Thursday, May 31, 2007

Emily mans up

So today at my kickboxing lesson I was having some trouble because my thumb nail kept pressing against my thumb every time I pounded out a cross.

Trainer said, "If it hurts we'll just do some kicks."

No, said I. I love hitting things. So I pulled off my gloves by using my teeth, ripped the end of my nail off above the tip of the thumb and threw it on the floor, then shoved my hand back into my glove. Trainer was disturbed and couldn't watch. But it worked. No more discomfort.

So he hit me repeatedly to teach me about defense. I have leg bruises. But I did get one solid shot to his chest that sent him backing up, stunned. He pounded me in the gut pretty hard a couple of times to remind me to protect myself. Things are getting dangerous.

Then I went into the locker room and overheard a Penthouse Forum letter in the making. There was a tall, skinny chick kneeling over her locker, naked from the waste up. A smaller woman in spandex leopard print pants watched her.

How do you keep up your shape?

I run most days and I have a strict diet.

Your body looks really good.

Thanks. I do okay for my height I think.

How tall are you?

five eight

Oh. Well You look really good.

Thanks. Man, it's hot in here, isn't it?

I feel like I should drink a beer and watch football now.

If only Enloe HS was this exciting

Thank God somebody's finally making a movie out of my life story:

Special Topics in Calamity Physics

A teenage girl looks forward to the normalcy of a full senior year in a North Carolina high school after spending three years of moving each semester with her eccentric teacher father. At her new school, she becomes part of an upper-crust social set called the Bluebloods, and gets caught up with the rest of her group in the mysterious death of their favorite teacher.
To be adapted from Marisha Pessl's novel. Scott Rudin will produce. Ann Boden (cowriter) will exeuctive produce. Ryan Fleck (cowriter) will also direct.

Also, Mark Verheiden has been tapped to write the Teen Titans adaptation. He's a very nice man and one of the talented writers on Battlestar, so the script will not suck.

Maybe we can have a Bratz crossover movie and they can film it at my school. When Teen Titans Attack Cary Nation High School.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Future leaders of America

This week I graded journals. Here are some gems.

Prompt: If you had $10 million and one week to live, what would you do?
Response: "I would buy myself like 4 big ass houses so my family could live on them then I would start a big ass business so they could live out of it. Then I buy some dope ass cars and I smash on them. Then I would fuck all kinds of bitches for the rest of the week and I wanna die fucking a bitch."

Another Response: "...The last day I'll go to the president and tell him how much he sucks. I'll spend my last hours in jail."

Prompt: Are all humans created equal? Explain.
Response: "Before the Civil War people weren't created equal. There was a time where everything changed. Now and days people get treated by the way they look, skin color, or even by their personality."

Prompt: List five things you would do if you were president.
Response: "First thing I think everyone would do when they turn as president I would run around the house like crazy. Hahaha."

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

It's never too early to think about Expo

In case you haven't heard, Eric Bauer sold Creative Screenwriting.

The Expo will still go on October 24-28 the same place it was last year at the Marriott and Renaissance Hotels by LAX. Let's hope they don't have to share it this year with three other conventions. Registration is already open even though they don't know who will be speaking. It doesn't look like the new company is changing much yet.

I may be involved a little more heavily with the Expo this year, so I'll post more information as I receive it.

Women film makers are so cute

Yesterday was a crazy gung ho writing day and Writing Partner and I got a ton of work done on the script. So yay on that.

I was supposed to meet with Lead Actor Sunday to go over the script and look at the new chapters, but he blew me off because of his hangover and offered to reschedule for Monday. Monday he didn't call until 10pm and said he'd been feeling sick so we rescheduled for tonight when I will show up on time and proceed to rip him a new one for his disrespectful attitude. I do believe he's under the mistaken impression that he can't be replaced.

All my conversations about the script mean I only got to see the first hour of On The Lot last night, but what I did see was educational.

Why is a film about two party aliens puking on a stoic cop funny when a woman peeing in a cup on a bus is disgusting? I have no idea, but it is. The judges agreed. The judges kind of agreed on everything, which is probably going to change because arguments between judges get better ratings. But for right now they just kind of keep repeating each other.

Did you notice how hard Garry Marshall was trying to pretend he's not a sexist asshat? Almost every time a woman was on stage he said, "I'm all for women film makers..." to remind us how cute he thinks it is that women still try to break into the business. When the black guy was up there (Was there only one? Because it looked like there was only one) he didn't say "I'm all for black film makers..."

And whenever a woman made a film that involved pee or farting he asked why they tried so hard to be like men. "Why can't you stick to something nice?" he asked. The girls just nodded politely and pretended he hadn't just insulted the crap out of them.

Speaking of nicely worded insults, I loved this one from D.J. Caruso:

"It's a bad concept poorly executed" he said with a disarming smile. Ouch. The girl just nodded in her mummu and acted like her spirit wasn't just crushed into tiny bits.

How about that one guy who did his entire one minute film in one shot? That takes some major planning ahead and patient actors. Very impressive.

Did the contestants get extra credit for including that weird looking Verizon cell phone in their picture? Because the fact that it kept showing up in closeups was making me a little ill.

Yes, it's reality TV, but it's still kind of cool to see Fox giving the prettiest film makers in America and Italy the chance to show their talents to Carrie Fisher. I approve.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Cool Hand Emily

I have this constant need to get many things done at once. There just isn't enough time in the day to do all that needs doing. So I multitask. You will regularly see me typing out emails while reading a book, watching TV and grading papers. I even set the oven to preheat while I take a shower so I can clean and start cooking at the same time. I can't stand not having something to do. It makes me nervous.

The movie The Paper was the main reason I wanted to be a reporter. All those people constantly pressed for time looked like fun to me. Unfortunately the tiny town I ended up reporting in didn't really have a lot of mobster killings made to look like race related attacks. I mostly covered propane spills and various complaints by the town's vast octogenarian community.

I bring this up because I just wrote revisions on my most recent chapter while watching Cool Hand Luke for the first time and eating my lunch. I cried a little at the end of the film. It got off to a slow start, but once it got going that was a really excellent story. Brilliant carriage of theme. I can see why it won the Oscar.

But the fact that I managed to pay attention to the film and at the same time make solid changes to my script seems like it should be unusual.

Is it?

Okay, my script changes weren't that strong. Partner said they were crap and he was right so I went and rewrote them and things were much better. Partner also says I make him sound dumb on my blog. He is not dumb. He is very wise and writes good comedy. Thank you that is all.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Kicking ass and taking names

Writing Partner has caught the bug.

Despite the fact that he went to fancy film school and knows lots about making movies, he doesn't have that much actual writing experience, and he's been very nervous about what I'd think of his part of the script.

Everything we've written up to this point we wrote together. I'd do a piece and send it to him and he'd do a piece and send it to me. But this project is in chapters, so I took two and he took two and we've worked on them independently, only occasionally checking in with the other one to bounce some ideas around.

He sent me a short he wrote on a whim recently and I did not like it, so it made him really worried that I wouldn't like his new stuff.

Then that thing happened. You know, that thing that happens. You know.

He sent his first draft to a friend who sent back three pages of notes. Partner looked at the notes and it hit him what he had to do. And that's when it happened. You know, that thing.

His story took over his brain. He called me like six times in one day to tell me how excited he was that he wasn't in control. The story was telling itself. He just sat in front of his computer for hours typing whatever his brain said to type.

And I cheered and said, now you're a writer.

When I read it today I was generally pleased. I go into every reading of everything expecting it to suck. So if something doesn't suck I am generally pleased. And I was generally pleased. I had some issues so we workshopped for an hour while I walked up to Larchmont, bought some tomatoes and hummus, and walked back. Cell phones are wondrous things.

There was a scene at the therapist. Our character, Sheila, reveals her thoughts to a psychiatrist. It was boring. So I said, this character is only here so Sheila can talk to herself (I heard that about therapists somewhere on this here interweb so thanks, whoever pointed that out - Unk, maybe? Bill?) and we need to ditch the psychiatrist.

But who?

I said, how about a friend? She's already shoe shopping in one scene. What if a friend came with her? Then she could-

That was all it took to get the ball rolling. The ideas started popping out of his mouth and he got really excited again. He called me fifteen minutes later just to tell me how awesome an idea that was. I'm actually a little worried. I think he may have replaced sleep with writing time.

