Monday, April 30, 2007

Hi ho, hi ho...

Today was my first day back at work after eight weeks of vacation. I almost forgot I had a job.

I've been teaching yearbook so long I forgot what a full day of classes feels like. I'm beat.

I spent all day Friday getting my classroom ready. This morning my boss told me I'm in a room on another floor. So I moved everything to the new room. I want my old room back. It was on the balcony, outside where I could see the sky all day. Now I'm trapped in a science room with bunsen burners. I hope I don't get gassed to death by an angry freshman.

Ten minutes into class after explaining who I was and why I was here, I still had kids suddenly realize they were in the wrong place. One actually begged me to stay because he'd rather be in my English class than go to Life Skills.

I don't have keys because the plant manager insists that the teacher who thought she was in that room turn her keys back into him and make me go get them from him tomorrow if I can find him instead of just having her give them to me.

But it looks like my kids will be good. I know most of them already. There is only one who looks like his ego needs to be completely destroyed before I build him back up again, so that's good.

Being the center of attention for three 95 minute periods teaches you a thing or two about storytelling. You can see the different body language when you start to lose the class, and you adjust accordingly.

I'm going to go collapse on my couch and eat my frozen pizza after I defreeze it and watch 24 and Heroes. We get to see catatonic Audrey and the scary future tonight. I'll probably fall asleep during one of Jack's torture scenes like I always do on school nights.

Edited to add:
My boss just told me I'm moving back down to the classroom I was originally in.


Sunday, April 29, 2007

My other half

Writing Partner has an audition Monday for a major national ad campaign. As in a company you've heard of. As in if he gets this job, you will see him on your television and maybe your local movie screen between the Fanta girls and the library kids.

He called me Friday to say he didn't think he wanted to do it because he didn't know if a commercial could really be a stepping stone to anything bigger.

This is the same guy who yelled at me for an hour at my stupidity because I didn't want to apply for a Writer's Assistant position on a major TV show. I gently reminded him of that conversation. Then I reminded him of Orlando Jones and the 7Up commercials. Then I reminded him how much he hates his current underpaying uncreative corporate job.

He's shaving his face and going to his audition just like he should. I hope he gets it.

This man is the most frustrating person I know. We argue constantly. He picks apart everything from my character descriptions to my eating habits to my love life and every time I disagree with him he rolls out the old quotes from Miguel Ruiz. I've taken to just hanging up every time he uses the phrase "You're taking it personally" when he tells me I'm weak and don't have the kind of brilliance that his film school education provided.

Ok he never actually says that. I kind of paraphrase a lot and exaggerate and that's when he gets frustrated. I'm certainly not innocent in our miscommunication. Our constant, aggravating miscommunication.

Sometimes I fear the world will find us curled up on the floor next to a fallen chandalier, both grabbing at a blood-stained script with our lifeless hands.

Partner and I are so incredibly different in our taste, too. He wants to write more dramatic emotional stuff or satirical comedies that explore controversial political issues. I want to write action stories that force people to make a decision between two horrible choices. He doesn't really appreciate my scripts and I don't really get his comedies.

But something happens when we work together. His strengths and his weaknesses completely balance mine out. He sees what I don't and I can fix what he doesn't know is wrong. And in the end he is a very good friend, a friend who I alternate between wanting to punch in the face and wanting to hug it out with all afternoon. Because he is the most honest and good person I know, dispite his bizarre desire to overanalyze everything.

Right now we're working on this series of chapters for our feature script. It's supposed to be a dark comedy. But his chapter is coming out way too goofy to be dark, and mine is coming out way too intense to be comedy. So when we're done we'll swap. I'll make his more serious and he'll punch up the humor in mine. And then we'll argue for three days.

Edited to add:

We just spent an hour in a massive fight where we decided we couldn't be friends anymore. He was mad because I said he should flesh out his characters more.

After an long email battle and me hanging up on him twice, we both took a breath and decided that we each inidividually overreacted. Then we workshopped our script some more and laughed and promised to take two days before responding to notes from now on.

We have an odd relationship.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

We're not talking about banana pancakes

Yesterday I was headed to lunch with a bunch of male coworkers including one enormous ex-Army Ranger when another worker passed us and said, "You know, of everybody in that group the only one I'm afraid of is the little one," and he pointed at me.

I get that a lot. I think it's the boxing. Or maybe my general aggressive personality. But seriously, I'm a kitten. And just like a kitten, I will randomly go from curling up in your lap to attempting your destruction with my tiny paws for my own amusement. Now feed me.

My point is, I love boxing. I'm not very good at it yet, but I'm getting there. Technically I kickbox, but some days Trainer and I forego the kicking altogether and just hit each other. And I don't really like watching kickboxing. There's something about it that just doesn't get me jazzed the way a straight-up fist to the face does.

(For the record, the Golden Boy is going to stomp Pretty Boy's egotistical ass next Saturday.)

Boxing is a chess game for tough guys. There's so much to remember and avoid and you have to do the exact right thing at the exact right moment, and one false move can get your ass knocked out. You have to have a high threshold for pain and a massive amount of will power. Check on both counts for me.

But I'm never going to be a real fighter. Maybe one day someone will convince me to try an amateur fight, but I don't know if I want to risk my brain cells just to prove I can survive in the ring against a girl who probably grew up just west of the Jersey Turnpike and knows her way around a welding torch. For now Trainer works. He doesn't actually hurt me because I pay him an absurd percentage of my income.

So instead I've been trying to find ways to write about the sport. Partner and I have tossed around an idea or two but every time I come up with something we name a movie that already did it. Girlfight, Million Dollar Baby, Against the Ropes - those are all about women in the sport. Then there's Rocky and its sequels, Cinderella Man and Ali, and rumor has it somebody's making a film about the great Jack Johnson (the boxer, not the singer. Although I very much enjoy the singer, but don't want to see a movie about his life until he's done some time in rehab).

What's left to tell?

Then came the new project with the feature in chapters. I was assigned Billy and Valerie, two characters we created for Game Night who are a little on the tough side. One story will be about Billy, one about Valerie. So I was brainstorming and thinking about things I could do that will reveal elements of Billy's personality and throw out clues that will inch us toward the inevitable conclusion, when suddenly I remembered my obsession with boxing.

Billy is an amateur boxer. There. I got a whole backstory and a front story and a reason why he has to be a boxer or the whole story is ruined. And because it's part of a larger story and only one chapter of the tale, it doesn't just rehash things that have already been written about the sport. Plus I found a cool way to tell the story that's never been done.

It fits perfectly and makes me ever so happy because vicarious living is what writing is all about. Now I get to be a boxer too. Unfortunately for us both our opponent is going to knock our ass out. But that's the way the story goes. There's nothing I can do about it.

Friday, April 27, 2007

For the Lex lovers

If you are one of the many people coming here in a search for details about Michael Rosenbaum I am sorry I don't have more to say on the subject. He's a lot taller in person than I thought and he seemed to be very hyper when I saw him at the party Wednesday night. He was better looking than he is on TV, but still bald. That's all I can tell you because I did not talk to him.

Here's a picture I did not take. You've probably already seen it, but I haven't. I hope this helps with your stalking.

This is how we do it

I've gotten a lot of questions about my job both on and off the blog lately, so I will take this opportunity to explain what it is that I actually do all year.

The school where I teach is year round with three tracks. That means two tracks are on while one is off and each semester is eight weeks long. So you have two semesters at once - 16 weeks - then you're off for eight weeks.

In case you weren't paying attention, let me repeat that. Each semester is eight weeks long. We use up about two weeks of that in standardized testing, assemblies, riot control and various other activities. And it's extremely difficult to get our kids to do homework. So you can see why they might be a little behind.

We're on block scheduling, which means we have four 95 minute periods each day and half an hour for homeroom.

We don't have enough classrooms for all the teachers. Since I teach yearbook I'm one of the lucky ones who doesn't have to travel three periods a day. But I do have to switch rooms on occasion. Nobody in this school has a permanent room.

We have constant payroll problems. Hardly anybody ever gets paid what they're owed. One of my friends went a month once without a paycheck. Need supplies or books? Good luck.

