Tuesday, February 26, 2008

I'm F*cking Ben Affleck

I'm sure you've seen this already, but just in case. It's good to know that Hollywood can have a sense of humor, that it's not only into creepy violent westerns.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Shitty First Drafts

My favorite screenwriting professor once showed us this article about giving yourself permission to write a shitty first draft. Maybe it will inspire you.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day

I guess I don't get to be emo about VDay because I did get a dozen roses today...but they're from someone across the world, so I'm still sitting on my couch in pajamas eating from a bag of chocolate chips that has been sitting in my fridge for a couple months. A little emo.

Regardless of your feelings on the day, I think you'll still be amused by this Hallmark commercial:



Wednesday, February 13, 2008

I SURVIVED THE 2007-2008 WGA STRIKE

I feel like we should get t-shirts, no?
So there you have it. The strike is officially over. Part of me is relieved, I guess, but part of me feels kind of indifferent. Largely, I was unaffected; sure, I played a few extra games of Scrabulous instead of binding scripts, and I was unable to go for assistant desks since they didn't open up. But I never actually saw a picket line. I kept my job. I even got a raise (to $10 an hour, yeesh). I'm hoping I feel the effects later in my life...like when I'm a real TV writer and my stuff is shown on the internet and I get real money for it. Until then, I'll be doing what I've been trying to do since I moved to LA: working, writing, making contacts, maintaining some level of sanity, believing that I can really do this.

I've been having more trouble writing my Weeds spec than I did with the OC or Friday Night Lights. I'm not sure what it is...maybe that I started writing a draft before I had an entirely complete outline (after NOT writing for weeks because I was having plot problems, I figured writing the scenes I did have in my head would be better than nothing, and it is). Luckily I have a supportive writer's group that has given me some good ideas. But what I really want to do is sit down, write a perfect scene and move on...and that's just not how it works most of the time. Tonight I wrote three different versions of a scene...and I might scrap all of them, still. But it's progress. It's writing. Writing is rewriting. And the more you do it, the better your script will be. Some tricks I've learned to keep things flowing: Try writing the scene in a new location. Try combining the scene with another. Try moving the scene earlier or later. Try imagining yourself as each character, or each actor - what do YOU want to happen? Sometimes the scene can take itself in a new direction. There's also the advice I read somewhere that all scenes need to have an emotional shift. If your characters start happy and end happy, or start mad and end mad, your scene probably doesn't really advance the plot or have a point. New information/conversations/reactions should shift the emotional drive of the scene. Trust me - watch one of your favorite shows and notice how people feel when it begins as opposed to how it ends.


What else? Oh yeah, there's a new show airing on Mondays on CBS called Welcome to the Captain. It's a half-hour single-camera comedy, quite different from the rest of CBS' traditional sit-com and crime procedural lineup. As much as I like Jeffrey Tambor, I have to say I wasn't a big fan of the show...it just wasn't funny enough (and it had one of my pet peeves: the protagonist is a screenwriter). I was thinking about it more, and I think one of the problems is that it relies too heavily on the lines for humor. Of course, jokes are written into the script, but the funniest shows do more. They place funny characters in funny situations and have them say funny things, whether it's as absurd as sending cop-strippers to a yacht and then getting fooled by a fake dismemberment (how I miss you, Arrested Development) or as simple as getting mad about topping off gas at the pump or dealing with an armoir you really want (Seinfeld). Though it had some fun moments, I felt like Welcome to the Captain featured kind of boring people in usual situations saying only occasionally funny things.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Ups and Downs

The last two weeks were pretty good. I have finally gone from "mailroom" to "floater," meaning that I will fill in for assistants when they are out sick. I filled in on a production agent's desk on Thursday and I did okay. I made a couple mistakes but overall I think it went fine, and the assistant told me the next day he would sing my prasies to the HR woman who trains us to be floaters. Moving up to floater should also include a $50/week raise, so I have to watch my direct deposit to make sure that happens.

I have been getting through life and my menial low-paying job by keeping myself busy with lots of lunches & dinners & drinks. The obvious problem with this is that I have a menial low-paying job...but I kind of decided that my sanity is worth the money I don't really have. It's good to keep up with people - old friends, new friends, former coworkers, whomever - partially because you never know when they might pass along your resume or hook you up with those Ellen tickets, but mostly because it's good to be reminded that you're not doing this alone, that there are people who understand your pain, that there is more to life (and someday, your career) than answering phones or fetching coffee or delivering interoffice envelopes all day. I'm doing yoga at least once a week, which just makes you feel better in general - your muscles and your mind. I've also been having weekly meetings with the 15 year-old girl I mentor through WriteGirl, and it's awesome great because she is a great writer who always surprises me and also keeps me grounded. The drive to and from Pasadena is also pretty scenic (and not too trafficky on weekend afternoons). The last couple weeks the tallest brown mountains have been sprinkled with snow, and it reminds me of when my mother used to sprinkle powedered sugar on brownies. Some people look at mountains and think about God or the majesty of nature or their place in the world; I just want some fucking dessert.

For some reason I'm in a terrible mood right now. I think it's cause I was out til 5 am last night doing surprisingly fun sketchy karaoke in a basement in an alley in Chinatown (check out http://www.betalevel.net/) so I felt tired/crappy all day, and I feel guilty about eating french toast and chicken tenders at Norms at 4 am and junk food at a superbowl party today. Plus, I didn't write all weekend and I need to crank of 10 more pages for my writer's group by Wednesday. It is really good that I have that deadline, or I'd probably be a slacker forever.

Also amusing is the fact that ABC's Eli Stone and AMC's Breaking Bad have the same premise: A guy finds out he is dying and he radically changes his life. The shiny, silly-but-heartfelt network version features an Armani-wearing laywer in San Francisco and the quirky, dark cable version features a chubby Albuquerque high school chemistry teacher who starts cooking meth (and kills two people in the pilot!). Strangely, I really like both shows. Eli Stone has a really likeable protagonist, some great moments of understated comedy ("yes, I was pregnant for eight years" was my favorite line) and a tone that was sweet but not overly melodramatic or moralistic. Breaking Bad is a darker, more male version of Weeds with fantastic production values, a really interesting pairing of personalities (though just one underdeveloped female - I hope that changes) and the provocative choice to use plenty of swear words but mute them. I recommend you add both shows to your DVR. Meanwhile, Lipstick Jungle premieres on Thursday, and I'm optimistic about it right now at least.

Also...sources say the strike is basically over. It's not official - and the WGA made that clear in a letter to its members - but Variety, DeadlineHollywoodDaily and the New York Times have all reported really significant progress if not a done deal. Let's hope it's true and people start producing television again. Unless you're excited by the prospect of My Dad is Better Than Your Dad? Huh, me neither.