Friday, June 29, 2012

Thanks, Bruce

Many years ago I took a screenwriting class as part of my graduate degree in creative writing. It was okay. At that time I didn't really get the whole screenwriting thing. Not sure why. Maybe the story I was working on was meh. Either way, I learned the basics, then mostly forgot everything and went back to working on that novel.

A couple of years went by, and although I'd manage to plunk out several short stories, even get one published, I hadn't gotten very far on that novel.

And I never would.

That Christmas, my then-boyfriend and I both unwittingly gave each other the same present, which made for a goofy Christmas morning. It was a copy of Bruce Campbell's first book, If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor. I don't know if he ever read his copy, but I flew through mine. It was the beginning of a long love for Hollywood autobiographies.

The book, if you've never read it, was basically the story of how Bruce Campbell came to have a career in this business, so it goes all the way from Sam Raimi and Evil Dead to life as Billy Zane's audition nemesis and trying to eek out a living on B movie salaries. This was before Burn Notice.

It was the Evil Dead thing that got me. They wanted to make a movie, so they did. Sam Raimi got a bunch of his friends together and they put together a story. Then they made it. It wasn't easy of course - I'm glossing over all the hard parts, but it boiled down to the idea that if you want to make a movie you make a movie.

This had never occurred to me before. You can just go write screenplays and then people make them into movies? This is a thing?

I guess it had never occurred to me before, even during my screenwriting class or all the years I'd been writing stories and watching movies. I was floored by the idea that anyone can write a movie.

First I did what every idiot like me does: I emailed Bruce Campbell and said "How do I start writing screenplays?" Thankfully, he ignored my email.

I bought a couple of format books and started reading websites. I reread the Syd Field book I'd bought for that screenwriting class, as well as the script we were required to purchase - Dead Man Walking.

Then I sat down to write. The novel I'd been working on? In a year I'd written eight pages. That day I took the same idea and I wrote TWENTY pages in the screenplay format I cranked out through Word.

I was home.

I never tried to write a novel again.

Monday, June 25, 2012

What happens at a General

I just did a whirlwind of general meetings, so I thought it might help others if gave a vague description of how they go down for people who haven't gotten there yet.

Note these are GENERALS. Generals are meetings that happen when someone reads your script, likes it, and wants to meet you. The idea is to develop a relationship with a producer you may get to work with in the future. It's your grand introduction to the town.

Pitch meetings are different. This is not about pitch meetings.

So you go on the studio lot or into the building, depending on where you are, and the assistant will shake your hand and ask you if you'd like something to drink. Of course you take a water. I've never tried asking for anything else.

Some studios will offer an ice cold bottle, some a glass with water from some mysterious source. Sometimes it will be room temperature. Sometimes it will be in a plastic cup. Sometimes nobody will remember to offer you anything, but most of the time they'll hand you a bottle. Either way, if there's water, take it. You'll be talking a lot. But, especially if you live in the valley like I do and will be in traffic for an hour after this meeting, clock the bathrooms as soon as you walk in. Otherwise you'll be peeing in a Ralph's on the way home.

So after the assistant hands you a water, they will call the boss who will bring you into his office or a conference room of some kind. I've noticed that usually the couch is for you, the chair is for them, but not always.

They will tell you they read your script and thought it was great. Sometimes that's all they'll say; sometimes they'll lavish you with praise. Drink that shit in. I like the ego boost, so I just let them tell me all the reasons I'm awesome and then say thank you.

Sometimes they'll ask you about yourself. They'll ask about your job, how you got to LA, how long you've been writing, what made you think of this idea, how you got your rep... If you have an interesting job like, say, teaching public high school, sometimes they'll ask about that too.

Then they'll get to what kind of projects you want to write. I usually throw out a couple of examples of the kind of my favorite films in my genre so they know where to point their ideas. This usually leads to a discussion of how awesome those particular movies are.

This is my favorite part of the conversation, because it gives us both a chance to be the film nerds we truly are. I've had some really great discussions with execs about why certain great movies work, and what I'd like to see in movies of the future.

Sometimes, that's the meeting. We met, we wooed, and then I went home with my half empty bottle of water.

Sometimes they'll pitch you something. They have a list of ideas they're working on, and after they've met you they'll give you a project they've been thinking about so you can go home and ponder it.

Sometimes they'll let you pitch an idea. They'll tell you what they're looking for, and if you've got anything like that in your script stable, bust it out. Initially I had this one awesome idea I'd pitch to everyone, but it became pretty clear that each studio is looking for something different. Some are more broad comedy guys, some are looking for the unusual and creative, some want you to do more of what you just did. So I now have a few ideas ready to throw out depending on the tenor of the room.

Often they want to know what you're working on now, so be working on something. Sometimes they'll ask to read it when you're finished.

They'll wind it all up, give you a business card, and shake your hand. And that's the meeting.

Sometimes they'll go for 15 minutes, sometimes an hour; it just depends on the purpose of the meeting and what kind of exec you're dealing with.

And that's how general meetings work.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Time for change

....And I'm back.. I slept for NINE HOURS last night. That's like the most hours I've slept in a year. I would have slept even longer, but the dogs woke me up with a squirrel alert. That's how tired I was.

I am no longer a teacher. It's weird. I was sad walking out of my classroom for the last time, but I know it was the right call. Morale at our school is in the toilet because next year we'll have a new boss, and the people who get to choose that boss are not trustworthy. They're in with the latest trend to make everything in education about tests. The guy who's been angling for the principal's spot thinks we shouldn't even teach novels anymore; just test prep all year. Imagine turning English into year-round test prep. No thank you. I weep for what's coming.

