Thursday, June 30, 2005

Writing insight of the day

When I am stuck trying to build my story (before I even get to outlining), I have a set of questions I answer for myself. It's like giving myself a pop quiz about the story I'm constructing. Some of the questions are "who is this story about?" (who is the main character?), "What is it the main character wants?", "What is it the main character actually needs?"

By forcing myself to answer these questions (and there's about 50 of them) I get a better understanding of what I'm writing. Certainly I'll find I can't answer them all at once, but the best part is, that if there is a question I can't answer, I know I need to think about that aspect more before I sit down and really outline the script.

Anyway, just one of the methods I use to craft story. Everyone has their own way of doing it...what's yours? What do you do when you struggle with crafting your story?

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

I got an idea!

Okay, so I was over at Lee Goldberg's blog reading his article about how much most Hollywood films suck and why people aren't paying to see them and it got me thinking.

How *could* you get people to go to the movies again?

I have a few ideas...

1. DVD window expands to 12-18 months (or more) after release. The studios have it all backwards -- they need to wait to release a film on DVD rather than rush it out to stores. If people know it will be awhile, it creates demand. Also, have you seen how well Disney's "moratorium" process works? The release a "Platinum" (read: more coveted) animated film on video or DVD (they've been doing this awhile), make it available for about 18 months and then -- *poof*! It's GONE. NO MORE BUYING "The Lion King"...until the *next* time they release it. It builds demand for the film. People are more apt to see in a theater if they know they won't get to see buy it/rent it/see it on TV for many many many months.

2. Create a new film pricing structure. I think the theater pricing model is outdated. Arclight, arguably the best movie theater in L.A. charges up to $14 a ticket during "prime time" film viewing hours. Why? a) no commercials (only movie trailers) before the movie. b) you can pick your seat c) a really generous membership program for frequent movie goers which includes using points on concessions or free tickets d) some movies they offer 21+ screenings -- NO KIDS. Theses are all innovative strategies. Why stop at creative pricing for matinees? Why not charge a premium for certain films? Maybe some "lesser" films should be offered as '2 for 1' bargains. There was a time when double bills were common. Short films should make a comeback and be shown before features. Which leads to my 3rd point...

3. Offer things the average movie goer cannot get by renting or owning the DVD. Sure, some are shown in IMAX, and that's about the best and most unique reason to go out of your way to see a film. But why not offer other perks like: a) offer movie going packages. Some theaters are starting to catch on to "combos" and gift cards like AMC's "night at the movies", which includes 2 tickets, a tub of popcorn and 2 drinks, but theaters need to embrace these kinds of deals. Make it actually a SAVINGS to buy a package (not just that 50 cents it costs to upgrade to a supersize) b) Start upgrading your damn theaters to digital projection already. Yes, it is costly, but hello, people are watching films in digital AT HOME. You want to catch up already?? Digital big screen will attract an audience. c) Multiplexes should offer a "babysitting" theater. Don't want to sit with the kids while watching the latest Pokemon movie? Want to go see something else? Send the to Pokemon, where the lights don't go down entirely and kids are kept in check (sign a waiver of course) and go see a movie in peace. Also, spare the people around you by not having your annoying crying kid piping up every 2 minutes.

Theaters can do a lot to bring people in, but studios have more to do too...

4. Stop making excuses. No one likes to be blamed for your shortcomings. I saw Cinderella Man -- it's a good movie. Face it, your marketing department sucked eggs on promoting the film properly. Stop trying to make it sound "good for us" -- tell me why I'll enjoy seeing it, for crissakes! Studios whine that audiences say they want more family friendly films, but then they don't perform well. Newsflash, just because you slap a 'G' or a 'PG' on it doesn't mean parents will react like automatons and take their children to see it, especially if it looks like torture for the adult. Make GOOD family friendly movies and watch the profits roll in (example: "The Incredibles"). Same rule goes for films for any audience outside men 18-34. Just because a movie has 5 women in it, is labeled "chick flick", does not mean women will flock. Make it a GOOD chick flick and we'll talk.

