Monday, May 30, 2005

Minor setback

I received some new notes on my outline from my instructor. Things he hasn't commented on in the last two weeks suddenly have given him concerns and I'm frustrated. I'll have to take time out from writing script pages to address possible concerns with my structure (fortunately I fixed one thing he questioned as I was writing the pages). I may only be 10% done writing script pages, but it feels like losing momentum to go back and focus on the outline.

Still, this *is* an outline writing class, so if I want to get an 'A', I'd better deal with it. Ugh.

It has begun

Weekend is going well, in case, like me, you are home slaving away on the next 'Great American Screenplay or Novel' and are home to read this. (Wow, nice run on sentence there Shawna. You call yourself a writer??)
As a matter of fact, I do. I have started the spec. I know, most of you are thinking BFD. Can't say I blame you, but it's always momentous when I start thinking about writing or talking about writing or (the worst) writing about writing and I actually start banging out my crap draft. The crap draft is what spews forth when I start typing. It comes before the really horrible draft which usually leads to the just lousy draft. The lousy draft is what I end up working with to form a first draft.
Went to an arena football game today and played pool. Sometimes it's good to live life and not be holed up away from it. I'm working on that aspect of my existence.

So, what burning questions can I answer for anybody? Doesn't need to be about writing either. Some of you have been hanging around long enough, you must be *dying* to hear me tell some tale or other of myself. I just don't know what you want to hear...

Friday, May 27, 2005

Film Friday for 5/27

It is almost the end of the month, so it's time to recap all of the new sequels, spin-offs, tv shows made into films and remakes that were given deals this month. All info can be found at Done Deals. So, what do we have for May?

  • Rush Hour 3 - apparently we need more Chris Tucker paired with Brett Ratner. At this time, Jackie Chan has not signed on. Perhaps he's had his fill of Michael Jackson impersonations?
  • All of Me - Originally this was made in 1984 with Steve Martin and Lily Tomlin. Now Wanda Sykes will star. I think I'll pass.
  • The Prone Gunman, Rider on the Rain and Honor Among Thieves - I've grouped them together because I had never heard of them. They are remake projects all being produced by John Woo and appear to all have starred Charles Bronson in the 50s and 60s.
  • Kung Fu Hustle 2 - I guess it did well.
  • The Power of the Dark Crystal - I'd list this as one of the more interesting projects for the month. I really loved The Dark Crystal as a kid, so there's a little geek part of me that is happy. We'll see if it actually gets made.
  • Tekken - Video game adaptation. This is in rewrite.
  • The Rum Diary - While not technically a sequel, since Johnny Depp is going to Play Hunter Thompson again in this adaptation of Thompson's book, I'll throw it in here.
  • Shutter - remake of a scary Thai film. Asian horror films are still hot!
  • Day of the Dead - Sure, why not, we keep recycling all the other Romero zombie films.
  • Adventures in Babysitting - NO NO NO!! And to think I respected Lynda Obst! This is a travesty, and if Hilary Duff gets anywhere near it, I'm gouging her eyes out.
  • The Ring 3 - Hey! New character, same stupid girl in the tape!

That's it for this month. I'll update if there are any relevant deals on Tuesday, but it looks like a trend is developing, a very unsettling trend. The studios are now dipping into the 80's for remakes. This can only bring very bad things. If anyone breathes a word about remaking 'Ferris Bueller' for a new generation, I'll sic Ed Rooney on them. Ed will teach them a lesson.

Long, lost weekend

I wish I could say I have exciting plans for the weekend, but I can not as I do not. My sister and I will be making the 'big push' to finish our domestic painting this weekend, a project that started a month ago. I might get out of the asylum long enough to see a movie or do some shopping, but I see your head nodding. I'll end the boring details there.

No, I will not be drinking myself into a stupor, despite what the post title might lead you to think. More likely, I'll be finally starting to write script pages for my 'Lost' spec. The outline is complete and I'm ready to breathe some life into this sucker.

Can I just say I don't know if the 'Alias' finale was the most awesome thing I've ever seen or the lamest thing? If done correctly, next season could be a real head trip. If they fail to make sense out of it...let's just say I do not see a Season 6 in their future. That is all I'll say on the subject. For now.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

HOA woes

My primary job (what I get paid for) is as a supervisor for UNNAMED LARGE COMPANY. My second job (currently unpaid) is as a writer. My third job (which I would drop in a heartbeat if allowed) is as the President of my HOA.

Last night there was smoke in the laundry room. Guess who gets their doorbell rung in the middle of the 'Lost' finale...

