Sunday, October 30, 2011

Because backstory is important.

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

Droid Apps

Up until a couple of weeks ago I had a red flip phone with no bells and whistles at all. Now I have a fancy pants Droid phone with crazy technology. I'm not over the moon about the loss of privacy this kind of technology creates, but you can't argue with the simple awesomeness of it all.

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

Kids need good TV

The other day I was sitting in my classroom during my planning time, making the most out of my opportunity by grading papers watching Farscape on my laptop. A couple of girls who love me asked if they could use my room to work on their sewing assignment, and since they promised not to get in the way of my vital TV watching, I agreed.

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

Stuff I'm up to

My rewrite is almost done. I'll do one more pass this weekend, then submit it to TrackingB. I gave up on most contests, but you can't argue with John Swetnam's success in last year's TrackingB - Evidence is filming now. So I enter TrackingB, The Nicholl, and sometimes Austin. That's about it.

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

Locked away in a hotel room

I've heard of writers spending a few days in a hotel room to jumpstart a draft, and I always wanted to try it. Then we got termites, tons and tons of termites. All the neighbors have them.

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

My hand hurts

Okay, it's time I talked about it.

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

Good notes

I just got some of the best notes I've ever had. Last week I posted the first draft of my latest, How My Wedding Dress Got This Dirty, to a group of amazing writers, and over the past couple of days I've gotten three sets of notes. And they were great.

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

Doctor Who does it again

Did you guys see that Doctor Who season finale? Spoilers for that to follow.


Okay? Okay.

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

Commence Burnside reboot

A few years ago I tried to write a Civil War era action drama called Burnside. It was a really cool idea and I was super excited about it, and then I wrote it and rewrote it, but got the same results from everyone except my mom - it just doesn't work.

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.