But it did give him the opportunity to write a lesbian make-out scene so that had to be fun.

Don't ask.

I do find it interesting that his chapters are all about sex and mine are all about violence. That has to have some psychological significance, but we will not delve into that because it would be too boring to put on camera since it will not include any lesbian makeout scenes.

I was worried Partner wouldn't be able to keep up my pace but now it's me who's falling behind. I gotta step up my A game so we can make this brilliant.

I'm gonna be such a bitch to everybody when we're rich and famous.

Pirates in your face

Last night Maggie I went to see Pirates at World's End with a group of excellent writer people I'd never met before. There are spoilers in this post but they're so minor it's not even really worth the effort I made to type this sentence.

First of all, Maggie made me a quilt for my birthday. A Quilt! The last thing I made for anyone's birthday was a coupon book for hugs and car washes. It's blue and purple which are my two favorite colors and the cat immediately claimed it as his own. So that's a good start to any evening.

So Maggie and I made excellent new friends and talked to Terry Rossio who was soooo friendly and came to stand with us in line for a bit to talk about the film. He said the movie in script form was never as long as it is on screen. Verbinski kept asking them to add things, and that makes sense because it was kind of a sensory overload type thing. It was very Bruckheimered up since Jerry produced it. Why do people let Bruckheimer touch their things?

I did thoroughly enjoy the moment when the monkey turned the gun on the parrot. I don't know why but I giggled incessantly over that.

I earned a hero tag from the group for a brief shining moment when like eight teenage boys and somebody's dad broke in line in front of us because we were all too busy listening to Terry to notice. But not Emily. She's always watchful of the teenage behavior. So I turned to them and said, "Excuse me, this is part of the line..." They hesitated. "...which you can go get at the end of."

They slinked off without actually acknowledging that we were there.

"Well put," said Terry. So now if Terry remembers me at all it's as that girl who told those boys to get the hell out of line.

The line was very, very long. I have a feeling this film will make a buck or two.

There were some great moments in the film - the aforementioned monkey threatening parrot one being my favorite - but all in all the biggest problem with it is that if you didn't see the first two you'd be hopelessly lost. There were a lot of assumed plot points and inside jokes that would confuse a viewer not already in on the whole story. I did like it better than the second one, though.

It also had this dark, artsy quality to it which I actually liked very much. I liked the multiple Jacks and weird crabs in hell thing. But the attack of the 50-foot woman was not my cup of tea. I kept thinking about how people on the other boats must be freaking out and why didn't the boat sink from all that weight?

I think at its core Pirates is a good story and carries some themes very well. I just wish it didn't feel so Bruckheimery. Watching it made me so tired Maggie and I had no energy left to go to P.F. Chang's and lecture people on why they shouldn't eat pandas or listen to Terry and Ted wax philosophic about the film, although we may also have been tired because of the hour long drive we had to make to Newport Beach.

I remember when an hour drive didn't seem that bad. I have clearly acclimated to the LA lifestyle.

Anyway, the moral of the story is, don't let Jerry Bruckheimer near your stuff. Slap his hand away or something.

Friday, May 25, 2007

This is not a joke

Recently announced:

Point Break 2
Set in Southeast Asia, a surfer-turned-SEAL goes on the trail of a criminal gang as he tries to uncover the fate of the surfers' leader Bodhi, who was supposedly killed by a giant wave.
Written and directed by Peter Iliff

And this:

Ancient demons are unleashed due to global warming.
Written by Michael Scott

An Open Letter to George Lucas

Today is the 30th anniversary of the release of Star Wars. Seeing as how I have two light sabers, an official Jedi robe and life-size cardboard cutouts of Han and Leia in my bedroom, I figure I should participate in the old blogathon to commemorate the day.

I love the original trilogy as much as the next sci-fi nerd, but just like most of the planet am sorely concerned about George Lucas' loss of storytelling skill in the most recent installments. We need to get back to form.

George Lucas has said frequently about how much he wants to produce a live action TV show based on the Star Wars universe. He's already had remarkable success with the Clone Wars animated series on Cartoon Network, which is run by Genndy Tartakovsky (Samurai Jack, Dexter's Laboratory), but I think the live action show could be more amazing than that if he just sticks to one idea.

Here it is, George. You listening?

Go back in time.

Let me explain. No, it's too much. Let me sum up.

No, actually I'll just explain.

I'm not very good at video games. I have an N64 at home and have yet to get past the first level on Mortal Kombat Trilogy. Sad, I know. I had a little success with Legend of Zelda but had a Walkthrough standing open on my computer to consult during my constant puzzle jams. Anything involving shooting you can forget about. I have no aim. Racing games I can kind of almost handle.

I once tried to play Half Life on my computer and had to take it back the next day because it gave me motion sickness.

So when I moved in with my ex and his X-Box it didn't really affect my life that much at first. Halo has an interesting habit of putting me right to sleep. It doesn't matter how loud those little aliens are squealing, the first sound of the monk tabernacle choir ahhhhhing in the background knocks me out instantly.

Then, one magical day, I discovered Knights of the Old Republic.

Knights of the Old Republic
is a role-playing game that takes place in the Star Wars universe, but thousands of years before the film trilogy begins. The Jedi are in full force across the Republic, doing their thing and battling crazy creatures and evil doers everywhere they go. You are a mysterious recruit with amnesia who must stop an evil Sith lord from destroying the Republic. Not only do you select what you look like, but you select what your powers are and you choose which side of the force you play for. You don't make a conscious choice. Your actions decide whether or not you're evil.

I never could master being evil. I felt so guilty stealing people's money that I was always a good Jedi. I don't care if they're fictional. Cartoon people have feelings too. And they don't like it when you steal the beastie they killed fair and square in the desert of Tattoine and then sell it and smack them when they ask for the money. I just can't handle when the game makes me feel responsible.

But it wasn't just the fact that you could force choke people that got me into the game. What was great about this game, much more so than its disappointing sequel, was the story. You had a romantic interest and a surprise twist in the middle and all the major elements that make a story great. I got really involved and cared about the people I got to know through the game.

And it didn't have any cameos by little Yoda or baby Qui Gon. Instead it showed you the homeworld of the Wookies and introduced you to cultures you'd only heard of in passing in the original trilogy. I was able to get involved because although I understood the world these people lived in, there was a new set of twists to follow because it was an entirely new story. I wanted to see how these people turned out. Although there was a lot of dialogue for a video game, there was some excellent humor and every character had a richly developed backstory I wanted to explore.

So listen up, George. If you do this live action thing take notes on the stories you didn't write and learn a little something on getting back to basics. Give me a story I haven't already seen. Give me characters I can learn and care about. And if you're going to do inside jokes, use them sparingly and make them advance the story. Please don't keep bashing us over the head with the people we already know. They were great in the beginning, but they're played out now.

If this story really did take place a long time ago, you have plenty of centuries to draw from besides the Emperor's. I, for one, would like to see the origin of the Sith. Wouldn't you?

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Finale thoughts

Finale season is almost over. Here's some thoughts and minor spoilers.


Everybody's all forgiving over Jack. Yes, he's usually right. But he also breaks the law at least five times every day. And let's not forget that the entire last crisis that ended up with a bunch more dead people and almost started WW3 only happened because Jack wanted to rescue his crazy girlfriend.

I totally predicted the ending: they finally let Jack go to the bathroom. Why else would he jump out of a perfectly good helicopter into the ocean? He needed to take a wiz. Did you see the look of joy on his face? The man hadn't been allowed a potty break for 23 1/2 hours.

Nathan Patrelli saves the day. I like how Siler still tried to play himself off as the good guy, even though he used his last breath to prevent Hiro from stopping Peter. And I loved the way all the heroes came together in a way that didn't feel forced. I believed it was completely natural that all these people should be in this one spot at this one time. I think it's too bad Peter didn't meet Linderman before the old man died. Healing would have been a nice power for Peter to have. I wonder if he was close enough to DL or Mollie to pick up their powers? I'm pretty sure he was close enough to Nikki. Does that mean next season will be about his split personality?

One thing bothers me, though. Clair wasn't the only one who could stop Peter. Anybody with a gun could have stopped Peter. Nathan got right next to him. And speaking of which, if somebody had just shot Peter he'd have been out for a while but he'd have survived, so did Nathan really have to give his life for the cause? And couldn't Peter have flown himself into space instead of letting his brother do it?

