Friday, December 30, 2011
You know how it doesn't matter how great a movie was, if the ending sucks all you remember is the sucky ending? Or the opposite. A good ending can sort of wipe away the bad memories.
I spent six months of the year in constant pain. I managed to write a script during that time - How My Wedding Dress Got This Dirty, a script that turned out pretty damn good. I have high hopes for the script in the new year.
But I don't even remember the pain now. My surgery was a major success; I even painted the living room this week. Writing is easy, and good exercise for my recovering wrist.
So in 2012, I'm going to take advantage of my new capability and write like crazy. I also want to get back into martial arts. I'll probably start with Thai Chi and yoga and move on from there to Muy Thai again, hoping eventually to get into Jujitsu.
But first, I will write this new action comedy I started last week. I've written the first draft of the outline, because I've gradually become a fan of detailed outlines after seeing how well it worked on the last script. I hope that having a great outline will allow me to write the first draft of the script super fast again. Before it was a necessity to write fast because of how little time I was able to write through the pain, but in the process I realized how much easier that made the work, pain or no pain. So I just spent two weeks on an outline on the hopes that it will reduce the amount of time I spend on the script. If I solve the story problems in outline stage, I don't have to stop and ponder solutions after I've already written pages of script.
I got engaged, finally. It was an inevitability, but it's glad to finally be able to throw my carefully laid plans into action. I'm going dress shopping next week. How funny that I just wrote a wedding script.
So I think 2012 will be a good year. I've got some cool stuff coming up besides the wedding, which I'll talk about a bit next week. I'll be doing a podcast again toward the end of the month where I can talk about it at detail, a fun way to start a good year.
2011 taught me a lot about writing and time management and controlling my ego. It has prepared me well for the year to come.
How was 2011 for you? What's up your sleeve for 2012?
Tuesday, December 27, 2011
Although I confess the wedding was already planned once I decided this was my groom. I love watching wedding shows, and I was engaged once before so I already planned on wedding, and I enjoy planning things and making lists ever so much. It was really a given that I'd have a file on my computer with my wedding plans.
I've already called the caterer and the dress salon. I'm making up a guest list today, but I'm leaving room for all the celebrities I'm going to meet this year.
I'm also working on an outline for a new project, and it was flowing along nicely until I got to the final sequence. I can't figure out the magical clue that gets my protag to find where the bad guy is. I hope that as I use up those Christmas gift cards over the next two days, brainless shopping will unlock the answer, so I can go into the new year with a well-laid plan for an awesome script I can bang out.
And somewhere in there, I have to grade papers. I hate grading papers, but it must be done. Fortunately I don't have to do much lesson planning because one class is going to read Romeo and Juliet, and the other The Great Gatsby. One of the good things about teaching literature is that a lot of your class time is spent just reading. So that will help me spend more time planning weddings and screenplays and shit.
Okay, 2012. Let's do this.
Monday, December 26, 2011
Most horror movies are about the scare, and Pitch Black had some scary moments, but the story was a delivery system for an intelligent conversation, not just scares.
So flash forward a number of years and here I am, on Christmas Eve Day, watching Battle Los Angeles. This looks like it will be a pretty generic action movie, mostly about effects. The majority of action movies released these days seem to be delivery systems for explosions.
And this one was no different. It paid some lip service to character development. (The black guy is not a stereotype because he wears glasses! And his nickname is Specs!) It tried to get me to care, but it didn't take advantage of opportunities to elevate the material into something to make me think.
Minor Spoilers Ahead.
There's a scene on a roof top where that hot redneck from True Blood tells another soldier how he wonders if these aliens get scared. What if they're just like us? Then Aaron Eckhart observed that the aliens have their weapons welded onto their bodies or something, as if they are 24/7 soldiers. Okay, we're getting somewhere. We can run with that. We're fighting these creatures, but we're just like them. Could we become them? Were they like us once? Is there a way we can get to them and talk this out?
No, they didn't really go that way.
There's your now cliche scene where the humans find an alien and drag him into the base to examine him so we can learn how to fight the enemy. They decide to stab it in lots of places to find out what kills it.
Now, here's what I was thinking. Hey, aren't they basically torturing that thing? And nobody there has a problem with it?
There's a veterinarian in the room. She offers to help by staring at them enthusiastically as they stab the creature with various pointy tools. It would have been neat if she had spoken up. Maybe, instead of torturing it, we can find a way to communicate with it? I'm not saying she'd be right, but she'd be on theme. There would have been some interpersonal conflict. There would have been a moment for our characters to argue about strategy, about what defines us, separates us from the enemy. They're the bad guys, but we're torturing a prisoner. Is that okay?
I'd love to have had that conversation with this film, but that's not what happened. They stabbed the thing until they finally found its weakness, then went on blowing shit up, restricting the interpersonal conflict to cliched gripes about who's in command. Michelle Rodriguez is tough. The black guy wears his glasses. The guy with the pregnant wife.... well just that, there's a guy with a pregnant wife. Have you ever seen a movie about a bunch of soldiers at war and one of them DIDN'T have a pregnant wife?
I guess this was supposed to be about Eckhart's journey as a leader, but then the rest of the movie should have been about the nature of leadership or something. Let's see the aliens have chain of command issues. Let's see the civilians question the leadership decisions. Maybe Eckhart's character questions the decisions of the higher ups.
