Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Nothing to Lose

WANNABE: I just missed that bus.

GONNA-BE: That wasn't your bus.

WANNABE: But, I missed it.

GONNA-BE: It's not going your way.

WANNABE: It didn't even stop.

GONNA-BE: This isn't a bus stop.

WANNABE: It's a conspiracy.

GONNA-BE: Start walking.

Aspiring writers often think they're missing something or in danger of watching an amazing opportunity slip through their keyboard. I suppose that actually happens now and then. But an established screenwriter once told me to start thinking in an "additive" way (will explain that in a future post) and stop thinking in a "subtractive" frame of mind because what we wannabes consider missed opportunities aren't. You can't miss an opportunity that was never really there to begin with.

* You can't lose something you don't have

* Producers can't return a call you didn't make.

* Agents can't reject a query you didn't submit.

* You can't lose a contest you don't enter.

Those are pretty easy concepts to readily accept as truths. But we writers have kind of a game show mentality about these things and they don't seem quite so simple when we --

* did make the call

* did submit the query

* did enter the contest

You still can't lose something you never had.

An unanswered query or a "pass" on a read often feels like a missed bonus question. If I had only said this or if I had only done that, he may have asked to read my screenplay. Maybe. But while answering "hypnophobia" to the question "what do you call the fear of falling asleep?" may win you a $500 bonus, there is no definitive way to word a query that will guarantee a read. Nothing is lost except the price of the stamp.

An unreturned phone call feels like rejection. It's not. Rejection is being hung up on, kicked to the curb, or left at the alter. An unreturned phone call is twenty minutes of somebody's life that they chose not to give away. You aren't entitled to it. It's not yours to begin with so you can't lose it.

Losing a contest is an oxymoron. You can't lose it if you didn't first win it. Two years ago, there was a writer who won a Disney fellowship but because she hadn't disclosed certain information, she was stripped of the opportunity. THAT's a lost contest.

Now and then, we may actually miss out on a tangible opportunity, contract, sale or opt. Disappointment happens. We sulk and move on. The time, research, effort, and mental energy we spent on our screenplays is never lost. Neither is what we learned through the process.

But writing boards and writing classes are full of writers worrying about events they can't control, things that aren't even happening and people they don't even know as if opportunity might pass them by if they look the other way or doze off. Hypnophobia won't help. I can stare at a phone all day but it won't ring unless somebody dials my number and losing sleep over it doesn't give me control of anything except my eyelids.

PIGLET: Pooh, what if it rains?

POOH: What if it doesn't?

Monday, May 29, 2006

A Broken Promise

Not only did I not intend to break my promise to a little old lady, but I didn't even KNOW I had broken it until I read in the obituaries that she died last week and was buried Tuesday. I saw her name in the paper and suddenly felt as if a dagger had just plunged into my chest. I was heart sick with guilt and it was weird because I didn't even like her.

Betty smelled like dirty laundry and stale cigarette smoke and she walked everywhere she went. She looked, dressed and sounded just like a man. People pretty much avoided her, not because she was masculine, but because Betty was so clingy and starved for affection that she'd follow people around like a high school nerd eager to befriend the prom queen. Her adoration was claustrophobic in a "somebody please get this leech off of me" kind of way.

Still, I'd give Betty a ride home if I saw her walking in the heat or rain and I tried to smile sweetly when I really wished she'd go away. She never would. I just had to find a way to pawn her off on somebody else to make my escape.

I made Betty a promise a very long time ago, not once, but over and over every time she asked me for months and months until she went into a nursing home and lost touch with her family and reality. She wanted me to sing "His Eye is on the Sparrow" at her funeral. I promised I would.

"You haven't forgotten?" she'd always ask me.

"No, Miss Betty," I would assure her, "I've even bought an accompaniment tape just in case there's no piano player. I won't forget."

And, I didn't forget. But seven years after they put her in a nursing home, her family forgot.

When people ask me to sing at their own funeral, I tell them to make sure they write it down for their family and preacher. If they have a pre-arranged funeral, I tell them to write a note to the funeral home. It doesn't always work. More than once, I've had the awkward duty to call a grieving family and ask to sing at a funeral so I could keep my promise.

But, now I'd broken one and it's one of the most disturbing feelings I've ever known. I had to do something.

In a cemetery full of Memorial Day services, veterans, and families visiting graves of loved ones lost to wars, I sat on a beach towel with my karaoke machine and a battery operated power inverter right next to a fresh grave sadly adorned with only a few little flowers.

ME: I sing because I'm happy --
FIRST SON: Too loud.
ME: I sing because I'm free --
THIRD SON: That creepy guy with the shovel is looking at you.
ME: His eye is on the sparrow --
SECOND SON: Can't you sing softer?
ME: And I know He watches me --
FIRST SON: Mom, seriously, you're drawing a crowd.
ME: His eye is on the sparrow --
SECOND SON: Dude, just put the shovel down.
ME: And I know He's watching me.
THIRD SON: And now, so is everyone else.

Promise kept.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

I Really Don't Know

As flattered as I am to be mistakenly identified as somebody who knows something, my musings about screenwriting are purely unqualified perspective and conjecture. Really. I don't know anything. Even though I love it that people link their blogs to this one and I appreciate most of the email, nothing I say about screenwriting should be interpreted as "knowledge". Nothing.

Whew. That's a load off. Glad we had this little chat.

There are other things I don't know, too, and maybe somebody can enlighten me on a few of them.

I don't know why my skin care system has a very large bottle that says "apply sparingly" and a very small bottle that says "apply liberally". I don't know if Justin Timberlake and Richard Nixon are my very distant cousins or why women wear thongs. I don't know why my truck alarm goes off every time I play my Pasty Cline CD or why my television comes on by itself every Sunday night at precisely 10:00 p.m. I don't know why Smurfs went off the air or why I can't find a portable stereo with an equalizer that is not pre-programmed and I don't know why, even though I've never watched Baywatch or Knight Rider, all of a sudden, I am seeing David Hasselhoff everywhere.

After Taylor Hicks was crowned Mr. American Idol, in a weird, pseudo-real moment, the cameras froze on David Hasselhoff as he was shedding tears. Yeah. He was crying. Acck!

Defamer said Hasselhoff was "spilling the unselfconscious tears of one who realizes he's witnessing the birth of another music career that will only be properly appreciated in Germany." Wish I'd said that. Instead, I dismissed his creepy weepies as tears brought on by onion paper confetti and switched over to the nail biting Mavs/Spurs game.

Speaking of Mavs, they're making a habit of last quarter hand wringers. I was watching them beat the Suns Friday night and hoping they didn't give the game away in the final seconds when, to my wondering eyes, what did appear right there at the Mavs game? David Hasselhoff!

