Sunday, December 23, 2007

Rainy Christmas.

Greetings from the East Coast, where it is rainy and gross.

This is my favorite article about the effects of the strike: Strike-Stalled Agents Flip for Facebook: Hey, let's "poke" Nick Counter! I haven't really noticed this at all where I work; it seems that everybody is continuing to keep up the image that we all still have work to do. But since that image includes a Christmas bonus check, I'm cool with it.

I should use this holiday break to write a lot and read some scripts. So far it's not working all that well - and I was too lazy to print out more than two scripts. It's so much easier to eat a lot of foods that make you feel guilty and tell stories of your C-list celebrity sightings to people who are actually impressed by them. For instance, Tate Donovan (Jimmy Cooper on The OC...and I think he's on Damages now) was on my jetblue flight from Burbank to New York. He's aging, but was still attractive in his preppy-yet-casual jeans, collared shirt and grey sweater. I also was filling in at reception on Thursday when I asked Xzibit what his name was. Oops.

I recently caught up with a friend who's still in school and he said, "Oh, you're so LA. You're so industry." And so I've begun to compile a mental list:

YOU KNOW YOU'RE SO HOLLYWOOD WHEN:

1. You abbreviate "represent" to "rep," "reps," or "repped."
2. You've seen people do coke, and you no longer think it is odd.
3. You use the phrase "I have to go to a party."
4. You make yourself go out when you're tired because you never know when a good networking opportunity might present itself.
5. You have seriously considered plastic surgery.
6. You read the trades and DeadlineHollywoodDaily so often that when you go to the website or pick up the hard copy, there is nothing new for you to read.
6B. You have no idea what is going on with the war in Iraq, the presidential campaign or other "real" news.
7. You don't read books, you read scripts - and there are scripts in your car and on your coffee table.
8. (for assistants) You begin to answer your cell phone "________'s Office."
9. You have already decided what kind of car you will drive and where you will buy a giant house when you are rich.
10. You gossip about people around the office, knowing you can say whatever you want if you preface your opinion with "He's a nice guy, but..." or "I love the guy, but..."
11. In addition to having favorite movies and TV shows, you have favorite production companies, networks and studios.
11B. You would be more excited to run into JJ Abrams, Josh Schwartz or another producer than a famous actor or actress.
12. You no longer try to justify why you're drinking.
13. You have explained your job to a friend or relative by using characters on Entourage.

I'll post more when I think of them. :)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

You need to see Juno!

Somehow I forgot to mention how much I loved JUNO. It's hilarious but has a lot of heart. The acting, directing, soundtrack...all great. I'm also really excited that a female-driven comedy is being so well received. You'll hear a lot of industry people talk about how female-driven comedies are dead, that romcoms use a formula that's been overdone, that people only want crude-yet-clever Apatowian stuff. I enjoyed Superbad and Knocked Up as much as the next girl, but I don't want to accept this idea as fact. I hope Ellen Page stars in ten more movies in 2008. Another great thing about Juno was its complex characters and complete avoidance of stereotype amidst many possibilites for stereotypes (the midwest, high school, etc). There's more about this - and the family values of the film - in this great article from Slate, the Washington Post's online mag.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Tis the season...

For rich executives to send other rich executives presents they don't want or need. And it is my job to lug around these giant gift baskets of beer, wine, cheese, cookies, candy, pies, etc. The one upside is that people often share them...and anything addressed to "staff" or people who no longer work here is fair game for all. I think I've gained 12 pounds this week.

For anyone who's into the Twilight Zone, my school is hosting the THE ROD SERLING CONFERENCE and SHORT FEATURE SCRIPTWRITING COMPETITION. The deadline is January 23, 2008 and top prize is $200. I doubt I'll be entering since I'm going to start work on a Weeds spec (I decided to put off Ugly Betty, for now at least), but if you're into "science fiction with social themes" you might want to enter.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Hooray

Yesterday my new writers group had its first meeting. It's all people I met online, but since LA is actually tiny, one member is also a member of WriteGirl (the mentorship program I volunteer with) and another member is a friend of a girl I work with at the agency. Anyway, I'm excited. After I finished my pilot I've been lax about writing so this will be a good way to get back into writing regularly. Plus, it's fun to talk to people who are as passionate about TV as I am.

Friday Night Lights finally resolved the murder plot! Yay. I thought its ending was really anticlimactic, and I'm annoyed at how Tyra totally faded into the background in the past few episodes. But now we can move on, and I think everyone's relieved. Meanwhile, it turns out the the move to Fridays as well as the strike might be great news for FNL.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Writing your pilot

During my downtime at work, I am going through and reading all the pilots that are in development (or were before the strike started, at least). So far, what I've read has disappointed me. I mean, I can tell why networks and prodcos liked them enough to develop them...the description is efficient and full of imagery. The dialogue is snappy. The plots move quickly and the acts end on cool surprises. The characters are complex. So what's missing?

ORIGINALITY.

Cop shows, lawyer shows, doctor shows, action shows...whatever it may be, I've seen it before. I've only read one pilot so far that made me think, wow, that's really interesting. I've never seen anything like that. Everything else seemed really tired and formulaic, and I didn't really care about what was happening. So as you write your pilot, I urge to think of something NEW and DIFFERENT. Start your brainstorming with WHAT IF. Be daring. Think about what would turn the world - or the world of your character - upside down. Once you've got your premise, think of how to push the envelope so that it doesn't sound like all the shows already on TV. Discover a situation that has high stakes that isn't a crime scene or a hospital.

Here are some other rules I'd love for you to follow:

1. Don't use voiceover. JUST DON'T. I have read pilots that used voiceover to hit me over the head with their theme, tell me what their character is thinking, or explain what's going on. It annoyed me every time. If you're a good writer, you should be able to accomplish all these things through dialogue, action and (brief) description.

2. Don't simply describe your leading man or woman as beautiful, handsome, gorgeous, etc. If your pilot gets shot, it is going to be cast with ACTORS. Unless they're over 60 or a very specific kind of character actor, they're going to be crazy good looking. So be more specific. What makes them different from their fellow beautiful, handsome and gorgeous SAG members? Is it their confident strut? Sly smile?

3. Don't introduce 17 characters, especially ones all around the same age. In one pilot I read, there were like 8 men in their late 30s who all worked together. I could not tell them apart, so I gave up after a while.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Endings

[First, an update on the alcoholic environment of my job: we're having our holiday party on Thursday at the office (strike = no extra money to go someplace fancy). We got more details today: "Cocktails and heavy hors d'ouvres. Taxi vouchers will be provided for those who require car service home." Niiice. If only I wouldn't have to pay $40+ for a cab ride to get to work again Friday morning.]

I finally caught up with season three of Weeds. Overall the season was a bit disappointing, but the finale was fantastic...and strangely final. My friend Lee, Entertainment Weekly and I all agree that it would have been a perfect series finale. It's funny, because usually series finales disappoint and annoy me. One of the things I love about television is that shows can live on for years while features tend to fade away three weeks after they open. Characters on TV have the chance to grow and evolve in ways we never anticipated - while watching the Friends pilot, did you ever think Monica and Chandler would get married? Nope...but it makes perfect sense later on. However, this all makes ending a series - especially a long-running one - a difficult task. While screenwriters generally envision their ending before even writing Fade In, TV writers can't think this way because of so many outside forces (networks, actors, etc etc). But back to why I hate most finales - it's because the shows try to do way too much. They'll unnaturally fast forward twenty years in the future (ahem, OC, Will & Grace) even though each season spanned a few months at most. They'll try to wrap everything up in a neat little forced package.

But WEEDS. (SPOILER ALERT!) My goodness. It was characteristically hilarious and tragic - and relevant - as wildfires ripped through the neighborhood, threatening to torch Nancy's house, Celia's house, the grow house, the marijuana plants, the places that simultaneously constituted every character's livelihood and every character's unhappiness. It was all so fucking poetic. And it all came back to the beginning, the very reason why Nancy started this dangerous life in the first place: Judah's death. "I tried," Nancy tells him breathlessly, spilling gasoline all over the kitchen floor, hoping she can move on from this three-season detour from her normal life. No neat little package. No unnatural passage of time. Just the characters as they always have been, living their equally comic and tragic lives, realizing how they've come so far just to be right back where they started: grieving, struggling, making mistakes.
Don't get me wrong, I'll be thrilled to watch season four...but I doubt any finale will be more perfect than that episode.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Agency + Alcohol = Oh Boy.

Upon my graduation from college, I had a conversation with a friend about our mixed feelings about starting Real Life. She pouted, "But I'm not ready to give up binge drinking!" My advice to her, and to all, is that you don't have to! Just work at an agency.

