Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Why not to throw rocks inside the house

Boys should come with a relationship equivalent to Carfax reports.



You change your mind
Like a girl changes clothes
Yeah you, PMS
Like a chick
I would know

And you
Over-think
Always speak
Cryptically

I should know
That you're no good for me

Cause you're hot then you're cold
You're yes then you're no
You're in and you're out
You're up and you're down

You're wrong when it's right
It's black and it's white
We fight, we break up
We kiss, we make up

You!
You don't really want to stay, no
You!
But you don't really want to go-oh

You're hot then you're cold
You're yes then you're no
You're in and you're out
You're up and you're down

We used to be
Just like twins
So in sync
The same energy
Now's a dead battery

Used to laugh
Bout nothing
Now your plain
Boring

I should know
you're not gonna change

Cause you're hot then you're cold
You're yes then you're no
You're in and you're out
You're up and you're down

You're wrong when it's right
It's black and it's white
We fight, we break up
We kiss, we make up

You!
You don't really want to stay, no
You!
But you don't really want to go-oh

You're hot then you're cold
You're yes then you're no
You're in and you're out
You're up and you're down

Someone call the doctor
Got a case of a love bi-polar
Stuck on a roller coaster
Can't get it off this ride

You change your mind
Like a girl changes clothes

Cause you're hot then you're cold
You're yes then you're no
You're in and you're out
You're up and you're down

You're wrong when it's right
It's black and it's white
We fight, we break up
We kiss, we make up

You're hot then you're cold
You're yes then you're no
You're in and you're out
You're up and you're down

You're wrong when it's right
It's black and it's white
We fight, we break up
We kiss, we make up

You!
You don't really want to stay, no
You!
But you don't really want to go-oh

You're hot then you're cold
You're yes then you're no
You're in and you're out
You're up and you're down

- "Hot N Cold" by Katy Perry

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Joshua Radin said it best

My family left for Florida yesterday morning, and while I've hardly been alone in the past 48 hours, there is definitely a different feel to the unusually empty house. Why didn't I go to Florida with them? you ask. Especially since they took the car you usually drive, leaving you virtually stranded in New Jersey? I didn't go to Florida because my best friend and I are going to Vegas and LA. Glorious, glorious.

I've never been this far out west before, and I'm very excited about traveling to these new cities. Going to LA will be an especially interesting trip. We plan on doing mostly touristy things (I really would love to go to the Magic Castle, home of the Academy of Magical Arts, but apparently it's very exclusive and by invite only. So if anyone can get me hooked up with three invites.. ;) ), but LA may be my future home one day. LA and I are going for a test drive.

I feel like I think about next year all the time, which is especially weird because no matter how much I think about it now, no real decision will be made until this summer. I am pretty much split equally three ways about what to do when I move out of my parents' house this summer--

1. Stay in the area, get the nicest crappy studio apartment I can afford, and get a job that will be able to cover my rent, student loans, and car insurance paycheck by paycheck. Oh, and groceries. Or maybe I'll just alternate nights between my parents' house and my sister's.

2. Move back to Michigan. Cost of living is a little lower there, and most of my friends are still in the area. We'll see how the film industry weathers the winter.

3. Ditch all I've known and move some place new. New Mexico if I want to pursue a film job. Anywhere else if I decide I don't mind what my day job is.

Here's the break down -- Jersey offers some semblance of financial security. My current job loves me, and I might have another option to pursue. Michigan guarantees easily accessible friends. Most of my friends in Jersey live at least a half hour away. Stumbling block to a lot of my spontaneous social activity ideas. Option number three, the anywhere option, guarantees adventure, if only from the looming giant of my student loans as I settle into a new state with no friends and no job.

Financial security, friends, or adventure.

There's a greater plan that needs to be considered here. Unfortunately, I don't yet have that sort of lifetime concept for my life yet. If I want to be able to move to Europe, I should probably focus on financial security now in order to have adventures later. If I desperately need a change now, I can be a little riskier in my decision for next year even if it fetters me financial in the future. On the other hand, if I don't know what I want to do next year, how can I consider where I want to be in five years? Or ten? What about the people in my life? If I move back to Michigan, that will alter where I am in five years. So will picking up and moving to a place where I meet an entirely new set of friends. There can be one goal -- putting a priority of friendships -- with radically different outcomes.

What to do, what to do.

Sometimes I miss that time in college when you feel like you have the whole world waiting for your graduated entrance just as eagerly as you are. There was something different about those options. There was less ambiguity.

And then there are so many options. When you don't mind taking risks, you sometimes get confounded by lack of eliminated options.

Who knows though? This greatly anticipated trip to Vegas and LA may change everything. After all, my friends always said I would be the one to elope...

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Less freezing rain and more snow

Apparently, a girl knowing what an onside kick is not impressive enough these days. Well, I don't know if it ever was, but then again, I just heard the term "blocking in the back" a few weeks ago.

The days are full of Christmas and bad weather. Tonight is the second meteor shower of the fall that I won't get to see because it's too cloudy. My mom and I have made 17 different kinds of cookies, and one batch of dough is chilling in the fridge to be cut and baked tomorrow. This is a very important batch because it will be the record breaker for us. We've only ever made 17 kinds of Christmas cookies. It was my personal goal to break the record. And I still have more kinds I want to try. Other than that, I miss the usual semester's end rush to get things done. Maybe because when you have "I HAVE to get this screenplay done," you actually feel like you're doing important things. Or that at the very least, you DO get them done.

And I haven't gotten any writing done. That's mainly why I blog so little these days. I would just switch the focus of this blog a little but 1. I feel a little weird blogging more about my personal life and my job and 2. this "chronicles in screenwriting" blog is one of the few places that fuels me with any guilt at all about not writing.

On the writing front, the only real news is that I didn't get the ABC/Disney TV writing fellowship. I knew my chances weren't all that great, but how nice it would have been. This is definitely a contest I will want to enter again. And I haven't gotten my official rejection yet, but all the finalists are traditionally notified the week of Thanksgiving.

It's the holidays. I'll just watch Elf again.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Confessions

PostSecret has a cool video on its website this week. I think I recognize some of the locations from Central Park.

So I really like music. Unfortunately, I'm not good at finding music on my own. Most of my library comes from soundtracks to movies and TV shows or friend recommendation. Overall, though, I'm a little embarrassed to say that my music tastes are pretty pedestrian. Lady GaGa's "Bad Romance"? Love it. I will always stop for Whatcha Say, Tik Tok, and any Kelly Clarkson. On the flip side, I can barely stand Daughtery or that Empire State of Mind song. With three stations that play Top 40, some songs get rammed into you like a jack hammer. I have literally toggled between Z100 and 923Now when they're playing the exact same song. More than once.

I haven't been a diligent writer. I like to blame the holidays, because it's a very effective way to pass the buck. Who's going to argue with me over Christmas? I need to pick a project, though. Rewrite of Keys to the Garden or continued work on my collab spec? I have a YA novel idea I'm playing around with that I really like. Getting a day job has definitely increased my respect for full time writers who once juggled a job and writing at night - and sometimes with a family too. Inspiring.

However, I do have plans to write a travel narrative after my New Years' vacation with my best friend to Vegas and LA. Oh yes, that's called hitting inspiration before it hits you.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Yesterday one of my students told me my fingernails smelled delicious.

I hope I have a kid like him one day.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

"And you ask me what I want this year"


I love Christmas.

I love all things Christmas. I'm only interested in Thanksgiving as far as it starts the Christmas season, really. I was watching Elf Thursday night. I'm that person who wants to make December seem as Christmasy as possible. I sometimes get very emotional at candlelight Christmas Eve services. Calling Christmas break "winter break" is sort of a hot button issue with me. And I think every year my appreciation of Christmas grows.

This weekend has been incredibly Christmasy, even for my family. We've been Christmas cookie baking up a storm over here! By the end of the weekend, I think we will have baked at least six or seven different kinds of cookies. One of our batches yesterday made over 11 dozen cookies. That was just one type of cookie. The Butler women are intense when it comes to baking.

