Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Treatment: day two

I confess I've never written a treatment before. I've written plenty of synopses, but those are written after the script is finished so all I have to do is tell the story I already wrote. This time I have to do in paragraph form what I normally do while I'm composing the script. Did you know that paragraphs take up less space than screenplay pages? Totally true.

Since what normally takes a page is taking a paragraph, it's difficult to feel like I'm accomplishing anything. It's been a very very long time since I wrote a story in paragraph form and I'm kind of all over the place in figuring out my style. Sometimes I use a colon to introduce dialogue, sometimes standard quotation format, sometimes no quotes at all. I'm hoping that eventually I'll ease into something that fits me.

It's difficult to resist the urge to make every paragraph one sentence long. And I'm starting to see why so many treatments end up so long - it's difficult to leave out most of the dialogue and details when you're used to describing everything that happens on screen. I got one example of a treatment the other day that was 157 pages long. I thought that was nuts, but I can actually see how that can happen. It won't happen to me, but I can see it happening to someone less lazy.

In two days I've inched my way to two pages. At this rate it's going to take me three weeks to write this thing, which is why they pay you so much, I guess. It seems like it should be easy: just write your story in paragraph form, but I'm finding it a much greater challenge than I expected. I like my story and this process is definitely helping me develop it, but it's moving at a very slow pace. I have to keep stopping to think. Thinking sucks. I just want to punch people and get the girl already. Unfortunately the punching people was one paragraph and now I have to spend another paragraph doing boring stuff like character development. My goal for tomorrow is to get to the end of page 3.

Oh wait hold up. I just realized I've been typing in 11 point font. Score. I just got another half a page by switching it to 12. Well I call that a victory for the day.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Treatment: day one

I've finally finished the yearbook and I have another few days before I have to finish my final project for my uber boring University of Phoenix class, so today I finally sat down to work on my treatment for THE JOB that I have been hired to do. I haven't gotten a lot of details yet from the producers, but I got enough out of the meeting to get started on a treatment. I have to go back to work in May so I'm not waiting around for stuff.

Normally when I go to work on a spec I think about it for a few weeks, then write up a sort of stream-of-consciousness outline, then make index cards that I proceed to completely ignore as I immerse myself in the script. That has usually worked very well for me in the past. I've tried to write detailed outlines before but I always end up abandoning them as my characters talk to me.

Yeah I can't do that this time. What I put in the treatment needs to be not only organized and easy to follow, it has to be pretty close to what the first draft will look like. I was given an idea and told to run with, so now that I've run with it I have to tell my employers what I've come up with. I love what I've come up with, but it's a really vague idea in my head.

So today I sat with the laptop in my lap and the specially designed playlist going on my ITunes and opened up my copy of Word and typed in the title of the project and then I sat there.

And sat there.

And then I realized I don't even have a name for my lead. I was told to think of a particular actor they had in mind for this - let's just go with Michael Keaton because he deserves more attention than he's been getting these days. This whole time I've been thinking of this guy as Michael Keaton so as soon as I sat down to my blank page the only name I could think of was Michael Keaton. Thinking of a new name took like ten minutes.

Thinking of names is tough because this is a very manly man in a very manly situation, but his name can't be too over the top. But then I realized that I've got this whole super cool literary reference going on in the story that the producer is going to flip for, so I decided to carry it over by naming my character after a character in the classic story I'm nodding at. Not the protagonist of this classical story mind you, because you never want a reference to be too obvious. Does it annoy anyone else that Hiro on Heroes is named Hiro? Come on.

Anyway, so name selected.

After that crisis I gave him a backstory - not too detailed because I'll do that before I write the actual script, but enough to give him an explanation of why he's in the mess and why he is the way he is. But then I realized that my PG-13 backstory was kind of R rated. This PG-13 shit is going to be tough. I left it as it was because we don't know yet how much that's going to be onscreen, and if I have to constantly worry about ratings I'll never get this thing done. So I'm going to write it the natural way, then go back and edit, then let the producers direct my changes if I've gone too far off the rails.

Thinking about this took a few more minutes. Then I had to add another song to my special playlist. Then I checked to see if anybody had written anything cool on Done Deal. Not really.

I wrote up a bit about the setting of my story. I realized I'm not sure what the body of water is around Alaska so I just said "Off the coast of Alaska" rather than look it up. Then I looked up cars I'm interested in buying.

