Saturday, October 31, 2009

Why I am not afraid of Freddy Krueger

Look at this guy.

Look at his fucking sweater. It's like he picked it up in a dumpster outside a Goodwill.

Look at his fucking face. Did he put his head in a pot of boiling water and then sit in the sun for five hours? He looks like a dried peach.

Look at that hat. Why a hat? I mean, he clearly doesn't have much style because look at his fucking sweater. Is he still trying to cover that bald spot he got when he got his fucked up burned face? Is he still trying to pick up hot ladies in their dreams? Because honey, that hat is not going to do it. You should invest in a toupe or some rogaine or something.

Look at his claw hand. What the fuck is that about? Was he rooting through his mom's basement full of old ass boxes and found a collection of old thimbles he could stick hypodermic needles through? With all that sewing equipment on his hand, you'd think he'd take some of his downtime during daylight hours to fix his fucked up sweater.

Look at that pose. Is he about to break into song? Nightmare on Elm Street, the musical? Freddy Krueger does "I Dreamed a Dream"?

But mostly, look at that fucking sweater. Even my grandpa didn't wear clothes that lame.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Happy endings

I am sick as a dog today. Actually I was sick yesterday, but didn't realize how bad it was until I was already out the door. So today I'm staying in bed while some stranger gives my students a state-mandated test. That'll make 'em appreciate me.

I got a note on my script the other day that I thought was worthy of its own post: the need for a Happy Ending.

Personally, I'm a fan of the bittersweet ending. Some character we all love sacrifices himself so the others can get away, two people get what they want in life but can't have each other, the good guys win but at a huge cost.

Pitch Black, Once, The Magnificent Seven, Last of the Mohicans, basically any story where you achieve your goal, but at an almost unbearable price.

Although Beefcake says by this definition Predator is bittersweet. I suppose that could be debated.

One of my very favorite genres of film is the artsy Chinese martial arts film. Your Crouching Tiger, your House of Flying Daggers, your Hero. I started thinking one day about these films and what they have in common and how a person could create an American version of these stories. I deconstructed them and recreated all their key elements into a story I could write.

One of the common threads of these films is the death of the lover. Each film is at its core a love story, and in each film one of the lovers dies, usually in some great sacrificial or symbolic gesture. If I'm going to adapt that genre, I need to keep that consistent trait. So I killed one of my lovers.

The friend of mine who read my script gave great notes and I definitely appreciate his reading my script because it's helping me spot some problems, but his final comment was that he thought I should give the story a happy ending. American audiences want a happy ending, and it feels like a cheat to take that away.

I get that the ending needs work for sure. I don't want anybody to feel cheated - I want them to feel like this is what had to happen. When I watch House of Flying Daggers I desperately want everybody to live, but when they don't I don't feel cheated, I feel moved to tears at the tragedy of it all. That's the reaction I want to elicit. So clearly I need to develop my ending to give that feeling.

However, a happy ending? Do you think that's true? Pitch Black is one of my favorite examples of a bittersweet ending, but it was an independent film. In fact, when I think about movies that had these kind of endings, they're almost always indies. And the Chinese martial arts films I'm inspired by - well, they're Chinese.

But I just can't see my characters with a happy ending. I even give them a dialogue exchange where they talk about ridiculous scenarios where they'll live happily ever after while they're both pretending not to know how ridiculous that is.

After all, we would never have heard of Romeo and Juliet if they didn't die in the end. But we Americans, we do love our happy endings. Can I sell a story where my protagonist dies?

What do you think about the American need for a happy ending?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

What I learned from my notes

I sent my script to a friend the other day and last night he gave me great notes. I hope he doesn't mind, but I'd like to deconstruct his notes because they taught me some things I thought were interesting.

We did the notes in real time, which I've never done before but liked very much. As he read the screenplay he emailed me questions and comments, and I responded, so every time he had an observation he sent it to me so I could see how his thoughts flowed. I really liked doing it this way because it allowed me to ask clarifying questions and see exactly what his instant reactions were without a filter of editing. That's how I like to write notes myself. If you give me a screenplay to read, I tend to just write my notes in order and not edit much before I send them so you can see my journey through your work.

I learned that when you're working with historical fiction, you have to have an exposition dump at some point, or your reader, who is most likely not an expert in your period of choice, will be terribly confused.

I learned that I write better on the fly. All the stuff I sat down and carefully planned with the index cards was not nearly as good as the stuff I just cranked out while I was in front of the screen. All the things my friend said he liked were things I was inspired to write by the characters themselves. So I should definitely trust my instincts.