5. Stop insulting your audience. This is a message to some of my fellow screenwriters: The audience is NOT stupid. If you portray characters which closely represent your audience as being stupid, backward, redneck idiots, it will not do well. People will allow themselves to be poked fun at, if it is genuinely good natured. If you are trying to sell a political agenda, red and blue staters can smell it. Tell a good story and everybody wins.

These are just some of my new ideas for getting people back to the theaters. Your thoughts??

Getting physical

As becoming as I look in my admittedly outdated photo (not *that* outdated, just...not the most current), I find I need to refocus my efforts to lose weight, get into good shape, etc.

So I'm seeing a trainer tomorrow.

Hoo-boy. I don't know if I'm ready for this or not, but considering how much time I've spent recently in front of a PC and not on a treadmill, I think it's time.

This is just the 'consultation' tomorrow. If I like the place/trainer/etc, I can choose to go as often as I like, when I like -- no preset number of sessions, etc. The best part -- they claim that one session a week (plus some work on your own) is all you need to get on the path to wellness. I already have a Bally club membership, so I am not looking to spend too much extra dough, but just as with screenwriting, I find discipline in exercise to be helpful. Setting goals and working to achieve them. Sure, you can fall off the wagon occassionally (like, watch a movie instead of write, eat a Krispy Kreme instead of a carrot), but as long as you keep those deviances to a minimum, the goal can be met.

Although no Krispy Kremes. They are evil incarnate. Sweet, sweet evil.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Deadline freakout

5 days. I've got 5 days to get this spec in decent shape to submit for the ABC Fellowship. Not only that, I need to be coherent on the application. I need to be eloquent and profound. It's too much!

I haven't gotten any of the feedback from my "tough love" friends either. I've cajoled but nada. So, I'll be revising today with some good notes, but probably not a comprehensive set of notes.

The Artful Writer now has a forum in operation. I recommend dropping by and registering. I registered there yesterday and the place is already hoppin'. If I'm in the chat room, I'm TeelaJBrown. Otherwise, you'll see my real name.

Hey, maybe we can schedule a chat sometime?? Okay, enough procrastination...

...or not. My sister just came in the room and deemed it necessary for us to get manicures and pedicures this morning. Dangit, I wasn't ready to go out in public. Now I have to shower and that's 2 hours I'll lose on revising. I am making art woman!! I do not need pretty toenails to make art!

Now she's testy. To the shower I go. See you later.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Radio silence

Sorry it's been so quiet this week. I've been slammed with work, HOA stuff and tweaking my draft. So far the notes have been constructive and overall the feedback is pretty positive. Of course, so far I've given it to people who are kind. I'm waiting to hear from the 'tough crowd' I've solicited for feedback.

Criticism is hard. I always have to remind myself that it isn't personal. I have asked these people to give me their honest feedback and notes so I can make my work better. Still, sometimes it feels like genius to idiot in less than five seconds once someone opens their mouth.

Between genius and idiot, I think I'm floating along as mortal. I'll settle for that.

Monday, June 20, 2005


Last night I finished my first draft for my "Lost" spec script. It came in at 52 pages. Clearly I have some work to do on the second draft, but what a great feeling to finish this weekend, when I had hoped to finish. I had to push through about 21 pages or so yesterday, but the pages came (helped by listening to 'Light Classical' on my Dish Network radio dial).

Now to register and rewrite. Only 11 days until the ABC deadline!

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Spec progress

Just a quick note, because I'm still writing tonight, trying to reach the finish line. I am almost done with Act IV. I am on page 45 with 12-15 pages left to go. I've already written about 12 pages today and I won't finish until I can get to the end. Then the rewriting starts.

I'm not sure who I'm going to have read this thing and provide comments back. I'll need feedback quickly, since I'm trying to get it in good enough shape to submit for the ABC Fellowship. The deadline for that is the end of the month.

Still, feeling good with the progress today. Dang, I need to do laundry...

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Book Meme: My Turn

Rick tagged me with the book meme that's going around the blogs like a virus. Okay, fine, I'll bite.

Total number of books owned: I think I'm at around 300 right now. I shed about 100 books or so between my last two moves, so I could be down to 250. I haven't counted in awhile and books are like weeds a new one pops up every time I think I've got them all.

Last book I bought: Crafty Screenwriting by one of my favorite bloggers Alex Epstein.