Now, I don't want to accuse Hasselhoff of crying again but he WAS very red faced and ducking behind his hot dog every time the Mavs fell behind and I don't think it was for a mustard relish facial.

The circulated story says that Dirk Nowitzki confessed to humming this Hasselhoff song when he's shooting pressure free throws because the song was a huge hit when Dirk was a kid in Germany. Apparently, that's all Hasselhoff needed to suddenly become a Mavs fan.

Yesterday, I saw Hasselhoff in a Click trailer and, of all things, my little niece's SpongeBob Square Pants movie where, instead of telling SpongeBob to click his heels and say "there's no place like home", Hasselhoff tightens his pects and squeezes until the sponge pops free and torpedoes through the water back to Bikini Bottom.

It was probably funny. But I had an eerie IT thing going on like when that macabre clown, played by Tim Curry, kept showing up in peculiar places. Hasselhoff just appears in unexpected places. Of course, IT is a Stephen King movie so even though you DON'T expect to see a blood thirsty clown, you DO expect to see a blood thirsty clown.

But Hasselhoff? Who expects to see David Hasselhoff? I don't know. I really don't know. But, Mavs play at seven.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Pirate Code Over DaVinci Code

Keep to the Code or kick it to the curb?

According to Los Angeles Business from bizjournals, readers participating in an informal Los Angeles Business survey have declared that "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" will be the top grossing movie of the summer.

(cue Meg Ryan) YES! YES! YES!

Sure, we can make a survey say anything we want depending on when, where, and what demographic we poll, but remember that Entertainment Weekly poll that chapped me? No? Well, it was a list of the most anticipated movies of the summer and it stuck POTC2 at number seven below that cheesy -- well, just look!

(1) The Da Vinci Code
(2) Superman Returns
(3) Snakes on a Plane
(4) X Men, The Last Stand
(5) The Break Up
(6) Little Miss Sunshine
(7) Pirates of the Caribbean 2
(8) The Devil Wears Prada
(9) Cars
(10) Clerks 2

Okay, so it's not exactly scientific to poll only people who take the time to respond to an online questionnaire, but the point is that 39% of the somebodies somewhere think like I do -- that POTC fans will push Dead Man's Chest to the top.

My personal most anticipated list --
(1) Dead Man's Chest
(2) Snakes on a Plane
(3) Superman Returns
(4) XMen

Friday, May 26, 2006

Everything I Needed to Know About Screenwriting, I Learned from Watching American Idol

By Jim Mercurio
(from CSDaily May 26, 2006)

You already have the lowdown on the showdown, but travel back in time a few weeks as the final five contestants on American Idol teach us how to become better screenwriters. We've left Jim's predictions in, whether right, wrong, or wishful-thinking.

Since the advent of TiVo, I have begun to watch more TV. One guilty pleasure I've stumbled upon is American Idol. What I liked about the first few episodes of the season is that I could watch a two-hour show in about 30 minutes, skipping through all the bad parts. When it got down to under 10 contestants, I was forced to watch the entire show. The kids were talented and the stakes were beginning to mount.

See, American Idol is a great narrative. You take likable characters with a special skill and you set them after a tangible goal, which has obstacles that seem beyond the characters' means. They shouldn't be able to "nail" a Queen song, a love song, a standard, a Stevie Wonder song, and a country song. But just like in a good screenplay, they plow ahead, and the obstacles and conflicts reveal who they are.

Here are a few other ideas that I gleaned from watching American Idol and the final five (Chris Daughtry, Elliott Yamin, Katharine McPhee, Paris Bennett, and Taylor Hicks) that will help you with your writing career.

Good Usually Ain't Good Enough

Kelly Pickler and Bucky Covington are like that competent spec script that you defend by saying, "It's as good as most of the stuff that's out there." Well, here's the secret. You have to be better. Writers who get the assignment to make "most of the stuff that's out there" for the studios have proven track records and most likely have written a ton of material a lot better than "the stuff that's out there." Besides, there are so many other reasons movies get made. Don't lament that your spec is slightly better than the third sequel of a horror franchise based on a video game. That film didn't get made because the script was the second coming of
The Shining. The script was just a small part of it. If you want to stand out as a beginner, as Simon Cowell snarls, "Good doesn't cut it."

You Gotta Be You

I was blown away by Paris Bennett's performance of "Midnight Train to Georgia." She has a great voice and, as a performer, she has moves that no 17-year-old should have. And after seeing her "Fever" and "These foolish Things," I realized she doesn't have those moves. They aren't hers. I would surmise that she watched a great singer -- possibly even the original singers -- perform the song and copied aspects of it, even with an element of mimicry. Now, don't get me wrong, it's an amazing feat for a teenager to be able to flawlessly inhabit these performances, and she has one of the greatest voices in the competition. But it feels a little bit like the 22-year-old who graduates with a screenwriting MFA from USC. They have great mastery of craft, or at least the basics of the form, but the there just isn't there yet. My metaphor breaks down a little bit here, since singing isn't only about the content. Often style and craft is enough. Paris could probably top the charts with a cover album or a pop album written by someone else, but her rendition of "The Way We Were"…I didn't buy a word. Once her life experience catches up to her voice, though, look out.

Singers are allowed to do cover albums where they do creative interpretations of other people's songs. But songwriters don't get to do cover albums where all of their songs are derivative from other songs. Nor do screenwriters. This concept rears its ugly head when writers try to write like someone else. Shane Black and Quentin Tarantino sell stuff because they are Shane Black and Quentin Tarantino…we only need one of each of them.

Paris probably has more raw talent than, say, Taylor, but Taylor's going to outlast her because he finds a way to put himself into the songs he sings. Screenwriting and singing are different art forms, but if you're not 17, take a lesson from Paris. You are not going all the way until you can find the "you" in your craft.

Know Your Audience: Find the Intersection of Art and Commerce

Chris Daughtry is very good at what he does. There are probably many journeyman screenwriters who are the writer-equivalents of him. Chris has good looks and an intense presence, attributes that help a rock star a lot more than a screenwriter. (If only I had musical talent…) But Chris isn't going to win, and that's okay. He has already reached his goal: he has given a public audition to be the front man for every B-list rock group with A-list dreams.

Is Chris the best singer ever? No. Does he even write songs? Who cares? He knows what he does. He knows who it's aimed for. And his talent will find a home. Learn from Chris. Know what you want to do and act professional about it. Chris has got his eye on the prize -- a career -- and he knows he has to find what my peer Julie Marsh Nelson uses to describe genre: the intersection of art and commerce.