According to TV Guide both Nathan and Peter will be back next season. So how the hell did Nathan live through that? Maybe Peter tossed him away right before he exploded. I dunno. I'll definitely be planted in front of my TV to find out though.


Ohhhhh maybe that's how Nathan will be back. Peter might have absorbed Nikki's split personality along with her power. Maybe he'll be fighting his inner Nathan. Oh, that's deep.

Or not.

Ok so that's clearly several things that bothered me. But despite all my questions, I love this show. I want to hold it at night as I fall asleep.


Veronica Mars

That first hour began with some seriously weak joke delivery. Weevil looked really uncomfortable explaining how he was "easy like Sunday morning". The reference to Rob Thomas of Matchbox 20 being a whore was kind of hilarious though. I had to pause it and explain to my friends why that was so funny. Although for the record, Rob Thomas the singer is actually a very smart, funny guy. I saw him once at a taping of the Bill Maher show.

Oh, Logan. Now I remember why Veronica loves you. I'm also really glad we got to finally see Dick begin his desperately needed emotional meltdown. I wish we could have seen more of that. There needs to be more of that show, dammit. Rumor has it Rob Thomas the writer is going to attempt a feature film. Here's hoping.

Grey's Anatomy
Christina catharsis: good. Confusing explanation of who won the chief's race: bad.

I would think with Callie as chief that would be the perfect time for George to repeat his intern year. That makes for excellent conflict. But it looks like they're going the other way, which would be a shame. Put the people in conflict together, dammit. We need an episode with Callie and Izzie trapped in a basement together or something. But that might be a little too ER.

Speaking of Izzie, Jesus. Dumb blond indeed. I don't get why anybody would want George, much less two women who are vastly smarter and more beautiful. I do like that George failed his exam because he was too worried about Meredith failing her exam.

Derrick is a moron. What possible good could come from you telling your girlfriend that flirting with another woman made you feel good about yourself? He's so needy. I think I see why Addison slept with Sloan. He's the opposite of needy.

How awesome was that? The car crashes, the sex scenes, the mysterious explanation for the people behind it all. Sheer genius.

America's Next Top Model
I was pulling for Rene, but I'll accept Jaslene. My kids were happy about a Latina coming out the winner, and that one picture of her as a boy was just stunning. Why do I hate Natasha so much? What did they do that manipulated me into not liking the sweetest girl in the group? Maybe it's that same bitchy girlness that made all the other models gang up on her. She's too cheery. It's creeptastic. And she's a mail order bride who nuzzles the phone when she talks to her husband. My intimate familiarity with her sexual habits makes me uncomfortable.

I haven't watched it yet so nobody tell me anything.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

This is not my beautiful job

Yesterday I got a really nice present. Opportunity. This job opening came up that I wasn't even looking for through a friend who was kind enough to think of me. It's an Industry job, entry level.

So after six years as a teacher, I'd be using my vast knowledge and fancy two degrees to make photocopies and get coffee. And I'd have to take a small pay cut and a big cut in benefits. But the person I'd be working for is an amazing talent with an awesome career. I get all giddy just thinking of what I could learn.

At first I was kind of iffy about it. My job pays well. I don't have to stress bills too much and I have dental and vision and lots of free time in my day.

But I'm also bored. I like my job. There are good days, like this morning when the sample question on the state standardized test was "Who was the leader of the Bolshevik Revolution?" and one of my kids shouted out the correct answer which he only knew because of our studies of Animal Farm. Then another student picked up the copy of The Great Gatsby that I recommended to her for pleasure reading and couldn't put it down. A homeroom student thought Animal Farm looked interesting so he borrowed it, read it in one day then came back to discuss it with me. Voluntarily. Those are things that remind me why I get up every day.

But it's starting to wear thin. It's not like I have discipline problems. Aside from the fight last week, I very rarely have problems with my students' behavior. The problem is more that I've been doing this long enough that it's almost too easy for me; I don't feel like grading papers or making lesson plans and I've started to use premade study guides I find online instead of making my own. I still have exciting days where we really get into the material and I still try as hard as I can to make the class interesting, but I'm losing energy.

And I didn't realize this until yesterday. This opportunity came up, an opportunity that jumps me way ahead in my writing career, and I was afraid to take it because I would lose the security of the job I know. And I realized that my fear was going to land me a thirty year career in a place where I never intended to stay. Is this how it happens? You go to work one day and look around and it's thirty years later?

Writing Partner has worked for several years as a recruiter (which brings up his own issues with the thirty-year job security plan), so he took a look at my resume and cover letter and I sent it off to my friend who hopefully will talk me up. I don't know what my chances are of landing this job, but the important thing is that I'm finally in a place where I'm ready to take the chance.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

See you next year

Today is my birthday, but I celebrated it Saturday night with a bunch of excellent friends. Here is the video of the event for those of you who couldn't make it:


One of my students found out it was my birthday and they all sang to me. They wanted to know how old I was so I told them.

Them: You're not married?
Me: No.
Them: You don't have a boyfriend?
Me: No. And I'm okay with that.
Them: You're okay with being old and alone?

Ahh, children. Aren't they wonderful?

Monday, May 21, 2007

Positive feedback

The boxing story, The Corner, that I wrote to be a part of the modular feature Writing Partner and I are working on, was written with Trainer in mind to play one of the boxers. This week I gave him a finished draft and he read it today.

And he LOVES it. He had no criticisms at all other than technical boxing stuff and a typo. He likes the character and feels like he can do something with the role. He timidly hoped we might consider switching around our shooting schedule so we could shoot The Corner before Game Night because he wants to play the part so much.

So Emily is happy today.

To be continued...

It's season finale time.

Season finales are so important to a show's longevity because it's a long way between episodes and you have to have a reason to remember to tune in for the season premier when the summer is over. It also has to resolve at least one major issue from the season so we feel rewarded for tuning in (Hello, final five Cylons).

Unless you're Lost. Then you can just keep fucking with people.

So I'd like to give a shoutout to Supernatural for continuing to be awesome. The finale, which must have taken a lot of extra clams thanks to all that CGI, was a perfect way to end a season. They have long had a major mission on the show: kill the yellow-eyed demon. This season the boys had to deal with their father's death. And on top of that, what the hell is up with Sam's psychic powers?


In the finale last week, they killed the demon and dealt with Dad's death seemingly for good and answered several questions about Sam's abilities. They also simultaneously created a worldly goal of stopping the new demon invasion and a more personal goal of how to figure out a way to save Dean's soul (Here's a suggestion: Two hours of Dean alone with Emily would definitely go a long way toward that last goal) So I already know what next season's mission is and therefore have a reason to tune in, but I have closure on the previous two so I feel like I was rewarded for paying attention. But now I want to know how the hell Dean will get out of his pact demon pact, since I don't think sexy fun time with me will be involved in any way.


Buffy had some great season finales. Remember wondering how they were going to handle her death? Or what the hell was up with Spike getting his soul back? Or Alias. What the hell happened to two years of Sydney's life? A major portion of the third season was dedicated to answering that question that was asked in the season two finale, just like so much of season six of Buffy dealt with her coming back from the dead.. Then there's the legendary Farscape "to be continued..." endings. That usually works only if your next season is garaunteed, but the folks at Farscape had big brass balls, so good on them because it mostly worked out.

But the most effective season finale for me was Veronica Mars' first season ender. It answered the major question of who killed Lily and gave us a new question to ponder over the summer. It drove me nuts all summer long.

Who the hell is at the door? I demanded as I watched the Logan - Veronica first kiss scene over and over like a teenage fangirl. You bet your ass I was there with bells on for the premiere of season two. Unfortunately they haven't been able to match it since, kind of like how Pearl Jam has never quite been able to match Ten. It's tough to make people happy when your first outing is so incredibly awesome.

Speaking of incredible first seasons, tonight is the Heroes finale, and things look promising. We get to see how our crew saves the world - if they save the world. Maybe we'll get some answers and a new mission. I just hope they're ready to pay it off in season two.

In the meantime over on Fox, Jack Bauer will finally be allowed to use the bathroom.

Saturday, May 19, 2007


Two things I need some advice on:

1)My brakes are both making a funny noise and feeling funny when I hit them and I'd like to get that repaired before I crash and die. Anybody know a good, reasonably priced mechanic in the South Hollywood - Hancock Park area or thereabouts? Bonus points if they're open on Sundays.