Today we went Christmas tree shopping. When I was a kid we always drove two hours upstate to some place with acres and acres of trees and each year a different member of the family was supposed to pick the tree. We joke that Mom picks every year. The tradition of going upstate morphed a little over recent years as my family got busier and moved a couple of times. Sometimes we didn't even get to a Christmas tree farm. A few years back we bought a tree on the sidewalk of Amsterdam Avenue the night before Christmas Eve. One incredibly misfortune year my parents went behind my back when they knew I hated fake trees and bought a fake tree and set it up while I was at work. Needless to say - worst. Christmas. ever.

Just kidding, Dad.

But seriously. Fake trees are an affront to Christmas.

We did not go to the Christmas tree farm of my childhood this year. We haven't been there for several years. It's a bit of a drive and apparently the pickings were getting slim. This year we went to a completely new tree farm. My mom called ahead to make sure they were open and they had a good selection of trees, etc. etc.

We should have suspected something when they said they also had a large selection of "Charlie Brown" trees.

When they told us that they had "thousands" of trees, they neglected to mention that half of them were still under six inches tall. I lobbied for one of the beautiful 15-footers, but we didn't bring our flatbed truck with us. The trees between these extremes were pretty bedraggled. And our family needs a sturdy tree. We have A LOT of ornaments. In the end we found one, a little sparse, a little misshapen, but a thousand times better than any artificial tree because of its ingrown imperfections. Fake trees are so perfect they look stupid. And really, is it more fun to drag your fake tree out of the attic and snap the pieces together or go on a mini road trip and stop for breakfast on the way and run around a Christmas tree trying to find the perfect tall skinny tree to fit behind the couch and in front of the windows?

Now, I have to figure out if I can hang any twinkle lights in my room and if this is a good year to suspend paper snowflakes from the ceiling again. Because yes, I'm twenty-three years old and still find 2nd grade paper decorations to be charming for Christmas.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Billy Mernit has an excellent post from his interview with Shane Black, mostly about how our decisions (and so maybe our lives, hm?) are determined by our fears.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Women in Film: Bridget Jones

I've been puttering through "Reading Lolita in Tehran" by Azar Nafisi for a while now. It's a really interesting memoir on life in Iran and I'd recommend it to anyone, even though I'm not finished with it. However, what I have to say has nothing to do with life in Tehran.

Nafisi was commenting on one of her literature classes in which they discussed Washington Square's heroine Catherine Sloper. Nafisi writes that "She is the inverse of our ideas of what a heroine should be: hefty, healthy, plain, dull, literate and honest... James strips away from Catherine the qualities that make a heroine attractive; what he takes away from her he distributes among the other three characters." I have a lot to say on women in film, and this analysis brought to mind a question I've had for a while now -- Who is a heroine? What is she made of? What qualities does she have? What does she want? What makes her different than a hero?

The definition of a heroine in literature is difficult enough, but I would argue that film has a more difficult time not only in defining their heroines, but in having heroines. Female characters are often functions of the plot, created to entice audience demographics, or simply romantic distractions.

Which brings me to Bridget Jones.

Bridget Jones. I love Bridget Jones. And while Bridget Jones is a modern take on Pride and Prejudice, Bridget Jones and Elizabeth Bennett are quite different characters. When I read Nafisi's description of Catherine Sloper, hefty, plain, dull, honest, the "ugly" heroine, I thought of Bridget Jones. She is very similar to Catherine. She is plump, stuck in a frustrating job, alone with a destructive fixation on a complete jerk, awkward, bumbling, and very unspecial. Bridget Jones is not Kate Beckinsale or Angelina Jolie because she is not the male fantasy character. She is a real heroine who is accepted with all her mundane qualities. Darcy likes her, just as she is.

I find Bridget Jones to be a satisfying heroine not only because of her realistic protrayl and the refusal to Barbie-fy her but also because of the way she deals with her life situations, not the least of which is her mangled love life. Bridget learns she has to either accept her life situations or commit to improving them, that it's not use wallowing but it's not use pretending to be someone she's not, either. When Bridget is interviewing for a new job in television, she botches every interview where she tries to appear more informed or passionate than she really is. But when she is honest about the reason she's looking for a new job, she finally scores it.

How a character handles the ever present problem of love is a large indicator of whether or not she is a true heroine. "Women's pictures" have often been criticized or mocked because they focus so much on love. Well most of life does too, so I'm perfectly content with that. However, I am critical of characters who find their happiness in love, especially when finally getting together with that special someone sweeps away all other problems. Well, if that special someone was Colin Firth, maybe I would feel the same way. But I love the scene where skeezy Daniel Cleaver has come back and got into a terribly awesome street fight with Darcy and he tells Bridget he wants her back, that if he couldn't make it with her how could he make it with anyone. And Bridget, even though she's been mad about this guy for ages, has enough self respect and courage to tell him that's not good enough. Just because Bridget Jones is an average girl doesn't mean she settles for an average (below average, really) man. In the end, she's the one who stands up and in all her awkward glory chooses Darcy, right in the middle of his parents' ruby wedding anniversary and his engagement announcement. Like Shawna recently expounded on in her blog, the heroine calls the shots. Bridget Jones definitely learns to call all her shots in her story and she does it her own way.

I love Bridget Jones. It's one of my go-to movies. And it's a bit of wish fulfillment, I know that. Watching this movie will be the closest I ever get to Colin Firth. But it's realistic wish fulfillment, if there's any such thing. I can't be many of the women in film these days. But I can be Bridget Jones, the woman who takes on life and falls in love, just the way she is.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

My Words are Stuck

I haven't written anything in about six weeks. Nothing. Not a treatment or a scene or even a logline. I haven't even pulled the typewriter out to plunk on it. I'm not even interested in reading screenwriting blogs. That's like my main procrastination method of choice. I have hard copy grammar and punctuation corrections that I can't bring myself to transfer to the computer file.

It's pretty bad, boys and girls.

It becomes a vicious cycle. I don't want to write anything, and so I don't write anything because I'm sure it will be awful, and then I feel guilty about not wanting to write, and so I don't write anything because I'm sure if I were a real talented writer I'd have turrets from needing to write so nothing I write could be good and why am I such a poser? Nonwriters don't understand this paranoia. Just imagine how you would feel if you suddenly found your favourite food made you gag or participating in your favourite hobby made you want to gouge your eyes out. Something like that.

I thought about cutting myself off completely. No blogs, no books, no script pages floating around. I could carry a legal pad and a pen, and in complete isolation from the rest of the screenwriting world, in silence and seclusion, I could doodle with whatever words peeked out from whatever dark reaches they're hiding in. Perhaps it doesn't need to be that extreme. But, I am definitely not going to push it. Paranoia punctures joy. And if under the layers of hard work and drained veins and hours of word-smithing, all crusted with a shallow layer of self loathing, if there isn't a core of joy underneath all that, then what's the point?

I'm just biding my time, blank page. Words will come when you least expect it...

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

I Just Like the Music


I've run the gauntlet when it comes to romantic entanglements. I may not have the depth of experience, but boy do I have the breadth. I've got it covered. From serious long-term relationship to blind date. Years long crush that resulted in a relationship to years long crush that resulted in a relationship for one of my best friends. Secret out-of-state flings to in-state impulses and all our friends involved. UPS delivered flowers to awkward first date double dates on Valentine's day. I dare you to name a situation I haven't been in.

Everyone seems to be getting together or breaking up, this year more than any other. The romantic landscape is reshaped every couple of weeks. I was in Michigan this weekend and the topic inevitably came up with some friends. And while talking with a few of my friends, I felt very strongly convicted of some truth I stumbled upon while stumbling around in other people's lives, that during a storm, lightning really strikes very few times.

Honestly, I'm in continual awe about how many relationships there actually are. These people all really like each other that much? There have only ever been two people in my life that so radically shifted my life into silly irresponsibility and illogicality, and only one of those people liked me in return at the same time. Of all the people I've met, over my (relatively short) life, only two -- TWO -- have completely distracted me. I find those odds a little insane.

On the flip side, it doesn't really worry me during those times where it's just me. Not that anyone enjoys being alone, but how many times do I expect - or want - to fall in love? If it happened all the time, would it be so devastatingly wonderful? I may only ever trip delightfully into the life of one other person -- but one is all I need.


