Friday, November 30, 2007

This is all very questionable

I was on the phone with a Potential Date the other day. The guy's a writer/director with three produced features behind him and when the strike is over hopes to resume his work on a studio feature starring some Oscary type people. So far, so good.

The first time I go out with somebody I like to pretend sex doesn't exist. The first meeting is about sizing each other up in the personality game and learning things about each other slowly with no pressure and no assumptions. Also, recent events have made me an untrusting soul.

I don't take compliments well either, especially when I just met you. I think it's because they come across as fake, or because I watched my smooth talking father talk women right out of their money time after time growing up so I don't really trust a guy who's quick with the flattery. Just ask me questions or tell your stories, don't try to get in my pants.

This has also made me "hard to read" according to Ex-Boyfriend, who didn't even kiss me on the first date because he thought I didn't like him even though I thought it was the best date ever.

Potential Date seemed really cool except he broke my rule. He mentioned how close he lived to me and that he could be over at my house in six minutes and we could watch TV together. He referred to me as "hot teacher." He wanted to read my zombie script even though I'm only halfway through the first draft.

Hey, Potential Date, I don't know you. Back off.

But I decided to give the guy a chance because he seems okay despite what I'm writing here and we have a lot in common. We'll see. I made it a day date in a nearby public place with no alcohol because I have learned.

Anyway, he also said something that kind of annoyed me. He asked if I prefer TV or film and I said both.

"Oh, honey, that's not a good idea," he said, as if that unwillingness to attach myself permanently to one form of writing destines me to a tragic end.

Now, this guy knows way more than me about the Industry. He makes a living writing and directing films, so he has an educated point of view.

But what is with this idea that you have to pick one? Is that true? I have to pick long form or serial form, but both is unheard of?

There are writers who do both, I know there are. They start in one and move to the other.

I have specs in both categories so if I meet a TV producer I hand over a TV spec. If I meet a film producer I pass him my feature. Is that wrong?

I don't understand why I have to choose. Don't make me choose.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

What I learned on my first short film

Questions! Seriously I love questions about all subjects. It's why I like teaching. If I don't know I can point you to someone who does.

Leif from Australia asked for advice on making short films.

So first a disclaimer: I've only made one and it's not finished with post yet so I can only talk about that one example. I know what it's like to be a girl not working in the Industry who didn't go to film school and doesn't know anything about cameras but still made what appears to be a really good 14-minute dark comedy I wrote with a writing partner.

In other words, I don't know anything but I'm going to pretend I do so you'll keep loving me.

The first thing I did was ask Christopher Stack for some advice. He knows what he's talking about. His most recent film, An Exercise in Vigilance, is currently making the festival rounds. He gave some good suggestions about what a director's job is on set. That was my biggest fear was that I would do everything wrong and everybody would role their eyes at me.

I'm pretty sure some other people gave me advice as well and I thank them for it.

I'd never been on a set before as a member of the crew. I wish I had. I asked a friend who was filming a short if he'd let me PA his no-budget shoot so I could get the feel for how a set works and he actually said no. I'm not really going to be doing him any favors any time soon.

Honestly I got lucky. The crew came to me because the script was good. I had a talented DP, Script Supervisor/AD and gaffer and I didn't even have to go find them. No matter what I learned that you must have an AD on set for your first film. I kept whispering to her to tell me what I was supposed to do. When I said "cut" or "action" at the wrong time she nudged me and quietly gave me the correction. She was fantastic.

For casting I used two friends for the boys. For one of the girl parts I used Breakdown Express. I wrote up a breakdown of the character and waited. Within one day I had over 100 women send me their resumes. I chose 12 to audition. Two showed up. Even though that part eventually went to Lead Actor's Girlfriend who blew me away during her audition, one of the two girls from BE really impressed me. So I called her in to audition for the other part I was still missing.

I have a tendency to decide things instantly based on my gut. She came, she read, she was hired. She was great.

So basically, I got lucky, but the only reason I got lucky was because I had a great script. And it may make me sound like a raging egomaniac to say that, but dammit, it's true.

But here's the stuff that really helped. Robert Rodriguez' Rebel Without a Crew inspired me the whole way. When things weren't quite going how I imagined them, I just remembered Rodriguez saying that sometimes when things go wrong that's when the best stuff happens. Also, The Guerilla Filmmaker's Guide was my constant reference throughout production. It's basically an encyclopedia of jobs on set. So when the DP mentioned his "gaffer" on the phone I ran to the book, looked up what the hell a gaffer is and didn't skip a beat in the conversation.

In other words, the book helped me not look as stupid.

I also got a lot out of Cinematic Storytelling. It helped me get creative in my ideas for shots.

All of those books are linked on my sidebar.

But the biggest piece of advice I can give is to make it cheap and simple. One of the reasons my film was so cheap - $1,000 for everything including set decoration, equipment and food - was because Partner and I wrote it to take place in one room with four people and no special effects. We used my apartment so I got to keep the set decoration. It was weird watching the raw footage in the room where it was shot and still looks exactly like it did then.

But shooting such a simple concept also allowed us to get away with not having storyboards or being really picky about the shooting script. And if we had needed an extra day of shooting we could have arranged it because I lived in the set. We didn't, though. We finished four hours early so I must be doing something right.

Really important: do not skimp on food. I used Boston Market the first day because they deliver and the food is awesome. You can order everything online. It pleased everybody, and when your crew is working for free and your actors are spending the entire day under hot lights on the hardwood floor and one of them is wearing a leather coat in the middle of September, good food goes a long way. The second day we had Subway. I also had apples, a cooler of various drinks, coffee and chips and salsa available all day.

So basically this is what I learned: feed everybody well, get as informed as you can about what you're expected to do and surround yourself with people who know way more than you do but respect your vision. And leave your ego out of it.

*I forgot to mention my PA, who was immensely helpful with continuity, lunch and the air conditioning unit. Love you, P!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Welcome to my life

Because I've had so many new people find their way here in the past month between the Russians and people looking for more strike stuff I thought I'd do a little introduction in case anybody's interested.

I am a high school teacher. I've been teaching high school for seven years now, four in a rural North Carolina town and three here in gangland, Los Angeles. My kids are mostly Latino and don't have much money and sometimes it's like pulling teeth to get them to do anything, but when they're good they're wonderful. I'd rather be here any day than up in Beverly Hills with the smartasses that think they know everything because their daddy drives a Beamer.

Maybe I'm a little hard on the white boys. I've had some bad experiences.

After work I go to kickboxing lessons with my Trainer or run around my neighborhood depending on the day. I love to watch boxing matches on the weekends. I really enjoy controlled violence but in a real-life setting I'm pretty passive. Unless you piss me off.

I'm from North Carolina originally but I'm not a redneck. People from my state love George Bush, Dale Earnhart and Clay Aiken. All three of those people give me brain hives. One of many reasons I now live in LA.

The main reason I'm in LA is to become a screenwriter. Film, TV, I don't care. Either will do as long as I'm working on stories. I like action movies the best. X Men 2, Pitch Black, The Matrix, Hero - these are some of my favorites. So far I've sold nothing but I haven't really tried because I'm not comfortable with the amount of solid material I have to offer. I just shot a short film with an amazing cast and crew and it's still in the editing phase and I'm currently working on a zombie script, shortly to be followed by a superhero action comedy.

I love LA and I have a theory that you should never turn down an invitation unless you absolutely have to. As a result I've had some fun times and met some great people. And whenever I do I write about it here.

I mostly try to write about writing and The Industry, but I also write about teaching and random things that happen to me and assorted other events. I try to make it funny. Sometimes I succeed.

I hate clowns. They are evil and must be destroyed.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer was the best show ever on television. If you don't believe that you clearly have no soul.

Just kidding. Farscape and Angel are also acceptable favorite shows.

So welcome. If you have questions, ask. I love questions.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Don Quixote is always the best project

If you sent over comments in Russian I have not approved them because I can't read them and I don't want my blog to turn into a forum for Russians to discuss hot chicks.

But I appreciate the comments from the supportive people and I'm flattered that you are interested in my boobs.

Last night Maggie solved my lack of groceries problem by feeding me her Thanksgiving leftovers, complete with hypercolor mashed potatoes that change from blue to purple when you microwave them but taste like regular old potatoes when you eat them. Utterly fascinating.