I have a recurring nightmare of being one of the producers at one of these pitchfestamajigs and being engaged into this sort of conversation with a newbie writer.

NEWBIE WRITER: So ultimately it's a love story.

ME: Like an epic romance? Ambitious, nice, I respect that.

NW: No, it's small and sort of funny.

ME: Is it a romantic comedy? Does it have the conventions…? (Here is where I will slip in references to Michael Hauge's
Writing Romantic Comedies and Love Stories and pretend that they are my own brilliant observations.)

NW: No, it's more a romance than is comedic.

ME: Is it broad? Is it visual?

NW: No, it's subtle, muted, and talky.

ME: Are you going to go shoot it on DV and use it as a calling card?

NW: No.

ME: So, let me get this straight. There is no discernible genre, hook, or cool concept?

NW: No, but I figure all I gotta do is cast Tom Hanks…

It's a rationalization to say, "I am like Chris, I don't need to compromise. I can write big-budget scripts of indeterminable genre, because that's what I do." Chris doesn't compromise? Hello. He's a hard rocker on a reality show about pop stars. Yes, it's a compromise, but it's a smart one. There is no negative connotation to the use of "compromise" here. He is talented, but ultimately his understanding of his strengths and his audience will lead him to a career. Can you say the same?

What I Really Want to Do is Direct

Katharine has an amazing voice and command of her craft. For some reason, I think of her like a great TV director. Unlike film (theoretically at least), the director is not God. In TV, the writers, producers, and writer/producers are God. A director might direct an episode of
Deadwood, Law and Order, and Sopranos and, if she does a great job, the average viewer wouldn't be able to notice the similarities in style. A TV director is a chameleon-like tourist. When in Rome…or Rome…they show up and subordinate their personality in service of the established aesthetic of the show.

This is like Katharine. Other than her increasing willingness to use her sex appeal, I feel like I don't know anything about her personality or style. I do know that when she goes and visits other's songs, her craft allows her to do a great job. Except for her stunning performance of "Someone to Watch Over Me" (Did you see those close-ups? We know who Idol's director is voting for), I have never thought I was watching anything other than a Celine Dion-like display of "Here's a great way to do this song."

Am I contradicting what I said about Paris? Probably. Does this have anything to do with screenwriting? Probably not. So let me give you the inorganically derived moral: If you want to be stinkin' rich, write for TV.

Learn From People Who Are Better Than You

I am the first to crack a Barry Manilow joke when given a chance. But whether or not you think he is boring and un-hip, know this: Barry Manilow knows his craft better than you know yours or I know mine. Did you see when Barry used some music jargon to improve Elliott's phrasing? Elliott didn't have the musical knowledge to recognize the term, but when Barry explained it, he immediately got it.

Later, a similar thing happened between Elliott and 14-time Grammy winner David Foster. He called Elliott on a lackluster moment -- not because it was bad, but because it wasn't great. He didn't offer him a solution, he just pushed him and, after a few failed attempts, Elliott found something amazing. His performance of "A Song for You" may have been the beginning of the biggest upset since the 2004 Red Sox.

I make a lot of my living as a mentor/coach and it's exciting to see when a comment or word can transform someone. I made a slightly hyperbolic claim to a client that her ten-page opening could be condensed to about a half a page. Well, guess what, she took the advice literally. She told me, "BAM! When I did that, everything started to open up. It became a challenge, a game, how brief can I get it?"

BAM! That's it. That is where the show is magic: when it allows you to watch a raw and unformed talent transform right in front of you. In that split-second, an artist grows. He learns something that will be with him forever. That small gift is a seed that will blossom in profound and diverse ways.

I sometimes get choked up when the archetypal mentor relationship plays out on American Idol. It's not a self-congratulating feeling of "Ooh, isn't it great to be a mentor?" but rather a pleasantly wistful reminiscence. Could I have become a better screenwriter or filmmaker, were I lucky enough to have, say, Robert Towne or Robert Altman looking over my 24-year-old shoulder?

When I was young, I would devour and incorporate any feedback and insight into my process. Whether it's through books, teachers, writers' groups,
Screenwriting Expo, DVDs like the ones yours truly directed, or by just reading scripts, keep pushing yourself to learn more. If possible, find a way to be involved with talented professionals. I learned more about writing dialogue from watching Kurtwood Smith wrestle with and conquer a line on the set of Hard Scrambled than I did from reading a dozen screenwriting books.

Stay in the mindset of the young twenty-something who is still eager to learn whatever and wherever he can.

Vote for Yourself: 1-800-555-GRIT

Thomas Edison said, "Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration," and I should know, because I sweat a lot, even when I'm sleeping. Sure, Elliott Yamin and Tom Hanks' performance in
Mazes and Monsters are proof that pure talent is a powerful force. However, there is a bigger factor in deciding your career, and that is grit. Your determination to work hard, learn your craft, and grow as an artist will be the most important factor for all but a few of us. It's a lot of pressure to have tens of millions of people awaiting your performance every week when you know that your fate is in their hands. But watching these 20-year-olds grow tremendously in a matter of a few months because of their commitment, focus, and the support from talented mentors is a reminder how much we are all capable of.

So, find your voice, allies who will push and support you, and keep your eye on the prize. Take a lesson from American Idol, sort of, and you can be the next great American Screenwriter.

Jim Mercurio's How to Write a Screenplay

Creative Screenwriting - CS Daily

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Inconsistent Characters

Chris Soth referenced McKee in response to Fish With Feet and this prompted Sal (that voice of doubt/reason lurking in my psyche who periodically rears his imaginary head) to do some research on inconsistent characters.

Real people are inconsistent -- true. Can anyone forget that they are afraid of snakes, allergic to bee stings or over forty? I can't. However, inconsistent dialogue and behavior can be a good thing when --

Inconsistency is part of the character - and as long as it's clear that inconsistency is part of the character's composition. Don't have an animal rights demonstrator wear a fur coat and dismiss that as a quirk in her character without prior or followup justification. Maybe she's a flake and doesn't make the connection or she's a wannabe, poser, or apprentice activist.

Inconsistency is explained away later - the coat is a fake or she thinks it is or maybe it's a sentimental gift from a dead relative or she wears it out of revenge because rabid minks killed her poodle or she made it out of the beloved poodle when it died of rabies.

Inconsistency is used as a subtle reveal - maybe not every reader or viewer will catch it but later on, they can look back and say "ahhh, that should have clue'd me in".

Inconsistency is used an an obvious reveal - we need the audience to learn something before the other characters, the inconsistency triggers the big reveal or is the big reveal.

Inconsistency is a red herring - either on the part of a character or the writer.

