Thursday, August 28, 2008

The last day

It's the last day of school before my eight week vacation. I'm done grading papers and all I have left to do is clean the room. Fortunately I have a student worker who has to do whatever I tell him to so I'm going to make him move things around and carry heavy stuff.

For my Contemporary Composition class their final project was to write a short story about anything they want. We've spent all semester talking about story structure and character development so for many of them this was an easy project.

When I told them to torture their characters they were really listening. We've got rape and violence and really sad families all over these stories. I'm hoping to God they aren't based on truth.

One problem I keep encountering is the tendency to write as much as six pages of story in ONE paragraph. And since there are a few language issues and some grammar problems, a few of these one paragraph wonders are a giant headache to read. But plotwise, the kids did a really great job. Two of them could even go on to write for real I think.

Except this one girl whose entire paper was the plot to Cellular. Who on earth would pick that movie to plagiarize? I guess she thought it was so terrible I wouldn't have seen it. Oh, no, young bucky. I've seen lots of bad movies.

I liked Phone Booth, for the record. But not Cellular.

Anyway, Dell still won't give me my power cord so 1) Although I love the computer I will NEVER buy one from Dell ever again and 2) I can't work on my screenplay until I get the problem fixed and since I'm going on vacation it's going to make me very, very angry very soon.

I'll be gone on a trip this weekend. I hope for all our sakes the power cord is waiting for me when I get back.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Vacation is coming

Day 6 without my laptop. I feel dehydrated. I don't know if I'm going to survive, but I just keep thinking about all that sweet, sweet electricity I'll be able to use if only I can wait one more day. But then one more day turns into yet another day and there is still no sign of the Mail Man. How much longer do I have to wait? I never knew when I started this journey just how difficult it would be. I hope I can hold out to the end.

In the meantime, today's a pretty sweet day at work. You know how people who work in big offices get retreats and stuff? Yeah we get a three hour retreat today. It's health day! There are all these classes to choose from - yoga, ballroom dancing, nutrition, weight lifting, child care, etc. I'm doing the nutrition class and the massage/manicure class. It's called "Self Care" and just about the entire faculty signed up for it so we'll all be in there together getting our nails done and our backs rubbed. I'm going to call all the dudes in there gay.

I have three more days before vacation. Yay! I'm completely exhausted so vacation is like a lifeline for my spirit.

One of the things I'm going to do this vacation is plan for the Maltese Falcon thing. We've been ordered to teach The Maltese Falcon to our 11th graders. Now, I probably would have chosen to join this program anyway, but I take major issue with the fact that we've been FORCED to teach it. One of my biggest problem with LAUSD is how little autonomy we're given in the classroom. They tell us what to teach and how. Almost every lesson is pre-written, which is terrific for new teachers with no imagination, not so great for anyone who has ideas of their own.

So being required to teach The Maltese Falcon is seriously pissing some people off. I agree with them, but I'm still kind of excited about teaching it. I would have volunteered to teach this anyway because it comes with field trips and stuff. We're going to take a tour bus around LA and visit sites from the novel, and we're going to a screening of the film at one of the major theaters. You can sure as hell count me in on that shit. Plus an opportunity to explain film noir? Hell yeah.

But first I have to read the book, so that's item #1 for vacation. I hope it's good because I already got the kids all jazzed about it.

Friday, August 22, 2008

My semi annual rant about Stargate Atlantis

Dammit, Stargate Atlantis!

Okay I'll have to be quick because the laptop's going to burn out shortly.


Stargate Atlantis always has fantastic ideas and lackluster follow through.

For example, this week's episode.

What is the one thing Rodney McKay is most afraid of? Being stupid. So this week they took his brain away. Know how I know he got stupid? Because he made video tapes where he sat in a room getting stupider. He talked about being stupid.


There's a scene where Rodney talks to John about how Zelenka needed his help figuring something out but Rodney didn't know how to do it and he felt so stupid. Yeah, you know what would have cost exactly the same amount of money to film? Rodney actually failing to fix the device and feeling useless and stupid and frustrated as a result. We could have seen how upset he got when he tried and tried and failed. And our hearts would break.

Instead he just acts more mentally retarded every moment without any outside force. He's not trying to DO anything, he's just getting generally slower.