I can only go to the bathroom every hour and a half, unless a kid has a question and then I have to wait an extra class period. A lot of first-year teachers get bladder infections.

But we get by. The kids are great because for a lot of them, they've been told all their lives what massive failures they are. Every time I tell people where I work they're amazed that I'm still alive. People don't expect anything from them so they stop expecting anything from themselves. Until we come along.

One of the best things about my job is the way I get to see the change take place. You see the failures too, but far more often you get to watch a scared, angry kid open up and take charge of his life right in front of you. Most of the time all you have to do is give them responsibility. Take a kid nobody has ever trusted with anything and put them in charge of something important and their whole life changes. It's amazing to watch.

I'm also lucky in that my boss likes me. She's a great boss. If you're a whiner, you get the bad classes. I never complain so I get honors kids and the best planning period. I also genuinely like my kids. It's sad how many teachers walk into a classroom filled with resentment at the children they're supposed to educate.

And if you don't have a thick skin they will obliterate you.

But they make you laugh all day if you let them.

And that's why I put up with the constant frustrations around here. I worked a solid year with no vacation until this last eight weeks when I finally got some time to myself to work on my screenplay, and it was kind of tough. Teaching's an easy profession to burn out in; that's why we need the long vacations.

I do not teach much grammar. People hear you teach English and they assume it must be a year of diagramming sentences and filling in worksheets, but most teachers don't deal with diagramming sentences anymore. Instead I teach literary terms, reading comprehension and essay writing. My kids deal in higher level thinking.

Today was a work day. I start teaching a new group of kids Monday - two classes of freshmen English and one class of juniors. Then prom, graduation and a new school year that starts the day after the previous one ends.

Welcome to LAUSD.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Wet willy, Mr. Timberlake

This is kind of neat.

MTV is offering film makers the opportunity to make the parodies for this year's awards show.

I don't really do parodies so I won't be giving it a shot. Also, I don't actually own a camera.

One of the most entertaining parodies I've ever seen was the Matrix spoof they did with Justin Timberlake, Sean William Scott and Will Farell a few years ago. It's a special feature on The Matrix Reloaded DVD. It's kind of the best thing about the DVD.

My first real Hollywood party

Last night I went to the premiere party for Kickin' It Old Skool, the new movie with Jamie Kennedy, who always makes me think of Romeo + Juliet because he played one of the Montague boys.

That's right. Jamie Kennedy makes me think of Shakespeare.

I didn't see the movie but I did see Jamie Kennedy, Emmanuel Lewis, Michael Rosenbaum and Joey Fatone. And maybe Bob Saget.

I met that Asian dude who was in the movie, Bob, even though he had absolutely no interest in meeting me. But I was talking to his brother at the time so I think he thought he was helping the guy score, like Vince on Entourage. His girlfriend is leggy and blond and like four feet taller than him. And very nice.

Bob's brother told me the movie is really good. He wouldn't lie to me, would he?

I got hit on by a guy who looks like Turtle, so that kind of blows my "Turtle is actually kind of cute" theory. His buddy was the worst wing man ever because he made sure we all knew he did not like my friend. Supposedly Turtle has a movie in development over at New Line. Like I care. He was still sleazy. Apparently he'd been stalking me since he saw me in line and fell in love with my mini skirt.

I woke up with a movie T-shirt on. I think the bartender gave it to me. He also gave me a lot of drinks that I in turn donated to my toilet when I got home. I blame him for the fact that I spent half an hour sleeping on my tile bathroom floor in the wee hours of the morning.

I've been on vacation for a while, but I have to go back to work tomorrow and mold young minds. I think I'm ready now.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

But Seventh Heaven got eight hundred seasons

Dammit all to hell.

Apparently after only three weeks on the air, Fox has cancelled Drive.

At least this time nobody can blame Fox for not pushing the show or for putting it in a crappy timeslot.

I blame you.

You didn't watch it, did you?

You're an idiot.

Stop watching Are You Smarter Than My Neighbor's Dyslexic Cat and pay attention to good stories with Nathan Fillion in them. And fast cars. Hot women and fast cars and hot dudes and bank robberies. They killed off the ugly chick. What more do you people want?

For crying out loud.

How writers go method

One time while I was at Lead Actor's house for a party he did something that really pissed me off. I have since forgiven him and am way over it, but at the time I was very upset.

I went home and couldn't shake the anger so I wrote about it. I got out my laptop and wrote a six page short that took the events of the night before and shifted them around to make them a little story about a girl who's hopes and dreams are crushed by one man's actions.

That's not really what happened, but it was generated from what I felt at that time.

I wrote it in ten minutes, sent it to Partner and despite a disagreement about some structural elements, he thought it was really good.

So flash forward to this new plan we have about writing our film in chapters. I realized it would be an excellent introduction to our series to use this particular short as the opening chapter. I did a rewrite, changed surprisingly little, and now it's ready to go as part of our larger story.

Two things I think are interesting about this. One, you never know what's going to be useful. I wrote this short as a way to exorcise a demon and deal with my own silly emotions. I never had any intention of doing anything with it. Yet here it is, saving me time and energy by melting into the story we already created. All I had to do was change character names, a few details and one or two lines of dialogue.

The second thing I find interesting about this is what it's going to mean for Lead Actor. The character I based on him in this story is the one I've turned into his character from Game Night. He'll recognize the event right away as soon as he reads the script. So now he's going to have to play a real asshole version of himself doing an action very similar to something he actually did. That should be pretty surreal.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

My rental nightmare

This is a lesson to anyone planning to move to Los Angeles any time soon.

Let me tell you about Wellman Properties.

Wellman Property Management, located at 1415 Stanford Street in Santa Monica, is hands down the worst rental agency I've ever dealt with. In short, only greedy douchefucks are allowed to work there.

Every time I've been in their office they've acted like I was a complete burden on their time. When I lost my roomate suddenly and had to pay rent three days late they showed me no sympathy whatsoever. When my car got broken into they implied that it was my fault for not expecting it to happen. And if you call them to ask a question or report a problem, they might consider getting back to you a month later.

When I moved into that place the carpet was filthy. I was surprised that it was not new since the previous resident had been there over two years, but I didn't really worry about it even thought it turned my feet black just to walk on it. It was the absolute cheapest carpet on the planet, the kind that's rough and ugly and sucks up dirt like a Dustbuster. But I'm not one to complain so I lived with it.

Once a guy came into my apartment and cut four square holes in the ceiling in various locations. He filled them in about two months later. I still have no idea why.

In January, after my car got broken into twice while it was in the garage and they refused to change the code to the gate to prevent future breakins, I decided to move out. On January First I got hit with a bill for an $80 increase in rent starting January First. I refused to pay it since they gave me no notice.

After I moved out two months ago I went back to clean on March 2. A Wellman employee was there and even though I had nothing in the apartment but cleaning supplies and he wasn't planning on doing anything to the apartment that day, he ripped into me for not being out sooner. I left without cleaning.

So I call up the company to ask where the hell my deposit is. I need this money desperately this week. I knew I had a couple of late fees and I knew they were going to have to replace the carpet in the living room, but it's cheap ass carpet and it wasn't new to begin with and the other rooms were fine. Plus I left these people my refrigerator and a water filter on the tap. And I've always been a model resident. I gave them 30 days notice even though I already had the apartment lined up, I didn't have wild parties or piss off my neighbors and I almost always paid rent on time.

My initial deposit, counting the pet deposit, was $1595. I got a bill today that says I owe them $77.88 above that.

I nearly had a heart attack. I was expecting a check for at least $800.

The carpet replacement bill alone was $1244. They charged me the extra $80, $100 for cleaning even though they refused to let me clean it myself, and an extra late fee for not paying the extra $80 in January.

The dumpster is spilling out into the garage, the lights are all busted or burned out outside, the gate latch rarely works and a leaky roof bubbled the paint and dripped dirty brown water onto the wall in my bedroom. But these people want more money from me.

So if there's nothing else I can do at least I can warn other people from dealing with them. Wellman Properties is a slumlord. If you are thinking about renting from them, don't.