Inconsistency is a deliberate unanswered question - In Pirates of the Caribbean, Mr. Gibbs curses pirates at the beginning of the film but ten years later is Jack Sparrow's go-to man to get a pirate crew. We're never told what makes Gibbs jump sides but we're given clues -- we know he has a drinking issue and doesn't appear to be overly fond of Norrington. But it works. Why? Because it's designed to.

Sometimes, inconsistency is not something the writer can control. Maybe the director or producer insists on changes during production and writer rebuttals are disregarded. All kinds of things happen once other people put their fingerprints on the script. But purposeful inconsistency can be a good thing.

So perhaps McKee is not opposed to orchestrated inconsistency and maybe, if we asked him, he'd object only to unintentional or sloppy inconsistencies.

Then again, I could be wrong. Sal just said that I'm not a day over thirty. And, am I really afraid of snakes?

Monday, May 22, 2006

Fish With Feet

Proofed my rough draft the other day and found something very disturbing -- fish with feet.

Many of us amateurs don't really understand when somebody says our characters aren't well defined. Our characters seem defined to us. We've transferred their attributes and flaws to paper. Therefore, they must be defined. Fatbottomed Fred is a male floozy and Penthouse Pamela is a self important jerk. See? They're defined.

There are countless varieties of floozy and jerk and there are countless ways to portray a floozy or jerk. The method we choose to demonstrate the floozie-ness or jerky-ness of our characters conjures up different mental images for different people. We have to define them more specifically than just calling them a jerk or floozy.

I DID define them specifically, you argue with your critique. Penthouse Pamela has road rage, cusses out waitresses, steals cookies from Girl Scouts, and pinches babies to make them cry. She's defined. She's a jerk. Fatbottomed Fred wears Daisy Dukes stuffed with Jimmy Deans. How much more defined can you get?

A couple of minutes ago, the title of this post planted a mental image in your head. Now, what kind of fish did you picture? Is it a catfish? A goldfish? A pirahna? Did I mean one fish? Two fish? Red fish? Blue fish?

"Jerk" is a very broad and subjective term. One person's jerk is another person's savior. Maybe that waitress needed a good scolding because she never washes her hands after her potty breaks and her supervisors' reprimands fall on deaf ears. And, do tight shorts and breakfast sausage really make a man a "floozy"? Maybe the sausage is an outward display of inward insecurity over being born with one testicle. The reader needs a little more than lumpy shorts to agree that Fred is a floozy.

No, says you, I didn't write them that way. Okay, then, show the reader how you wrote them. Don't give your character a lot of random bad behaviors just so you can say she's a jerk. Pick a specific kind of jerk and demonstrate that in your situational environment but don't stop the story by tossing in haphazard jerky behavior. Show the character as a jerk within the story taking place.

For example, maybe Penthouse Pamela is a jerk because she thinks her time is more valuable than anyone else's. That's a specific kind of jerk. She's a time hog. She hogs up your time for her benefit. Don't have her simply flip the bird at people on the highway because she's in a hurry. Even non-jerks have been known to do that. Instead, give her a combination of actions that individually might mean nothing, but combined demonstrate her wreckless disregard for other people's time and her own self importance. And yeah, maybe flipping people off is one of them. But maybe she also --

  • Skips appointments to shop for shoes
  • Makes her 11:00 a.m. appointment wait in the corridor until Noon with nothing to do but count ceiling tiles and the receptionist's assaults on the English language
  • Forgets people she put on hold but complains if she, herself is ever put on hold
  • Has a dummy in her passenger seat so she can drive in the HOV lane
  • Cuts in lines - grocery stores, banks, drive throughs, blood drives
  • Pays $35 for next day delivery when standard shipping would have been free
  • Cuts out of work early and leaves her secretary working late to finish a project
  • Doesn't cancel restaurant reservations

  • There was a time when I didn't see the fish with feet in my own drafts. So, while I'm disturbed that I have so much character defining still to do, at least I know my skills are improving when I look at my own words and the fish with feet jump out at me.

    Guess that makes them flying fish.

    Sunday, May 21, 2006

    My Enemy, the Clock

    Yes, the clock is my enemy -- an ambidextrous task master that points an accusing baton at the minutes while snapping a feverish whip at each ticking second as if one of them might otherwise lollygag a millisecond or two. A few slothful seconds sure could work in my favor, though, especially if they started an epidemic of slackers and gave me a little time to eat something for lunch besides my fingernails. But no. The clock won't allow it.

    Although I knew my writing time would diminish somewhat in the shadow of full time employment, I didn't expect to subdivide that time further with a clinging part time job -- no, wait, that's too diplomatic -- what I meant to say was a former job that can't make due with six weeks notice and expects me to sacrifice every lunch break, afternoon, and weekend to "train" my replacement. Factor family time, singing time, and volunteer time into that equation and that clock's baton is suddenly a minute bashing billy club.

    Thursday, May 18, 2006

    Sensible Stories

    My son and his buddy entertained me yesterday with girlfriend stories -- like how mall trips always end up at a purse counter where the giggling girls squeal like pigs as they fondle leather handbags and the guys stand far enough away to look like they are trying on belts, but near enough that the girls don't know how far away they are trying to stand.

    They MUST fondle the handbags, I explained to them, because teenage girls are required by the laws of nature to not only try on, touch, and sniff everything they want to buy, but to also try on, touch and sniff the potential purchases of any other female with whom they are on speaking terms at that particular hour of the day -- oh, and also because people are basically sensory stimulated.

    They were unconvinced. Girls are just stupid, they insisted.

    Yes, they are, but if people weren't sensory stimulated, sad songs would yield no tears and a softly held hand wouldn't tremble. Nobody would get nauseous at rancid odors and who would impulse buy those lint gadgets and fondue machines by the cash register?

    Oh sure, the general agreement among "experts" is that impulse buys are based on price, but why then will a kid go into Toys R Us and beg for a toy they've never wanted or even heard of before? Because it's cheap? Children aren't interested in price. They go into sensory overload at all those spinning yo-yo's, light-up yo-yo's, and glow-in-the-dark yo-yo's, only to later forsake a brand new Duncan Imperial for a ziplock bag of gray Play-Dough that was once six tidy tubs of assorted colors.

    People are sensory. We respond positively to things that taste good, smell good, feel good, look good and sound good -- and negatively if they taste bad, smell bad, feel bad, look bad or sound bad.

    That pretty much sums up my hypothesis about what is missing from my latest screenplay. It doesn't hold any of the viewers' senses hostage. I need John McClane walking on broken glass or Matthew Quigley thirsting in the desert.

    While I'm not suggesting that sensory story elements should be primary, there's a reason As Time Goes By is forever associated with Casa Blanca and food fights with Animal House.