The film really did give us some character arcs, but the main reason Eckhart's didn't work for me is because I didn't buy it. This guy's men think he's a douchebag, that he left some guys behind and is a horrible leader. From the second he steps onscreen, I know that isn't true. So I don't feel any real conflict, just a misunderstanding that will get cleared up eventually.
But I digress.
The point is, the script needed to pick a thesis and stick to it.
I tell the kids all the time: Once you pick your thesis, the entire essay revolves around it. So if you say a hero is someone who likes to wear purple underwear, then every paragraph needs to go back to that purple underwear. It doesn't need to veer off and talk about spikey hair, it needs to be about purple fucking underwear. Your theme is your thesis. If your thesis is the nature of humanity, then by god, every choice you make in your story should reflect that theme.
That's how you go from just okay to great. Don't let your script be nothing more than a delivery system for explosions/scares/sex/laughs. Let those elements help your story be a delivery system for a question we can think about when we leave at the end.
Thursday, December 22, 2011
I know I get a fair amount of readers, but I rarely get more than a couple of comments. So I invite you, this holiday season, tell me about yourself. Log in and tell me who you are. How many screenplays have you written? What kind of stuff do you write? What kind of things do you want to know about screenwriting? Whatever. Say hi. I'd love to get some questions I can try to find answers to in the new year.
And while we're at it, Merry Christmas everybody. I hope this weekend is as good for you as it is turning out to be for me.
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
I wrote a post in response to his dilemma, and I thought it was worth repeating here. So here's my advice to any writer who despairs when their first, second, third script goes nowhere:
If you don't care about whether or not your stuff is marketable, that's actually great for you at this stage. It means you can just write what you want, toying with ideas until you get it right. It also means you should stop obsessing over trying to get your script made.
Know what my second script was? Nobody but me does, because it was a piece of crap and I want it to stay buried forever. Same with #3, #4, #5.....
Right around #8 or #9, I started to produce things I'm not embarrassed to show people. That number is different for everybody, but there is absolutely no shame in writing just to learn the ropes. Every script gets better. If you stop focusing on how to sell this one, you'll be able to spend all your time on the next one.
Once you've written a great script, try to put it out there. Give it some time. While you wait, write the next one. And if the third one goes nowhere, move on. Rinse, repeat, until one day someone will read #4,#5,#6.... #32, and they will say "WOW this is really good! Let's talk."
It would be so nice if we could all just write a script early on in our careers and he could sell it for a billion dollars, but for most of us, that just will not happen. It's obvious at this point that it will not happen for you. Not now.
But if you shrug this script off, move on to the next one, and keep improving, it will happen for you some day. And who knows? Maybe then you can come back to this one and put it back out there.
Once you've tried to get your script out there and it doesn't work, move on. Try again with the next one, but make sure you've learned something from this one first.
Otherwise, you're wasting your time.
Monday, December 19, 2011
One of the things I've learned throughout the years, and occasionally need reminding about, is that you have to reject your first one, two, three, maybe four ideas. Keep working the story until you get the most creative possible series of events.
Need a maguffin? A character's on the run from the bad guys. What object do they want from him? Quick, think of something.
Was your first thought:
-A microchip/flash drive with sensitive government secrets?
-Photos of a politician in bed with a prostitute?
-A briefcase full of cash/drugs?
Too cliche, all of them. Think again.
Your first instinct is usually going to be everybody else's first instinct. Over time I have learned to get that out of the way until I get to something that will surprise the audience.
I was working on picking a maguffin yesterday, and the wise Bill Martell reminded me to use the story's theme to find it. What's this story about? Now what kind of object could lead us back there?
So I thought of something, then rejected it and thought of something else. Then I slept on it, woke up this morning, and had my answer.
It took me almost an entire day of thinking up ideas and rejecting them to get to one I think is pretty great. If you leap on your first idea and run with it, you'll end up writing a mediocre script when you could have written a great one.
Friday, December 16, 2011
I love LA at Christmas. Nobody is here.
I am about to have three weeks to start something. I think I need to write something commercial, something easy to sell to back up against what I already have. I want to come back to this script, but for now I'm going to start working on something new, something that proves I know what I'm doing.
What is that something? No idea. I'm going through my idea file, looking for things to work on, but so far nothing has popped out. So the first thing I'm going to do this weekend is flesh out some ideas and look for new ones. Then I've got three weeks to work on a treatment and maybe crank out as many pages as I can before the town winds back up and I have to go back to my day job.
I also have 87 papers to grade.
"Vacation." What a lie that word is.
Thursday, December 15, 2011
Scriptshadow reviews my first ten pages today.
He's completely right. I've gotten a lot of read requests from querying this script, and they've all either been passes or I've been told "I love your style, but I don't think the script is there."
Carson points out a scene in the first few pages that doesn't need to be there, and he's right. The thing is, when I was writing that scene it seemed important somehow. I'd gotten so many notes on this project that I was trying to address all of them, and this particular scene fixed a problem somebody had, but now for the life of me I can't remember what it was. I don't remember why this was so damn important, because the scene now feels completely unecessary.
So that was a good review. Now, to read the comments, where no doubt my intelligence and general worth as a person will be called into question.
Monday, December 12, 2011
It's weird how stuff trends. Not only have we had a surge in fairy tales, but we had a wave of Snow White, a wave of Peter Pan, and now, apparently, Pinocchio.