And in the end he helped solve the problem by temporarily getting his brain back. It was a wasted opportunity. Zelenka is always a reluctant second fiddle to Rodney and they both know it. What if Zelenka decided he was going to figure out how to save him but then he couldn't? I can just see the scene where Zelenka breaks down, apologizing to Rodney over and over for the fact that he's not smart enough to save him.

But nope. They took the less interesting route of throwing the main cast members in a cave with some Ancient technology, the way they always do.

Come on. It was a terrific idea. In fact, that's what keeps me watching the show - all those terrific ideas. But it just seems like week after week what started as the perfect scenario becomes a series of expository scenes that stay on the easy side of story.

I mean, for crying out loud, Rodney used to be in love with Sam, and then she became his boss. And now she's gone and they never even had an episode where it was an issue. And last week when a crazy deadly virus spread throughout the city, new mom Teyla never stopped to worry that her baby would get the virus. That could have been an interesting scene. Just think how crazy a new mother can be in the face of a danger to her baby.

Missed opportunity after missed opportunity.


I'll be seeing you

The power cable on my laptop died and Dell support is for shit so I am unable to access my computer for a few days. I can use my computer at work but about half the Internet is blocked by Websense and I have an old laptop at home, but the fan is burned out so it dies after 15 minutes of usage. Sometimes I can make it stay alive longer if I pick it up and blow air on it.

Suffice it to say I will be doing no serious writing or blogging for the next five days or so, which is how long it will take a new power cable to get here since I had to pay for it myself even though my computer is still under warranty. Because Dell customer service is for shit.

And I know you will all be sad to learn that I cannot access my vast collection of cat pictures either. It's a sad day for me.

I have five more work days until vacation, and then I will be writing like gangbusters. And sleeping.

Yay, vacation.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

I am a something or other

Unk has ordered us all to be completely honest with ourselves and tell the world what we are. "I am a whatever" he calls it. Well, I'm not one to back down from a challenge so here it is.


My biological father is something of a sociopath. The only reason he's not a mass murderer is because he doesn't see the point. So he really has no use for his kids. I spent so much of my childhood trying to figure out how to be prettier, smarter, funnier, more interesting so I could make him love me. Know what? He won't ever love me, no matter how perfect I am.

My Mom and Stepdad fought a lot when I was a kid, mostly over something I'd done wrong, so I tried to make better grades and I didn't cuss (I KNOW) or drink or do drugs or go to parties or have sex with boys so I'd be perfect and they'd stop fighting. But you know what? They weren't fighting over me. They were fighting over me to avoid admitting that they weren't happy with each other. As soon as I left for college they started admitting the real problem, and then they resolved it and now there's love in that house.

So maybe I used to be obsessed with perfection but I'm not anymore. So that's not what I am.

Okay, let's try this again.


My family on both sides is mostly British and British people don't really expose their vulnerabilities. We didn't hug much growing up; in fact, yesterday Best Friend said I'm the only friend she doesn't hug. When new people reach for a big bear hug I drop like a limp rag because I don't like being touched unless I'm comfortable. Some people can hug me. Most of the time when somebody hugs me I tolerate it until they let go.

I don't like to show my emotions either. Stiff upper lip and all that. The other day the Beefcake said something incredibly sweet to me at dinner and I covered my face and made fun of him because everybody was watching and you can't show that something sappy moves you while everybody's watching. So I hide my emotions.

Stepdad used to yell a lot but I wasn't allowed to cry and I wasn't allowed to be angry so I practiced looking numb. In my head I was stabbing him with the butcher knife, but my face was a vacant stare. I can pretend to feel nothing.

But you know, I love my kids at school. And I if you catch me alone I'm brutally honest about most things. And just because I don't show my emotions much, doesn't mean I don't have them. Once I feel safe around you we can hug and talk and I'll tell you what I feel all the time. So I'm not really a cold fish after all, I don't think.

Let me try that again.


I got that from my dad. I can walk into any room, look around and fit right in. What's worse is that I can convince myself that I LOVE football or that I don't mind standing around in a smoke-infested bar listening to The Promise Ring. I can become what I need to be.

Except not really. I mean, I was like that when I was younger but now I'm pretty honest about my likes and dislikes. I still fit in places, but I don't really fake it as much as I used to. And if I don't want to go somewhere I just don't go.

So maybe I'm not really a phony at all.

