I also don't have to share my classroom this semester and I once again have my planning period during both lunches. Seriously, somebody loves me.

Both classes are writing short stories. The lessons have been very cool. I have them read a short story, then we discuss the choices the author made, then I explain how they can use that to make their own choices when they go to write their stories. So in addition to them learning writing skills they're learning how to analyze literature without feeling like it's boring. I'm a genius, I tell you. A genius.

Today I talked about Point of View. We read Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily" and discussed how the story would be different if we shifted the point of view to another character. They really liked that. I don't think they've ever thought about a story that way before.

I just went to the library and collected every magazine we have that came out before November (The librarian wouldn't let me have anything more recent) and tomorrow I'm going to have them sift through the magazines looking for potential story ideas.

Before I do that, though, I'm going to talk to them about how to recognize a story when you see one. I was trying to think of movies that started that way, as someone reading a story in the paper or a magazine and turning it into a script, but I couldn't think of any that weren't major headlines. Obviously something like Munich counts, but I'm thinking more like some small story that may not have been a major newsbreaker, a story that would have gone largely unnoticed had some screenwriter not stumbled on it one day in the doctor's office.

Can anybody think of any examples?

Monday, January 07, 2008

Desperate director seeks editor

A lot of people have been wondering where the hell my movie is. It's been a few months since we shot and I still don't have a rough cut.

It turns out, my editor hasn't touched a frame.

My editor is a lovely person who helped me a heap on the shoot and found me my DP so I owe her a lot, but I sure wish she had told me three months ago that she didn't have time to edit this. In her defense, the DP volunteered her and I didn't realize it but he never asked her if that was okay. And now she doesn't have time. And I'm going to miss a few of the festival deadlines I was hoping to make.

And I need a new editor. A few people have offered to edit this for me but I don't necessarily remember which people those were. I want someone who's a really strong editor, not somebody who puts together little bits on Youtube. This is supposed to be a festival quality short and everybody involved in the shoot was a real professional.

Also, I have no money.

So if any of you fine people edit or know anyone who edits well and wouldn't mind taking a job for the reel please contact me. It's a strong script and I got some really great performances with some nice stuff to choose from and a director who's open minded as hell but has no money.

I don't want to rush the edit, but I'd love to work with someone who had some speed on them too because deadlines are flying past with every day the footage sits uncut.

Also, I'm really polite. I'm a Southern girl so you'll never hear me yell at you. I'll just offer you lemonade.

And even though beggers can't be choosers I'm gonna want to see something you've done just because I blew all my money on this and I want to make sure we're on the same page.

It's about a 14 minute film and the composer is all lined up and twiddling his thumbs waiting for the cut.

So to sum up, I have no money and I need someone who's really talented and works quickly. But it's LA and there's a strike on, so that shouldn't be hard right?

Seriously, help.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

How reality shows are born

I'm getting more cautious about web dates. I recently emailed back and forth with a guy who invited me to a party. Let me describe the party as he described it to me.

He's not Jewish, but it's a Shabbat dinner. He thought it sounded fun to use candles and stuff and eat Jewish food. Mmmmm unleavened bread with gefilte fish. Party food indeed.

Still, it's something unusual and I'm always down for something unusual. But then he explained further.

He's inviting himself, his two roommates and a bunch of girls he met on the web who "sound cool".

Uh huh.

And in order for him to not be a douche and invite a bunch of girls with him being one of the only guys, he's decided it's a "used-to-date" party. I have never heard of this but he talked about it like it was the latest in awesome.

Apparently each girl brings someone she used to date as her guest at the party. Doesn't that sound fun?

Actually the more I think about it the more it sounds like a reality show...

"On guy chooses from an array of girls who are all vying for his affections. The catch? The girls' ex-boyfriends are trying to win them back. Who will choose love? And who will choose familiarity? And who will sit back and stuff her face with knishes? You'll find out this season on Train Wreck Party."

If the thought of actually participating in this didn't horrify me so much I might actually go just to watch what happens, but since I have no desire to drag either of the men I've dated who still live in LA through this poorly thought out concept, I think I'll just wait for the DVD.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

I will fight to the death for the honor of Yearbook

Before I get to the business at hand, the one bedroom apartment right next door is vacant and will be available by the end of the month. It's on the third floor of an awesome building. I have a great landlord who gave me candy for Christmas and I can walk to Larchmont. Plus, there's actually plenty of available parking on the street and one space in the garage. I love my apartment.