I learned that it's funnier than I thought it was. I thought when I was writing this thing that it was so goddamn serious I needed to intentionally insert funny moments for comic relief. I went back through the script and looked specifically for moments when I could lighten shit up because I'm not actually trying to be the world's most depressing action screenwriter. Apparently it worked. There were laughs to be had.

I learned that "Eyeball fucking" means different things to different people.

I learned that yes, just as I suspected, I suck at writing death scenes.

I learned that when you call a character NAME and change it to Simon, you might want to go back through your script and make sure you didn't use the word "name" anywhere else or you'll end up with several references to "What's his Simon".

Tomorrow I'll talk about the most interesting comment to come out of last night's notes, whether or not you must have a happy ending. This one's going to need its own post.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Halloween costumes I have worn

Halloween is again upon us. This time next year I'll be preparing for Trick or Treaters, which I am all kinds of excited about, but for now my only mission is to find a cheap outfit for the party.

I usually go as some kind of fictional badass woman. For three years I was Buffy. I had a shop teacher at the school where I worked make a stake, and when he handed me the finished product it filled me with fear and also power. I could seriously kill people with this thing.

What I thought was funny was how I got past the cops on the street with my deadly stake, but my then boyfriend's plastic light saber was confiscated and later stolen.

The light saber was actually mine, because years before I had gone as a Jedi. I decided Jedis wear black under their robes - this was before the new movies - so when I took off the robe in the club everybody thought I was Trinity. So I guess I was two badass women that year.

One year I tried to go as the cheerleader from Heroes but couldn't find the right costume in time, so I ended up getting a costume at Frederick's and going as a Poodle Skirt girl. Eh. I don't feel proud of that year, especially since I ended up a Hollywood cliche when someone offered me one too many Jello shots. That night is the reason I no longer accept Jello shots. I blame the lack of superhero outfit.

Two years ago I was totally entrenched in my boxing, so I went as a boxer. Dudes tried to fight me on the street. I accidentally punched a drunk guy in the face when he fake attacked me.

Then last year I had the Beefcake with me so I thought we could go as a team. I was Sarah Connor from T2 - she is one of my all time favorite characters - and he was supposed to be Arnold, but his black jacket was like a Members Only or something so instead of looking cool he just looked like a big guy in a jacket with a girlfriend in all black.

This year I have no money. We spent it all on a house. Plus I packed everything already.

So I decided to try Sarah Connor again, but this time throw on the hat and try to find a belt. I've got a righteous pair of black BDUs and I can borrow a knife holster from the Beefcake.

If the Beefcake joins me as The Terminator for real this time, cool. If he doesn't, well, he's broke too after buying the other half of the house so I can hardly blame him.

Is it new and original? No. Is it awesome? Yes. Will I eat Jello shots? Never again.

Shit. I should probably do some pushups. That bitch has some big old arms.

What are you wearing Saturday night?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Michael Jackson's still got it

The Michael Jackson movie comes out tomorrow. I'm not really into concert films so this is not normally something I'd be into, and true to form, those first few commercials didn't make me want to rush to the theater. The early commercials featured images of Michael onstage, fiddling with his hat and swishing around in his moonwalking shoes, looking creepy in his White Person skin. Honestly that means very little to me.

Then last night I saw an ad that totally changed my mind. It still had Michael fiddling with his hat and swishing around in his moonwalking shoes, and he still looks creepy. But this time over all that footage they played "The Way You Make Me Feel."

Instantly the song brought back feelings of joyous nostalgia. I mean, in two seconds I went from not interested to OMG I think I have to see this.

They say that your sense of smell is closely connected with memory. The smell of moth balls makes you think of grandma, the smell of booze makes you think of your dad. But one song, one little three-minute tune can bring back your entire childhood. Remember dancing around to that song and not giving a fuck who saw you because you were having so much fun? I sure as hell do.

Why on Earth they weren't using the song in that preview before last night I have no idea. Honestly I think you could sell the film better with a black screen as long as you play the song against some cheering in the background.

I haven't been to a concert in ages. I'm starting to remember why I used to go all the time.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Paul Gross will not always be there to save you

Normally I don't enjoy the giggly gossippy women's group shows like Sex and the City or Desperate Housewives or Lipstick Thingees. I find them entirely unrelatable. I don't know if it's that no women act like that or just that no women I know act like that, but the whole lonely domestic goddess who likes to dish to her perfectly coiffed girlfriends about her wacky antics seems a little silly.

But somehow when you throw Paul Gross into the mix I'm game.

I admit it. I've been watching Eastwick on ABC. I blame that hot little Canadian man I fell in love with when he played a righteous mounty on Due South. Good guy, bad guy, doesn't matter. I'd do him. And if the show he's on also has dark magic and sinister intentions I'm willing to sit through giggling women to get to him.

