Friday, January 20, 2012


Since it's awards season, there's been a plethora of great scripts made available to the public. I went on a downloading spree, snatching anything that remotely grabbed my interest.

I've never been a very good 'script reader.' It wasn't until about halfway through my Screenplay as Lit class that I read a script I felt could have been a movie. And they all had been made into movies. So I've resolved this year to read more scripts, both to educate myself on how to be a better script reader and how to be a better right.

Earlier this week I read Beginners and Black Swan. I have seen neither movie. I was reflecting on them today, and here's what stood out to me --

1. As soon as I had finished Black Swan I wanted to watch the movie. It's now at the top of my 'To Watch' list.

2. I couldn't remember if I had actually finished Beginners or not.

If that was all I took away from this week, I still think I'd have learned plenty. When a reader finishes your script, you want them to be anxious to see the movie. You need to end on such a strong note that your story in their head for days.

Granted, these are two completely different types of scripts. And I really did enjoy them both. But I had two big concerns with Beginners. 1. It didn't seem to dig deep enough. The most interesting part of Beginners was Oliver's relationship with his father. I felt as if there was unexplored potential there. And 2. Ana is a manic pixie character (I mean, she's French). I'm just over that.

Black Swan made strong story choices. And yes, Beginners was a completely different genre and was aiming to tell a different sort of story, but I felt that it could have made stronger choices. It's actually a point V and I discussed the most recent time we met. We were trying to decide if one character should just offer to do something or really do it. I think if you're going to offer, if you're going to hint, if you're going to suggest, you should just commit all the way and jump in with the stronger choice.

So. What's next?

Saturday, January 14, 2012


Michigan's screenwriting program is a hidden gem of the Midwest. I myself would not have known about it if I didn't have friends who already attended Michigan. When I was considering film schools, Michigan came out comparable to NYU and UCLA (at least in regards to screenwriting. Michigan, from what little I experienced as a short on time transfer student, has a great production department as well, and one of my Michigan professors always talked about how Michigan was so much better than his alma mater, USC).

And then the kicker -- Michigan, unlike most of the other schools I was considering, took midyear transfers. Sold and enrolled.

I promise the commercial for Michigan is almost over, but first let me explain the structure of the feature writing classes. Screenwriting I is open to everyone. You are taught structure and format and you write your first script. HALF of you are invited into Screenwriting II. Screenwriting II is a unique class where you're taught to rewrite. You come out with a new draft of your Screenwriting I script. Half of THOSE students are invited into Screenwriting III, a master workshopping class where you write a new script under the mentorship of head of the program. (Side note: I went through all three classes, which makes me feel pretty good about myself. Some people I know when through all three classes and won huge cash awards, which helps me keep my ego in check.)

In a week and a half, V. and I will be presenting Consideration to the Screenwriting II class. Their homework is to take the script, read it, and come back the next weeks with notes. At which point I will sit down at the table, pull out my laptop, and record the tidal wave of notes. Then our homework is to come back the next week to show how we incorporated the notes into our script. It's supposed to get their head in the game for rewriting (which can be a bit of a shock, the first time you're expected to do more than just edit) and it's supposed to give us an opportunity to get input on the script.

I am a little bit nervous about this. One, I know what kind of egos will be a room of 12 screenwriting students who just got into an invitation only class. I know, because I had one of them. Two, because I'm just nervous about showing Consideration to anyone yet.

Maybe that's because I'm not even through the second draft yet, I don't know. But I only wrote one new script since graduation (I was also rewriting other scripts and writing lots of first acts), and I didn't show anyone that until I had written three drafts. And I was going to wait until draft four, but I decided to send it to a friend with my intended changes to see what she thought. That's it.

So to hand off a baby script to a dozen over zealous college students makes me a little nervous. I have a pretty thick skin, but V. has been very patient and maybe I've gotten soft and -- sensitive.

But what really makes me nervous is not the screenwriting students. The head of the screenwriting department teaches that class, so he'll read this draft too. It's the first work of mine that he'll have read in three years. I desperately want to have improved. I'm totally not looking for validation or anything.