Today I'm showing House of Flying Daggers to my seniors. It's a world lit class so we're spending the whole semester on various forms of the hero's journey. They have projects. Each group must read a story and present it to the class along with a rough explanation of the history and the author associated with the piece and an explanation of how each story follows the hero's journey.

But they're having some difficulty grasping the concept even though I've been over it five thousand times.

Hence House of Flying Daggers. It's world lit because it's a Chinese story. But more importantly, it's an interesting take on the old Campbell monomyth. The hero in this case isn't trying to save the world - just win the heart of a girl. Still, in the process he goes through the same major points that all hero's journeys do, and at the end he is a changed man even though he was a pawn in the greater story of rebels versus the law.

It also makes me bawl my little eyeballs out. Let's see if it has the same effect on the kids.

The worry when showing a film that makes you cry around teenagers is that there's always some jackass in the room who chooses to laugh or make a joke at the climactic moment of the story. One year a kid laughed hysterically right when Juliet was about to kill herself and it completely destroyed the ending's effect for the rest of the class.

After I've shown the film maybe they'll be able to figure out what to do with their stories. Their choices are The Iliad, The Aeneid, Don Quixote, Oedipus, 1001 Nights, Faust, and The Song of Roland. I expect many awesome videos to keep me laughing two weeks from now.

Monday, November 26, 2007

добро пожаловать, Россия

First of all, hi Russia!

Yesterday I had 134 individual hits, which is on par for a Sunday.

This morning I casually checked my statcounter and bam! 1,423 before noon. Well holy nesting dolls, Batman.

That would be Russia. My post about the picture of the girl who's not me has gone around the block a few times in the old country, probably just like that girl.

Oh! Zinger! You can't expect me not to make that joke.

I've been having a difficult couple of days, so thanks go out to all my Russian fans for saying nice things about me.

I mean, I think they're nice things. Most of them are in Russian.

Babelfish is not much help. It gave me this: "Emily, in you the theme of sisek is not opened, give already reveal!"

Is that a request for nudie pics or emotional revelations?

No on the nudie pics by the way.

In the meantime I'm exhausted. I'm barely holding it together and as soon as the bell rings I'm driving home and collapsing into bed. I couldn't sleep last night because the guys who robbed me have my keys and my address and every ten minutes I thought I heard them unlocking my door. I have a chain on the door. Did I think to use it? No. Just like that time in Ireland when a guy mugged me and I forgot I had pepper spray.

There are cameras all over my building including one on my door so hopefully that will dissuade them. I also think they were just after the money since they ditched my friend's wallet in a driveway. But between my paranoia and my throbbing knee I spent the whole night tossing over. Even my usual thinking about zombies didn't help. That always helps.

Yes, I think about zombies to sleep. Sometimes when I'm anxious I say "zombies!" and that helps me calm down. Because, you know, zombies are soothing.

I need to go to the DMV. I need to file a police report. I need to buy groceries but I have $17 in my account because somebody stole my cell phone and I had to replace it by using this week's grocery money. Food or cell phone? I choose phone. Last night's dinner was an apple and a piece of pecan pie.


I subscribe to Maggie's Pie Makes Everything Better theory.

But now I'm out of pie. I think dinner tonight is going to be elbow macaroni and butter.

The kids have all offered me their extra free lunch tickets to help feed me. They're adorable. They were so mad at those guys who robbed me they didn't even complain when I handed them massive literary tomes they have two weeks to read. It probably helps that I also gave them candy canes.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Last night

No picture today. I can't handle the thought of a happy cat sitting on top of this post.

Last night I went to a couple of bars with some girlfriends and had a grand old time. An adorable Tom Stoppard quoting bartender got me plenty toasted and my Friend and I left the other two girls to hop into a cab for the ride home. I didn't like the cab driver, so I asked Friend if we could get out and walk the last two blocks. She was cool with that.


Almost as soon as we got out of the cab and crossed the street a young Latino male ran up behind us and grabbed her purse, then his buddy grabbed mine. I grabbed his sweatshirt and knocked him back to the ground, but in the process lost my balance and also fell. After flashing me a look of complete shock, he jumped up and ran. I jumped up out of my shoes and ran barefoot after him but he was too fast and I was too drunk. I screamed at him all kinds of valuable moral lessons I'm sure he pondered as he searched through our purses.

I walked back and found my shoes and my Friend, who had been pushed to the ground when she refused to give it up right away. Her knees are in bad shape.

My knee is beat and bloody and my butt is bruised and there appears to be a bruise on my wrist as well. Friend's legs are banged up.

He got my cell phone, my license, my ATM card and some make up along with $20. I had to get a new cell phone and decided to get an LA area code while I was at it so if you had my number you have to email me so I can give you the new one.

Friend didn't even have any cash, but he managed to run up her phone bill with calls to Florida.

Unfortunately it's a 1-800 number so that won't be much help.

I kind of had a melt down right there in the street. I mean, this kid could be one of my students. I spend so much of my time trying to teach them that stealing is wrong, trying to make them understand that just because you want something doesn't mean you have to take it. And it's all irrelevant because for every kid who hears me there are many more who think only of themselves.

This Guy came up to us as soon as it happened and told us he saw the Muggers walking behind us and thought they looked suspicious. Guy didn't offer to walk us home, didn't offer to call the cops, didn't try to help us in any way at all. He just wanted to know he saw the incident take place and did nothing about it.

I decided to walk two miles to Other Friend's place - the only place I felt safe - and as I cried in the hallway waiting for him to get home a neighbor came out and yelled at me to shut up. Even after I told her what happened she had the nerve to tell me to "calm down and be quiet" because she had to get to sleep. She didn't offer any consolation, didn't apologize for being rude, only criticized me for being drunk and called Other Friend on the phone and told him to get home because someone was making lots of noise in the hallway and she wanted it taken care of.

Some people are just rotten.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Me? Or Astro Man?

So there was this picture taken at the WGA protest last week that has appeared all over the place since then:

Her name is Emily Blake. As you can imagine, this picture has garnered a lot of interest among horny boys and various Russians.

But at first glance this does not appear to me be. I can see why people think it is, but I would never be seen in that outfit. Not during the day, anyway. Those shoes don't look comfortable. And look how short that dress is - you are about to see her everything any second now, which explains the horny boys and various Russians displaying so much interest.

Also, if I wore a strapless dress I would spend all day pulling it up. I would not lift my arms over my head at the risk of losing my tiny little stretch of fabric that barely covers anything anyway. Also, my arms aren't that spindly. I have muscles. So you know, I'm thinking, not me but thanks.

But then Friday I had twice as many hits as usual on my page and 100% more Russians than usual because everybody's looking for this girl and they think she's me.

So fuck it.

Yeah, that's me.

The way I figure it, one of four things happened.

1) This is the robot me. Soon she will show up at my door and take over my life and have me sent to Hell where I will be forced to play Death at various board games until I win the ability to get back to Earth to rescue the princesses.

2) I have a superpower of which I was previously unaware. I can be in multiple places at the same time. So I sent Ring Girl Emily out to the rally while Teacher Emily stayed in the classroom. But Ring Girl Emily doesn't want Teacher Emily to realize her power so she wiped my memory and will soon show up at my door and take over my life while the real me becomes more and more dull to the point where I start wearing tweed suits and paying my bills on time.

3) That's Alternate Universe Emily. Like on Sliders. She was out there on a mission to protect our dimension from the AMPTP because in her world, they have caused an apocalyptic rupture that destroyed everything. But now that she's saved the world through some deed we'll never understand, she'll show up at my door and take over my life and pretend she's the real Emily while she kills me and buries me in the park and starts the writing career I was supposed to have.

4) That's me from the future. I knew if I went out and got in that picture the hits on my site would double and some producer somewhere who really likes leggy blonds would find me and sign me to an eight picture deal. But none of that would ever have happened if Future Me hadn't come back and gone to the rally while Present Me was at work. Now Future Me has gone back to the future where my evil is law. If only she had come by before she left and explained how she keeps her hair that straight.

Man, I hope it's number four.