Tonight will be the first installment in my series of What I've Learned in the Mailroom. The topic: ALCOHOL!

And boy, is there a lot of it! Take, for instance, the scene I observed walking through the hallway around 6 pm on a Monday:

Senior Agent 1 walks out of the kitchen with a red solo cup in one hand and a bottle of Jack Daniels in the other. He says to Senior Agent 2, "Boy, these cups are great. Nobody can tell what's in 'em."

I hid my smirk behind my stack of interoffice envelopes. But sir, I wanted to say, people can surely tell there is a BOTTLE OF JACK DANIELS in your other hand.

We once had an official meeting in which the head of HR told us that she wanted the agency to be like a fraternity. I thought it odd...but let me tell you, we all take this attitude very seriously. Yes, we keep piles of red solo cups in all the kitchens. After 4 pm on any given day (or all day on Friday), you are safe in assuming that said solo cups are not holding Arrowhead. Now, we often do "projects" for agents and assistants. A "project" might be a character breakdown or script coverage. It might be organizing a folder of headshots or magazine articles. It might be a run down to a production company or a client's house. It might be taking a shot at the bar across the street. Or going on a beer run. Or schmoozing at a film fest party and drinking a lot of free rum.

These things happen both in and out of the office. If it's someone's birthday...we have drinks! If someone moves on to a new job...we have drinks! If someone ends their internship...we have drinks! If someone gets promoted to agent...we have drinks! If we sign a great new client...we have drinks! If it's a holiday...we have drinks! If it's the end of the day...we have drinks!

Sensing a theme here?

Now, it can get pretty dangerous, since everybody changes a little when they drink. Do you make out with people you normally wouldn't - Or try your hardest? Do you get in fights? Are you brutally honest? Do you spread rumors? Do you dance like an idiot? Because you're going to do these things with people you WORK with. And see EVERY DAY. It's kind of amazing to me that people don't care. I mean, reaaaaally don't care. I've seen mailroom kids, assistants, agents even get WASTED with work people. I've seen them do all those things and more. Maybe it's because they work too hard and need to let loose. Maybe it's because they're caught up in living the Hollywood life. Maybe they just never plan to grow up, because it's LA and you don't have to. Maybe it's because they take that fraternity thing way too seriously.

For me, it's great. Because I'm a writer. I stand back and observe. I watch and listen and think, God, these are some amazing characters.

But I have to be careful...because I can be a drunk talker, too. :)

Monday, November 26, 2007

good news?




Strike news: Despite this morning's bad omen of finding that my roommate's cat had smashed several of the ornaments on my cheap little Christmas tree into colorful bits, Rumor has it that the talks went well today.


Sunday, November 25, 2007

What else?

Writers getting paid for internet work: it can happen. In fact, it already is happening for writers of Lost - check out this New York Times article.

What else? I have a friend who always asks "what else?" when we reach a lull in conversation. She's spending her post-collegiate life in some kind of social justice program on the Marshall Islands because she is infinitely cooler than I am. I don't have much of an answer to her question right now. I need to write some more. I took notes on Thursday's Ugly Betty so I can start an outline for a spec...fewer scenes than I had imagined. It seems fairly formulaic...but I'm having trouble thinking of good themes and ideas. I feel like everything I come up with either involves a guest character (something you're not supposed to feature in a non-procedural spec) or has been done before. Argh.

I caught up on a lot (but not all - don't spoil!) of season three of Weeds. I still enjoy it, but I found some of the plots annoying: Andy and the porn was out of nowhere, the Majestic/Agrestic city council stuff was boring and monotonous, and Mary Kate Olsen's character added very little...Silus falls for Girl #3 who doesn't care about him as much as he cares for her. Bleh. I wonder how much longer Weeds will be able to go on. I do enjoy everything with Conrad...

So now it's 3 am. What else? I should probably go to bed before my emo alter ego Emanda comes out.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

from the comments

I came home yesterday and saw a notice on the door to my apartment complex. You'd think it be something about trash, paint, holiday lights maybe. But no. It was a notice that CSI will be filming outside my apartment. Oh, LA.

Amanda, my friend who used to work for Friday Night Lights, asked me a question in the comments:

While I was still with FNL, our dept. had a huge discussion about the episode that aired on riday. Many felt it was a huuuuuge mistake to end the episode on a character who had only recently been introduced. As a writer, how do you feel about that?

Oooh. Interesting. I was fine with it, and here's why:

1. I once went back to my high school after I had graduated, and I was hit with the eerie realization that the place never changes. The teachers, classes, lunches, dances, it all just happens over and over again to new students. In terms of FNL, we eventually need to meet new students because Smash and Riggins are close to graduating and Jason Street is already pretty far away from the Panthers. It won't make sense to follow them forever, unless they stay in Dillon and are somehow involved with the team...because as much as the show is not about football, its whole premise is deeply rooted in the Panthers. So I think we need to start meeting new, younger players and get to know them.

2. Santiago is different and interesting - and I want to get to know his story.

3. FNL doesn't always have the same episode formula, and I like that. Games always happen in different acts, and some episodes don't have games at all. And actually, FNL did this same kinda thing with a new character last season: when we met Waverly for the first time (does anyone else miss her?!), almost all of act five was a very long scene at the mini golf course where Waverly and Smash discovered they were both covering up secrets. And I loved that scene.

---

Soon I'm going to post about all the things I've learned at the agency. I think they'll surprise you. Lots of stuff film school just can't prepare you for.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

A little Pantherama

It has been a weekend filled with drinking. And since my weekend started on Thursday, today will be a much-needed detox day. I think I might try to catch up on Weeds season 3 on Graboid.com, a cool site that lets you watch a certain number of shows per month for free. Some people are saying you shouldn't watch any TV online until writers get paid for it...and I think this site might basically be pirating...but I'm going to do it for right now. If you also make $90 a week after taxes and rent, feel free to criticize me.

Back to Thursday. 10 or so of my work friends and I went straight to Barney's, which was pretty hopping. Sometimes it gets too crowded on the weekends, but Thursday seems like the perfect night to go. There's also karaoke, which is fun. I was standing near the karaoke stage when a familiar FNL quarterback walked by: none other than Jason Street, Scott Porter. Seems taller, sans his wheelchair. I sort of did a double take and turned to my friend Betsy, who echoed my excitement. She's more of a Riggins girl, though. Scott sang three or four songs and, as it turns out, has a great voice. He's also really nice and hung out with my friends and me for a while. Before he left, HE shook MY hand and said, "I'm Scott, by the way." As if I didn't know. ;)

Strangely enough, Scott was absent in this week's ep of FNL...but I did find it to be one of my favorites of the season. I think my favorite scene was the tiny one at the end where Matt, his grandma and Carlotta are eating breakfast. Grandma is the only one who speaks, blathering on about something or other...but the scene is about the fact that Matt had kissed Carlotta the night before, and neither of them really knew how to respond. In the kitchen, Matt was nervous, feeling that he had crossed a line, and was afraid that Carlotta might be upset with him. This is all conveyed in a series of glances. Then Carlotta smiles, and we know everything is fine. I love scenes like this, but I do think they are kind of a challenge to write, especially for a newbie writing specs or pilots. Because you're doing what screenwriting teachers always tell you not to do: writing what characters are thinking and not saying. Stuff that supposedly can't be shot. It may be breaking a rule, but it makes for amazing television...I may try to get my hands on the script to see how it was written.

Something else I liked about the ep was that there were a few scenes where characters are talking but not listening to each other because they each are pursuing separate goals. In one, Tami basically forces Lyla and Tyra to plan the entertainment portion of Pantherama. She won't listen to their excuses; she basically dumps the project in their laps and walks away. Later, Tami and Eric have a similar conversation where they each want something and plan to use the other to get it (and I feel this is a common thing with them). I think it works so well because it reminds us that these are each characters pursuing goals, and they are not to be used as devices for a plot or arc. Moreover, these kinds of scenes are efficient because they reveal character, weave plots together and advance two things at once, often complicating them. Another great scene was when Santiago moved in with Buddy. The two characters were on totally different planes...Buddy was a little nervous and worried because he wasn't entirely prepared for it, and he is a bit embarassed about his sparse bachelor pad. Meanwhile, Santiago is overwhelmed because it's more than he's ever had. We don't even realize how far apart these two are until the end of the scene, when Santiago says something along the lines of, "This is the first real bed I've ever had," and suddenly Buddy is brought into Santiago's world. Anyway, I guess the whole idea is that we need to think of our characters individually: their wants, their tactics, etc., and never use a character as a device for another when s/he has goals of their own.