    And, I have to defend the ziplock bag of Play-Dough even though it lacks the sensory flash of a glow-in-the-dark or light-up yo-yo. Play-Dough has sensory staying power. Long after the characters' names are forgotten, people still remember that scene from Ghost where Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore grope a lump of clay.

    I was still mulling this whole sensory thing over when the guys abandoned my June Cleaver wisdom to check out the truck for sale next door by a neighbor who specializes in rebuilding performance cars. Neither kid needed the truck or even wanted the truck, but it was something to do.

    When my son returned home, absent his buddy, I wanted to know what happened. Nothing, he said, until his buddy climbed in --

    "He turned the ignition and a Hemi sprung to life. Then, the heavens opened up and a sparkling beam of light shone down on the dusty windshield and he hugged the steering wheel as a voice like thunder said, 'go ye into the bank and bring forth $9800' -- so he did."
    ME: What, no burning bush?

    SON: I didn't think you'd believe me.

    ME: Well, at least it wasn't a leather purse.

    SON: Stupid girls.

    Tuesday, May 16, 2006

    What Not to Do

    The Thinking Writer doesn't post frequently but it's always useful. The latest post is an "Idiot's Guide of What Not to Do" in screenwriting. Ill be adding these to my list of tactics for making passes.

    1. No visual tricks to replace storytelling

    2. Don't substitute personal experience for emotion

    3. No melodrama

    4. No math

    5. Do not submit material until it is ready

    Great stuff. Go read it. Print it. Tape it to your laptop.

    Monday, May 15, 2006

    Making Other Plans

    Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans. John Lennon

    That line came from "Beautiful Boy", a song that, as a mother of three sons, I have no trouble relating to. Having sons is a constant reminder for me that life is fleeting and this day is mine only once. What does that have to do with screenwriting? Everything.

    I know of many, many wannabe screenwriters who throw everything they have monetarily, physically, and emotionally into their dream of becoming a screenwriter without really doing anything constructive to launch or advance their careers. I don't think anyone needs to fly to Hollywood and stalk Steven Spielberg but they shouldn't wait for him to knock on their door either.

    Time is passing like the steady drip of life's I.V. bag and if there is nothing else in a writer's life that brings joy or amusement, what happens if the writer is unsuccessful? Burnout sets in. With that comes bitterness, envy, and resentment. Worst of all, by the time burnout sets in, life's I.V. bag is probably already half empty.

    Dreams are good. Relentlessly pursuing dreams is good. But seriously, be smart about it and get a life. Otherwise, if that dream doesn't come to fruition, you'll realize one day that life happened while you were out and you missed your daughter's cheer competition (for which she'll never forgive you) or your son's winning soccer goal (which he'll forgive, but won't forget).

    What's that? You didn't even know you had a son and daughter? How are you going to write about life if you never experience it? I'm not saying that I have to be a serial killer to write about one, but I do need to know more about life than how to google.

    On his blog, Christopher Lockhart reports on Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton, the PGL winning duo who wrote Feast. His blog is always a great read but this one is a departure from his usual stuff and it's a nice peek into "the way a project comes together". Also interesting was his side note that the latest rumored release date for Feast is October.

    Some might envy that these two guys who pursued their dream in front of a national audience, found a degree of success and now have somebody like Christopher Lockhart in their corner. But Marcus isn't resting on his laurels and commitment doesn't merit envy. It merits replication. (So, I'll instead be envious that Marcus spent a day watching Frank Darabont film a t.v. pilot)

    Envy intimates that the reward was somehow not earned or deserved. Marcus Dunstan had a dream. He chased it. He caught it. But, what if you can't run as fast as Marcus? What if you run faster than Marcus but tear a hamstring? What else have you got?

    My sons are all jumping milestones today -- a birthday, a driver's license, a career training opportunity. Sometimes I've wanted to scream at the eldest to get his butt back in college and stop chasing the same ol' rainbow he's been after since he was seventeen. But, how could I do that while chasing one of my own? So, instead, I told him to chase that rainbow with all his might but only if --

    (1) he's wholly committed
    (2) he's training to do what it takes to catch it
    (3) he has something else to balance his life

    Today, he just may just have that rainbow by the tail. But, if it slips away, he still has birthday cake to eat with one brother and a used Honda to ride along in with another.

    Sunday, May 14, 2006

    What Producers Look For

    Writers often wonder how an editor, agent, producer, or director could say something is good, or even great, but not right for them. Well, what IS right for them? Many publishing companies have a "list", but producers? Nope. Your agent may know where to shop your screenplay and you may even have researched similar projects that producers have developed, are generally interested in, or have openly stated they are lookng for, and those producers may have even responded affirmatively to your query.

    Why, oh why then, if you send a brilliant piece of work to them, do you still get a form letter, postcard or brush off?

    The most obvious answer is that the screenplay isn't so great. But let's assume it is. Not only is it great, but it's the right genre, the right budget, a great concept, and is exactly the type of project this producer or production company embraces. How can the regrettably letter say it's not what they are looking for? Of course, it's what they are looking for!

    Yesterday, while my sister and I were shopping for her birthday gift, we stopped to check out a swimsuit sale on our way to buy the latest Red Hot Chili Peppers cd. I didn't really need another swimsuit and wouldn't have gone shopping for one at all, but these were a designer brand marked 70% off and there were hundreds to choose from.

    I had too look. Had to.

    But, hey, I knew exactly what I was looking for. It had to be black or mostly black, no frills, no high cut legs, no granny skirts, nothing too revealing, and it had to be one of those "makes you look ten pounds lighter" suits or I wasn't interested. Simple. But, I didn't find a thing.

    As we left the store, my sister demanded to know why I hadn't wanted any of the hundred suits I'd seen and didn't bother to try on a single one when at least twenty swimsuits met my exact criteria. They were the right size, color, price, and material. Just what was I looking for?

    Dunno, but I'll know it when I see it. I always do.

    Saturday, May 13, 2006

    Austin Film Festival

    If you haven't already entered the screenplay competition, early deadline is Monday. Save yourself ten bucks. Or, get it in by June 1st and pay $50. It's just two weeks. Mail it now. You can still make it to the post office if you hurry. Seriously. Stop reading this. Run!

    For everyone else, the AFF still needs volunteers to work the conference October 19th - 22nd. I actually have done this and it's good experience. Plus, you get to fetch coffee for Shane Black and help David Franzoni find the men's room.

