Friday, January 30, 2009

Which came first?

Last night I talked to a guy who does not like watching movies but he's writing his first screenplay. He decided to watch movies because he's writing one, but he's never really liked most films.

I like this guy. He's pretty cool, but I'm sure most of us can see the problem here. It sort of seems backwards.

This business is not for the faint of heart. This is a long commitment, maybe a lifetime, and you have to really love it to want to struggle through it.

I love movies. Don't you love movies? I could talk for days about film structure and story elements and cinematography and all kinds of stuff.

But then I think back to when I first started and I didn't know anything. I knew I loved movies, but I didn't know why I loved one and not the other. I didn't know what a DP was or why Citizen Kane was so revered or what three-act structure meant. I had to learn all that to truly appreciate it. I had barely seen any films made before 1980 when I started my first screenplay and now I'm obsessed with catching up on the classics. One of the best film I've seen in the past year is M, which is not only old and black and white but in German, for crying out loud. Ten years ago I would rather have eaten worms than watch a movie that old, but with my obsession with screenplays I have grown my appreciation of film.

So maybe this guy isn't totally out of his mind. Maybe he'll develop an appreciation of film as he learns more about what it takes to tell a visual story. I certainly hope so, anyway, or this will be one short screenwriting career.

What do you guys think?

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Thoughts on the film: Taken

I was able to catch a screening of Taken this week. Taken is a film by Luc Besson about a retired CIA "preventer" whatever the fuck that is, whose daughter is kidnapped while she's traipsing around Europe to follow U2 on tour.

First of all, U2? Seriously? Is this the fucking '80s? The girl is 17, not 34. And she dresses like she's 12.

Second order of business: Liam Neeson is supposed to be this badass CIA guy with all these vague and special "skills" that he knows, yet he appears to speak no language other than English. He encounters Albanians, Arabs and tons of French people, and not once does he utter a word in any other language. You expect me to believe a badass CIA guy doesn't even speak French? There is a scene where he pretends to be a detective with the French police to sneak into the bad guy lair and he does so by speaking English with an American accent. And they're all "Okay! We totally believe you, French guy who speaks no French and doesn't even have an accent! We're retarded because we're Albanian!"

I mean Luc Besson is French, for fuck's sake. He couldn't have turned to Liam Neeson, who is European, and said hey buddy, why don't you try a few words in French!

But then later in the movie he pronounced "Saint" incorrectly so I'm guessing his French is horrendous.

Okay on to item 3: Daddy and his daughter. In the first ten minutes, which should have been lopped off the movie in its entirety because it was boring as fuck, Daddy brings his daughter a present. It's her 17th birthday and he got her a karaoke machine. And she loves the karaoke machine. Then her stepdad brings her a pony.

Oh, stepadad upstaged real dad! Conflict!

Except not really. Real dad is totally okay with it and the daughter loves them both so there's never really any conflict. She's like YAY I love you daddy! I love my karaoke machine! And I also love my pony!

And the entire relationship is all hunky dory cheesy happiness. The girls is so cutesy it's disgusting. And even when her dad finds out she's been lying to him about where she's going, there is no confrontation scene between them. Instead he confronts the ex-wife, played by Famke Janssen. So not once is there anything other than lovey-dovey shit between father and daughter.


And then at the end, when he rescues her she's all Thank you I love you daddy!

So yeah. She loved her dad before. Then after he saves her she loves her dad. And aside from being drugged and kidnapped, nothing bad really happened to her. The movie gave me absolutely nothing to think about.


On the upside, Besson does here what he does best - fight scenes. Beefcake and I kept saying "NIIIIIIIICE!" every time Neeson popped somebody. There were some badass fights but it took waaaaaay too long to get to them.

And it doesn't help that the camera work was somewhat lazy. Lots of over-the-shoulders, like a TV episode.

All this from the guy who brought us Leon and The Fifth Element and the first Transporter and Wasabi. I guess that's why I'm so pissed off. I expected better.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


A week ago I thought I was going blind. A pentagon showed up in my left eye and then it grew until it covered the entire thing and it was all wavy. And of course I had a panic attack as I attempted to check WebMD with my partial blindness and it told me I had Glaucoma or possibly a tumor. Then like half an hour later it disappeared.

It turns out it was an ocular migraine and it's perfectly harmless. Who knew?

Anyway, I was running late for my eye doctor appointment so I could make sure I didn't have brain cancer of the eye, so when I got home from work and I realized my power was out, I barely registered the fact before briskly walking up the road to the doctor. Then I went by the pharmacy to do a thing, then I went to the bank to get some quarters because it has been an embarrassingly long time since I had clean pillow cases. By the time I got home it was almost 6.

The power was still out, but the lights in the hall were on. I flipped all the circuits. Nothing. I knocked on my neighbor's door. That place looked like the Lost island when somebody hit one of those bright light switches that make freaky shit happen.

I was about to call the manager when I decided to check with the power company. I hijacked the internet of someone I really hope doesn't know how to use their hijacked signal to steal my personal information and learned that my payment never went through the last time I paid online. I don't know if I forgot to hit submit or if the internet crapped out in the middle of the transaction or what, but the money was never moved.