2)For the coke snorting scene in Game Night, DP said we can have Lead Actor snort Vitamin D. DP says it burns your nose but doesn't screw up your brain. Lead Actor is willing to take one for the team but wondered if he couldn't substitute Vitamin C instead. Something about water soluble and better for your body. I dunno. Anybody know anything about this?

Update: Brakes fixed. Pep Boys. Keep the coke suggestions coming.

I only date nonsmoking libras who like mangos

Here's something that's been bothering me about Grey's Anatomy. I think it's what stops me from really getting emotionally involved in the show.

Not everybody is consistent.

In reality, don't you kind of stick to the same basic qualities of attraction? By that I mean we all have a "type" more or less. You date nerdy guys or girlie girls or whatever you like as a general rule. But most people are attracted to a certain category of person. The same girl who falls for Vin Diesel isn't likely to leave him for Bill Gates unless she's so traumatized by old Vinnie's behavior that she just wants the opposite. But there's a reason.

Or something.

Take Christina. She's consistent. Despite the events of the most recent episode, Christina loves Preston Burke. He's ambitious, just like her. And before him she loved another extremely ambitious man. Christina would never date anyone who's goal in life was not to be legendary in his field.

Or Meredith. McDreamy and McVet both have similar abilities to calmly look into your eyes and see your sweet qualities underneath your emotional baggage. They're very similar guys, which is why Meredith had a hard time choosing between them.

George even makes sense. He's been attracted to Meredith and Izzie. Both unattainable women who are way out of his league. Callie, however, even though she's way beautiful and talented, is within George's grasp. He married her because she was right for him, but he'll never love her. That I get.

Or Addison. She likes them pretty, charming and a bit shallow. I can relate.

It's Izzie and Alex who confound me. Izzie was all over Alex, a guy who was kind of jerk. Then she was all over Denny, the sweetest guy in the hospital who needed her. So does she need to be needed? Because Alex certainly didn't need her. Neither does George, although she seems to think he does. But after Denny you'd think she'd be looking for someone who will be there to take care of her, not some other woman's husband. It just doesn't make sense. These three men she's loved are so vastly different, and I don't really believe that a girl like Izzie, who is unbelievably beautiful and smart, would keep throwing herself at random men who come her way without any common bond between them.

Same with Alex. One minute he's a shallow jerk, the next he's a loving doctor who sees the true beauty in a patient's eyes. There's not really any reason except that it's what the writers want to happen. What changed Alex was a couple of conversations with a patient and the apparent mind reading Addison Shepard, but Alex didn't start wanting a real relationship because of anything that actually happened to him and I don't buy it.

Real people are attracted to others because of a psychological need they have to fill. It's why some women date men who abuse them over and over or some men seem to always know how to find the neediest girl in the room. When you change your type it's because of a very profound experience in your life.

I almost got married. My type (formerly endearing nerds) has done a complete 180 since then but it's still consistent, just differently consistent: ambitious charmers who can beat people up if they need to. That's a direct result of what I was missing in my last relationship, and every guy I've been attracted to in the last year fits that mold.

It's one thing Writing Partner has been very good about reminding me of. He's constantly calling to ask why our characters are together and why they feel the need to act the way they do in their relationship. It forces me to add behavior quirks to the lovers when I realize that this girl would not be with this guy unless she had some major daddy issues. When you realize something like that you can really play with her behavior toward other men. But she has to be consistent.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Emily earns her street cred

Yesterday I had to sit and babysit another teacher's class while she was in a meeting. Her assignment for the day: a worksheet about hurricanes that took ten minutes to fill out during a 95 minute class. After they finished I talked a bit about what it was like to live through a hurricane, then taught the kids a creative way to write a poem. They were fascinated. Apparently they do the worksheet thing every day while the teacher sits at her computer doing her own thing, and as long as they don't cause her any discipline problems they're promised As at the end of the semester.

One girl wasn't even in the class, she was just hanging out in there since the counselors put her and a couple of other regular history students into an otherwise AP class and she was bored because instead of teaching everybody AP, which this girl said she was interested in, the teacher told the regular students to stay quiet and read the chapters in the book while she taught the more advanced students AP material.

I was disgusted. Some days I really hate some of my coworkers.

One thing I love about teaching is how much you learn while you're trying to make them learn. While I was reading Animal Farm to the kids today (that's right - I have to read TO the 16 year olds or they won't do it) I noticed how much the pigs' assertion that Jones would come back if the animals didn't do what they said was like Bush's constant reminder of the fact that we live in a "post 9/11 world" and that Napoleon's need to blame Snowball for the destruction of the windmill was like Bush's campaign against Saddam Hussein. So I told the kids about it and how they shouldn't trust politicians.

Then I told them not to trust me either because you can't trust anybody. Then they all scratched their heads and passed out from the confusion.

This morning I had my first fight break up. Two girls in my homeroom who used to be best friends "got down" because "Joana" told "Lucia"'s parents where she was when Lucia ran away from home to live with a boyfriend who beat her. Lucia is not happy she was betrayed and in the scuffle ripped two of Joana's fingernails off. It was gross. She was bleeding all over the floor. But Joana poked her in the eye so they both came off in a bad way.

I grabbed Joana and held her back but since I only have two hands and one body I couldn't pull them apart as my homeroom students stood and watched and ignored my pleas for help, probably because they were afraid of getting hit, or maybe because in the words of one kid they were "Hoping some clothes would come off". Thanks, kids. Fortunately a teacher's aid heard the commotion and ran in to help me separate them, but not before Joana backhanded me in the jaw twice by accident. Rumors of my valiant heroics have already begun to circulate.

My boxing skills didn't really come in as handy as I hoped, unless you count my ability to take a backhand to the face. Fortunately there's no bruising because...

It's prom night. I never miss prom night. Fancy dress and free food - what more do you need? This will be the first year I go stag. I'll be taking yearbook pictures all night which is actually a lot of fun because you have to be really secretive about it. If they see you coming they pose and look stupid, but if you sneak up on them you can get some really great shots.

As soon as the school day is over I have to run home, shower, get pretty and jaunt off to the science center. It means so much to the kids when you show up at stuff like this and they always act shocked that you can dress yourself. That makes sense since my daily wardrobe at school is jeans and a T-shirt and a frizzy mop of hair shadowing my makeupless face.

Just another day in South Central.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Emily talks about her first time

Remember your first screenplay? Mine was a 90 page sci-fi drama about a teenage girl who's been stranded on an uninhabited alien planet for five years after she watched all her friends die off one by one until an expedition finds her and asked her to tell her story. Island of the Blue Dolphins in space.

I still stick by it as a good idea, but I made all the rookie mistakes: Voiceover, flashback, a protagonist who is reactive instead of proactive, lucky breaks, characters without goals, B stories that went nowhere. Too much telling. Not enough showing. And I wrote it way too short, which is a problem I've slowly outgrown over the years. And I did all this after obtaining a graduate degree in creative writing, so I can only imagine how bad my script would have been without all those writing workshops.

As soon as I printed out this wondrous tale of crapitude, I started the old query letter carpet bombing. Nobody else read it because at the time I didn't know anybody who read screenplays, so I just figured I knew enough about storytelling and I cried when my love interest died, so this must be a brilliant script. Of the 100 queries I sent out I got a response from one agent, a woman who had pictures of her cat on her website. That's how I got her attention, I told her I loved cats. So she asked to see my work and never got back to me after I sent it to her. So there went that opportunity.

Were you in a hurry too in the beginning?

It was a learning experience at least, and one most of us end up going through, judging by the daily posts on Wordplayer about how to get an agent. Instead of focusing on growing as a storyteller, we all start off reading too many articles and books about how the mighty AGENT is the answer to everything. It's not like anybody's paying me to write at the moment, but I've been in this long enough to see just how unimportant an agent is in the grand scheme of things. With all the contacts I've made an continue to make just by going places and being a decent person, when my material is ready it will find its way into the right hands. I'm hoping this short film will be the key. Either way, I've completely stopped worrying about representation. It'd be nice to have and I certainly won't turn it down when the time comes, but it's just so clear how much more important it is to concentrate on your work than to figure out how it can land you an agent.

I remember before I moved out here somebody on Wordplayer posted this: "In LA you can't spit without hitting someone in the Industry." So true. All I had to do was move here and things started happening. It also helps that I'm no longer writing crappy science fiction stories with no sense of direction.