Yup, yours truly. So I schlep downstairs in my Winnie the Pooh slippers to see what's up. Sure enough, burning rubber smell and light smoke in the air. The VP of the HOA had called 911 so the sirens were whirring in the background as I inspected the room. I think we disappointed the firemen. We had no fire, but certainly a problem with one of the washing machines.

This is just the latest 'crisis' in a series of crises in my condo building (which has 18 units and very strange residents). We have bad pipes, electrical problems, water damage, an old elevator and we are technically broke. And, there are so many elderly residents that they prohibit us from raising the association fees to cover our expenses and needed maintenence. The building is 40 years old and shows it.

It's horrible, but I keep hoping a few will either pass on or move soon so we can actually improve our builidng and stop the unnecessary degrading of our property value.

But we are in a kickass location. I just wish I had an extra parking spot in the garage.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Whither 'Lost'?

Season finale is tonight. Of course, this is exciting for me, as I follow this show very closely, and not just because I'm writing a spec.

Some of you have wondered why on Earth I chose to spec Lost. There are two answers to this question.

  • I wanted to spec 'House' but my instructor writes for that show and discouraged me from writing it as it is a very difficult show to write (and I think he didn't want to be extra hard on me, since he has such vast knowledge of the show).
  • I refused to spec CSI, Law and Order or The O.C.

I know there are other shows I could have chosen, but I feel vindicated in my choice since I've been looking over the network pickups this fall. What do these shows have in common:
  • Fathom
  • Invasion
  • Supernatural
  • Threshold

They are all new hourlong dramas that deal with 'strange' or alien phenomena and appear to have an arc for an entire season. I don't know if any of them will hold on and make it, but my Lost spec might be interesting to writers of any of these shows.

I'm still writing a 'House' or some other procedural spec though. Gotta cover my bases.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Class tonight

Gearing up for class -- instructor told me in his last set of notes that my latest draft is pretty good. I've made a couple of tweaks to share with him tonight, but then I think I'm ready to go to script.

I've signed up for the summer course, just to keep my momentum going...especially while things are so topsy-turvy at work. I need something to focus on outside of that stress.

They are outsourcing at my workplace and my job is in limbo. Hopefully I'll know more in the next two weeks. This has been a long time coming and finally the hammer is falling. I wouldn't mention it, except it seems to be the overriding concern in my day to day life right now. I've always maintained that in order for this 'screenwriting thing' to work, I'd need to keep my day job. I never really planned on what to do if the day job wasn't there (besides get another one). It has me thinking about all sorts of possibilities, though the most realistic is just to find another foothold until I can get an agent/sell something. I am all about what I will do right now, I have no time to think about how much I suck or how remote the chances are that I'll succeed. Those thoughts are irrelevent. My current predicament has brought into focus what I came out to L.A. to do and I will not fail.

I just hope I don't suck. :-)

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Upfront roundup - the final tally

So, there are lots of places where you can find the schedules (try here or here). One thing they may not say is what does this all mean?? In Entertainment Weekly style, I present to you the 'Winners and Losers' list:


  • Jerry Bruckheimer - the man is unstoppable. He already had six shows on the air and now the networks have picked up four more. He's got Aaron Spelling in his sights. (Read more at Hollywood Reporter).
  • Dramas - There are 19 new hourlong dramas vs. 10 new sitcoms in the network programming mix. For now, drama is where the action to speak.
  • Jim Belushi - is he not the luckiest guy on the planet?
  • David Mamet - he actually has a midseason show. Whodathunk that David Mamet would want to break in to TV?
  • Conservatives - CBS cancelling '60 Minutes Wednesday' may have been for ratings reasons, but conservative bloggers will still feel it a victory to have ousted Dan Rather from yet another home due to the National Guard memo scandal.
  • Warner Brothers - Clearly they hold the keys to the show production kingdom. While Paramount and 20th Century may be close behind, Warner has more shows on the various schedules than any other production house.
  • UPN - Yes, I know...this one seems weird. The perenial whipping boy of the upfronts actually had two bits of good news to tout (even though they cancelled 'Enterprise'). One, they renewed Veronica Mars. Two, they managed to get Chris Rock to do a sitcom with them (even if he only does voice overs and produces, it's enough for them). And hey, they still have 'WWE Smackdown!'