Some links: Dirty Sexy Money just became the first full-season pickup since the strike. It may not even happen, but the two sides have agreed to negotiate, which is an important step in the right direction. (Maybe they'll come up with something by Christmas - my roommate and I concurred that keeping our jobs would be the best Christmas present ever.) Anyway, I haven't watched Dirty Sexy Money in a few weeks; I had kind of given up on it because I think it has fundamental flaws: 1. the tone is totally off. I feel its dramatic moments are genuine and well done...but when it tries to be funny, it misses the mark completely and feels like a terrible Arrested Development knock-off. 2. the main character is the most boring person on the show. 3. I don't buy WHY he's continuing to work for this family if they're such a pain and he really doesn't care about the money. Yes, I know that he's trying to find his father's murderer, but I don't think he really needs to keep the job to do that.

One more thing - I saw Lions for Lambs last night, which was a huge disappointment. (Stupid Lars and the Real Girl being sold out.) It's basically an hour and forty minutes of Robert Redford taking the theme of The War is Dumb and beating you over the head with it. It's painfully slow, with literally no plot, just talking and talking in these interminable, visually static 12-minute scenes.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Not in the top 0.56%

Tonight I went to an Academy-sponsored Working Your Way Up in Television event after hearing about it from Lisa Klink and others. Mostly I found it to be a waste of time...I know the names of the networks, and how to put together a resume. But I could see how it might be of interest to current college students or people coming to LA with no industry experience. I did get to talk to one of the directors of the ABC Diversity Development programs (including the ABC/Disney writing fellowship that Jane Espenson raves about). By now I think it's safe to assume I wasn't accepted. He said they received 2,500 submissions for 14 spots. Yeesh. I guess you can look at it in two ways: 1. reassuring, because surely many talented writers didn't make it and you very well may be one of them, or 2. disheartening, because you basically have no chance at getting in and you can consider it another door closed. I also asked him what they look for, and beyond a great script, he said they want people who really want to be TV writers, and can express that in their application.

Meanwhile, PROJECT RUNWAY SEASON FOUR HAS BEGUN! Strike-proof television that I actually like. Tip for west coasters, though: don't go to bravotv.com before the episode is over, because they POST WHO GETS KICKED OFF. Grr.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Links

Strike: Here's an AMAZING Youtube video about how the studios are making gobs of money from the internet (and therefore should be sharing it with writers).

Finding an agent (in a bar): here's where agents go to drink. I doubt you'll be able to round up representation there, but hey, maybe you can if you're attractive. I actually know someone at the agency who got a job (albeit in the mailroom) from meeting agents in the bar where she worked.

Heroes: Creator Tim Kring actually apologizes for the disappointing second season in this Entertainment Weekly article. The points: the pace is too slow, the world-saving stakes should have been established sooner, the rookies didn't greet themselves properly, Hiro was in Japan way too long, and young love stinks. One of the reasons I love television is that it can evolve over weeks and seasons, it can experiment with plots and character arcs and then go in completely different directions. I had been close to writing off Heroes, but maybe if the creator is on the same page as I am, there's a reason to keep watching.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Simple Strike Explanation

I know I said I wouldn't talk more about the strike...but I just had to share this great YouTube video about why you should support the writers. It's also good to send back to your families in wherever so you don't have to try to translate all the industry lingo for them. :)

Today was good. I wrote a character breakdown, split a Hawaiian pizza at Cheesecake Factory for lunch, and hung out with mailroom guys all day. I'd have to say the best thing about working at an agency is all the other people my age (or close to my age...since at 22 I tie for the youngest person there, besides the Intern). And with so many aspiring talent agents, there are lots of outgoing personalities. Diverse backgrounds. Future characters in my scripts. One mailroom kid mused that this is the only industry where it's okay to be "aspiring." If you said you were an aspiring doctor or an aspiring lawyer, you'd sound like a jackass. Go to med school. Take the LSATS. But aspiring writer? Actress? Musician? Sure, why not. I guess it's because there's so much competition, and there's no sure-fire path that you must take to achieve success.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Still Working.

Yesterday the agency's president had a meeting with everyone and said he had no plans to lay off anybody. Yay! We have many divisions that will be keeping up work as usual, and the others will just have to be mindful of spending money, but otherwise we should be fine. If the strike lasts for several months, that could change...but there's no reason to be worried right now. I feel reassured, especially since I do support everything the writers are asking for. I won't say more about the strike, because I don't have any authority, and because you can read about it in the trades or on the blogs. (I've added a few more blogs to the right...if you want strike lowdown, there are a lot of good arguments and info.)

Instead, I'll point to a non-strike news article:

Reveille, Ali, N network on Body Image - I'm actually not that concerned with the new show, Student Body, but I am intrigued by the fact that the N will become its own 24-hour channel next year. The expansion of cable networks has offered new venues for great shows like Mad Men, My Boys, etc. And the N, which aims at a pretty young audience, might just be the perfect place to sell my dramedy about college radio. :P Or ABC Family. Or the CW. I'm not really picky.

What else? I think I'm going to write an Ugly Betty spec. It's a great example of a show that blends drama and comedy, which is what I want my writing to achieve. Although there are a lot of serial elements, I feel that you could pick a more episodic plot and ignore the serial stuff more than you could with a show like Brothers & Sisters.

Friday, November 2, 2007

I need this week to be over.

I think I'm homesick for a life I've never had. I have been having some doubts lately, about whether I should be in LA, whether my job will pay off, whether I have the patience and determination to stick it out in this business, whether I will ever succeed. But then I thought to myself, if I quit everything and moved back east, what would I do? And I have no answer. If I'm not meant to do this, I'm not sure I'm meant to do anything. Man, I really hope this strike doesn't last long, because I don't want to get laid off and have to find another job.

In other news, the company chef made us all delicious cookies yesterday, which I didn't feel that guilty about eating because I met with my new trainer in the morning and have been in extreme PAIN ever since. Yes, I have a trainer...I'm so LA. Or at least I will be until my five free sessions are over.

I got some feedback on my pilot from two of the guys I work with. They both really liked the main character, which I take as a compliment, since it is basically me. :) I think I may wait for a few more opinions before I go back and re-draft, because they had a lot of differing opinions. One lesson I took from both, though, is not to assume that one line of dialogue or action will make something obvious. In my attempt to make things nuanced and not on-the-nose I made a relationship much too murky.

And just so you know...Deezer is my new favorite music destination. And btw, all the mailroom kids are on Meebo, a chatting tool that combines yahoo, AIM and google chat.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Still Here

Sorry I've been quiet...not much to say. Everybody's starting to make their strike bets - nothing really has changed on that front. Looks like they're definitely striking...although we just got two new mailroom employees (wtf?), so I guess the agency isn't too concerned about the financial hit. Another TV Lit desk opened up, but I didn't go for it because 1. there were some company politics I didn't really want to get involved in and 2. I really do want to go through the floater/training process before jumping onto a desk. It kinda sucks because a bunch of TV Lit desks opened right as I got hired, and it's not that big of a department...but I'm sure more will. Just gotta be patient.

One thing I did today was help organize a binder for a TV Lit agent. Nothing really, just alphabetizing, but I did notice that there are a million writers with a million different scripts. So, in the vein of Alex Epstein's post about all the things you need to do before you give up, I feel the need to advise all aspiring writers to JUST WRITE. Write a pilot. And a spec. And another one. Because I assure you that all of your competitors are doing just that.

Tonight I also had a great dinner with an old internship supervisor. He's a CE, and very busy for work and life reasons, but luckily we were finally able to meet. He's from the midwest and very down-to-earth, which is nice to find in this town. We had always gotten along well and I made sure to send an email every now and then...something I definitely recommend. Plus, I got a nice dinner out of it. :)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

I love me some internets

Nikki Finke's Blog: She's informative, irreverent, and seems to know everything before everyone else does. Lots of interesting strike perspectives.

Here's an LA Times article about the dwindling number of good female comedy roles. It's interesting that such a classic formula as the female-driven romantic comedy is becoming obsolete, but it is...and it's being replaced by hyper-sexual, male-driven not-so-rom coms. Women and comedy are a tough match...in part because it seems to be so much more important for women in Hollywood to be thin, attractive and youthful. On the TV side...even women who fit this description AND are talented comediennes (Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Christina Applegate come to mind) are held back by mediocre material. Both The New Adventures of Old Christine and Samantha Who are entertaining and accomplish what they set out to do, but they're nothing special or particularly memorable. There's nothing deeper going on between the dialogue or plot, and it's disappointing. Now, I do admire the characters - and actresses - on Ugly Betty, Weeds and Desperate Housewives - but these shows are all equally dramatic/tragic (and two follow more of a drama format), which I think is important to note.