I'll miss the kids. I'll miss creating the yearbook. On the way out I'm sure my replacement was getting irritated with all the things I was telling him - "The door sticks, so you have to slam into it sometimes to get it open, and the computer doesn't read flash drives but it does print, and I left you a scanner/printer but it's out of ink, and I think you should get a wireless router...." I loved that classroom, and I loved yearbook, and I want to make sure they're okay.

And now I transition into writer first, educator second.

I think it helps that I'm still really busy. I've got meetings like gangbusters right now, and in between I still have wedding planning and several screenplay projects to work on. I haven't felt the loss of my job because I've got a new one. I have a few more things to say about meetings, but that can wait for another day because I have to go get ready to drive to the next one.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Lost Girl fan video #3

All that stuff I said yesterday that I had to do? I dealt with the stress of that by doing this instead:

Saturday, June 16, 2012


I haven't abandoned this blog. I am not going to abandon this blog. But right now I am super incredibly busy.

Not only was the network at school not letting me log in to Blogger again (It's sort of a crap shoot each week as to which websites will be blocked) but it's my last week as a teacher. Ever. I have many essays to grade and a room to empty.

Then there's screenwriting stuff. Then there's social stuff. Plus I'm getting married in a month.

My brain is having difficulty keeping up. I have noticed myself getting stupider this week. Hopefully that will stop when I'm officially on vacation since I'll have one less job to do.

In August I'm going to collapse in a heap, just in time to start over a new school year as a sub somewhere.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Not really an update

I was really hoping this would be one of those crazy 24-hour sales, but that doesn't really happen anymore. At least, not like it used to.

So I'm still waiting for all the studios to decide what they'd like to do. I am already taking meetings while I wait for offers, which is the objective. Even without a sale I'm still moving along. The script is doing its job.

My script is hot. That was pretty neat, seeing my name and "hot" beside it. That and reading the Tracking Board thread where people talked about me.

My phone has been glued to my hand since Tuesday, waiting for "Birdhouse in Your Soul" to play because that is my agent/manager ringtone. (Who watches over you?)

So in other words, my update is that there is not really an update - just people moving around behind the scenes.

Saturday, June 02, 2012


This is the most self-absorbed thread ever in a history of self-absorbtion.

My script going out (How My Wedding Dress Got This Fucking Dirty) has drawn some attention to my blog so there are new people coming by to see what all the damn fuss is about. (There's damn fuss!)

So hi! I'm Emily Blake. I am from North Carolina and I teach high school English in South Central LA. I live in the valley.

I've been writing stories since I was in the fourth grade and last week I had a spec go wide for the first time. I'm repped at Circle of Confusion and APA. I write action comedy mostly, more action than comedy. My favorite movies are Grosse Pointe Blank, In Bruges, Pitch Black and Terminator 2. I love Wuxia tales and Hong Kong action, and I think Korea is where it's at in the film world right now. (Did you see The Good, the Bad, and the Weird? That movie fills me with so much joy.) David Twohy is my favorite screenwriter. Danny Boyle is my favorite director. Emma Stone is my favorite actress. I want to make sweet dirty love to Kris Holden-Reid. And Jensen Ackles. And Timothy Olyphant. Possibly all at the same time, if my dreams have anything to say about it. My fiance has accepted this.

I was interviewed on two podcasts. One here: (Scriptcast 10 at the bottom of the page) when I hadn't really done anything except talk.

And here: (Scriptcast 42, currently second on the list) after my script was a finalist in TrackingB and I'd been signed at Circle.

By the way, if you're not listening to the Scripcast podcast, you should. In addition to having some good screenwriting stuff, Matt and Eric are just highly entertaining. I love those guys.

Say hi if you like. I like people. I'm a Southern girl who teaches English and writes so I really enjoy talking - that's like the blabbermouth trifecta. Ask questions, say hello, tell me how much I suck. Actually don't do that. I'm not ready to be told how much I suck yet. I teach children and I moderate over at Done Deal, so I take enough abuse as it is.

Friday, June 01, 2012

The Best Note part 2

I didn't set out to write romantic comedies. I don't even really like most romantic comedies. The closest thing to a romantic comedy that I have in my DVD collection is Grosse Pointe Blank. Oh and I guess Shakespeare in Love counts.

But for some reason, when I write my little action movies, I love to explore a romantic comedy style relationship. I have a sort of fascination with a woman who has secrets and a man who loves her anyway.

Writing the female characters is easy for me, obviously, because they are all me. As a Gemini, I can switch back and forth from hero to villain to meek little girl to angry evil bitch pretty easily. What I cannot do is have a penis, so I have to work a lot harder at writing interesting dudes. I can do it, but it requires more of my brain.

And that's where this next note comes in. I'm afraid I can't remember who it came from - someone in an online writers group, I believe - but it was a good one. It's a common sense note, but something I had been ignoring up to that point.

I was working on a script that had my usual dynamic - a girl who's got a secret and a boy who thinks she's the bees knees because he doesn't know he's being lied to - and they are held captive by some bad guys. He's mad at her because he's sure she's hiding something from him, so they just sort of grumble at each other until she gets away from the bad guys.

The note I got was, why don't they work together here? This way we can see them as a team, despite the problems they're having, and really get why they love each other. Plus it makes your male lead cooler. He needs to be cooler.

My male lead was okay, you see, but when you write a relationship you need to really establish why these two people love each other. And that means the boy has to be AWESOME.

Enter the scene of my leads working together. If in this moment, even through their mutual enmity, they can work together to get the bad guys, the audience can see why they like each other, and can get a moment to fall in love with the male lead.

I took the note, and one of the first comments I always get on that script now is how much everybody loves my male lead. That's not the only scene where I made him cool, but it's the most important.

So to sum up, the second-best note I ever received was to make my male lead unmistakably likable by having him work TOGETHER with my female lead to solve a problem.

I've been doing it ever since.