Monday, December 29, 2008

And in other good news...

We have three screenwriting classes at my university. The first one you write a screenplay, the second one you re-write that screenplay, and in the third one you write a new screenplay. They're all competition based. Half of the students in One get into Two, and half the students from Two get into Three. I finished the second class this semester and was waiting with bated breath for an email one way or the other on the third class. Out of the twelve students in our class, only five would make it into Three for winter semester. Christmas Day I opened my email to find a congratulatory email from my professor - I got into the third class! One step closer to my dream of being a real, working, money-making screenwriter.

Now a decision to make : do I write the children's fantasy Neverwhere meets Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium or the action-adventure Da Vinci Code meets The Matrix?

Amy's Guide to Moral Living

Or, How does one become a movie critic?

Sometimes I wonder what else I can do with a film degree besides make movies. If I can't write movies, maybe I can write about movies. I know it's not that easy, of course. And to be truthful, I'm really bad at discerning what makes a good movie. I spent a semester in a class that just read scripts. Good scripts, produced scripts, some award winning scripts. And it was sometimes very difficult for me to understand what it was about the script that got it greenlit. And when I watch movies, I often do it from a pure enjoyment perspective (should one really mix work and fun?). And it definitely takes me more than one viewing to formulate some sort of critical stance on a film.

Then I was perusing Bill Martell's blog and came across Mark Twain's Rules for Writing. Basically, Twain was using his rules to completely ream another writer, but it got me thinking. If there are rules for good writing, there should be (and are, though I think they're a secret) rules for great movie making. I'm big on theory as it is, that writers and filmmakers should have an understanding of why they're making movies and what they believe to be the purpose of film. And an extension of that is understanding what makes a great film, to them. So, it may take some research, but I'd like to compile rules for great filmmaking and fantastic storytelling. Think about my favourite movies, what makes them great. Write it down, 'cause otherwise I'll forget.

Figuring out what makes the movies I love great will only make the stories I write better.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Stork Brings Them

From Finding Neverland
Mary Ansell Barrie: I was hopelessly naive when I married you. I imagined that brilliant people disappeared to some secret place where good ideas floated around like leaves in autumn, and I hoped at least once you would take me there with you.
J.M. Barrie: There is no such place.
Mary Ansell Barrie: Yes there is: Neverland.

Sometimes I do something I hate very much, that grates against my pride and sensibilities, that makes me cringe and mumbled excuses. And that is summarize my stories. After I manage to word vomit something out, someone will invariably say, "I could never be creative enough to write something."

This ends up being very embarrassing for me, because I feel like I hardly have any creativity at all. If someone doesn't say something like that, they'll ask me where I get my ideas. It's quite easy, and if you follow this advice, you will both have the ideas and the creativity to write your own story.

Cannibalize your life.

Seriously, if you daydream, and who doesn't, you can come up with a story. Both my favourite scripts have been inspired by real life events or issues. All it takes is asking, "What if?"

I already have a couple of ideas for future projects, but if I were to take my own life and cannibalize it, here's what I would do:

Two of my friends at college and I apparently have similar tastes in guys. At some point, two of us have been interested in the same guy at the same time. And we always joke that we'd all get married, but to the one guy we were never interested in. So if both O. and I had been interested in X. at one point, T. would be the one to marry him. We joke about that a lot.

But what if that actually happened? Love triangles are more than popular in movies. What if you had *three*? (The old fashioned kind, guys.) Maybe it would be too much, I don't know. Maybe it would be like a reversed-gender Sabrina on acid. But -- it could be so much fun. It would be like the chaos of Shakespeare's comedies and the humor of My Best Friend's Wedding. The possibilities are endless, and that was a "What If" I came up with with friends. Maybe people don't think about their lives that way. Maybe no one sees the possibilities in their daydreams. Not just anything can be a story, it's true, and not every story makes a good film. Execution is a skill. Execution is an art. But stories? There's a minefield every day.

"People on the outside think there's something magical about writing, that you go up in the attic at midnight and cast the bones and come down in the morning with a story, but it isn't like that. You sit in back of the typewriter and you work, and that's all there is to it." - Harlan Ellison

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Finish Line

The earth is warm next to my ear
Insect noise is all that I hear
A magic trick makes the world disappear
The skies are dark, they're dark but they're clear

A distant motorcade and suddenly there's joy
The snow and ticker tape blurs all my senses numb
It's like the finish line where everything just ends
The crack of radios seems close enough to touch

Cold water, cleaning my wounds
A sad parade, with a single balloon
I'm done with this, I'm counting to ten
Bluest seas, running to them

I feel like I am watching everything from space
And in a minute I'll hear my name and I'll wake
I think the finish line's a good place we could start
Take a deep breath, take in all that you could want

- by Snow Patrol

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Tales of a Student Producer, Part 2

That's not really my job. I'd love to just do slate all weekend, but usually I only get to play with the slate when we're short crewed.

We're about a third of the way done with shooting. We ran into some frustrating location issues for this weekend and, long story short, had to cancel the shoot. I hate doing locations. The place we were hoping to shoot wanted to charge us $40 an hour, both for overnight shooting and during business hours. We understood that we'd probably have to pay some for the overnight because most businesses like to have an employee there - but who is getting paid $40/hour at a coffee shop? Or even 20?

I've worked on one other senior honors thesis. I only PAed for just two days, but I learned some interesting things and got a little bit of a feel for the way it ran. It ran a lot different from the way we run ours. And for a while, I really struggled with that. The project is already pretty stressful for me, and having that comparison made it more difficult.

Until I put things into perspective. The other thesis film was produced and directed by a team of senior film students who had done a project of similar length and scope the previous year. So it wasn't their first time around the rodeo. Our project's director is talented and knowledgeable, but it's her first time directing some of this scope. Our producing team has never before produced anything of this length and are relatively early in their film training. And we're running on a very talented but limited crew.

Basically, I realized that the two different films I worked on were, in fact, two different films. And I should treat them as such. And that helped a lot. Realizing that I didn't have to live up to some standard that didn't actually even compare made me feel a little more at ease with the job. I was talking with my screenwriting professor the other day about how producing was probably making me more stressed than all my classes, he sort of raised his eyebrow as if to tell me that I needed to rethink something. And he reminded me that everyone in everything has a learning curve. I think the goal is to just maintain your course on that journey and not let yourself be overwhelmed by the mistakes and challenges that are inherent in improvement.

Sure, it's a lot of work and it's stressful sometimes. But I have no doubt that this film is going to be great. Our crew members are so talented and skilled that I can't imagine it coming out anything less than stellar. And they're amazingly fun to work with too. And that keeping that perspective helps me realize what an enjoyable experience this is.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

"If you were a melody...I used only the good notes."

I was walking back to my house today, and I passed this tall, kind of goofy looking kid with large earphones, and I had a flash of sudden realization/dread.

I don't know if anyone else ever inadvertently daydreams about how they're going to meet their future spouse, but I have -- you know, only once or twice.

My two best friends from high school are getting married this summer. They're making smart choices. One is marrying an engineer, the other is marrying a film major - but he's got a plan. So they're both making practical choices. Here's the thing. I'm not going to make the practical choice. I'm going to run into someone on the street, he'll say something sorta goofy, and I'll be completely smitten, which will be a sign since I've been so rarely smote on a first meeting, etc. etc. etc. Sounds cute enough, right? So what's with the dread?

I know I'm going to make a completely irrational, impratical choice --
I'm going to marry a musician.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

I love talking to strangers.

Not creepers, mind you. But just your legitimate, one-time acquaintance strangers.

I was sitting in Dunkin Donuts today after hanging out with a friend in the City. I was trying to stall my return to Jersey, I think. I was sitting at the window bar on 10th and 44th, definitely not writing anything on the legal pad in front of me, when the man next to me and I started talking.

I always think that I'm going to be ridiculously creative when talking with strangers. I can say whatever I want. Wouldn't it be fun to make up some crazy story about my life? But I almost always end up telling the truth. And I think it's because, with a one shot acquaintance, you can be absolutely honest. Only complete strangers can get away with asking things like "Who did you vote for?" and "Are you in love?" I told him what I was looking for in a man and he told me why his Thanksgiving was a nightmare. We joked that we'd meet again one day when I would be writing a show or movie he'd be hired on. I was probably more willing to have a completely unguarded conversation with him than I would be with half my friends. I think that's more fun than making up a fake backstory.

He waved hello to at least six people while we were sitting there.

"Do you know everyone?" I asked.

"Of course, I know everyone in the neighborhood."

Of course he did. John Michael Bolger, if I'm ever in the neighborhood, I hope we meet again.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving is sort of an odd holiday, I think. It's a day that's dedicated to spending time with friends and family... though there's nothing to really *do.* Not counting the actual meal - which takes all in all what, maybe an hour to eat? - my family doesn't really have any traditions or activities anymore that we do on Thanksgiving. I mean, the parade and the football games are on TV, but that doesn't mean that we're all watching them. So then it becomes this awkward dilemma of what to do with your family when your family's not doing anything.