It's not really what I'd call a good show, but it is entertaining. I'm hoping Paul Gross takes his shirt off soon, though because I'm finding a few things somewhat grating.

When your character says something insane, the other characters in the room should probably act accordingly. In the most recent episode one of the lead chicks sang on a piano in a restaurant and accidentally set the place on fire with the power of her... libido? I'm not sure. At any rate, the place burned down and everyone ran screaming.

Okay so I don't know about you guys, but if I was in a restaurant that burned down while I was in it and maybe because I was in it, that is all I'd be fucking thinking about for the next month. And if someone told me the restaurant burned down while they were in it, I'd be like OMG WTF BBQ.

On this episode, however, the singer girl says to her friend something like "Oh yes I wore that last night while I sang in a restaurant right before it burned down."

And her friend says "Oh my god! You sang?"


I know the plot point they want the chick to react to is the singing, but for fuck's sake, the characters are supposed real people. YOU know what happened. THEY do not. So if someone talks about a building burning down while she's in it, in a real world conversation that would be more important than whether or not she met a hot guy while she was singing on a piano.

And also, dear god I hope they get Paul Gross' shirt off soon.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Back to work

Today was a pupil free day at work, which basically means I spend the morning in a meeting and the afternoon in my empty classroom thinking about working.

I have to transition now out of screenwriter mode and into teacher mode. I have my script out to a friend for suggestions at the moment so there's no pressure, but hopefully once said friend trashes my script I'll be able to jump on a rewrite. I just need my friend to point me in the right direction.

Over the vacation I got so busy writing my new script and looking for houses and going to Montana that I never finished the last touches on Game Night. I can't screen it until we get the house ready for visitors, but I still wish I'd been able to find some time to work on it. I have to do it at home because all the material will only fit on my external hard drive. But by the time our house is ready the film should be too.

But my two main goals for the break were to finish the first draft of the script and find a house. So I call this one a win.

Now it's time to educate some childrens.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Home inspection day haiku

Every time they screw up
your local Bank of America
will need 30 more dollars.

That beautiful tree,
so shady in your new yard
grew roots in your sewer line.

Every inch of kitchen
reveals a fancy surprise
how do I use this faucet?

Sitting on the floor
hands on the hardwood.
The bed will go here.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Almost home

Sooo we got a house. An awesome house. A worth the wait house with 1630 square feet and a brilliant open kitchen and a separate office space where I can hide away and write. I'm glad we didn't get all those other houses we thought we wanted because this one is so much better than all the others. I'll have no regrets.

It's all very exciting and there's thirty thousand pounds of paperwork.

I just spent 45 minutes dealing with what can only be termed as a clusterfuck of banking, where nobody would let me cash a $9,000 check so I could wire transfer our money into escrow. Protip: if you work in a job where you can't use your cell phone, please give the bank your work number so that your girlfriend can cash your escrow check.

I have nothing to say about screenwriting today because I am drowning in paperwork and I have now spoken to every home owners insurance agent in Los Angeles who somehow sniffed that I was looking for a policy.

I have one day left of vacation and I will spend it following around home inspectors, and that's just fine with me.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Never again, Promenade

Friday The Beefcake and I rolled down to Venice and had lunch, then drove up to Santa Monica to have dinner and Where the Wild Things Are on the Promenade. Big mistake.

The movie was perfectly awesome. There were tears, and The Beefcake and I spent a good deal of our post-movie time discussing the allegorical elements.

No, it was not a mistake to see this brilliant film. It was a mistake to go to the Promenade.

Over the past few years, I have only seen theater releases in two places: The Arclight and The Grove. For those of you who don't know LA, The Arclight is a theater where you have assigned seating and no commercials and generally there are very few kids in the audience. The Grove is part of an upscale outdoor shopping mall where you get the occasional kid in the theater, but usually they're accompanied by an adult, usually an LA resident, and generally the kids are few at night. These are also theaters frequented by Industry people, so there's a lot of respect for the art of film and people generally stay through the credits.

The Promenade is a major tourist attraction in Santa Monica. Lots of shops and restaurants, and it's within walking distance of several beach front hotels and the pier you see in every movie ever about LA. You know, the one with the ferris wheel.

The Promenade is a place where Daddy drops his kids off with a credit card and a pick-up time. We forgot all this before we went to see the movie. The kids movie. With oversize puppets.

There were children everywhere. Loud, unaccompanied children. After the previews started, a group of about 8 or 9 teenagers stomped in waving their bags and giggling and playing musical chairs across two rows for like ten minutes. Then they talked. They talked to each other for the entire first act.