FYI, Ari Gold is the only man on Entourage I would have sex with.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Why must I be a teenager in love?

My First Love is a really important person in my old home city. Like, he runs many things and hangs out with the mayor and gets quoted in the News and Observer weekly.

That's very odd to me. He's married and looks like an older rounder version of the adorable mischievous boy he once was, the boy who used to write nasty notes on the board about our band teacher and sent him a package of deodorant as a Christmas gift one year that he stupidly opened in front of the class out of joy that quickly disintegrated when he read the accompanying card about the importance of personal hygiene. Wow, my first love was kind of an asshole in middle school. Then again, so was my band teacher.

We had an odd friendship. He liked me, but would only talk to me nicely when nobody else could hear. Around his friends he made jokes about what a nerd I was and he dated every girl in our class except me and my birdlike friend. But he would flirt and joke and tell me secrets as long as he was sure nobody would know.

He went to a different high school so I'd see him on occasion as he changed. He lived near my grandma so when I started driving I used to drive by his house and think about how he was right there, probably playing video games with his buddies. I saw him once at a football game, but he was a cool kid and I was running around in my marching band uniform so he ran off before anybody saw him talking to me. Clarinet was his old embarassing life. Now he was Mr. Student Council.

Periodically my mom will send me newspaper clippings where he's pictured or heavily quoted. "Remember this kid?" she'll write.

Yes mom, I remember. It's impossible to forget shedding that many melodramatic tears in my dark, candle-lit room repeatedly listening to Pearl Jam's "Black" staring into space and writing depressing, cryptic poetry.

Isn't that just such a teenage girl thing to do?

I emailed First Love recently, congratulating him on his success and telling him what I was up to. He emailed back a cordial response and that was it.

Funny how at the time I thought life wouldn't go on without him even though now it's kind of clear to me that he was a real bastard. Someday I'd be walking along at the mall and he'd see me and realized his mistake and we'd get married and live happily ever after with our 2.5 kids and the big dog and I'd have a job as either an FBI agent or a singer in a rock band.

My birthday's coming up next week, the kind of birthday that makes you ponder whether or not you met all those arbitrary goals you made for yourself back in school. So let's see. I'm not married to First Love, I have a cat instead of a dog, no kids, and I'm neither an FBI agent nor a singer in a rock band.

Thank God for small favors.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

They call it "Irony"

Freshman class is reading Animal Farm. So, as usual, even though it's a good, deep story and an easy read, the first thing I get today is a whine-fest.

We want to read Arthur! We want Number the Stars! We want to watch Saw III!

They don't want to actually have to read, see. So if I give them the one book they've already read then there's no work involved.

Me: You can't learn if you don't read.

Them: I don't care. You don't learn anything by reading.

Me: In this story, who can read and write?

Them: The pigs.

Me: And who's in charge?

Them: The pigs.

Me: Do you think that's a coincidence?

Them: Reading is stupid.

Me: Was Lucifer God's right-hand man? Did he fall from grace after betraying God and end up in Hell?

Them: Yes.

Me: How do you know that?

Them: It's in the Bible?

Me: How do you know that?

Them: My grandma said so, my uncle told me, I heard it from my priest, I dunno.

Me: But you haven't read the Bible.

Them: No.

Me: It's not in there.

Them: Really?

Me: Really. There's some interpretations of Revelation people use as the basis for that story, but the tale you know is not in there. But you believe what you're told because you have no alternative. Because you don't read. Because you're the proletariat.

Them: What's that mean?

Me: The ignorant masses. The kind of people who elect pigs as their leaders. If you want to stay the proletariat, by all means go to sleep and refuse to get educated. But the rest of us are going to read Animal Farm now.

Onto the next hurdle

I've been stumbling over Valerie.

Valerie is one of the two characters in Game Night that it is my job to write a chapter about and she's driving me crazy. Billy was easy - he's violent, drugged up, plagued with insecurities, and I know the actor who will play him. Plus I've been dying to write a boxing story so it was a natural fit.

Valerie, on the other hand, is a contradictory character. She's laid back yet extremely insecure with men. She's smart but easily manipulated. She's a mess, but looks fine on the surface.

I know the setting of the story and I have an idea for a character she needs to meet. But beyond that I've been having a hell of a time coming up with a story that had an actual plot instead of just lots of dialogue as two characters walk down the street.

So I used the old standby teaching method. Today I didn't have the books yet that I thought I'd get for my second period, so I had thirty minutes to come up with a lesson plan and no time to go make copies. So I said well, what do I need them to learn? And I looked around the room and said well, what in this room can I use to get them to learn it? And I came up with a lesson plan about audience and connotation and it ended up being a textbook example of how to do a lesson, the kind they teach you in those useless methods classes. Go figure.

So for the story last night as I drifted off to sleep I started really thinking about Valerie and what I need her to learn in order to get her to the end. What is her arc? Now what in this setting can get her there?

Most of my stories - probably most of anyone's stories, really - come from my own experiences. Over the weekend my shower head stopped working properly and reduced it's water pressure to the oomph of something with no oomph. I was all set to call the landlord, then I took the shower head off, inspected it and discovered that the filter had turned sideways and blocked the flow. I fixed it and turned on the shower and today my muscles are visible because the water rinsed all my skin off. And I celebrated by singing the Pussycat Dolls song "I don't need a man" repeatedly to the cat as I did a little dance. He was not alarmed. He's kind of used to that behavior from me.

So I thought about Valerie's insecurities and I thought about the joy I felt in independent problem solving and I realized that Valerie needed that feeling. Then I realized what she has to do. She has to solve a problem by herself. Then I have to figure out what in my setting provides her with that opportunity. I've got a few ideas.

And that's how plots are done. Yay, me.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Game Night: the album

I've sort of mentioned it in passing before, but when I was in high school and college I was in a band. It was called One Strange Thing and featured an eclectic mix of styles that included Led Zeppelin, Pearl Jam, Dave Matthews and The Grateful Dead. Okay, so not that eclectic. But our singer - me - was also a jazz flute player. So people thought we were nifty. Sadly, we only played four solid shows before the guitarist's and my desire to be successful clashed with my bassist's and drummer's desire to smoke lots of pot.

One of the most surreal things in the world is to be standing up on stage singing a song you wrote the lyrics to and look down at the audience members who are singing along with you. I always wanted to ask them if they realized the words came out of my brain, not from anybody who knew what they were doing.

Especially since the chorus to our most popular tune was "I'm not a whore. So what are you here for? I'm not a whore." It was called "The Whore Song".

What can I say? I'm a lyrical genius.

That's how I felt yesterday. I don't mean I felt like a whore - I mean the surreal thing. The realization that other people like your work enough to invest the time to learn the lyrics. People who aren't lifelong friends like Lead Actor who may be clouded in their judgement and willing to snort vitamin D up their nose on camera to please you because they've always thought you were the bee's knees. At least, that's what I keep telling myself.

That last paragraph made no sense.

What I mean to say is, I have a DP.

A talented, knowledgeable someone is interested in taking a chance on an inexperienced little girl and donating their services based on a script. That I wrote. With Partner.

I kind of want to say, you do know I have no money, right? And you do know I wrote this right? Me? I'm not a real screenwriter. I make my living explaining what an allegory is to 25 teenagers who are far more concerned over whether or not there will be chicken available for lunch today.

But I am a real screenwriter. Partner and I wrote something that we'll produce and people will act in and other people will see and hopefully enjoy. And really, that's all it takes to be a produced writer. Hell, people don't even have to enjoy it.

You don't have to wait for Hollywood to find you. Put yourself up on that stage and start singing and the people will come to you.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

The genesis of Delta Farce

Disclaimer: This scene in no way indicates that I find Michael Rosenbaum anything other than very attractive. Settle down, Rosenbaum fans.



Two film executives, LOWELL GILBERT and RANDY JONES, lean back on a couch in a very fine house in the Hollywood Hills. They are both in their late thirties and pass between them a tightly packed joint.

Lowell coughs.

No, no, it's like that movie, you know the one with the guns and the stuff-

Delta Farce.

Haha you said Farce. You meant Force.

There should be a Delta Farce. That would be fucking awesome, dude!

Oh man, that's an excellent idea. David!

A skinny, 22-year-old dark-skinned boy with floppy black hair shuffles into the room. DAVID.