I should also add that my bill for the past two months was $263. I have a one bedroom apartment and I live there with the cat, who as soon as I leave each day has evidently been turning on every light in the place and running the space heater with the door wide open and the air conditioning on while he played Wii and broiled a turkey in the oven.

They're sending someone out to see if all the equipment is working properly. I'm going to hypothesize that it's not.

The point is, I had no power last night. I realize as I am watching the news that this sounds like a pretty assholey complaint to those living in the powerless storm-ravaged frozen tundra that used to be some states to the east. But since those people don't have power anyway, they won't know to be annoyed with me and my complaints.

Since I called after 5, the crew couldn't turn my power back on until 10am today.

Since my eyes were dilated I couldn't read by candlelight, so thank goodness for Netflix for sending the last disk of 24 season one so I could still watch it on my laptop while huddled in bed with the cat since the apartment got really, really cold with no appliances running.

It was a fun experiment putting makeup on and doing hair by flashlight this morning.

I had to go on a field trip to Glendale Community College - dude, that place is awesome - so I did not get my grades in and I barely had time to get my sub plan done. It was a crazy day.

Now it's time to see if the chicken salad I've had in my refrigerator will kill me. Let's all hope for the best.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Making a new me

Recently an amazing thing happened in my classroom.

Up until last Thursday my third period was a constant source of stress. I have this one girl who we will call Tawanda who has tested me from the moment she arrived. She text messages and talks while I'm talking and complains and makes a big deal about how HARD it is to do an assignment. Wah. And the rest of the class is just lazy. Last semester about 70% of them failed.

So Wednesday I went on this long rant about how they need to care and their future depends on it and blah blah blah. And they were all like "Waaaaaaah but you don't do this and you don't do that and school is just so haaaaaaaaaard!" And Tawanda gave me a dirty look because she is the ringleader of the whiny club.

My shoulders are up around my forehead by now and I'm exhausted every afternoon. Something has got to give.

So I went home and I thought. And I thought. And I thought.

And the next morning I came back with a new seating chart and a new attitude.

After all the initial waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah I hate my new seat! bullcrap, I gave the following speech:

"The new seats are not a punishment. I spent about an hour this morning arranging and rearranging and putting you where I thought you'd have the best chance of improving your grade. Because that's what this is about, your academic achievement. I was about to start calling parents when I realized maybe there was more that I could do to change the attitude in this room before we get the outsiders involved. You guys are always telling me you want me to change things, so today I'm changing things. It starts with new seats. The person you usually sit next to may be a great person and they may be your best friend, but that doesn't mean they're good for your education. So I put each of you next to someone who will be a good influence on your grades.

"But I'm not just asking you to change. I'm changing too. I will grade your papers and get them back to you sooner. I will come in here and listen to you instead of talking at you. I will not roll my eyes, I will be a more positive teacher. And in return, you will all work harder on your own education because I know you want to graduate and leave me and go out and make some money, and it all starts here in this room with a new attitude."

Then I gave them the day's lesson. And they listened and took notes and paid attention. And even Tawanda nodded in agreement with my speech and asked some good questions. And Friday when they didn't do the homework I didn't get mad. They asked if I could read the assignment out loud, so I did. And even this one kid who has never turned in anything all semester - even he did Friday's assignment. And this other kid who's super smart but never does his assignment because he's trying to get revenge on his hyper-critical parents? Not only did he do the assignment, but he walked around and helped other kids do the assignment. I lavished him with praise. I lavished them all with praise.

I graded papers in a timely fashion instead of waiting until the last minute. I made neat, orderly lessons with clear instructions. I stopped grumbling when they don't listen and learned to explain the material again for the 37th time. My new motto in that room is to be quiet and calm and just accept that these will never be the kind of students I want them to be. So I have to learn to adapt to their ways instead.

My shoulders aren't exactly a wave of serenity, but they aren't up around my forehead anymore. I haven't gone home exhausted in three school days. And today when I had the class read Tawanda dove into the book she's been avoiding for weeks. She admitted it turns out to be an easy book and maybe not such a bad one.

Sometimes if things don't work like you want them to, the best thing to change is you.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Thoughts on the film: Pride and Glory

The first time I saw the preview for Pride and Glory I thought oooooh I should see that. Colin Farrel vs Edward Norton. Hell yes.

Then it came out and it disappeared and I didn't even realize it had ever been in theaters. That right there should have been a clue.

This film started out okay. Edward Norton is a cop who uses his excellent Spanish to chase down the killer of four cops in New York. Along the way we learn that it was really Colin Farrel, his cop brother-in-law, who is the cause of the cop killings. We learn this about ten minutes in, so instead of this being a mystery, it's a cop vs cop battle of wits.

Or so I thought. It turned out to be a hot mess.

First of all, for someone who's referred to the entire movie as being the Big Bad, Farrel is barely in this thing. He may have done a week's worth of work. And he speaks to Norton at the very beginning and then at the very end - in between, even when they're at a family gathering together, they don't have a single conversation. Oh wait they have one when Farrel is being evil. So these two guys who are on opposite sides of an investigation have one interaction the entire movie. What the hell kind of conflict is that?