Lastly, I thought you might want to know that Universal has posted the PDFs of a bunch of film scripts on their website for free download. Rumor has it they'll only be up there til February, so click soon!

Monday, October 22, 2007

The best $1.25 (and $5 for parking) you'll ever spend

Any two cookies. Any flavor ice cream. Smush 'em together and get the BEST ICE CREAM SANDWICH EVER FOR ONLY $1.25. Diddy Reese in Westwood, on Broxton. If I went to UCLA, this place would probably be the sole cause of my freshman fifteen. There is a sign in the window that says the price will be going up to $1.50, but I think I will be able to spare another quarter. (Next time, though, I'm definitely going to find free parking and walk a little farther).

In the TV world, Viva Laughlin just got cancelled after TWO episodes. Adaptations aren't always as safe as networks would like to think. Also, I learned in Variety that MySpace is airing its first exclusive scripted show, Roommates. I haven't watched it yet...but apparently users can affect the course of the plot, which is worth mentioning. Interactive TV. It'll be really cool or really dumb, I think. Another sign that TV is changing is that director Alan Taylor just received a development deal with CBS Paramount. He's one of a growing number of directors with development deals. It has long been thought that film was a director's medium, whereas TV was a writer's medium...but with shows that look as slick as Life, Heroes, Friday Night Lights, Mad Men, Pushing Daisies, etc., directing in TV is something to get excited about.

I saw Rendition this weekend, which was a mess. The characters were underdeveloped, yet it attempted to be a character piece disguised as a political thriller. Like I said, a mess.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Strike

If you're an aspiring writer, especially one outside of LA, you've probably heard of the impending WGA strike but may be a little confused about what the hell is going on. To be honest, people out here don't know too much more - just that there is about the same chance of a strike as there is a chance of Lindsay or Britney going back to rehab. (I have to mention, though, that I saw LL in a cafe yesterday and she looked quite good, despite nearly being attacked by paparazzi - come on, let the girl have a frickin sandwich!) Most people seem to be taking a moderate stance...saying sure, the writers should get more, but a strike will just suck for everyone. I don't really feel like I've been in this business long enough to assert an opinion...so I'll just post some links in case you want to catch up. One thing I do know is that you need to be informed to be successful here.

If you're only going to read one, read this one: It's a Variety article about all the different things that could happen come Nov. 1.

WGA's rules regarding what writers are forbidden from doing in the event of a strike

Variety article about the AMPTP bashing the rules

NY Times article about producers withdrawing their proposal to change the residual process

Variety article about what studios, agents, etc. are doing in preparation

Monday, October 15, 2007

Thinking Small

Gossip Girl is no O.C., but it works. It works because each episode tackles a small event...a party, a photo shoot, a poker game. It doesn't attempt to throw in crazy, overly dramatic plots or expect its characters to go through giant changes over the course of an episode. It keeps it simple, and I think other shows could benefit from this approach. It doesn't mean the show has to be boring or inconsequential...if the show is truly about the characters, then their reactions to small situations can actually be very interesting and powerful.

Take Friday Night Lights, which everyone seems to be in agreement has changed this season. My roommate and I just watched "Homecoming" from the first season. Simple, normal things are happening...an alumnus returns in the hopes of getting a coaching job. Smash wants to impress a scout. Matt isn't sure if he should ask Julie out on a date. Tyra is planning a party. All these things happen every day, but they become powerful because of the characters, the subtleties, the subtext. We don't need murders, unrealistic living situations, etc. That's what I like so much about FNL...it's normal, everday people in normal, everyday situations. You don't need spies and cops, you don't need bombs or murders or constant life-and-death situations.

I worried that my pilot might be too superficial or simple, since it's just a bunch of kids trying to run a radio station. But it involves friendship, power, love, disappointment, control. You don't have to be saving lives or fighting crime; these issues can come up when you're doing laundry or having a meeting or going to a frisbee party.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Depressing Dillon


I guess I should talk about Friday Night Lights, which has gotten very dark and depressing. What Variety called a "highly dramatic" plot with Tyra and Landry turned out to be a murder...yep, Landry killed the guy who tried to rape Tyra last season when he returned, and then the two dumped his body in a river. Meanwhile, Julie is sick of Matt. Matt's grandma is loopier than ever and he's brought in a tough in-home nurse. Tami is crying nonstop and wondering why she wanted to live apart from Eric (hmm, ME TOO!). Eric is not really loving his new job at TMU. The new Panthers coach is pissing off Riggins and Street. Buddy is miserable about his divorce, and is making his wife and her new guy both miserable. Lyla is trying to fill the void in her life with Jesus, and I'm not sure she's even fooling herself. The only people not entirely depressed are Smash (and we've seen him for 2 or 3 scenes) and Riggins (and he is still pining after Lyla). There is no comic relief, via Landry or Buddy or whoever. And Waverly has disappeared. I mean, I guess we've set up a lot to fix over the season...but it's just so crazy. Would Tami and Eric really have chosen to live apart with a new baby? I thought for sure Eric was going to pick the Panthers and things would be back to normal. And the murder? Yeesh. I feel like Tyra and Landry's fledgling romance could have included enough drama.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

update

I don't really know why, but I watched Cavemen tonight. And guess what - it's a FOURTH show this season that depicts the poor, pathetic life of retail workers (this time, in an Ikea-type foreign furniture conglomerate). Weird.

So...the mailroom gig. I thought it was going to be really stressful, running around and getting yelled at and whatnot. Turns out it's pretty boring and slow. It's going to take me a while to memorize all the agents and their assistants and where they sit, but otherwise I already pretty much have the job under control. There is a lot of downtime but we are allowed to read some of the scripts so I plan to do plenty of that. I also get to leave at 6:30 which is sort of ridiculously early in this business. woo!

Did I mention I finished the rough draft of my pilot? I was on a roll on Saturday night (I have such an action social life...) and got the whole thing done. My main focus now is writing a new teaser, because the current one is a bit pointless and sets little up...but the I feel like the idea itself is a unique experience I want to include somewhere in the script...so I'm not really sure what to do about it yet. Maybe I'll have to go watch a few pilots of similar shows.

By the way...Brothers & Sisters has a lot of online behind-the-scenes stuff from writers and producers - check it out!

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Good News, Bad News

October 5, 2007

Dear Applicant,

Thank you for applying to the Warner Bros. Television Writer's Workshop. After careful evaluation and consideration of the hundreds of scripts we received, we are unable to include your submission(s) in the final round.

We wish you well in all of your future writing endeavors and thank you again for your interest in the workshop.

---

After reading Jane Espenson's post about how the workshop was only accepting 7 drama writers this year, I can't say I'm surprised. But there was this little flicker of hope...

Ah well, rejection is part of the process, right? I'll try again next year.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Loving Life

First, the big announcement:


I AM EMPLOYED! Starting Monday, I'll be working in the mailroom at the midsize agency. Perhaps I am selling my soul (and any free time), but I am excited. I know how valuable agency experience can be, and I think this place is a good fit for me.


On the TV front...up there with Pushing Daisies is Life, which I finally caught up with. It's Law & Order's hip, visually exciting, more serial younger cousin. Maybe Law & Order meets Veronica Mars meets Burn Notice? Something like that. The protagonist, Crews, is an LAPD detective who got framed for a murder, spent 10 years in prison, got exonerated (and paid a multi-million dollar settlement), became a sort of celebrity and rejoined the force. He also listens to self-help tapes and eats a lot of fruit. The title is kinda lame, but it stands for the sentence he received, and "what he got back" when he was exonerated. The show is quirky and fun, but also takes on really dark episodic cases, and of course Crews' ongoing search for the people who framed him is gripping and serious. I love it. Wednesdays at 10 on NBC - or you can watch it at NBC.com.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

It's all coming up daisies


I'm sure you've already heard, but Pushing Daisies is fantastic. It's like Wes Anderson meets Tim Burton, with Sorkinian dialogue. Seriously. It had a nice classic pilot setup of someone/something upsetting the main character's normal world. In this case, the "normal" world is a whimsical one in which Ned can touch dead people and bring them back to life, but only for a minute until someone in close proximity dies. He keeps childhood sweetheart Chuck alive, and she wants in on the whole bringing-people-back-to-life business. I love that the show has such a strong sense of style and tone -both of which are very different from anything currently on TV.