I would have liked to wait until draft 3 to show anyone anything, I really would have. But that's not the case, and I am grateful for this opportunity anyway. I'm sure a room of screenwriting students is not unlike a room of executives, so it'll be good practice for getting studio notes in the future. Because I do expect to get a lot of those.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Killing and Cutting.

I've never worked with a writing partner. I try to harvest my bff D.'s brain as often as possible, and once I got through a first act based off an idea we had, but I've never worked straight on with a writing partner.

Working with V. is the closest I've ever been to writing with a partner. We meet every week and discuss the story, I get notes, I take notes, etc. Usually I just nod and write down what he says. I need to ruminate before I give input, so usually my voice comes through just in my writing, not when we're actually discussing the script (which means that if V. disagrees with me, I'll most likely have to rewrite it).

I usually agree with the notes he gives me. Then again, he hasn't given me a ton of notes yet so I don't have much fodder to disagree with yet. But last week, he asked me to cut a scene that I liked, that I thought was necessary, at the very least, addressed a question we needed to answer. I actually didn't mind cutting the scene, as long as the protagonist had to wrestle with the question at some point.

Most of our meeting was preoccupied with that problem -- do we have to have this scene? And do we have to have this problem at all? And I thought I won. I really really thought I had proved my point.

And then he emailed and he found a way to bypass it, all together! I was disappointed. I thought the problem presented a moral and ethical conundrum that it would have been interesting to see our main character wrestle with. I wanted to test her. And I was disappointed that we weren't going to test her to that extreme.

But I said yes, I said I would cut it. Because we're shooting ultra low budget and by cutting that scene we cut a character and a location. I want to see this made and I don't want making it to be difficult. If I was writing this story as a spec, maybe I'd argue this point. Maybe I'll consider it some more, how passionate I feel about this particular problem for our character.

But this script is already over budget. I've populated it with so many characters and so many locations, I'm going to have to cut a whole bunch of scenes anyway. So, in the interest of the movie -- perhaps over the interest over the script -- I'll cut the scene and I'll barrel ahead.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012


The holidays are over. Cut the fun. Back to real life.

V. mercifully released me from my self-imposed pre-Christmas draft 1.5. He had something like 32 screenplays to grade and apparently did not want to read a 33rd. Fair. I had a really fab holiday. I tried to shop local and small business for all my gifts and ended up having the most fun Christmas shopping that I've ever had. In what I consider resulting good (and ironic) karma, I got a Kindle Fire for Christmas, which has already proven its worth twice, once when I was stuck in the airport for five hours and last night when I realized it was the only way I could watch the Michigan-V. Tech Sugar Bowl.

Ah, Michigan.

I'm not going to do an end of the year post. 2011 was fine but tumultuous, and I probably don't remember half the events anyway. But I will do 2012, a year in preview --

1. Michigan will be mighty.

2. I am going to Israel. I feel super lucky that I'm getting to take a trip to Israel with my aunt and dad (er, and Mike Huckabee). Israel and New Zealand have spent the last five years jostling for top spot on my Top 184 Places to Visit. Guess New Zealand will have that trophy all for its own now.

My mom said she wouldn't come with us because she didn't want her children to be completely orphaned.

3. I will drink more water. Well, maybe.

4. We're making a movie. More precisely, a movie I wrote. It may be cold and dark now, but in just a few short months I will be breezing from my desk to set, where I will huddle in a corner, since I doubt we will have those fun movie set chairs, and watch people act what I wrote. Expect pictures. 'Cause I'm taking a lot.

5. There will be a wedding, and I reign as MOH. That's Maid of Honor, suckas!

6. If I feel like it, I will rewrite and e-publish my NaNo novel. I like it. It'd be fun. You know, if I feel like it.

7. I will watch more movies, read more scripts, write more pages. Scott Meyer's has a great 1, 2 , 7, 14 plan that I will emulate.

And that's it for now. There's other stuff, waiting in the wings, that will make an entrance at the right time.

I know on New Year's Eve, people always think the next twelve months will be a good year. Everyone has a 'feeling.' I don't have a feeling. I have a knowing. How could I look at that list and not know?

However, I do have a 'feeling' that there will be a lot of dance parties.