Yes, Mr. Gilbert?

Take some notes, boy. And roll another one.

Sure thing, Mr. Gilbert.

DAVID begins to roll a joint with one hand while he opens his notebook with the other. It's not easy.

Delta Farce. Haha! It's about time shooting people was funny again.

You know what? Let's really break the mold with this one. Let's get only ugly people to star in it. Ugly people are hilarious. Who's that skinny boy who was in that thing with Jamie Kennedy?

Michael Rosenbaum?

Who the hell is that?

That Superman kid. The bald one.

No, no, not him. The skinny one. You know, in the movie with the boat and the underwear. It was so funny I peed on myself.

Without a Paddle. That was Seth Green, not Jamie Kennedy.

Whatever. Who's the skinny kid?

JD Squalls

Yeah, get him! And that fat guy who says "Git 'er done!" Stupid rednecks are always good for a laugh. That Health Inspector movie made me piss myself a little.

You should get Depends.

You should shut your mouth.

Does this movie have a plot, sir?

Of course! Randy, what's the plot?

Okay, these ugly guys go to Iraq-

You can't send them to Iraq! People die there!

These ugly guys go to Mexico-

I love it! Mexicans are hilarious! We could get that guy with the big tattoo on his chest. He's Mexican, right? Are there any other Mexican actors?

George Lopez.

See if he's available. Oh, and Carlos Mencia. My kids think he's funny. Where's my joint?

David hands over the joint. Lowell lights it up and takes a drag. He coughs.

Carlos Mencia is from Honduras.

Like there's a difference.

He passes the joint to Randy.

So somebody screws up their paperwork-

Some low level employee. We can't let anybody think we're making fun of the president here. Let's make it a Mexican employee. That would be ironic.

Hell yeah. And they all go down to Mexico and think they're fighting Iraquis because they're so stupid-

Rednecks are stupid.

And they kill a bunch of Mexicans on accident.

They can't kill anybody. Then people might think we're making some kind of point.

Maybe they uncover a drug smuggler and fall in love with some girl named Maria.

She's the drug smuggler's girlfriend or something. I don't know. We'll let the writer figure that out. You getting this, David?

Unfortunately, sir.


You have a meeting with Tom Cruise in fifteen minutes, Mr. Gilbert.

Shit, send him in. See if he wants to produce this!

Yes sir.


Saturday, May 12, 2007

Don't cry for me, Seattle Grace

I've been so uberbusy the past two weeks that I haven't had time to watch much TV. I have a string of TV shows and movies sitting on my DVR waiting patiently for me to get to it. And every time I've tried someone has called or stopped by or needed me to do my job or something. How am I supposed to watch the Veronica Mars I missed because of the fire if the kids keep asking me to teach them things? Honestly.

I even got asked on a date Thursday by a reasonably attractive, nice but very boring man and had to tell him that maybe in two weeks I could pencil him in. Where does all the time go?

Anyway, I finally watched the last two episodes of Lost last night. Wow. I don't care what people say. That show's mantra of only answering one question by asking 8 more is still in full effect. And I'm totally in love with that Richard guy.

But what struck me as most interesting in what I've been watching was Grey's Anatomy. First of all, is it possible for those people to NOT sleep with each other? I've never dated anybody I work with. It's sort of an unchanging policy, largely for the very problems it's causing on the show. Do these doctors know there are people outside the hospital?

Last season Izzie was in love with Denny. She met him in a bed in the hospital and that's pretty much the only way she ever saw him. She never got to know him as anything but the sick patient in the bed, so I propose that what she felt was not undying love. The show tried to make me believe it was undying love, but even though I find Jeffery Dean Morgan just as irresistible as the next gal, I think if you've never seen a guy in action out in the world, you don't really know him. I think Izzie fell in love with that fact that he needed her.

So when that big death scene came and Izzie crumbled into a fashionable mess of a prom queen, it didn't really hit me that hard. I honestly felt more emotion toward Alex as he picked her up and carried her away from the bed of the dead hottie. But I did not cry. And I'm kind of a crier. Then again, it may be because I can't relate. I've never lost anyone who meant that much to me.

It reminded me of something Jane Espenson once wrote that I've always tried to remember when I write emotional scenes: It's a lot more tragic to watch someone try not to cry than it is to watch them weep openly.

On this week's episode Meredith's dad showed what an ass he really is. After a lifetime of abandoning Meredith out of his own laziness, he now unfairly blames her for his current wife's death. He slapped her last week. This week he confronted her at the hospital in front of her friends and told her what a horrible daughter she was for taking away "the only thing he had".

Meredith did not cry. She went numb instead and snapped at people a little, but all in all tried to pretend she was just fine. So I cried for her. What Jane said was completely true. It was far more effective to watch Meredith try to pretend she wasn't hurt when she so clearly was than to watch Izzie let it all out right then and there with her meltdown.

It also might have something to do with the fact that my dad is also a big fuckwater.

So the lesson I learned is twofold: if you can write a scene people can universally relate to it's much more likely to make them cry. And if you really want to make them cry, make sure your characters struggle against it. I kind of knew that already in theory, but now I've examined it in practice and seen that it does indeed work exactly that way.

Ok, now I have to see what lessons I can learn from the past two episodes of The Shield.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Can I have my cookie now?

I'm so hungry.

Trainer is on me about my slackness. Apparently there is no RDA for cookies. He's putting down the smack. I'm now running 2 1/2 miles daily, half of them at a gallop, and I'm not allowed to eat bad things. Oh, how I hate him.

If he weren't so pretty there's no way I'd be paying him for this torture.

So instead of my usual chocolate snack during homeroom, today I ate strawberries. I now have pink juice all over my pink shirt because I am a slob. Fortunately I have a screenplay to revise to get my mind off my chocolate-starved stomach.

Partner read the boxing chapter and loved it, but he wants more. That's a hell of a note. "I like it, but I want more." What am I supposed to do with that?

Also he pointed out that boxers can't deliver a whole lot of clean dialogue when their mouths are stuffed with a mouthpiece. Oops.

But it's okay because he had a fabulous idea about how to play the mouthpiece issue for comic effect in what was otherwise a story kind of short on the funny. He turned a liability into an asset, which is always good. Anytime you back yourself into a logic corner you figure out some really creative moves for your story. Now when my shift comes from comic to tragic it will be that much more significant.

One of my favorite moments in literature is in Catch 22 when a couple of soldiers sit on a raft in the ocean in a pretty funny scene filled with the usual Joseph Heller cynicism. So I'm laughing and smiling and then all the sudden a soldier gets hit out of nowhere by what amounts to friendly fire and dies instantly. I literally went from laughing to crying with the turn of a page.

I aspire to that kind of emotional reversal. I'm not saying I'm there yet, but the more I can turn funny into tragic on a dime the happier I'll be and this chapter is my best attempt yet.

So I'm off to rewrite my short so I can get it to Trainer on Tuesday and get the actor's perspective since I designed one of my fighters around him. The best part about getting to direct Trainer in a boxing scene? He has to do the whole shoot with his shirt off. Because he doesn't have a cookie addiction problem.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Partners in crime and punishment

Writing Partner is clever. He threw my belief system back at me.

This week I finished the next chapter of our movie in chapters project and told him I wanted to send it to him to read. But he said he wants to wait until we're both done with all our pages before he reads anything, which I find kind of odd wince we're supposed to be writing together.

But whatever. We're both trying this calm acceptance and respect of each other's opinions so Emily doesn't hang up on anybody method. But I write fast and he's going to take forever, so instead of twiddling my thumbs I told him I'd like to go ahead and workshop the pages with Lead Actor.

Okay maybe I'm a little impatient. But I hate to see my material sit around and wait on people while I could be improving it.

Then Partner lets it slip that he's not really writing in chapters. His characters are just doing one long story.


I'm not sure what to say since the coolest part about this was the film in chapters part. I mean, I haven't even given it a name. I just keep calling it "film in chapters." If it's not a film in chapters it suddenly becomes a less interesting story. The twists are gone. The idea of looking at our lives from someone else's perspective is gone. The concept of being a minor player in someone else's story is gone. Our theme turns to mush.

Not that it's not still a good story. But it becomes kind of an ordinary story when you take out the cool format. Like Memento. Without the backwards motion it's not nearly as good a story. Because it's not just what you tell, it's how you tell it.