Remember that great scene in Heat when the cop and the robber sit in a diner and talk? Of course you do, it's a classic. Here Norton doesn't believe his brother-in-law is guilty so he just wanders around in disbelief instead of making this the battle-of-wits I expected. Even after it's obvious Farrel is guilty, Norton still defends him. Only in the last ten minutes of the movie does he finally do something, and by then I had lost interest. There was a cool fist fight at least.

On top of that, the cops who were in on the evil dealings sort of implode in an incredibly illogical way. They do the stupidest shit imaginable and look like complete psychos who never should have held a gun. That would be okay if our hero tracked them down and stopped them, but he doesn't. They run themselves into the ground. And I guess that would be okay too if this was a "you reap what you sow" kind of movie, but it's just so disjointed it's difficult to tell what the point is.


I honestly felt like this was a first draft of a screenplay that just sort of fell into production with no revisions. It had all the elements for being a good film but it needed some script changes it never got.

Conflict, conflict, conflict. Your main character has to face your antagonist at some point in the film. I'm sure there are exceptions, but one thing that ruins most movies faster than anything is lack of direct conflict. Those scenes were missing here. It was all woe-is-me-I-fucked-up. Nothing in this movie was I'm-gonna-get-you-motherfucker, which is what it should have been. It was a waste of some good actors.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Oscar time

It's my turn to weigh in on the Oscar picks.

I'm so glad In Bruges was nominated for best screenplay. I will be hoping so hard it wins. I realize it's a long shot, but it makes me happy to know that somebody on that committee recognized the film's genius.

Benjamin Button
and Slumdog Millionaire absolutely deserve to be there. I haven't seen Milk yet or The Reader or Frost/Nixon, but I can't imagine they're all better than The Wrestler or The Dark Knight. Honestly The Wrestler got the shaft in these nominations. Maybe Mickey Rourke can make up for it with a win for Best Actor. Imagine that - the studio didn't want him for this and almost ran with Nicholas Cage, and now this is the movie that may have made Rourke's career.

And as for The Dark Knight - It was a great film. I'm not sure it was the best picture of the year, but it was a great film. I think In Bruges was better. I think The Wrestler and Benjamin Button and Slumdog were better. But it was a good film and the country obviously loved it.

Where is Bruce Springstein? Only three nominations for best song - two from the same film - and they couldn't find room for The Boss? Maybe it's because Beyonce can't sing it at the ceremony.

I wish it was easier to get ahold of the nominated short films. I would very much like to watch them.

The Duchess will win for Best Costume. How do I know? Best Costume ALWAYS goes to a period piece with one exception in recent years: Priscilla Queen of the Desert. But they're all period pieces, you say? Yes, but The Duchess is the MOST periody of the pieces. There were corsets. Corsets = Oscar.

I wish Heath Ledger and Robert Downey Jr weren't in the same category. I would be tickled fucking pink if Tropic Thunder won him an Academy Award for playing a guy who's trying to win an Academy Award. Hell, Heath Ledger won't know if he doesn't win. Give that shit to Downey. He was awesome.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Lost still blows my mind

Lost is back.

Holy crap you guys. I'm not sure how they continue to do it, but last night's season premiere blew me away. At first they were flashing back, then they were flashing forward, now they're just flashing indiscriminately all over the place and it still make sense. Kind of.

And even though a few major questions were answered last night, of course as usual many more questions were raised. But there is so much potential to go on this season it's gonna be awesome.

I don't even care if they know where they're going at this point because I'm just enjoying the ride. Although I do hope they know where they're going. But seriously, I hated the little reminders every commercial break that we were watching Lost because I kept thinking they meant the episode was over and I was like nooooooooooooooo.

I used to spend time wondering what was going to happen next week on Buffy. I spent a summer wondering who was at Veronica Mars' door. And now I spend a week wanting to know what the hell is going on on that island. There aren't a lot of shows that can do that, and there especially aren't a lot of shows that can do that after several seasons.

My only problem - who the hell loads their knives in the dishwasher with the blades up?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The digital age passes us by

Yesterday was one of those moments you needed to be paying attention. You don't get a ton of those. I remember when the Challenger blew up because we were all in class together watching it on TV. I remember when the Rodney King riots happened because I was home eating dinner and watching the news with my parents. I remember when September 11th happened because the kids came in my classroom and told me to turn on the news. And yesterday I made sure my homeroom didn't miss the new president's first speech.

They missed the oath of office because it took place during the exact moment when they changed classes.

We don't have cable or sattelite at our school so I was planning to hook my computer up to the LCD projector. I actually got the Fox News feed okay on my laptop but for some reason the projector absolutely refused to recognize my computer so we had to go bunny ears.

The reception was shit so I put tin foil on top of the antenna. The reception was still bad so on the suggestion of a kid I put styrofoam cups on top of the bunny ears. So right now the TV looks more than a little ridiculous.