I summed up some of the other major characters who show up in the beginning. They're easy because I like them.

At this point I have five paragraphs written in an hour and a half. Now I think I'll call it a day and put tonight's dinner in the slow cooker.

Hey look, I'm a writer!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Daily reality

I'm on vacation at the moment, but it's a working vacation. I have had a ton of work to do over my break, so I spend a lot of my time on the couch with my laptop in my lap as I immerse myself in really boring material. I couldn't do it without the wonders of reality television playing steadily in the background. It helps prevent me from getting burned out on my work.

This is also why I just spent three days reordering our garden. I spend most of my week watching TV and working on my computer. Somehow, ripping out weeds and spreading mulch seemed like fun after that, especially since I can see the beautiful results.

Anyhow, these are my five favorite reality shows to watch during the day:

1) Bully Beatdown on MTV2. Jason "Mayhem" Miller finds grown men and women who are the victims of adult bullies who physically and emotionally damage these poor, gentle souls. He then brings in a professional MMA fighter to kick the crap out of these rotten bullies. Two three-minute rounds, one with only ground fighting, and one only on his feet. He starts out with $10,000. Every time he taps or is knocked down, the victims get $1,000 of that money. What I love about this show: It teaches us that no matter what your mom told you, eventually violence does actually solve every problem.

2) Supernanny on Style. At least during the day it's on Style. Jo the polite British nanny comes to your house, teaches you how to manage your unruly kids, and goes home. I like this show because it reminds me about why I don't have kids, while also allowing me to judge people who do.

4) It's Me or the Dog on Animal Planet. Victoria the polite British dog trainer comes to your house, teaches you how to manage your unruly dogs, and goes home. I like this show because it teaches me that my dog is awesome in that she does not eat our furniture or my friends, but also how to keep her heeling on the leash and stuff.

5) Wife Swap on Lifetime. A wife from one extreme kind of family switches places with a wife from an opposite extreme kind of family. Halfway through the exchange, she changes the house rules to make the place more like hers. Chaos ensues because both wives are nutjobs. I like this show because it makes me glad I'm not like those people.

So there you go. My daily shadenfreude.

On a later day I will profess my undying love for Tool Academy, which deserves its own post.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

A writer's MMA primer

I've been kind of enjoying Human Target. I fully expected it to suck at first, but it's kind of engaging. I love Chi McBryde, although I'll always be a little sad his character from Pushing Daisies is gone, and I love Jackie Earl Haley because he was by far the best thing about Watchmen. They're more interesting than Mark Valley, but he does okay. It's a fun show.

So last night's episode was an homage to Bloodsport. It was supposed to be some kind of MMA battle except every fight was a stand-up fight. At one point Chi McBryde's character says to Mark Valley's character something to the effect of "How did you get hit? All that Jujitsu you do."

Not once in this episode did anyone do any Jujitsu. There was one Judo move but everything else was stand-up fighting. I'm sure the fight coordinator knew the difference, but it was clear that the writers did not.

Granted, it wasn't taking place in an octagon, but they definitely meant it to be an MMA style tournament.

MMA stands for Mixed Martial Arts. MIXED. It is a very rare fight that doesn't end up on the ground so if you're going to use MMA as your basis for a plot, you need to have some ground fighting. Punches and kicks look cool, but most fights are won by things like rear naked chokes and arm bars. Ground moves.

It's an easy mistake to make if you don't know anything about the sport, so let's do a bit of a primer. I'm far from an expert, but I'm a fan and I've done enough fighting on my own to know the difference between the basic styles. I've read a few fight scenes where the writer used some language they've heard but didn't seem to understand. So let's clear some things up.

Anybody feel free to add your own knowledge.

With MMA you start with two basic fighting styles pretty much every fighter learns: Muy Thai and Jujitsu. Jujitsu, originally from Japan I think, was developed to its current state in Brazil. So if you have a fighter from Brazil, chances are he's a hell of a wrestler. That's what Jujitsu is: wrestling. It has almost nothing to do with kicking or punching. It's all about holds and locks. The goal is to get someone in a position where they have to tap out or risk a broken limb. Usually these moves require strategy and patience and endurance and flexibility.

Muy Thai is kickboxing. Often the best MMA fighters train in Thailand, where the sport was developed. It's kicking and punching, but also knees and elbows. Never underestimate the power of an elbow to do some serious damage.