How I did my Christmas shopping in one weekend

My family is far away in North Carolina, so last night a Friend and I went to two Thanksgiving parties and ate and played games and had a generally good time. On the way to party number two we passed the Best Buy on La Brea in Hollywood.

Good lord. It was 6:35 p.m. and there was a line of people literally camped out. They had tents. They were sleeping there.

I went to the same Best Buy today at 10:30 this morning and didn't really see what all the fuss was about. They still had plenty of copies of Rock Band.

Which, by the way, is one of the games Friend and I played at party number two. Fun! I did really well on the Garbage song "I Think I'm Paranoid" but discovered that "Should I Stay or Should I Go" is completely out of my range and I should never attempt to sing it ever again for the good of society. I sounded like a caterwauling monkey.

But the good news is after one trip to the aforementioned Best Buy and the Target next door I am almost finished with my Christmas shopping. This Sunday I'll go the Larchmont farmer's market and pick up some spicy peanuts for an uncle. I also have to drive to Santa Monica this afternoon to a British pub where they sell British foods that please my British grandmother. I gave her figgy pudding from that place last year and I think she creamed her pants.

Haha. I made you think of my 80-year-old British grandma creaming her pants.

Anyway, I survived the day by having a really laid back attitude. I discovered last year that if I just wake up in a good mood and decide not to let anything get to me all day then I'll be fine. While people were stumbling all over themselves trying to get to the $3.98 DVD shelf I waited against the wall and selected my DVDs from a distance so when the crowd briefly cleared I just walked up, grabbed what I wanted and threw it in my bag. And I always bring a cloth bag so I can throw it over my shoulder and deftly breeze through the aisles. Never get a cart if you want to maintain your sanity.

But about those $3.98 DVDs, right now Target and Best Buy both have DVDs for cheap as hell. Target was selling Memoirs of a Geisha and Blood Diamond and Batman Begins and some other movies that I didn't care about for $3.98. Seriously. And Best Buy had The House of Flying Daggers for $5. So I stocked up on DVDs, some for me, some for people. So now everybody will think I spent way more money than I did, which is great because I spent my Christmas shopping money on making a movie.

Know what else is good about buying people lots of movies? Easy to pack in a suitcase.

I bought my people other stuff too, though. I'm not that stingy.

But now comes the really fun part. My stepdad is buying me a new laptop for Christmas, so he wants me to scour the Internet to find my top ten laptops so he can choose one. How awesome is that?

Any recommendations?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

For all the fans

FYI, I am not the Emily Blake with the hot legs and uncomfortable shoes who was at the rally on Hollywood Boulevard and was in a few newspaper photos today. That's a different Emily Blake. I would like her to change her name now before this gets more complicated.

Clowns, page one

At one of Bill Martell's seminars at The Expo this year he said something about writing about the interesting things you encounter in your life, the things that separate you from other people. Actually, I think at the time he was talking about how to separate your query letter from all the others, but whatever the point was it gave me an idea.

I started thinking about all the things that are quirky about me. The teacher thing is done to death and the world has plenty of Southern movie stars and we don't need another movie about aspiring writers and I could do a great kickboxing girl story if Girl Fight and Million Dollar Baby and Against the Ropes hadn't already mined what was left of the boxing genre.

"What else have I got?" I thought.

Well, I'm afraid of clowns. A girl who's afraid of clowns. Surely there's something in that.

So I got a title: Fear of Clowns.

And I got a character: a girl.

So as you can see, I was well on my way.

I kept trying to force clown stories into this title, but it soon became clear that I had to let the story come to me. It sounds like a drama, doesn't it? About a girl trying to conquer her fear of fake people? Or something.

Every night as I fall asleep I write my latest story. For a long time it was the zombie story, which I had put on pause while I do a little research, but make no mistake I plan to finish that by Christmas. But I often come up with stories as I teeter on the edge of sleep. I am a fortunate soul in that I almost always remember what I create. I don't even keep a note pad by my bed because I never forget my good ideas.

I know. Don't you just hate me?

Then one morning I had a dream about Batman pissing a bunch of people off. I woke up and realized what an interesting angle I'd just thought up - a way of looking at Batman that I've never seen explored. I realized that if I changed Batman to my own girl it would be freaking awesome. And I could call it Fear of Clowns.

I mulled over the story for a while as I continued work on the zombies, then a couple of nights ago as I was pondering possible events I wrote the opening. And it was different from anything I'd written before. I'm writing about life in a small town in North Carolina - Coats, to be exact, a town I used to drive through on my way to work each morning - so I started to write it in my Southern girl voice.

And if you don't know what that is, read some Clyde Edgerton or T.R. Pearson's A Short History of a Small Place.

Now, without further ado, the current opening scene to Fear of Clowns:


It's a green town in a green state where little kids still run around barefoot in the woods. There is one major two-lane road running through town, and the only stop light anybody pays attention to is the one that intersects the other major two-lane road running through town. Anything directly outside of Coats, North Carolina is asparagus farms and the gourd museum.

In the middle of a sea of little backyards, a blazing inferno envelops a house in trees.


Fire. Flames engulf the entirety of what used to be a finely crafted treehouse, with slats nailed together with the precision of Bob Villa. Rock posters and pinup girls melt off the wall. Playing cards burn on the floor next to a digital camera, pillows and other assorted odds and ends little boys like to keep around their secret clubs. In one corner, the blackened remains of a space heater.

Outside a boy cries and men yell.

In another corner, a kitten named SAM - terrified, adorable and unable to plan an effective escape.

A hand claps itself around Sam and lifts him to a shoulder. Sam scratches the white face next to his paw and scrambles unsuccessfully to get away.

That face belongs to ERIN COLE, 23, a girl who's been doing her best to hide the fact that she's nice to look at. A thin bloody line appears on her cheek where Sam scratched her.

Dammit, cat!

She lifts the cat and looks at it.

I'm trying to save your life here!

She looks down the hole in the middle of the treehouse, where the rope ladder has burned away.

Below, the ground.

Sam looks down.

They look at each other.

Erin doesn't realize that her sweater is on fire.



She leaps into the hole.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Ode to Los Angeles part three

Rhys asked me a question. I love questions! She asked if I feel like it was worth it to move to LA even though I didn't have a job in The Industry.

If you asked every transplanted aspiring and professional writer this question you'd get some very different answers, so all I can do is talk about my own experience. And I admit, I'm a bit biased.

I love Los Angeles. As in, I don't understand how I haven't lived here forever. I love North Carolina too, and I'm glad to be going home over Christmas to visit my parents and this really hot dude I went to school with and hang out in the peace and quiet for a few days.

But then I'll be ready to come back.

I've written about my love for LA before in parts one and two, but that was mostly in relation to the creation of my short film and how easy it is to do in LA. My main point in those two posts is that this is the best place to be if you want to make a short film because you can't spit without hitting a cinematographer, an editor and about fifty actors. Making my movie would have been ten times harder back in Raleigh.

It's also about support. In North Carolina the only friends I had were Ex-Fiance's friends. I was terribly lonely and isolated. And when I first moved out here I brought my Ex-Fiance with me, although at the time he was just Fiance. When his mom and I were hopping around the city of New Bern looking for the right place to order the light blue chocolate wedding cake nobody ever ate, she asked me how long we were planning to be out here while I gave this lost cause a shot.* "A year?" She said, "two?"


Here, when you say you're an aspiring screenwriter nobody mocks you. Most people say, "Oh! Have you had any luck? What are you working on?"

Actors hand you business cards. Producers give you career advice. Other aspiring writers ask if they can read your scripts. It's so damn friendly.

And people ARE friendly here. Sure, on any given night you can run into ten phony bastards who are just looking for a way you can help their career. And I understand them because it does get frustrating to work your ass off every day and find out you can't get a spot in that office on the lot because some other girl had sex with Spielberg's cousin. So it is a struggle to keep yourself from becoming that shallow person you hated when you moved here.

But if you just spend your time around honest people, this is the greatest place to be. I've been very lucky to build up a group of friends who support each other. Most of my friends have hidden industry jobs like being PAs or packaging proofreaders or PR gophers. But those are their jobs today. Tomorrow we'll all be writers and stunt men and executives. A win for one of us is a win for all of us.

I had no idea this world existed until I moved here. Now I don't want to live anywhere else.