    Friday, May 12, 2006

    Chris Daughtry - Keep Me Close

    Chris Daughtry -- So, will he be the new lead singer for Fuel or launch a solo career? Who cares, as long as somebody throws open the floodgates and gives me the privilage of handing over outrageous amounts of money for a steady stream of new releases. Seriously, somebody take my money and give me Chris. Think this guy is just another glorified flash in the pansy Idol performer? Yeah, I said pansy. Take a listen to Keep Me Close by Chris' pre-idol band. He's the real thing.

    And, to you sore losers, knock it off!

    Rumors are circulating that many fans got a different Idol wannabe's thank you message when they called in to vote for Chris, leading them to believe that there was some kind of phone foul-up. Shut up! Chris is out of his Idol contract in three months. Don't ruin it for him by making them bring Chris back on a technicality. Idol probably would have made him record watered down Karaoke crap anyway.

    Take off your mourning black, the tragedy here is not for Chris, but for American Idol. They now have to glorify and promote a winner who, despite unique talent, will widely be considered a weaker link and upstart to the throne.

    Thursday, May 11, 2006

    Scripted Spontaneity

    Yesterday was a difficult day in north Texas as three communities and rural farmers came to grips with the loss of life and property left in the wake of an F3 monster tornado with 200 mph winds that cut a ten mile path of destruction through Collin County. As search and rescue teams scoured the debris and daylight exposed the full extent of the devastation, reporters stood in front of cameras and tried to bring the news to the public. Though the storm was past, the tornado was still blowing in the minds and emotions of many reporters who could barely contain their adrenaline long enough to form a cognitive sentence.

    I've walked in their moccasins. I understand. But still, I could have cried for one reporter who said, "as you can see behind me, the damage is typical of a tornado, typically pulling up trees and typical roof damage, pretty much what you typically expect to see." Poor thing. She didn't script notes because she figured she was seasoned enough to report live off the cuff. And she probably was. But, she'd never covered a tornado before.

    The human brain under pressure has a tendency to self narcotize in defense of the panic and anxiety that mercilessly circle the quick and discerning thoughts. It's like recall is sitting on the brain's runway waiting for the panic vultures to get out of the way so short term memory can be cleared for take off. But the vultures won't move and the clear thoughts are stuck on the tarmac. It has nothing to do with intellect or confidence. Mental acuity is still there -- but its flight is delayed. It can happen to anyone.

    What's the solution?

    Terry Rossio admits to blanking out in pitch meetings and being forced to come up with ways to keep the runway clear. He talks about using a giant cork board for presentations so he doesn't get "muddled in the minutiae". Bill Martell says that just about the time the mind of the writer gets consumed in a dreamworld, an important film executive will telephone. Now, not only does the brain have to shoo away the panic and anxiety but it first has to escape from that other dimension. Bill suggests keeping a phone script.

    I like the idea of scripting anything that takes place in an environment where memory flights could get delayed. Scripted phone notes could mention contests you've won, other scripts in progress and successes you've had. Something as no-brainer as your agent's name is only no-brainer when you're brain is on auto-pilot. Why risk it when a few ready notes would be so easy to prepare?

    I'm part of a ladies group that performs frequently at special events. We don't get stage fright, but we script everything: dialogue, introductions, humor, and the order of music. Then we keep crib notes for emergencies -- like a couple of weeks ago when it was time for me to say something to transition into the next song and I not only forgot the transition but had no idea which song we were about to sing because I was so distracted by the sound guy that looked like the animated Larry King on Southpark.

    It happens.

    Scripted notes are not scripts. They are notes. They aren't to be recited. They serve as reminders of key issues, points, accomplishments or tasks for those moments when the brain narcotizes under pressure. If we have to read our words and music, my little singing group isn't ready to perform that song in public. But there's no harm in a note that says which song is next.

    As a writer, if I have to read my screenplay as I talk to a producer about it, I don't know my story well enough to be talking to him. But if I need a little reminder about what makes this screenplay ideal for this particular production company, a little cheat sheet may keep my logical thoughts and my anxious, panicky ones from having a nasty mid air collision.

    Speaking of which, still reeling from the AI Chris eviction, I was not on the top of my game when ---

    HIM: You're still wrong about the tomatoes.
    ME: Oh, good grief. Now, you're just wanting on my blog.
    HIM: Why can't you just admit it? I know tomatoes.
    ME: We're done here.
    HIM: You don't know tomatoes from turnips.
    ME: You're a towel.

    Um -- yeah, I need notes -- well, and to stop watching Southpark.

    Wednesday, May 10, 2006


    Brief departure from screenwriting. Sorry.

    Last week, it was unthinkable but tonight, front runner and rocker, Chris Daughtry, was voted off American Idol. Doubtless, Chris has an extraordinary career in front of him so it's difficult to feel too badly for him but it was a shock, especially when you factor in the inconsistencies of the three remaining contestants.

    Taylor has extraordinary entertainment value in a Bob Seger doing Steve Martin doing King Tut kind of way. His very presence demands that you smile and like him, but Taylor falls short on vocals and away from the cameras where nobody can see his Bob Dylan twitch or funky chicken knees, he won't be as entertaining.

    Katherine has the most powerful and mature vocals of the final four and the kind of beauty that makes men write sonnets. But she's not very versatile or entertaining and shines primarily doing standards, ballads, & classics. She will certainly find a comfortable Barbara Streisand kind of career and that ain't too shabby.

    Elliott is maturing as a singer and an entertainer but until last night, I thought almost every week was his last.

    With Chris and Mandisa both gone now, there's no longer a reason for me to watch the show. But whatever Chris eventually records, I'll buy. I loved his "Higher Ground" and "Renegade" and even his "Suspicious Minds". He has an amazing future and winning Idol isn't always a golden ticket anyway. Reuben who?

    Tuesday, May 09, 2006

    Captain Underpants

    Free speech isn't free.

    Only hours after posting a diatribe about failure to communicate, my own communication skills crashed and burned when my comments were censored from my all time favorite screenwriting site for being “offensively overdramatic", "insensitive", "inappropriate", and "yucky”. It’s not the first time.

    What comment did I make? Well, I didn't curse, promote flag burning, insult anyone or wail at the ignorance of religious institutions that I disagree with. I quite simply summarized my comments from my heroes and monsters post on a United 93 thread and included my remark to Brett that I didn't want DVD's of the film to wind up in terrorist training camps and lauded like a mascot at a pep rally or revered like the trophy panties of a serial killer.

    "Trophy panties" struck a sour chord with the webmaster so my post was yanked.

    Good or bad, what we say affects people. I don't have a problem with my comments being censored on that site because it doesn't change my right to make the comments. Okay, that’s a lie. It did chap me a little. But it demonstrates the limitations of speech that another person chooses to impose in his/her own realm of responsibility, not a limitation on my freedom of speech. Their house. Their rules.