So I read Twilight.

Let me explain myself. Everyone was aware that the movie opened this weekend, right? We looked at the box office in my industry class on Tuesday, like we always do, knowing Twilight was going to be the big winner. The movie recouped its costs in one weekend. On a budget of $37 million, it's made, in less than a week, a worldwide gross on $90 million. But really, that wasn't what made up my mind to read the book. We all knew it was going to be a smash hit. The producers were actually smiling weeks before it was released.

No, what made me pick up Twilight for my recreational holiday reading could be encapsulated in one story. My industry professor went to see the movie with his wife opening weekend, and he told us there was a woman sitting next to them who flat out sobbed for an hour during the movie. Unashamed. Stories like those, and hearing from anyone who's ever picked it up and read it in under 48 hours that it's amazing, convinced me that I needed to experience this phenomen first hand, if solely from a storyteller's perspective. What is it about this book that has stirred so many people, from all different age groups? I'm really sorry, Robert Pattinson, but I don't think it's just you, despite what all the girls in my industry class say. You're not that devastatingly beautiful.

So I read it. And here's my opinion of the book:

The last 350 pages were good. That was when things actually started happening. I got caught up in those and really enjoyed the story there. The first 350 pages ran something like this --

I hated Forks. If only I hadn't come to this miserable gloomy place where every single boy is subtly trying to ask me out. Then there's Edward Cullen, blindingly beautiful, but for a hundred pages all we exchange are trite hellos while I wonder why he secretly hates me. Luckily, after I find out he's a vampire, we talk. A lot. We spend hours and hours in the car just asking each other questions about our lives, how this whole vampire thing works, him marveling at the fact that I'm not afraid, me wondering how he would ever pick a normal girl like me, each conversation ending with me staggering out of the car, gripping onto the door for support, hoping that I don't trip in my incapacitated by his very presence state.

I'm not saying it was a bad book. It was good. I enjoyed it. I'll probably read the others over Christmas break. I'll almost definitely watch the movie at some point, to make my case study complete. But I'm not sure I've got it yet - what it is that made this such a phenomenon. I think I'm going to start asking people, but if everyone answers, "Because Edward Cullen is amazingly perfect," I may renounce the books altogether.

(I don't know, maybe that results from my cynicism on love stories, and how they're the most difficult to write. Let me just say that I thought the relationship was only nominally interesting/believable until the end.)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Everyone should do this at least once

Yesterday, as part of my ritual procrastination phase of writing, I spent a lot of time on YouTube looking up obscure songs by one of my favourite bands. Obviously, these are not of the best sound quality, and I recommend totally ignoring whatever footage/weird montage is attached to them. Here are some of my favourites :

For You



Your Love Means Everything to Me (with Faultline)

A well known hit, with a twist.

And I like covers.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The first real snowfall

Mm, I love it. I will most definitely miss the seasons if I'm out in LA or New Mexico for too long. And I got to wear my snow boots today, which I love.

A few weeks ago, my boss's boss's boss told me he liked my shoes. This was even more amusing because he sounds like Kronk from the Emperor's New Groove.

We were celebrating things at my house the other night. We were celebrating because D. got into law school and M. got into med school, and then so the rest of us wouldn't feel left out, we made up things for each one of us to celebrate. We celebrated J. for applying to grad schools and E. because she's cool and me because I will one day get a job. Can't you imagine that toast? Here's to you, Amy, for getting a job someday.

We haven't seen the sun in seven days.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


Highly entertaining dramatic reading of a REAL break up letter that I immediately had to share with all my friends. Make sure your sound is on.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

'Cause I'm on a Switchfoot kick

In this world of news, I've found nothing new
I've found nothing pure
Maybe I'm just idealistic to assume that truth
Could be fact and form
That love could be a verb
Maybe I'm just a little misinformed

As the dead moon rises, and the freeways sigh
Let the trains watch over the tides and the mist
Spinning circles in our skies tonight
Let the trucks roll in from Los Angeles
Maybe our stars are unanimously tired

Let your love be strong, and I don't care what goes down
Let your love be strong enough to weather through the thunder cloud
Fury and thunder clap like stealing the fire from your eyes
All of my world hanging on your love

Let the wars begin, let my strength wear thin
Let my fingers crack, let my world fall apart
Train the monkeys on my back to fight
Let it start tonight
When my world explodes, when my stars touch the ground
Falling down like broken satellites

Let your love be strong, and I don't care what goes down
Let your love be strong enough to weather through the thunder cloud
Fury and thunder clap like stealing the fire from your eyes
All of my world hanging on your love

All that I am resting on
All of my world resting on your love

- "Let Your Love Be Strong" Switchfoot

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Things I might do... later

I've been thinking a lot about what I'm doing after graduation. I think I've gotten my two-year itch to get up and move again. As much as I love college, something tells me it's time to start real life soon. Here are my current options:

1. Go home. Well, this isn't an option, actually. My two best friends from high school getting married in June and my bridesmaid duties require my presence for my first two months as a college graduate. However, this is not all just sitting around and waiting for the weddings. It's free room and board, and because I'm so close to New York City, I'm going to translate this into Get An Internship, something I don't have on my resume but is a practical necessity in this industry. If I find at the end of the weddings/internship that I am still poor but can find a job in the City, then I might stick around the area for another year or so.

2. Move to LA. This is tricky. The thing about moving to LA is that you sorta need money before you go out there. Since you can't get a job before you're there, you're going to spend a couple of weeks just job searching, paying to live in LA without having any money come back in. There is just the slimmest chance that I will be financially ready to move to LA come July. My other LA option is this Screenwriter's Lab. My screenwriting prof of last year recommended it to me, and by the time the deadline rolls around I should have at least two scripts that have been raked over enough to show to them. I haven't done well in competitions historically, but if I can get into this, I won't mind moving out to LA and getting a job at Starbucks or Applebee's or nannying for some B-list actress. As long as I have some film-related reason for being there, I'll take any job.

3. Albuquerque. Or any other place that has great tax incentives and low cost of living. Michigan recently passed a whole lot of tax incentives for film and business has been great. My industry professor has friends in New Mexico who've never stopped working since they passed the tax incentives there. There are a couple other states that have drawn the film industry but still remain relatively cheap places to live. If I were to stay in Michigan, though, I'd need more of a reason than just a job. New Mexico sounds like fun, maybe just because I've never been there before, but I'm going to have to learn how to spell Albuquerque. This would be a stepping stone to LA. 1-3 years.

4. Leave the country. One of our recent graduates works in Ireland for a production company and is involved in the International Film Board or something. Let's be honest. I'm going to live in Ireland one day, and I'm much more interested in winning an Irish Academy Award than an American one. The only question is how soon do I want to move there and should I stop by LA on the way.

5. Move to a small town with one stop light somewhere west of the Mississippi, get a high profile job like bank teller, and spend a year writing and being the center of town gossip.

I still have about six months to figure this out, eight if you count my time in Jersey for the weddings. Something, maybe just how it's happened in the past, makes me feel like I won't know for sure until month seven and three quarters.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Things not to do: get a head cold with a new nose ring. FAIL

Buying medicine is a complete crapshoot. You're standing there in front of an entire shelf or two of medication, scanning the labels for your symptoms, trying to look like you're pondering if Tylenol Day for Head Congestion would work better than Benadryl for Sinus Allergies considering they both claim to treat the same thing, when all you're really doing is praying, "Dear God please let me pick right this time!" when finally you just snatch one that's not too overpriced, knowing in your heart of hearts that your money would probably be better spent on a 24 case of Vitamin Water.

And even that doesn't beat a gallon of orange juice.

I'm a super slow asthmatic who couldn't out run a platypus.

However, I'm always about five steps ahead of God's plan. And by plan, I don't mean where I'm going to live and what job I'm going to have or anything inconsequential like that. I mean the stuff that really matters, the where am I going, how am I growing, what relationships am I forming. I don't really find myself to be a particularly imaginative person, but apparently I can daydream this stuff away. I get carried away and carried off with my own little plans - usually because I think I've finally figure out what God's doing. Something happens and I make it click like a puzzle piece that doesn't actually fit (our family has an inside joke about this - doesn't everyone's?). Clearly, this is why my life is this way. The past x number of years have been leading up to this moment and I can finally see how God has been orchestrating everything so that everything will turn out a certain way that I've foreseen/daydreamed.

Inevitably comes the moment where I realize this is not the case.

After a couple days of complete delusion, I realize that there's no way my plan matches up with what's really going on. And that fall back to reality really sucks sometimes. I guess because every time I jump ahead with the Plan, I'm looking for a way to make life make sense. My initial reactions to having my proposed logic shot down are not usually very positive ones.

The thing is, this ugly lightning bolt is usually just what I need. It's devastatingly humbling in a beautiful way. It brings me back to dependence on God and *His* plan. His plan which is, of course, so much better than my own. I am not where I would have planned myself to be. I most definitely would have planned the easy way. But looking back on my life, I know now there's no way I can imagine it better. Even my mistakes have been redeemed in a way integral to my place now. If I can trust that God took care of the past, why am I always jumping ahead of Him in the future? Why can't I just stop trying to "catch" Him at work and let Him work it out in His (most mysterious) way?