UPDATE: I read the PDF James suggests in the comments and used what I learned to mail a letter demanding payment for violations from Wellman. I also demanded a copy of the receipt for the carpet cleaning. Turns out they had "accidentally" charged me for new tile as well and sent me a check for $354. It's not as much as I was asking for, but it's probably all I'll get so I'm leaving it there. At least I got something. I only got it because I demanded it.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Maybe we'll get Snow Patrol on the soundtrack

Partner and I have a new exciting idea.

We've been tossing around several theories about our next collaboration and finding nothing that aroused us both. Then today Partner said he's working on a new short that he wants me to read. He says since he doesn't have that much writing experience he'd prefer to practice on shorts a while before he writes something bigger again.

This gave me an idea.

I have a short that I wrote just for the hell of it a month ago. It ended up being pretty good and not far off of the themes in Game Night. So I said to Partner, "Dude!"

And he said, "What?"

And I said, "We could totally do a movie based on short films that all connect. Like Four Rooms. Or Go."

And he said, "Hmmmmmm."

And I talked to Lead Actor and he said, "Oh yeah."

And then I said, "What ideas do you have for your character that you want me to explore?"

And he said, "I have lots. But I'm at work right now so please stop IMing me every two seconds with your eureka moments and questions about Snow Patrol lyrics."

So I punched him in the face.

Just kidding. I need his face to look pretty. Also I can't punch him through the computer because of physics.

But he's stoked because it means our little short becomes part of a feature and he now gets feature credit and a salary. So it's not like he'd be opposed to the idea.

So what we're going to do is write about six other shorts to accompany the one we already have. Each will be a piece of the lives of the characters in Game Night, which will serve as the final piece as soon as we add a coda. I'm taking two of the characters and Partner is taking the others.

We're still going to film Game Night more or less as is. But now we have something real to do with it. Before we wanted to use it to build resumes and submit to festivals to advance everybody's career. Now we need it to interest people with money so they'll pay us to make the rest of the story.

Don't you just love ideas?

Sunday, April 22, 2007

"No I don't need a daddy for my 3 kids"

There is a new show on VH1 called The Springer Hustle about the behind the scenes action on The Jerry Springer Show.

It's kind of what you'd expect - the most horrifying half hour of television imaginable.

The PAs find people who are "feisty" and willing to take their clothes off or beat the crap out of each other. Then the producers bring them in and practice with them. While the producer encourages White Girl to yell and scream and get indignant, she also encourages Black Mom to yell and scream and get indignant. Then they step aside and watch the fireworks they encouraged go off on stage. And everybody involved - the producers, the PAs, the guests, the audience, Jerry - they're all completely soulless.

Like I said, kind of what you'd expect.

But still.

It's the most appalling thing I've ever seen.

With every commercial break I felt a piece of my own soul break off and float away into the ether, never to return.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Save these boys

Did you see this week's Supernatural? That was one of my favorite hours of television ever. And not just because of Jensen Ackles, although he was indeed one hell of a PA.

The premise of this week's episode ("Hollywood Babylon") was a series of murders taking place on the set of a movie that coincidentally films on the Warner Brothers lot. I was just there the other day when Maggie showed me around. Why couldn't I have been there the day Sam and Dean were wandering around, joking about famous people?

Anyway, they sneak into the movie shoot and suddenly Dean's a PA, launching a string of hilarity as he quickly becomes the best PA ever on a really aweful movie. The episode reminded me of the "Wormhole Xtreme" eps of Stargate, filled with inside jokes but still amusing to people who don't know the business. But you could tell most of the jokes were for the benefit of the writers. It was definitely a self indulgent episode, but I don't care. It cracked me up.

DEAN: What's a PA?
SAM: I think they're kind of like slaves.

Supernatural is rumored to be on the bubble this season, which is a bit alarming because it's a very good show. It's also one of the few good dramas out right now that's easy to spec because it deals mostly in standalone episodes and you don't have to know an enormous amount of backstory to understand current events. I've got a Supernatural spec myself.

Plus, it's genuinely scary a lot of the time, but without the unecessary gore that makes me loathe to see modern horror films. Beautiful boys, scary crap going on around every act break, constant funny - you should be watching Supernatural. Start with the most recent episode. It'll crack you up.

Hollywood Nights

I'll tell you what a fancy haircut does. It makes you the belle of the ball. All the boys were trying to talk to me last night, but that might also be because there were only like three other girls at the party. As soon as guys found out I was a writer they were throwing themselves at me trying to get auditions for films I haven't written, even though I've been to these parties before and mentioned my projects before. I felt so Hollywood. Who knew expensive hair was so useful?

These two gems came out of my mouth last night:

"So I thought to myself, what would Mike Tyson do?"


"The point is, you were being a dick."

You can't have them because I plan to use them as scene openers.

The party was at Lead Actor's house because the party is always at Lead Actor's house. When we were back in his studio I found his giant stack of spanking new headshots and stole one to put on my bulletin board. I also got one from Partner. Then, when I get everything together I'll add the budget and shot lists and all kinds of other paperwork. I try to arrange it neatly and make it look pretty because when it's nice I tend to stare at the bulletin board with affection and that makes me start thinking about what I need to do. Having pictures of those two guys up there in my living room will remind me to keep working. It also might have the added bonus of creeping them out if they ever come over.

They're talking via email and so far they're getting along okay. Partner was all sketchy until he saw Lead Actor's reel and decided that maybe the guy can act after all. So I think I've avoided any major battles on set. Lead Actor said he wants it to be like summer camp, and I think that's a very good idea. We'll have smores on the craft services table. We can heat the marshmallows over the stove.

Lead Actor and I tried to have a discussion about what the core of the story is and what our goal is in producing it, but the conversation was interrupted by some random dude's intense need to remember Larry Birkhead's name which in turn begat a discussion of whether or not Anna Nicole Smith would be a good lay. That is not what my film is about.

Friday, April 20, 2007

What my haircut taught me

Since I live so close to Larchmont, the fancy little street in the middle of the city where all the cool rich people go to chill, I decided to get my hair done at HAS, the fanciest salon on the street. There's a Supercuts a few stores down, but seriously, who wants their highlights done at Supercuts?

They gave me something to drink and there were candles and fashionably dressed hair stylists and bamboo plants and all in all a general fanciness. I was prepared to spend over $100 because I was getting highlights and a cut and maybe a style since I'm going out tonight. I never asked about the cost because I wanted to pretend I was truly a fancy lady who lunches. I was there for over three hours. Fortunately my stylist was an absolute delight and we talked about the state of California public schools which her child is just beginning to discover as he lives very near the students I teach.

As I sat in the dryer with my head all covered in tinfoil I looked around me. There were fancy people all around, completely unaware they sat within mere feet of a lowly public servant who, quite honestly, had no right getting her hair done anywhere other than Supercuts.

I plan to go back there as soon as I find a way to mortgage my apartment. Want to see what $215 worth of hair looks like?

In a camera pan of the hair dryers and sinks this is what you would have seen: A Britney Spears doppleganger reading some sort of Us Weekly style magazine(apparently Prince William has split up with his girlfriend. A true international tragedy), a very old lady with liver spots perusing Lucky but holding a copy of Vogue in case the first magazine didn't hold her attention, a tall blond Germanic looking woman who easily could be a former supermodel turned trophy wife flipping through the latest copy of In Style, and little old me, sans makeup and deeply engrossed in A.J. Liebling's The Sweet Science which has a picture on the cover of the back end of a strong blow between Sugar Ray Robinson and Jake LaMotta.

One thing I have learned from spending time with actors is how much they love to play on opposites - like getting quiet when your character is in a rage or laughing when you're terrified. But it's also about your personal habits and interests.

A book about boxing does not belong in the fanciest salon on Larchmont any more than I belonged there. But there I was, nonetheless, acting as if I'd done this every day of my life. It made me think about my current script and how I hadn't done enough to give my characters those kinds of quirks. I usually do a very loose bio of my characters and figure out who they are as I go through the first draft. Before I start my first revision I usually go back through and figure out what little touches I can find to add to the backstories now that I know who these people are and what they're planning to do.

Today I remembered that I also need to give every single character a personality trait that is in direct opposition to his supposed stereotype, even if I never actually use it in the story. That will make everybody just a little more interesting and more real, but it's something I've been neglecting. Because it doesn't matter who you are or where you're from, you will always have a part of you that doesn't quite belong to the rest of you.