I've been here over two years so who knows - maybe I'll get sick of it. Maybe I'll change my mind after a few more years of trudging through the studio system. I wish it would rain sometimes. I wish my rent wasn't so high. I miss running around barefoot (I'm not fond of shoes and if you ever spend time with me will discover I will at some point slip them off). The constant traffic and noise gets old. The constant traffic gets old. And growing up I never locked my door.

And parking. Jesus. When I went home last year for my class reunion I parked like a mile away because I didn't believe I was allowed to park in the lot right next to the bar. I forgot I wasn't up on Hollywood Boulevard.

But to me, these are issues easily dealt with in exchange for what I get. The other day I saw Seth Green at the grocery store like it was any other day. I've sat next to Jane Espenson and picked her very wise and pleasant brain. I met Adam Busch and Amber Benson and tried to pretend I wasn't completely star struck while they discussed Adam's band. I learned to kickbox. I made a movie. I made new friends. I get to go out on my balcony every morning and see the constant sunlight reflect of the fancy houses on the hills, and if I look to the right and stand on tip-toe I can see the Hollywood sign, ever constant in the distance. And every weekend I have to decide between like three parties. And last week I ran out and walked in circles with professional writers and urged passersby to honk their horns for justice.

Know what I did before I moved here? Planned a wedding. Watched TV. Played XBox. Stared out the window. Drank.

Sadly, that's kind of true.

And if I sound a little sappy it's because I'm listening via headphones to a really victorious Bloc Party song on Pandora while the teacher who shares my room drones on about something that is evidently boring the crap out of his class.

So as the music swells, I will complete my thought by saying the following:


Los Angeles isn't for everybody. But it is for me.

*She didn't actually call it a lost cause, but she was thinking it.

Monday, November 19, 2007

This is not a story

Those of you who have been reading my ruminations for a while may have noticed that weird things happen to me. It's not coincidence. I like to put myself in situations where weird things will happen because I enjoy the adventure and the possibility of mining the event for future stories. It's why I volunteered for things. It's why I volunteered to be a seat-filler for last night's American Music Awards. Can you imagine the possibilities?

The possibility that never occurred to me was that nothing would happen.

The dress code was "hot club attire". No jeans. Cocktail dresses. It was a sea of little black ones, myself among them. But there's no coat-check so if you bring a coat you'll have to carry it all night. It was like ten degrees outside last night and we had to stand outside for an hour waiting to go in, then stand in line waiting for the shuttle on the way out.

To add insult to injury, they gave us all extra-large AMA sweatshirts we were to immediately put in our cars before hopping on the shuttle. Hey girls, here's warmth! You can't have it!

Throughout the night I wished I owned a black pashmina. After a while I developed a routine of imagining the pashmina around my shoulders, feeling the phantom wooley warmth for a few seconds before I remembered that I was freezing to death.

The men mocked me in their sport jackets.

The AMA people told me to wear comfortable shoes but my comfortable shoes made my legs look short and squatty. My nice party shoes make my legs look fantastic but cramp my toes. I opted for fantastic legs in case I sat next to Akon and he invited me to his after-party where fantastic legs would come in handy.

Yeah, that didn't happen.

Fortunately the AMA people fed us dry turkey sandwiches with chips and a cookie and an apple. They were out of water so my plan of stuffing a water bottle in my purse and sipping on it all night was foiled. I drank a Diet Coke, ate the sandwich and put everything else in my purse with my emergency bag of cookies and a granola bar. So basically I was a walking pantry. That way, if I sat next to John Mayer and he expressed a feeling of hunger I could open my purse and say, "What would you like?"

Yeah, that didn't happen.

It was a lot of hurry up and waitness. Then, as the show was about to begin, we were shoved into empty seats with wild abandon. Then it was my turn.

I was told to sit between a blond guy and a guy in a hat. Guy In Hat said his wife was sitting there. I told him I had to sit there until she showed.

She showed five seconds before the show started. Guy In Hat was super nice, as was his Blond friend, but I had to take off in a flash because the seats must be filled with no stragglers when the cameras pan over the first ten rows.

If you're up front during the commercial break you find a new seat. If you're in the back during the commercial break you wait for them to come and choose you.

I was now in the back. I never sat in the front again.

When the first award was announced - breakthrough artist - Guy In Hat and Blond Guy got up and went to the stage with the rest of the band. I had been smack in the middle of Daughtry. In case you didn't hear, they kind of had a big night last night.

So that was cool. It's all I have to hang on to really, since I sat at the back of the theater dancing with two very excited college freshmen girls the rest of the night. If it hadn't been for those girls I'd have been lonely and miserable so whoever they were, they were fantastic and I thank them.

They made me dance to Chris Brown and Alicia Keys, and I admit that Alicia Keys performance rocked the house. But then came Duran Duran and "Hungry Like the Wolf".

I jumped up and yelled, "This is my music!" And rocked out like the aging white lady that I am.

They tried to dance too, but couldn't find a way to work the Rockaway into a guitar-heavy eightees song. I glanced over and was highly amused at their complete failure to comprehend why anyone would listen to this.

They waited all night, begging the guy in charge to send them to the front. Finally, on the last commercial break he sent them up front and left me behind. I hope they sat next to Beyonce.

And that was it. I went home. I ate some chips. I watched The Simpsons. I went to sleep.

Next time I'm jumping into the first open chair I see.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Why Best Week Ever and The Soup are still on the air

In the past few days a bunch of people have come here to find out why The Soup and Best Week Ever are still on the air during the strike. I posted that query here and got some good answers, but nothing definitive. The question was still bugging the hell out of me. Because we'd established that they were nonsig shows, but I know BWE ever has union members on its staff. How does that work?

So I emailed Paul F. Tompkins from BWE - 'cuz we're tight like that - and asked him myself.

Here was his response:

I don't know about The Soup, but yes, BWE is a non-Guild show. I myself am a WGA member, but can do the show because a) it's an interview format, where I am not writing in advance, I am improvising in response to questions and b) if that IS considered writing, according to the Guild, performers are allowed to write for themselves. This is how Letterman and Carson were able to do shows during the last big strike. As far as the people who put the shows together, that's another matter. I would say it's probably all right because shows like BWE and The Soup are not the types of shows that are in question-- there's no real resale of them and no residuals.

I would NEVER want to do anything that went against the cause for which we are striking. Hope this eases your mind.


Saturday, November 17, 2007

Homage or copy cat?

The other day I saw Snatch at the grocery store for $9.99 so I picked it up. I didn't remember anything about the film other than that I liked it and there was a dog and Brad Pitt boxing and doing a funny accent and Jason Statham.

What more do you need in a film, really?

So I watched it and it's still fabulous, but I go this really eerie feeling throughout the movie that I'd not only seen it before, I'd seen echoes of it all over.

And as soon as the movie ended I put in Shaun of the Dead, which of course I own.

Those cheeky moneys.

I mean, I recognized the camera moves right away of course. The quick CUT TOs are so Guy Ritchie. But the actual opening scene of Shaun includes a song from the soundtrack to Snatch. I expect zombie movie homages, but that film is an homage to Guy Ritchie in general.

Of course I realize I can't be the first person to notice this. But, you know, I thought it was worth mentioning since I never noticed it before.

Things I learned today at Ralph's

1) I hate grocery shopping on Saturdays. It's crowded and there are old people. Why do I continue to torture myself?

2) Old people hate you. They don't care how much you want to get to the deli meats, they got there first and if they want to carefully examine each individual brand and calculate how much they're paying per ounce of shaved turkey before they make a decision you and your cart will fucking wait. Get off their lawn.

3) Seth Green is kind of normal. He stood with his arm around his much taller and completely adorable girlfriend while they discussed their selection of Pepperidge Farm cookies. They also bought diet Sprite and Christmas wrapping paper. It's possible it was not Seth Green since the guy had his hat pulled down over his face to hide his identity, but that little redhead is hard to miss. I'm 99% sure it was him. I was on a mad store-wide search at the moment to find tortillas and wanted more than anything to say, "Hey Seth Green, do you know where the tortillas are?" It is now my greatest regret in life that I did not do this.

4) I buy diet soda now. When did that start? And did you know they make diet cherry Pepsi? The world truly is a wondrous place.