Maybe the problem here is that I keep trying to think of negatives. I've got negatives. I can be phony and I can be a cold fish and I can be obsessed with perfection, but I am none of those things to the extent that it handicaps me because I'm also an OPTIMIST. I see the silver lining in every cloud. But I don't want to put down that I'm an optimist because the purpose of this exercise seems to be to drum up your most negative personality trait and explain it.

But I like me. I had a whole self loathing period two years ago and boy did I wallow, but then I got over it and decided that I'm pretty cool. So stuff doesn't really bother me as much as it used to. I'm not perfect, despite my life long goal to become so, but I'm OKAY. I like waking up as me every day. I guess I always see how things could be worse, and I'm pretty INTUITIVE so I think about how other people feel before I do something assholey. Oh, I can definitely be an ASSHOLE, no doubt, and I'm DEFIANT to a fault which tends to piss off bosses and boyfriends on a regular basis because I refuse to do what I'm told or let someone help me.

But that's all part of me and I don't want to change me. If I wasn't me I'd totally hang out with me.

So I guess, in the end...


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Kill. Kill. Kill.

At the school cooking class last week they made these awesome nectarines filled with amaretti and baked. I thought I could reverse engineer the recipe and make my own because I'm a pretty good cook.

I think I'm gonna be sick now. Note to self - next time ask the damn cooking teacher for the recipe.

While I was making and then eating my unfortunate stuffed nectarines, I watched this week's Eureka. Whoa.


The love triangle has been getting old. This season began with a glimpse of a possible future with Jack and Allison in love and building a family. But that future is not to be, because she's back with her ex Nathan. And in every episode it was becoming kind of a stagnant situation. The only way to push the story forward is for something in that dynamic to change - a new love for Nathan, a new love for Jack, or somebody has to leave. It ain't gonna be Jack.

I can see why they let Nathan go, but I did not see that coming at all. But one of the big challenges is how to let someone like that leave the show. They hinted last year that he might leave and go to another city, but that didn't happen and I'm glad that didn't happen. Because when you're working on a sci fi show where people are constantly getting fried or eaten or obliterated by their own creations, eventually one of the main characters has to get it. You shouldn't waste a good opportunity to kill somebody.

And hell, on a sci fi show you can always make up and excuse to bring them back.

What was great about this particular death is that it genuinely moved me. Nathan pulled a Spock maneuver and was every bit as logical about it. And he went out with a smile. I also liked that these two guys didn't need to say anything - they both understood the score.

When Jack tells Allison what happened, he also needs to say nothing. There's lots of unspoken stuff going on here. I mean, really, considering they were using the oldest sci fi trick in the book - the time loop - they really made it work.


Compare that with Smallville. One thing that always bugged me about the first three seasons of Smallville was that nobody important ever died. They kept almost killing Chloe, but after a while that threat was kind of useless because you knew they wouldn't actually kill off one of their leads.

But then they got rid of Pete. Remember how they got rid of Pete? He mumbled something about his mom and moved to another state.

On a sci-fi show. About Superman. He moved away.

Now I know they're pros and they make a crapload more money than me and I would kill to have their jobs, but I can't help but feel like they wasted a perfectly good opportunity to kill off a major character, which would have showed us what they were willing to do and given Clark a new outlook on mortality and his place in the world.

Joss Whedon killed off one of the leads in the middle of the first season of Angel. After that, all bets were off. You knew anybody was game, and it made the suspenseful moments much more powerful.

You really can't be afraid to kill people if you want to make us feel something. Thanks, Eureka, for continuing to be awesome.

Monday, August 18, 2008

How I spent this weekend this time

I have two weeks until my eight week vacation. I'm going to Big Bear, Vegas, Raleigh and Puerto Rico and I'm going to finish my current script at some point. Plus I'd also like to sleep. I haven't really been sleeping enough and I'm exhausted.

Saturday night I went Marakesh, a Moroccan restaurant in Sherman Oaks where a belly dancer made all the girls from our table get up and dance. She also made the lady from Millionaire Matchmaker dance, so I guess that place is trendy. Millionaire Matchmaker lady was with a young dude who kind of looked like my biological father in his younger days. They were all smoochy. He danced too and I have to admit he could shake it pretty hard, although not as hard as the dude at our table who danced as well. That guy was doing Matrix moves and shit.

Somebody took pictures but I don't have them. I hope they got a good shot of me doing the running man.