; )

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Coffee Shop Karma

Yesterday, I got lunch at my new favourite coffee shop, the one I hang out at every work day morning and afternoon, before and after work. And as the owner/manager handed me my food he said, "And here's a brownie for a hard day's work."

I know I've more than paid for that brownie with my twice-daily visits to their shop, but it was an indulgently wonderful surprise.

Monday, November 09, 2009

2 Hours

The length of time I stared at the guy sitting in front of me on my Sunday morning flight from Detroit to Philadelphia, trying to recognize Ed Helm. In the end I decided that yes, I spent two hours six feet away from Andy Bernard from the Office.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Tomorrow

I will see some of my favourite people in the world in one of my favourite places in America. I'm so excited I can't even focus to pack.

Well, that's not true. That's just because I'm a procrastinator. But I am very excited.

Monday, October 26, 2009

From My Cornfield Days

Jon McLaughlin attended my first college, Anderson University. I've listened to some of his music, but this is the song that really stuck with me. Probably because it's terribly sad, and that's the kind of music I enjoy. :)



PS. He totally has happier songs too, if you're into that sort of thing.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Gleeked Out

I had a dream that I finally made this confession. I know it's not going to boost my popularity and may come as a shock to much of America, but here it is:



I don't think I like Glee.

I can applaud the hour-long comedy format, the relief and confidence that a popular new show must give the TV industry, and the catchy and Broadway dream inspiring musical numbers. I've watched all the episodes and will probably continue, so I guess they got me. But here's what I don't like --

TIRED PLOTS. Every week the story seems like an echo of before. Will gets distracted from Glee. Glee Club almost dissolves. Rachel storms off again. Or, in a variation, the football players have to choose between Glee and football. Glee Club almost dissolves. Fin struggles with his feelings for Rachel. Ken gets jealous of Will. Glee Club almost dissolves. On and on and on. Think of some new stakes, please! We know Glee Club isn't going to be canceled, whether it's threatened by its adviser's wandering attention span, lack of members, or deficit of popularity.

Saving grace - Sectionals are coming up. A NEW STAKE! Will Glee do well at sectionals? What will threaten their success? How will they overcome it? If it wasn't for this episode, I would fear that Glee would be treading water for the rest of the season. There's no forward motion.

THE ROMANTIC STORYLINES. This is my biggest problem with Glee. Why in the world is your strongest romantic pairing between a guidance counselor and a MARRIED man? No matter how much I like Emma - and she's one of my favs - I absolutely cannot root for her and Will. Sorry. I don't find infidelity attractive. I don't really care if it's clear that Will and Terri aren't right for each other. You dance with the one who brought you. And you stick with your wedding vows!

My prediction on how they're going to work this out - You can't have Will leave Terri for Emma. No one likes a home wrecker. He has to break up with Terri for reasons independent of Emma. The baby secret or some other unforgivable fault of Terri's will severe Will from his wife. There will be no marital counseling, either. This may not happen for a while, since you have to keep your romantic tension going as long as possible. But seriously, Emma - don't take your married crush wedding dress shopping with you. And Will? So much for "discouraging" her.

I have the same problems with Quinn-Fin-Rachel, but I find Fin less morally delinquent in his emotional confusion. But here's my biggest question about this romantic triangles - why is the girl the boy with such a shrew? I learned that the strongest choice you can make as a writer is to present your character with two equal choices - equally bad or equally good. So why are Terri and Quinn such controlling, love-sucking characters? Wouldn't the better, more conflicted choice be to make them just as attractive as their romantic rivals? Then it wouldn't be just a moral choice for Will or Fin. Terri tries, sometimes. She's just an idiot. I'd like to see Quinn act like she loves her boyfriend. Then her whole dilemma of "I love my boyfriend but I'm carrying someone else's baby which he thinks is his or he'd probably leave me" would be so much more interesting.

Sue Sylvester is the best part of the show. My favourite episode was when she and Will had joint control over Glee. Probably because there was a lot of her and none of Emma.

Look, the micro writing of Glee is great. I'm still watching it, aren't I? But the broad brush strokes? I've started to doubt. And yes, I love the musical numbers. But how much of a risk was that? Let's take songs everyone already loves and add some flashy choreography.

Glee, prove to me that you're more than a morally confused, wheel-spinning show ripping off the success of other artists. And I hope New Directions kicks butt at sectionals.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Now the Crossing Guard Knows Me Too

I remember now why the only reason I was productive my last year at Michigan was because I had a graded deadline. Life has been picking up, the new job, socializing (finally), embracing the crazy traffic patterns of Jersey. I don't know if it's because writers indulge in anything that helps them procrastinate or if it's because I take the Zach Helm approach to writing. But either way, I've hardly had guilt pangs about not writing all this past week.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Well the truth is

One of the employees at the coffee shop down the street from school recognized me today. It only took going there twice a day for a week. I think he might be the owner. I hope this translates into good things for me. For instance, today the barista bumped my tea up a size. Was it good karma, flirting, or just slacking on his part? I'll draw my own conclusions.

Since I finally have a paying job I've made a plethora of travel plans - though technically, I've yet to receive a check from this paying job. Back to my favourite US cold spot in a few weeks and an epic Las Vegas/LA trip with best friend for New Year's. There are also rumors of spring break plans (um, I get TWO spring breaks. That's right. I mean, the elementary school kids need breaks to relax from the stress, you know?).

Here's the thing -- screenwriting has been so slow. I think the polish is the worst draft ever. When I was a student, I rarely proofread my work. I hated it. One draft, written the night before, here ya go, Prof, it's an easy A. I've finished making the hard copy notes, but now I have to go through it AGAIN and actually make the changes. Also, my Act IV is about six pages too short. Which means writing more scenes. Creative energy, where are you? Also, I have to change some character names. They are just bulky and awkward. Changing names at the polish draft is bulky and awkward too.

I thought the polish would be over by now. So I'm giving myself another deadline. Saturday. It will be in the (e)mail by Saturday.

And yes, I do have a favourite student. :)

Monday, October 12, 2009

It's nearly mid-October

The month has gone by remarkably fast (I think the job has helped with that. One of my favourite stories of last week was when one of the boys asked me why I had a nail in my nose.) I wouldn't mind it slowing down some. Fall is my favourite. However, once we get done with October it's November (I just know my months so well) --

National Novel Writing Month.

I know I talk about screenwriting mostly, but my writing roots are in fiction. I haven't participated in NaNoWriMo in a few years now, but I have completed it three times, and it's always a good time. My favourite experience was when two of my college friends participated with me and we'd go to the library and have word sprints. My novel that year was a space opera with all characters named after Shakespearean characters. Should I try it again this year? I've been thinking about novel writing, but my main road block is that I haven't really come up with a great idea yet nor has that been a priority for me. And speaking of priorities, I want my screenwriting to take precedent over NaNoWriMo. So can I do it? Can I write a 50,000 word novel, keep consciousness during my job (so early...), be dedicated to my screenwriting, pursue my other personal goals, and take continuing stabs at a social life, all during one month?

I'll probably decide October 31st.

Also, NBC cancels Southland before it airs. I don't know -- there just seem to be a lot of TV shows with tired premises this season. What made Southland different than any other cop show? NBC also has Trauma (hello, ER) and Mercy (Grey's Anatomy for nurses). Maybe you won't have to cancel your shows if you come up with a new and compelling premise.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Do not have the energy of a 2nd grader anymore.

Having a real job is draining, whew!

Really really screwed up the DVR tonight. No Bones or Office. :(

Busy busy long weekend coming up.

And, just for the record, I completed a readable draft yesterday -- two days before my self imposed deadline. Then I made a batch of cookies to celebrate (mmm, yes, it's sort of related). I have one more polish I want to do before I send it to anyone, a few minor alterations I thought of while rewriting, but I am satisfied with my progress. Anyone who owes me a favor, you'll probably be getting a plea for a read around this time next week.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

I like car-dancing to Sean Kingston's "Replay"

Today was my first day at the day job. I'm working as a teacher's aide for a second grade classroom. It's crazy and a little overwhelming, but I think I'm going to like it. Everyone I've met so far has been really great. It reminds me of camp in a lot of ways. Our children line up in classrooms before school, once we're inside we say the pledge and sing a patriotic song, and the teacher raised her hand for quiet. It made a good first impression on me.