5) I am still amazed by the ability to pull liquor off the shelf and put it directly in my basket at the grocery store. In North Carolina you must go to a tiny government-run room in the middle of nowhere where they run your ID through a background check and give you a three-day waiting period before you're allowed to purchase a bottle of Sour Apple Pucker's. Even at Von's in the dirty neighborhood where I used to live they kept the vodka with the condoms behind a locked glass case so you had to tell the whole world your plans to get drunk and screw before anyone would give you the tools to do so. At the fancy Ralph's in my fancy Jewish neighborhood they just let you grab all the booze you want and pay for it with no fanfare at all. Who wants appletinis?

6) Cashiers at Ralph's aren't quite sure what to do when you bust out your canvas Trader Joe's bags and insist on using those instead of plastic. Forget saving the environment, you can throw your grocery bag over your shoulder as you carry it up the stairs.


7) I need someone to follow me around and carry my groceries up the stairs. I can pay you in appletinis and diet cherry Pepsi.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Strike-related Craigslist ads part 2

1) Our firm specializes in outsourcing mercenary work from Fortune 500 companies that need to keep their hands clean. We act as middlemen, designing offensive logistics with our clients, and then through intermediaries give you the assignment. Upon completion of an assignment, we will leave cash in a designated area that is tax free and untraceable. We will only communicate with you via e-mail. We are reaching out to writers because nobody in corporate America knows who you are, plus you have the imagination needed to be resourceful in a pinch. Please e-mail your resume and salary history. Crime Drama Writing experience a plus, but not necessarily required.

2) The strike will go on for a long time. It is time to get balls and come back to work. The producers will break the union. Get paid now and work now. If you come back now we will forget and let the past be gone. I need writers to keep making shows for sweeps. FOX Idol will not be only show viewers will look forward too. Man/women up and come back.

We have bought extreme SUV's with darken (more than normal) windows to get you onto the lot. No one will know. Work in a special unit trailer and video conference your input to the stage. You can wear a stocking so no actors will notice you when on the video conference. We will write contracts through agents and keep everything confidential. If you need cash please apply. NO 24 writers please.

3) Untapped NON-UNION talent. I won't lie, I have no published experience. But I CAN and WILL deliver. I live in Pittsburgh but can e-mail GREAT writing at a moment's notice. Strikes mean nothing to me. I have ideas for new shows and can write for current shows in a heartbeat. And I can beat the pants off any of your pampered, union writers without hesitation.

Don't believe me? Just send me a short e-mail, whatever you need, first script's free. Cost you nothing but a few minutes, and the reward will be well worth it.

Need to start shooting next summer's popcorn fest? It's right here, waiting. Need a script finished at the last minute at great expense? Don't bother! I will beat any scab's script and any scab's price! Just try me! I dare you!

4) Allow me to be your stand-in on the picket line.
Hours, days, weeks, months....I'll walk the line.
All that I ask is that when this strike ends
Your agent or manager read my script!
It's getting cold out there, e-mail me,
I'll meet you at any studio.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

But I still shop at The Gap

As a general rule I do not watch reality TV. It's stupid. It's not reality at all and it's stupid.

But I make two exceptions.

America's Next Top Model and Project Runway are stupendous.

Catty bitches, drama queens, melodrama and also some models. Plus, cool pictures and dresses you can decide whether or not you'd wear.

But by far the best thing about these two shows is the ability you have to judge people based solely on the out-of-context editing and bizarre creative choices they make.

I don't even know how to sew a button but I know that silly dress with the rosettes and plastic shredded strips is damn tacky. My nose looks like a toucan's beak on camera, but I know that girl needs to elongate her neck more, okay?

I love how in the Project Runway season premiere the guy with the flattened out Flock of Seagulls haircut called the Hippie Lady weird. He was kind of right though; she's a whack job.

I have also come to the conclusion that everything is better if Tim Gunn is involved. We should let him take over planning for the Iraq war. Everyone would put down their guns and concentrate on ways to look fabulous in fatigues.

Too bad these shows are on networks that don't interact because a crossover episode would be awesome.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Just how awesome is Captain Awesome? Very.

I would like to take a moment to expound upon the brilliance that is Captain Awesome.

If you've been watching Chuck, and you really should be - it gets better with every episode - you already know about Captain Awesome.

He's played by Ryan McPartlin, previously seen on Passions, North Shore, Living with Fran and a number of other TV shows. As you may have guessed by his picture, he is a Ken doll. But never has a frat boy so... well, awesome.

He's a doctor. He's an athlete. He knows how to dance. He can dress himself. He always says the right thing. He's freaking hot.

The reason he works is because he embraces his preppiness and he loves his girlfriend, plus he's really nice to people who aren't as awesome as he is. I guess in the end, that's it. He's unapologetic about his complete perfection but doesn't think of anyone else as beneath him. Plus, he says exactly what he means at all times. In this week's episode he told Chuck he needed to be having sex with his girlfriend when it's what everybody was thinking but nobody was saying. Later, when his girlfriend went bat-shit crazy thanks to an assassin's poison and started yelling at him for wearing tight shorts while jogging, he simply raised his eyebrows and waited for her to finish while casually asking why she was so mad.

Nothing worries this man.

So good on you, writers of Chuck. You managed to invent the perfect man. Too bad he's not real.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Questions about the strike

I kept asking people this on the picket line yesterday and nobody knew a complete answer so I'm going to post it here and see what people think.

Best Week Ever and The Soup are still on the air. Why? Best Week Ever ignored the strike completely this week, but The Soup's Joel McHale mentioned twice that the producers should cough up residuals so the writers could go back to work, so clearly he supports the strike. But he's at work. I don't get it.

Myspace is holding some kind of short film contest. A guy emailed me yesterday asking me to vote for his movie which mocks reality television. He says it's a way for him to support the strike because if he wins he'll forgo the development deal that may come with the prize, and in the meantime he's poking fun at the networks.

I'm not really sure how his winning a contest is a boon for striking writers. I think the guy may be trying to make himself feel less like a scab if he wins. Which brings me to my next question, is that scab work? If you have a finished film and you sell it to a studio, does that qualify as crossing the line? It's not writing work, it's selling a completed piece of work. Then again, it is filling time for the networks.

I know the Disney people have worked out the kinks in their fellowship, but what about other contests? What if a contest includes a development deal or a studio first look as a prize? What happens to the winners now? Does the prize get put on hold until the strike is over or do you have to become a scab to claim your winnings?

And what about Ellen? From what I gather about the situation she's in a hell of a bind. She's a member of both the WGA and AFTRA and while WGA expects her to strike AFTRA has a no-strike clause in her contract. So how can she possibly do the right thing?

There are many topics. Discuss.

EDIT: For more info on The Soup and Best Week Ever in relation to the strike, go here.

Monday, November 12, 2007

My day on the line

Last night I made three batches of black bean spirals to take to the picket line today. Most of them are back in my refrigerator because there was so much food that nobody wanted my damn appetizers even though mine were home made and the cookies and muffins were store-bought. But whatever.

I live within walking distance of Paramount but I know a bunch of people who work at Warner so my theory was that I'd go up there and not be totally alone as I marched. But one friend didn't answer her phone last night or today, another friend was off the lot on a shoot at the ranch, another friend couldn't get time away from her office to come out, and Maggie was only able to picket during her lunch at 12:30.

I did get to see Maggie for a bit - always an improvement on whatever situation you're in - but in the end I probably should have walked to Paramount and saved on gas and time. Next time I will.

At least I didn't get a ticket. I was a bit concerned since I parked near although not in front of a hydrant with no red zone paint, have no front license plate and my car sat there for three hours in a two-hour zone. But no ticket. I believe I have upped my karma points on the picket line.

I did meet a few nice people there in my red UTLA shirt. David Madsen, a feature writer and novelist who listed many a film he wrote that has been bought and stuck on shelves all over town. He was particularly nice and hopefully one day I'll cross his path again and he'll remember me as the little teacher who marched back and forth with him across the street.

The staff of Gossip Girl was there (in the middle of the top picture). You knew who they were because they were the loudest, prettiest little writer cheerleaders on the line. They kept trying to get chants going, but I think most people just wanted to talk while we walked around.