Zombies are still in the fight, but they've gotten more complicated. Gone are the days when you can write a script about a group of people fighting off a zombie horde. Now your zombie spec needs a gimmick. John Scott III found something new with his drama script Maggie, which I really enjoyed, and there is also a script about a group of people who make a deal with a vampire to protect them from zombies. I don't know how anyone can improve on The Kitchen Sink, but I'm willing to give it a read.
Lots of assassins. There are always lots of assassins. I wonder if real assassins read about these movies and shake their heads.
I think they're now legally required to put Tarantino on the list.
If I'd realized what Father Daughter Time: A Tale of Armed Robbery and Eskimo Kisses was about I'd have read it sooner, but I never saw the second half of the title so I thought this movie was about a dad taking his daughter to a baseball game or something. Now I plan to read it.
Other scripts I'm most looking forward to reading: Chewie, Blood Mountain, Desperate Hours, The Slackfi Project, Sex Tape, Flashback, The Hitman's Bodyguard, and 77.
What are your thoughts on the list?
Saturday, December 10, 2011
I learned quite a bit from reading these pages, particularly how easy it is to do nothing for ten pages when you think your reader is a little slow, and how much better it is when you get to the point as quickly as possible.
Have a read. See what you think.
Thursday, December 08, 2011
Wednesday, December 07, 2011
Irony is a tough concept to grasp for a lot of people, so you've got to triple the explanation. I'll probably have to explain it a few more times to really get it to sink in. But so far they seem to be following along okay. When I asked them why the ending of "Story of an Hour" is ironic, most of the kids got it.
I love teaching that story because it is two pages long, but it teaches about so very many literary concepts. Plus feminism. After the lesson we had a discussion about the purpose of marriage, and I thought the boys and girls were going to start a gender riot. They were seriously pissed off. Kids these days are jaded.
But that's not what this post is about.
While I was telling the story of Oedipus, I got to the part where he goes in and finds Jocasta hanging from the ceiling. I said "And then Oedipus found her dead. And he was distraught. He slapped himself and yelled MY MOTHER! (slap) MY WIFE! (slap) MY MOTHER! (slap) MY WIFE!"
Although they enjoyed watching me slap myself, they did not get my Chinatown joke. And I thought, if one of you guys was there, you'd have laughed.
So often my brilliant comedy is lost on 16-year-olds.
Tuesday, December 06, 2011
In Los Angeles, you often meet somebody, and they tell you they have a deal with a studio and you think WOW He's amazing! And then you start thinking about how you better hang out with this guy because he is going places.
The thing is, most of those people are full of shit. They say, for example, that Brad Pitt is reading their script, but what really happened is that an assistant at Plan B read their query and asked to read the script.
Most of the time these people aren't completely lying; they've just taken a tiny truth and blown it out of proportion. Because if you've been here long enough and had enough people ask you how your writing career is going, you start really wanting to have more to report than "Well, I'm still hoping somebody wants to read my script." You want people to think you're on your way. You want to be more important than you are.
So you make shit up.
When I first got out here I met a guy who had placed in the QFs of the Nicholl, or so he said. Thinking back, I'm not sure that was true. Then he said he knew a bunch of managers and would gladly introduce me to them. So naturally I jumped on it. But then he said I probably shouldn't have a manager; I should have an agent. He'd wait and introduce me to some agents some day.
Then he told me he was a studio deal to make his pilot and that he was probably going to start running a TV show on a major network soon. Maybe I could write on the show! Except at this point I knew enough about how TV worked to know that was ridiculous.
People in LA do that kind of thing ALL THE TIME. Not that everybody who claims success is lying, but it is always a good idea for you to be suspicious of anyone who has no IMDB credits or story in the trades and claims a huge success on the way.
People will blow massive amounts of smoke up your ass. Be skeptical.
Monday, December 05, 2011
They've started blocking all Google sites at work including Google itself. So I guess we're being discouraged from assigning research papers.
Unforrunately that means that until they get enough complaints, I can only use blogger on my phone during the day.
This is why I haven't posted much in the last week.
It's also absurdly cold in my classroom. I might freeze to death in front of the kids. Thanks, LAUSD!
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Recently I spent a lot of time compiling the perfect outline of the story. I wrote down all kinds of specific details, did full character bios, filled in all the gaps, pondered the most effective story choices.
Then I had surgery. Before my surgery I could type for maybe 15 minutes with slight pain. I still usually typed for an hour at a time then rested, but that last 45 minutes was excruciating. I was cringing with every letter, which makes writing comedy extra challenging. It's fun writing hilarious action sequences when it feels like a professional strong man is repeatedly slamming a hammer into your wrist at top speed.
After the surgery the doc gave me an assignment: Type, text, play video games. So I did. First I finished LA Noir over the weekend.
Then yesterday I typed and typed and typed. And it didn't hurt at all. A little stiffness after a while, but no pain.
NO PAIN. I can write with no pain. You have no idea how amazing that is. I've been alternately crying with joy and laughing like a maniac for the past four days as I discover new things I can do now that I used to take for granted. Watch me unlock this door! Watch me put on a bra! Watch me brush my hair! IT'S AMAZING!
Remember all that work I put into planning this story? And now I can write with no pain? Fuck yes, kids. I just ran with it. I wrote 10 pages in 2 1/2 hours. I cranked the tunes and just typed and typed and typed and the words flowed out of me like never before. So far it's a shitload of dialogue for an action flick, but I'll fix that on rewrite. I'm just excited to throw those words up on that screen.
And today when I went to see my doctor he told me I was making amazing progress. "I typed for two and a half hours yesterday," I said.