It's great that we're all going digital, but this digital thing is going to leave a few of us behind. Come February, the entire student body at our school will no longer be able to witness historical moments live. Very few teachers have a projector - I only have access to one because the office forgot where it was, so the teacher next door and I share it secretly (not Journalism Teacher). We use it a lot, so it's not like we're just hording for the sake of it. Plus I'm not entirely sure the majority of teachers in this school even know how to use it.

Anyway, when the air antenna is gone, so is our access to instant news. We can watch DVDs and we can huddle around my computer or I can coax the projector into being a little less prudish with its connections, but most of the school will remain oblivious. And we're not the only school with this problem.

Some teachers didn't even try. Teachers without TVs just shrugged their shoulders instead of bringing the kids into another teacher's room to watch. Some teachers with TVs made their homerooms do worksheets instead of watching. I made my watch. Some of them wanted to play Uno but I told them to sit down and stare at the television, dammit. A few years from now when their kids are in school and they come home and ask what it was like when the awesomest man alive was elected president, I don't want them to say "I don't know, son. I was more worried about getting stuck with that Wild Card."

Come February that's going to be the norm I guess. I hope nothing important happens.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Today is inauguration day

And this is all I have to say on the subject:

Monday, January 19, 2009

Thoughts on the film: Slumdog Millionaire. Or, why I am in love with Danny Boyle

I always liked Danny Boyle, but with Slumdog Millionaire I need to make it official. He is in my mind one of the best directors out there right now. I mean just look at his record. Trainspotting, Shallow Grave, 28 Days Later, Millions, Sunshine, and now Slumdog. When your weakest film is The Beach and you've got that many winners, you've done something right.

For one thing, look at his range. Heroine addicts, zombies, kids and coming of age, a mystery on a spaceship, a romance revolving around a victory in Indian Who Wants to be a Millionaire. All completely different stories, and all brilliantly told.

I think the key here is that he chooses projects with small stories inside big stories. The kid in Slumdog becomes the hope of a nation, but it was always just about the girl. Zombies take over London and the end of humanity may be near, but one guy just wants to get to safety and maybe bang this chick he's hanging out with. The crew of a spaceship needs to get to the sun to save the planet, but first each one needs to conquer his or her fear of death. Small stories, big consequences.

Danny Boyle also wastes no time. One early scene in Slumdog shows a bunch of kids running through the ghetto to escape some bad men. As they run we see where they live in little glimpses. The kids do things to show personality - throwing rocks at the men who chase them and at one point stopping to mock the man right behind them. So we see the world, learn who they are as people, and at one point briefly encounter a character we see again much later and in a much more important setting. So in that one little run through the neighborhood the entire world is established, but in an entertaining way.

The story itself is about love and righteousness and greed and self sacrifice and honesty. It all falls together in what is simply a beautiful film. And what a creative way to tell a story. I think I want to read the book now.

At this point I think I'll just go see any movie Danny Boyle makes even if it's a movie about tranny mob hitmen who want to become Playboy models. He could make that work.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Thoughts on the film: Gran Torino

I saw this movie one time where a cranky old man who was miserable and hated everybody learned to love again thanks to his efforts to save a young boy in need of guidance. It was called Bad Santa and it was awesome.

Gran Torino, you are no Bad Santa.

I love Clint Eastwood. He's done some incredible work in the past and he's always fun to watch on screen, and when I was looking for a director to emulate on my first time out, he was the one I chose. But that doesn't mean that Gran Torino is a good film.

Aside from being incredibly on-the-nose, it's simply not believable. The whole plot spins on the premise that these Korean American guys who all live in the same house and ride in the same car desperately want this one boy to join their tiny gang. But there's never really an explanation as to why, they just do.

In reality if you don't want to join a gang, guess what? You don't join a gang. They might still rob you and they might beat you up if you get in their way, but gang members don't force you into their club if you don't want to be there.

On top of that, Eastwood's old man character, Walt, suddenly decides to take this Korean kid under his wing and teach him to be a man. Why? Because the kid did some chores at his house. Walt doesn't have a close relationship with his own sons, but somehow when this Korean kid cleans his gutters, magic happens.

Everything in this film feels forced. It's like the idea was, hey let's put an ornery old Clint Eastwood in a position where he can save a helpless Korean boy. Now how can we make sure that happens? I don't feel like the theme came from the story, I feel like the story was created to force the theme. And Bee Vang, the Korean kid, is not very talented in his first acting role. He overacts the entire film.

I honestly cannot understand why this film has gotten so many positive reviews. Quite frankly I think it's terrible. The pace is slow, the dialogue is strained, the racial issues are way too obvious.

I will give it one credit. It succeeds as a comedy. The jokes are good and I laughed several times because Clint knows how to play up the ornery old man persona he's been perfecting for the last couple of decades. But a few good jokes don't make up for a weak story.

There are a lot of similar elements to this film in Fear of Clowns, and the one thing I'm the most afraid of with my script is that it will be too on the nose and unrealistic. So I have to do some serious thinking about where I want to go with this script to avoid the mistakes in Gran Torino.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

On the cutting room couch

Okay after I finally got my computer problems squared away I went through all my footage and labeled it and moved it into different files so I could begin to make a video for my actors.