Then there was this kid beating on a drum:He's about ten. Somebody asked where they'd seen him before and he said, "Oh I've been on Heroes, Lost. You may have caught my work on Gray's Anatomy."

He makes me feel inadequate.

Patton Oswalt was there being very loud and ringleadery. He's following me around, I swear. He was at a completely random party Lead Actor held once. When I asked Lead Actor about it he had no idea who Patton Oswalt was or how he knew about the party. And there he was today, walking with Charlie Hayes and some surly old guy from Hill Street Blues.

Also, the honking. The glorious honking. I honked before a bit as I passed Paramount, but now I will honk with wild abandon. The honking gave us something to do in the form of waving and cheering, but it also made us feel useful and supported. And at Gate 2 it was nuts. Teamsters, Priuses, random people in random cars all honking and waving. One old lady pulled over and handed us cookies and lollipops. The Vitamin Water guys came by with a speaker and shouted encouragement as they handed out their product.

Good times were had by all. Even though it was hot and boring and far from my house, I'm glad I went. I didn't hand out any of the ten business cards I made, but who gives a crap. I felt like I was part of the team anyway.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Keep on fighting the power, everybody

There's a new petition to sign stating that you won't download anything off the network websites. Please sign it, and then don't download anything off the network websites. If you download anything off those websites you're helping the studios and hurting the writers.

If you have a Myspace, there is a virtual picket line going around. Replace your default photo with a picture in support of the strike.

Anyone who wants to join a picket line can find the schedule here.

I will be out of work tomorrow because of Veteran's Day so to honor the men and women who fought for our rights I'm going to go practice my First Amendment right to assemble and bitch. I'm making black bean spirals today to take out and share with the group. I figure if I've only got one day on the picket line I'll make the most of it. If you're up at Warner on Monday I'll be in my red UTLA shirt handing out appetizers. Union solidarity!

Isn't this nice? One silver lining to this whole strike issue is that it seems to be bringing all kinds of people together. I'm not in the Guild but I kind of feel like I am these days. On a normal day you have to either screw somebody or kill somebody to next to an A-list writer, but during the strike all you have to do is show up at the studio gate with cookies. It sort of melts away that barrier between the successful and the aspiring. How American of us.

On an unrelated note, I finally got around to writing a logline for Bamboo Killers:
Four people - one emotional couple with sexual disfunction and one sexual couple with emotional disfunction - face their insecurities as they spiral toward each other until they end up on opposite sides of a dangerous plot that appears to be an innocent night of board games.

[EDIT] I realize by the comments that I need to explain a bit what the script is. It's a series of chapters - one on each of the four people in this story - that all have different plots. Each chapter builds up to the final chapter, which is the only full story where the four people are in the same room at the same time. One is a boxing story, one is a story about shoe shopping and lesbians, one is a story about attending an office seminar, and one is about being mugged at Venice Beach. In the fifth story all the characters are together in a room presumably playing a board game, but you learn toward the end that there's a lot more going on than the game. All of the previous stories have been leading up to this final chapter.

I'm trying to convey all this in the logline and I'm having difficulty. Suggestions?

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Can't touch this

This is a scary story. Be prepared. The events that follow may be too frightening for the average human mind.

This is the story of my first internet date.

You may remember Sad Emily from several posts ago, Sad Emily was sad before because she got her heart broken into tiny bits that were then thrown into a furnace and burned into oblivion. It's okay, I'm over it kinda, but it happened nonetheless.

So fast forward a bit and I decide it's time I moved on. But I don't feel like doing the whole bar scene all over again - see last Saturday night for reasons why - so I decided to give old web dating a try. If nothing else it would be a story.

Here is that story.

I met Web Date on the corner of Sunset and Detroit in Hollywood. I already had bad feelings because I was meeting him on the corner of Sunset and Detroit like a hooker. I saw two men headed my way - a short dude in a stupid shirt and a cutie in black. Guess which one was my date?

When we met up he was completely wet because he just got out of the shower, then ran down the street to meet up with me. Yeah, buddy, that's attractive. I unfortunately opted for heels, which made him super short by comparison. A good start for everybody.

We went to some bar called The Woods. It smelled like untreated wood. I asked for a sour apple martini and he ordered the same.

Okay boys, here's a tip: We drink the martini. You drink a beer.

He spoke about his job pushing paper about as enthusiastically as a Star Trek fan talks about team sports. He supposedly used to be a boxer but when I started discussing Mike Tyson's technique he had no idea what I was talking about.

I was already imagining the Blind Date bubbles over my head.

We left the bar and went to a karaoke / sushi bar in the Highland Mall. That's when he started touching.

My family is British. My grandma met my grandpa in the USO, my mom can't cook, and we don't generally hug. Once I tried to hug my grandma when she wasn't expecting it and she dropped like a wet rag in a kitchen sink. I am the same. Unless we know each other really well, don't touch me.

But Web Date kept touching me. My arm, my back, my neck - ugh. I finally straight up told him to stop touching me, to lay off, at which point he asked if he could to touch my face.

I was trying so hard to get away from him that my elbow knocked a full beer and a mixed drink off the counter. I had no idea the drinks were there next to my elbow, but I had $8 in my pocket I was prepared to give to the drink owners after I apologized. But when my profuse apologies came, all I got in return was a disgusted look of disgust that was clearly very disgusted so I kept my money in my pocket. Fuck 'em. I didn't knock it over on purpose. You don't have to be ass-hatty.

Anyway, Web Date, who turned out to be a smoker which his profile clearly said he was not, said he wanted to kiss me before he sucked on his Lucky Strike. It was the attack of the soaking wet tongue. I couldn't escape.

He begged me to take off my hooded sweatshirt (and by that I mean literally begged), which by now was zipped up as high as any hooded sweatshirt could possibly go. I nearly zipped my neck skin up into the hoody.

No cleavage for you.

My body language was as uncomfortable as I could make it, but Web Date kept touching me so I finally told him again to stop touching me. He immediately tried to touch my face. I slapped his hand away. He called me "baby".

He bought me a rum and coke without consulting on whether or not I wanted this drink. I passed and made him drink it.

He karaoked a song - I don't remember which one - and destroyed it by screaming the lyrics as loud as he could. I karaoked Pearl Jam's "Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town" and had some difficulty starting on key, but picked it up after a bit and kind of nailed it. One of Web Date's karaoke friends came over and told me he could get me a recording contract.

Oh, Los Angeles. You are consistent.

Web Date explained to me that before our date he'd watched some porn and masturbated and even ejaculated, which is great since he usually has a lot of trouble ejaculating.

Super. This guy is everything I've dreamed of and more.

Web Date kept trying to kiss me. By now I was actively putting my hands up to block his moves. When I denied him he went over to some Asian girl and flirted with her, presumably to make me jealous. I was grateful.

Web Date went out to make a phone call and I thought briefly about escaping but since I have yet to become a complete bitch I decided to tell him I wanted to leave. He offered to walk me to my car. On the way out he tried to slip through a "personnel only" door and I used it as an excuse to keep moving. I raced down the stairs and onto Hollywood Boulevard, moving as fast as I could to get back to my car. I checked behind me and he wasn't there. Whew.

Then, suddenly, a tap on my shoulder. I turned and there he was, panting from his run to catch me. He was drunk and sang some song about girls and pubic hair.

We came to his street. He asked me to come back to his apartment to have sex. I said no. He tried to kiss me. I pushed him off. He tried again. I pushed him off again. Then I ran for it, watching his drunk ass crying out to me in the distance.

I hope he made it home. I also hope he never calls me again.

Friday, November 09, 2007


These are some ads I found on Craigslist for all the idiots who think this strike is a good opportunity to make some money. Can't you just smell the desperation and self-loathing?


Ridiculously talented writer looking to teach a few billionaires a lesson. Sure you can pay $500,000 to Schlock Rosenworm to re-write an action sequence or Ted Stryker $150,000 to "punch up" a comedy over the weekend, but all they do is pawn it off on me for a 10% vig. With avarice getting the best of everybody, if you ACT NOW, you can cut out the middleman.

I've co-written scripts with Hollywood's top scribes, and unlike most of these alcoholics, I've got my sh*t together: Pitches, Pilots & Scripts, Oh My!