Sometimes, though, I think I wouldn't even give up these moments, no matter how discouraging they are, because they are the moments that I realize I am limited, but He is not. I am short sighted, but He sees all. I am confused and continuously distracted, but He is focused on loving me. And that's when I can concede. I'm trying to learn about dependency on God, because it's what's gotten me through some difficult times and it's a state of being that has incredible security in His love and faithfulness. And these are the moments when I fall from myself, am humbled by my own ill-conceived designs, and am reminded about His incredible, awesome grace. After I've tripped over my own shoelaces, He's there and He wants to carry me. And being carried by God to the future He's designed is so much more beautifully peaceful than running ahead and getting lost on my own.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

P.S. ...

If I ever leave this world alive
I'll thank for all the things you did in my life
If I ever leave this world alive
I'll come back down and sit beside your
feet tonight
Wherever I am you'll always be
More than just a memory
If I ever leave this world alive

If I ever leave this world alive
I'll take on all the sadness
That I left behind
If I ever leave this world alive
The madness that you feel will soon subside
So in a word don't shed a tear
I'll be here when it all gets weird
If I ever leave this world alive

So when in doubt just call my name
Just before you go insane
If I ever leave this world
Hey I may never leave this world
But if I ever leave this world alive

She says I'm okay; I'm alright,
Though you have gone from my life
You said that it would,
Now everything should be all right

She says I'm okay; I'm alright,
Though you have gone from my life
You said that it would,
Now everything should be all right
Yeah should be alright

- "If I Ever Leave This World Alive" by Flogging Molly

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Internet Premiere

"Join This Group?" is now live on the internet! Find it here.

Tales of a Student Producer, Part 1

This year I'm coproducing a senior honors thesis, titled "Grace," for one of my friends. Not going to lie, having two other producers makes the work load pretty light (even if having three coproducers might be a bit excessive), but this is still the major cause of stress in my life right now. The senior honors thesis films are supposed to be the most advanced, well done films our department produces. Our ability to produce will be reflected in the finished product - very clearly.

Since none of the producers have ever produced anything of this caliber, I sorta feel like the first month our meetings consisted mostly of, "Soo... what now?" We're not doing too badly, though, and now we're much more in the full swing of preproduction, with our first shooting weekend in a week and a half.

So this is what's happened so far and what I've learned:

- You can't produce until you have a locked copy of the script from the director. I got a draft of the script as soon as I signed onto the project (I'm just trying to sound professional. I didn't actually sign anything). However, we knew upfront that this was not a final draft. Since we didn't know how much the script was going to change, we found it difficult to pursue elements like casting and locations since we didn't know if they were going to stay in the script or not. The director gave us some pointers about which elements were stone (like the main character), and we went after those. And having seen a more recently draft this weekend, I was relieved to see that most of the changes made the script simpler, with fewer locations and characters, not more complex. Which made me glad that I hadn't pulled up my old undertaker's assistant contact to try to secure a funeral home location.

- Ask for help. One of the things I did a couple of weeks ago was set up a meeting for all of "Grace's" producers with a recent grad from our school who was the producing guru when he was a student. He gave us a lot of information and a few challenges, but it's better to be overwhelmed with information about things you have to consider and watch out for and plan around than get caught in the moment wondering what the crap you do now.

- Budget and schedule are paramount. I know our production designer is concerned about how much of the budget can go toward set dressings and props. The producers want to know if we'll have enough money to keep plenty of good food and coffee around. Because the honors thesis films operate on grants, we don't know how much money we'll get yet. We'll start shooting before we have any real ideas. Because of our meeting with our producer friend, we have some idea of what to expect when it comes to the grants, and some ideas of how to raise some more money. Scheduling is tricky for a student production because it comes down to the talent and the locations. Our crew is either large enough or well trained enough so that if someone can't be there, it will still function. However, we might have talent coming in from out of state. And we're looking to shoot in a department store and a coffee shop. We'll only be able to shoot when these elements say it's ok. I'm in charge of location scouting, and I'm finding it to be one of the most stressful parts. Maybe it's because I don't have a car. I don't feel like I can approach a location until we have a date set of when we want to shoot, or at least a few dates, but I don't feel like I can ballpark a range until I know what sort of schedule the director and cinematographer want, how long they think they want at each location, how much time, etc. etc. And we'll probably be shooting around the hours of the businesses. Shooting day-for-night is possible. But can you shoot night for early morning, even if it's indoors?

- Auditions. We held our first auditions on Saturday. Our casting process is going pretty well. Two of our producers posted casting calls on a few websites, got a ton of responses back, and we went through the headshots and resumes with the director during one of our meetings. She picked out who she was interested in, and we called them in for auditions. Ok, I'm not going to lie, it was fun being a producer in the auditions. First of all, producer in the real world carries a whole lot more weight than in the student world. In the real world, they're actually running the show (with their money). In the student world, they're running errands for the director. But at auditions, I got to introduce myself as a coproducer, then sit there not saying anything as I operated the camera, looking good in my blazer - but not like I was trying too hard (oh yes. You have to look like the part you are playing). Auditions are actually pretty tolling on those who are auditioning, which the director expressed to me afterwards. We have to hear the same scene fifty times.

Something I found remarkably interesting was the fact that most actors played the scene the same way. On one hand, this reflects well on the writer, that their intentions are so clear that most every actor can pick it up to a general degree. But I saw very few actors taking risks. Maybe it wasn't the fact that it was the intent and character were clear but that it was just the easiest, safest take on the character. One of the activities I always did with my drama classes up at camp was to have them say the same sentence over and over again with different intentions (yeah, Stanislovsky). I kept thinking about David Lynche's Mulholland Drive, which I saw recently for class, and the two different ways Betty plays the audition. The first time, when she's rehearsing, she plays it the way most people probably would have played it. But the second time she totally changes the character and, essentially, the scene, and makes it three times more engaging. It's an interesting thing to note if you want to write or direct (or even act). Is every scene predestined to play a certain way if it's written clearly enough? Or is every scene just a template onto which an actor or director force their own vision?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Being dramatic tends to cause problems.

The heart of a story is conflict. Really. There's nothing we like to watch better than people dealing with their problems. We don't watch real life (minus Italian NeoRealism) because there aren't enough problems to entertain the audience.

If you're looking to add drama to your script, why not try to add it to your life first?

I can give you a few pointers. You know those people from high school who were always have teary meltdowns in the hallway? Don't do that. The key is to be just a smidgen more dramatic in the things you do, the way you do them. For instance, when I came home from my day, I walked into my room and thought about how it seemed unreasonably stuffy. So I walked over to the window. But did I just open it, dear reader? Of course not! I grabbed it from the top and flung it open. Not in an outrageous tear the window off manner; more like a Disney push open the shutters and sing sort of way. However, by my mildly dramatic action of grabbing the window and flinging it open, I caught my finger between the two panes, smashed it, and ripped it right underneath the cuticle. I'm fairly certain the nail will be black tomorrow.

Drama and difficulty work together in such wonderful ways.

I'm in a rewrite class this semester. It's one of the reasons that my uni has such an exceptional screenwriting program - they teach you how to rewrite, which is where the real writing gets done. Not many unis do that. One thing my screenwriting prof guaranteed us is that, without even reading our scripts, he knew that we didn't have enough conflict in them. He knew a lot of interesting stuff about our screenplays without even having read them yet.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Please don't write this scene -

I watched part of What Happens in Vegas the other day. It was pretty predictable but funny. The thing was, it had that scene. That scene that happens in so many romantic comedies, especially ones where the guy and the girl aren't really acting like themselves (usually nastier or more outrageous) for some reason. But it's the scene that cinches the deal for them.

It's the family scene.

The introduction to the future in-laws. Which is funny, because I feel like the first meeting with the family is stressful and not the moment where one falls in love - at least not in real life. (What? This isn't real life?) It happened in How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days and in What Happens in Vegas and there's even an element in Failure to Launch (ok, I just threw that in there because it was on TV recently). But come on. Be a little more creative than - once I saw the way he coaches his niece at little league I knew he was actually sensitive and caring - or - once I saw her joking around with my weird relatives and winning at our family card game I knew she'd always make me feel at home. Gag. I know you're writing a rom com (and I love rom coms), but surprise us and be creative!

Sunday, September 07, 2008


I've had a lot on my mind recently that's been stressing me out. It's funny how suddenly neurotic you can become (and by you I mean me). Luckily, if things are on your mind, it means that you're thinking them through, and are hopefully making some sort of progress...

Tomorrow my screenwriting II class starts. I'm very excited. I'm a bit torn about which script I want to rewrite, the 4:05 or Collapse. I was a better writer when I wrote Collapse, but it's kinda depressing and the 4:05 is much more cheery and whimsical and needs more work. I'm still secretly planning on trying to rewrite both of them.