I had three different Michigan experiences today. The first (and I think the most awesome) was when I saw one of the other second graders (not in my class, sadly) with Michigan 'M' face tattoos on both her cheeks. She is being well trained. The second was a University of Michigan decal on a car. And the third was when I was at Starbucks and I inadvertently saw the wallet of the guy I was behind of in line. He had a Michigan student ID card. (So of course I asked him if he was an alumni and then had to awkwardly defend any assumptions that I was a creeper because I was looking at his wallet.)

Finished Act III of the pilot rewrite. I have until Friday to write Act IV (which requires the most actual rewriting, of course), I'll take a day or two to make minor alterations and polish it up, and by next week it should be read-ready. I also implicated myself into a script swap in about a month with a former screenwriting professor. That's great because it'll give me a hard deadline to work towards. But I'm going to have to jump on that as soon as I'm done with this draft of the pilot, and I haven't even decided which script I want to pursue.

Also, I saw a guy bike riding on route 17 tonight. Anyone from Jersey knows how ridiculously insane that is.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Last day of summer vacation

Tomorrow (Lord willing) I start my new job. Today I took advantage of the incredible fall weather and my last day of freedom. Here are some of my favourite pics from the day.




Friday, October 02, 2009

Do I notice a trend?

I was watching FlashForward tonight with my family when I realized the male leads from three of my favourite shows are all FBI agents: Seeley Booth from Bones, Paul Ballard from Dollhouse, and Mark Benford from FlashForward. And now there's Vaughn the CIA agent from Alias.

So the real question is: is this a reflection of TV trends or a reflection on me?

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Carpal tunnel froze your fingers?

That's writer equivalent for "Cat got your tongue?" Psh, I don't know, I hate making up titles for my blogs. Or my screenplays or teleplays or novels or anything.

Since I have the attention span of a goldfish (yay, I'm shiny!), I sometimes am unable to read through other writers' brilliant and looooong blog posts. I don't know how most of them do it, by the way. Maybe that's why those people are real writers...

Hehe.

Anyway, one of the blogs I was so perusing in my scany eyes-glazed-over way was Kay Reindl's post Readers & Writers that followed up on Josh Olson's angry diatribe. These particular passages jumped out to me, emphasis mine:

I can tell if someone can write. End of story. The script may not be very good. The writer may have made all of those rookie mistakes that we all made. But if that person has the ability to write, I CAN TELL. If they have a tin ear for dialogue, I CAN TELL. If they can't structure a story, I CAN TELL. Not because I'm successful, but because I've read three million screenplays. I've been in writer's rooms breaking stories. I've given notes. And I've written. I've read scripts that are hot messes, but there's a voice there. Writing is ALL about voice. Either you have it, or you don't. Sure, people can learn to structure stories correctly. They can learn the mechanics of writing. But they CANNOT learn to be writers. Either you have a voice, or you don't. If you don't understand what makes a writer, then I guess I can't explain it to you. ...

I was an illustration major in college. Like Josh, I can draw pretty well. And I thought I could make a living at it until I met someone whose work had voice. And I realized that although I could do a pretty decent job, I didn't have that voice. I realized it because even though I love making art, I allowed myself to be open enough to really see what made a successful artist. And I didn't have it. I was close, but I didn't have it.


...

AHHHHHHH!!!!

Now Kay Reindl doesn't know me, but I'm very sure she picked up a 2x4 and whacked me across the face with it. Because I'm pretty sure I have the most pedestrian voice ever. And first of all, what the crap is voice? Sidney Lumet says in his book that style is one of the most overused words ever. Isn't voice just another word for style? I don't know how to become self aware of my voice. Maybe I'm unsure about my voice because I have yet to carry a screenplay to its business-ready draft. The first couple drafts are so much about getting the story out there - I turn off my internal editor just so I can finish a page without worrying that I sound uninspired - and subsequent drafts are where my voice finally finds it to the page.

She has a point, you know. You can know how to write a screenplay or a story or a concerto but not have a gift for it. I can learn about the mechanics of perspective but never draw a stunning picture. But the problem is, you can still draw. I can write. Five completed first drafts say so. But I think it's difficult to become self-aware of your voice. And part of me just isn't sure yet where to find it in all those pages. I feel like the little mermaid here, clutching my throat after Ursula commandeered my voice (ugh, tentacles!).

Which is why, on the flip side, I love Julie Gray (she's just nice. And she likes cupcakes. We would definitely be friends). Her recent reply to an email about jealousy is a nice balance to other panic-inducing blogs:

If you feel jealous, take a deep breath and sit with the feeling for a moment. Articulate it. Bob got an option, and I suddenly worry I’ve been wasting all these years and I’ve GOT to get a real job one of these days and [insert random, stream-of-consciousness worry here]. Okay, those are all valid feelings. So what are you gonna do, quit? Become an angry, bitter, ugly person and throw some coconuts at Bob? Or how about sit your ass back down and get back to work like a pro and maybe make some of your killer spaghetti sauce later?

And that's what we do. Sit ourselves back down and get back to it. And maybe there's a voice of indomitable character in that.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

MLIA

I just spent the last twenty minutes reading My Life is Average. I laughed so hard I cried. It might have been funnier than any sitcom I've watched in the past couple of weeks.

What did you see?


Amanda the Aspiring TV Writer posted recently on the virtues of FlashForward in compelling storytelling, which motivated me to finally watch the only new TV show I was really interested in seeing.

Awesome.

First of all, who doesn't like a good end of the world sequence? I am a total sucker for disaster movies, and I think everyone in the world blacking out for 2 minutes and 17 seconds definitely qualifies as a disaster.

Excellent actors, excellent characters. You really want to know what happens to them, if they made it through the black out alright, if they're going to fulfill their flashforwards. The only one I wasn't too crazy about was the creepy girl. Why are kids always spooky?

But the best part of it, and Amanda touched on this, is that you really really want to know what happens next. In having the flashforwards, the writers are in one sense "giving away the ending." But the plot is not the ending to the story - the ending will be the emotional journeys of these characters to their flashforwards and the decisions they make that will either make those flashforwards true or not. It's the age old question of fate. Can we change our future? Especially once we know it? The flashforwards are great at getting the audience's emotions involved as well - I don't really know how I feel about the flashforwards or if I want them to come true. For some people, the 2 minutes of unconsciousness saved their life - for some it killed them. (It's very Lost-esque in that. Were the survivors of the crash picked for some hidden reason? Or was it random? Was the flashforward timed to prevent some deaths? Or was it random?) For others, their flashforward showed them wonderful things - for most people it was frightening. So suddenly, as an audience member, you're torn. I want this good thing to happen for this character, but I don't want that character to be ruined either. And, of course, the biggest question of all - why did the flashforwards happen? Who/what caused them? What do they mean? (Ok, so the three biggest questions of all.)

And then, in the last five minutes, watching the footage from Detroit, I literally got chills. That is good story telling.

My only disappointment is that the entire time I was thinking about what a cool concept it was and how brilliant the guys are who created it and how it shows that original ideas can still make it in the industry today - when I got to the credits and the first thing it said was that it was based on a book. I mean, clearly I still think it's brilliant and cool, but can the entertainment industry do nothing original? Or do all the good ideas come to brilliant novelists and then we rip - er, option them? Frustration.

Monday, September 28, 2009

I'm not sure the jeans I'm wearing are mine.

But they were in my laundry.

Anyway, for those of you who might be interested in such things -- not my laundry... -- I thought my pastor's sermon this week on the Lord's Prayer was really great.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Timing is Key.


So a funny thing happened at Starbucks today. Remember that time I said I wanted to be done with the first draft of my TV pilot by October 9th? Yeah, well, I finished it this afternoon. Granted, what I finished I wouldn't even consider a first draft. It's a hot mess of a script. I already have notes about things I need to change, I have events magically transforming halfway through scenes, an entire revelation I majorly botched, and a few more scenes I know I need to work in. It's Draft Zero, basically, so my deadline still stands. But still - I am amazed - it's there, in complete beginning, middle, and end story form.