Last book I read: Besides the one I just mentioned, I read a lot of screenwriting books. The last non-fiction book I read was Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom by Cory Doctorow (frequent contributor to Boing Boing.

Five books that mean a lot to me:

The Number of the Beast by Robert Heinlein. This was my first real sci-fi book given to me by my father. After all of the other Heinlein books I've read, this is the one I always come back to, simply because it was my first.

Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson. It's actually a tough call between this one and Cryptonomicon which I also love, but again, I go with sentimentality. My first real boyfriend gave me Snow Crash and it blew my mind (this after he had already turned me on to Pournelle and Niven books). I loan out Snow Crash often -- I just never get it back. I've bought at least five copies of this book since I first read it. I'm currently without a copy.

Mort by Terry Pratchett. I had no idea how funny fantasy could be. I had read The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and I knew sci-fi could be funny (this book almost makes the cut for the top 5). Interestingly enough, I was turned on to Mort by Colin Baker at a Dr. Who convention. Yes, in my very young years I attended Dr. Who conventions and took book reading advice from actors. Still, this one was a great one and the entire series of Discworld novels are to this day one of my prized possessions (which continues to grow since the man is still writing them). Mort is actually the 4th Discworld book, but I still recommend it as the best introduction to the series.

Writing Screenplays that Sell by Michael Hauge. This was the first screenwriting book I bought which made me feel I could actually be a writer. I was further encouraged when I listened to him speak at the very first Screenwriting Expo in 2002.

Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery. It may seem corny to you, but I was already a voracious reader when I discovered the Anne Shirley books. I would say that prior to seeing Anne of Green Gables on PBS (which, tragically, may have its funding cut because they can't seem to stop serving a liberal agenda -- okay, I'll stop) I had already fallen in love with this character and the story. It made me want to tell stories.

Hmmm, who should I tag with this meme... 5 others, the rules say.

E.B. Langton
Kid Sis
Joshua James

Anybody else can jump in too!

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Hollywood Momentum

This should provide some new entertainment. Let's learn all about the assistant life!

(Hat tip: Defamer)

Bomb Threat at WGA?

Defamer had the breaking news. Turns out it was a hoax (not surprising).

I wonder how many times people have been talking about films (as bombs)and it has been mistaken as a terror threat...


I've been pretty stressed out lately because of my job situation. Things got better today. Can't really discuss it, but I think I'm close to knowing my fate and it is a huge relief.

Even better, I finished Act III last night. I need to do a rewrite on those last four pages, but still...

I'm 75% done with my first draft! And that's reason to celebrate.

May not be posting tomorrow -- busy day and I plan to write Act IV tomorrow night.

See you Friday.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Coming attractions

I had no idea that I'd get this kind of response regarding my political leanings. However, I am happy to continue the conversation. I should have a pretty lengthy post regarding this topic later tonight. I wish I could have it done sooner, but today is THE BIG DAY at work -- the contract is signed and we are meeting with the new outsourcing company. I'll be in meetings all day.

So check back later tonight or tomorrow for my explanation of my politics and more.

One last note: Act III is almost complete. I have two scenes to go. Of course, this isn't the end. I still have Act IV and the Tag to write. Still, I'm on page 35 and just knowing I only have about 20-25 pages to go is pretty satisifying. Act II was disturbingly short so I had to go back and flesh it out a bit from what I had in my outline, which I had not expected. Fortunately, that little detour didn't really slow me down. It's all good.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Odious people

Never become numb to the ugliness in the world. Despicable grandparents charged with sexual assault. The grandfather raped his 13 year old granddaughter while the grandmother merely said she "got what she deserved."

Blog stuff

Still updating the blogroll. Since I use the service to track blogs that have been recently updated, it isn't seperated out like I'd like it to be. Here's the rule of thumb (for now): political blogs on top, california blogs in the middle, screenwriting blogs on the bottom half. The very bottom of the list is the 'probation zone'. Post or you're toast. If you are in the probation zone for more than 2 months (meaning, you haven't updated your blog) you will be dropped off the blogroll. I have added anyone who currently links to me or has requested a link. As should be obvious, I am not responsible for any of the material on any of the linked blogs in the blogroll. Read them at your own risk or pleasure.