Carpoolers was silly, but had some great jokes. My favorite was when the guys were fighting for a parking spot and yelled, "Oh no! Fancy carpool! With their sushi!" And sure enough, guys in a nearby expensive car were holding chopsticks out their tinted windows and stealing the available spot. There's nothing really new or provocative about it, but I would watch again.

Scratch my optimism about Private Practice. The second episode was ridiculously melodramatic. I think I have a better use of your time during this show: Drink every time they say the word "baby." You'll be wasted by act two, and I think the show will be much better as a result. Or just save the room on your DVR for every episode 30 Rock, cause that show is amazing. By the way, Tiny Fey answers questions in video format on the NBC website. Another one of my favorites premieres this week: FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS! Bravo is running a marathon all day leading up to it, so you can catch up if you've been resisting the best show on TV.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Polishing the Solo Cups

Quick update. I'm PAing at the reality prod co Mon-Wed., so I've been kinda busy. I have a bunch of TV to catch up on, but I did catch The Big Bang Theory and Aliens in America. The former is a traditional sitcom that is pretty funny because the guys are quirky and have good comedic timing...but the female lead plays it so straight that she's kind of boring in comparison. Aliens is kind of like Malcolm in the Middle meets Everybody Hates Chris with a large dose of cultural/social commentary. If that makes sense. It's not hilarious but seems to have some heart, so we'll see where it goes.

I have been writing off and on, and I'm on act four of my pilot (I gave up on the idea of it being half an hour because my pagecount was already in the late 30s, but I think tonally it makes more sense as an hour anyway). I hit a roadblock when I came to the party scene and realized it was kind of boring and pointless, other than the fact that all shows about college have obligatory party scenes. Then I remembered something Alex Epstein said in his comments about Tell Me You Love Me, the graphically sexual show on HBO...it didn't really work for him because the sex wasn't ABOUT anything...it was just sex for the sake of sex, and it didn't move the plot or tell us anything we didn't already know. My party was the same way...people were standing around drinking and saying witty things, but not much else. I was also reminded of my high school theater teacher yelling at us to get off the stage if we had no point being in the scene (mostly because high schoolers forget to act if they're not saying lines, but it has a narrative purpose too). Anyway, I'm now refocusing the scene and thinking about WHY each character is there and, WHAT they're trying to accomplish and how other character's goals might get in the way. Sometimes it helps to bring it back to screenwriting 101 basics. Wants vs. needs, stakes, tactics, conflict. I'm also going to watch the OC pilot again, because it's a great party scene (and I never get sick of that pilot).

I've got a THIRD interview at the midsize agency on Thursday, for an open assistant desk in TV lit. I guess HR and the other agents liked me enough to pass my resume along...this would be a great opportunity, and allow me to pass over the mailroom/floater steps. Fingers crossed (again).

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Golf carts, rum, sharks, sperm and rabies


Sometimes Microsoft Paint is the best way to express yourself. I may have to stop watching Grey's very soon. Anybody see Izzy bring a deer back to life in the back of a truck? Yeah. And McDreamy just happens to meet and be attracted to a woman who just happens to be Meredith's half sister whom she never knew about and just happens to get a job as an intern at the hospital? I know television is all a little bit convenient, but come on. The premiere ended with Meredith & Derek in the same situation as ever...having great sex but afraid to commit themselves to anything more. If I have to hear them say they're "not ready for this" one more time I'm going to take a scalpel to everyone's ambubags. Emotionally unavailable medical experts, grow the fuck up.

Private Practice was okay. I liked it better than the Grey's premiere, but that's not really saying much. The dialogue and tone are snappy like vintage Grey's, and the characters have some nice quirks to them. I thought the plot was a little weak, though...the thing with Amy Brenneman in the store was kinda strange, and I also don't want to hear the word sperm ever again. The establishing shots of LA (and more specifically, Santa Monica), felt weird because there would just be one super-quick shot at the beginning of an act. Overall, I'm not sure. It's somewhat sillier than Grey's, which may prove to be redeeming - or result in there not being enough at stake to keep our interest.

There's no doubt in my mind that ABC's Big Shots was pitched as the male Desperate Housewives. Unfortunately, it's nowhere near as juicy or fun. The plots, though soapy, are simple and tired...and the dramatic scenes just don't tap into genuine emotion. Lots of cheating, a little business, death by golf cart and a trannie at a truckstop? The characters are unsympathetic, the women are underdeveloped and the show overall is superficial. I get what they're going for: four guys trying to fix their botched relationships and therefore their lives...and I like Dylan McDermott's icy blues as much as the next girl. But Big Shots is another show about ABCs that fails to make an impression.

CBS's Cane was a nice surprise. It's the story of a Cuban-American family and their rum business. It discusses the mixing of business and family, business and pleasure, past and present, tradition and modernism. I thought the flashbacks were melodramatic and largely unnecessary, but overall the golden aesthetic was a joy to watch. I also thought the combination of English and Spanish felt very natural and established the tone and setting well. The teenagers on the show are a bit cliche (a complaint I have about many shows), but they share screen time nearly equally with the adults, so they may prove to be more complex. Variety points out that the show may not attract many viewers because it's so different from the rest of CBS's procedural-heavy lineup, but it's worth a watch. Tuesdays at 10.

The Office was great. I'm always impressed by the ideas the writers come up with to make the show more visual, this time being a Rabies Fun Run. I also think the Jim/Pam plot was really well done, since the point at which two characters finally get together on a show is often the end of conflict and the beginning of the show's demise. In their case, the new conflict is now keeping the relationship secret, which should keep us going for a while. Plus, Kevin's reactions to them are classic. PB & J!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The alphabet

I would like to propose a new acronym for ABC: Affluent Brooding Caucasians. Don't get me wrong, I like a lot of shows on ABC...but they are all about rich white people struggling with relationships. People were raving about Dirty Sexy Money, but I was underwhelmed. The main character is a lawyer who goes to work for a rich, crazy family. It's a bit reminiscent of Arrested Development (sigh), but soapy instead of absurd. The pilot had some funny moments, but unfortunately the show suffers from Devil-Wears-Prada syndrome: the protagonist is the most boring character in it. His only goal or passion is not turning into his father (who had the same job and thus neglected his family). I haven't watched Big Shots or Private Practice yet, but I'm expecting more ABCs.

On NBC, Journeyman was decent. It's somewhere between Early Edition and Quantum Leap, but darker than both. The protagonist, Dan, is a slacker (no shock there, given this pilot season) who travels through time to fix other people's problems - but since he can't control his comings and goings, he creates many familial problems of his own. Unlike EE and QL, the time-traveling in JM is absolutely a curse that may ruin Dan's life. The show is visually exciting and emotionally compelling, but I'm not sure if the plots will seem worthwhile, or if we'll always be on Dan's side.

Annd, I just want to say that Pam Beasley and I wore the same blue knit top from Banana Republic today. I swear it's the same one...and that's awesome.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

RETAILiation

It seems that the theme of this premiere season is "Retail Slackers." In just two days we saw Mr. Bennett (Heroes), Chuck (Chuck) and half the cast of Reaper hardly working at much-hated jobs at giant retail conglomerates...and in each show, the attitude was clearly that the job sucked the big one. I find this a little strange. Did all the writers used to work at big stores and hate them?

That being said, I thought the premiere of Heroes was kind of disappointing. The episode had no real arc of its own...just lots of setup. There are two new characters from Honduras, one being a woman who accidentally mass murders people and then doesn't remember it (similar to the Jessica side of Nikki, in my opinion). I'm not sure I like this, given the fact that the few women on Heroes are already weak or have negative powers (Claire always has to be saved...and Jessica, the strong one, is evil)...but I guess I have to give it more time.

Everyone is raving about Chuck, but I thought it was just okay. It's quirky, fun and really well shot. But I have two problems: 1. The plot is a huge stretch, and I'm having trouble buying it. Chuck is a now-stereotypical retail slacker who saw a bunch of pictures his old college roommate sent to him in an email and now holds government secrets in his head. Really? 2. It's not that funny. The show is definitely going for more subtle Office-like humor than Two and a Half Men-style punchlines, which I give it credit for, but they're just not that funny. The action-comedy genre is fun, but I think Burn Notice on USA does it much better...it's a little funnier, and the plots are less ridiculous. (Speaking of funny...I never talked about Back to You's premiere last week. It's a very tired, typical sitcom with nothing new or original about it. It proves that no matter how many Emmy winners are on your cast, the show will suck if the jokes aren't funny.)