But it was also a reminder that places are imbued with that same kind of quirkiness. Even if the characters don't all show their opposites, maybe your locations can. Because you never know when you'll find a kickboxing schoolteacher in a fancy hair salon on Larchmont.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The best things in life

So Just Me accidentally started a meme and tagged me because I pointed it out. So here we go. Five things I'm grateful for. With pictures.

1) My cat. His name is Cyrano de Greenville but sometimes I call him by his street name, C Note. He's big and muscular and constantly hungry. He has all his claws and even though I warn people they still think it will be great fun to play with him until he rips the flesh off their palms. But he loves people and has never met a stranger. If he doesn't love you I know you must be evil. I have had many kidnapping threats launched against him because everybody loves my kitty.

2) My awesome apartment in my awesome neighborhood in this awesome town. I feel like I've spent my entire life making my way here. I love LA. And ever since I moved to LA I've been wanting to live near Larchmont. I just walked there this morning and got a bagel. I can see the Hollywood sign from my lovely balcony and I have hardwood floors and a dishwasher and the perfect amount of room for one girl and a cat. And the eternally blue sky always shines through my windows.

3) My friends. They're cool. And they help me out with things like making movies and throwing parties and boxing practice and advice and comfort when I get all sad and hating that boy I was having a casual relationship with when I walked in on him in bed with some girl at a party. I didn't have that many close friends for the past few years but the people I've met since I moved to LA are awesome.

4) Chocolate and nuts. Almond Joys, Mr. Goodbar, trail mix, I don't care. If there's a nut of some kind and there's chocolate involved, I'm all over it. Feel free to make all the dirty jokes you like because I already did. Chances are, if it's a dirty joke I thought of it first.

5) Hot dudes. There are so many, especially in LA. The gym is like a cornucopia of defined biceps. And I can't help it. I love biceps and the chests they're attached to. The guy in the picture? He lives here. He's like my big brother. My hot big brother with perfect abs.

That's what I'm grateful for. I hope the people in the pictures don't mind me using them. Now I tag people to spread the love.

Speaking of cool friends I've met in LA...

And as always, and because I know she'll do it...

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Stupid current events

Does anybody else feel sick after reading any of that kid's words? I mean, I seriously felt like throwing up when I read some sections of his "manifesto". Koreatown seems so sad today.

It was my turn to do revisions on Code Red, the spec pilot Partner and I have been working on. We got kind of caught up in the short film and I started a new project so the revisions got put on the back burner but I was always planning to get to them because we liked this project so much.

A huge part of Code Red's premise was about a school shooting.

I'll probably finish those revisions some time in 2015.

But that's why, after sitting untouched for months it's now off the list.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Ok sometimes Trainer puts Emily in a corner

I refer you to the prologue.


EMILY and TRAINER square off. Emily has on size 14 blue Everlast hook and loop boxing gloves and her hair is in pigtails. Her outfit is comfortable but perfectly matched.

Trainer is way too hot to be working at this ghetto ass gym with his hair all spiked up. He holds a long pad in front of him. The stuffing pokes out of the sides of the pad.

Emily takes a drink of water from her sports bottle by flipping it up with her gloves. She is already sweating in her pastel tank top and Gap Body pants.

A song by Bowling for Soup plays in the background.

We're working on the inside now, okay? Get yourself off.

Oh that's dirty.

Trainer makes a face. No more screwing around.

Ok go.

Emily moves around. She jabs and throws a solid cross.


Trainer advances, pushing against Emily with the pad.

Emily jabs but it's too late. She pushes against the pad but she's leaned back too far to get any leverage. She tries to crouch and work with her uppercuts but Trainer pushes her against the wall. She is cornered.

Punch out of there! Get away!


Emily tries to punch but can't find any room. Her hands are down and she looks out the glass door for rescue. Trainer has her completely pinned.

Find a way out!

Emily turns to the side to make a run for it, but Trainer is too close. Emily cannot escape.


Find a way out!

Yelling 'help' isn't a way out?


Emily sighs and turns back to Trainer but she is at this point completely helpless against his manly muscles.

He breaks off and turns to face her.

Okay. Roundhouse.

Emily kicks the pad extra hard and shouts extra loud. She steps back and waits for the lecture. Trainer puts down the pad.

Clearly we need to work on your inside game.

And it's not even New Year's

Marjie tagged me with a meme of my Five Goals.

So here they are:

1) Become a full time writer. Television. Movies. I don't care. As long as the project is interesting and I'm getting to spend all day telling stories I'll take it. I'm lucky in that I wouldn't mind spending all day in a writer's room with a bunch of TV writers tossing ideas around, but I am equally comfortable spending all day in my room in my pajamas typing on my laptop. It's all I've wanted to do since I was 11 years old. I didn't know it was screenplays back then, but I knew I wanted to tell stories.

2) Direct a successful short film. I love the script for Game Night. It's not going to take home the gay cowboys eating pudding prize because that's not the kind of story Partner and I write. But it just might crash some festivals and entertain some masses. If I can get my talented crew together and find two talented actresses, all I'll have left is to conquer my fear and inexperience and put this thing together. It will be like a house party with cameras.

3) Pay off my debt. In a month all I'll have left is the credit cards and the car loan. Then I can start chipping away at them. When that's done, I'll be free and clear and able to finance more short films and put some money into savings.

4) Stop being scared. When I box I tend to be a little afraid still. And when I'm at parties I still hide in the corner a little. And when I'm faced with something I've never done before I tend to freeze up and panic. But I have to remember that I'm kind of bright and shiny and "a kickboxing ballerina weeble" as Maggie called me. I have nothing to fear. Except clowns.

5) Stop stressing over boys. My daddy and my stepdaddy tagged team wrestled any reasonable perception I was supposed to have about men. I have to shake it off and realize that I can't live my whole life waiting for every guy I meet to let the other shoe drop. I have to be confident in myself regardless of how they feel, and if something happens it happens. But I can't force it any more than I can shut myself off and hide. It starts today. I'm going to finally say something to Hot Mystery Gym Guy Who Stares At Me All The Time. That is his Indian name.

Okay so there it is. I gotta tag somebody so...

of course.

And Riddley Walker, also his Indian name.

How to be an asshole

Back in North Carolina I had the safest classroom on campus. As the yearbook adviser I had control of the darkroom, which was only accessible through my classroom with a key only I and the janitor had access to. So when we had drills to practice what to do when there was a shooter on campus my kids would file into the dark room and I'd lock the door and we'd enjoy ourselves until it was over. There was a sink in there in case of pee emergencies, and we had a mini fridge and a microwave and a cool electric globe lamp. We could make all the noise we wanted because we were inside a room inside another room with no windows.

In my LA classroom I also have a darkroom attached to my room, but it doesn't lock. It has a rotating door, though, so if I have to take my class in there and hide I can put a pen in the track and stop the door from opening. It's not quite as cozy; there's no sink or fancy glowing lamp. (Don't get me started on the fact that our "dark room" has no sink. Or shelves.) Since our school is located on the north side of South Central we do a lot of lockdowns, but nothing has ever been very serious. Usually when we go into lock down it's because somebody robbed a convenience store down the street or because Little Round Boy and his codelinquents started a massive fight with their brass knuckles or because our principal heard a rumor that somebody thought briefly of bringing water balloons to throw around at lunch. But we never actually believe there's a real problem. The violence in this neighborhood all happens over the weekend off campus.

When the order comes to go into lockdown we're supposed to lock the door, turn off the lights, hide and stay put until we get the all clear. Nobody comes in or out of your room, even if they're wounded. The secretary is supposed to call around to all the rooms and get your status.

Of course, our campus isn't nearly as huge as the V Tech campus and they probably don't have a phone in every classroom. So I guess that's where the communication went awry.

Sometimes my kids confess things to me. In North Carolina they told me about cheating on the AP Physics test, at which point I reminded them that I'm not their friend and immediately told the physics teacher. Here in LA they tell me violent stories about crimes they've committed. I warn them not to be too specific unless they want me to go to the cops. But I listen and hope that the advice I give sinks in.