I turned around and Teacher Glared. I shushed. They barely acknowledged my existence. Then about halfway through the film the kids in the back row decided it would be fun to push and tickle the kids in the row in front of them. The tickled and pushed kids giggled and pushed back.

This is what I wanted to say: "Hey, you see this big guy here next to me? In a minute I'm going to rip your trachea out of your neck and beat you to death with it, and he won't lift a finger to stop me."

This is what I said: "Shut the fuck up."

I combined it with Teacher Glare. Not a peep out of those kids after that. I can be very intimidating even without beaten-to-death-with-your-own-trachea fear.

Meanwhile, as I am becoming increasingly aggravated by the giggly children behind me, the cell phones pop out all over the theater.

Hey, people who like to look at their cell phones during the movie, stop it. It's not only annoying to the people directly around and behind you, it's also extremely aggravating to the people all the way at the back of the fucking theater who can see it but aren't close enough to say something to you about it.

So if the person in front of you is annoying you with their cell phone, they're probably annoying everyone behind you. Don't be afraid to say something. You have the support of the entire theater.

At one point a woman had some kind of exciting and funny text, so she passed her giant phone with the huge blue screen to her friend, who also read this hilarious text and then passed the giant blue screen to the person in front of them, who read it and passed it back, at which point the original lady read it some more then responded, then left her phone open while she waited for the next message. Altogether her phone was probably open and glowing for ten minutes. I was easily 15 rows behind her and 8 rows to her left but I saw all of this very clearly.

As she was doing this, some guy on our side of the theater kept opening his phone and texting every few seconds.

THIS IS ANNOYING. If it's that important to you, leave the theater. If you want to text and watch the movie, wait until it comes out on DVD and do it at home.

I will never, ever go to the Promenade for a movie again. Or if I do, I'm leaving with blood on my hands.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Updates and whatnot

I have to go back to work Friday, but I did manage to meet my goals for vacation. My first goal was to finish my first draft of the new screenplay, which I did. So yaaaay me.

My second goal was to find a house. We found several, but we'll know about the latest one on Tuesday. If this one falls through I'm just going to start smashing things. Looking for houses sounds awesome when you first get started, but after you've seen every house in Los Angeles and gotten beaten out on five houses you liked it's not so fun anymore.

I was totally gonna post Friday, by the way. I had the whole thing written - it was a list of suggestions for things to do at the Expo - but the power went out on the block about one minute before I was ready to publish so I had no Internet. Then Beefcake and I went to Venice and Santa Monica and saw Where the Wild Things Are and by the time I got home I decided since Expo was a day old already my post was a little pointless. It was mostly about business cards anyway, so I may rewrite it and post it later.

I'll post about my experience with Where the Wild Things Are tomorrow.

But back to Expo, I didn't go. I always went for free before and I just couldn't bring myself to pay for classes that most of the time repeat stuff I already know. The panels and guest speakers are great, but I think Expo is more useful for new writers than anyone else, although it is a great place to catch up with old friends and make new ones. But it's so disorganized and so expensive I just decided to skip it this time.

But to those of you who went, I hope you had a good time and learned things.

Now if you will excuse me, I have to go reward myself for finishing my first draft. Today I go buy shoes. Tomorrow I go lay on the beach and read. Ooooh my life is exciting. Sometimes I think I'd be a lot less tired if I didn't have to spend my vacation write screenplays, but then if I didn't write them I'd never get a job writing them. So you gotta do what you gotta do.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Buffy the Vampire Supernatural Diaries

Last night I had this dream where I was watching The Vampire Diaries. In my dream I was like, Why the fuck am I watching this piece of shit show? Except I was half watching it and half in it.

And then all the sudden I saw Rupert Giles from Buffy except he was The Ripper and Ethan Rayne was his partner in committing evil deeds. Then I was like Awesome! They finally greenlit The Ripper! Then Sam and Dean from Supernatural showed up and started killing the vampires and then they teamed up with The Ripper and together they destroyed Ian Somerhalder. It was like a WB bonanza.

And I thought, man this show just got a whole lot better.

Then I woke up and told The Beefcake about my dream except I was still asleep. So then I woke up and forgot to tell The Beefcake about my dream so I'm telling you guys.