"Yep, that's probably what did it," he said.
So how about that? Screenwriting is good for me.
And thank you to everyone who has wished me well during this process. I appreciate your kind words.
Friday, November 18, 2011
So it's pretty cool to know that after therapy I'll be able to do normal human things like pick up a mug of hot chocolate or brush my hair. The best part is that for the next few weeks I can't pick up anything heavy, but I must type. I must text, play Xbox, and Miss America wave. Yes, I am under doctor's orders to play video games. But no washing dishes or taking out trash. Oh, the humanity.
I can type now - I'm supposed to type now. It's good exercise, I'm told. This week I'm going to go kick this screenplay's ass.
Thursday, November 17, 2011
Instead, I'll post this:
Like I posted Tuesday, I've been wrestling lately with the idea of writing a passion project that is not terribly commercial, a project I've been working on for some time and have been dying to write. I have a more commercial idea waiting to be written, but I'm meh about it, and I want to get back into darker stuff anyway, but it's still risky to spend time working on something that people may not think they can sell.
But you only have so many years to live, and if I'm writing for free then I'm going to write something fun.
Then I came across the old interview with Alan Ball about his process with American Beauty. A relevant portion:
I pitched him two fairly standard romantic comedies that were pretty, you know -- if I couldn't pitch them in one sentence, I could pitch them in two. And then I pitched him American Beauty, which I had tried to write as a play years ago and I had sort of been toying around with these characters and their stories for years. And as you can imagine, the pitch was rambling, but I think I was really excited, you know.
"You think it's about this, but it's about something else, and you're feeling it -- oh, and underneath it is all about this whole sort of what's the nature of reality and there's this kind of metaphysical thing." I was totally expecting him to just sort of go catatonic and fall out of his chair.
And to my surprise he says, "That's the one I think you should write."
And I said, "Why?" And he said, "Because it's obviously the one you feel the most passionate about." It's the best piece of advice I ever got.
He goes on to talk in great deal about the creative choices he made and the process of working the script through the system from start to finish. It's a great interview, and it inspired me to feel more confident in what I have to do.
The full interview is here: Inside Film Online.
If you've never read it, do. And thanks to Greg Beal for mentioning this interview in a recent Done Deal thread.
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
I'm trying not to push it too hard - I had a panic attack after I picked up a too-heavy Pyrex bowl and convinced myself that I had undone all the work the surgery did - but three pages is not too bad for a day's work when one hand is wrapped in thirty thousand bandages that are getting really dirty.
The project I'm working on now is my old passion project. It's really risky because it's a period piece with a really modern flair but some old fashioned ideals. But I figure, if Alex Litvak can do it, so can I. And the time just feels right to rework this script. This is very much me. I've spent the past couple of years writing more commercial fair, so even though I enjoyed each of those script, I've missed getting dark and gritty. A lot of the assignments I crave are grittier scripts, but all I've written for the last couple of years were light and fun projects, so I hope this will showcase my dark side.
I'm going to take a few months to enjoy writing this material as much as I can before I start to think practically again. And who knows? Maybe this script will blow people away with its originality. I can only hope. All I know is, I'm going to try as hard as I can to make it as good as I can.
Isn't that what they say? Write the best script you can and the rest will follow? So to hell with the market or the gurus, I'm just happy to be writing again without pain. I'm going to be grateful for the freedom I am getting back and write something I truly love.
Saturday, November 12, 2011
I just wrote a whole post about surgery and how awesome my perfect doctor is and my mom has been cool enough to detail my kitchen and make most of my thanksgiving dinner while I slept. Then my supposedly smart phone deleted my post to go update my Groupon app. So suffice to say it is weird to be talking to a guy about tequila and my mom having a panic attack trying to drive in LA traffic, and the next minute I'm watching my doctor pass out flyers for his book signing while a nurse offers you the world's most necessary apple juice. I hope to be back to writing soon. The goal is to type for hours with no pain. And to do push ups. And maybe if I work really hard in therapy I can punch a heavy bag again and learn Jujitsu. That would make me happy.
Saturday, November 05, 2011
1) It was funny. Jokes galore. Self-referential stuff, 3D absurdity, general absurdity, and the glorious Neil Patrick Harris. Neil Patrick Harris was fucking hysterical. I can't imagine anyone having a better time playing a drugged up lunatic, except maybe that kid who played the baby. I laughed from the opening scene all the way to the end. This morning the Beefcake and I were freely quoting from the film, particularly when I started preparing our pancake breakfast.
2) This movie was about stuff. Friendship, growing up, accepting responsibility, waffles vs pancakes. There was deep emotional stuff. So while on one end you have NPH trying to sexually molest a dancer and a penis getting stuck to a pole, on the other end you have a story about two friends who have grown apart - one because he's too much of a grown up, and one because he's too much of a child. All that theme stuff was perfectly executed. The story was more than just a delivery system for jokes.
3) I related to this one far more than the other two. There's a scene where our boys find themselves a party full of silly kids. The kids make fun of them for being old and washed up, and they have to remember when they used to be cool, way cooler than these little punks today. As a grown-up who spends all day around teenagers, I could 100% get with that. The kids I teach often declare that they hope they never turn 30 because it's SO OLD. And I just smile and think of all I've learned and accomplished since I was that age. I could have been Harold in that scene with the kids at the party. I never was a pothead, but I was young, and I have worried sometimes that this house and the dogs and the suburbs have made me a chode.
