Thursday, September 29, 2011

You guys should totally read these books

If you're looking for a good E-book, or just a good book book, you should read my buddy Harry Connolly's book Circle of Enemies. It's the third in a series of urban fantasy books called the Twenty Palaces books.

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

Thoughts on the one episode of Ringer I watched

I missed the pilot of Ringer, but I did see the clip they showed on The Soup, so I feel pretty caught up. I loved Buffy so much, no matter how stupid this show looked I would have watched it, so I watched episode two. Oof.

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

A drink along at the Downtown Independent

Last weekend a friend mentioned he was going to a "drink along" screening of The Lost Boys and The Goonies. How could I not go? Actually I thought about flaking because I had already had like the busiest day ever (pep rally, unrelated assembly, dentist appointment), but I already paid for my $10 ticket so I went.

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

My rant about remakes or reboots or sequels or whatever continues

School started so I got busy and then time just flew by and screenwriting didn't really get done. But this week I read a screenplay and did a set of notes for a colleague, so I'm back on the screenwriting train. I should be back to posting regularly now. And this weekend I'm going to sweep through my first draft making major changes and cleaning things up so I can get notes next week.

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

New new idea

Just the other day I realized I hadn't thought up a new idea in quite a while. I'm booked solid on ideas for a while, but I like being ten ideas deep to be comfortable. And it concerned me that I hadn't gotten excited about a new concept for a few months.

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.

Monday, September 12, 2011

"Reboot" is a dirty word

  Dear Powers that Be,

Stop rebooting things. Just stop it. There is nothing wrong with Point Break. There was nothing wrong with The Highlander or Total Recall or Blade Runner. Stop trying to fix things that aren't broken, or to "update" movies that don't need updating.

In fact, if you really want to be productive members of society, you will find a way to go back in time and erase Highlander Two from existence. And also stop George Lucas from hurting us. But I digress.

People are not as retarded as you think. They rejected Bucky Fucking Larson. They can still watch a movie with Patrick Swayze in it. Kids may not know who he is, but they can learn. We can show them. We can sit down with our kids and say, "Hey kid, check out this movie. It's the best movie ever made about surfing and bank robberies!" and the kid will be like "Ooh, cool, the '80s sure did have some neat movies! I didn't know Neo was an actor!" Not every movie ever made has to star Shia Labeouf.

And then, if you stop rebooting things we love, you can hire people to write new things, things that new people will love, things that add to our culture.

I'm not saying don't remake anything. The Crazies remake was pretty good. Not sure what else was. I didn't hate Fright Night. But did Fright Night NEED to be remade?  Did it really? Could someone have written a different movie in its place? Something new, something that would generate its own following one day?

So I guess what I'm trying to say is, Point Break is a perfect film. There's no way to improve upon it, and if there's no way to improve upon it, all you're going to do is fuck it up. A lot of us never recovered from the whole Greedo incident, and I'm not sure how much more we can take of the fucking up of things we love. Stop fucking up things you made us love.

With love,

Sunday, September 11, 2011

I figured out my theme

I haven't written any physical pages on my script in over a week, but I have been working on it. I was thinking. In the shower, the car, lying in bed at night...

As the story has gone on, I've developed more confidence in it, figuring out problems here and there, getting to know the characters - but it has always felt that something was missing. So while I was busy working on school stuff, I kept my brain going on how to fill the missing pieces in the story. It all comes down to theme.

Most writers don't choose a theme for the story before they start writing. With most scripts, the theme appears while you're working. One day you write something and suddenly - oh! there it is! I kept trying to figure out what my primary themes was in this story, but nothing emerged.

I just went back to scene construction. I was thinking about the big confrontation scene at the climax and how I wanted that conversation to go. Then I said a line of dialogue that was very trailer-friendly and realized I finally knew what my character wanted more than anything else - family. I created this dysfunctional family dynamic with her, and this close family dynamic with her love interest. And as I pieced together their climactic conversation, I realized she didn't just want him, she wanted his whole family. And there it is.

With every script, there is that eureka moment when you suddenly figure out what the whole story is about. It's weird how we can do that, isn't it? We're so determined to find meaning that even without conscious thought, the story just assembles itself in a thematic way?