Fights don't end with the ref counting. They end when one of the fighters taps to say he's done, when the doctor calls it on account of dangerous levels of blood loss, or when somebody gets knocked the fuck out. Blood is okay, but when the blood gets in your eyes or it won't stop, that's when they call the fight. There have been some seriously bloody fights in the octagon. Sometimes it's tough to watch.

There are tons of other fighting styles - Judo concentrates on throws, so when you need to chuck somebody over your shoulder that's what you're using, Savate is a French style that uses primarily legs, Escrima is Filipino stick fighting, Win Chung is the style Bruce Lee emulated because it was designed for women and he was a little guy. Then there's always the other various forms of Kung Fu. Each style has a different set of moves and a different purpose.

One thing you almost never see successfully done in a fight is a kick to the head. Unless you're Chuck Norris, a kick to the head is a horrible idea. First of all, it's slow. It takes a long time for your foot to get all the way to someone's head and chances are they'll see it coming, which is really bad for the kicker because it also leaves you off balance. The higher your foot goes, the less stability you have under you, and the easier it is to knock you down. Some guys try it. I don't know if I've ever seen it done successfully in the ring.

Head butts are generally a bad idea. Very few people know how to pull that off without breaking their own nose or knocking themselves out.

Good fighters block and duck and weave with both legs and hands. They don't just stand there and get hit. In fact, they don't just stand there. They bounce around.

Please consider these things if you write a fight scene but don't know much about fighting.

UPDATE: In the 3/31 episode of Human Target, a guy who's 6'2" and weighs a lot claims to be a black belt in Win Chung. Did they just Google types of Kung Fu and type in the first one that sounded cool? Win Chung is specifically designed for women and is also useful for small men. There are larger men who study it, but it's really designed to take advantage of a smaller frame, unless maybe the fact that he studied the wrong type of Kung Fu for his body is why he was knocked out so fast. My point is, you can't just throw any old type of Kung Fu at a script. They all have completely different purposes. Dammit.

Also after my whole bit about not kicking people in the head, on this season's first episode of Ultimate Fighter the very first bout ended with a beautiful kick to the head. So what do I know?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Thoughts on the first scene of Proof

Remember that movie Proof starring Gweneth Paltrow? It's about a math whiz whose dad dies and leaves some unfinished mathy business behind that she has to tend to. Well I always thought the premise looked interesting so when it popped up on some cable channel the other day I recorded it. Last night I tried to watch it.

I got about 8 minutes in before I pulled the plug.

It opens with her having a dream. Then she wakes up and her dad is there, played by Anthony Hopkins. They talk. And talk. And talk. She's lonely. I got that she was lonely pretty early. Not from something she did, mind you, but from stuff she said. Then they kept talking about how lonely she was, just in case I didn't get the idea. Then they said some other stuff I need to know about and ended with him saying something like "But I'm not really here, am I? I'm dead."

And she goes "Yes, you died three weeks ago."

And that's when I turned the thing off, because if the writing in the opening scene is this lazy then I don't want to waste my time with the rest.

I would have shown her explaining to him how to program his DVR. Super expert math whiz and you can't even program your DVR, Dad? I know, I know. I'm a dummy. Shouldn't you be out with your friends, not helping your dumb old man? Dad, you are my friend. Then dad goes off to take a nap because he's mentally exhausted and he doesn't wake up.

Better, yes?

I don't believe in long expository scenes with two people sitting in a living room telling me all the things I need to know. A couple of minutes, cool. But when you're entire opening scene is one long boring dream sequence that tells me nothing but facts I need to know, your movie is not good. I always make a policy to keep my living room exposition scenes to two minutes, and I try to give the characters something interesting to do that adds subtlety to the scene. Rule #1: don't be boring.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Coffee in LA

I met a friend yesterday for lunch, and after our mimosas and paninis we wandered down to a coffee shop next to the Upright Citizens Brigade theater. I don't remember the name of it, but it was quirky. It had this cool back room with a blacklight and tiny chairs and this one chair that had nipples and some kind of peculiar smell. And $4 mugs of hot chocolate.

Powder and hot water and whipped cream. FOUR DOLLARS. What is that, like a 96% markup?