I was having a hard time thinking about my next script. Sometimes my anxiety level skyrockets, which just freaks me out even more because what would a real writer have to worry about? So as I struggled to come up with new ideas, I also tried to figure out what was bothering me so much. What was I afraid of? Failing? And with that my next story started to fall together.

Because this is what I realized. My best scripts, the ones that are the most well written, the ones that I love the best, come from questions and issues that I struggled with, and I will connect with them again and again because of what they mean to me. That's why I'm willing to rewrite the 4:05 as many times as it takes or return to Collapse for another semester. And just because the story is so closely connected to my life doesn't mean that it won't resonate with others. There's the screenwriting advice that says the more specific you make a story the more universal it becomes. Yes, the stories are particular to me and my life, but the issues of love and loss and fear, those belong to everyone. You have to find motivation for your story. You have to find a reason for it to be told and the fortitude to keep coming back to it again and again. Without a personal connection to a story, you're never going to be able to see it through satisfactorily.

So what's my new story going to be like? It's Atonement meets the Matrix meets the Old Testament. Come on now, who doesn't want to hear it?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

So last night I had a dream that I died. Well, whatever. The thing was, I started arguing with God about it. I was a little angry because apparently I wasn't supposed to die yet. So finally God goes, Look, if you hadn't died now, this is how you would have died - and so I see a vision of an alternate death in a scenario that included a potato chip and a pencil. After viewing my unspectacular death by potato-chip-and-pencil, I turned to God and said, Ok, You win.

A book I think I shall some day buy: The Hollywood Assistant's Handbook. I got to flip through it some in Barnes and Noble the other day, and besides having a snarky sense of humor, it actually had some interesting and helpful tips for aspiring Hollywood assistants. Not that we actually aspire to be assistants...

Monday, August 25, 2008

I don't know what it is about me that screams well-informed native, but on my routine jaunt around town, two people stopped me to ask for directions. Little do they know that my working knowledge of how our area is laid out, the bus routes, and the direction of the nearest highway is pretty much nil.

I proved this by, after giving these helpless strangers muttered and vague directions, making poor travel decisions. There's a large mall some ways away from my house, but I was already out at a coffee house and decided that it was much too early to head in. So I decided to see if I could find out a good way to get to the mall from the coffee shop. I don't know; back roads may work, but only when there's not a river between you and your objective. And I seem to have a knack for picking the side of the road with the most unkempt sidewalk. If there is a sidewalk.

The thing is, I don't have a bad sense of direction. I kept a pretty good mental map of where I was in relation to the mall - even when I was passing it and walking far beyond it on the wrong side of the river. And I could have given up, easily turned around and walked back to the house or maybe to the library where I could be sure of air conditioning and wireless, but once I set my mind to go somewhere, I'm not easily deterred. First I just wanted to get over that bloody river. Once I had crossed the river, I had won. But once I had finally found a road over the river, I knew I was close to the mall. And once I was that close to the mall, there was no way I was going to give up and turn around. Even though the site of a Cinnabon almost broke my determination down. Moral of the story? Even though it's not always fun to be a pedestrian walking along major roads boarding major highways, the back roads are not always quicker or easier.

So I made it to the mall. But it's actually a pretty boring mall. Quite upscale and out of my price range, so that as I wander around with my flip flops and Steve Madden backpack, I feel like I have to be watch out for the security guards who look more like policemen, just in case they might throw a vagabond like me out.

The redeeming quality? A Barnes and Noble. Where I plan on spending plenty of time happily perusing books I'll buy later on until I call my dad and see if he can drive over a couple towns to pick me up...

Friday, August 22, 2008

Really Enjoyable

I am not a hot weather person. I tried to convince myself that I was, that I was sad when it started getting cold up in the mountains at the end of camp, but the truth is, I can only handle it for a couple of days. That's with the promise of air conditioning somewhere in the house.

I am slowly getting back into the life and mindset of a film major. I'm checking up on the blogs I follow, buying new yellow legal pads, playing with ideas, trying to convince my brother my website needs to go up now, doing research (gasp!). Most of my ideas for independent-of-class projects seemed to just slide away in improbability, but a couple of nights ago I got a new idea for a stand alone short. It's pretty depressing, about as opposite from "Join This Group?" as you can get, but it's sorta dropped into my head fully formed. Might as well write it down. I'm having trouble with some of my feature ideas, hashing them out, finding the tension, getting a handle on good pacing. Sometimes there are so many decisions to be made about a story, I'm not sure what direction to take it in. Part of this is...

I have the attention span of a hyperactive puppy. Though I'm not really hyperactive. This makes focusing on a story long enough to work out what the best plot is really really difficult. I've always been sort of an impulsive and impatient writer. My screenwriting professor last year labeled me a "binge writer." It's true. I really enjoying writing "Collapse" last semester when I had five hours before class and half an act to write. Because I have no choice but to focus then. Still, part of me thinks it's a little bit silly to focus while I'm at home. Why start working on a new project when my second screenwriting class is going to start in a week or two? Especially since I'm hoping to convince the professor to let me take two scripts through the rewriting coursework, instead of just one...

I'm also reading a book, which is, with my fore-mentioned attention span, sorta a thing of the past. But I'm reading Card's Ender's Game and really enjoying it. And listening to Coldplay's new CD, Viva la Vida, and really enjoying that. And as much as I said I hated hot weather, it's not too bad today, so all in all, this has turned into an enjoyable afternoon.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Beautifully positive :)

They were sitting
They were sitting on the strawberry swing
Every moment was so precious

They were sitting
They were talking under strawberry swing
Everybody was for fighting
Wouldn't wanna waste a thing

Cold, cold water bring me round
Now my feet won't touch the ground
Cold, cold water what ya say?
When it's such…
It's such a perfect day
It's such a perfect day

I remember
We were walking up to strawberry swing
I can't wait until the morning
Wouldn't wanna change a thing

People moving all the time
Inside a perfectly straight line
Don't you wanna curve away?
When it's such…
It's such a perfect day
It's such a perfect day

Now the sky could be blue
I don't mind
Without you it's a waste of time

Could be blue
I don’t mind
Without you it’s a waste of time

Could be blue,
could be grey
without you I’m just miles away

could be blue
I don’t mind
Without you it’s a waste of time

- "Strawberry Swing" by Coldplay

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

If I were Dorothy...

I'm back. Back to the land of normalcy, of things we take for granted like cell phone service and clean showers and air conditioning. It was a long, difficult summer, but in the end I think God accomplished a lot, and that's what matters. However, it will be nice to take a break from being that princess treading water. ; )

So don't judge me yet. But I'm going go to see the Star Wars Clone movies. It's only because it's free and it's quality time with my brothers. Hayden Christensen isn't even really in it...

It's hot. I can't really focus or think all that straight. I'm trying to get back into the swing of writing. Or at least in the writing mindset. I didn't write at all during camp proper, and the time I did spend writing during precamp totaled about 45 minutes. I looked through some of my screenplay files today. There are actually a couple of ideas that I really like. I wrote down a couple of goals I have for this upcoming semester. It's a bit difficult to get back into writing after not having written for two months. I think that most of my confidence comes from writing, so I feel like a lot of it has been sapped away. Every time I sit down to write there's an underlying sense of panic anyway. The longer I spend away from writing the worse it gets. Oh well. Baby steps back into the writing lifestyle. My uni town has a much better writing atmosphere anyway. And a class to help motivate me.

I've been listening to a few of Coldplay's new songs. Amazing, as always.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Deep in the 100 Acre Woods

So I've been learning some things. Like be careful what you say in Bible Ex when talking about your seat choice or about the water that flows from the dam. But on a serious side, this job is exhausting and sometimes oddly rewarding. Still, I'm counting down the days until I can hold my baby nephew.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Cherith Castaways

This week... yeah. Let's just leave it at that.

Saturday, July 26, 2008


I went to the rodeo, and it was such amazing fun. I can completely see a movie set there behind-the-scenes, a la A Mighty Wind or Best in Show.

Sports Mania

So I was in Borders today (on day off), and found a journal that was like creativity on training wheels. On each page it told you what to write/draw/doodle/sew. It was an interesting idea, if a little odd when one stopped to think about it. Why shouldn't we be able to come up with what we want to fill our journal pages with on our own?

I literally lived in darkness for half the week. It stormed a lot this week, which is really a nuisance when most camp activities take place outside and any time there's thunder it all those activities have to shut down for twenty minutes. My most exceptional day this week was by far Wednesday.

It was pouring that morning, just like it had Monday morning and Tuesday morning. The counselors in our division were sitting in our little room shelter out in E-land, just finishing up our morning meeting, when the bugle started to crackle. It was about time for the bugle to play from the PA system to wake the campers up, but there was something a little odd about the crackling. Oh no, we thought, it's going to blow really really loud. Instead of the normal bugle, however, a deep, male voice comes from over the PA system.


By the time we found out officially it had been a mistake, we were already soaked in the thunder storm, and our girls were more than woken up. Things went back to normal. But the storm got worse. And worse. Until our division director collected the girls in the division early and took them away. I decide to hang out in the division for a bit longer. Until lightning struck very close behind one of the tents, and I made a run for it. Sadly, my poncho was in the staff lounge.