I also saw Tropic Thunder. Just as most people have said, it was definitely funny - and I even sat up front because we got there a little late. As has been said, Robert Downey Jr is amazing and I love the mega-blue eyes they gave him. And I don't care about how PC it is, that speech he gives about how and actor should "never go full-on retard" made me laugh and laugh, and still makes me chuckle.

My only complaint about that film is that it kind of switches back and forth a bit between parody film and serious action comedy. Some things seem grounded in reality, and then suddenly something will happen that's so ridiculous it could have been a Leslie Nielson film. But all in all I laughed. I'd also like to give a shout out to Matthew McConaughay who played his part 100% straight. Bravo.

I'm pretty proud of myself because I usually suck at the box office prediction thing, but a month ago I called it that Tropic Thunder would be the first movie to beat The Dark Knight at the box office - not because it's better, but because it's good enough and appeals to a lot of the same crowd and The Dark Knight has been out long enough.

I also predicted TDK would make more money than Titanic. I may have been wrong about that one, but not by much. Everybody thought I was a crazy person.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

An accidental moment

I accidentally stumbled on a brilliant teaching moment today.

I've been teaching my 11th graders the basics of story. Tomorrow they're interviewing a guest speaker so they can learn how to write a biographical article, so I was going over what kind of questions to ask an interviewee.

One of the things kids tend to do is ask really simple questions - Where were you born, how old are you, etc - or really general questions - what's your life like?

So I was trying to show them that you needed to ask the right questions. I asked one of my more obnoxious children, "What's your personality like?"

And he faltered and said, "I'm always happy."

So I said, "Is there a moment in your life that illustrates how you're always happy? A story you could tell that would show us that element of your personality?"

See, I was thinking I'd show how when you ask general questions the interviewee doesn't really know how to answer them.

But the boy threw me a curve ball.

"When my brother died," he said. "I wasn't sad. I didn't cry. I was happy."

We looked at him, silent. His eyes were getting a little red and wet.

"I was happy because he's in a better place."

We stared at him for a minute.

"Wow," I said. "Thank you for sharing that."

Then I turned to the class.

"Do you see the difference? How when he just says he's happy it's not nearly as effective as what he demonstrated when he told us about his brother?"

I got a chorus of emphatic "yesses" including his from all over the room. And for the first time when I had the kids write down the eight questions they plan to ask my guest speaker tomorrow, I had a really good set of lists.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The scariest movie I've ever seen

Yesterday morning I watched Jesus Camp. That may be the scariest film I've ever seen. Fuck a horror movie, this thing didn't need any gore to make me have nightmares.
Jesus Camp, if you haven't already heard about it, is a documentary about the Kids on Fire evangelical camp where a militant Jesus lady trains American kids to be tiny religious warriors.

The Muslims do it, she says, so why shouldn't we?

Up to now the scariest movie I ever saw was Kids. This one has now tied for the lead.

I have nothing against the Christian religion at all. I think all religions have merit, and at its core the benevolence Jesus preached is something we should all emulate. But that ain't what these nutjobs are doing.

There's no voice over or anything. The footage speaks for itself, and I wouldn't be surprised if evangelicals thought it proved their point that they have to fight for their existence just as much as I thought it proved they are the scariest people in the country. That's good documentary, right there. No explanations necessary - just footage of little kids screaming anti-abortion slogans as they fall into a trance over what they think is Jesus love.

Yeah I remember when that happened before. Arthur Miller wrote about it in The Crucible.

So if you're looking for a good horror movie with no gore, Jesus Camp is it.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Tales of the Olympics

The other night in the Olympics the men's swim team won a relay over France by like a split second. I had to go to bed so I missed it, but I already knew what happened because every freaking body was talking about it, including Yahoo who had it on their front page so when I went to check my email - there it was.

Okay look, East Coast. We in California, Oregon and Washington have to wait for that shit. And that incredible moment of suspense was robbed of us by your ignorance of our time zone's difficulties. So stop spoiling shit, okay?

Because Olympics is just one cool story after the other. Like that little kid at the opening ceremonies who rescued other kids from the earthquake because he was the hall monitor and "that was his job."

Or the guy from Togo who beat all odds and expectations to win the bronze medal in white water rafting, or the chick with an amputated foot who still managed to make it to the games.

My favorite story ever you may remember. In Sydney there was a guy from Equatorial New Guinea who was not only not an Olympic level swimmer, but he could barely swim at all. He was swimming in his qualifying heat one early morning with a smattering of people in the crowd and the other two unimpressive swimmers jumped the gun so they were disqualified, which meant he had to swim alone.