And now...I am happy to tell you that REAPER IS HILARIOUS AND PROBABLY THE BEST NEW SHOW OF THE SEASON. I say this hoping that some of you have Nielsen boxes and will tune in since scripted stuff on the CW isn't exactly known for pulling in huge numbers. Reaper is produced by Mark Gordon (Grey's Anatomy, Army Wives) and the pilot was written by Kevin Smith. Strange combination? Absolutely. But it worked. It's a story about a slacker retail worker (I'm letting this one slide because the scenes in the store were hilarious) whose parents sell his soul to the devil, forcing him to work for Satan, killing evil people who escape from hell. Why it's ingenious: 1. It's clever and original. Two news anchors? Yup, we've seen it a dozen or so times. Doing deeds for Satan? Not as much. 2. It's visually exciting. Using a dirt devil to suck up a burly arsonist who can set himself on fire is cool to watch. 3. It's episodic - The main character will be chasing after a different lost soul each episode. 4. It's strangely moral - even though he's working for the Devil, he's actually catching bad guys, which makes him a good guy in my book. And, most importantly, 5: It's hilarious. It's a combination of subtle humor, nice punchlines, weird characters and cool visual gags. My absolute favorite line was when the main character and the Devil (a distinguished man in a suit) stood under black umbrellas, looking at the muscley arsonist they had to catch. The Devil explained about him, paused and said, "Oh, gag. What a tool." Love it. Watch it. Tuesdays at 9 on the CW.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

And some premiere gossip (girl).

Last night was the much-awaited premiere of OC creator Josh Schwartz's new show, Gossip Girl. I have mixed feelings about it, but I'll definitely be watching next week. It was nearly impossible to watch the pilot without comparing it to The OC. First off, it's deliciously shot (and actually, director Mark Piznarski also directed the Veronica Mars pilot). Second, it's about gorgeous rich kids who look and act way old than high schoolers (though at least Seth and Ryan drank keg beer from solo cups...these kids drink martinis in hotel bars? seriously?). More similarities: Dysfunctional parents who criticize clothing, and also parents who seem to have a history. Big party scene. Relationship infidelity. The idea of breaking into the cool "world." Basically, it's 3/4 OC and 1/4 Cruel Intentions. And at this point, I have to say that both The OC and Cruel Intentions did it better.

The OC was funnier and less pretentious, where GG takes itself much more seriously. There are some funny moments with Rufus, but he's not as strong of a character as Sandy. Plus, Seth never wanted to be part of the cool world, he just kinda fell into it when Ryan showed up and pushed him to pursue Summer. And he made cracks about it the whole time. On GG, Serena returns to the world she most definitely belongs in. Blair runs it. And cute brother-sister team Jenny and Dan are bothing aching to be part of it. Where is the satire? Where is the commentary that it's all kind of ridiculous?

Also, I think the voiceover of the secret blogger adds very little to the show. She does nothing but point out what we are already seeing, and the blog itself never affected the plot (though I'm guessing that will change).

The characters had some decent specificity...Jenny has potential to go through a lot of changes, and the Serena/Dan match could be interesting. I find Blair and Nate both kind of whiny. Eric is a bit of a cliche at this point, and I'm not sure that kid can act. Chuck could be a great antagonist, but he's seems to be trying a little too hard to be Ryan Philippe's Sebastian...and I hope we don't have to stomach too many more scenes of him forcing his tongue down girls' throats. Anyway, if you liked the OC, it's worth a look.

Also on Wednesdays...umm, Kid Nation? Probably the guiltiest and most pleasurable guilty pleasure of the season. I bet it started out as a joke in some meeting...an executive was out of ideas and said "All right, let's just drop a couple dozen kids in the desert and let them fend for themselves." And Kid Nation was born. Not suprisingly, it's gotten some scrutiny from both parents and the WGA. Anyway, I liked it. I think it's interesting because it shows that kids can be smart and sometimes eloquent even before they've lost all their baby teeth. The first ep was kind of positive, and I'm expecting it to turn more chaotic...come on, you read Lord of the Flies.

Job search update

I interviewed for a receptionist position at a commercial production company in Santa Monica on Monday and just heard today that I didn't get it...they told me that I was certainly qualified and the interview went very well, but they got a referral from an exec at another company and the candidate knows the commercial production world very well (I obviously don't) and it was a better fit. It wasn't my ideal job so I don't feel that badly about it...especially since the woman said she would pass my resume along to other companies looking for people, which was nice.

This morning I had a second interview for a receptionist (though they're calling it "production secretary") position at a production company in Burbank that produces game shows and specials like parades and pre-shows. The producer said he would like me to move on and meet with the executive producer, but I told him about my other interviews going on and he said he doesn't want to give the EP a candidate who won't be willing to accept the position and start immediately. He said to call the associate producer when I've figured it out, noting that they might find someone else if I wait too long. It's a dangerous game, but this job also isn't ideal...and I have reason to be optimistic about:

The mid-size agency interview that went really well yesterday. The woman in HR was exceedingly friendly, and maybe it was just her spiel but I really liked what she had to say about the company and the experience I would have there. She wants me to start in the mailroom for a month, then be a floater, then assistant. Honestly, the interview was not much of an interview...she did most of the talking and then asked whether I wanted to be in lit or talent, TV or MP. She gave me her stamp of approval so now we are in the process of setting up two interviews with agents there. If they like me (and she said as long as I am outgoing I should be fine), then I'm in. The mailroom pay is dismal, but you get more as a floater and more than that as an assistant, so it'll become pretty standard after a couple months. The reality prod co receptionist gig would pay more - even more than once I'm an assistant - but I really think working at an agency will be the fast track to career success. I'm quickly finding out that you need to have been an assistant to get an assistant job, and if you have been an agent assistant, it is even more valuable. It will be hard, but the atmosphere at the agency is really welcoming (she assured me there are no Ari Golds there, haha), and I think it will be worth it. I just hope the agents like me.

In the meantime I'm doing some freelance work Friday and possibly Monday & Tuesday, and I'm working another open casting call for American Gladiators on Sunday. I might actually be able to pay my rent next month!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

K-ville

Anybody watch the series premiere of K-Ville on Fox last night? I thought it was pretty good. What I think works about it is that it has elements of a typical cop drama - a new case each episode - but it's grounded in a really specific setting (modern day New Orleans) with unique problems. Overall I thought it was shot pretty well, but not as strikingly as Friday Night Lights or The O.C. (in my opinion, season 3 was a bit weak in writing but fantastically shot). Marlin is an interesting protagonist, an emotionally rattled cop who often takes things too far to keep control of everything. His partner, a reserved convict-turned-soldier, should provide conflict throughout the season. The plot moved along well, and there were always extremely high stakes. Occasionally I felt it delved into melodrama, especially with flashbacks that were unnecessary (and nowhere near as artfully done as those on the O.C.), but the situations have every reason to be intense. Plus, Marlin's cheeky personality - and the down-home New Orleans mentality that may prove to be a character in itself - offer a fair amount of humor to balance it out.

If you missed it, there is a special encore on tonight at 9. Normally the show airs Mondays at 9 on Fox.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Good News.

Yesterday was a good day for the job search. I set up interviews next week for a management/production company in Santa Monica and a Mid-size Top-10 Agency in Beverly Hills. The former is for a Receptionist position (but since it's a small company I don't think that would necessarily be a bad thing). The agency HR assistant told me we would talk about mailroom positions as well as other positions. Yay. The lunch with my former internship boss got moved to Tuesday, so I actually have three places to be next week. Hurray!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Happy Anniversary!

Today is the day. One month since I arrived in la la land. When I woke up this morning, the universe decided to give me a present: NO MORE WIRELESS INTERNET.

Ughhhhh. Now I have a list of just 18 wireless networks to choose from, all of them password protected. I seriously considered knocking on my nextdoor neighbors' door and asking to split their bill. (Two of the networks are full-strength, so I know they must belong to someone nearby). Until I get that shameless, I'll be rockin it here at the Sherman Oaks Public Library.

Another thing I've learned about Hollywood is that people work crazy ridiculous long-ass hours. People like my roommate, who just emailed me to schedule hanging-out time. We live together. And just cause it's funny, I have to share with you our conversation (all separate emails):

KATIE: What are we doing tonight??

ME: whatever you want to! i have that 99 cent bottle of wine...i bet we can each get drunk for 50 cents. lol

KATIE: YAYAYAY!! AND WATCH FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS??? SHALL I BRING SOME PIZZA OR SOMETHING??

ME: haha FNL sounds good to me. hmmm i could do pizza! we have some menus/coupons at home too.
btw i am at the public library right now. we have NO MORE INTERNET at our apt. :( :(

KATIE: OH NOOOOOOOOO

I'LL WAIT TO GET THE PIZZA UNTIL I GET HOME SO WE CAN COUPON IT UP

A girl after my own heart. Her caps-lock enthusiasm looked pretty hilarious above her ultra-professional assistant email signature, btw.