So if any of you cats are looking for a place to live email me. I want somebody cool living next door. It would be awesome if it was a writer because if I have an idea I could just yell over to your balcony and we could brainstorm. Also, when my cat climbs over there to see what you're up to it wouldn't freak you out as much as it did the old neighbors when they woke up to find a strange cat sitting in their living room.

I think there's also a two bedroom vacant somewhere in the building.

Now. Yesterday I had to deal out a major conflict resolution in Yearbook. The main group of senior girls have spent months working on a book that follows a pop art theme. The book is full of bright colors and wacky pages and it looks really really cool. It's the most creative book I've yet been a part of and everybody was working and things were going well.

So the new semester began and I got three new students who don't like the pop art theme. And yesterday they decided to tell everybody what they thought. "I think we need to be more traditional," they said. "I don't think this looks very good."

1) It's not finished yet. Nothing looks good until it's finished but you have to look at the potential.
2) You just got here. Shut your pie hole until you know what you're talking about.
3) Our school is three years old and filled with immigrants and the children of immigrants and we're constantly in the news for our crazy behavior. We ain't some 50-year-old private school in a rich, white neighborhood. The traditional theme doesn't fit who we are.
4) We have one month left to finish this book we've been working on since July and you want to change the entire thing?

So I sat the whole class down yesterday and we had a big discussion. I thought we were going to have a major cat fight. "We don't want to change all of it," one girl said, "Just the senior section. We think it should be burgundy because that's our class color." (They decided on their class color three weeks ago.)

Yes. Andy Warhol often worked in burgundy.

So the girl who thinks she knows everything about art wants to take 30 pages of the book and make it burgundy while making the rest of the book bright pink and green. Yeah that will look awesome.

So I had to spend class yesterday holding back the girls who've been working on this idea all year while still pretending I respected the ideas of the new kids as I told them there was no way in hell we're making the changes they want. In the end we compromised. We'll make the seniors wear burgundy shirts in the senior class photo and the new kids will shut up and trust me and their fellow yearbook staff members.

I bet you never thought yearbook was this complicated or important to some people. Oh yes it is. I can't tell you how many shouting matches I've had over yearbooks in the past five years. I once had such a loud argument with the ROTC guy that the teacher next door had to come over and ask us to quiet down. He wanted to design the ROTC page himself and I told him that would not happen until he let me teach his class how to march.

When the yearbook came out he sent me a thank you / apology card.

If I can handle a 50-year-old soldier who has killed people in the Iraqi desert I think I can handle three know-it-all teenage girls.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Young storytellers

Sometimes I get a little bored teaching. After a while of teaching the same stuff and not getting anywhere and feeling like you're wasting my time on some of these kids, it starts to make you a little weary. And I really just want to be home writing.

I decided that this semester I'm going to go with what I know best and feel most confident teaching: creative writing.

I have two sections of Contemporary Composition, which normally I teach by reading some literature and using as a basis for a couple of expository essays. But one of the problems I've faced is that it takes so long to get through the reading material because most of my kids are at an eighth grade reading level that I don't have enough time to get to the writing, which is supposed to be the focus of the class.

But this semester I decided to use only a couple of short stories for examples and focus more on writing. I'm starting with what makes something a story.

In the beginning I was going to make their first assignment an autobiographical story. Then came yesterday, when I had them make up a character and give him goals and obstacles and we created a story. And the story was good. And the kids have fun making it.

And I realized I may have something here.

So today we read "Story of an Hour" and discussed how to develop character without taking up eight pages of description. Now I'm using a character chart I stole from a screenwriter and the kids are making up a character by filling it out.

Then they're going to develop that character into the protagonist for their story that they will write over the next week.

It appears to be working. Granted, right now they look more like they're doing their math homework than having fun making up a person. But that could also be because it's 8:20 in the morning.

For years I've had a dream to teach creative writing to convicts. When I finally get my screenwriting career going and I make good money and have flexible hours, I want to teach a class for prisoners who want to learn to write stories. I'd do it for free and only for prisoners who volunteer for the class and are not rapists or just really creepy.

Since some of my students will likely be prisoners, this is kind of like a dry run.


Just kidding. Most of my students will not be prisoners again. Probably. No, seriously. They're great kids.

Anyway, I don't feel as depressed going to school in the morning these days because I'm teaching what I really love to people who are running with their creative ideas. I look forward to seeing where they go with them.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

The mediocre raid

Know what's a good war movie? The Longest Day. Know what's not? The Great Raid.

Sometimes I review movies made in 2005. Deal with it.