By the time I got to the dining hall, almost the entire camp was there, having been evacuated from their divisions. The girls tried to have their morning devotional times at their tables, some of them still in their pajamas. Their counselors raided extra staff clothing bags in the laundry room for dry clothes while dozens of shoes were thrown in the dryer. We played Scattergories as a camp after breakfast until the storm had calmed down enough for us to return to our divisions and follow rainy day procedures for the rest of the morning.

The sun didn't come out again until Thursday after lunch. My girls emerged from the tent after rest time, stepped into the sun, and cried, "Look at the sky! Look at the sky!" In my imagination, they're definitely raising their hands and pointing their fingers.

It was interesting, no doubt. A little bit fun and a little bit scary, if only during the false fire alarm. I'm actually kinda grateful for the storms, though. Prior to the fire alarm and the evacuation, I had been in a terrible mood, brooding on frustrations and annoyances and fears. All the craziness helped break the routine and helped dismiss my frustrations. This summer at camp hasn't been the easiest, and there have been a lot of discouraging moments. But I don't take that as an indication that I shouldn't be here.

I'll probably just be oh so tired when I get home in three and a half weeks.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Once Upon a Time in a Nursery Rhyme

Meet me in Chicago
Down by the water line
Step across the gold coast
To my heart and to your wine
Maybe Cincinnati
With a trip in the morning light
Step across the branches
I will follow you over the Rhine

And it takes one to know one
That's what they always say
I've waited for the dawn
And I've waited for the day
Oh, I'm coming low
And I'm willing to pray
Stepping through the haze
One more day on a wide open road
On and on and the lights come and go
And everything I might not even know
What is the distance
On through the resistance singing

Meet me in Portland
Roast here in the summer light
See you in the evergreens
I will catch you down on the Northeast side
And maybe San Diego
Moonlight at the lowest tide
See you in the shoreline breaker
Stepping over my maker's line

And it takes one to know one
That's what they always say
I've waited for the dawn
And I've waited for the day
Oh, I'm coming low
And I'm willing to pray
Stepping through the haze
One more day on a wide open road
On and on and the lights come and go
And everything I might not even know
What is the distance
On through the resistance singing

You met me on the backstreets
Right there at the end of the line
Where a spark turns into fire
And a tear falls into life

And it takes one to know one
That's what they always say
I've waited for the dawn
And I've waited for the day
Oh, I'm coming low
And I'm willing to pray
Stepping through the haze
One more day on a wide open road
On and on and the lights come and go
And everything I might not even know
What is the distance
On through the resistance
On a wide open road
On and on and the lights come and go
And everything I might not even know
What is the distance
On through the resistance singing

Meet me in Chicago
Down by the water line
You stepped across the gold coast
Stepped into this heart of mine

- "Chicago" by Mat Kearney

Saturday, July 12, 2008

High School Musical

I really like the outdoors. I especially like lakes.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Indiana Jones

Week One of camp is over. I counseled in my favourite tent, Heffalump. It was a crazy, stressful week. I learned a lot though, and got some wise counsel from a friend, and in the end everything was going great. Normally, I love day off. In fact, we've changed the words of one of our came songs to talk about day off, but even though I'm excited to be out in civilization for a few hours and able to wear heels and thrilled about the girls I get to counsel next week, I'm a little more sad to see these Week One girls go than I have been before. There's just a lot more that I'd love to talk with those girls about. I guess sometimes you have to be content with planting seeds.

I haven't gotten to see my nephew yet - I won't until August - but I got to hear him make some little noises on the phone. He's adorable!

I haven't been able to write at all, but that was expected.

But now that I'm back in cell phone range, there are a million people I have to call. If you love me, and know how much I hate the phone, love me enough to write me a letter instead...

Saturday, June 21, 2008

I'm an aunt!

My sister had a beautiful baby boy on Tuesday, June 17th. I'm thrilled beyond words!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

I should be an aunt today.

But my sister apparently planned something the day after she was due, so she apparently wasn't anticipating having a baby today.

We're so close to getting the Lives Agape website up and running...

I took some engagement photos for a friend. It was one of the early days of the heat wave and therefore a bit gross after the first seven minutes, but the location was also very beautiful. However the pictures came out lovely, and my other best friend and her sister want me to do their engagement pictures when I come back from camp in August. I don't think I'm necessarily an exceptional photographer, but maybe that's because I have people who know what they're doing and equipment to make it happen with. Still, it's a fun thing to do on the side for friends. Maybe one day I'll make a portfolio, just for kicks.

Tonight is my last night at home for a while. Tomorrow it's off to camp, where there's no cell phone service and email only comes in and out once a day on a group email address. I'm excited. I'm excited to see my friends and invest in the campers and enjoy atmosphere of camp. I get to live in one of these, named after a Winnie-the-Pooh character:

My favourite is Heffalump.

I'll be updated every Saturday or so. Probably less about writing because I don't really get a lot of time to write while I'm up at camp. Regardless, I have a lot of projects going on - draft three of The 4:05, work on Current Draft, producing plans for the One Shot series, and writing websoides. But more likely I'll be talking about the fun things that happen at camp, my continued ruminations and theories on the glass ceiling, and other things I'm learning.

I'm looking forward to the next two months, for sure.

Normal Like You

They said you called me maybe yesterday
I don't even have the strength to pick up the phone
Wouldn't even know me since you went away
The prozac doesnt do it for me anymore

You ought to take your medication everyday
Be a good dog, live life in a wonderful way

Tell me why you want to be blind
I don't want to be normal like you
I know now, everyday
I get closer
To the place inside where I can be normal too

I heard those stupid people talk about you again
I just have to laugh to keep from hurting bad
Their simple minds just cannot seem to understand
You are neurotic and depressed
It doesn't mean that you're sad

You walk around oblivious to everything
You wear that party dress and black mascara
Like you're queen for the day

Tell me why you want to be blind
I don't want to be normal like you
I know now, everyday
I get closer
To the place inside where I can be normal too

I will never be normal like you
You walk around oblivious to everyone
I see you walking slow and simple
Underneath the big black sun

Tell me why you want to be blind
I don't want to be normal like you
I know now, everyday
I get closer
To the place inside where I can be complacent

Yes, I get closer
To the place inside where I can be sedated

Yes, I get closer
To the place inside where I can be normal too
Where I can be normal like you
Maybe normal like you
I can be normal like you

- Everclear

Thursday, June 12, 2008

I was researching, and I found this:

What the crap? How do you even say that?

I miss My Boys.

I phase out of TV a lot. I didn't really have any shows that I was following, except for cycles of America's Next Top Model. Then I got involved in Lost, and I love it. I started watching The Office socially, and I binge watch DVD episodes of it. But when I come to my parents' house, and I don't have much to do, I watch a lot more TV. My most recent obsession? My Boys.

The funny thing, I never really watched it when I watched it. It just came after another show, and I would always have it in the background while I played on my computer. (You know what I miss? Scarab of Ra. That was an awesome game.) I think I related to the premise of one girl with a group of guy friends. But osmosis worked, and last week the episode ended on a cliffhanger, and I've had to wait a week to find out the answer to who PJ brought with her to Italy! So now I'm nominally interested. As in, interested enough to continue watching the reruns through tomorrow until I leave for the land of no technology what so ever.

But I love Lost most of all. It's sorta redeemed TV for me, I think, though I'm not like a TV junkie or anything. But I think that there are some really good stories being told in very well crafted ways on TV right now.

I like drinking tea at night, but it's been too hot to think about it the past couple of days. It's finally cooled down, and I can enjoy a nice cuppa tonight.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Still something's missing - Are we speaking the same language?

There are some things people should know about the City. One of them is that it creates this weird time/space vortex, which makes going around it, through it, or under it more tricky than it would be to cross that distance in any other situation. We forget that we live near any ocean. When the City is in the middle of two destinations, you should think long and hard about what it is that is so great about the thing on the Other Side. Some people will never understand why in movies and TV shows people are chagrined and slightly frightened when they have to move from Manhattan to one of the other boroughs. These people will also never understand how the City two opposing points long distance automatically. On the flip side, the City is the most amazing American city there is.

Speaking of the City...

I had two very different movie experiences last week. I went to see Sex and the City with one of my best friends, and then the next night took my two brothers to go see Prince Caspian. I thought the City was well done and delightfully entertaining and true to the tone of the TV show (probably more like the uncut version, not like the TBS version that I watch). Prince Caspian was amazing, though. Incredible movie that I would definitely pay (a reasonable amount) to see again in theatres.

But one of the most interesting things didn't have to do with the film itself. My friend and I went early to the theatre for The City, about half an hour, and there was already a line to get in. In Prince Caspian, there was only a man and his little daughter who kept saying "Zombie!" during the previews (friend of yours, Emily?). There are a couple of variables here, location of theatre, release date, day and time, but this, I think, is the real reason why The City showing was packed and Prince Caspian was not.