So the guy started down the lane okay but gradually started to get slower and slower. And as he came to the middle of the lane it was obvious he was hurting. The people in the audience started to cheer him on. He kept swimming against his body's will. The people began to stand, chanting and yelling. He made it to the end of the lane.

He slowly turned his body and started the long swim back. By now the audience was entirely on its feet hollering, excited. He stalled in the middle of the lane and it looked like he wouldn't make it, then he mustered up the energy and pushed his body for one last half a lap. And he made it. And the crowd went wild. It was one of the best things I've ever seen in sports.

Personally I only like watching the sports that come with stories. And I wouldn't be surprised if six months from now we start seeing a bunch of sports script pop up all over town. On the WEST coast.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Eddie Izzard at the Kodak

I saw Eddie Izzard at the Kodak Friday night. He was his usual hilarious self. He actually dressed like a man in jeans and a coat with tails and didn't wear any makeup.

There was this really distracting eyeball that moved around behind him and made it difficult for me to concentrate. That was not helped by the fact that the seats are only comfortable if you're a skinny midget with a large bladder. I honestly have no idea how people in the mezzanine sit through the entire Oscar broadcast without kicking the person in front of them in the head.

I ended up getting lucky that there was nobody sitting directly in front of me at the sold-out show - so somebody lost $60. But their absence allowed me to put my feet up for a few minutes when the discomfort got extreme. Officer Beefcake, who is considerably larger, was so uncomfortable I thought he was going to start kicking seats out of the way to stretch out his legs.

The show itself was a riot. What Izzard does so well is callbacks. He'll make a joke early on that he keeps finding ways to work in, whether it makes sense in context or not.

Come to think of it, only about 30% of his jokes actually make any sense, but that doesn't stop them all from being funny.

I also noticed he does callbacks to jokes from old shows so there are a few inside jokes for the die-hard fans, of which I am one. The man is so funny that he spent 15 minutes reading Wikipedia entries and still had the place in stitched. You know that old adage about making the phone book interesting? He could do it.

What I love the most is how it feels like a conversation. It seems like he barely plans anything - like he knows sort of a general idea of what he's going to say but had no idea how he's going to say it. That's exactly how I teach so I respect that. It's less "jokey" and more hilarious natural conversation.

So if you ever get a chance to see Eddie Izzard, go. And if it's at the Kodak, spring for the floor seats.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

RIP Bernie

The following things happened in a 24 hour period:

1) The Olympic Opening Ceremonies
2) Russia invaded Georgia (which took a very long time to explain to a room full of teenagers who were alarmed at an American invasion, except for one young man who wasn't that concerned because "Isn't Atlanta really far away?")
3) John Edwards confessed to having an affair
4) A horrible teacher at our school finally lost his shit and punched a female student in the face four times
5) Bernie Mac died

I'll miss Bernie Mac.

Once a few years ago a fellow teacher and one of my favorite people on earth got me watching Bernie Mac. He - a black American - and I had been discussing race on television. He said he didn't have any interest in watching Buffy because there were no black people on the show and so he figured he couldn't relate. This was pre-season seven.

I told him that was funny because I felt the same way about "black" sitcoms. I never saw any white people in the ads except for silly rich people acting all anal and goofy. That didn't interest me at all.

So we made a deal. He'd watch Buffy if I'd watch Bernie Mac. And we did. And we both came back the next day realizing maybe we could relate to shows that didn't necessarily feature members of our own race prominently.

Because Bernie Mac was fucking funny. I'm not married and I don't have kids and I'm not black, but the stuff he did on his show was universal enough to crack me up on a regular basis. He could say a million things with his face, and they were all expressing some form of disappointment in your behavior. I'll miss him.

I won't miss the horrible teacher who will undoubtedly be fired.

Friday, August 08, 2008

My imaginary festival

After Diablo Cody did her whole thing at the New Beverly where she got to have her own weeklong festival, old Lazy Eye decided to challenge the rest of us to plan our own imaginary film festival: two movies a night for a week.

I waited patiently to be tagged but nobody is tagging me so I will have to invite myself to the party.