I have only one more week of vacation before I have to go back to my day job. That might be a good thing.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Fifteen things to know about LA

If you are one of the billionty people who have plans to move to LA in the near future, here are some things you should know:*

1) "It's raining" is a perfectly legitimate reason for canceling all plans for the day.
3) Nobody uses their garage as a garage.
4) However long Mapquest tells you it will take you to get somewhere, the real answer is twice that amount.
5) If you need to visit someone in the middle of the day, they're probably home.
6) On Hollywood Boulevard, the tourists are the ones looking at their feet. They are annoying to everyone not looking at their feet.
7) You can buy flowers, oranges, balloons or pretty much anything else in the median of a popular intersection.
8) Be alert for schizophrenics in the middle of the street. Often you can spot them pushing shopping carts full of stuff they found in a dumpster and giving the finger to your honking horn.
9) Don't worry about recycling your soda bottle. A homeless guy will dig it out of the trash can shortly.
10) Stare at the famous person. Tell all your friends to stare at the famous person. Giggle and talk about the famous person. But under no circumstances do you actually talk to the famous person.
11) At 3am on a Sunday, the 405 is still a string of break lights.
12) If you don't drink coffee or eat sushi, either get started or get out.
13) Dress up to go to the mall. If you wear a faded T-shirt and discounted Gap jeans you will feel like a schmuck when you see what everybody else wears.
14) There are only three protected lefts in all of Los Angeles, so you'd better turn left as soon as the light turns red because you will not get an opportunity before or after. Don't sit there and think about it. Do it or I will ram your fucking car through the intersection.
15) Never go to a party without business cards.

*Nobody told me I skipped number 2. So 2) We don't do math without our cell phone calculators.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Budget screenwriting

Here's a lesson I've learned this year. Write low budget.

I used to write low budget features, but none of them were any good. An acquaintance once sent me coverage notes from one of the readers at his management firm that said the only redeeming quality in my screenplay is that it could be shot for cheap.


I was tired of sucking, so when I wrote Not Dead Yet I let it go be what it wanted to be, a massive budget flick that probably wouldn't be made but would serve as a great writing sample. See I thought I could get meetings off it and then people would hire me to write other stuff.

Then the economy tanked. Sony and Universal ran through their year's budget already. Specs that go wide dissipate into the ether. Studios are tightening their belts. Their slates are full.

Know who has money? Oddly enough, the little guys. They don't have much, but they're open to anything good. I've been approached by half a dozen people already asking if I had anything cheap to shoot. And I keep having to say no because my only good script would cost a bazillion dollars.

I have a great writing sample, but unfortunately something I'm unlikely to sell. You never know, with Zombieland's success someone may want what I have, but so far my only opportunities have been for low budget work.

My current project is a low-budget film in a genre that usually takes high budget dollars, so I feel like that one is incredibly sellable in the long run, and as an added bonus, will not suck like my old low-budget stuff. I think it will pair nicely with Not Dead Yet as a good example of what I can do, so I'm trying to get it done as soon as possible. That way the next time someone asks if I've got something their director friend would like, I will be able to say yes.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Rewriting is easy

I love rewriting. LOVE. I know, it's weird. I'm weird. But I love rewriting.

I tried really hard to be one of those people who planned the shit out of my story. I do the whole index card thing, I do thorough character bios, I spend weeks or even months plotting out the details of every story.

But somehow no matter how much I plan, my characters still change over the course of the story. I just plat it all out onto the screen and don't edit much most of the time. Sometimes if a scene really bothers me I will go back a day later and rewrite it, but most of the time I just ignore the suck and continue.

Last night I told the Beefcake I'd finished my vomit draft and he asked how many pages ti came to. 79. "Seventy nine!" he said with amazement. "That's madness!" Trust me, by the time I'm done editing, I'll have a full script. My vomit draft is usually in the 70s or 80s.

I basically consider the vomit draft a really detailed outline with dialogue. But now I know where my characters are going. I understand them better. I think I just needed to watch them in action before I knew exactly what they were up to.

That's why I love rewriting. Now I take my 79 pages and fix them. The scaffolding is there and I have some scenes that are just fine the way they are, but the fun part of rewriting is seeing what doesn't work and fixing it piece by piece. I find it goes much faster to rewrite existing scenes than it does to write them the first time, especially since I know see exactly what everybody's up to.

For instance, I had a character I introduced on a whim as I was writing the vomit draft - a kid named Patrick. Patrick was supposed to have one scene and then go away. But twenty pages later I realized that I needed a character to step in and shoot at one of my leads and the guy I'd originally thought of just didn't work, so I thought of Patrick. But having Patrick shoot my lead means I have to alter his personality, and it means I have to bring him back a couple more times between the first scene he's in and the time when he shoots at my lead. So on a rewrite I just change the dialogue I already wrote to accommodate his new personality. Then as I go, here and there I can inject him into a scene I already have in order to add foreshadowing an to remind us that he's around and has some residual anger toward my lead.