    If I write a magazine article that falls in line with the philosophy and general guidelines of the publisher and some reader gets ticked off, tough beans. Free speech. Would I get ticked off if the publisher censored it? You bet. But it’s his paper. His house. His rules. Would I write the article if I knew my opinion would cost people their lives? Nope. But, that doesn’t change my right to write it.

    My sons are free to say anything at all in my house. However, if it flies in the face of what I consider polite and decent, there will be consequences, even if I have to stand in a chair to reach my 22 year old son's mouth with the bar of soap. My house. My rules. Why? Because my sons need to understand that even in the grown-up world, what people say and do, while they may have every right to say and do it, has consequences. Calling somebody a slang word for cat (too ugly for me to type) is probably going to fit right in at a wrestling match but I wouldn't recommend doing it to the police officer writing you a ticket, even if he deserves it.

    Speech is a loaded weapon. It can keep the peace or incite a riot.

    A guy I went to school with was leaving a miniature golf course one night and got into a verbal altercation with some bullies in the parking lot. He used a racial slur as one of the bullies was driving away. The bully backed up and shot the mouthy kid in the leg. But the word vomit kept flowing. So the bully backed up again and shot him in the head.

    I’m not saying that censorship is good – only that freedom to speak doesn't mean that speech is free of consequences. And, speaking of consequences ---

    HIM: You think you’re pretty cute.
    ME: Only until noon-ish when my hair goes flat.
    HIM: I know that was me on your blog yesterday.
    ME: You have a babysitter?
    HIM: I used to think you were intelligent.
    ME: I used to pick my nose.
    HIM: You’re an idiot.
    ME: Enjoy your tomatoes.

    Monday, May 08, 2006

    Failure to Communicate

    Probably the most frequent novice screenwriter sin is dead-on dialogue. Like many writers, I knowingly and purposely fill my first drafts with on-the-nose dialogue. This gets my character's thoughts on paper and makes for a very long, babbling screenplay. No biggie. Later, when I have a holistic finished draft and an almost effortless knowledge of each character, I go back with a weedeater and then try to add subtext, humor, and dialogue that reveals as much about who the character is as it does about what the character is saying. But, first I have to know what my character is saying before I can change the way he says it.

    That probably sounds familiar. On-the-nose = bad. Okie doke.

    Ya know why so many screenwriters have trouble with this? Ya know WHY they write no-brainer dead-on dialogue and then look at you like you're speaking Klingon when you call them on it? Ya know why reasonably intelligent people can write an entire page of dialogue that amounts to nothing more than an excruciating exchange of polite or not-so-polite greetings and still retort "it goes to character development" when you suggest they cut it?

    Know why it's so hard? Do ya? Well, I don't. But I have a theory. It's a bit abstract so stay with me on this.

    Screenwriting does require dead-on dialogue now and then along with the indirect, cryptic and cat and mouse dialogue that has to sound as natural as commenting on the weather. Maybe newbie screenwriters need time to pick up on this (goodness knows, I did!) but somebody who's been writing screenplays for a number of years ought to have this down by now. Many don't.

    Claiming that people are evolving into increasingly self absorbed and highly educated illiterates is an oxymoron, but that's my theory. We are a society that wants instant everything and I think, to some degree, the instant mentality has spilled into our speech. We want instant communication without the burden of communicating. I talk. You listen and digest what I'm saying. You talk. I listen and digest what you are saying. Simple. But too time consuming.

    The ability to relate to each other through meaningful dialogue is decomposing beneath a heap of iPods, instant messages, and video games. Why read books when we can watch a movie or play Halo 2? Why have meaningful conversation over the dinner table when we can watch South Park? Why meet with somebody in person if you can just send a short message to their Blackberry? Don't pick up the phone, just IM me!

    I'm not opposed to any of this technology, really, but somebody once told me that the most important word in the English language is 'relationships'. These gadgets seem to absolve us from the obligation to master communication and any two dollar shrink will tell you that most relationships that break down can point an accusing finger at failure to communicate.

    Screenwriters must understand how people communicate in order to write characters that communicate with each other and write a story that communicates to the audience.

    Over the weekend, I had a discussion with an aspiring screenwriter who, by all indications, is an intelligent guy with a good education and a reasonably firm grasp on reality. But he can't communicate. How can he write a screenplay if he, himself, cannot communicate?

    Metaphorically, here's how this played out --

    HIM: The babysitter is forcing me to eat tomatoes.
    ME: The babysitter is enforcing your mom's rules.
    HIM: Mom is not the one forcing me to eat them.
    ME: But the babysitter didn't make the rules.
    HIM: He's the one making me eat tomatoes.
    ME: Your mom is the one making you eat tomatoes.
    HIM: You're an idiot.
    ME: Enjoy your tomatoes.

    Sunday, May 07, 2006

    Blood on the Page

    Doing It For Money -- Tallfellow Press
    Edited by Daryl G. Nickens

    for the Writer's Guild Foundation

    I don't know why they chose "Doing It For Money" as a title when "blood on the page" is the prevailing theme of the book. But the important thing is, buy it. Mine was $15.72 at Amazon. You can also buy it directly from Tallfellow for $24.95. Gee. Tough choice.

    This is one of those few screenwriting related books that you'll probably read over and over instead of reading it once and tossing it into a trunk with all those screenplays you wrote that various indy producers swore they'd opt, buy, or get made no matter what but somehow never got opted, bought or made so no matter what must have actually mattered somewhat which, according to one of my favorite quotes in the book, may not always be such a bad thing if the final product doesn't quite live up to your vision:
    "Then I went to the first screening and I wanted to... well, you know, slit my wrists while jumping out of the Empire State Building after taking an overdose of sleeping pills, hoping to land in front of a bus going, say, 150 miles per hour." -- Jim Kouf
    Wait just one nose pickin', cotton candy stickin' minute. Let's go back to January 25th for a moment to a little exchange I had with One Slack Martian on a post about crushing the villain.

    OSM: How about a theme that is “Can’t get no satisfaction,” so the villain jumps to his death before the hero can get his revenge. But just before the villain hits the ground, a bus plows into him—driven, of course, by the hero’s sidekick.
    Hmmph. Methinks OSM has been doing a little ghost writing for the big dogs. "Can't Get No Satisfaction" pretty much sums up Kouf's entry in the book regarding Another Stakeout.

    By the way, Nickens is donating his royalties from the book to the Writer's Guild Foundation which is a 501(c)3 non profit corporation.

    Saturday, May 06, 2006

    Mysterious Characters

    The most recent Creative Screenwriting magazine has the third and final part of Karl Iglesias' exploration of character development. Each of these three techniques is demonstrated in the articles by using a case study of As Good as it Gets. Read them.