Here's what I like to call Emily's Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Festival:

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
Three Days of the Condor
I never used to watch old movies. I thought they were boring, but then I suddenly discovered they weren't all about well-dressed socialites sitting around drinking tea when I saw Robert Redford on the run. I love Condor's fight scenes and how this is a guy who doesn't really know how to fight so he has to use his survival skills. These aren't clean martial arts battles.

Once Upon a Time in China
Speaking of clean martial arts battles, I am completely in love with the crazy Chinese flying shit. I waver between House of Flying Daggers and Hero, but I love the way the theme is reflected in every single moment of Hero, right down to the use of color. And Once Upon a Time in China is just badass. The first time I saw that movie I fell totally in love with Jet Li and I will still watch anything he's in, Chinese or American.

Die Hard
Lethal Weapon
Duh. I mean, how can you have an action movie festival without including the two films that sort of defined the genre. These two movies make me cream my pants a little when I watch them on a big screen. I love you, Shane Black!

Galaxy Quest
Space. The awesomest frontier. I gotta show love for Joss and the beautiful pic that is Serenity. And I probably quote from Galaxy Quest three times a day. It's hands down my favorite comedy of all time.

Batman Begins
X Men 2: X Men United
I know we're being a little oversaturated with superheroes these days, but I still love both of these films. To me, X Men 2 is exactly what a superhero movie should be - thematic, fun, moving. The whole scene where that military team busts up into the house and Wolverine goes ape shit is just supercool. And Batman is just so dark and gritty and full of the hotness that is Christian Bale.

The Matrix
Pitch Black
They don't really have a lot in common other than being futuristic action flicks, but these two are at the top for me in all time greats so I'd want to close my week with them both. The Matrix was just so new and different and wall to wall eye candy. And Pitch Black surprised everyone by being about way more than scary monsters in the dark. It's a shame both films had to have sequels, but I still love them for the way they make those action scenes count.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

In loco parentis

This week my life has imitated my art.

A few months - oh, geeze, MONTHS? I need to get to work - ago I was working on Fear of Clowns (formerly Jacking) and I needed a reason for a kid from South Central to walk around a white neighborhood talking to white people in a benign way. So I thought, class project. But what class project would get you to go to a different neighborhood and talk to people? So I thought, petition.

What if the kid's history teacher assigned them a first amendment project where they split into groups and each group practiced one of the five freedoms in the first amendment and his group got petition. Then he would have to go around Los Angeles getting signatures to support his cause to stop the education budget cuts.

Well it just so happens I have persuasive writing as the curriculum this semester in my tenth grade class, so I kept thinking about this petition thing. And last week we started the project.

I assigned one group to petition, one to making a flyer to pass out to the students (freedom of the press) and one to bring our argument to the principal (speech and assembly). Religion was too hard so we'll just have a class discussion on that one.

Anyway, the kids were allowed to choose any topic they wanted that related to school, so they decided they want to get rid of the drab school uniforms they're supposed to wear.

And most of them threw themselves into it. The teachers and administrators were assholes about it - one guy shouted at my kids that the school system pays for them to wear uniforms and they should shut up and do as they're told, one administrator decided the issue was too "devisive" and my students shouldn't be allowed to get anymore signatures. We'd already collected 500 at that point and caused no trouble.

So in the end in one hour my kids collected 637 signatures. That's a lot for one hour. Then yesterday we took our cause to the principal. The kids read their speech, then the Q&A began. They didn't win their case but they did a good job defending it and even though they were sad I was terribly proud of them all.

And now there's talk of what to do next. I told them they did the project and I'm out of it, but now they know how to speak up and demand what they want, so if they want to take the argument to the parents - which was the principal's suggestion - they can. And several of them plan to.

So that was pretty cool. My screenplay gave me an awesome two weeks of lesson plans.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

I got a letter

Dear Ms. Blake,

As they return scripts week by week, Nicholl judges often remarked on the overall quality of competition entries. This abundance of good scripts made for a difficult and exacting selection process. Now, with scores tallied for 5,224 entries, we have to inform too many writers of scripts featuring intriguing stories, distinctive characters and strong craft that they have not advanced into the next round. Regrettably, Not Dead Yet was not one of the 261 entries selected as a Quarterfinalist in the 2008 Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting.

You should realize that while we strive to make the evaluation of screenplays as objective a process as possible, it is inherently both a personal and extremely subjective matter. A lack of success here may not have any bearing on your reception in the marketplace where a sale is the ultimate measure of success. I’ll even venture a prediction: several non-advancing writers will become professional screenwriters in the near future.