Easy peasy.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Shady Dealings

Yesterday I was reading the latest Ink Tip newsletter when I came across a company seeking a zombie script. They had all these criteria for what they wanted, and ended with the information that it would be written "on spec" and "only non-WGA writers need apply" and the budget had yet to be determined. That means they have no money, no way of obtaining money, and if by some miracle they do ever have enough money to pay you, it will add up to tuppence.

It occurred to me as I read this that a lot of new writers may not see the warning signs on that job. I don't know how many of my readers are new writers, but it can't hurt to go over some of the more popular scams out there meant to take advantage of the enthusiasm and eagerness of a beginner.

So here are a few of the more popular scams you will run across:

1) Agents who charge fees. Any agent who wants to represent you gets paid only when you get paid. If they are asking for ANY money up front, it's a scam. Walk away. It sucks because for a few minutes of your life you thought you'd found an agent and now your hopes are dashed. Nonetheless, walk away and find a real agent. The WGA has a list, Done Deal has a list that's constantly updated, and you can always consult the Hollywood Creative or Representation Directories for lists of legitimate agents. This scam is VERY common, so watch out.

2) Agents who require coverage. A variation on the first scheme, some agents will require you to have your script read by a company they recommend before they will consider representing you. Those readers they recommend so enthusiastically are their own people. They will take your fee for the coverage, give you bullshit feedback, and if you hear from them again at all it will be a series of stalling techniques. A legitimate agent will read your script himself or send your script to their own readers for coverage and won't expect you to pay for it.

3) "We'll pay you in profits" or any other form of this statement. Now sometimes you'll have a director in film school or just starting out who needs a script and they can't pay you for your script. That's okay. You get a copy of the movie and a credit and they get experience and a credit of their own. But sometimes you'll see an ad on Craigslist asking for a writer who will write a feature and be paid only if the film makes money. It's bullshit. Most films don't make money. That doesn't necessarily mean it's a lie; you just have to ask a lot of questions and research the company. If they sound even slightly shady, run.

4) An American agency with an address outside LA or NY. They're not a scam, necessarily, but their chances of being able to further your career are pretty slim. Deals are done here, and if you don't live here you need to make damn sure your agent does.

Help me out, guys. What else is scammy or misleading to new screenwriters?

Thursday, October 08, 2009

An open letter to all spelling Nazis

Dear Internet Grammar and Spelling Nazis,

Thank goodness you came along. If it hadn't been for your observation that the word "report" was supposed to be "rapport" it may have had no effect whatsoever on our lives. But you, ah, you have found meaning in the minutiae. This is the Internet, after all, and someone needs to police it. You, sir or madam, are a hero for your willingness to sacrifice valuable hours of your day to something nobody else cares about just so that we know you can spell better than we can.

You spend countless hours combing posts and responses to posts just so you can point out when the rest of us make mistakes, because of course you never do. You don't have anything more important to do with your life because this is the most important thing in the world. In fact, if someone makes a spelling error online, it's a far more important representation of their ability to perform their duties as a human being than anything they actually say. Because if we don't proofread our 18th post today on an Internet message board about which actress has the best rack, then we probably don't proofread our resumes either. It's the only logical conclusion to make.

So I applaud you today, Guy Who Points Out Typos, for making sure we all know you found our mistake. You're right, it IS unprofessional to make spelling errors on an online forum about homosexual monkey sex photos. Your life is truly validated each time you point that out to the rest of us. So even though the others fail to appreciate your solid work ethic, know that I see your heroic efforts and I am eternally grateful that you made sure I know I accidentally left the "u" out of "restaurant" in my post about where to eat fried crickets in Los Angeles. Had you not pointed that out, nobody would have cared. But now we all know that you do.

Someone Who Occasionally Makes Mistakes

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

I suck

At first when I went on vacation I planned to write 5-10 pages a say and crank the first draft of this script out in a few weeks, but as usual that didn't happen. I had a week in Montana where I didn't want to write even though I should have, then I had some days where I had to go on emergency house visits which I really hope are finished. I should know by the end of the week.

So instead of my mad, 5-10 page-a-day intention, I ended up writing 2-3 pages most days. There's still forward momentum, but not as much as I'd hoped.

The problem is, the script is not as good as I would like it to be. I just read The Many Deaths of Barnaby James and it made me feel like a hack. But then I had to remind myself that it's a first draft and first drafts always suck.

It's really hard not to listen to that voice in your head telling you how much you suck. I wrote a death scene today - my protagonist, you guys. That's right, I went there. I killed her ass. I offed the old biddy and it just felt so cheesy. I write a lot of death scenes and I always hate them, which is one reason I generally prefer short, sudden deaths.