Note: I will not write for John Stewart. That #%^$@! owes me money ;)

Writing samples available by request only to legit email. Meetings in NYC next week and LA two weeks, unless same day R/T provided on Netjets, Marquis or private air (please no Cessnas!).

is Craigslist an unlikely place to find a great script?

yesterday, maybe..but today you've found one.

I am the executor of the estate of an amazingly talented
playwright and I am taking this striking opportunity to
present this material to someone who can truly make a difference.

Already critically acclaimed, this masterfully wriiten work by an
African-American woman is epic in scope and universally appealing.

If you are a producer with vision and intuition then look no

I await your email for more details.

3) Does your script need a polish, a punch-up or a page-one rewrite? Now that the WGA's on strike, who's going to massage the kinks out of your latest draft?

I graduated from Eastern Washington University in 2002 with a Bachelor's Degree in Film. That year, I also received the "Excellence in Screenwriting" award for my Senior Thesis script.

Since I moved to L.A., I've had one project after another fall through, thus keeping me from achieving any screen credits and making me eligible for membership in the WGA. I have, however, come very close to winning more than one screenwriting competition; two of my scripts made it through several rounds of the Nicholl Fellowships in 2006 and I was a finalist in the Screamfest L.A. contest that same year.

At any rate, I'm talented but astoundingly unlucky. Regardless, I view every setback as an opportunity, including this Writers Strike. Although it doesn't affect me personally (I currently work in advertising), it is going to diminish Hollywood's output for the time being, and I absolutely love movies. It's why I've been writing scripts since I was 16. And it's why I'm approaching you as a hungry writer.

Samples of my work are available upon request; please make sure you can download Final Draft documents on your PC. I've written in a variety of genres, but comedy, action, horror and sci-fi are what I prefer. I'm available for meetings in the evenings and on weekends. No deadline is too soon, no page count is too high.

I can do the work of ten of these pampered WGA types. You have a TV show or movie that needs new material during this strike? I'm your man! I am an experienced writer in several genres who is looking to break into the industry. Don't give in to the WGA's demands! There are plenty of talented writers out there who can do what they do for less money! Give us a chance!

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Frank TV does not suck

Last night I attended a taping of Frank TV. I fully expected it to suck because. I was pleasantly surprised.

There was an empty seat next to me during the taping. It bothered me the entire show. Nobody seemed to notice or care and it was the only empty seat in the house, right up in the second row. After many minutes of obsessively trying to catch the page's attention, I scooted over so I was halfway between the seats. It was uncomfortable but made me feel better as a person.

Frank was actually pretty funny. I think this was the third episode or so, so if you happen to catch it - I think Tuesdays on TBS starting in a week or so- I am "geography girl". I don't know if I made it on camera because the guy in front of me was 9 1/2 feet tall, but when I cheered at the mention of Jacksonville, North Carlina - you know, the way you do when somebody mentions your state on TV - Frank looked at me and said, "Are you from Jacksonville or just a fan of geography?" then referred to me as "geography girl" later at a mention of Hawaii.

So yay, I kind of was on TV without actually being on TV.

Frank had a lot of trouble with the lines. When one didn't work there was nobody there to fix it so he just kept trying things and didn't seem very satisfied with the the results. I actually thought he did very well. I didn't have to fake most of my laughs. The sketches were hit or miss, but the improve was really good. And that dude's impressions are eerily accurate.

In line before the taping I met a woman who's been a seat filler for ten years. She's been to every major awards show in existence and once got invited to the private after party for some rapper who saw her at the show. She gave me advice on the best way to fill seats. She said I'll probably hop all over the place at the AMAs because the younger and more photogenic you are the more you move, which is why you don't bring a bag any bigger than a clutch. You're not supposed to talk to the celebrities you sit next to but they often talk to you. We both decided to hope I sit next to John Mayer and wow him with my beauty and intelligence. Hey, John Mayer, my body is a wonderland.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Education, picket lines and seat filling

Today was a marvelous day. I took my senior English class to Glendale Community College where they behaved like angels while the nice Glendale people showed us the lovely campus and fed us all undercooked cheeseburgers and Doritos. Not only did they rope in a few of my kids with their wiles, but they convinced me to drive up there for a few classes as well. They offer a cinematography class that looks better than any at all of the other community colleges in the area. Unfortunately they don't offer a lot of night classes, so I think I'll wait until March and take cinematography and beginning Spanish.

I forgot how much I liked school before I had to take all those stupid education theory classes.

Yay school! I loves the learnin'!

Yesterday on my way to the gym I passed two groups of strikers. I take Van Ness, where there are gates for Raleigh studios and Paramount, both within walking distance of my house so if they're out there Monday when I'm off work I'm going over there and bringi confectionery treats. Yesterday I honked, cheered and waved. The people at Raleigh studios looked so bored in their lonely little corner of LA. When I cheered at them they literally jumped up and down with excitement that someone noticed them. The car in front of me honked and cheered for the Paramount people, which made me feel kind of like a follower when I did it too. Still, they appreciated the support.

Now I have to go to a taping of Frank TV in Burbank.

I signed up with Audiences Unlimited to be a seat-filler. I haven't seen anything worth sitting in for so far. They literally couldn't pay me to sit through 'Till Death - they offered me $15 and I turned it down. But if I go to Frank TV tonight I get to go to the AMAs and maybe sit next to Beyonce while Jay Z is in the bathroom. And if I'm johnny on the spot with the empty chairs, I might just be invited to seat fill for the Oscars. That's when I'll pull my zombie script out of my black organza skirt and slap it into Clint Eastwood's lap.

I think it's time Clint embraced the genre.

I worry a little that I'm crossing a picket line. But I'm not going there to work and the picket line will actually be finished for the day by the time I get there and if I don't go the company will be pissed and maybe I won't get to sit next to Tom Cruise for five minutes while Katie tries to escape through the bathroom window until her guards catch her and drag her back in while I hear why I should join the church of Scientology. I'd hate to miss that.

What do you think? Is it wrong for me to go to the taping? I mean, I'm going anyway, but still. Am I a sinner?

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Raw awesomeness

I finally watched the raw footage from Game Night on Sunday. It was kind of surreal to watch a movie filmed in your apartment while you're sitting on the couch in your apartment watching it. Malkovitch Malkovitch.

My actors are so pretty. I mean amazingly pretty. And I saw all kinds of facial expressions I hadn't seen when we were shooting and they made me laugh so hard I drooled a little. That's a good sign, right?

There are a few things I wish I'd done better. I wish I'd changed a word from "calculus" to "physics" because my Chinese actress had a hell of a time pronouncing it. I wish I'd insisted on Writing Partner pushing forward more when the gun is aimed at his head - he's making a manly statement of confrontation, but he's leaning back away from the gun as he does so.

There also may or may not be an audio problem. When Lead Actor yells "blow dart!" at the top of his lungs it distorts. On every take. But Editor said that may be a result of the DVD compression, and even if it doesn't we can borrow the equipment to record it in my apartment so I won't have to pay for an ADR session.

Ha ha. Blow darts. Never stops being funny.

I still have to find an actor to voice the Chinese dad, but I suspect my actors can help me with that.

I want to make an edit of all the times I said "action" and "cut" because I have a couple of times where I say things like "No, wait! Not action! Not action!" or "action......Oh, sorry, I didn't say it loud enough. ACTION!"

Man, I can't wait for the rough cut.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Dance, Dance, fools

My Grandmother called and left a message for me on Saturday. Imagine a high pitched, really posh British accent as you read it:

"Emily, love, I was wondering how you've been impacted by the writers wanting not to work or not working or the striking or whatever they're doing. I was wondering if you could use it to get in there and, you know, jump over them and take over."

She's kind of a massive Republican, God bless her.

Anyway, onto the meme about music. I was one of the first people to get tagged but my dallying has made me one of the last people to respond. Nonetheless, I get a meme, I answer it, even if I don't do it right away.

The topic is to name a song that inspires you to write and copy some of the lyrics.

As I have previously mentioned about thirty thousand times, I'm into action. So when I write action scenes I have to get into it by blasting an awesome rock song. "Keep on Dancing" by No Doubt is my favorite. But that's more about the beat than the lyrics.