So what I'm trying to say is, A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas made me feel better about life.
Thursday, November 03, 2011
But I will see it, and in 3D even, despite the fact that I despise 3D.
I enjoyed the White Castle thing. That was good. I'm not into pot movies and I'm not sure I understood the weird shit with that inbred tow truck driver and his slutty wife, but all in all, solid film.
Then I saw Guantanamo Bay, and it was more inbred truck driver than fun with Neil Patrick Harris, so I didn't enjoy it so much. I think where White Castle was a movie designed to be enjoyed by potheads and straights alike, Guantanamo Bay was pretty much a movie you only enjoy while high. And I don't get high. The stuff just makes me want to take a nap.
Anyway, then I saw the trailer for the Christmas movie on Youtube and thought it looked stupid.
Then The Beefcake and I went to see Fright Night, and it turned out when we got to the theater that the time we chose was for the 3D screening. The next 2D screening wasn't for a couple of hours. So we ponied up and saw it in 3D. I enjoyed it, especially David Tenant, but that's not the point.
The previews were also in 3D. One of them Was Harold and Kumar.
Ladies and gentlemen, THAT is why 3D was invented. Ping Pong balls flew at my face, people waved their hands over my head, explosions came out at me.
3D ain't no artsy fartsy color enhanced shit. 3D is silly, in-your-face ridiculousness, and Harold and Kumar appears to have embraced the potential for fun. The preview without the 3D looked dumb, but for once, adding 3D suddenly enhanced the film. I suddenly understood.
So tomorrow night, the Beefcake and I will go see this film, glasses and all. And then we will laugh about it over Japanese barbecue. I hope.
And I will take an Ibuprofen beforehand in case it's headache inducing.
I really hope this silly film is good.
Sunday, October 30, 2011
I am a newly minted zombie. I was in the hospital recovering from surgery on my hand, chilling in my pajamas when the outbreak came. And as you know, hospitals are ground zero for zombie outbreaks. I haven't been a zombie long, but I find it unpleasant so far. I just spent all this money and time on surgery and then some asshole goes and removes a piece of my neck with his nasty teeth. That's a great way to spread stds, zombies, all that indiscriminate biting. We probably all have herpes.
Some nurse started to wrap my wound, but then I ate her. Now I'm off to see if this eating people thing is all there is to being a zombie. If we're taking over the world, I feel like we should have a more cerebral objective. But first, I'm hungry. Who here still has brains?
Friday, October 28, 2011
I've loved watching TV episodes through Netflix instant and HBO Go. I'm now among the legion of Angry Birds players, and I'm stoked about being able to check the traffic every time I get in the car. In a meeting the other day our assistant principal mentioned an academic word list. Within minutes I googled it, downloaded the PDF and emailed it to my work address so I can print it out later. This morning I added Engrade, so now I can walk around the room and mark down which students have completed their assignments.
I know to some of you guys this is old hat, but I'm still amazed at what we can do with these tiny computers in our hands.
Yesterday I got Evernote and have been noodling around with it. Other than creating a grocery list and reminder that I need to buy a roll of raffle tickets for the yearbook raffle, I'm not sure exactly how else to use it. I read the John August post, but I also know that different people use it in different ways. I'm still figuring out my way.
Are there any other Apps you love? Particularly apps that you use to help with your screenwriting? I'm still figuring out how to get the most out of this absurd little piece of fantastic.
Monday, October 24, 2011
Before you get all "Teachers don't do shit and get paid too much" rant, you should know that it was a Friday.
Anyhow, when I told the girls I was watching episodes of an old show, they rolled their eyes. I tried to explain by asking them what was their favorite fictional show. The plan was to tell them that one day they'd enjoy watching old episodes of that show to reminisce about how awesome it was.
Know what shows they immediately named? A bunch of reality shit. The first show one girl mentioned was Fact or Fiction, so I said No, girls, and actual fiction show, with a story. What shows do you watch with a story?
Know what one girl immediately said? Jersey Shore. Dammit to hell.
Eventually I got her to mention The Office, but then she confessed that she doesn't actually like The Office.
People, something has got to be done. This is just wrong.
So as they cut the shapes out of their pattern or whatever they were doing, I continued to watch Farscape. Then one of the girls asked what I was watching. "It sounds interesting," she said. "I want to watch that."
So I told them the premise of the show and that it was made by the Jim Henson company and included puppets and crazy creatures, and they both looked like they wanted to check it out. "That sounds cool," they said.
I don't know if they'll go home and watch Farscape today, but at the very least I planted a seed.
Friday, October 21, 2011
During my last round of queries, a couple of people told me they want to see my next script, so that's the second thing I'll be doing with this script - sending it to the agents who want to see it. Hopefully it will give me the edge I need to land a new rep. I feel pretty good about this script. It's commercial, but still very much me.
Once that's done, I get to leap back into Burnside, which I've been dying to get back to for a very long time. It's a much more serious, straight action film that makes me want to run around and destroy shit.
The last three projects have been comedy, and even though I enjoy being absurd, I enjoy being dark and badass more. I love Martin Blank, but sometimes I really really want to be Neo. And let's face it, Neo has no sense of humor.
So that's my plan. Next week I'm going to try to post more. I have a lot to say about Halloween/Christmas movies, which seem to come around at the same time for some reason.