So I tell Partner, what about when I said this was a film in chapters and you said okay?

He said, well, I told you that and then figured I'd write it my way and we can always change it later.

And I said, so you paid me lip service and ignored what I said?

And he said, no, I wanted to do a vomit draft like you always talk about. Get it down on paper, change it later.

Damn him. Who knew he was listening?

This is how it works: I'm supposed to do a vomit draft. He's supposed to do what I tell him.


So Emily is learning to give up a little control and trust in Partner. We kind of compromised on the phone and he agreed to shift some of his events around to accommodate the chapter format. And I agreed to wait and see what he writes before demanding that he change it. And he agreed to read the chapter I wrote so he can get a better idea of what I'm looking for. He seems to like me taking the helm on the ideas, which sits just fine with me since I like to be in charge. Somebody's got to.

Once again, we didn't yell at each other. Apparently my baby's all growds up.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The treasure is the test, see

I just got back from an assembly that was supposed to get everybody revved up about standardized testing. It was pirate themed.

So going in I was like, oh crap. This is going to be lame. I really need this time to let my kids research the era of The Great Gatsby. But our attendance was required, to the point where my boss came and asked why the hell my kids' butts weren't planted in auditorium seats.

It turned out to be a short play using the characters from The Pirates of the Caribbean. Will, Elizabeth and Jack Sparrow impressionists mocked each other and spouted out groan-worthy puns for half an hour in an effort to convince us that testing is a good thing.

The cast probably didn't realize it because our kids are suspicious of everything and refuse to clap, but they really dug it. The teachers even liked it and we don't like anything. It was genuinely funny. The guy who played Jack Sparrow actually has some real acting chops. I'm going to try to find him later to see if he can send me a head shot and a resume. He has excellent improv skills. On his way to the stage he passed my kids and spotted one of them texting on her Sidekick. He stopped, sat down in an empty seat in front of her and commented on her "strange contraption".

I wonder how that sort of thing gets put together? It was obviously sanctioned by official Pirates executive types. Was it a marketing ploy or did we pay for that service? Because judging by the number of kids who lined up at the end to get their pictures taken with the fake movie star pirates, this will increase interest in the sequel among South Central's teenage population.

I wonder how much Ted and Terry know about this. And who wrote the dialogue, because it was actually funny, although many of the jokes fell on ignorant ears. "A point is moot because when a person is mute they can't make their point properly as no one can hear what they're saying."

The kids didn't really get that one. Or Will's comments about Jack being "far too swishy." Jack's comments about enjoying booty they understood.

You just never know when you'll find good drama around here. One more reason to love Los Angeles. The guy playing Will Turner may have just done a three-part stint on Law and Order for all I know. In the sticks the part will be played by Joe Bob the 47-year-old auto mechanic.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

The truth about Omar

And I thought the Michael Rosenbaum thing was intense.

There have been a zillion people coming here looking to find out whether or not Omar Epps is leaving House.

Here's the skinny, according to TV Guide's Michael Ausiello:

Question: I read somewhere that Foreman is resigning on House. Is this true, and does this mean Omar Epps is leaving the show?— Rachel M.

Ausiello: Yes, Foreman — fearful that he's morphing into a House clone — will quit. But no, Omar Epps is not leaving the show.

So there you go. Now stick around and read some stuff. I'm a laugh riot. And also possibly completely off my rocker. I haven't decided.

UPDATE: Yes, it's official, Omar Epps WILL be back next season but the writers haven't smoothed out the wrinkles yet. You can read an interview where he talks about it HERE.

A little throw up never hurt anybody

David Anaxagoras has an essay up on the perils of vomit drafts. He suggests that it's much better to organize yourself completely before you start writing so you don't end up with an unfinished first draft that you hate because you put a bunch of crap on paper.

I get that. It works for him. But it really doesn't work for me.

You know that feeling you get when you come home from the party after one too many Jello shots and the room is all spinny and you just really wish it would all come back up so you could go to sleep? Then you throw up in the toilet and even though that particular event is not fun, you happily lay down on the floor and peacefully drift off to sleep. But the longer it takes, the more it sucks.

Okay maybe that's a faulty metaphor. If you didn't do all those Jello shots you'd have no need to vomit in the first place.

But I digress.

My point is, I used to be so organized in my writing. I wouldn't even start typing unless I saw every single moment of the script from beginning to end. By the time I got down to business I had index cards and outlines and snippets of dialogue already prepared. And my scripts still sucked.

They sucked because by the time I started writing I was set on my story. I left no room for creativity during the writing process, and I wasted time agonizing over tiny details that made me second guess myself constantly.

I had to learn to let go.

So I started jotting out really loose index cards and posting them on the bulletin board as reminders. If I get writer's block I just look at the next card and remember what I was planning, and they look all pretty when they're color coded so it helps keep me working. But most of what I write now comes straight out of my brain onto the screen.

Not that I don't plan, I just plan less than I used to. And it works much better.

Maybe that's because I can only truly see the story when I've already put it down. I get to know my characters as I write them because I live in the moment of the scene as it unfolds. I can plan all the themes I want ahead of time, but when I start writing everything I planned goes out the window because my characters do things I didn't expect and it can throw off all those carefully laid plans, especially since what my characters decide to do is usually better than what I'd ordered them to do when they first popped into my active little brain.

I still know where they've been and where they're going, but I'm less sure of how they're going to get there.

I believe in the vomit draft. I throw my characters into the mix and give them a destination and a collection of obstacles and see how they handle it. Then I go back and fix all the things that suck. Because one of my favorite things about writing is the problem solving aspect. I have a hole in my plot - how do I fix it? I can only see the answer when the major events are already on the page.

But that's me. Everybody's different.

I've got to go puke up the rest of my boxing scene now, if you don't mind.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Is this what you were looking for?

We all get the odd search term every now and then. Here are some of the odder searches that have brought people to my musings. I'd like to help these people out by responding to each request personally. I hope this helps.

i love biceps
-Me too, mystery person. Me too.

online games to write on a white board with every single colored marker in the world
-When I write online games on a white board I usually just stick to various shades of blue.

football player and nerd fanfiction
-Oh this must be a result of all talking about Trainer, who is both a brutally hot former football player and a nerd. I should write some fanfiction about that. Thanks, mystery person.

spartan women nipples 300
-Imagine how different the story would be if Spartan women had 300 nipples? I'd be more than a little frightened.

gavin degraw's fucks
-Does this mean fucks who listen to Gavin DeGraw or the women he fucks after a show?

old ladies get kicked in the face
-As well they should be.

pictures boys showing their underwear in 7th gym class
-I dont.... uhhhh well see it's like this.....ummmm ok. Why the hell are pedophiles coming here?

icy hot stuntaz rented
-As well they should be.

board battle in heaven lie with me
-That's poetic. And also, what?

paper bag puppets julius cesar
-Good idea. Next time my class does Julius Cesar I'm totally making them do a paper bag puppet show.

white streat and black meat
-Is this porn or a rap group?

how to say no an asshole insurance salesman
-I think I can help you out with this one. Trying saying "No."

amazing pussyass
-As it should be.

you lied to me you said you never hurt of me but lied to me
-Are these song lyrics? Sounds kinda emo. Maybe it's Dashboard Confessional.

i hate dating fat bossy women church
-Me too, mystery person. Me too.

The Corner first draft

It's been a while since I shared a scene so I'm going to do that today. I've been working on a chapter of the feature Partner and I have been developing. The entire chapter takes place in the span of an amateur boxing match between two middleweights, Billy and Kyle. I call it "The Corner". Valerie is Billy's girlfriend, Marcus his trainer. James is Kyle's trainer and father and he's been going on an on the entire fight about Kyle's jab to the point where it's gotten ridiculous. This is a scene from the minute rest in between the third and fourth round. Feel free to critique at will.

The BELL Rings.

The fighters retreat to their corners.


Valerie with the bottle. Marcus with the towel.

Hey, you actually hit him that round. You should do more of that.

Shut up Val. I swear I will throw you out of here.

He really hurt me that time, Marcus. I don't know if I can keep going.

Bruised or broken?


Then you can keep going. As long as you ain't broken you can keep on fighting.

Can you still have sex?

Jesus Val.

Baby, if I were a corpse rotting in my grave while maggots ate my flesh I would still climb out to ravage that body.