  • Tara Reid - her sitcom for Fox didn't get picked up. Of course, IMHO she was a 'loser' before her sitcom was rejected...
  • David E. Kelley - believe it or not, Kelley had a show rejected. As I read somewhere (sorry can't remember where) there was a time when Kelley didn't even need a pilot, they'd just buy the thing sight unseen. I guess 'Snoops' and that show he did for CBS changed that.
  • Reality - Okay, there are still a lot of reality shows on, but the networks are only introducing 2 new reality shows ('Three Wishes' and 'The Apprentice: Martha Stewart' on NBC) this season. This is down significantly from the five to seven new shows we were seeing each fall. Thankfully, we are going to get a break from 'The Bachelor' until midseason.
  • Donald Trump - Another strange one, you are thinking. Let me put it this way: Martha Stewart's Apprentice show is going to crush Trump's. Trump has been fun for three series, but now it's time to watch the 'Domestic Diva' put people through the ringer.
  • Jeff Zucker - Defamer has been all over how much crow this guy has had to eat this week (last year at upfronts he boasted that 'Joey' and the rest of the NBC schedule would keep the network at #1. They fell to #4 last year. Not only that, he's been taunted by the other network heads too. Advertisers will have to consider the new NBC schedule closely before deciding where to spend their precious ad dollars.

Finally, I'd say writers are big winners. Lots of networks putting lots of faith in new product. It will be interesting to see what of the current crop of programming hits and misses with the public. Get your specs ready. Staffing season may be over, but the fun is just beginning.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Analyzing the TV schedules

All of the networks have been announcing their fall schedules this week. Lee Goldberg has links for the new schedules.

One major trend I noticed was a lack of major new reality programming. NBC has one new reality show and everyone else seems to be holding reality for summer or midseason. As a result, there are a lot of new scripted programs on the schedules. Obviously this is great news for writers as the possibility of some of these shows being successful is higher now that they aren't competing quite as much with reality fare.

I'm particularly heartened that there are a lot of 'Lost-inspired' shows on everyone's schedules. My Lost spec may actually be of some use, if I can get an agent and if any of these shows are good enough to make it. Of course, I'm still going to spec a procedural to cover my bases.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

My screenwriting bookshelf

Someday maybe we'll talk about my other bookshelves (the sci-fi bookshelf, fantasy bookshelf, mystery bookshelf, non-fiction, etc) but today I'll just give you a quick run down of the books I refer to most often when I am writing and need words of wisdom, technical help or just need to procrastinate.

Of course, there are two or three which should be on every screenwriter's bookshelf:

  • Art of Dramatic Writing by Lajos Egri
  • Screenwriting 434 by Lew Hunter
  • Making a Good Script Great by Linda Seger

I suppose if you want the true basics, you can read Aristotle's Poetics but that's up to you. It makes you sound smart to your non-writing friends if you can quote Aristotle.

Books I read for inspiration:

  • Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
  • Breakfast with Sharks by Michael Lent
  • The Right to Write by Julia Cameron

Books I refer to for advice (but not as much as the first 3):

  • Creating Unforgetable Characters by Linda Seger
  • The Writer's Journey by Christopher Vogler
  • Writing Screenplays that Sell by Michael Hauge

Books I haven't really used in the last year, but I still have on my shelf:

  • Screenplay by Syd Field
  • Screenwriting: The Art, Craft, and Business of Film and Televison by Richard Walter
  • Write Screenplays that Sell by Hal Ackerman
  • Writing Scripts Hollywood Will Love by Katherine Atwell Herbert

Recent purchases/reads:

  • 10 Minutes to the Pitch by Chris Abbott
  • Screenplay by Disney by Jason Surrell
  • Successful Television Writing by Lee Goldberg

I'm going to pick up Alex's book Crafty Screenwriting next chance I get. I'm always picking it up in the bookstore, but I'd like to finish it this year, so I'll just buy the damn thing already.

Now you know why I never get anything written -- I'm reading too many books!

Monday, May 16, 2005

Quick hits

Who am I voting for in the L.A. Mayoral race? Hell if I know.

All I know is I'm choosing between bad and probably just as bad but hasn't been mayor for the last four years. Some people think that Hahn has been useless the last 4 years and V-ray can't be worse. I say the devil you know is probably better than the one you don't. Still, I'm conflicted.

TV Network upfronts this week. So far, I'm not impressed with NBC's schedule. Thursday goes completely unchanged and they bench their best sitcom until midseason or so. Worse, they move "The West Wing" (which, admittedly, I think should have ended this year since I've hated it for the last 3 years and refuse to watch it now) opposite Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, which I think is just folly.

Tomorrow, I get to hold my head in my hands and wonder what Andy Dick had to do to keep "Less than Perfect" on the air. I shudder to think about the possibilities, and since this is a family site and not Defamer I'll keep those horrific thoughts to myself.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Welcome to the blogosphere, Lord Vader!

Please take time to visit everyone's favorite Sith Lord Darth Vader. He's a struggling blogger, and I think we should all give him some support. Especially with that whole 'left for dead' moment with Obi-Wan. Bastard.

And no...

...I do not have the bitTorrent for Project Greenlight.

Although, I'd recommend looking here. I know of no free sites, because, like you I googled it and have not yet found it. Keep looking.