I learned some things.

1) Ex Writing Partner is not a very good actor. I thought he was at the time, mostly because he kept talking about how great he was and he got some lead role in a shitty horror movie in Kentucky so I gave him the part. Hell he wrote the damn part, I figured he'd be perfect for it. But he anticipates everything. Lead Actor's character, Billy, constantly threatens or throws things at Ex Writing Partner's face. Every single time, Ex Writing Partner cringes before the threat appears. You can't go directly to him in ANY take because he always makes a scrunchy face in preparation of the hit. And there are a lot of hits because this is a film largely about what a wussy face his character is.

2) I wish I'd done more with one of my characters. I feel like the character Sheila doesn't have enough depth. It's not the actress' fault, it's mine for not giving her some more surprising personality traits.

3) I need to say "action" louder. I like Clint Eastwood's method of being gentle, but I realized when I was trying to cut footage together that when you quietly say "action" it's harder for the editor to know when to set the start point for the clip. Or at least it was for me. Plus it really doesn't make sense to be all quiet and sensitive when the scene is two guys slapping each other.

4) Every goofy mistake is one more scene I have to label and more space to take up on my hard drive. That said, It was pretty funny watching my leads dry hump on my couch. The scene where we looked at the ceiling for four minutes, not so much.

5) The labels on my scenes make it look like I'm making a porn movie. "Close up on the pussy," "Eric's penis," "Let's fuck on this table." Yet there is no nudity in the film.

I'm going to try to cut some kind of amusing mock up. Perhaps a blooper reel. So far, though, all I've done is connect a series of shots of Sheila for her reel and I still managed to fuck that up by leaving a giant black hole in the middle.

I don't think I have a future as a professional editor.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

24: Revenge of the Codec

I used to have a massive head of thick, blond hair. Then I tore it all out in the last 24 hours.

See, the footage for Game Night was exported directly from the camera into a Mac with Final Cut. Then it was put onto disks and sent to me, at which point I handed them to Editor, who imported them directly into his Mac in Final Cut. Then he put all the footage on my hard drive and handed it to me, where I attempted to open it in Adobe Premiere on my PC.

Yesterday I didn't know what a codec was. Now the word "codec" has pushed out every other thought I ever had. What are zombies? Are they some form of codec?

After a friend confirmed that the files operate fine on a Mac, I knew it was a hardware issue, apparently a missing codec, which is some kind of thing used to do some kind of other thing. Something about videos and languages and whatnot. I dunno, but apparently the codec is the single most vital piece of software to come along since the squiggly lines that tell you when you misspelled words.

I even made it so the kids were working at their desks all day so I could figure this out while they drew up character sketches and took periodic assessments. When I say this is all I've thought about today, I mean the only time I wasn't thinking of codecs was the hour I was running suicides on the roof of the parking deck at the gym with Trainer. I've never felt so happy to be running suicides.

So finally I found that there is only one codec that will render Mac files viewable in Quick Time or Premiere and it cost $95. They're having a sale on it though. $23 off. Weeeee.

Just now I transferred one of the disks to my hard drive because - well, in the process of trying to fix the whole thing I kind of fucked up my files and had to reload them - and I was watching season 1 of 24, which is AWESOME and also much slower paced than the current season, and I suddenly looked over and realized it was past my bedtime.

Jack Bauer's 24: saving Pre-President Palmer from certain doom. My 24: Codecs. It was kind of like 24 from Chloe's perspective if she never got shot at or gassed or watched anybody die or had to quit her job in the middle of the day on principle or if she didn't actually know that much about computers. But otherwise it was just like that.

Anyway, the good news is I've figured it out and tomorrow I will finally, FINALLY be able to cut my own footage.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Bad Girl

Today classes ended early so we could do professional development. Last time we did professional development it was Socratic seminar and I like the guy teaching so I paid attention and got something out of it. This time, I missed the sign up so the administrator in charge of scheduling put me in Classroom Management.

I have like zero classroom management problems. I am a master at classroom management. Other teachers ask me for advice on Classroom Management. So as you can imagine, I was not looking forward to this experience.

So I went in and sat at the back and right as I was sitting down the dude running the seminar told me to move up front and sit with this other dude so I could be his partner. I pulled out my laptop and began working quietly on my screenplay.

I've gotten some new notes that make me feel more optimistic because I feel like this is an attainable task and it will make my script stronger. I'm to take the protagonist and focus on her internal conflict as I rework only the first ten pages. Sounds like a perfect task to complete while I'm avoiding boredom in the Classroom Management workshop.

So I worked on the script and got a lot done. I stopped to do a stupid ice breaker activity - my partner insisted on sharing out, too, which annoyed me. I really didn't mean for the entire class to know that I don't drink milk - and then I went back to what I was doing. And every time we were told to do an assignment I did it, then went back to typing.

The dude's wife was also instructing us - mind you, neither of these two has been in a classroom for a decade and the man was barely in it at all - and he came over and made some indecipherable pantomime.

"Excuse me?" I said.

He did the same pantomime and mouthed something.

"What?" I said louder.