The endings always sneak up on me. Maybe I get anxious and just shove it all out there or something. Maybe the intensity of being so close to the finish causes me to frenzy and pound it all out. My last acts always seem to be a little on the concise side. However, I like to think of it as just the natural speed that comes with a perfectly prepared ending. The reason the ending takes so little time to write is because I set it up so perfectly.

Yeah right.

Anyway, I'm jumping right into getting it into a presentable first draft. Something I can show my friends (I have been carefully collecting favors the past couple of months...) so they can tear it apart. And I can rewrite it again. And again. And again.

On a related note, I've had a lot of time to think recently (because, you know, I'm unemployed - sort of. However, today was the first time I told strangers what I anticipate doing. They seemed much more impressed than whenever I've told people that I am practicing my craft in order to be a successful writer. Nobody ever seems impressed by that. My prospective job, however, involves me working with children, which I think gives me automatic brownie points with new acquaintances). There are two things I think about constantly - my past two years at Michigan and my future after this year in Jersey. I could probably be thinking about more productive things, I know. Oh well.

Anyway, I was thinking about where I might potentially want to go after my time in Jersey is done, and I happened upon this interview with Ehren Kruger. It's really interesting and long and I greatly anticipate reading the other two interviews on the site, but something about what he said got me started thinking about how I've been sort of planning a couple years' buffer in between me and LA so I can get a couple scripts up to par. Two things came to mind:

1. I should have set time limits for how long drafts should take. I should say, "Alright, I'm starting a new spec script, I'm going to give myself three months from typing FADE IN to FADE OUT on the first draft." After that, I can put the project away for a little while and work on something else, then pull it out again and give myself X months to do the rewrite. Being out of school and out of screenwriting classes means that I have to learn how to work with self imposed deadlines. And they're not all that difficult to keep up with (as in the case with both Current Draft and TV pilot this past week). The past couple days I've been trying to write at least five pages when I sit down. If I can keep that up and make sure I sit my butt down every day, I can get a 120 page script written in a month.

2. If I can be that productive, if I can set and maintain those sort of goals for myself, am I really going to need two or three years before I have enough "best of Amy" material to take with me to LA? When does this go from being smart about perfecting my craft to being scared and not taking any risks? And this should be risky, right? If I didn't want any risks, I should have been an accountant or something. Though that would have meant many risks for my clients.

In the end, there are going to be a lot of factors that go into my move away from Jersey. But I figure the quicker I move out to LA the quicker I sell my scripts and become the hottest female screenwriter since Diablo Cody and the quicker I make a ton and a half of money and can therefore move out of LA and travel the world like I want to (hahaha - I'm joking, you guys know that right? I anticipate many years of starving in LA. Just that. A sale might be nice. Maybe a conversation at some point with someone in the industry). Regardless of what happens next, I'm not going to let a lack of preparation on my part narrow my choices in any way.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Turns Your Brain to Mush

I've watched a lot of TV recently. This is to be expected, as I am unemployed and have to do "research" for TV writing. However, this happy period of my life will soon be at an end because I got a voicemail this morning offering me the job I interviewed for. Yay! Of course, I am the sort of skeptic who wants to be physically at said job before saying I have it, so hopefully I didn't just jinx myself there.

A day job. Not related to film. Something that is an integral part of every aspiring screenwriter's life.

Anyway, I watched a lot of premieres in the past couple week. I've seen premieres for Bones, Mad Men (pilot), Glee, Buffy (pilot), the Office, and Dollhouse. Wow - those are just the premieres I've watched. I feel like a loser now. Anyway, I just have to take a minute to rave.



Dear Joss Whedon,

Dollhouse was amazing.

I know, everyone was surprised you even got renewed. I myself was more than reluctant to tune in at all and only did so after the first season was over. It was slow going there for a while, buddy. It had to grow on me. But it looks like you guys are finding your legs, and it looks like you're taking Echo in the right direction. But all growing pains aside --

What is up with Saunders!? Amazing. And was Adele couldn't have been right with what she said about Paul and November, could she? And Echo is going to be so kick-a now. Dang that girl was smart in a tight spot.

Like they say in the Dollhouse, I really think you did your best.

PS. Paul Ballard, you ain't no Seeley Booth.

But I think I might love you.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

I've been writing a lot

Just not here.

A few days ago I was going to announce my intentions to the world (ie, my dad and two friends) that I was going to have the first act of Current Draft finished by October 4th (at first I typed "first draft." That will not be happening. I will not finish an entire screenplay in two weeks. I'm glad I caught that typo.). ... Buuuut, I've finished the first act, more or less. It's very rough, but it's there, and I feel pretty good about it. I think I might clean it up and send it to my creative genius life partner to see what she thinks. Sometimes I feel like she's the brain and I'm the monkey who sits at the keyboard and pounds on the keys until something readable comes out. What're the odds for that again?

I'm also working on a new creative project, the details of which I can't discuss here.

I basically said that just so you would be burning to know.

Still not talking about it.

I think the project I really want to knuckle down on (because that does seem to be my problem half the time. Which one of my gazillion unfinished projects would I like to work on?) is my TV pilot. I was struggling for a while. The next scene wasn't playing out right. And I think I realized that the problem was 1. bad plotting on my part and 2. the characters wouldn't have done what I was trying to convince them to do. Basically this realization came about while I was thinking about how to write the trouble scene and realizing that I wouldn't approach the problem like I was trying to write it, so why would my characters? A little replotting and restructuring, and I think I've got a workable beat sheet. I took the 15 pages I had written, modified, rearranged, and embellished, and I'm halfway through Act II now, feeling good about being able to write the next scenes. Sometimes the answer to a problem scene isn't approaching the scene a new way. Sometimes it's writing a completely new scene. And I was discussing the premise with my family, and they pointed out an entirely new aspect to the world that opens up wonderful possibilities. Season two? I'm thinking yes. So the goal here is to have my first draft of the TV pilot done by October 9th. I have a wedding the next day, which seems like a good reward (a reward that's completely unrelated to my writing and also predetermined before my writing goals, but a reward none the less).

Also, I've been reading Alex Epstein's "Crafting TV Writing: Thinking Inside the Box." I'm really enjoying it, and I think it's positive reinforcement for principles I've learned throughout university and writing on my own, as well as some new ways to look at the craft.

Basically, things are going pretty good over here with the projects. I'm in taking a lot of caffeine and outputting a lot of pages. But someday, it would be nice to get paid to do this.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Writing is rewriting is rewriting is rewriting is rewriting



Know what I did today?

(Not much now that I think about it. Church, cleaning, day dreaming what it would be like to have friends here, not watching the Emmys because somebody else was watching football and I knew they cared more about that than I did about the Emmys.)

Anyway, back to what I did do. I moved one of my progress bars back.

I went to Starbucks today and did some thinking. I wrote some stuff down to make my thinking look productive, but really all I did was try to figure out what wasn't working with Current Draft. Because it wasn't working. Even with my "look, I emotionally connected with Current Draft!" post, it wasn't working (that's because every Current Draft is from the devil and incapable of emotion or connecting). Here's some of what I figured out --

1. My secondary characters need help. They are like the ignored step children of Current Draft. Especially those ones that I knew weren't going to be getting a lot of pagination. I sort of just... threw them in there. The problem is, (well, one, that is completely unprofessional and just poor writing) that while these characters may not affect the story that much, they sure affect my protag. So if I want to get to know him, I have to spend time with the other characters.

2. My opening was weak, weaker than -- well, I won't get into politics. I tend to hurry through Act I. And as such, I wasn't giving my protag enough development. He didn't have a personal shining moment. He had a professional one, which was supposed to flesh out his character a little, but the audience needed something more intimate. Because work is great, but no one acts quite like themselves at work... right?

3. My theme needed refining. Yes, I felt like I had a personal break through last week when I delved into Act II and wrote that sentimental scene that finally spiritually connected me to the story... And then I realized what that scene was leading me to, the theme I needed all along. I need to write it out and stick it somewhere so I'll see it and write everything towards that theme now.

4. I need to be more patient with the story. I was super restless, mega ADD, sprint through Act I crazy writer. I couldn't focus at all. This is a a recurring problem for me. I write too quickly and too little. I don't spin out the story enough. (Which is why, with Keys to the Garden, I finished the story on page 75.) Most writers need to cut their ramblings. I need to elaborate a little more. You've got to be concise as a screenwriter, but I was doing a disservice to the story by sprinting to the end of Act I. I didn't give enough credit to audience attention span, and I wasn't exercising mine at all.