Once a student told me that the night before she'd been in the passenger seat when her drunk friend hit a car on her way out of a gas station. The other driver blocked her in and got ready to call the cops, so my student pulled out her wallet and paid the guy $250 to drive away and keep his mouth shut. He took the money.

Most of my class was really uncomfortable with this story. In her case, this girl was so glad her friend got away without punishment that she didn't think about the lesson they all failed to learn. I told her I hope I'm not on the road next time her friend decides to drive drunk. Then again, if I'm not on the road somebody else is. The kids never think about that. They only think about getting caught, not about whose lives they could destroy. I try to tell them, but I don't know if they're listening.

When something like this shooting happens people always want to know why. It's not that hard, though. It's always the same reason, regardless of the details.

Empathy. So many people suffer from a lack of empathy. As of this posting we don't yet know who the guy is who killed all those people in Virginia or why he was allowed to get so far, but I can imagine what he was thinking.

It's easy to justify cruelty when you have no empathy. If you stop to think about this person's family or his future plans or what he would have done the next day if you hadn't shot him to death, you can't do it. It's the height of selfishness. If you kill this person you have power over him. At least in the moments before you die you can make a difference. You can be remembered. These fools will know you were here in the seconds before you decide their fate. But you have to be careful because it will eclipse anything you ever did before. Nobody will ever say anything nice about you ever again.

So if you can shut down all your ability to feel for anyone other than yourself, you too can be a souless psychopath. I'm so glad that's not me.

Monday, April 16, 2007

My dream cast

I was thinking today about how much I love Peter Sarsgaard. Someday I will write him the perfect part and he will be in my movie.

And that in turn made me ponder who else I would love to work with. So I started listing people.

Peter Sarsgaard
Ian McKellen
Sigourney Weaver
Damian Lewis
Leonardo DiCaprio
Richard Brooks
Natalie Portman
Djimon Hounsou
Gina Torres
Justin Timberlake
Jensen Ackles

I can hear your laughter. You mock my desire to work with Justin Timberlake, but remember how much his sketches on Saturday Night Live didn't suck while suckitude was all around him? I think you owe me and Justin an apology.

And although Jensen Ackles is a talented actor, his position on this list is mostly for the nude scenes I'd write for him. I would not write nude scenes for Sir Ian, much as he would probably like them. But lookit:

This is my dream cast. I challenge you to name yours. I want to know not necessarily who you love to watch, but who you'd love to write for. Go.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Just another night in Los Angeles

Tonight I went to see The Thrilling Adventure & Supernatural Suspense Hour at M-Bar on Vine St. This is performed like a radio show, reminiscent of A Prairie Home Companion and stars Paul F. Tompkins, Paget Brewster and John DiMaggio (the guy who voiced Bender on Futurama and is, incidentally, eight feet tall), among other people. Tonight it also starred Amber Benson, Adam Busch and Samm Levine (who is, incidentally, two feet tall).

I shook Adam Busch's hand and told him he was funny. I exchanged understanding glances with Amber Benson when Adam started talking about his band. (They're an item, in case you didn't know. I didn't.) Then I nearly passed out from joy as Adam Busch made a conscious effort to remember my name even though he was about to go talk to someone he actually knew. A truly classy guy. Fortunately that bar makes a Mai Tai that is ninety percent liquor which made me a hell of a lot less self conscious so I didn't act like my usual bumbly self. Amber Benson looks much more beautiful in person than she looked on Buffy. The girl is downright radiant.

The show was written by Ben Acker and Ben Blacker (their real names, I swear) and genuinely made me laugh even though I was slightly distracted by how much the mai tai made me have to pee.

It reaffirms why I love actors. They make their money showing up in front of the camera, but you've got to see the joy on their faces when they get up in front of a mic with a script and their talent and not much else and make a go of it. It's why so many are willing to work for free as long as the script is good. The good ones didn't come out to LA to make money; they came to act.

It's good to go see live shows, just so you remember that LA isn't just about TV and film. It's about the art of story telling and entertainment at its best. This show was way better than that time I went to see the taping of that short-lived sitcom with Fred Savage and Jane Curtin. This one was actually funny.

Actor drama part two

The saga continues...

So Writing Partner hasn't called Lead Actor yet. Lead Actor hasn't read the final version of the script yet even though he's had it for two weeks.

The following is a paraphrase of my phone, email and IM conversations this week between these two lovely men.

Lead Actor
: Why hasn't this guy called me? Why hasn't he looked at my reel yet? It's mighty unprofessional to wait this long. He's not allowed to complain if he can't get up the effort to call.

: Why hasn't this guy read the script yet? It's mighty unprofessional to wait this long. I'm not calling him until he's up to date on the changes.

Lead Actor
: I've been really busy but I'll read it this weekend. I don't know what this guy's problem is but you'd better not let me take any shit on set.

: How busy is he? He can't read 12 pages in two weeks? I don't know what this guy's problem is but you'd better not let me take any shit on set.

Me: If I can handle a classroom full of angsty teenagers I can handle you guys. I'm sure you'll get along on set. And if you don't, come to me. Do not throw any punches.

They have never even spoken to or seen each other. Ever.

My theory is that they're so in love with me that each guy is jealous of the other. Sadly, my heart belongs to Jensen Ackles so they'll have to learn to deal with disappointment.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Censorship can suck it.

This really pisses me off. Do you know how hard it is to get teenagers to like to read? Next we'll be banning I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, The Color Purple and any other book that might suggest to children that all is not perfect and wonderful in this world.

It reminds me of the time I taught my class yoga and meditation as we studied Siddhartha. I'd done this for three years and every kid loved it until I had one parent complain. The principal ordered me to "stop teaching religion" in the classroom. The week after he gave me this order, a Church group handed out Bibles to the kids at lunch with his blessing.

I'm going to put my fist through a wall now. Please, if you're a parent, do a little research and think a minute before you complain. And if you're an administrator, get a damn backbone.

Koala bears are the eights

I need to see something that sucks or nobody will take me seriously anymore. Lately I've liked everything I've gone to see.

And last night was no exception. I saw The Nines, the first movie directed by Tim Burton's favorite screenwriter, John August.

The film is about... Ok, it's impossible to tell you exactly what the film is about without giving away the twist, but I'll try. It's a romantic suspense drama. I think. Ryan Reynolds (who made me drool even back in his days as Berg on Two Guys and a Girl before he had all those muscles) plays a man who keeps experiencing odd shifts and coincidences in his life and has to figure out why. There. That's as much as I can say.

There's a lot of LA movie industry reference in this film that I'm not sure the world outside this town will get and there may be a little to much exposition at the end. And there is a character who seems to know what's going on but then doesn't know what's going on and I'm not entirely sure why, but other than that the film was beautiful and those are all things that don't matter so much in the face of what is, essentially, a good story.


The cinematography was neatly done to minimize cost and maximize effect. There were some cool shots that really gave this film a surreal feeling during the surreal moments. At the beginning of the film Gary (Reynolds) is on crack and trying to drive and he crashes the car. Instead of showing us an expensive car crash, August gave us a crazy world view of someone on crack with upside down camera shots until Gary ended up upside down in the car without realizing what happened. So we got to pull ourselves into his body for the drug experience.

One thing I find terrific about this film is that the romantic lead is a fat girl. She's beautiful, but she ain't the skinny girl we've all come to expect from Hollywood, and by the end of the film you'll kind of love her too.

I cried at the end. I was glad they kept the lights down for the credits because it gave me time to clear up my face and look macho for the walk out.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Do more. Achieve.

It's been too long since I lectured everybody on their work ethic. So get ready. It's time for Why Aren't You Working Harder Lecture Number 345.

I have more time to write than most people. Partner was recently getting on my case about how I'm not seeking an industry job with enough enthusiasm. Actually, Partner kind of gets on my case about a lot of stuff. He's the most exasperating person I know, but when he's not making me want to punch him in the face I usually want to hug him so I keep him around. It's an odd relationship.

Anyway, I like my job for now because I do it well, it's rewarding, I get paid a liveable wage and benefits and it gives me plenty of time to write. I'd still rather be paid to write all day, but this is the second best thing. When I leave this job it will be to become a professional writer. Nothing less.