I've had some complaints about that in the past - my deaths feel too sudden. But to be honest, some of my least favorite death scenes are the ones where characters linger just long enough to confess a secret or a message to their loved one or whatever. My favorite death scene of all time was Anya's death in the Buffy finale. "What death scene?" you may ask. Exactly.

But I couldn't do that with this script. I had to have a cradle-my-dying-lover-in-my-arms thing going on, much to my chagrin. The whole time I wrote it I kept thinking Blech. This blows. But I have to finish it.

So I had to give myself permission to suck or I'd never finish it. I hope that when I go through on my first full pass where I fill in blanks I'll change the things that suck. In the meantime, I embrace my suckiness. It's the only way to get to the good stuff.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

How much can we lie?

Ever since I heard a cool story at Alcatraz I've been working on researching a screenplay I want to write that takes place there. I bought a book on the island about Robert Stroud, the Birdman, the subject of the film Birdman of Alcatraz. I read the book, which was largely a scholarly examination of his life in as accurate detail as possible. Then I watched Birdman of Alcatraz.

In a college French class, I decided for my project I would research the Three Musketeers and see how close the novel came to depicting true events. Eh. Kind of close. Then I watched the Disney movie. That film couldn't have had more contempt for historical accuracy if it made the Musketeers Portuguese aliens living on Orion's belt. I'm not sure anyone involved with that film actually read the book.

The Three Musketeers was a much bigger violation, but Birdman of Alcatraz takes a lot of liberties with the truth in order to make the guy look like a hero. Did you know he was not only gay, but wrote kiddie and incest porn and passed it around to all the prisoners? Of course you can't have a gay would-be pedophile as your star in 1962 so you have to give the man a love story, created from a real relationship he had with a woman he manipulated to his own ends. In the film he seems quietly heroic, but in real life he was an asshole who felt like everybody on earth owed him because his daddy didn't love him.

And because this film made Stroud look like such a great guy unjustly treated by the evil inhuman prison system, people made a big hullaballoo about getting him out of prison. Because of this film, people wrote angry letters and he was very nearly released into our midst - a man who murdered two people and didn't feel the least bit bad about it.

We take liberties with history. Hell, I'm doing it right now in my current script. We have to be able to do it because nobody wants to watch a movie about a murderous pedophile who uses everyone who cares about him and stinks up his cell with bird poop. It's hard to root for that guy. So we change things. They didn't change the story too much in the film; the events are fairly accurate. But they changed the man's entire personality.

So I guess the question is, how much should we change things? Should we be able to change a man's entire character? Should we be able to make the impossible possible? What do you think?

Monday, October 05, 2009

Thoughts on the awesomest film of 2009: Zombieland

So Zombieland was as awesome as I always dreamed it would be. My one complaint is that the voice over needed to be drawn back a bit. Some of it was telling us what we could already see, almost as if the filmmakers didn't trust us to get the point.

But if you can look past it, that film was the awesomest thing to come out since Hot Fuzz.

This is good for me because I have a zombie action script. Mine's not comedy, but it is big budget and it is badass. If Zombieland had tanked, my shit would have been dead (ooh look! A pun!) but if I'm lucky, the film will continue to make lots of money and maybe somebody will want something like it but different enough to be original. At any rate, it can't hurt.

There are just so many brilliant touches in this film. I loved the screenplay already and they kept most of it intact, but the changes they made were for the better. The screenplay ends with the group headed off to Disneyland, but that seems a waste of an opportunity, doesn't it? Zombies in a theme park? So they shifted some things around and instead included the theme park. Smart decision.

And even though I knew the celebrity cameo was coming because I read it in the script and I saw the cast list on IMDB, they changed the way the scene played out so I was still pleasantly surprised.

This is just a fun movie. Fun fun fun. It's always nice when you can take cannibals and a post-apocalyptic world and laugh about it.

If you have not seen Zombieland and you enjoyed Shaun of the Dead even a little, this is the movie for you. And as an added bonus, if you pay to see it you can help me sell my screenplay.

Friday, October 02, 2009


Right now, unless something has gone horribly, horribly wrong, I am about to watch Zombieland at the Arclight in Sherman Oaks with my friends after a lovely meal at some place I've never heard of.

If I don't return, it's most likely because my heart simply could not handle the excitement and I died of joy.

Remember me as a lover of zombies. And pandas. Know what nobody's ever made a movie about? Zombie pandas.

I am so goddamn excited right now I'm like a five year old with a laser gun.

CS Open - what have we learned?

Ugh. This week blows. Someone I love almost died - actually did die for a couple of seconds, we lost ANOTHER house - the third one and our favorite yet, and the CS Open was a hot mess.