When I wrote my first screenplay I had a death scene that ripped me up to write. I listened to "My Immortal" by Evanescence repeatedly as I wrote that scene. I mean like nine times in a row.

But lately? I just keep on the background music, usually a mix of rock or a mix of mellow stuff depending on what kind of scene I'm writing.

But the one song that consistently gears me up to write when I'm exploring the marital problems of my protagonists via zombie killing is "Dance Dance" by Fall Out Boy. Lyrics:

She says she's no good with words but I'm worse
Barely stuttered out
"A joke of a romantic" or stuck to my tongue
Weighed down with words too over-dramatic
Tonight it's "it can't get much worse"
Vs. "no one should ever feel like.."

I'm two quarters and a heart down
And I don't want to forget how your voice sounds
These words are all I have so I'll write them
So you need them just to get by

Dance, Dance
We're falling apart to half time
Dance, Dance
And these are the lives you'd love to lead
Dance, this is the way they'd love
If they knew how misery loved me

You always fold just before you're found out
Drink up its last call
Last resort
But only the first mistake and I...

I'm two quarters and a heart down
And I don't want to forget how your voice sounds
These words are all I have so I'll write them
So you need them just to get by

Why don't you show me the little bit of spine
You've been saving for his mattress, love

Dance, Dance
We're falling apart to half time
Dance, Dance
And these are the lives you'd love to lead
Dance, this is the way they'd love
If they knew how misery loved me

Why don't you show me the little bit of spine
You've been saving for his mattress (mattress, mattress)
I only want sympathy in the form of you crawling into bed with me

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Emily and the jingle boy

I've been tagged with the music meme by pretty much everybody, so my response at this point is 1) yay! I'm popular! and 2) dammit!

I will get to it tomorrow. Today, however, I want to discuss boys.

Last night I went to a bar in Silverlake and talked to a very cute Boy. Yes, he was a boy. A young, Jewish blond boy with a very Christian name who was confused about his life and way too young for yours truly, who still looks so young she could pull in a freshman frat boy if the lighting was right. It makes meeting people my own age a little difficult but I'm not complaining. Don't hate me because I have good genetics and never took up smoking.

At any rate, said Boy is a musician who writes jingles. I always wanted to meet someone who writes jingles. It sounds so interesting. Like, how do you keep making company names into catchy tunes without rolling your eyes all the time? And I'd like to meet that guy who wrote that "...where you won't get a lemon! - I wouldn't have gotten a lemon?" song and smack him because it gets stuck in my head and it's annoying. The El Pollo Loco song I adore, simply because it sounds like it should keep going but doesn't. I'm sad that they've started taking it off the commercials. I sing it every time I pass a Pollo, which is daily because there's one across the street from my school.

But I didn't end up talking about any of this with Boy because he was too busy trying to figure out whether or not he would cheat on his girlfriend last night. He may not realize it but he owes me a favor. He spent so much time talking to me that at the end of the night he didn't have time to find a girl who would help him in his quest. Hopefully he'll figure out what's wrong with his relationship before he runs off and nails the first sexy girl he can get.

At least he was honest about having a girlfriend.

He said, almost immediately after telling me that he moved out here with her right after college, "Have you ever avoided doing something bad and then regretted it? Sometimes it's good to do bad things, right?"

I was not wearing my teacher cap at that moment. I feel I should have had a better answer, but at the moment I just wanted a cute boy to buy me a beer. I told him about how I almost got married and sealed my fate as a good girl in an unhappy marriage. I'd wager he's struggling with the same issues right now. He seemed kind of sad, like I was, stuck with a girl he no longer loves the way he used to. I wish I'd given him better advice. Then again, he probably wasn't actually looking for advice, just an excuse to not feel guilty about cheating.

He told me one interesting thing I didn't know. I asked him if he could do his work during the WGA strike and he said yes because jingle writing is covered by SAG.


He agreed it was odd, but there it is. Did you know that? SAG? That makes no sense.

Man, I hope Boy talks to his girlfriend about their problems before they end up married and miserable. If he ever breaks up with her he can give me a call. He may be young but he is damn adorable.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

What went wrong with Lions for Lambs

Last night I went with Scribe and another Friend of ours to see a free screening of Robert Redford's new film, Lions for Lambs.

I adore Robert Redford. I've never supported the war in Iraq, even from the beginning, and I love war movies. Love them.

But this movie was a complete disaster from beginning to end.

You know how you have a character who needs to express his feelings but you can't have him talk to himself so you put him in a psychiatrist's office so he can still talk to himself but at least somebody else is there too so it's not so obvious that he's talking to himself? Know how that's bad? Well....

There are basically three stories in this film:

1) Two soldiers are stranded on a plateau in Iraq, stuck several feet from each other by injuries they sustained when they fell out of a helicopter. Now they talk and occasionally shoot at hazy targets in the distance as they wait for rescue, not moving the entire film.

2) Meryl Streep is a reporter who sits in an office with Tom Cruise the senator while he unfolds the new GOP plan, already begun, to make Vietnam-like offensive in Afghanistan, the offensive the afore-mentioned soldiers are a part of.

3) Robert Redford, the former political science professor of the afore-mentioned soldiers, sits in his office lecturing a lazy frat boy on why he should come to class more often.

We have three stories, all about the way the decision-makers talk a lot and don't do anything while the real heroes go off and die bravely because of the stupid decisions their leaders make. And yet 99% of the film is two people in various locations sitting around talking. It was pretty much one of the most boring movies ever.

The Korean film Tae Guk Gi was about the same thing, but that film wrenches your soul from your body, it's so amazingly sad and beautiful. The Australian film Gallipoli is about the same thing but leaves you so incredibly angry at the stupidity of the military leaders you want to throw things at the screen and scream. Both films succeed because the soldiers see what decisions people around them should be making and make actual sacrifices for other people while their leaders commit lazy, greedy, ignorant acts.

Lions for Lambs has chosen to replace all that heart-wrenching drama with a lot of boring CNNesque debate.

During the Q&A Michael Carnahan said he originally wrote this as a play and when he decided to make it a film script he "didn't want to change anything" because it pored out of him, outline free, and he wanted to keep to his original ideas in tact. He also said he loved the idea of these boring rooms where boring people sat and made major decisions about thousands of men they never see. So he put his boring characters in boring rooms where they talked about the decisions they'd already made. And nobody has any real backstory. Nobody. There's a scene at the end where the editing and music told me I was supposed to be crying but I really didn't see the need.

Basically, this film took a self-righteous hammer and slammed it into my skull for the longest 88 minutes of my life.

You may ask, well Miss Emily, what the hell would you have done that was so much better?

Glad you asked.

One of the many problems with this film is its lack of urgency. All the major decisions have already been made when the film opens so everybody's just kind of debating or reacting. We need some urgency. So here's what I'd do keeping the same basic format:

1) Two soldiers stranded on the plateau. One of them trapped, one of them injured but capable of movement. They know the Afghans are coming, so they make a plan to defend themselves that involves doing some incredibly risky and brave moves, especially on the part of the guy who can walk. But he's going to stay and help his friend when he could just run and hide. You could have the same outcome for the scene, but instead of empty dialogue over distance you could show the relationship between these guys through their actions.

2) Tom Cruise is in on a meeting with some major political players to decide what to do about the failed Afghan offensive. Do we abandon the soldiers? Do we go in even though the offensive didn't work? How do we spin this politically? While our boys are dying on a mountaintop, the political leaders in Washington are discussing economics and public relations and trying to make a decision we know will directly affect the soldiers. So instead of simply discussing an offensive that has already taken place, we'd be making a crucial military decision that will have an effect on the outcome of characters we know.

Meryl Streep can still be the reporter trying to get the story, but this time instead of being handed a story she doesn't like, she could be actively working to get the truth of what's going on in Afghanistan.

3) A cocky college boy's fraternity brother decides to join the military. Cocky college boy wants to talk his friend out of it. As we see this one boy making this decision, we see the outcome of that decision on the plateau in Afghanistan and the idiots making policy in Washington and cross our fingers that the boy will decide to finish his education instead of run off and die.

Lots of people will say this film is deep and important. These are the same people who lauded the emperor's clothes.