But I am aware that I have time others don't. Still. I think most people take too long to write their screenplays.

There's a small discussion going over at Wordplay about what to do when you're in the middle of a script when you become more interested in a different idea. Everybody universally recommended finishing the script you're writing before moving to the next concept.

I suggested writing the one you're on too, but while you're writing for an hour or so a day, you have the whole rest of your day to plan the next one and exorcise your creative demons that way. Then you're always working on two scripts at a time.

That's how I do it. I'm never without a script to work on because while I'm writing I'm always planning the next one. Right around the moment one script is finished the next one is on deck and I don't waste any time.

I'm working on an action spec at the moment and brainstorming with Partner about our next collaboration at the same time. I'll finish my first draft of this one by the end of April, and hopefully Partner and I will have beaten out an outline for the next script by then. If not, I have spec TV episodes I'd like to write while I wait for the inspiration to fully form itself. I can also do my revisions on the action spec during my planning period when I start back to work.

But you can't always wait for all the elements to be in line before you write. Writing is work. It's fun work, but it's still work. You have to sit down and say, okay. Today I'm going to figure out how to get character A to location B. Then don't stop thinking about it until the problem is solved. Then write it.

Simple as that. Isn't it? I guess everybody works differently, but I hear a lot of people come up with a lot of excuses for why they can't get things done. I have this constant nagging voice in my ear telling me that any moment I'm not writing something I'm wasting time, so it won't let me settle in and eat hummus while I wait for Queen Mab to send me the perfect idea.

Now I have to go write an actual scene or my crazy head voice goes all Harrison Bergeron on me.

The title of this post is actually an inside joke, by the way. Nobody who reads my blog will get it but I get it and that's enough to crack me up.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Road Warrior

Tonight Maggie and I attended a free screening at Citywalk of the first hour of Tim Minear's Drive which will air in its two hour entirety this Sunday on Fox.

Nathan Fillion was kind enough to stumble in and give the crowd an energetic intro before disappearing with his entourage so he didn't get mobbed by the crazy Firefly fans. He's so adorable. He looked right at me and Maggie, I think because of the combination of sitting directly in his line of sight and under a bright light, although I'd also like to believe it was the adorable pigtails.

Why on earth he is not a major movie star yet is a complete mystery because when that man's face is onscreen he dominates the scene. Most likely this show will launch him into the public eye in the way that Firefly should have. Of course, this is coming to you from someone who has his giant head on her living room wall in the form of a Serenity movie poster.

Don't worry about spoilers in this post. Nathan said if we gave out spoilers "they" would know and most likely come to destroy us, or something to that extent.

Just know that Drive is filled with really interesting characters and lots of cool action and clever twists and turns and mysteries and wry little jokes. As is typical of anyone who's worked in the Buffyverse, Tim Minear keeps to the tradition of juxtaposing the awesome action moment with the most absurd thing that could happen to turn a money shot into a joke. That's why it has to be Nathan. The man can turn on a dime.

You don't totally know what's going on with this race but you feel the urgency, largely because the act breaks are perfectly organized. I was really glad I didn't have to wait for commercials and I'm a little annoyed at having to wait three days to see what happens next. There's moral ambiguity coming up and that's always a good thing.

On the drive home from the screening I not only eyed my fellow travelers for suspicious behavior but I carefully suppressed my desire to ram them all off the road. There's just something about fast cars that makes everybody excited. So we should see an influx of crazy driving all over the country now if this show takes off like it should. Thanks Tim Minear.

I'm interested to see how speccable this show will be. If it stays on the air. God, I hope it stays on the air.

Tomorrow: A free screening of John August's The Nines. It's Two Guys and a Girl alumni screening week.

Lessons learned

Today I'm going to kick the ball over to Alex Epstein, who has a list going of mistakes people made on their first short films. Very informative.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Have you seen this man?

Even with Myspace and Facebook and Blogger and Google and the million other ways we stay connected in our society, it is still possible to lose people.

Partner wants to use my sad childhood in our next collaboration, so I've started telling him stories to jumpstart ideas. Let me tell you how much fun it is to remember the most traumatizing events of your life for the sake of brainstorming.

But today's story reminded me of a a boy I once loved and have since lost.

For the first four years of my working life I worked at Boston Market. By the time I left that job I could do every possible thing they wanted. I know how to cut a chicken into four parts with three strokes of a knife and how to treat a third degree gravy burn on your finger. That's where I got the nickname "Hurricane Emily" because of my incredible ability to make some small task into a disaster by knocking over everything in my path.

My parents were not always nice to me but they were upper middle class and educated and I was headed for college and always cheerful so nobody knew what I was going through at home. Except for Josh Culbertson. He saw everything. He was the only person who noticed that I stopped eating and he convinced me to have an extra piece of cornbread every night. When my stepfather came to pick me up from work one night and yelled at me in front of all my friends, Josh came to my defense. I'll never forget the look on his face as I rode away crying in the passenger seat while he struggled against his desire to rescue me.

And years later, after I went to college and started on the path to healing, he found me. He saw my easily recognizable car in the parking lot of a different Boston Market (it was a good place to work) and came inside. He had dropped out of school and worked as a dishwasher at some restaurant nearby, but his only concern was whether or not I was okay.

If it had not been for this boy I don't know if I would have survived adolescence. Sometimes people come into your life right when you need them the most.

I can't find him. It's almost like he dropped off the planet. I haven't tried paying for a service yet; I'm not sure how he'd take to being hunted like a wanted criminal, but I might consider that eventually. I never properly thanked him for saving me, or let him know just how much he helped me when I felt the most helpless.

I just wish I could do for him what he did for me.

Monday, April 09, 2007

These are the people in your neighborhood gym

There are a few things you are legally required to do when you pick up a Los Angeles zip code. One is to drink more coffee and eat more sushi. You have to start liking avocado on your burgers. You have to make yourself react to rain as if it's sky poison you've never encountered in your life and never want to again. Lay on the horn, turn left on red, and randomly change lanes at every opportunity. But most importantly, as soon as you cross the border into Southern California, you must join a gym. It's legally required. If the authorities catch you not exercising in a building full of mirrors and sweaty people they will throw you on the sidwalk and make you jog as they pelt you with sushi and spray you with a hot coffee hose.

My gym of choice is Bally's in Hollywood. It's a big, busy room where you can see most of the other parts of the gym from most of the other parts of the gym which is great for someone like me who likes to watch people and make arbitrary judgments about them based solely on their looks and workout behavior. That's where I see John Billingsley, Ron Glass, Slow Old Lady, Martial Arts Guy, and My Stalker, but I'll discuss those guys at a later date. My gym has a track and lately I've been ordered to run two miles at a time, which gets a little boring on a level oval path with the same scenery around every curve. I used to give all the trainers nicknames, but ever since Captain Forehead bowed to the inevitable and shaved his head it just hasn't been as fun. Plus I know their names now. Trainer's name used to be Hotness before he became Trainer, although you may be shocked to learn that his name isn't actually Trainer and I call him by his real name to his face.

Anyway, today I identified the types of people I see at Bally's. Feel free to add to the list at will.

1) The Pulser. This guy gets on a machine and pumps one muscle really fast while abandoning the others in what I can only assume is a vanity project. Sure, his bicep looks good, but he can't actually lift anything because it's the only muscle that works. He's not getting full range of motion. He is an idiot.

2) The Clueless. These people show up in jeans and sandals, hair long and flowy, no work-out towel or water bottle, no idea how to work the machines. They're too self conscious to ask for help so they watch other Clueless people, or God help them, The Pulser, and copy things the wrong way. They do everything too fast because they think it will make them fit faster, but it just makes them work really hard with no results so they give up and are replaced by a new batch the next week. You see a lot of these people the first week of January.

3) The Jacuzzi People. They don't work out. They don't swim. They come in their one-piece bathing suits and bathing caps, sit in the jacuzzi for two hours then walk around naked in the locker room complaining about how dirty the water is. Then they come back the next day and do it again.

4) The Princess. You will never see this girl in a torn T-Shirt. Her spandex outfit matches perfectly, her hair is never out of place, and sometimes she even wears makeup. She sees no reason to look like a slob while she works out and is completely aware of every man in the gym and whether or not he's looking at her. She always smells like lavender.