Valerie smiles. She puts her mouth on Billy's for a hot few seconds.

Marcus stares in horror.


James is hunched in front of Kyle.

For Christ's sake, Dad. He's not completely incompetent, whether you see it or not. He was bound to hit me eventually.

You'll never be a great boxer with that attitude.

No sir, I suppose I won't.

Are you being smart with me?

I'd never dream of it, Dad.

Kyle, by the time I was your age I'd won nine professional bouts, one by-

TKO. Yes sir. I know.

And the only way to-

Kyle rises.

Jab. Yes, Dad I know. I know about the fucking jab. I know about your fucking nine goddamn fights and your brilliant potential and how you worked as a sparring partner with Pernell Whitaker. If I have to hear one more time about your one bullshit match with Pete fucking Whitaker I will lay you on your ass! And I can, old man. You talk a good game but this weak-ass amateur with the timid jab can still hook you to hell and gone while you're wasting time hopping around. That's why it was only nine fights, Dad. You're so busy jabbing and skipping you forgot to fucking punch.

You son of a bitch!

He draws back his fist like he's going to strike but Kyle stares him down.

You gonna jab me to death?

James puts down his fist.

The crowd is hushed and listening.


Sunday, May 06, 2007

Let's hear it for the boys

We're not going to talk about last night. It's way too soon for my broken heart.

Except to say that that second fight was so boring I was looking behind the guys to see what famous people I could spot. When guys beat the crap out of each other for money, they really should do it with more flare.

Anyway, on my way to the bar to watch the fight Writing Partner and I discussed the latest development on the script. I've been having a major conundrum with one of my chapters and desperately needed his help.

We have this character who needs to do something at the very end of the story. I love what she does and I love how our story ends. The problem is, I can't make it work. The thing the character does is great for the story but doesn't make a whole lot of sense in our modern world. There's just no reason the other characters would let her do what she does.

So I called up Partner and said Help!

And he made all kinds of suggestions about how we could change the whole story around.

And I said no, I like our story as it is. I just need to know how this character gets away with what she does. We agreed to think and talk later and then we hung up.

Five minutes later as I was headed into the bar he called again, excited. He had it. And when I heard the idea he was right. It solves all my logistical problems and at the same time helps give me a direction to go in during my chapter about the girl, which is something else I was having trouble getting my head around.

And we did this all without fighting. It was nice.

That's what's so fascinating about this project. We have these pieces. We know how the whole thing ends and begins and some of the parts in the middle but we have to figure out how to get from place to place. And we're doing it out of sequence so we have to make sure our characters stay consistent.

It's fun, and definitely the most original project I've ever been a part of. It's helpful that Lead Actor is also excited and supportive and willing to read lines with me and find me other actors when the time comes and perform my scene in his class where I can watch. It helps keep the fire under my ass to have these two guys to bounce ideas off of.

Hooray for my support network. Everybody needs one.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

He will punch you right in the face

This will be the scene later tonight as Floyd Mayweather Jr. lies flat on his cocky ass.

Friday, May 04, 2007

C104 descends into anarchy.

Today was the coolest.

My freshmen are getting ready to read Animal Farm. The past two days we studied The Magna Carta, the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights. I put them in groups and made them write their own modern bill of rights, where they all proceeded to lower the drinking age and remove restrictions on driving cars. And men have the right to marry two women at once. And pot is legal.

Priorities and all that.

So today I told them our classroom is a country and the school is the world and the hallways are the ocean. This morning my class overthrew me as the evil dictator and must replace me with a stable government by creating a Constitution for their new nation. It must be enforceable, as in if I have a substitute I can give them an assignment and they have a system in place for maintaining order and getting it done whether the sub does anything or not. The entire class turns in one document and gets one grade, whether each person contributed or not. If they turn in nothing the entire class gets a zero. If they turn in an excellent document but one person does all the work the entire class gets a 100. Then I answered their questions and "died."

I sat in my chair and took notes while I watched their behavior. They started at 7:40. They had until 9 am to complete their task.

Here are my notes:

7:40 - Separated into two main groups separated entirely by gender. A little anarchy, a few pockets of the Isolated people who are waiting for instructions.

7:50 - Each group is making its own notes. One boy, "Omar", keeps looking at me waiting for me to tell him what to do. He has yet to figure out that I am metaphorically dead. Two people are playing on a PSP. One girl is writing her own Constitution. The boys are discussing sports. Apparently the Mavericks suck.

7:55 - Question: Can we do it girls versus boys? Answer: No. There must be one Constitution for the entire class. You are one united country.

7:57 - Boys and girls, still physically separated, have started to argue. A Leader has emerged from each group - exactly the ones I thought would do so. The boy is much older than the other kids and one of the smartest students I have ever taught. The only reason he's in this class is because he failed it from refusing to cooperate and do his assignments out of protest over the teacher's stupidity. He wants to be the dictator. The girls do not agree.

8:00 - Boys and girls groups merge to form the Brain Trust. The Isolated still sit around watching but doing nothing except for one boy who has laid his head down and appears to be sleeping. The Brain Trust is in the middle of the room while the Isolated sit scattered around them in a circular fashion. The outside looking in.

8:06 - It's now Lead Girl and her advisers debating Lead Boy and his advisers. Already a two-party system. Omar is still looking at me as if I'm going to come back from the dead and tell them all what to do.

8:15 - The debate rages on but progress has stalled. Two girls are copying down the assignment. I think they plan to quietly secede and form their own country.

8:17 - Realizing I am dead and can't fight back, two boys use the opportunity to call me names in jest. I shrug and check my email. They claim to have assembled a militia. I see no evidence of this.

8:26 - Universal frustration from the Brain Trust. They ask to use the computers to do research. They move to the computers at the back of the room, but there are only 4 so the rest of the group branch off to see what the Isolated are up to.

8:30 - Omar has apparently written up his own proposal. The loose members of the Brain Trust discover this and review his document. They bring him on board as a new member of their society. Good job, kid.

8:37 - Two members of the Brain Trust have given up and joined the Isolated. Another Isolated has taken their place and put forward her own document for consideration.

8:40 - "This is impossible". I tell them that if they don't finish it they're stuck with anarchy. One member of the Brain Trust has given up and gone to sleep. Boy Leader wakes his ass up and gives him orders. They've decided on absolute monarchy. I'm impressed. Boy Leader threatens to beat everybody up if they don't help. How very kinglike.

8:48 - Brain Trust has reformed in the center. Fewer people are in the Isolated group now. Very cool.

8:55 - They've finally learned to delegate. Three people are writing pieces of the document. Sleeping Brain Trust Boy has gone to sleep again. Tempers flare.

8:57 - The bell rang early. I tell them they have the rest of the day to get me their document, but they only get to give me one for the whole class so they'd better agree on something.

9:20 - The boy who has been sleeping from minute one is in my homeroom. He tells me how much he liked the project because he got to get credit for doing nothing. I hope he gets conscripted into the class military service because it would make a nice point about the importance of participation in your government.

11:15 - One of the girls from the seceding country brings me her Constitution. If nobody else gives me one, I will count this one for everybody so they don't get zeroes. Let's hear it for the ambitious minority making all the rules.

11:30 - I run into Leader Boy at El Pollo Loco where I pretend I don't realize that he's off campus for lunch. He is both annoyed and impressed at this morning's project. "I did all the work," He says. "Those kids didn't even know the branches of government."

"I knew you would," I reply. "The most educated people will always be the ruling class."

He wags a wary finger at me. "Dammit. You did all that on purpose."

I just smile and walk away with my burrito.

2:00 - Fourth period gets the same assignment. They start out all open and letting the entire class in on the discussion. Everybody has a say.

2:35 - So much for voting. A group of 5 leaders forms itself and writes the whole thing while everybody else socializes. It's so very boring to watch. It's like teenage C-SPAN. A couple of people obviously want to be part of the ruling class but don't have the courage to speak up. Three students are playing around on the computer. One boy wanders aimlessly around the room checking out what other people are up to. Most of the class no longer cares what happens.

3:09 - The leadership group finally consults the class with a really important question: What is the name of our country? Silly suggestions are made like "Halo 3". All suggestions are ignored as the leaders give up and make up their own name. The proletariat doesn't care.

3:19 - Fourth period turns in their assignment. First period brings me a crappy piece of paper written in pencil. They are so lucky that one girl turned in a document already.