When we walked in there were four people at four different tables typing away on their laptops. I should specify that they were not only four people, they were four bald men. At separate tables on separate laptops. They were all annoyed. I'm not sure if they were annoyed at us for being really loud when we walked in or annoyed because their scripts were not going as planned, but they were four annoyed bald men. Come to think of it, maybe they were annoyed because they'd paid $4 for hot chocolate.

Louis Lombardi was in there with a posse. He asked if he could have some of my hot chocolate. He was joking, I think, because of his jolly smile, but at that point what does one say? I'm not giving any of my $4 drink to some stranger, even if he was on The Sopranos. I spilled it on myself instead.

On the way out I noticed that every single person in that place was talking about or working on a movie.

"The producer says..."
"We need to do more research..."
"He was working on a pitch for HBO...."

And there was us, and we were also talking about movies. My friend said we should start talking very loudly about my high-powered agent and all the parties I've been to at Spielberg's house, just for kicks.

I love this town.

Friday, March 19, 2010


Know what my self-assigned homework was yesterday? Watching Pirates of the Caribbean. Tomorrow I plan to read the screenplay. In between I brainstorm character backstories.

For my day job - I almost wrote "real job" but then I remembered that I now have two real jobs - I had to write a paper on critical pedagogy that was between 700-1200 words and in APA format, a task that is every bit as boring and time consuming as it sounds. For my other job, I had to watch a Disney adventure movie so I could take notes about the tone and pacing.

I also swiffered.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


In order to keep my teaching job I have to take this really annoying class with University of Phoenix. I know I have to take this class because I've been TPS reported about it. I've gotten like two dozen letters about it and responded a bunch of times. I went up to HR and met with the lady and she entered all my info in the computer.

Then today I got this letter telling me I'd get a 15 day suspension and a meeting to discuss my failure to comply with taking this class I paid $600 to take. This class is a shitload of work and I've got a 94.

I gotta tell you guys, I'm really tempted to tell them to go fuck themselves.

All this time on this bullshit is getting in the way of writing my script.

I have May and June left in the school year and then I'm off again in July and August because our school is switching to traditional schedule. Yes, I know, I have a charmed life. But this means I have until September to decide whether or not I want to keep teaching. I want to knock this script out of the park so I can get another job and not have to go back to the classroom. Don't get me wrong, I've enjoyed teaching, but it's really hard to keep pushing through the bullshit when you're ever so close to not needing it anymore.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Shows for fatties

I admit I enjoy watching The Biggest Loser, although I have a major guilty complex as I do. Those people should not be losing that much weight that fast. They talk a good game on that show about building a healthy lifestyle, but it's simply not healthy to drop 11 pounds in a week, especially when they start dropping down under the 200 mark.

It's all about breaking records over there. Oh, you lost 100 pounds in three weeks! That's the most ever! Well of course they do. They do nothing but work out for 6 hours a day with professional trainers, and eat a monitored diet, plus they have all these contests they have to work for. When they get home it's not quite that huge a part of their lives.

Far better is Celebrity Fit Club, where minor celebrities live their regular daily lives but show up to fitness camp every week for their big workout with a drill sergeant. Nobody gets voted off, and their target weight loss is more like 2 or 3 pounds a week than anything in the double digits. They have a therapist on the show who helps them get over the emotional issues that made them fat in the first place, and if they don't lose as many pounds as they're supposed to everybody cheers and claps because they lost any weight at all. The winners used to be decided based on pounds lost, but they changed the format and now they are awarded fitness points based on their level of dedication to the program.

It has always bothered me that when one of the contestants loses 3 pounds they're all sad and feel like they let everybody down. They should be celebrating, but the perspective you get on the show is so far off nobody feels good unless they break some records.

It's just a shame that in a TV show that has a such a huge influence on fat people all over the country, they can't just enjoy their success. They should be more like Celebrity Fit Club.

And that's how I feel about weight loss shows.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Yesterday when I realized I got the job I was like yay!

I was kind of excited.

But then today I was driving down the 405 and remembered the little girl who won a contest when she was 12 by writing a story about her dad. I think that was when I decided I wanted to be a writer.

So here I am, so many years later, finally getting an opportunity to prove I deserve to be here. In the meeting I was told I wrote amazingly well for someone so green. Green? I wrote my first book when I was 9 and sold it to some girl for 5 cents. It was about how a girl could get a boy to like her. I used to make up stories about my stuffed animals and draw up a newspaper for the town they lived in. Most kids were playing with Legos. I was inventing news with this old ass typewriter my parents gave me as a toy. I have a masters degree in creative writing.