5) The Hook-Up Artist. I'm surprised this guy doesn't get whiplash from the way he watches The Princess run around the track. He thinks every girl at the gym is just dying for him to take her back behind the dumpster and show her a mediocre time. This guy also likes to watch himself in the mirror a lot.

6) The Slob. These are the people who don't look in the mirror at all, even though the gym is filled with them. They're a mess even before they get to the gym and they don't really care if you know it. Their B.O. might melt your nasal passages if you get too close. This is The Princess' arch enemy.

7) The Talker. You can be listening to Good Charlotte on your Ipod, reading a copy of Lolita and wearing a T-Shirt that says "Get the fuck away from me I hate people who talk to me at the gym," and The Talker will still smile and attempt conversation. Their usual aim is to infect you with their supposed knowledge of how to work out properly. They think everyone they meet is one of The Clueless and it is their mission to educate them, whether they want them to or not. Do Not ask a Talker about the nutritional content of a mango sunset smoothie.

8) The Dedicated. These are the people I like. They've done the research, they're kind enough to put on deodorant and wear reasonable clothing, but they don't care what you think of them because they're trying to get in shape. They tend to be a little rotund but they're fixing that the hard way as they show up every day and sweat out a few more pounds.

So which one am I? Well, let's just say you won't catch me at the gym in a torn up T-Shirt and I am never without my flowery body spray.

They're in the walls

I think old people live next door. Old people who never leave their apartment, apparently, because I never hear their door open or see them. I only know they're there because our bedrooms are next to each other so every night while I lie in bed and read this insanely boring book about movie production I hear the old man struggle against what I can only assume is Chronic Loud Angry Sneezing Disease. Do you think Dr. House could diagnose him? I think I'd rather hear people having sex. But only if they're not old.

I used to have a neighbor like that in my very first apartment when I was in grad school. My bed was pushed against the wall right next to where my neighbor's bed was pushed against the wall and I don't know what he did but his girlfriend seemed to really enjoy it. When I finally met the guy I was pretty convinced he didn't realize how much he was attracted to men, but that may explain why all the noise was coming from her vocal chords instead of his.

The other night Friend and I were on my balcony discussing the logistics of launching glass bottles across Beverly Boulevard when one of my neighbors from the building next door gently called out, "Can you guys keep it down?" We ran back inside and realized it was 4:30 in the morning. Sorry, dude. I didn't mean to be that girl.

And now I will do a little dance to distract you from this terrible transition.

Do do dooooo.


My desktop computer completely imploded last week and I have yet to try to fix it. It suddenly decided that whatever was on the big blue screen was really important for me to know and refused to budge unless I did what it said. Unfortunately it said something about lots of numbers and letters that mean nothing to me, even though I'm fairly computer literate.

Which is why I'm really glad I've used my laptop to write for the last year. And I'm glad Partner and I have emailed Game Night back and forth with every draft because I would be pissed right now if I couldn't get to it. As it is, I'm a little miffed about the thousands of songs I can't listen to in my ITunes folder. And I can't really update my Ipod with music fit to run to so I guess I'm stuck with a lot of Whitesnake and ABBA for a while.

So this brings me to my PSA. Please email all your major scripts to yourself because you will be enraged if your computer decides to have a temper tantrum and you can't get to your files. But if you email them, they're never lost. So go do that right now before you forget. You'll be really glad later when you don't lose all your hard work.

And please, have really quiet sex if you're old. Think of your poor, young, innocent neighbors.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Ode to Los Angeles part II

First of all, happy Easter. Or Passover. Or wait - is Passover happy? Hell, for that matter Easter really shouldn't be happy. Huh. April is Let's Celebrate the Tragic Death of Others for the Greater Good Month. With bunnies.

Oh well. Now to my post.

Everybody loves good stories. Seriously, who doesn't love movies? Nobody, that's who. People gripe about the "sad state of Hollywood these days" and how television "rots your brain" but then the second The Goonies comes on USA they're all over it. Because we all love the movies.

That's what's so fascinating about living in a town that revolves around film. Even though every third person has written and directed a short film, and even though every third weekend there's a film festival within a twenty mile radius of my apartment, every single person I mention my short to is really excited.

Most of them have no idea if I can write or not. For all they know my script is complete garbage, but they're just stoked that I'm going out and doing it, even if they've done it a hundred times. At the last Battlestar Galactica party a director actually gave me $20 and said to use it on craft services. And I will.

I was waiting on Contact to see if he liked the script and wanted to produce it, but now I'm thinking that's not the way to go. He helped by giving me and Partner excellent notes. If he hadn't done that our script would be much weaker. But Contact would most likely take over, and although he'd bring in money he'd also inevitably take control. He's a great guy, but we all know that he who fronts the money has the power. Isn't that what that kid from Third Rock says in that Lookout movie? Was he talking about producing?

I wanted his help before because I felt like I was drowning in confusion about how this sort of thing is done, but thanks to my reading list and the multitude of people who've been free with advice, I'm getting the hang of it.

Because every third person in LA wants to help. Don't you dare believe it when people tell you otherwise.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

By the power of Greyskull!

I just got back from the Creative Screenwriting screening of Hot Fuzz, the new action/comedy/drama/horror movie by the creators of Shaun of the Dead.

The movie got off to a bit of a slow start, but once it started it quickly turned into hands down the coolest thing ever. I nearly creamed my pants.

Minor Spoilers Ahead.

The movie is about an amazing dedicated cop named Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg who also cowrote the film) from London who's forced to move to a quiet little suburban town where there's no murder rate but people constantly die from suspicious looking accidents. So the overall question for most of the film is who did it. Once we figure out who did it - which will most likely come as a surprise even to those dorks who like to brag about how they figured out the secret in The Sixth Sense in the first ten minutes or something and then fail to realize that by doing that they kind of ruined the movie for themselves - the rest of the film becomes an action-packed homage to 'splosion-filled cop movies like Point Break, Bad Boys II and Lethal Weapon. It's got all the cliches, but the beauty of this film is that it revels in them instead of trying to pretend they're some kind of innovative creative vision. This movie makes fun of Michael Bay but still manages to make the action way better than he does for a fraction of the cost. The characters grow and change and learn a little somthing about themselves and the nature of right and wrong.

There's some gross scenes in this movie that are pretty difficult to watch, like when a guy literally gets his head bashed into his body by a falling rock and we get to observe the now headless body squirting up blood as it stumbles around a bit before it falls. Also, an old lady gets kicked in the face in what is one of the awesomest moments in the film and one of the best cases for a reshoot I've ever seen, since director Edgar Wright said he felt like it just wasn't good enough until he went back and actually showed the boot colliding with her cheek and splattering blood. Yes, old ladies get kicked in the face in this film and you will laugh your ass off at it.

And remember how just yesterday I was talking about realistic fights? Well there's some real brutal fighting going on in this film that advances the plot and provides some genuine conflict and humor all at the same time.

A word of warning. There is tons of heterosexual male romance in this film as the two leads become ever the best of friends, but there's no sex. There are, however, plenty of sex jokes courtesy of the policewoman with the dirty mouth. The only real female love interest is played by Cate Blanchett for all of five minutes with her face and body completely covered up.

So if you like buddy comedies or action movies or buddy comedy action movies, or if you just liked Shaun of the Dead, you will love this film. I did. And as we all know, I live action. It's almost like they made this movie just for me. It makes me feel all warm and tingly inside.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Nobody puts Emily in a corner

It never ceases to amaze me how much I learn about writing from kickboxing.

Trainer loves me. He loves me because I'm charming and witty and have promised to put him in my movies, but he also loves me because I do what he says. He pushes me harder than any of his other clients and by the end of the hour I am beaten and sweaty, but ready to kick ass, as soon as I drink my smoothie.

For some reason most people don't do that. They go into the training session and whine about every single thing he asks them to do. And don't get me wrong, I give him the finger and say nasty things about his mom all the time, but then I do the damn push-ups. But he's a doll because a lot of the time he'll do them with me. Or maybe he's just psychotic.