Job update: Got an email about a receptionist gig at a commercial production company, now I'm just waiting for a second email with what time they want me to come for an interview. I also got my resume sent into two Slightly Smaller Agencies. I think I'm pulling myself out of the depression mindset and back into Carefully Guarded Optimism.

Meanwhile, pilots are coming!!! TV Guide has a nice...well, guide. Shows I'm excited for and why:



Dirty Sexy Money - dialogue
Pushing Daisies - concept, tone
Back to You - acting, plus an attempt at a traditional sitcom
Moonlight - solely for Jason Dohring
Gossip Girl - I loved Josh Schwartz's The OC, and I love Kristen Bell
Cane - it's not about rich white people in NY/LA
Cavemen - to see if the re-shot pilot is as disastrous as people said the original one was
K-Ville - I think we need more shows that reflect real events and problems
Aliens in America - "Quirky" and "awkward." Sign me up.

Also, I just heard that The Office will stream for free on NBC.com. Exciting.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

maybe just that one long finger in the middle.

The key to being successful in Hollywood is to treat every task like you are ON A MISSION TO PREVENT A DETONATED BOMB FROM KILLING EVERY HUMAN BEING ON EARTH. This will A) impress your superiors and B) distract you from (and give greater meaning to) the things you are really doing, like making sure dry cappucinos are indeed dry enough.

A corollary to this key is that you should never wear open-toed shoes if you are an office PA/runner. Wearing such shoes might cause layers of skin on your toe to slice open when you're running down the uneven sidewalk on Highland Avenue from one camera shop to another to make sure you get the correct batteries for a camera that must be ready to take photos of an executive's son's first soccer game in fifteen minutes.

What else? It never hurts to carry suncreen for 1o-hour outdoor casting sessions, two forms of government-issued IDs (or a passport, which trumps everything) for start forms, or extra change for parking meters. Always remember to ask for receipts, especially at Starbucks, where the like to throw them away before you ask. And GPS will surely become your best friend in the world, if your parents are generous enough to buy it for you (it's going on my Christmas list).

I know all this because I've gotten some random PA work, but nothing permanent yet. I guess it's decent, since I'm getting to know more people who I'm sure will have more opportunities for me to work. I just can't always count on it for money, which sucks. Unfortunately, the job in TV development that I really really wanted went to someone else. In my 7-minute Big Agency interview I found out I don't have enough basic admin experience (why did they call me to come in?). I haven't heard anything back from the talent manager, or the Page program. Or the 12 other places I sent resumes to last week. In 2 1/2 weeks I have an interview for a floater position at another Big Agency. Other than that, I got nothin.

I'm going to have lunch with the Creative Exec at one of my old internship sites on Thursday...perhaps he will have some pearls of wisdom (or friends with job openings, which would be better). Wednesday will be my one-month anniversary of coming to LA. At that point I think I will allow myself to be depressed enough to pop open the bottle of Riesling I bought with all the remaining change in my wallet at a 99-Cents Only store.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

fingers are crossed.

Man, that was a long weekend, I guess because weekends are totally irrelevant when you don't have a job...you get to hang out with your employed friends though, which is always nice. I went to a few bars, hung out at my friends' pool, and got some great discounted Ikea furniture off the set of a reality show my old London roommates are working on. I also got to see my sister since she was in town on business. We drove all over LA in her rental car (free gas thanks to her company!) doing various things, including going to a really sketchy furniture warehouse where all I could afford was a $40 candle thingy to put on my mantel. I also made my first trip to downtown LA. I mean, I've driven AROUND it, but I've never had reason to actually go there. My friend Ann lives nearby so we went to a bar called the Gopher something. Decent bar, though I wasn't thrilled about paying $5 for bottled beer. I know, it's standard in LA, but still. They didn't even have what I wanted. Tokyo in Hollywood, where we went on Saturday, was the same story...and also the restaurant in Burbank on Friday. I'm surprised at the poor selection of light beers in LA bars. How the hell am I supposed to be skinny enough to wear hotpants and stilettos like all the other girls if you don't serve Michelob Ultra or Bud Select? I know you're not all drinking Diet Coke and Bacardi Superior. Bleh.

Anyway. This morning I had the much-awaited interview to be a TV development assistant at a production company. Good thing I gave myself 80 minutes to get there, since I accidentally drove to Mar Vista and then accidentally drove to Beverly Hills before finding the place (in LA). It actually would have been a 20-25 minute commute without mistakes, which is great when you live in the Valley. I think it went well but it is sometimes hard to tell. It was a bit short, but I tried to talk enough to give the interviewer a sense of my personality/knowledge. He asked for a fun fact so I told him about my Who Wants to be a Millionaire experience. He didn't know the answer to the $25,000 question I walked away on, either...and he went to Cornell. So there. :) If I were offered the job I think I would definitely take it. He told me that I didn't have to lie and say I wanted to work in TV development, I could say I wanted to be a writer and after a year commitment he would be perfectly happy to help me get staffed on a show. (!!!) So I came clean, said I was very interested in development but I do want to be a writer. Which is all true. He also said that it is the kind of job where I would get to read everything and give notes if I want, which would be great. Good signs: I think we had a good rapport, he said I had great internship experience, and he also said it was a great "starter" job so he is ok with the fact that I haven't been an assistant before. Bad signs: The interview was only about 20 minutes, and he says he is going to be interviewing people all day...so who knows.

Random, I just now got another call from the big agency I cancelled on last week because I was working at the reality production office. I set up an interview for tomorrow because, what the hell. I may be working at the reality office (I did get called back, I just couldn't go today) but if not it's another option. I also have an interview at another big agency in like 3 weeks...it was their earliest HR opening, and I'm hoping to have a job before then. But if I don't, maybe it will turn into something.

I started working on my pilot about college radio again. I figure that I really need to establish writing as something I do EVERY DAY, regardless of what's going on in my life (and with no job, I really have no excuse). There are thousands of writers in Hollywood with completed scripts who can't get anywhere. So if I don't even have a completed script, I definitely won't get anywhere. Plus, if I do meet the all-important person who can make my career goals happen, I need to have a script to give them. I realized that my pilot relied too much on what really happened (and therefore was kind of boring and low-stakes) so I'm starting to invent more, which I think is a step in the right direction. It's good to be inspired by actual events, but sticking to them entirely is very limiting. I also realized that my protagonist wasn't involved enough, that the other people in the show had more power. So now I've given my protagonist the most powerful position on the radio staff, much to the surprise of everyone else, including her best friend who thought he was going to get the job. conflict conflict conflict. yay. Last night I hammered out the outline and started piecing scenes together. I've managed to incorporate most of the scenes I had already written, so it's not entirely starting from scratch. I hope to have act one done today and start on act two.

I'm also meeting a friend for half-priced smoothies (we both agreed we can't afford lunch, haha). Hooray for Val-Pak coupons. He's a writer too, though is focused on film. It's good to have people you can talk to about your writing, both for their opinions and so that they can help motivate you and keep you on track.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Yay for pictures.

It seems I may have jinxed myself by talking about the office PA gig on here and Facebook. I thought for sure I would be working there today and tomorrow, but I haven't heard from them. Ah well...I don't feel that down about it because I set up another interview, at a production company. This came about through a friend of my sister's who has kept up with my job search via the Facebook news feed...see what I mean about the strange connections?

Last night I saw some bands at a showcase at King King in Hollywood because my friend is a music coordinator at Bunim-Murray. His job basically entails going to free concerts every night. Not bad, huh? The venue was great - it had this zen warehouse-chic thing going on. I really liked the second band, The Transit War. I told the lead singer they were the best and he gave me a free CD under the condition that I had to burn it for three friends...but I think talking about it on here kinda counts. Their sound is like...halfway between The Format and Fall Out Boy. Something like that...a little rough but definitely full of passion and potential. Check 'em out. After the show we stopped at the Green Frog, a VERY dive-y dive bar on Woodman & Moorpark in Sherman Oaks. It smelled kinda like Moonshadows, which made me equally nostalgic and nauseated.

Also...did you know that Season One of Friday Night Lights is out on DVD and only $19.99 at Target and Amazon.com? Of course I had to buy it. For research. For my career. You know. For those of you who haven't seen this amazing drama, NBC is also offering a money-back guarantee if you don't like it! But you won't need it, trust me.