It was a great idea. It really was. And I'm sure those people who received their scores got some useful feedback. I've read several posts by such people who have no idea why everyone else is in a huff.

It seems that many people followed directions and submitted their scenes, got the "Congratulations!" page that told you it was submitted correctly, and then received no feedback whatsoever.

At least I know why my shit was rejected. It bullshit, but it's a reason. There are a loooot of people who got no explanation at all. As an added bonus, the response from the contest runners was downright insulting to everyone who entered. No apologies, just a bunch of reasons why it's all our fault and they ran out of time, which is also somehow all our fault.

So if you paid, entered and submitted properly and received nothing in return, you're not alone. The only credit I can give them right now is that they did indeed refund my $12 pretty quickly, almost instantaneously. But that makes me wonder. How is it that they had enough people around to refund my money in ten minutes but didn't have enough readers to get the job done in the first place?

: Apparently a lot of people who submitted correctly received their scores this morning, a day after round two began. None of these people received the 93 or above necessary to move to round 2. Coincidence? I dunno. Vanilla Chunk has a different perspective.

I love how their primary excuse was "There was just not enough time."

Whose fault was that? Hey, CS, you guys created the deadlines and hired the readers. You knew how many entries you'd have two days before the prompt went out. You also set the second round deadline, a date you could have pushed back when you realized how poorly you had planned.

And then, of course, the team was nice enough to send us all the round 2 prompt and get indignant when people were confused as to whether or not they were supposed to submit an entry. Well, gee, the instructions were so fucking clear this whole time, how on earth could anyone be confused? They've yet to issue one word of apology to all the people they fucked over. Nothing but attitude.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is what we call a Clusterfuck. For me this is definitely the nail in the coffin on Creative Screenwriting. I heard there's some other magazine with better articles and not so much bullshit and disorganization. I think I'll try that one for a while.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

How the CS Open wasted my time

Well I just wasted a ridiculous amount of my time.

If you went to the long list of instructions for the Cyberspace Open, one of the things it says on the page is to include a cover page. Then weeks after the contest was announced, if you had signed up you got an email with instructions that did not mention a cover page. Then after they realize their system was fucked up you got a second email with completely different instructions that did not mention a cover page. Did they mention a cover page at some point? Yes. Was it in their final submission instructions, either in email form or on the actual submission page? No.

So I forgot the cover page. They wanted your name and your order number on the file name so I did that, thinking that must be how they identified the entries. I followed carefully all the instructions on the actual submission page. I submitted early at 5pm on Sunday.

Then I reread the instructions on the website and realized I was supposed to have a cover page, so I emailed the contact address and asked if this was a problem and was there anything I could do about it - the deadline had still not passed at this point. I should have gone back and read the instructions on the website before I entered, I know that. It's just so confusing when you receive three different sets of instructions. Anyway, I received no response.

Then I never got my feedback. I waited and waited and waited and thought I was just somehow at the bottom of the pile.

This morning, they sent out the list of people who would advance to the next round followed by about a thousand reasons entries were disqualified. I guess they ran out of time and decided disqualifying mass amounts of people was the best way to fix the problem. And guess what one reason for disqualification is? No cover page.

My entry number is not on the list they posted, but they also said it was a partial list. They also say that plenty of people managed to resubmit their scenes, implying that you should have done the same if you screwed up. Yet on the last email and on the submission page, they specifically state not to resubmit or you will be disqualified.

I'm just so super excited about how much time and effort I wasted on this bullshit. I put aside working on my screenplay to make sure I wrote a good contest entry.

You know, every fucking year I sing the praises of the Expo. And every fucking year they pull the same shit - disorganized as hell. Last year's Expo screenplay contest was a mess. They announced the grand prize winner early so everybody left before they announced the other winners and they never did announce two contests winners at all. I've heard even if you do win, the prize pack never goes out. You get your money, but none of the famous exposure they brag so much about.

Then there's the actual Expo, where in years past speakers haven't had the right technical supplies or even white boards to work with, or the rules keep changing to make it harder for you to see the right speakers, but the price keeps going up. Or the fact that the volunteers are treated like shit so they don't show up, which means there is nobody to take tickets, so the people who paid extra for the Gold pass get into the same sessions as the people who didn't pay for a ticket. Every year a different set of problems caused by a lack of proper planning.

Supposedly disqualified entries will get a refund. Sure. I'm sure an organization that has this much trouble getting its shit together will be all over giving me back my $12.

Over at Done Deal some people are saying they followed all instructions to the letter and still didn't receive a score, and received no explanation as to why.

Hey Creative Screenwriting, get your shit together.

Fuck this. I'm done.