Optimum is giving away free tickets. If you have Optimum Triple Play, you can get two free movie tickets to Clearview theatres every Tuesday and six dollar tickets every other day. In an area where the going ticket rate is $10.25, that's reason enough to use Optimum. I know that I wouldn't have gone to see The City in theatres if my ticket wasn't free. And my friend reports that the crowds at the Clearview on Tuesdays have been crazy. When we went the parking lot was more full than on a Friday night.

I'm not a business major or economics major or anything - but this is a theatre going behavior worth noticing. Who's making the money here? Are these free tickets being counted toward box office totals? How many paying theatre goers have been stolen away from weekend premieres to see a movie on a Tuesday? Are the theatres making loads from selling concessions to packed out theatres on a Tuesday night? Are people more willing to buy concessions after saving money on a free ticket? How many of those full houses were people who had gotten free tickets and how many were friends that came along for the discounted price?

My family just switched to Optimum again today. My dad said a door to door salesman came by with an offer he couldn't refuse. He also told me that the same company - Time Warner - owns Optimum, Clearview, and all the other businesses that rewards are offered for. So the money stays in the family. I am just pleased that I will be getting "my own" Optimum card.

Still, there's something worth thinking about here. If the price of movie tickets dramatically dropped- maybe from ten dollars to six dollars like Optimum customers get - would that bring more people back to the theatre? Or are people going to go regardless? I wasn't going to pay to see The City in theatres, and I didn't. But that extra person in the theatre increased the potential that concessions were going to be sold, that the free ticket holders were going to bring extra friends, guaranteed that they were going to be exposed to advertising for more movies. On the flip side, I was going to pay to see Indiana Jones. But tomorrow we're using the passes to get our two free tickets and one discounted one, from thirty dollars to six. Maybe it evens out. Maybe there's not enough of a dramatic change in movie going trends to warrant a change in the theatre business. But when Tuesday nights are packing out better than Friday night premieres - it's worth thinking about.

PS. I'm glad Susan got to cause some serious damage in those battle scenes.


A strangled smile fell from your face
It kills me that I hurt you this way
The worst part is that I didn't even know
Now there's a million reasons for you to go
But if you can find a reason to stay

I'll do whatever it takes
To turn this around
I know what's at stake
I know that I've let you down
And if you give me a chance
Believe that I can change
I'll keep us together whatever it takes

She said "If we're gonna make this work
You gotta let me inside even though it hurts
Don't hide the broken parts that I need to see"
She said "Like it or not it's the way it's gotta be
You gotta love yourself if you can ever love me"

I'll do whatever it takes
To turn this around
I know what's at stake
I know that I've let you down
And if you give me a chance
And give me a break
I'll keep us together, I know you deserve much better

But remember the time I told you the way that I felt
That I'd be lost without you and never find myself
Let's hold onto each other above everything else
Start over, start over

I'll do whatever it takes
To turn this around
I know what's at stake
I know I've let you down
And if you give me a chance
and believe that I can change
I'll keep us together whatever it takes

- Whatever It Takes

Friday, June 06, 2008

I walked 7.5 miles today.

Just thought someone should know. The only other time I've walked that much was when I was stuck in the nether reaches of Norfolk county in England on a Sunday without public transportation (surprise!) and had 9 miles to go still until I got to my hostel.

I miss acting. Friend A. teases me because one time I made a very pretentious remark about how I am a "trained actress." Which isn't false. I spent two years studying theatre at my old university, and I wasn't a bad actress. I had terrible problems with my diction and annunciation, though, and that stabbed me in the foot.

How come actors can become writers and directors, but writers and directors can't become actors? There's a lot of advice about how writers and directors should take acting classes to understand what helps actors connect with stories, which I think is a great idea. I think the acting classes I took help me know when I write, sometimes when I direct. But I would love to put those acting classes to actual acting use. How does that look, though, when a writer wants to act in their script? I get such audition anxiety - it's been so long since I've acted - I'm so busy with the production side of filmmaking - will I ever have an opportunity to act outside of self casting? How much will my crew snicker if I try to act in something I've written or am directing or am producing?

Basically I want to be Zach Braff.

Have you ever been away for a few days, and when you come back, you're expecting the world to have shifted on its axis? I don't know what it is about being away, just being a little more out of touch than normal, especially when the days have been earth shattering for me, to come back thinking that I'll find out some revelation in a friend's life. The funny thing is, nothing shocking ever does happen. What if I started expecting...nothing?

Thursday, June 05, 2008

I may be the only faintly conservative person left in the industry.

I can't stand internet political editorializing. It especially gets me when it's the people who like to insinuate a lot of nasty things about the other side and make sweeping generalizations without recognizing any good points that might come from said other side because said author doesn't have to. This happens on both sides.

I was remotely interested in politics when I was in high school and the first two years of university. My favourite part of the College Republicans magnet I got was that the slogan was "Best party on campus." We were a dry campus, too. Then I went to England and taking care of four foreign children became more important to me than who had the majority in Congress. I am pretty much uninformed and generally quite apathetic. However, at least I know this and will therefore refrain from name calling and diss throwing.

But really - I am shocked at how many entertainment professionals and preprofessionals are throwing around their cynicism and anger and arguments. I go to people's blogs to find out more about the screenwriting craft and instead I read their latest snarky remark on current politics. Look, I have a lot to say about the economy and homeland security too. But I find negative one liners distasteful and often too general and mean spirited to be true. I think I get upset, too, because using such anger when expressing your beliefs communicates a general disrespect for people on the opposite side. The other side is always referred to as "crazy." Those extreme right wingers or the crazy liberals. Well, you're sure going to swing a lot of votes that way.

There are points and counter points beyond belief, numbers and statistics and stories that could make your head swim. That doesn't invalidate the other side. It just means that it's a complicated situation, and nobody should be vilified for their beliefs.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

It's got a special sort of sound

We're dog sitting a beagle this week. He's really cute, albeit a little sedate (I want a huge, hyper dog when I finally have time and money to take care of one). I think my dad likes him most of all.

I have this great rolly chair in my room. I love it. I've been shooting myself from my desk to my light switch, which is a grand total of six feet and yet is the longest distance I can go. The chair is also old and disproportionately weighted, so I never go in a straight path. Unfortunately, my mom just pointed out that it's old and gross wheels have been making marks all over my floor. Which means I have to stop sliding around all over the place and stay on the carpet right in front of my desk.

I recently named a character Karlsbad Wonkite. Doesn't that just sound like fun? Wonkite has to change, of course, but I might keep the Karlsbad.

Now that I have a desk in my room I finally have a place for my typewriter. It's a little difficult to write screenplays on a typewriter, because of the format, but I've been using it the past couple of days to write out notes. We're getting our bathroom redone, you know, and I was heading downstairs this morning when one of the workers said he was surprised to hear the typewriter from my room.

I've seen a lot of great movies and had some interesting theatre experiences recently that I anticipate talking about, but not right now. I am clearly unfocused tonight.

It's one of my blog goals to be mentioned on Mystery Man's Screenwriting News and Links one week.

Instead, I'm going to mention links I found on other blogs, specifically about women in Hollywood. You may not *be* a woman, but chances are you work with one or are trying to sell a movie to several hundred thousand. Here's one Amanda put up about Sexism in the City. But I really like this one about women working in Hollywood (I don't remember which blog I found this link on, sorry!). Real influential women in the industry talk about how "Knocked Up" fails female wish fulfillment, how hard it is to make a movie with female leads who aren't romantic leads, and - most interesting to me - how a male producer can excuse himself from a meeting to take care of a child's ear infection to admiration, but the same action by a woman would be viewed very differently.

I am going to be an awesome aunt

Look what I got for the baby!

I was thinking about how resilient people are. I mean, really, we go through a lot of crap. All the time. Bad choices are made, people are hurt, things go out of control. Everyone's got a story or two or three. And yet, we keep going. What is it about hope? I just marvel at everyone sometimes, how amazingly brave people are. Indomitable. I hope people see how strong they are sometimes. We just need that encouragement sometimes.

And it's another thing when you realize what it is that keeps you going. I can be sort of a cynic sometimes. But to have an eternal source of joy and hope to combat the frustration that comes just from being a person in this world - but, I hate to be a Mastercard commercial, you know?

Friday, May 30, 2008

Because I actually have a life this weekend...

You should check out Brian Regan. He's so amazing. Try this one and this one and this one. And this one too. Oh okay, and especially this one. Now go find your own. Bet the renovation guys looove listening to this through my door and hearing me try not to giggle.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Trouble with Love Is

Not that we're talking about my love life, dear Reader. Only once in the past six months have I let myself spill anything relating to that and was subsequently ridiculed by dear friend A. So now I'd blush to think of doing such a thing again - at least for another six months.