On a girlier note, I also had to buy these adorable $12.99 Steve Madden knockoff flats...the real ones weren't THAT expensive, but I didn't want to shell out the $69.95 and by the time they went on sale, my size and preferred color weren't available. I had sadly given up until I walked into Target and saw nearly the same shoe! Seriously, look at the pictures and tell me if you can tell which ones were $69.95 and which ones were $12.99:

Okay, maybe you can a little. But not $54 worth of differences!

I also bought another one of Almay's Truly Last Color lipsticks. I used to accept as a fact of life that lipstick does not stay on your lips if you eat anything...or even just exist for more than a few hours after you put it on. This is untrue! This lipstick clung to my lips so fervently that I washed my face, went to bed, woke up the next morning, took a shower and looked in the mirror to find it still on. Nuts. I mean, it could be a pain if you really wanted to take it off...but it says that some makeup remover will easily do the trick. I'm not super thrilled about the color selection, but it's still pretty cool...and has a clear coat to make it nice and shiny. It's $8.54 at Target, which isn't super cheap but worth it for how seldom you'll have to reapply.


I swear, I only intended to buy FNL and sink mats. I need to stop going to Target.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

I have a job. Well, not really. I mean, sort of.

On Monday & Tuesday I worked as an Office PA for a reality show production office hub. The job entails long hours, low pay and menial tasks, but the people are all very friendly, and since it's a day-to-day thing (they call me if they could use me) it seems like a good way to make some money while I keep looking for something else. I also get to gawk at slutty reality show hopefuls as they walk by the desk...yesterday this one girl was wearing a dress that probably could have doubled as a headband and as she passed us, chest and thighs on display, the two casting assistants and I all made the same appalled face. "I'm really glad we all just shared that moment," the one assistant said. I found out later it was only her second day also...as new shows start up (which is all the time), there are always new people...and a lot of them are around my age, so that's cool.

Meanwhile, today I interviewed to be a second assistant to a manager who split from ICM ten years ago and works on his own. He exclusively represents TV writers (good ones, too) so I think it would be a great opportunity. The interview was with the first assistant, and he and I had a great conversation about TV shows, intern experiences, etc. He said he is going to pass my resume along to the boss with a good recommendation, and that the boss will start interviewing next week. I have a really good feeling about it...I hope it works out.

My friend Jason emailed me with the news that he's moving out here in a few weeks, but he is apprehensive since my blog has painted a not-so-rosy picture of the job search. Here's what I told him:

1. The competition is intense. Sure, you're brilliant, you're competent, and you're a former intern of really impressive companies. So is everybody else.

2. Connections only go so far. Yes, who you know helps. It's how I got the reality gig...but it's not everything. Connections can only help you IF THEY KNOW ABOUT OPENINGS. I contacted everybody I know out here (and I know quite a few), but they all basically said "sure, I'll let you know if I hear of anything." Most of them haven't told me about anything since.

3. Non-IC connections can pay off too. I'm now getting emailed jobs from one of my sister's friends from high school, and another one of her friends from college. My sister works in finance...so I didn't expect this. But it works.

4. Knowing people is best, but online sites like http://www.entertainmentcareers.net/, http://www.mandy.com/, http://jobs.defamer.com/ and the UTA list can work sometimes. It's how I got an interview in New York, and two interviews out here (including the one today). Just put together a cover letter template so you don't waste too much time. For every 10-12 jobs you apply for online, you'll probably get called once.

5. Temp agencies can be good, or scary. I hated my experience at one, as you read on the blog, but one of my friends got a cool temp gig at Paramount through Star Staffing.

That's all for now...I'll keep ya posted.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Everyone thinks I'm crazy.

The Giant Agency rescheduled my interview WHILE I WAS SITTING IN THE LOBBY. Grr. The valets looked at me like I was crazy when I returned to get my car eight minutes later. I'm going back on Tuesday. Also on the agency front, Katie's boyfriend sent my resume into another agency and I am supposed to hear from them soon.

I never made it to the other interview, because I got a slightly late start after spending over two hours at the DMV. I actually would have been fine if my directions had told me to make a left onto Santa Monica rather than a right...I got to Beverly Hills before I realized I wasn't going to find Fairfax, and by the time I turned around and made it to Starbucks I was about 12 minutes late and the guys I was supposed to meet had left. I waited for a while because I couldn't get a hold of the assistant back in the office, and the baristas looked at me like I was crazy. I'm starting to sense a theme here.

Basically I'm back at square one, though I did get in touch with a friend of my sister's from high school who produces the AFI Film Festival and has promised to send me PA-ish jobs he hears about. I think I'm going to go sign up at Central Casting on Monday so I can get a little work before I plunge further into credit card debt. If I'm not too fat to be an extra, that is. And that is certainly a possibility.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

What Not to Wear: the Staffing Agency

First off, thanks to everyone for the comments and encouragement!

This morning I went to a staffing agency that works exclusively in entertainment. Yay for rush hour...somehow, it took me longer to go 1.4 miles down Sunset than 8 miles over the canyon. Oh, silly LA. Once at the agency, I had to fill out a ton of paperwork and then take Word, Excel and typing tests. I got 97% on Word (I think I missed one question about mail merges or something), 80% on Excel (who knew you could put NUMBERS in those spreadsheets!) and 64.8 words per minute. Personally, I think I can type faster than that...I got 80 the last time I took one at a temp agency in Buffalo...but whatever. Then I met with an agent...she was overall pretty nice, until my physical appearance came into the conversation. She asked, "Do you always wear your hair like that?" and made me turn around twice so she could inspect it. She thinks it needs to be more "professional," since agencies are going to be hiring people who "could be on magazine covers." She then proceeded to instruct me on how to put my hair into a low ponytail at the nape and twist it under. No, I'm not kidding...and it gets better. Then she said, "Do you ever wear ANY color on your face? Do you know how pale you look?" (For the record, I was wearing foundation, bronzer, eyeliner and two kinds of eyeshadow.) Then she BUSTED OUT A MIRROR, held it up to my face and said, "Look how pale you are!"

I don't think there's any film school that prepares you for this kind of thing.


Luckily, she found my new suit from Banana to be acceptable (that's it over on the left). And it was on sale! Thank God, 'cause suits are damned expensive! Regardless of the unorthodox visual judgements (and the weird trough on her filing cabinet in the corner that was oozing steam), she did fax over my resume to another Giant Agency for a floater position, and to a small boutique management company in Sherman Oaks. So we'll see. Later I went to ICLA and saw Holly and my favorite professor/advisor Steve Ginsberg, who nearly choked on his Caesar salad when he saw me again. He assured me that the staffing agent's critique was insane. "Play the game if you want to, but know that that's ridiculous," he said, shaking his head. "It's 2007 and people are still saying that kind of thing."

Meanwhile, I set up another interview on Thursday at a development company through an email train of Ithaca grads. I'm slightly concerned because I can't seem to find any record of what they've done or are doing, and my meeting is going to take place in Starbucks. But they're offering good money and benefits (benefits!), the job description involved script reading/notes, and it might be a cool opportunity to help launch a new company, if that's indeed what it is. Besides, who doesn't love a mid-afternoon green tea frappucino?

Monday, August 20, 2007

job hunting, etc.

Today began at the DMV, where I accomplished nothing (not exactly a shock). It turns out that you need to have a passport or birth certificate to register your car. I found out later my passport actually was in my car, stuck in a random compartment during the cross-country move. It didn't really matter since I also needed a smog check and a "verification" that required waiting outside in a long line of cars. While I was waiting I got a call from a coordinator (and Ithaca grad) at a reality production office asking me to come in for an interview today, so I decided to try the DMV again when I have all the required materials. The interview went pretty well, I think...the interviewer was just a year older than I am, and had only conducted one other interview in his time as coordinator, so it was definitely more of a conversation. It turns out we had both worked briefly at Hollywood Video in Ithaca...crazy, huh? Anyway, the job would be an Office PA - helping set up new people with computer systems, taking lunch orders, organizing boxes of files, you name it. The environment seems friendly and casual, and the office isn't too far from my apt...but it would be 9 am - 9:30 pm every day, which is a bit crazy, especially since reality isn't ideally where I want to be. I mean, it's very common for people in Hollywood to work until 8 pm...or later if you're shooting. But at the office til 9:30 every day? Yeesh. Anyway, who knows if I'll even be offered the position...and the coordinator also isn't sure when he'll need someone, or for how long. Probably Monday. But maybe not. So there's a bit of uncertainty.

Meanwhile, I'm waiting to hear back from the Page Program, which asked me for references soon after I applied. I'm also interviewing with someone at staffing agency tomorrow morning, and a recruiter at the Giant Agency on Wednesday. Is it wrong that I'm most excited about getting cable on Friday?