I look at writing the same way I look at boxing. I want to get better, so I'll suck it up and do the damn exercises. And when you're done you feel so freaking good about yourself that you're glad you muddled through, even if you do have sweat seeping into your eye sockets.

Yesterday Trainer kept pushing me in the corner and shouting at me to get him off of me but my arms were so tired from boxing for 45 minutes with only occasional 30 second rests. I couldn't get the energy to push him and he kept shouting and backing me into the corner and pushing the pad against me and I was trapped. Instinct hit me and I kneed him in the nuts.

Fortunately the pad protected most of his man parts and he jumped back with the grace of a gazelle running from the hunt, so I didn't kill any hope for future Baby Trainers. I apologized profusely but he just said, "No, you got me off of you," as he checked to make sure everything was still in place.

Because in a real fight we don't think about the most graceful way to land our punches. We react. If someone grabs you by the throat, you can't count on him to counter the way you've been taught. You have to work on instinct and you have to fight dirty.

One of Trainer's favorite stories is about a Friend of his who challenged this one Dude to a fight. As Dude was busy taking off his sweater to prepare for the fight, Trainer's Friend punched him in the gut. Since the sweater was halfway over his head, Dude couldn't react in time, and Friend grabbed him and knocked his skull against an iron pole.

In a real fight you use what you have available and you don't fight fair.

I say all this because I've been working on this new action spec and people often ask me if I'm using graceful martial arts moves like so many action films these days. But most people in most fights get it over with quickly and brutally and my guys are no exception. They fight dirty because they're desperate to win and because they didn't spend eighteen years on a mountain top learning graceful fight-by-numbers moves.

Bill Martell says it all the time that your fight needs to show us something about your character, not just be a plug-and-play battle. I venture to add You should also pay attention to the world your characters are fighting in. Flawed as the film was, look at how different the fight scene between Smith and Neo in the real world was in Matrix Revolutions as averse to the fight between them in the actual Matrix. The one in the real world was brutal because that's how most people fight. Hell, look at Fight Club. There's nothing graceful about those battles.

If you get in a fight with Trainer you can prepare for some dirty shit. And if you get in a fight with me you can expect a knee to the nuts. So watch out.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Lie to me

My fiction professor used to say that the best lies are the ones with a lot of detail. If you're a really good liar you tell your story with lots of fleshed out images and twists and turns and insistence that it sounds so crazy, it must be true.

As a teenager I was a horrible liar if I had to do it on the spot. But give me a few minutes to come up with something and you'd go to your grave believing I was mugged by an evil clown while I was changing a tire up at Crabtree Valley Mall when I asked him for help because I couldn't find the tire iron, because unbeknownst to me on my model of Jeep it was attached by lugnuts to the engine. But once I figured that out I couldn't unscrew the lugnuts because they were rusted, but it didn't matter anyway because the clown hit me on the skull and made this bump on my head, see? Eventually I got the tire changed, but by that time I was bruised and robbed and very tired, and that's why I missed curfew. So I certainly wasn't out drinking.

It's all in the details. Specific details too. The name of the mall for instance, instead of just "the mall". It makes the story sound more true if you use specific names.

Look at men who cheat. I used to know one. Let's call him "Dad" just for the hell of it. Dad came home one night and his wife locked him out and told him she knew about his affairs. He convinced her to come outside, then grabbed her hand and dragged her to his car, opened the trunk-

And showed her the bouquet of flowers he had been out buying her. She felt like a major bitch. He was hurt and indignant and refused to accept her apology.

Only the thing was, he'd bought those flowers for his girlfriend and was planning on giving them to her the next day.

That's what the great manipulators do. They make you think it was your fault for being fooled by their intricate web of lies.

And deceit. There's also deceit.

And isn't that what we do? We are expert liars. We invent outrageous twists and turns and it's our job to make sure people believe them. We have to sound sincere.

I just got hit by that. A dear - at least, I thought dear until today - friend of mine swore up and down about how honest he was and that he'd never lie to me because it's just not in his nature and he considers me a good friend and blah blah blah. And the whole while he was telling me to trust him he was hiding a big old lie that he was too afraid to tell me because he knew it made him look like an asshole. But all those sincere sounding promises, all those lectures about being open with people and not hiding your true feelings out of fear, it was all crap to cover his own lie. And now that I know he was lying he's an even bigger asshole, but I don't want to confront him about it because he'll just yank out more lies and I'll get all confused and probably believe him because he's an amazing liar.

He should be a writer.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Save the drama for your maternal figure

Actors. Remember how much I love actors?

Sometimes they can be big old babies.

Writing Partner is not so sure about my choice for Lead Actor. He thinks I'm letting my friendship with Lead Actor dictate my choice and that I should have auditioned people before choosing him. I didn't remind Partner of the irony of that statment since I didn't audition anybody before agreeing to let him play the other guy in the room. I have good instincts on this. He should trust them.

I love my friends, but I'm not letting my friendships get in the way of my film career. I'm going to do what's best for the movie.

But Partner is wary. He has this belief that if you work for free you should get along with everybody in the room. He's heard some things about Lead Actor that he doesn't like so now he's convinced they won't get along. So he's going to call Lead Actor and if he doesn't like him, he's out.

Great. As the director of this thing, that's just beautiful to hear. So what happens if he doesn't like his movie girlfriend? What if he doesn't find her attractive enough to kiss? Is he walking off my set the day of shooting?

And he balked at me calling it "my set". It's our set, he says. We're both producing. So I reminded him that it's my apartment and I'm paying for almost everything and I'm the one taking responsibility if it all goes south. MY SET.

He assured me that he would never leave me stranded and can't believe I'd accuse him of such a thing.

So I told Lead Actor, Partner will be calling you. Be nice. Lead Actor was irritated. I'm not fucking auditioning over the phone to this guy. What's his problem?

Good. Now they both think the other is an asshole. So far I've handled this extremely well. I can't wait until they get on set and start punching each other.

Fortunately the characters are pretty antagonistic most of the story. So I told Partner, even if you don't like him, you can use that. Lead Actor certainly thinks so. But no. Life is life. Acting is acting. And he's not flying out here unless he likes everybody.

So I throw up my hands. Maybe after the phone call they'll be enemies and Partner will force me to choose between them. Or maybe they'll be lifelong buddies and this will be the most fun shoot ever. At least they both still like me.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Pillar: The Legend Continues

Scott the Reader has a post today about resources for writing television, and it made me think of something I'm not sure too many people know.

At the last Battlestar Galactica party I talked to two different writers who worked on The Dead Zone. They were both pretty excited to meet somebody who watched it because it's on USA and every year barely keeps enough ratings to keep going. It's based on the Stephen King novel and has already gone way off the reservation on that one, but still keeps the core idea of Johnny the psychic (Anthony Michael Hall) who went into a coma and came out able to see the future when he touches people. Now he must save the world from Sean Patrick Flannery.

Overall it's a pretty good show. It has its weaknesses, but most episodes run a nice balance between self-contained stories and clues that advance the plot at large - kind of like Veronica Mars but lacking just a little of that Veronica / Dad spark.

The show was created by the late Michael Pillar and his son Shawn. As soon as I mentioned Michael Pillar to those two writers their faces lit up. He is universally respected in the TV writing community, especially at a Battlestar party where half the writers there worked with him at some point or another because he was also responsible for most of Star Trek and that's where Ron Moore got his start.

The best thing about Michael Pillar is that he was more open to new writers than any other showrunner out there. In this day when you can't even get something read unless you have an agent, he was willing to help inexperienced writers find a way in. That's how he always found such amazing talent. He didn't treat TV writing like some secret club where only the sexy people get to join.

His legacy continues, thanks to the lessons he taught his son. It's not quite like it was - you can't just email The Dead Zone and send them your script like you once could. But if you go to the website you can still find writer's guidelines for the show, along with full produced scripts and episode treatments available for free download.

Not enough people in the industry watch The Dead Zone, so your spec for this show would probably do you no good as a work sample. But for me, it was my first television spec because the information was so readily available. I read the book, watched every episode of the show up to that point, read several of the scripts and treatments and then wrote my very first television spec on The Dead Zone. Then I showed it to nobody and wrote one for a different show. But thanks to Michael Pillar, I got trained. The industry needs more people like him.