No, I am talking about the trouble with love in movies. Have you ever spent time thinking about the relationships in movies - whether or not they're realistic or well supported or even written well? What about when you're writing a relationship - ever realized how incredibly difficult it is to do, especially without resorting to the stock montage of dinner-movie-walk on the beach? I was thinking about how it pops up in my writing, and here's what I realized:

Nobody ever falls in love before the midpoint in any of my feature length specs. In 2 of my specs, they've known/had feelings for the person since before the movie started, in 1 nobody falls in love, and in The 4:05, the only spec where characters first meet and then fall in love, it's not until the very end of the movie. It's also incredibly difficult to establish why two people are in love. I don't think we can blame that on writing, necessarily; I think that's more the fault of love. I'm trying to write a webseries, and in the first five minute episode I have to establish the history of a long and loving relationship between two characters who are currently going through a rough patch. That's tough. What sort of three minute scene can you write to show the history of trust and care between two people? Love is difficult stuff to write. Especially in the constraints of two hours.

But let's reflect on the plethora of romantic movies out there.

Catch and Release - This movie didn't get great reviews. However, I was impressed with the writing - because for some odd, inexplicable reason, it had me thinking that Timothy Olyphant was ultimately better for Jennifer Garner than Sam Jaeger was. Frankly, I should have been outraged that she didn't fall for Jaeger. He had been secretly in love with her all along and he was a much sweeter guy than Olyphant. And as a friend pointed out, there wasn't much support for a real love developing between Olyphant and Garner. I'm not saying there wasn't a relationship there, but there definitely needed to be more of a friendship.

Walk the Line - Brilliant. Why? My guess is because 1. it spanned several years and loads of heartbreak for both characters but 2. more importantly, the relationship between June and John went outside of mushy love feelings to grace, forgiveness, caring, and real devotion.

27 Dresses - Another cute movie. But even though Marsden helped Heigl with problems outside of their tense relationship, it just didn't ring "great true love" to me. So he pointed out that she had some major wedding issues and gave her a Blackberry. I don't know, maybe I just disliked the advice he gave after the rehearsal dinner and that tainted the entire thing for me.

Atonement - Look, I loved Atonement. It was beautiful and depressing and James McAvoy would definitely be able to get any woman to fall in love with him. But, I'm sorry, when was it that he and Knightley fell in love? Was it when they were twelve and still talking? Or at college when she avoided him like the plague? And her show of devotion and faith in him was truly moving - though I kept wondering why she had such faith in him. If it was because she loved him, well, I could have used a little more convincing on that.

Dan in Real Life - Cute movie, but I do not remember the last time I got hit on by a random stranger, felt comfortable enough to spend a life-sharing hour over tea with him, then been so tormented by that unfinished conversation that - even though we were under the eye of his entire family and therefore had to play distance games the entire time - I had to abandon my current relationship and run away.

Definitely Maybe - I liked this one, because I felt like there were very many real aspects of relationships there. Or maybe it was more about how relationships fall apart than how they stay together. I'm not saying it didn't have its quirky moments, but I think the relationship between Reynolds and Fisher had a very honest quality - people who care about each other for years, who are invested in each others' lives, who make mistakes, hold on, and finally get forgiven.

Garden State - This should scream disaster movie for me. At the end Zach Braff tells Natalie Portman, "You've changed my life and I've only known you four days." That doesn't happen in real life, are you kidding me? When was the last time your life was changed by someone you met four days ago? However, anyone who knows me knows this is my favourite movie in the world. While I'm generally skeptical about any movies where the characters have just met before falling in love, there are some that work. In Garden State, like in Trust last night, the characters who fell in love were looking for life change. I think that makes a life changing relationship a heck of a lot more believable, because there's an openness and honesty that comes when a person is looking for life change. The second reason why Garden State works is that, in those four days, Braff and Portman actually talk. About a lot of things, about their views on life, about their pasts and how it's screwed them up, about their present. If you're looking for life change, and you're going to be honest, and you find someone who is willing to be just as honest with you and care about you, you've totally sold me on their relationship.

Pushing Daisies - This is a great example (albeit being TV), because Chuck and Ned can't touch each other. There goes the storyteller's easiest method of expressing love.

An Officer and a Gentleman - I'm not going to analyze this one. I just like it.

Why worry about this so much? Why draw up theories about the relationships in your own writing and do case studies on produced movies? Why spend so much time on this?

Because you can't just expect that you can just slap the romance label on your movie and the audience will buy it. If you want me to believe two characters are in love, you've got to sell it to me. You can't just write the "falling in love montage" or stick in a little cutesy joke when they're snuggling or write that scene where the female protagonist finally breaks her emotional barriers down for the boy while Benny and the Jets is playing in the background. How do you express in a three minute scene the commitment, passion, history, devotion, and respect between two people? How do you take something that's often so very internal, especially the moment when you realize you love someone, and put that on the screen to be seen clearly and without question? There are a lot of standard methods, a date, a kiss, a conversation. But those alone don't demonstrate love. Maybe that the characters are having fun or that sparks are flying or they're finding each other trustworthy, but so often those motifs that we commonly think of as expressing love can express something else, feelings or emotions that can belong to just plain fun or happiness or companionship. Maybe we need to stop relying on motifs that can express something lower than romance to support the characters' love.

Maybe the problem is that we don't know what love is. I was looking for something to watch, and I stopped on "Platinum Weddings" for a few minutes, because it's wedding season here at home for the next year. The featured couple was talking about their relationship, and the girl said, "I love him because he makes me happy. Whether it's getting me ice cream or playing tennis, he always puts a smile on my face." I felt a little frightened for this girl. Because what happens when he no longer makes her happy, either because he doesn't want to or because she's gotten bored of it? That's not love.

Maybe it's not a problem of story telling. Maybe it's a problem of misdiagnosis.

Typically I don't like movies and music from the 80s...

Luckily, "Trust" was released in 1990. On the recommendation of my screenwriting professor, I watched it tonight. It was cute - I really liked it (and that's all the review you will get from me). I was reminded of "Say Anything" (1989!) during it - another great movie. I think because they are both super dramatic love stories about teenagers. If you think about "Juno," it took the whole movie for her to admit that she liked Bleeker. Of course, that's wasn't what the movie was about, really. But early in Act II in "Trust," Maria and Matt are defining love. In "Say Anything," John Cusack is letting nothing get in the way of him and his girl. There's just a level of beautiful and yet unbelievable amount of dedication in the romances of late 80s, early 90s teen movies. What are our teen romances now? Transformers and The Date Movie.

"I respect and admire you."
"Isn't that love?"
"No, that's respect and admiration."

- Trust

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

*Obligatory Post of Crisis*

Apparently, it only takes twenty minutes with me out of sight for my brother to forget that I'm home.

Filmmaking Theory/Practicals: I was watching a movie the other week - I don't remember which movie at all. Maybe The Royal Tenenbaums? There was a camera movement in the scene, from the face of the character, tilting down to something he held in his hand. And as the camera was tilting down, I thought, My gosh, what's in his hand?! (It was, by the way, not something of threatening importance.) The same information could have been conveyed through a cut from the character's face to the his hand. However, the dramatic tension would have been completely lost - or never existed. There's a lot of art in filmmaking with fewer cuts.

When we made "Join This Group?" one of the lovely things was the lack of camera movement - the majority of the footage was stationary camera interviews. There the challenge was simply making the short. But that style of camera set up was not especially creative. However, it fit the style of the short. There's nothing wrong with close ups and action-reaction shots, but I think a lot of time these are default camera setups. When story-boarding, there should be a lot of thought about why the shot is being used, what is included and excluded from the frame, the motivation for movement, artistry, etc. etc.

I was watching Sex and the City tonight (sigh, I opted out of a more artistic movie for it, but I had to multitask and just needed background TV - though I am getting really tired of all the commercials for the movie), and Mr. Big kept calling Carrie 'kid.' I almost snapped at the TV, I'm not sure how she made it through a whole series being called 'kid.'

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

All I Need

Here it comes it's all blowing in tonight
I woke up this morning to a blood red sky
They're burning on the bridge turning off the lights
We're on the run I can see it in your eyes
If nothing is safe then I don't understand
You call me your boy but I'm trying to be the man
One more day and it's all slipping with the sand
You touch my lips and grab the back of my hand
The back of my hand

Guess we both know we're in over our heads
We got nowhere to go and no home that's left
The water is rising on a river turning red
It all might be OK or we might be dead
If everything we've got is slipping away
I meant what I said when I said until my dying day
I'm holding on to you, holding on to me
Maybe it's all gone black but you're all I see
You're all I see

The walls are shaking, I hear them sound the alarm
Glass is breaking so don't let go of my arm
Grab your bags and a picture of where we met
All that we'll leave behind and all that's left
If everything we've got is blowing away
We've got a rock and a rock till our dying day
I'm holding on to you, holding on to me
Maybe it's all we got but it's all I need
You're all I need

And if all we've got, is what no one can break,
I know I love you, if that's all we can take,
the tears are coming down, they're mixing with the rain,
I know I love you, if that's all we can take.