Monday, October 17, 2011
So Friday the pest control people came and threw one of those beautiful tents over the house and we took the dogs to stay in a hotel down by LAX. So for all of Saturday and Sunday I was locked away in a hotel with a pool and a jacuzzi and a desk with a great view of the city. And I wrote.
The Beefcake had to work, so he wasn't there most of the time. It was just me and the dogs.
I got notes last week on my latest project, so I was determined to complete an entire rewrite in two days. I wrote for an hour, walked the dogs, watched an episode of Farscape, wrote for an hour, walked the dogs, got lunch, wrote for an hour, walked the dogs, swam in the pool, wrote for an hour, walked the dogs, got dinner, watched a movie.
And I got it done. I did some major improvements, more than I thought I was going to, but this morning I woke up hating the new ending - way too schmaltzy - so I'm going to go back to my original ending today. Then I'm going to put it back up tonight for more notes.
I had few distractions, someone else preparing my food - fortunately there was a Subway nearby so I didn't have to subsist on burgers alone - and a change of venue to jumpstart a little creativity. Plus I loved being able to swim at the end of the day, then sit in the jacuzzi and meet people. One of the cool things about staying in an airport hotel is that there are new people in and out every day, so every night the jacuzzi holds different people from distant lands with different stories about where they're from and where they're going.
So the first night it was two rich couples from New York on their way to Hawaii. The second night it was a hippie lady learning some new healing technique from a local hippie guy, and a mom whose son with Leukemia was on his way to meet with people from the Make A Wish Foundation. I hope he gets better soon.
I really liked doing this. I think I'll start making this a regular habit for first rewrites. Next time I'll try to stay by the beach.
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
I have a torn ligament in my right wrist. I've had it for years after I fell in my kitchen while dancing around. I'm sometimes a very sparkly and easily excited person, and I am also clumsy, and this combination means I regularly injure myself while doing silly things. This time I was spinning around and slipped and made a choice: slam my hip into the corner of my counter or spin the other way and land on the floor with all my weight on my hand.
I went to the doctor, but he said it was fine. No X-Ray. No big deal. Went home.
Five years later I took up kickboxing, and that's when I must have busted loose the only thing keeping that ligament together. I've been in steadily worsening pain ever since.
I went to my doctor a few years ago, and he told me to "just stop using it." I'm right handed, asshole. Anyway, I won't bore you with the details, but it took a year, three other doctors, a physical therapist, two X-Rays, an MRI, and an Arthrogram to finally get me in front of the right orthopedist. He gave me an injection which made it better until one day I grabbed a medicine ball the wrong way, and it's been downhill ever since.
A few weeks ago I also had an ultrasound. I like to say that the only way left to examine my hand is to send a shrunken Dennis Quaid in there.
Anyway, I cannot write anything without pain. Signing my name hurts. I can type, but even that hurts after a while. If I go on a three-hour writing session, I'm in pain for the rest of the day. It's a little better with some Ibuprofen and Icy Hot.
I can't grade papers effectively. I'm requiring all students to type from now on, but even then....
Even thought I wear a brace, people still keep trying to shake my hand and hand me boxes to carry. I think they all assume I have carpal tunnel.
But all this is part of the reason I don't blog as much as I used to. Right now at this minute, this shit hurts. And what's worse is that it hurts to write my pages. This weekend I'm going to be in a hotel for three days with only my laptop and the dogs who I can't leave alone for too long while our house is tented for termites, so it's the perfect time to write. I just got these terrific notes, and I wrote up a list of what I need to change, and I'm excited, but I'm scared I'll be in too much pain to get the job done.
I'm having surgery in November, but what if it doesn't work? This keeps getting worse almost by the day. I'm afraid that soon I won't be able to use my hand at all.
I hate that I had to give up kickboxing, which I love, until this is fixed, if it is ever fixed. And I never got to start learning jujitsu. I'm scared that now I never will.
So the lesson here is, don't fall on your hand if you can help it. And if you do, get an X-Ray no matter what the doctor says. And if your doctor says years of pain is probably nothing, punch him in the gonads and insist on a replacement doctor. These are things I have learned.
But mostly, if you have a perfectly functioning hand, don't take that shit for granted. Write some pages this weekend or tomorrow or tonight or right now. Or give me your hand. I'd use it to do some pushups. I haven't done a push-up in years. Hell, I can't even do Downward Facing Dog.
Here's hoping come November I can get back to normal. Normal would be good.
Monday, October 10, 2011
Usually when I get notes on a first draft, they're all about a page one rewrite. This time I got notes about how to fix problems in the existing script, positive notes about how the whole things works as a whole but needs some tweaks with character relationships.
So for once, I did it right the first time.
I think moving slowly and rethinking my decisions paid off. Normally I rely on my first instinct for the scene. I see a character behaving a certain way, so that's how I write it. Sure, I'll adjust the scene a bit to make it stronger, but I usually don't consider erasing an entire day's worth of work and starting over. This time I did. If I woke up and realized the last 6 pages were crap, I deleted them outright and wrote a whole new scene.
It probably helps that this is quite possibly the most commercial thing I've ever written.
Anyway, I'm glad. I didn't write anything this past weekend, partly because I was obsessing over my new phone (I finally found out what the fuss over Angry Birds is all about) while watching episodes of Farscape, and partly because I wanted to sit with the notes a while. Usually as soon as I get notes I dive back in, but for this script I wanted to continue the slow, thoughtful method I've been using. Think first, then write.
So far so good.