    PART ONE was on using empathy as a means of connecting the viewer to the character through recognition and identification. This was an easy no-brainer concept for me to grasp.

    PART TWO was about creating fascination by using conflict and contradiction in characteristics. I never did figure out whether one of those conflicting characteristics has to be something that people recognize and "empathize" with. Thoughts?

    PART THREE is about setting up questions to develop mystery.

    Iglesias asserts that novice writers are more inclined to fill the reader with information than arouse their interest with questions about plot, character and opportunities for resolution that evoke curiosity and anticipation. Seriously. That's what he says. Arouse your reader!

    * Mysterious Past - My grandmother once said about men that a little tease is more effective in the long run than a full reveal. Show a little flesh and a man will hang around to see what else you've got. Show it all and there's nothing new to see. No more secrets. Iglesias says that slowly revealing characters' backstories, skills, origins and secrets makes us hang around to see what else they've got. Clever granny.

    *Mysterious Present - This is about creating mysterious behavior and reactions. Don't explain quirks and overreactions right away. I once dated a guy who shed a tear every time he put on his golf shoes. A tear! Why? It's just golf! What the heck is there to cry about before you even tee off? Were the shoes a gift from a beloved dead relative? Were they too tight? Did he steal them? I don't know. I don't even know why they need special shoes for golf. It's a glorified game of kick the can only they use a lumpy little ball instead of a can, a hole in the ground instead of a storm drain, and a skinny stick instead of their feet and it's no wonder. You can't run in those dorky shoes! I hate golf. But I kept tagging along with this guy and every time he donned those shoes, I watched to see if he'd cry -- he always did. That was twenty years ago but if he wanted to see me right this minute, I'd drop everything and say, "sure, lets get re-acquainted over a game of golf" and did I mention that I hate golf? I gotta find out what was up with those shoes!

    *Mysterious Future - Create crossroads, dilemmas, excruciating choices and powerful predicaments that make us worry, guess, or wonder just which fork in the road a character will take. Would I cancel the golf game that might give me the answer to my twenty year old question about golf shoes if it conflicted with a Nicholl interview? Duh! See? No mystery. Very boring.

    So, that's that. Karl Iglesias' three techniques for making character connections --

    Recognition (empathy)
    Fascination (conflict and contradiction)
    Mystery (planting questions)
    Oh, goodie. Mail truck. Gotta go see if my Golf Digest is here. Why am I reading Golf Digest if I hate golf, you ask? Well, that's a mystery. But look. Here's my ankle.

    Friday, May 05, 2006

    Confused in Korea

    An online magazine, OhMyNews International Entertainment in Korea, got their Pirates of the Caribbean screenwriters backwards and apparently Ted and Terry got lost in translation.

    "With almost all the main lead actors from the first Pirates movie, along with two writers (Stuart Beattie and Jay Wolpert) who worked alongside the screenwriters of the first movie (Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio), it seems as though this will bring a brand new action-packed adventure, much to the delight of audiences across the globe."
    Beattie and Wolpert, who shared writing credit with T&T on the first film, are named as co-creaters of characters in POTC2. But, I'm wondering how anyone connected to the entertainment industry, even in Korea, could not know which pens are behind Dead Man's Chest.

    Oh wait -- there's the answer on the sidebar --

    Traditional journalism is old news!
    Citizen journalism is the future!
    Join OhMyNews!
    Be a Citizen Reporter!

    Thursday, May 04, 2006

    More Heroes and Monsters

    Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster.
    Friedrich Nietzsche

    A few months ago, I wrote that heroes and monsters are as subjective as the person pointing them out. I think this will be particularly true for United 93.

    So far, I've only heard positive things about United 93 despite some pre-film arguments that it was released too soon or that it would cause additional suffering to people still grieving unfinished lives. I plan to see the film and I defend the freedom of speech and expression of those associated with its development and release.

    However, I do have one regret -- one sinking, unfaltering, sick regret in the pit of my stomach that tells the hair on my neck to quiver every time I see the United 93 trailer -- one gnawing, throat clogging, nerve wrenching, blood curdling regret --

    Terrorists get to see this film, too.

    Like us, terrorists will see heroes who summon up all their courage and determination and ultimately defeat their enemies. They'll be inspired by the singlemindedness of characters who played a key role that day and they may even leave with a renewed sense of patriotism because like us, they will believe in their hearts that failure was still a victory.

    We see heroes. They see heroes. We see monsters. They see monsters. But we'll be looking at different faces.

    Wednesday, May 03, 2006

    Heel, Toe, Away We Go

    Technorati has this nifty feature that identifies blogs that have linked to yours. Naturally, if a blog worthy of reading links to mine, the polite thing to do is reciprocate. It's kind of like a giant square dance where we all allemande left or right through web logs until we stop at one. Then, bow to someone you don't know, take that hand and dosado! Of course, not everyone wants to dosado.

    At this moment, Technorati identifies forty one links to my blog. It was forty two but Olaf wimped out -- that's another story and you'll have to go to Konrad's blog for the details of Olaf's demise. But, forty one! Cool! Wannabe screenwriters are enjoying my blog! Screenwriting blogs are becoming a valuable resource for me and maybe my own blog is helpful to someone else. Blogging works.

    Or, does it?

    These are the two most recent links to my blog--

    Gasoline Cards With Bad Credit
    Women Seeking Married Men
    I'd post their links to demonstrate how insanely stupid it is to tie gasoline credit cards to this Nicholl post or homewrecking harlots to this Rom Com post but I don't want to dosado with those losers. However, it looks like there actually are a few more screenwriting bloggers I need to dance with. So, time to add to my links.

    Tuesday, May 02, 2006

    Doing It For Money

    Just ordered Doing It For Money published by Tallfellow Press in conjunction with the Writers Guild Foundation. Ordered mine from Amazon. You can order it directly from Tallfellow Press but will pay about $10 more. The book is a collection of essays and tips from some of the most formidable names in screenwriting and will supposedly either reinforce your conviction to write screenplays or make you run like smokin' oakum.

    Monday, May 01, 2006

    Monkey Business

    Time's up. Nicholl applications had to be postmarked today. I'm hoping that somebody in my future spec monkey circle of friends advances in the Nicholl this year. Last year, a couple of Nicholl fellows came from the pool of regular Wordplay posters. Their first hand accounts of the interviews and hand wringing agony (oh, to be a glove on that hand) certainly pulled me into their corners and I was genuinely pleased for them. It was almost like pulling for a friend. Almost, but no banana.

    Meanwhile, the early deadline for entries into the Austin Film Festival screenplay competition is May 15th so keep up the monkey business. There's no business like monkey business.