A pool is running for miles on the concrete ground
We're eight feet deep and the rain is still coming down
The TV's playing it all out of town
We're grabbing at the fray for something that won't drown

- Mat Kearney

Friday, May 23, 2008

Ms. Franklin knows it

Isn't it weird how medical issues work? You know how in old movies they'd always talk about how they were going to the Rivera "for my health"? Always seemed a little cheesy, didn't it? Well, perhaps the East Coast rivera is good for my health, because I just had an issue drop from the looming "hey, I wonder if this is going to affect my future" to "meh, I should get a doctor's opinion on that one day." It's a nice relief (as opposed to an 'un-nice relief'??).

I'm exhausted. I can't concentrate well enough to write the thrilling and enlightening post on producing I was planning, so we're going to talk about something else instead. Ok, Reader? (If it's not, I don't care, you can just exit click out of here). I refer heavily to Zach Helm's Creative Screenwriting podcast, so you might want to listen to that.

Writers don't get enough respect. I know we bemoan this fact a lot, but there's a problem in the way that most writers approach this issue. The treatment of writers, the firing off of projects, the rewriting of others' scripts, the sending of hams as apologies, has created a sort of "expendable" label for writers. The problem is this - that we've started accepting this label, caving to the system - it makes writers cynical. Don't believe me? How many times have you heard writers tell other writers that Hollywood's going to change their script until its not the author's story anymore? I would say the biggest problem is not the Hollywood system - it's the writers that are giving in to it.

Writers do not demand enough respect for themselves. I think we're afraid to risk it, to demand certain terms. I think we're so desperate for success sometimes that we'll blind ourselves to the possibilities, hope that we'll be treated with respect, or at the very least now we've got an option or a greenlight, no matter what the story really is about now. Zach Helm wrote a personal manifesto. He wrote it after he realize he was making a career in a way that he didn't want a career. He was being fired from his own scripts, getting assignments on other's material, writing stories that weren't really in his vein. He could have kept going. Speilberg asked him to write a script. He could have written for Speilberg. In the end, choosing the integrity of the project, Helm was honest with Speilberg about his limitations with the project. Part of this just stems from what seems to be an incredible honesty Helm seems to have with his work. Part of this is just Helm's sense of respect. At this point, he had been working as a screenwriter for about seven years - without having a script actually produced. When he finished his manifesto, he had decided on a "group of rules": no bidding wars, no rewriting others' scripts, no assignments, he would sell only to those people he respected as filmmakers, and maybe most importantly, he requires involvement in the development of the script. He gets a voice in casting, and if they decide the script needs a new perspective, Helm gets to suggest the new writer. When he's talking at the interview about his manifesto, he says that he realized he no longer wanted the pressure of his script production to be on the studios and the stars, "I wanted the onus to be on me." That demands a level of respect for yourself, your craft, and your story.

I don't know - why don't writers do this? Why do we grudgingly accept Hollywood's role for us? Some might argue that it's necessary to get your foot in the door. I'm not arguing that you should be a jerk to the execs you want to greenlight your project or that you claim there are no notes that could possibly improve your story. My feeling is, if you write a great script, you have an obligation to yourself to respect that work you've done. And there's no reason why you should slowly light every page on fire because a company may not give you an option if you don't. It's okay to be firm about your story. If it's really that good of a script, the execs are going to want it. If they respect your story, how are you going to let them getting away without respecting you as well? No one's going to give us any more respect if we don't start acting like we deserve it.

This is sorta silly, but I have one example of how to respect your craft. I'm shy about showing friends my work. I think it used to be because I was (and yes, still am sometimes) insecure in my writing and am unsure how I'd react to negative feedback. However, my attitude's changing a little. When I give a friend some of my work, their level of respect for my work tells me a little bit about their understanding of me. I'm not saying that they need to love it or say that it's great or anything. But you know how when you're with a friend and they're excited about something or something huge is happening in their life, you want to know about it - even if you're not really interested in politics or engineering or agriculture? A friend's interest reflects respect. And in my closest friends, I really hope for people who can understand my passion for writing and respect that. And when I walk into a pitch meeting or an option meeting, I hope that these people who are invested in the business of storytelling will also understand my passion for my writing and respect that. If they don't, then they never should have called that meeting in the first place, right?

Maybe it would have been easier to write about producing after all. I'm just a little tired of all the cynicism that writers carry around from their expendable label in Hollywood. I think we just spent a few months showing how wrong that label is.

And my friend that I went wedding dress shopping with? She bought her dress tonight. It's beautiful. The maid of honor and I had a wonderful time oohing and aahing over the various dresses. We may also have snuck pictures of us wearing bridal tiaras.

Going to the chapel

Tonight I'm going wedding dress shopping with a friend. I'm so excited!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

I've been drinking tea and watching British TV.

If this was the olden times, when people picked wives based on their skills and knowledge, my marketability would have soared this past week. I have learned three new skills - wall paper removal, spackling, and driving (okay, that would have definitely counted against me before). And I've been seriously practicing my baking skills.

And I started writing again.

So what, that lasted like a week and a half? I mean, I think that it's good to have a balanced mindset - so often writers are pressured to write write WRITE all the time, productivity is king, you need to always always always be working on a project (or two) in some way shape or form. And if this is to be your career, then yes, you need to work. But when the pressure starts to work against your creativity and your productivity and your fun (and your mental health), then you might want to consider a little break. And I had just finished a spec for class this past semester, so I can justify it in my mind. Besides, nothing makes you want to do something so much as not doing it. Or whatever.

So here are the projects. I've made my first few "official" notes for Current Draft, a children's spec. Right now I have more of a premise than a plot, more of a situation than a story, so I'm going to keep it percolating. I don't really want to do too much prewriting for it, though. I like exploring while I write. The other project I'm working on is a webseries. I outlined a couple sentences or so for twelve five-minute episodes before I took my break. I wrote the pilot today. It needs a lot of work for five pages, but I was still happy to have written actual pages for the first time in weeks. I also spent some time thinking about the feasibility of this project. A friend and I were talking about a webseries for next year. And to be honest, that one seemed a lot more infeasible, because we were talking several directors, rotating crew positions, having to make sure a lot of people coordinated in a way people don't coordinate if they're not getting paid. I really liked that webseries idea, though, so maybe we'll just make it a smaller production. So yes, that would be two series I want to produce this upcoming year. I'm not exactly daunted yet. I haven't set my heart on these series yet, but when I decide I want to do them - well, when I want something, it gets done.

Producing. I want to talk about producing later.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

10 Things To Do When You're Not Writing...

...but you still want to learn.

1. Read. Read books on writing. I've read Mamet's 3 Uses of the Knife, and while I disagreed with about half of what I understood, it got me thinking. Read stories that inspire you. Today I was reminded of Ted Chiang's "Story of Your Life," a Nebula short story winner. That story is brilliant - it gets a visceral emotional response out of you - I love it so much I once read it aloud to a friend. When you hear a story that's inspiring, it makes you want to share inspiration with someone else.

2. Review. Join Zoetrope or Triggerstreet. In the past two weeks I've read five features and one hour TV spec and written subsequent reviews. As you notice what works and what doesn't, you start to make mental notes for your own scripts. Keep a copy of all your reviews. Read all sorts of different genres - I just read a thriller and found out a know a whole lot more about that genre than I thought I knew. The trick here is to retain and implement what you apparently subconsciously know about other people's scripts into your own writing.

3. Network. There was actually a discussion about this going on over at Wordplayer last week. You don't want to just network - you want to actually make friends in the industry. It's more fun. So speak up on a couple of forums. Create a website, a blog, or go "old school" with MySpace. Comment on your favourite blogs and check out the other people who comment too. You might run across another great blog.

4. Watch movies. See above points. Pretty simple.

5. Listen to podcasts. Creative Screenwriting has an awesome collection of interviews with screenwriters and other filmmakers. More lessons to learn and advice to soak up. I think the most meaningful ones I've listened to are the ones with Zach Helm and Diablo Cody. Helm makes a great point about writing a personal manifesto, especially in the face of the disrespect writers get in the industry (and not writing when you don't want to). When Diablo talks about her breaking in experience, she mentions how great it was that she didn't know any of the "screenwriting rules" (and about not writing when you don't want to). I think it's really easy to get into a certain "struggling, desperate writer" mindset. Good interviews with professional writers helps put things in perspective again.

...and therefore have lots of time.

6. Learn how to drive. I went driving legally for the first time the other day. I rocked it out - in the empty parking lot at the back of the mall.

7. Redecorate your room. Tomorrow we strip off the wall paper and paint. Did you know Ralph Lauren has paint? For all those New England yuppies for who their Ralph Lauren polos and SUVs are not enough. My dad and I spent several minutes trying to figure out how RL's special painting techniques worked. I watched the little instructional video twice, then decided it wasn't worth it for this room. Maybe for my first ocean-view one bedroom apartment in LA.

8. Be thrilled Indiana Jones is getting pretty good reviews from the important places.

9. Bake. Last week I warmed up with chocolate chip cookies. Today I whipped up a chocolate cake with mint frosting and a melted chocolate layer on top of that. Later this week I think I'm going to try sugar cookies with a chocolate raspberry drizzle (we have chocolate raspberry chips, so it's sorta cheating), and then I'm going to master German chocolate cake.

...and finally

10. Get over it and get back to writing.