So I rewrote the opening to Current Draft. Six extra pages of just meandering around, getting to know the characters and the world. Part of me is pulling out my hair because we're not at the inciting incident yet. And I know some people would be of the opinion that the new opening is weaker because there's not a lot of plot, especially not connected to the overall plot. In one sense, nothing happens.

Except my main character's life. That happens. And that's what the story's all about anyway.

Dream Concert

Free Coldplay Music. A couple of my favourite songs.

Friday, September 18, 2009

I was proposed to once... by a three year old

I'm going to a Mennonite wedding tomorrow. All I'm gonna say is, how many of ya all can claim that experience?

But yes, my cousin is getting married tomorrow. I'm very excited. She's one of the cousins I was closest to growing up because they lived the nearest. I think it's supposed to be an outdoor wedding as well, which will be beautiful.

Now, I've had pretty good luck at weddings this year. What do you think the odds are that I'll meet a nice guy tomorrow?

(Apparently, my parents are not as hopeful, as they told me a couple days ago that in talking to each other they've decided I should join eHarmony. Come on, guys, give me at least another five years before we send me off to the match maker.)

I hate how much I like Taylor Swift

I made s'more brownies last night. Uuhhmmmmmm yuummmmm. Why would I ever make anything else?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Finally!


Bones Season 5 premiere. Tonight. 8 pm.

I am so excited.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Zapped

I interviewed for a job last week. It's not a job in film, because I don't have that sort of commitment level in me, but it's a real, salaried job. (Ok, that comment about the film industry is a little untrue. I poked around the film jobs near me but decided I didn't want the hour-each-way-commute or the 10-12 hour days with no time to write. That is, of course, assuming I could even get one of those jobs.) I haven't heard back yet, but my sources on the inside tell me good things.

As it is, though, I currently don't have a job. I try to make my life meaningful by leaving the house at least once a day and baking various confections as quickly as we can eat them. I've recently discovered I can tolerate Starbucks macchiatos, for all the time I spend there staring listlessly at my computer screen. I try to write at least once a day because, like I said, I don't do anything else to be a contributing member of society, but the last couple days my creative juices have been completely zapped. I don't even consider it writer's block when I'm not even able to focus on any current projects.

The only thing I'm making any progress on is the screenplay D. and I thought up inside an elevator. And by progress, I mean I'm plunking out a page or two a day, cringing at how flat and uninspired my writing is. I'm still in Act I, no matter how desperately I'm crawling towards the act break. It's at times like these I'm glad I can type without looking at the screen, because then I can advert my eyes away from the train wreck.

This is when the whole writing as a career thing starts to look like a bad idea. Paranoid Writer Syndrome starts to encroach upon the logic of how mastering the craft takes time, the fact that I have improved, the fun I do have while writing, yada yada yah.

I did finally connect with Current Draft last night. Perhaps I am stunted as a writer, but I find that I write better and the story flows faster when the emotional core of the story is related to something going on in my life. And last night I figured out how Current Draft related to my life, and I skipped ahead and wrote a scene in Act II and made the characters pontificate to each other. A scene that's terribly on the nose. A scene that will most likely get completely reworked and rewritten, if not completely cut. But it's in the file, in its own little tab, so that when I get frustrated and confused and start thinking about how satisfying it would be to throw my computer against the wall I can glance back at this little scene and remind myself about the emotional core of the story. It's a lot easier to write when I remember how this story is just my story.

I never thought Act I was that much fun to write anyway.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Times They Are a'Changing

My feelings toward Twitter are... less than favourable. I'm hoping it's just a fad, but even if it is, it's indicative of an inevitable trend in everything from journalism to personal privacy.

That being said, I do follow a handful of Twitters. Without a doubt, Mystery Man on Film has one of the best, most informative and entertaining Twitters. Anyone who reads this blog who's interested in screenwriting or filmmaking (so all three of you) should also be following his Twitter.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Just hit replay


I'm a terrible cinephile.

We used to joke that I was an embarrassment of a film major because I'm not very well versed in every film ever. How I have never seen classics like The Godfather, Jaws, or Home Alone. I always retorted that my weekly screenings for class, including such classics as The Seventh Seal, The Gleaners and I, and Tout Va Bien (gaaaahgg), more then makes up for my lack of "commercial" classics.


The thing is, I did feel secretly guilty. As much as I love film and TV, I'm not the person at the library who grabs the first fifteen DVDs at hand and just pops them in the DVD player one after another. I don't really have a desire to watch film history unfold on the celluloid itself. I don't have favourite directors. I can barely name actors, let alone connect them to more than a couple of movies. Generally, I have to watch any movie twice to be able to remember enough of it to discuss, while all my film peers were running around impersonating the New Hollywood of the 60s and having esoteric discussions on the standard repertoire of films every cinephile should know.


I love going to new movies in the movie theatre. But when it comes to home viewing, I will nearly always pick a beloved favourite over a new film. Even today, I went to the library and came back with a recent film I haven't seen yet. Tonight, I will most likely watch P.S. I Love You or Walk the Line. My Netflix instant queue is full of unseen movies. I would rather watch Bridget Jones' brilliant life transformation for the umpteenth time instead.

What? Why is that?


Well, I finally found out the reason. After months of secretly feeling like a poser, I know why I like certain movies better than film. There are a lot of facets to film, and I would love to increase my understanding of all of them over time. But my favourite part of film, the one that drew me in the first place, is storytelling. Sure the film can be shot beautifully. It can be innovative. It can be exciting and thrilling and controversial. But what I love best about film is its ability to tell a story. The emotion, the drama, the humor, the characters, their lives. How it makes me feel about my life. I don't think every film-lover can really say that's their favourite part of film - nor should they. Someone's gotta lovingly describe their favourite camera motion or short average shot length versus the long take. As for me, straight up story. IV it into me. And I don't feel guilty for rewatching my favourites, the movie I know inside out, how it will unfold, how it will connect with me, which parts I'll cry at, when I'll sing along, which lines I've had stuck in my head for weeks. Because these stories are so artfully told, they don't unfold just themselves. They unfold my life too.

And I know. I really should get on watching The Godfather.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

What other people say

Excellent interview with Nora Ephron.

Also, my former professor on what's going on in Michigan's film industry.

Oh, and Josh Olson? It was sort of funny. Now I just think you need to get over yourself.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

(1) Great Summer Movie



Billy Mernit already had a great post on (500) Days of Summer, so what else can I add, but...

One of the first things the narrator says is, "This is not a love story."

I've known people with different reactions to this movie. I say, this is not the best movie ever.

But it is pretty great.

Also, I want to dress like Zooey Deschanel in this movie.

This was one of my most anticipated movies of the summer. Maybe it's because I love Zooey Deschanel. Maybe it was because I saw this Ikea clip and thought it was amazing - "Sink's broken." "Well that's ok. That's why we bought a house with two kitchens!" Maybe I loved it because I recognized the Bradbury building in LA (thank you, film education!). It's the kind of movie I wish I had written (or maybe did, with The 4:05).



But I think why this movie was so refreshing, even with it's faults, is that it is a true movie. I don't mean true as in autobiographical (though there is a lot of that). I mean it's not the Katherine Heigl rom-com of the month. The characters were different than the ones we typically see in rom coms (think of the other rom coms of the summer and compare).

The wonderful thing about this film is that everyone has been in this movie. Everyone has had an amazing relationship that turns out... less than amazing. It's part of life - and if you hadn't had it yet, you will. It may not be a romantic relationship. It may be a friendship or a family member even. It's also very subjective and very much from Tom's point of view. Which is great, because it allows so much personal ranting on love and relationships and what exactly happened, which is exactly what everyone does when perfection doesn't pan out. Someone once said that as artists our responsibility is not to answer questions but to ask them. (500) Days of Summer asks the all time important question - What do you do with a perfect relationship that doesn't have a perfect ending?

If you want to know more, you can listen to the Creative Screenwriting Magazine Q&A with co-screenwriter Scott Neustadter here. He actually has a legitimate reason for the parentheses in the title.