Last night I was scrolling through the movies I've recorded in the past few months and noticed I hadn't watched it yet. It looked interesting. I like James Franco and I've heard lots of positive stuff about him as a person and an actor, and Connie Neilson is always fun to watch. And when you hear the war movie title The Great Raid it kind of sounds like The Great Escape and that was awesome. And the previews all made it look like this action packed midnight battle. So I watched it.

Let's ignore the ridiculous amount of voice over and get to the good stuff.

First, the raid itself doesn't take place until about an hour into the movie, and then only after about ten minutes of looking at some guys in a field waiting, and that only after watching James Franco spend five minutes explaining every detail of the plan so we'll be sure to understand it.

Only here's the thing about that. It took his character so long and so much detail to explain the plan that I tuned out, so by the time the plan went into action I had no idea what was going on. Kind of like anatomy class.

In fact, as I got closer to the actual raid I started fast forwarding. That's bad, when you fast forward through plot to get to the action. That means The Great Raid is kind of like action porn. But even the action wasn't that great.

But all that would be tolerable in a film that had better developed characters. I've always liked James Franco and was really annoyed to see him play this entire film like he was half asleep.

But then I realized it wasn't just him. It was everybody. It felt like the entire cast had been subjected to a craft services lunch of a bag of bagels and a cantaloupe and now they were bored and depressed.

They were all the same sad boring guy. Everybody. They read their lines the same sad way. They shuffled through scenes like they were just struggling to get to the end of their lines. Even their meaningful gazes to camera where a little nonchalant.

So since they didn't much care about their own story, I definitely didn't.

That's got to be the director, right? I mean when every single actor does a crap job it has to be the motivation supplied him by the boss.

He should have gone with a better catering firm.

But when you look at The Longest Day you can really tell the difference between the characters because not only do they have personality quirks, but the actors play each person as if he were real, full of backstory and everything. Because you can write up all those details about a person's history, but nobody will care unless the actor plays that history in his face.

Tomorrow, for a contrast, I think I'll talk about why my mom liked The Kingdom.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

I've got a plan

Went out last night to a karaoke bar with a bunch of guys I just met. I had an absolute blast. It reminded me of high school when I was the only girl in the group, kind of like everybody's sister. I sang "I'm Not Okay" by My Chemical Romance which is my very favorite song. I got a standing ovation from my table, largely because I screamed some of the lyrics at the top of my lungs.


I know it's not cool anymore to make resolutions. People say, oh resolutions are so lame.

Yeah, well, call me lame then. I think it's good to reassess your life once a year and figure out what to focus on.

So for 2008 I have a few plans.

On a screenwriting level:

1) Finish Not Dead Yet. It's taking too long and it's going to be a great example of my best talents when it's finished. My real goal is to make Brett the Zombie Hater read it and tell me how awesome it is and how wrong he is about zombies. Kind like Mikey with Life cereal.

2) Write Fear of Clowns. First I have to come up with an actual plot because all I have right now is a character, a title, and a theme. And three pages.

3) Research and write a script based on something I saw on Human Weapon once. It was a cool ass story so I hope nobody good gets to it first.

4) Get representation. I make this resolution every year, but this year I feel like I'm actually ready for it. This time last year I didn't have zombies watching my back.

5) If there's time I'd like to write a spec Pushing Daisies. TV's become my second priority now, but it's still there.

6) I'd like to shoot the second short in the Bamboo Killers series. It's called The Corner and it's about boxing. It pits Lead Actor against Trainer. Two hot dudes shirtless in a ring beating the crap out of each other. This is why I became a writer.

On a personal level:

1) I really want to work on my uppercuts. I can do lots of great kicks and hooks and double elbows and stuff but my uppercuts stink. I want to hit like Mike Tyson. Okay I probably won't ever hit like Mike Tyson because I'm a lot smaller and not quite as angry, but I'd like to get as close as possible to his level of power in those jaw smashing hits.

2) I know better than to think I'll get organized, but I would like to get my room to a point where I don't have to wade through a pile of dirty clothes on the floor to get to the closet. I'd also like to stop using kitchen space as a place to put all my mail. It's getting harder to find room to cook.

3) I need to get my credit rating back up. I'm taking on a job reading SAT essays and I'm taking a Spanish class starting next week that will not only help me understand my students' parents but will also be enough salary points to bump my pay up another notch. Then I can finally pay bills on time each month without having to juggle.

So that's my plan. Next year I'll have to remember to take a look at this list and see how I did. It would be cool to check off everything on the list, and I think it's doable.

What's your plan?