Wednesday, October 05, 2011
SPOILERS FOR DOCTOR WHO SEASON FINALE.
We knew he was supposed to die, but we as followers of the industry also knew Matt Smith wasn't leaving the show, and there's no way the writers and producers and the BBC were going to just end such a great show, and a lucrative show, out of nowhere. So the question in the minds of all the fans was "How the hell are they gonna get out of this one?" Which is a great situation to be in. I love it when I have no idea how they'll get out of the hole they dug themselves.
Which leads me on a brief tangent. I loved Farscape dearly, like more than any other show, which says a lot, but I was watching old Farscape episodes recently, and it still bugs me how they'd get out of these crazy impossible season ending puzzles by saying basically "And they got out of there somehow and ended up here" or "And he was not really dead" or some equally lame solution to a complicated problem. But who cares, really, because the show was badass.
Anyhow, the point is, we knew the Doctor wouldn't really die, but the show backed itself into a corner. How were they going to worm their way out of this? We were all looking for the answer.
And they gave us the answer. The Tesselacta showed up in the Previously On so we were all thinking about it. The Doctor is totally a robot when he's shot! He's got to be! But then they used The Tesselacta and some of the information it provided, so okay, maybe that's why they showed it. And then there's the fact that in the season premiere when we saw his death scene, he tried to regenerate. There's no getting around that. He definitely did that gold glowy thing he does. The robot couldn't have done that.
So it couldn't have been the Tesselacta.
And there it was, right in front of us.
I don't know about you guys, but I rejected the idea that it was the Tesselacta as soon as I realized that he regenerated. But when we went to the actual scene where River shot at him, we didn't get to see him regenerate. And as we flashed to the new present where River decides to save him, we still never see him regenerate. But we've forgotten that we already rejected the Tesselacta because he regenerated. All we remember is, we rejected it. So we never saw it coming.
What a great red herring. That's textbook; show me the answer, then give me a reason to disbelieve it, then make me realize I forgot that I had the answer all along.
And that's why Doctor Who continues to be number one on my list of shows to record on the DVR.
Monday, October 03, 2011
I was trying too hard to do lots of unconventional things, and I was so stuck in the scenes I'd planned out in my head that I couldn't see any other way to tell the story. I put the script away and continued to work on other projects, knowing that one day I'd return to Burnside to fix what was wrong.
Today is that day. I don't think I was ready for this script a few years ago. I'm ready now. The answers have been coming quickly every time I ponder the characters and their actions. I had a eureka moment in the shower last night where I literally yelled out "HE KILLS HER BROTHER! OH MY GOD OF COURSE!" And then clapped as I realized I had solved one of my toughest story problems.
Last night I cranked out my treatment in no time flat. I know these characters and this world - I just needed to rearrange their order of operation. I had been stuck on my original plan and unwilling to re-envision it the way it needed to be seen.
The first step was realizing that my protagonist needed to be my antagonist, and my love interest needed to be my protagonist. That one switcheroo changed everything for the better. The challenge is changing the way I think of these people. The person I used to side with is now the enemy, which is a little difficult to wrap my brain since I've now known this character for years. The upside of that is that my antagonist now has a really clear goal and backstory.
I want to use the same opening scene and a couple of moments in the middle, and at first I opened the old file to copy and paste that first scene into the new folder, but then I stopped.
I want to start over. I'm scrapping every word. I am older, wiser, a better writer now than I was a few years ago. This version doesn't need to be handicapped by an old me. This script HAS to be good; it's my constant labor of love.
So while I wait for notes on my last project, I'm going to start pumping out pages of Burnside: The Reboot. I have a feeling this won't take nearly as long as other projects because of how well I know this one. I've changed everything. I kept most of the characters, the setting, and the basic premise, but the plot is completely changing.
Because sometimes you have to scrap it and start over. And sometimes it takes a while to get there.
Thursday, September 29, 2011
Sometimes Harry posts comments here so maybe you've seen him around. He's a good dude who can write great stories.
But more importantly, he writes good books. You know when your friend writes something and they're all excited about it and you're like Oh man this is gonna suck and I'm gonna have to pretend to like it? Well I didn't have to do that with Harry's books. They are really good. Like super good, like read-the-whole-thing-in-a-day good, and I don't even like fantasy stuff unless you count Wizard of Earthsea, and that was when I was like 12.
So I guess what I'm trying to say is, Child of Fire, Game of Cages and Circle of Enemies are like A Wizard of Earthsea for grownups, and if you're a fan of Buffy or really anything where a dude gets in over his head in a world where people spontaneously combust and shit, this is the series for you.
I am often reluctant to try modern literature. The librarian at school had to talk me into allowing the kids to use living writers for their American authors projects; I am reluctant to read anything that wasn't written a century ago. Except Harry Potter, I guess, because I dove right into those things. But I included Harry's first book, Child of Fire, on the list, and the kid who chose that book devoured it and asked about the next one.
The point is, you should read Harry's books because they're really good and I want to share them with you.
Monday, September 26, 2011
I don't know what happened. I loved Buffy. She was great, but this girl sucks. That guy who played Pip in the BBC version of Great Expectations (you know him as Mr. Fantastic, but you are not an English teacher) made me interested, but not enough. I was about to stop watching and delete the recording and then I saw D.B. Woodside and I was like yay! D.B. Woodside! Buffy and Principal Wood, together again! And also the president's brother who was then briefly president!
And if you understood all that, you watch too much TV.