And yet I'm still very green to some degree. We're all a little green, aren't we? Even if you write something brilliant, don't you have moments where you wonder if it's garbage? I would think so. But I think she meant I was green because I'm new to screenwriting when compared to every other working writer. I'm a nobody. I write pretty well for a nobody.

So when I was driving down the 405 thinking about how badly I wanted to be a writer, I started randomly cheering. There may also have been some singing along with the radio.

Monday, March 15, 2010


Know how I thought I had a meeting about comic books? It wasn't about comic books. All that hullabaloo I made about trying to read a bunch of comic books and learn the format and all that - completely irrelevant. This meeting was about movies.

I had a meeting today and it could not have gone any better. And by could not have gone any better, I mean I got a job. I wore a skirt and my best Guess top I got at the outlet in Vegas, and I even put on my $7 open-toed cork shoes that you can't walk very far in on account of the flimsy heel, and I got a water when the assistant offered, and I was myself and honest and we all liked each other very much.

I got my very first job at my very first meeting. Tonight it's pizza and champagne at our house!

Friday, March 12, 2010

What to wear

I'm starting to examine my wardrobe. Right now it consists of workout pants and teacher clothes and not a whole lot in between. Yesterday I ended up in a situation where I was surrounded by extremely expensive dresses and a couple of stylists - they weren't for me - and I caught myself in the mirror and saw my Old Navy / Gap combination with my Sketchers and I thought "Oh dear. I look like I'm 20 still." And that was an outfit I wear to work, even.

My fanciest dress comes from Nordstrom. My fanciest piece comes from this sale they had once at Bebe and it was marked down to $15. Actually I don't know if I own any clothes I didn't get on sale.

Who knows, maybe that will work in my favor? I walk into a meeting with a head-to-toe Gap outfit and a cute smile and they'll think I'm some kind of teenage genius.

And then when I get invited to all those fancy premieres and Emmys and shit and Joan Rivers will be all "Who are you wearing? And also, who are you?" and I'll be like "Target Izaak Misrahi, baby, and also I'm the writer," and do a twirl as she turns to find someone more important and better dressed.

In the meantime, I'm supposed to wear a T-Shirt to my meeting, right? Should I wear a nicer T-Shirt with flowers on it, or the T-Shirt that says "Zombies only want you for your brains"? And jeans or slacks? How slovenly is the writer supposed to look? And can you even wear slacks with a zombie T-Shirt? Is that allowed?

I should probably be working on my next screenplay, but right now my wardrobe is foremost on my mind. I should probably stop watching What Not To Wear.

Thursday, March 11, 2010


I didn't want to say anything until it was official, but it's official.

I have representation.

Not just any representation, either. She's kick ass. I have my first meeting this week.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Where is your inciting incident?

Out of curiosity, and because I like to know for sure about a script before I start condemning a film, I read Hot Tub Time Machine last night.

Actually that's not true. I tried to read Hot Tub Time Machine. I got to about page 55 before I gave up. The dialogue in the script was great and really well constructed, and the opening scene was delightful. Then it was downhill from there as I became increasingly infuriated with every page.

Here's the main problem I had with the version I read. You'd think if your story is called Hot Tub Time Machine, you would get to the hot tub time machine pretty quickly. I mean, it's the title, right, so it's the one thing we're all waiting for. Yet it was page 29 before anybody finally got in the hot tub.

A half hour. That's how much film you had to get through before you reached the inciting incident. What, you might ask, was so important that we had to wait that long before we got to the hot tub? I don't know. Dialogue. Character development. Certainly not plot.

I had to learn this lesson too not long ago. A helpful reader pointed out that the inciting incident in my story happened on page 18. I moved it up to page 12. Instantly my pacing picked up. Same thing this script. My inciting incident used to be on page 21. As soon as I bumped it to page 10, things picked up considerably.

In The Hangover, the guys wake up in their trashed hotel room on page 14. That means we have the rest of the movie to figure out what happened to Doug and why the dentist is missing a tooth, because that's what this story is about. Where's Doug? It's the adventure we're after, not the back story. Besides, you should be able to dish out back story in bits and pieces throughout the story, not all in long chunks of dialogue and exposition.