"Close your laptop," he said.

I wanted to remind him that I am an adult, but I shut my laptop loudly and pulled out a pen and paper, where I began to work on backstory for my male lead. This was pretty terrific because I only had one piece of paper and lots of time to kill so I wrote really tiny and filled up the paper. Lots of good stuff came out of me in my effort to avoid paying attention.

Some time went by. I did another activity with my partner, then resumed my writing. I doubt anybody in the room even noticed what I was doing, and I was in no way disturbing the class. Plus, they were boring.

Dude's wife came over and observed me for a minute, I guess thinking that since she was sitting right next to me I would pretend to care. I did not. She leaned over and whispered that she'd like to speak to me outside. So we went into the hall.

"What you're doing is clearly very important, can you do it somewhere else?"

"I'm here because I'm getting paid," I said.

"You clearly don't care about this."

"Look, I missed the sign up so somebody threw me in here. I'm not a new teacher and I don't have any classroom management problems. I'm bored."

"Oh. Well I understand that, but you clearly don't care about this so I was wondering if there was somewhere else you could be doing whatever you're doing."

I walked back into the room, packed my shit, and left and hour early. I drove to Burbank where I picked up my footage from Editor as we buried the hatched and came to an understanding. Now that I have my original footage back he can still work on the short while I get the footage to my actors and have something to play with in my ongoing effort to learn editing.

I was able to leave work, get the footage, go home and complete my afternoon emails all before I usually get home on weekdays. Because I was bad.

Bad kid 1, Classroom Management People 0.

So in conclusion, Emily at work = big brass testicles. Emily at the grocery store = massive wussyface.

Monday, January 12, 2009

You don't see writers on the best dressed list

I didn't watch the Golden Globes because 24 was on. Who wants to watch the Golden Globes when 24 is on?

First of all, I'm disappointed in the number of explosions in the first two hours. More shit needs to blow up.

Anyway, while I was waiting for the next two hours of 24 to come on I watched two Golden Globe fashion wrap ups, because although I quite enjoy explosions and fist fights, I am also a girl who likes blue bows and organza.

In addition to all the other awesome things about being a professional writer, I love that we are largely anonymous. For the most part, even when we get the bazillion dollar deals, we can still wander about invisible to most of the world. So if I wear something like, say a gold trash bag I forgot to steam *cough* Rachel Griffiths *cough*, nobody will be coughing my name up on their blog the next day. Because we get to go to the parties and we get to wear the fancy dresses but we don't have to be scrutinized on our dress choices. Unless we're Diablo Cody.

I still fit into my prom dress. I'm wearing that shit to the first awards ceremony I get invited to. I dare Lisa Rinna to say something. It's pretty and pink and it's covered in lace.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Neal McDonough is totally stalking me

Neal McDonough lives in my neighborhood.

A little over a year ago one morning I was discussing with Ex Boyfriend how awesome Neal McDonough is. I don't remember how he came up - I was probably explaining something about Band of Brothers. Anyway, I love the guy. He always carries a lot of poised and intelligence mixed with a tough guy exterior, which is my favorite kind of person in the whole world. Even when he's in things that suck, which is kind of a lot, he does not suck.

So anyway, a little over a year ago I had a conversation with Ex Boyfriend about the level of Neal McDonough's awesomeness. Then, not an hour later as we walked through the parking lot that is the Larchmont farmer's market, WHO THE FUCK DO WE SEE?

That's right. Neal Fucking McDonough. He was blocking traffic with a baby carriage so he could talk to a bunch of screenwriters who he kept saying very loudly were all screenwriters.

I stood there, supposedly admiring the hummus on the table before me, squealing a bit with joy. Neal McDonough's friend caught me and laughed. I eventually pushed by the baby carriage and went on my merry way, only to walk right past Kevin Weisman like thirty seconds later. I had not been talking about him that morning, but I do own Alias season 2 on DVD so that was cool.

Okay anyway, so just last night Beefcake and I watched the film Traitor, which also stars Neal McDonough. I went on my usual rant about how awesome he is, complete with story about how I saw him a year ago at the farmer's market pushing a baby carriage with a male friend, at which point of course Beefcake said he is gay. because Beefcake thinks everybody's gay. But he told me I should have said something at the farmer's market that day. It's not like he's an A list guy. He's a successful actor, but most people probably don't know him by name so maybe he'd like to be recognized.

So today I rode my bike to Pavillions and WHO THE FUCK DO I SEE WALKING DOWN THE FROZEN PIZZA AISLE?

OMG. Neal McDonough.

I picked up the phone to dial the Beefcake but my phone was dead. I was on my own.

I put stuff in my basket, plotting out what I'd say if I ended up behind him in line.

Then I got my chance. I grabbed my last item and stepped up to the checkout lines and there he was, right at the end of one with a shitload of groceries.

So I stepped up behind him with my basket and stood for a minute while he unloaded his goods.

I leaned forward.

"Do you hate it when people recognize you?" I said.

"Kind of," he replied.

"Oh," I said. "Then I don't recognize you at all. But if I did recognize you, I'd probably think you were awesome."

He smiled.