But feel free to come back and talk about screenwriting anytime!

Stop looking for Chinese Windsocks!

I don't know why, but people keep googling for 'chinese windsocks' and end up here. I mean, I like you all and it's pretty cool that you stop by, but people, my post about the Chinese invading the U.S. sock industry is not what you are looking for. Of course, now that I put 'Chinese Windsocks' in my title, I'm sure you'll be coming by in droves.

Want a chinese windsock? Try here.

Now go away, or I shall taunt you a second time!

More on the Lost spec

Thanks all for the great feedback and advice. It's nice to know that there are at least a few folks willing to drop a line. :-)

So, the good news: my assignment is just a 10 page outline, which is due at the end of May. I'll have a good week or so after the last episode of the season airs to work out any conflicts.

The thing I have to keep reminding myself, especially with this show, is that it is VERY serialized. One episode usually leads into the next. They haven't really done anything that stands by itself. The key is to show in my writing that I a) understand the characters and the show and b) can write a decent story. I agree that I should get rid of any blatant contradictions or repetitions, but if I have Charlie playing his guitar (which is a big part of my spec, for example as I am basing it around that character), it is not important to scratch that stuff from my story. In fact, on further reflection, I feel that some of what was used in last night's episode reinforces pieces of the story I'm writing.

As for actually writing the spec, I'll be doing that over the summer after I complete the outline. UCLA Extension offers a 'writing the script' course which follows right after the outline writing course, so I plan to enroll in it. I know there is debate as to whether classes are really that valuable, but the #1 reason I'm taking the classes is for discipline. If I know I have an assignment due, I'll actually get it done. There's nothing like a deadline to motivate a procrastinator -- even if it is at the last minute. :-)

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

When TV attacks

So, as you may have read here before, I'm writing a spec episode of Lost. Tonight's episode threw some monkeywrenches into my spec idea. I won't bore you with details, but here's what I have to decide. Do I:

  • continue writing the spec as is and ignore new minor elements revealed in the show that are incredibly similar to things I've already outlined.
  • alter my episode to incorporate or expound on these things.
  • radically change my story to avoid any sense that I am 'ripping off' what has already been written.
My sense is that anyone reading my spec will have knowledge of the show but will (hopefully) not be a rabid fan who can spot the minor inconsistencies or similarities my spec has to these last few episodes. I started writing around episode 18 for cryin' out loud! How am I supposed to know what turn might happen around episode 22??

And I really don't want to start over...option 1 or 2 are looking good. What to do?

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Studio Panic

Looking over Box Office estimates for this weekend, I'd say there are a few studio heads sweating on Monday morning. This was the 11th straight "down weekend" (meaning, less was made than the same weekend last year). Kingdom of Heaven and House of Wax both underperformed. Everyone will be scratching their heads and asking 'what's going on here?'

I'll tell ya what's going on. No one wants to see these movies. When I heard about these films months ago I thought, 'yeah, the Crusades film would be interesting as a rental, but do I really NEED to see this movie? And really, since Paris has already offered her, um, assets inadvertantly gratis, do I REALLY want to pay to see them?' Both answers were no.

Now, let's look at next weekend: J-Lo and Fonda (pass, even if my future boyfriend Michael Vartan is in it) and Will Ferrell with Robert Duvall (YES and we get Ditka thrown in to boot!!). Weekend after...well, if you don't know what comes out May 19 you are living in a hole and I can't help you. Let's just say, summer will really start then and I already have my tickets bought. My only anguish is I must wait until Saturday morning at 11:00 to see the Sith. This is so wrong for me, as I am not afraid to wave my geek flag proudly at midnight Wednesday showings and have for the first two Star Wars prequels. If you even attempt to e-mail me a spoiler I will come knocking on your door with a Wookie and a good blaster to mess you up.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Diz-knee land

I've been here the last couple of days working on the Disneyland 50th anniversary celebration. The hours are odd (it is 3 AM and I am only 3 hours into my shift) and long, but it is always fun to be in the middle of a frenzy of activity. Right now I'm in the Media Center, where media types work on their radio/tv/print pieces and eat. I'm like a "den mother", making sure things are working (especially computers) and running errands. Feels good to be in the park and away from my desk.

Class was good Tuesday night. I have most of my scenes figured out and I can start writing the outline for the first act (with summaries of each scene). When I'm finished, it will be nine or ten pages. The teaser and Act I should be about three.

I'd like to have it done in two weeks so I can get started writing the spec. Momentum is on my side and rolling. Life is good.

Sorry I've been MIA for a week. Life intrudes often -- we've been painting our condo, entertaining family, writing, living...I promise when I'm done with this press event thing I'll give you my take on "Hitchhiker's Guide"...