"Our aim was not having a happy ending but a hopeful ending." - Scott Neustadter

"Then [the man] started throwing sea creatures."

Hehehe.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009



In my search for TV shows to catch up on to spec, I picked up on Joss Whedon's Dollhouse. I was a big fan of Firefly and Serenity. I never watched Buffy, mostly I think because I had an irrational childhood fear of vampires and because I think Buffy is a stupid name for a girl, but now that I'm a fan of David Boreanaz on Bones, I might give it a try. I knew very little about Dollhouse, only that it was given a surprise second chance when it came to renewals.

Hulu only had the most recent five episodes up, which makes for a confusing start into a series. After the first couple of episodes I could tell why it was in danger of being canceled. Something was definitely missing. I pressed on, thinking maybe it was the other seven episodes I hadn't gotten to see. By episode 11, I had figured out the problem and was a little surprised that no one had spotted it the initial writing stage.



The entire show is about Echo/Caroline, right, and her experiences in the Dollhouse. However, at some point during every episode, Echo gets erased. The main character of the show is never the same character. And the only persistent personality, Echo in her childlike stage, is mostly inactive. By episode 11, I was emotionally invested in some of the characters, Paul, Dr. Saunders, Topher, even Adelle. I just wasn't invested in Echo. I felt pretty clever about figuring out Dollhouse's problem, stumped at why Joss Whedon hadn't seen it coming - until, of course, I saw an article about how Whedon had recognized that problem and was committed to fixing it.

And then I watched the season one finale. And while it wasn't the end-all of season finales, it was pretty darn good. But better than just it being good in it of itself, it did what a good season finale should - it promised a better second season. Some conflicts resolved, which means new conflict next season, new revelations and questions, moments of hope, and, more importantly, a promise that Echo will have a real character.

Though I suppose I won't bump the ratings all by myself, will I?

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Welcome to the Real World (sorta)

So, summer's over.

I feel like there's some over wrought blog post I should write about all the crazy summer shenanigans, but really the only stories I have are ones that would only interest those people who care about me enough to feign concern over my slightly paranoid but normally benign doctor stories. (I did have one mildly death defying accident this summer, but I need well diagrammed photos to give the story justice.)

Now that I'm supposed to be getting... settled, it's time to do responsible things like figure out how to start payments on my student loans, procure employment, go to the eye doctor (maybe I, as a grown up, should stop calling it the eye doctor and instead use the official title. Which is...), and - most importantly of course - start to write!

Before I left for camp I finished my "Bones" spec and sent it off the the ABC-Disney fellowship. I would just be thrilled to get past the first round, of course, and I don't have particularly high expectations for that, but sometimes you just have to go for it. But since then, for the past three months, I've barely even picked up a pen. I want to get a lot of writing done in the next six months, and I know it's going to be a push to get it done. I'm not particularly well self disciplined in the best of circumstances. But I have three goals for the next six months:

1. Rewrite "Keys to the Garden." This script is my most recent one, my best one, and the first one I felt completely sure had the potential to be a solid, readable script. I'm going to be reasonable and just shoot for one complete rewrite, but the closer I get to business ready the better.

2. Complete another TV script. I'll either write another spec (here I'm at a disadvantage due to the fact that I actually don't watch that much TV. I'm trying to correct that, but also practicing good time management by watching those shows that are only one or two seasons in.) or continue work on my pilot. Which I completely forgot about all summer until tonight when I was looking through my computer for a different script.

3. Figure out what my second business ready script is going to be and start on it. I know I want "Keys," but I've heard it said you should have two scripts ready by the time you move out to LA. I'm debating between picking one of my earlier scripts, all of which need substantial, near page one rewrites, or going with one of the ideas percolating in the back of my mind. In either case, I want to have all the prewriting I feel necessary done by the end of six months. Of course, if it's month 5.5 when I get to this script, my prewriting needs may be... minimal.

Those are the goals. I've got something to focus on, specifics to be ruminating on and thoughts to be taking notes on and hopefully stories to be writing. Putting goals down in writing helps me feel more responsible. I've stood up on my little virtual soapbox and made my statement in front of all of you. And you could be the two people who haven't forgotten about this little inactive blog over the summer. Or it could be the millions and millions of people I know are lurking out there! (Hehe.)

Schrodinger's cat.

Either way, in the end, I'll have to answer to myself, and that's the person who all this really matters to anyway.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Lucky Penny

Has anyone else seen the new 2009 pennies? They're crazy shiny (and feel a little too light to be real)!

Friday, July 03, 2009

Gone Fishing

On Monday I started my summer job as a camp counselor out in the mountains, which means no internet. I'll be back in about six weeks. Happy summer!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

How Long It Really Takes

or, Why My Last Post is Totally Irrelevant

I was talking up Michigan's amazing screenwriting program to a friend of my parents, mentioning Pamela Gray and Tom McCarthy's generous contributions of time and expertise to last semester's class, when my mom asked me how long it took for either of them to sell their first script.

"Oh," I said, "I'm not sure about Tom McCarthy. But I do know about Pamela Gray."

From first draft to silver screen, it took her fourteen years.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Can't be true

I feel like this is a trick.

I'm about halfway through the rough draft of my Bones spec script. I printed out the ABC fellowship application today, mildly wondering how one goes about getting things notarized and being annoyed that we have to submit a resume. I have until Monday to get this thing presentable, notarized, and in the mail. I am only halfway done with my script.

Five days.


And technically, we shouldn't even count Monday, because all I have time to do that day is notarize it and drop it in the mail.

So, four days. Full of wedding activities, packing, and general procrastinating.

And this is where the tricky parts comes in -- I actually feel like I'm doing good work. And it's not just my deluded sense of entitlement that I usually get from finishing a script, because I haven't finished yet. I'm great at being aware of my problems as I write. I usually secretly know that it's not as good as I dream it is. And I am painfully aware of the problems I do have in my script. Some things don't make logical sense yet. I have to do scientific research to replace all the "X"s and "Y"s I have. I definitely don't have enough time to rewrite. And I'm definitely positive this script isn't going to get past the first round of any competition (well, I secretly hope, but I must maintain some amateur humility).

It may not be a winner. I'm well aware of my odds. But I do feel good about this script. Not only because I feel like I'm hitting the nail on the head. But I can tell how much I've progressed, how much I've learned, how my writing has improved so much over the past few years. A year ago I could not have written as well as I do now (well being all relative, mind you).

And to know that, yes, I may not be the best yet, not even close to the best, not even in sight of those who are trailing behind the best, but I'm darn well closer than I was, is enough to keep me pushing to catch up.

Monday, June 22, 2009

If only I remembered my Sunday School songs

My sister and I like to be nostalgic. We once sat and watched the entire My Little Pony movie via ten YouTube installments. Last night we were talking about Psalty the Singing Songbook and G.T. and the Halo Express, and she passed on to me a link to Stuff Christians Like, a hilarious and insightful blog about Christian trends. Make sure to click on the links because they lead to little write ups about each entry.

Some of these are just hilariously true, like #5 Bootlegged Cookies at VBS, #14 Dating God instead of me, or #196 The secret bathroom at church. I love the secret bathroom at church -- however, since we meet in a public school, the secret bathroom is really mini me sized for all the kindergartens. My dad is a fan of Sermon Series Based off of Popular Blockbusters and is trying to help me figure out how to use creative church marketing to my career's advantage.

However, what I really love about this site is that it's not only funny and honest but challenging as well. Here are a couple of my other favourites (though I feel like making categories of "funny favourites" and "spiritual favourites" is another thing Christians like):

#77 Offering a Safe Approach to Life
#121 Thinking God's Call will be Long and Detailed
#212 Shrinking God
#271 Being Afraid to Use Our Gifts

I'm pretty sure there's nothing more disappointing than small faith. I mean, faith is supposed to be something radical in your life. It's supposed to be growing, it's supposed to be big, it's supposed to be a sort of adventure. Is there anything riskier and more fulfilling than being in a personal relationship with God? I would definitely say no. So personally, I think disappointments in faith are, perhaps, the most difficult disappointments to deal with.