We as viewers need to know what our mission is. We need to know what we're waiting to happen, and we can't know that until we see the event that starts the ball rolling. The Crazies did a great job with that - we were probably four minutes in when the first crazy guy came wandering across a baseball field carrying a shotgun. Hell, the movie's called The Crazies. The previews showed a bunch of crazy people destroying shit. Why would I need to wait half an hour to see my first crazy person? Let's get that shit started as soon as possible.

If your movie is called Hot Tub Time Machine, you need to get some hot tub time machine action going somewhere within the first 15 minutes. Otherwise I'm just sitting around waiting for the story to begin.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Thoughts on the film: The Crazies

There is so very much going on right now. I'm finishing Burnside and working on comic book pitches and meeting people and completing a course for University of Phoenix - it's work related and annoying - and training our new dog. Fortunately I don't actually have to go to my real job right now.

I was very excited when Katheryn Bigelow won. Very excited.

Yesterday I saw The Crazies. I think my very favorite kind of movie, irrespective of genre, is when a film turns out to be way better than it should be. This was one of those films. I remember when I saw the first preview for this and thought, well aside from the fact that includes Timothy Olyphant who is dreamy, this movie looks ridiculous. There was laughter in the theater when the preview ended.

The preview didn't do the film justice, because this movie nearly made me pee my pants. I'm pretty easily scared but I don't like gore, and this film had a nice balance. Lots of violence but no torture porn or really disgusting gory scenes. Good old fashioned scares, that's what we have here.

What really made it work, though, were the characters. Since the story takes place in a small town, they were really able to develop individual characters with just a couple of moments, so that when the shit started hitting the fan all the people who attacked were people who used to be your friends and neighbors. Kind of like a zombie movie, but the crazy people have an agenda of sorts. They're not trying to eat you - they just remember all the reasons you pissed them off before they went nuts and now want to get their revenge, or they're just enacting their natural homicidal tendencies.

And Russel the deputy. Fantastic character. A gun toting tough single guy with a quick whit and an easy going personality. You just really like this guy.


So when Russel starts behaving in questionable ways, you're not sure if he's sick or just reacting to the craziness of the situation. You really really don't want him to be sick, so you start to justify his behavior, and that's where the theme starts to really show itself.


How much of our behavior is crazy and how much of it is just us in our natural state? What if all crazy does is release the roadblocks preventing us from being ourselves? I wish they had gone a little further in that direction and reaaaally pushed this theme, but I was pleased to see some meaning in all these scares.

There were some truly great moments, and some good surprises in the way some of the characters behaved, but there were also some scares that annoyed me. Come on, movie, do we really need for Timothy Olyphant's car to not start the second he really really needs it to when it was running just fine a minute ago?

But overall I enjoyed the hell out of this film, and I'm normally a fan of horror. That's why this was so much better than I expected.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Where Can I Send My Screenplay Part 2 Electric Boogaloo

A long time ago I posted an entry on Where Can I Send My Screenplay, and I still get hits on it pretty regularly. Periodically I'll even get a comment from someone telling me how wrong I am.

My advice is simple, and echoes the advice of many other writers before me: DO NOT send out your first screenplay.

To me, that's just common sense. My first short story sucked. My first poem sucked. I was learning the craft. Why would I think my first screenplay was any different?

You have got to learn the craft, people. You have got to know what you're doing if you want to become a professional screenwriter. Imagine the incredible ego you have to have to think you can do something one time and suddenly be an expert at it, but with screenwriting that happens all the time.

I don't know how many screenplays I've written because I didn't count and I didn't do more than a first draft on several, but it's at least 8. Then finally, after several experiments with what works and what doesn't, I wrote something worth reading. Then I wrote a second script worth reading. Now I think I know what I'm doing enough not to suck. But it takes practice.

The reason I give this advice is not to sabotage people - quite the opposite. I'm a teacher and I give advice for a living. I hate seeing people waste their time or their opportunities. I'm not the only one who has a story about a manager or agent or producer getting a copy of one of my early scripts, completely ready to give me a chance to prove myself, only to realize later that what I gave them was total crap. Years later I tried to give one of my contacts a second script, a good one that has gotten good reviews, but the guy wasn't interested. He saw what I could do years ago and it was terrible. Why would he want to read anything else I wrote?