Anyway, I still have a lot of work to do and I'm going to write as much as I can this afternoon, but at least now I have a better sense of direction. You start with an idea, you put together a story, you develop the characters, and eventually you figure out what it's all about.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Help me fix this black background shit

EDITED TO ADD: FIXED! Thanks for the help!

The blog is showing up fine for me in Firefox but not in IE, and I presume it's looking black to most of you as well, but I looked at my HTML and it looks the same as the old copy I have saved, so I can't figure out where the problem is. Blogger doesn't really have a traditional tech support. I have limited knowledge in this area. Can anybody help me out here?

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Work work work

School started today. I'm tired.

One of my classes has 46 students. I'm short two chairs, but had one absence, so one girl literally sat in another girl's lap today. I hope I have more chairs tomorrow. Or fewer students. Fewer students would be nice.

When school's in session I usually write only on weekends. I probably have about 18 pages or so left on the first draft, so it will be at least two more weekends before I'll be ready to move on to notes.

I wish I had been able to finish it before last week. Now I've got lesson plans to create and papers to grade. Work always gets in the way of all the cool stuff.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Business cards

I posted not long ago about how I occasionally get query letters because of my abandoned website. I kept meaning to do things with the website, partly because it's on all my business cards so I didn't want to get rid of it. This morning I realized I can use the money I save on not having a website and use that money to buy new business cards.

I don't have business cards for my teaching career. I just have them for writing.

So here's what I learned about business cards and screenwriting.

First of all, have one. A few years ago I volunteered at the Creative Screenwriting Expo - back when it was cool - and I met a ton of people. At the end of the weekend we all went to exchange info and scribbled our numbers and emails on loose sheets of paper. I immediately went out and made business cards.

I have handed out a lot of cards to people I met at parties and events and whatnot. It's handy to have them right there in your wallet, ready to grab and deliver.

The first card I used I made myself with those printer sheets you get at Staples. Those suck. They're flimsy and they look like shit. Suck it up and spend the money to get a decent card.

Beware that some cheaper online websites are fraudulent places. They send you business cards, sure, but they also collect your personal information and if you sign the agreement without reading the fine print you accidentally sign up to join some kind of club that charges your credit card on a monthly basis.

The online place I used for the past two cards is They did a good job, cheap, and they don't scam you.

The cards I've been using a friend designed to resemble the website design.  They have the logo, the website, and my contact information. They also list me as a "Writer, Producer" and have a black back side.

I really, really regret putting "Producer" on my cards. Like REALLY regret. I feel like an idiot every time I hand that out.

A lot of people will tell you not to put Writer on the cards either, and I get why they say that, but sometimes if I go to an event I come home with a stack of cards and don't remember who's card is whose. So I put Writer on mine so the person who looks at knows how to categorize me. It's just my personal preference.

But the producer thing is stupid. I produced one short film; I am not a producer. When I bought the cards and created the site I had all these big dreams that I abandoned when I realized how ill suited I was for the purpose. Yet I keep handing out these damn cards, cringing and explaining to people that I'm not really a producer. So the first thing I did with these new cards was remove that word.

The cards list my website, but I never use that site. I use this blog. So I changed that on the card. It doesn't list the site anymore, it lists the blog.

The last thing I did was leave a white back on the card. My old card looked really cool with that black designed back, but when your entire card is black, nobody can write anything on it. What if someone wants to make a note of something they want to remember about you? They can't do that if the entire card is black.

I also ordered far fewer cards. Years ago when I ordered these cards I was going out every weekend meeting zillions of people, and I thought I'd be handing out cards like water at a marathon. It was also cheaper overall to order more cards, so I ordered 1,000. Yes, 1,000 cards that say "Producer" on them. Most of them are still in a box in my office and will shortly be recycled.

This time I ordered 250. Much more reasonable.

These are the lessons I learned about business cards. Obviously if you don't live in LA you won't hand out quite so many, but you may still want some for the few events you do attend when you're in Hollywood, or for screenwriting related stuff that goes on in your town. I don't know. But this is my experience.

My main piece of advice is seriously, don't put "Producer" on your card unless you're actually a producer. Don't be like me. Dumb.