Summertime is always sort of this lull in my faith, and I've been in one of those lulls. I think there are a lot of reasons, but I think one of the main reasons is that I've sort of forgotten what God is like. Somewhere in the past two months, I've made Him small and boring. And then I've gotten frustrated about it! About something I did, about limitations I've created. But God hasn't gotten any smaller. Only my faith has. And that's why I've been disappointed. Who would be satisfied with Amy-sized faith when God-sized faith is waiting? And God is really cool, you know, because He used a satirical funny blog to remind me that all the things I'm missing from my faith are exactly where I left them, with Him.

Now I'm tempted to look back and see how many "Stuff Christians Like" techniques I employed in that post. :)

Saturday, June 13, 2009

My Biggest Fan

Some day, I'll be so famous and renown that my poor mailman will have a back of steel from carrying my daily fan mail to my cliff-side cottage. And each letter will start, "Ms. Butler, I am your number one fan!" I will smile and shake my head ruefully, because I know who my number one fan is, and he doesn't write me any fan mail.

All of us Butler children are good readers, especially in our childhoods. My little brother L consumes books. It's actually a waste to buy him a book for his birthday or for Christmas, because he'll most likely finish with it before he goes to bed that night.

I have about ten million copies of my novels, screenplays, and short stories. One of the most frustrating tasks of packing last month was figuring out which manuscripts were multiples and I could throw away. This plethora of paper means that I'm continually leaving pages around, on the table where I've been working, a copy for my parents, in my room (which should be sacred). Sometimes L comes across these copies.

The other night I printed out a copy of Keys to the Garden for my parents. I left it with them, in the living room, and the next morning as I was eating breakfast, L came up to me and started talking to me about it. He had read maybe the first twenty pages, which, he told me, he thought "were good." He wanted to finish reading it, but the manuscript has since vanished, meaning that someone probably tried to put it away during cleaning day and have forgotten where it is.

I used to joke that I went into screenwriting because it's a lot easier to force someone to sit a watch a movie for a couple of hours than read a several hundred page novel. It's a guaranteed way to get people to experience what you've written. I love when people read my work, but it's difficult to connive people into it. I feel awkward asking people if they'd like to read my screenplays and it's a pain to print off several copies of the 90+ page documents, so besides my screenwriting peers, nobody really reads much of what I write. It's frustrating sometimes. You always want people to value what you find important in yourself. Which is why every time L picks up my screenplay or begs my parents to read the silly space opera novel I wrote for NaNoWriMo I feel a wave of appreciation for my 14 year old number one fan.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

A Plea

Dear Staff Writers,

I love your show. But. I hate when you ruin my halfway finished spec by already having used my device or my plot point or my story base. It happened for a fourth time. FOUR TIMES. Geez. This time, you destroyed my entire B story with just a simple twist to a subplot. Pretty much obliterated it.

But... I can't really be mad. Because you did it with such skill.

Why do you have to be such geniuses?

Sincerely pandering to you,
Amy

Monday, June 01, 2009

In which Amy spills about her TV writing projects --

TV writing is difficult.

I started with my spec script.

Not the actual writing of it. The research. The watching of episode after episode after episode. The reading of How-To books. The episode break downs (which I'm infinitely proud of. Our professors in screenwriting used to challenge us to do movie break downs. Heck no am I ever doing a break down of something 90 minutes or longer).

The thing with my spec script was I kept having to come up with a different idea. I had a great story. I was excited about it and felt it fit the show well and was fairly sure I could execute it well. Then I was skimming episode summaries of seasons I had yet to see - and found a nearly matching logline. I have yet to see the episode - it could play out completely differently - but why bother? I was ruminating on a second idea when that one was also blown out of the water by another episode.

But, dear readers, third time's the charm. Finally I had an excellent medical premise for the script. The story aspect needed some work. It still does. I'm hammering out my outline. I have never felt like the outline was as important as I do now right now for this spec. Maybe it's because I made those episode breakdowns. Maybe it's because I saw how tightly structured the episodes. It's tough, finding the ultimate balance between being new and inventive and outstanding and demonstrating that I know the structure and story and tone of the show. I have still not actually started writing the episode, which is bad news since I want to have it finished before the end of the month.

And then there's the pilot.

Oh the pilot. The pilot that I had no real intentions of writing because I had no real ideas for it. But I had an idea. And I sat down the other day. And I wrote. And I wrote seven pages in one day, which is more than I've written in one sitting since the last time I had a deadline. No outline. Vague understanding of what I wanted to accomplish in the episode. Now I'm on page 15 or something, and I'm quite happy with it, especially as a first ditch effort at a pilot.

The paranoia that's setting in (there's always paranoia, you know), is that what I find interesting and engaging is bo-o-or-ing. It constantly gets rammed into writers that audiences are abnormally advanced when it comes to... being an audience. They've seen countless stories, they know the plot twists, they're looking for the red herrings. It's your job as a writer to stay ahead of them. It's not an easy race.

But right now, I'm just looking forward to the challenge of finishing these scripts.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Boston

In the light of the sun, is there anyone? Oh it has begun...
Oh dear you look so lost, eyes are red and tears are shed,
This world you must've crossed... you said...

You don't know me, you don't even care, oh yeah,
She said
You don't know me, and you don't wear my chains... oh yeah,

Essential yet appealed, carry all your thoughts across
An open field,
When flowers gaze at you... they're not the only ones who cry
When they see you
You said...

You don't know me, you don't even care, oh yeah,
She said
You don't know me, and you don't wear my chains... oh yeah,

She said I think I'll go to Boston...
I think I'll start a new life,
I think I'll start it over, where no one knows my name,
I'll get out of California, I'm tired of the weather,
I think I'll get a lover and fly em out to Spain...
I think I'll go to Boston,
I think that I'm just tired
I think I need a new town, to leave this all behind...
I think I need a sunrise, I'm tired of the sunset,
I hear it's nice in the Summer, some snow would be nice... oh yeah,

Boston... where no one knows my name... yeah
Where no one knows my name...
Where no one knows my name...
Yeah Boston...
Where no one knows my name.

- Augustana

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Rejection 101

Rejection comes with the call to write. Here is my favourite rejection story.

At the University of Michigan, we have a prestigious writing award called the Hopwood. There's a different category for every type of writing possible, the judges are professionals, and they give away thousands of dollars to the winners. Arthur Miller won a Hopwood.

I first entered in spring 2008 with "The 4:05." I didn't win any awards, but I had gotten into the top ten so I received comments from the judges. I was looking forward to this. "The 4:05" is my darling screenplay, my first effort, and this was the first time I'd get academic/professional feedback on a screenplay.

I picked up my manuscripts and my comments from the Hopwood Room and found the nearest bench to dig into the comments. Two judges, two sets of comments. One set was tolerable. Critical, but not overly harsh.

I'm pretty sure my mouth dropped when reading the second set. I have never - in all my life - received comments like this before or have since. There's lots of great stuff, but this last paragraph is my favourite.

"In the end, we're left wondering why that story needed to be told. I think the writer was aiming for a small, intimate story about two people struggling with their own inner demons who find comfort, companionship and relief in one person who truly understands them, and accepts them for who they are now, not what they could be. Instead we end up with a slow, cliched, frustrating, anticlimactic story that plods along with no real structure or build. To make this script work, I think it needs better, more compelling characters who grow and change, much better, interesting dialogue, and more going on besides them together, talking in a vacuum."

Listen. I'll be the first to say that this script is far from perfect. No, the plot is not strong. The characters do, at times, come across harsh, I can see that. I did not know what the three act structure was when I wrote it. I think what gets me is that this script landed in the top ten, and in four paragraphs the nicest comment I got from this judge was what story they "thought" I was trying to tell. It was almost so harsh that I giggle a little bit when I read it.

But it was difficult - it's still rejection, right? Worst part - "In the end, we're left wondering why that story needed to be told." More than entertaining an audience, I want them to understand why this story is important, why they should feel a certain way, maybe even inspire them. To say something like that is to tell me I failed as a writer.

As with all rejection, you bounce back. I entered the Hopwoods this past spring with "Collapse." Again, I didn't win. Again, I got in the top ten. And again, I got some pretty harsh comments. But there were also some nice comments. Hopefully the improvement in the judges' response reflects an improvement in my writing.

As for those judges' comments, what did I do with those? I tossed them - right onto my growing stack of rejection letters.