"Thank you. If you recognized me, I'd be flattered."

We stood for a minute, watching the lady in front of us fiddle with her coupons.

"So are you an actress?" he asked.

"Writer," I said.

"Have anything produced?"

"Not yet. Still trying to break in, I'm afraid. But I'm getting there."

"What are you working on?" he asked.

"Zombie script. But not a horror. A big budget action pic about a family of survivors in a zombie filled world."

"That sounds like something I'd like to read. Can I read it?"

"Of course! Hell, you'd be absolutely perfect for the lead."

He wrote something on the back of a business card and handed it to me.

"Here. Send it to my agent. His email's on the back."


Actually I just got in the line next to him, occasionally spotting his unkempt blond hair over the rack of gum between us. He had a shitload of groceries and I was not going to wait in line for that.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Spinning my wheels

24 is back on Sunday. The commercial has lots of explosions and a cool song so you know it's gonna be awesome. Don't forget to set your Tivo. So there's that.

Welcome to today's pity party. I'm super optimistic. I'm a person other people call when they feel bad because they know I'll find the silver lining somewhere. But I think in order to not explode I occasionally have to renorm. So a couple of times a year I am overwhelmed with crippling depression. Right now people are dying in Gaza and America has 7% unemployment and I'm teaching Holocaust literature, so it feels like as good a time as any to let the sad run rampant.

I spent the last two days seriously reassessing myself as a writer. I made a short film like thirty years ago and it's still not finished because the editor is... well I don't know what's going on there. I finally said that if he couldn't get the job done, just give it back to me and I'll finish it, but he won't have that. So I said, well at least let me come over and get some of the footage so I can send it to my actors for their reels so they don't stab me to death, but he won't have that either. On top of that he says he thinks it needs some changes because he showed 8 minutes of a 12 minute film to some buddies and they didn't get the surprise ending. And the sound guy he said could help us with the audio adjustments? He got laid off.

At this point I just want my footage back. I have a couple of friends who are professional editors who I didn't know a year ago and they would gladly help me finish this thing myself. I'm thinking if I offer this guy some money maybe he'll let me have my footage back.

Don't get me wrong, the guy's good at editing, but come on.

In the meantime, I'm getting to that frustration point in the overall process of the writing career.

You and me both, I know.

I've been writing stories since I was nine years old. I started thinking about writing as a serious venture in seventh grade when I won a contest with a sob story about how much my dad sucks. I got a masters degree in creative writing and I teach creative writing as part of my job.

Yet here I am, decades down the line, still unable to write one single script that can compete in the market.

I should have been a plumber. That Joe guy got a reporting job out of it. Next year he'll probably get his memoirs published, then somebody's going to buy his life rights and make a movie called Leaky Pipes and it's going to make a bazillion dollars.

Are you frustrated? Because I'm hella frustrated right now. It feels a bit like I've been spinning my wheels. Notes and more notes and more notes on into oblivion. I mean I know I said I love zombies, but I was kidding about wanting to write this script until the day I die. I'd actually like to finish this and write something else. But I refuse to walk away from this script until it's good, even if that means I'll be at this in fifteen years.

Actually if I'm still working on this script as a spec in fifteen years, somebody stab me.

I guess if you're going to be out here you've got to have supreme confidence that victory is just around the corner. One more edit, one more party, one more try. Then I can quit my day job.

So here we go. One more edit.

Okay, pity party over.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

We the People

I was working on some stuff last night and flipped the channels to see what was up and came across the People's Choice Awards. I've never watched it before. Is it always like this?

I guess, what I'm saying is, I think I understand Hollywood executives now. They must watch this awards show.

All the celebrities are like "OMG I'm with the people! Look at the PEOPLE! There's some seat fillers - they're PEOPLE too! Here's some PEOPLE who are sitting outside in the cold next to me in my spaghetti strap dress and they can't get in! They're PEOPLE TOO! HAHA look at me improv because this is a craaaaaaaazy show because it's for the PEOPLE! Look at those stupid PEOPLE. They think 27 Dresses was the best comedy of the year! Because they're PEOPLE!"

It was like a night when celebrities pretend they like people who aren't celebrities. Because they're PEOPLE.

Seriously though, at one point all the seat fillers didn't get the hell out of the way in time for them to cut back from commercial and Queen Latifah, who was the host, told them all to get out of the way. Then she looked at the camera and said something to the extent of "I mean, take all the time you need because you're my PEOPLE! People can sit wherever they want because this is their show!"

It's about the PEOPLE, people. The little people. Don't you feel special?

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Leverage: a few episodes later

I like Leverage. It has explosions. And Christian Kane. And I have to say, every episode so far has been better than the previous episode. And even better, John Rogers posts a behind the scenes entry on his blog with every episode, even answering questions posed in the comments. His staff also contributes regularly.

At first I thought this show was too saccharine, but I've really started to enjoy it. I don't know if it's getting less saccharine or if I'm just embracing the goodness.