But then I realized it was a completely different dude who kind of looked like D.B. Woodside. So I was back to not caring. But then there was that chick who was on Hustle and Warehouse 13 and she's pretty cool, but not D.B. Woodside cool. And that eyeliner dude from Lost whose story never got resolved with any real satisfaction.
Still, based on all these people I recognized, I watched the whole episode even though I decided about five minutes in that I wasn't down with this show.
I just thought it was interesting that the actor made such a difference. I think there's such a glee to seeing someone who played a role you love that you're willing to sit through things that suck just to relive that feeling. I'm not saying Ringer sucks, but it wasn't for me.
I don't know. I just know I didn't like the protagonist. Maybe I should have caught the pilot, or maybe seeing The Soup make fun of the pilot set my mine in a certain direction. Maybe it's too CWish. Maybe I just don't see where this is going. Maybe that redheaded chick's hair is entirely too red and it bugs me. Or maybe it's that I'm supposed to feel for a chick who has just walked into a life with a great job and a hot husband and lots of money and I just don't. I don't know.
But now I'm going to watch the second episode of Unforgettable, whose pilot I also missed.
Friday, September 23, 2011
The Downtown Independent, which is, of course, located in Downtown LA next to the Civic Center, occasionally hold drink along film screenings. What is a drink-along screening, you ask? Good question.
With your ticket you get A beer - in this case, a Tecate, which is acceptable. You can always buy more beer in the lobby. On this night they were selling more cans of Tecate 2 for $6. Then they ran out and sold whatever was in the fridge.
Anyway, so it's a drinking game. In the case of Lost Boys, any time someone caved to peer pressure, did anything super eighties, had anything to do with vampires, or said the dog's name you took a drink. And naturally a few people reminded us all to drink, so any time Michael caves to peer pressure - which is a lot - half the audience would yell out "PEER PRESSURE!" and we'd all drink.
I had to drive, so I took teeny tiny sips, and then a woman on her way to the bathroom knocked my entire beer to the floor with her purse and disappeared without so much as an Oops, so I took tinier sips.
By the end of the movie, though, a lot of people were good and wasted. Intermission. A beer pong game kicked up in the lobby. A mariachi band came into the theater to play for some guy's birthday. A girl almost kicked a fat guy's ass.
While two members of a group of four were in the lobby waiting for beer, the fat guy and his date took their seats and refused to move. The manager spent ten minutes trying to reason with them while the whole crowd looked on and shouted "MOVE" repeatedly. Eventually they moved and we all cheered, but then the chick with the guys whose seats they stole stood up and called him an asshole. But he was never going to fight her. He was a nerdy fella. She would have beat his ass.
So then we watched The Goonies. This time we drank when Mikey took a puff of his inhaler, when anybody spoke Spanish, when anybody said Willy... I don't remember if those were the real drinking cues. By this point people were just shouting things and drinking. Oh such fun. I highly recommend it. I don't know how often they do it, but I know they are planning something for Halloween. I'll probably go.
Thursday, September 22, 2011
I posted on this recently, but I was thinking more about the whole "why remakes upset us" thing. Because they do. Some people don't get it, and all the time on Done Deal someone will ask why the hell everybody cares so much if a movie is remade.
I've never been a huge fan of Scarface, but I think I get why people are up in arms about the remake. So I guess this is part two of my remake rant.
It can be summed up in one anecdote, really.
The new Star Wars Blue Ray commercials have plastered the TV lately. I love Star Wars. I've been a Jedi for Halloween on three occasions. I own life size cardboard cutouts of Han and Leia and an official Jedi robe and a pair of light sabers that light up and make noise and I played Knights of the Old Republic like five times and I've already pre-ordered the Kinect game and I own the original Gendy Tartakovsky Clone Wars cartoons on DVD. So I'm a fan. And a dork, but obviously a fan.
But when I see the previews for those Blue Rays and that little Anakin wanders onto Tattooine with that silly bowl cut and a scowly face, I get irritated. And then they show Jar Jar or Hayden Christenson doing whatever the hell he was doing in front of that green screen, and I just want it to go away. And then they pop in a shot of Luke in front of the two suns.
That shot. That beautiful shot, is ruined. All I think now when I see it is how much Star Wars sucks now. The magic is gone.
Maybe other people can separate what they love from what they hate, but I can't. A remake is a completely different film, so maybe they don't have to ruin the movie you love. After all, the Scarface everybody loves so much was a remake in its own right. But I don't know. There's something magical about a movie you love, and when someone comes along and fucks with it, that magic just sort of fades.
Tomorrow I'm going to talk about this awesome Drink Along thing they've got going on over at the Downtown Independent.
Saturday, September 17, 2011
Thursday, September 15, 2011
Then I got this idea last night for a new spin on an old story that hasn't been touched in feature form for decades. I was watching a thing on History Channel or Discovery or something and there was like this throwaway line and I just went Oh my god! I suddenly realized there was this story just waiting for me. It's so perfect for me it's ridiculous.
The thing is, on the surface the story's a bit of a western, and we all know westerns aren't really selling like hot cakes, but as I started to do preliminary research and put my own spin on it, I realized there are all kinds of neat non-western directions I can take this. So it could be like a western but not a western.
It's a period piece, but you never know. I think I could pull this off. I have to finish what I'm working on now first, then I'm going back to Burnside for a page one rewrite, but that won't take as long as starting from scratch, so I hope to be working on this new western/non-western thing early next year. And then I'll be set.