To tell you a little bit about the process: each script was read once. After receiving an initial positive evaluation, nearly 2,400 scripts garnered a second read. Just under 700 scripts were read a third time. Each read resulted in a numerical score being awarded. Scores for each entrant’s script were totaled, and the Quarterfinalists were selected on the basis of the highest scores.

Blah blah blah try again next year. This year you sucked donkey balls, you ugly old loser. And you’re fat. And you smell like rotten cheesecake.

Greg Beal
Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

A little speculation on Crossing Over

Just now I was scanning the list of films releasing this month and I came across a new Harrison Ford picture called Crossing Over.

This film has nothing to do with psychic dudes who tell you stuff you already know about your childhood.

It's a film by Wayne Kramer, a South African immigrant who wrote and directed The Cooler (yay) and Running Scared (boo). It appears to be based on a short film he once wrote and directed in 1996. The film is about the experience of immigrants in America, both legal and illegal, and how difficult it is to become a part of the melting pot. It's designed the way Crash is, with several intersecting stories about people on different sides of the issue.

So it's right up my alley. I don't get political about much, but I will fight to the death to defend my kids from the anti-immigration sentiment in this country. A lot of the people who rail against illegal immigrants have never actually spent time with any of them and the issues are never as cut and dry as those Minute Men would have you think.

This is one of the reasons I'm writing Fear of Clowns. I assumed a lot of things about illegal immigrants before I moved to California and I have learned a great deal about my ignorance since I started teaching at a school filled with Mexicans and Salvis. I want to try to write a film that looks at their lives as they actually are, not as some melodramatic tale meant to preach at the audience.

And I liked Crash, but it's a damn preachy movie, and there are some obvious similarities to this film.

I fear this film may turn out to be a similar story and I don't know if I want to watch a film that lectures me for two hours. It's hard to tell though, because there isn't much information out there on this film.

The Weinsteins are involved in this but there's no publicity, no posters, no trailers, no nothing. A movie this political and with this big a cast - Harrison Ford, Sean Penn, Ray Liotta, Ashley Judd - and nothing? I only saw it because I was scrolling through impending releases. I also wonder why the top four actors in a film about immigration are all white Americans - but I'm willing to reserve judgement until I see the film.

I'd love to read the script if I could get ahold of it because I'm terribly curious. I'm not worried it will resemble my own script too much because I'm writing about my kids, but I'd still like to see its potential. I can't even find any reviews anywhere. And that's a bad sign.

Monday, August 04, 2008

$50,000 I won't be getting this year

Oh I am an idiot.

I was getting all my stuff ready for Disney and I neglected one important detail. I've been planning to enter Disney for months and as soon as the application appeared I downloaded it and was like - eh, I have lots of time so I'll start later.

Then I did my resume and wrote this AWESOME biography and agonized over my letter of intent and printed out my script and everything and I was like - OKAY! I'm gonna do well this year!

And then I went to sign the application form and noticed that it was all due on Thursday. And today is Monday.

Because the TV application is due the 8th. The feature application was due the 31st.

So there goes that.

UPDATE: I emailed Nicholl and they said they sent my letter to my address but I still don't have it. So clearly I am cursed.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

I love The Doctor

They must be sending out the Nicholl letters in reverse alphabetical order or something because I haven't gotten mine yet. Everybody and their mom has gotten either a rejection or congratulatory letter but not me, so I still don't know whether I've moved on. I keep coming home and holding my breath as I open my mailbox and then feeling sad when I discover a new stack of credit card applications and Bed Bath and Beyond coupons.


To get my mind off the lack of communication I watched this week's Dr. Who. I know most of the serious TV watchers are all advanced and shit and watch the shows the same time as our British cousins, but I'm at the mercy of the Sci Fi network so I watched the season finale Friday night because I'm a loyal American.

And holy shit. I haven't cried that much at a TV show since Buddy died. I really enjoy Lost and I love Battlestar Galactica and Heroes is awesome and Psych is funny and Pushing Daisies is brilliant and Supernatural makes me giddy but the season finale of Dr. Who proved to me that it's the best show on television in any country. It was beautiful and sad and romantic and heartbreaking and suspenseful and made me want to run away and travel with The Doctor forever.

I literally cut the TV off when it was over and just sat and thought for like 20 minutes. Fucking hell.