I know I've sort of dropped out of the TV writing thing. Pushing Daisies' demise killed the last idea I had for a spec, but I still watch a shitload and I still analyze every minute of it, and somewhere, someday, I'll write my pilot. And when it gets produced and makes a million billion dollars, I hope I have explosions and Christian Kane. And people asking me questions I'm willing to answer.

I also like Aldis Hodge because he's cute and is from North Carolina.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Dr. Emily

First day back from vacation was a doozy. I moved into the classroom that was recently occupied by Journalism Teacher. She left me with tagging on every single desk and four computers infected with a combined total of 2,343 viruses.

That is not an exaggeration.

So between three straight hours of talking to my new classes (who are terrific so far) and accidentally pouring my entire lunch onto my pants I spent any spare time hopping from PC to PC cleaning up the infected software. And every time I thought I cleaned it, another virus would pop up to take its place.

Some time this week I'll probably get the computers clean. Then I'll go on vacation and she'll come back in the room and her kids will go back on Myspace and when I move back into the classroom I'll spend my first day cleaning another 2,343 viruses off the computers.

So just to remind everybody out there who may not be a computer whiz, clean your shit regularly. On any given day your computer could contract dozens of viruses if it's not protected. And if you ever download porn - get ready for some sexy PC Pneumonia.

You do not want your computer eating your screenplay because some jackass uploaded 3tetikgbkb++.exe onto your hard drive.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Thoughts on Benjamin Button, Johnny Quest and Felon

The Beefcake and I went to see Benjamin Button finally. Holy frijoles, what a brilliant piece of film. I have the bladder or a tiny little bird, yet after drinking a large limeade at the taco stand, I didn't have to pee once during the 3 hour movie. That's how good it is.

I cried so hard I started hyperventilating, but silently because you can't be wailing at the top of your lungs in the middle of a sold out theater. But the lady next to me was totally crying too, and the Beefcake - well the Beefcake is just too manly to cry. He had some allergies or something.

Lots of stuff has already been said about Benjamin Button, but I just wanted to point out one thing that made it work so well: theme. Every single moment of this film was reflective of the theme of age and time. It was about opportunities lost and won, chances taken and not, fear that we've missed our lives, fear of death. It all goes back to watching time pass and there is not a frame of film that doesn't explore the idea of time slipping away in one way or the other. I don't think I've ever seen a film so steeped in theme before. Yet it's not preachy. Nobody ever turns to the camera and says, "Hey you, don't waste your time." It's all implied, and implied beautifully.

I also read the screenplay for Johnny Quest this weekend. It was on the Black List, but I found it kind of a generic script. Dan Mazeau wrote some terrific action scenes that race all over the world as the characters collect each other and investigate the great mystery at hand.

The problem with the script is that the action scenes are all it has going for it. The script felt like it was jumping from one badass sequence to the next and paying lip service to the plot just enough to get us to the next kickass fight. I know this problem. I've had this problem many times, but nobody has paid me a bazillion dollars to do that in an adaptation of a loved cartoon.

As a result of this shell of a story, I didn't feel like I got to know the characters very well. They seemed pretty uncomplicated. I actually think this could easily have been an extended episode of the show, not a feature length film.

I also watched the film Felon, a straight to DVD movie starring Stephen Dorf and Val Kilmer and Harold Perrineau. According to the prison guard I watched it with, it's the most accurate prison movie he's seen so far in his life. It won't win any Oscars, but the film does a terrific job of letting us sympathize with the bad guy. We don't like what he does, but we understand why he does it and that's enough to make this an engaging film.

So there you go. One for the theater, one for the DVD player, one to maybe not read.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Don't get married on TV

I love watching wedding shows. Perhaps it's my sense of Schadenfreude, but I love when it's pretty obvious these two people should not be legally binding their lives in any way whatsoever, much less in an expensive, televised ceremony.

There was this one episode of Rich Bride, Poor Bride where this dude who was clearly gay took over planning for the entire thing, even to the point where he sketched out what he thought her dress should look like. In the interview a few months after the wedding it was pretty clear the bride had just given up and started comforting herself with food. On another episode the groom tried to join the bridal party to pick out the wedding dress because he was convinced she would spend too much money on a dress and he wanted budget approval. He also decided they should only spend $200 on a cake for 240 people.

Then there's Bridezillas. Those ladies are nuts. Sometimes you can just see how miserable the men are since they stopped fighting and learned to do as they're told.

So aside from stoking my fear of commitment, these shows also do an excellent job of how to show, not tell. "I love him!" they all say as they proceed to suck the life out of the man. "I want to be with her forever!" he says as he tells her she's ungrateful if she decides to leave the kitchen. It's what we do, not what we say, that tells people who we really are.

The most depressing was probably the time the girl obviously wanted the man for his massive amount of money. When he took her to a fancy dinner out and showed her the beautiful platinum band he'd bought for her wedding ring, she threw it at him and called him an idiot for not buying her diamonds.

After she walked out of the restaurant, leaving him with the bill and her rejected ring, he turned to the camera and said through his fallen face, "It's better than being alone for the rest of your life."


Wedding shows are a good way to analyze the human condition, I think. And sometimes you can get actual wedding tips too. But mostly you can watch people spend a fortune to prepare for their future divorce.