I get why people are resistant to this advice. Screenplays take a lot of work and a lot of time we could be doing things like hiking or staring at things, and to think that was nothing more than practice is tough to take, but there it is. This is not a business for the faint of heart.

Think about it - there are probably thousands of people trying to break into the industry, plus all the people who've already broken in, and you're competing with all of them for a spot. Why would you think you have a snowball's chance in hell if you just threw your first effort at them when all of these other people have been at this for years, working to improve? It makes no sense.

But sure, send it out if you want to. Waste your time writing queries when you could be writing your second script. It's no skin off my back if you want to learn the hard way.

Here is part 3 of this discussion.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Comic Book Guy

I've been given an opportunity recently to delve into comic books, so after asking around some more knowledgeable people than I, I drove to my nearest comic book shop to get some titles and some recommendations from my local Comic Book Guy.

He was trying to help, he really was, and perhaps I gave him too vague an idea of what I wanted, but I learned a thing or two about asking a Comic Book Guy for help.

They take that shit really really seriously.

I know very little about comics so I told him I'd like something that would give me an idea of the pacing and structure of a graphic novel, something like A History of Violence. I probably mentioned A History of Violence four times during our conversation, and he waved me away and said I shouldn't read it. He pointed at some things I could read, then told me I shouldn't read those either. He wanted me to go home and do some research before I came back.

He was a perfectly nice guy, and once we started talking about movies we had a very pleasant conversation. And I appreciate that he didn't just pluck some random titles off the shelf and hand them to me so he could make a little money, but instead of consulting Wikipedia I was consulting him, the expert, and I didn't need the PERFECT comic. I just wanted one that would give me an idea of how you structure a story. In order to write movies you have to watch them. In order to write comics you have to read them. I need to read them. Lots of them. I was prepared to spend some money. Perhaps I should have just said that: "Hey I don't need the perfect comic. Just give me one that I might like. Here are the things I like." But he is the expert and I wanted to take his advice.

In the end the one title he did allow me to buy after almost sending me away empty handed was "One that's very popular with girls."

See, this is a lot of why I never read comic books to begin with.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Switching work schedules

Now I'm on vacation. I'm taking a class online so I have to do work for that, and the yearbook needs another couple of days of work, so I'll be doing some of that and I have to grade essays that were turned in this week to give back on our return to school, but since I don't have to spend any time yelling at kids or making lesson plans, I can now get back to screenwriting.

This is actually the toughest time to get to work, oddly enough. I haven't had a regular writing schedule for a while - I just wrote on the weekends whenever I could. And since I've had the script out gathering notes, I let myself relax and not write for a few weeks while I waited and then digested the suggestions a couple of people sent me.

So I got out of the habit. I have to establish a schedule again. Get up, do some chores, check the emails, do my coursework, work on stuff for my job, then screenwriting. After that I can work out or go to the store or walk the dog or whatever. But it helps to have a set schedule even when it's not a paid position.

I think far too many people only write when the mood strikes them, but it's no way to get things done. If I want to be a paid screenwriter, I have to practice being a paid screenwriter.

So I'll start that tomorrow, right after I finish staring at my cute dog and watching The Biggest Loser. Today is celebrate being on vacation day. Tomorrow the work week begins.

Monday, March 01, 2010

New Dog

This is Lilly and she is a pit mix.

She was a stray and we got her at the pound, and she's the best dog ever. I feel that her laser eye beams will make her an especially effective guard dog. It only took her two warnings to get her to think of the cat as a pack member and not prey. They cat is going to take a little longer to convince.

Fortunately I will be able to spend all kinds of time with her starting tomorrow because today is my last day of the semester, then it's on to two months vacation. I will do my last rewrite of Burnside before I send it off to be read by representation, and I will most likely attend some meetings, and I will also play with my new doggy.

This can't come soon enough. I feel like I am drowning in work and life and everything right now. It's just too much. It's time for vacation.

To be a zombie

You know, the life of a zombie is not that bad, really. You get plenty to eat, you get to travel, you have lots of friends. Nobody makes you brush your teeth. If you feel tired and want to take a nap, cool. You don't have to pay rent or think about politics. There's no more social order so if you want to look at something you just smash a window and go look at it. Hell, you don't even have to keep up a conversation.

The downside is that people will try to kill you and you may end up having to hobble on a busted ankle for eternity, but sometimes I think it beats having to deal with the world around us.