If you want on the blogroll, please be sure to ask. All I ask in return is a reciprocal link. Hey, thems the rules of this here blog-o-verse.

Seriously considering a different layout since I've grown tired of the green header. If I ever get any time to play, I'll see if I can design my own. Someday I might even be able to move off blogspot, but don't count on it being any time soon.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Half done!

I finished Act II yesterday. I'm pushing forward today. I think I'll need to go back and add a scene to Act II, but I'm focusing on moving forward. If I stop to rewrite anything I'll get stuck there, analyzing what has already been written. I don't want to deal with that until I finish the 4th Act and the Tag.

I'm definitely in a better mood today. Reaching a goal will perk you up. Plus, I feel like a real Californian today. I woke up to the earthquake this morning -- my first that I've actually felt. Since it wasn't very powerful here, it was more exciting than scary. Did you guys feel it? How did you react?

Friday, June 10, 2005


It's really gratifying to see the little blog community that has formed in the last few months -- the few of us who band together through comments and mutual links as fellow screenwriters or aspiring screenwriters. In my daily struggles and frustrations I no longer feel alone.

And yet, in another way, I am as alone as I have always been. The one thing I have noticed jumping from one screenwriting blog to another is that I am decidedly different in one thing -- not gender, or style or genre. I am a conservative Republican.

There, I said it. I hope that having admitted my political affiliations (which should have been rather obvious from my other blog links) that you will not deem to dismiss me or my work. I do not wish to alienate those of you whom I have met in the last few months. But I do feel as if I am a minority in this community. I am always happy to see when other writers release their political frustrations, but I refrain from comment or debate simply because I do not wish to be considered for my politics first. I consider myself a writer, period. I have no political agenda nor do I wish to convince you or convert you. I am not an evangelist nor am I a fundamentalist. I'm a conservative.

But I do stand alone among you. I do not want pity or sympathy. I know my odds in this town where I stay mostly closeted in my political views, for fear of facing a backlash. I'm the one smiling and nodding wordlessly when confronted with anti-Bush rhetoric at gatherings. And this sometimes makes me lonely.

Tonight I'm lonely. I just want to tell great stories. I want to write without agenda but not be judged by anyone else's. Is that asking too much? Can I attend a class or a social gathering and not be subjected to the snarky or acidic commentary on the politics of our country? Apparently not.

I've thought a lot about whether to address this on my blog. If you search through the archives, you will find that I was passionate during the election, but my focus shifted after the first of the year. I found the truth of my blog, what it meant for me and it wasn't politics. There are plenty of other great blogs to visit and read about this right or left political viewpoint. The number of blogs about struggling writers is small and I am happy to be in the midst of those who also share their thoughts, feelings and actions in the writing world.

I think I'm also just feeling moody tonight. Feeling like I won't finish my spec by month's end as I let the stresses around me close in. Hopefully I'll be able to shut them out this weekend and focus on crafting pages.

I appreciate your patronage. I appreciate your blogs, if you have them. When I discover another great writer, I add them to my blogroll. I'm barely keeping up these last few days. If I've missed you, let me know. It's nice to feel not so alone.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005


It's one of those days when you can hear the tic-tic-tic of the clock as the day soldiers on toward a close. The office is quiet. Ocassionally I hear someone's voice drift down the hallway, but overall there is silence and the palpable feeling of worry and dread.

People are interviewing for jobs this week, trying to stay with BUC (Big Unnamed Company) and avoid the uncertain future of being sent off to a vendor company. We are all interviewing against each other, so conversations are short and do not dwell too much on our current situation other than to note how much it sucks. As I walk past my employees I can see them clicking through job search websites. They don't even try to hide it anymore. I can't blame them for looking, and they can't blame me for my curiosity.

After my own intervew three hours ago, I had the perfect opportunity to get some writing done, but I just couldn't shake off the heavy malaise that surrounds us all, not even to do what I love.

So now I'm blogging. I needed to do *something*.

My outline is done. My spec is started and Act I is finished on the first draft. I'll work my way through Act II tonight and hopefully I can get a few scenes written. Optimistically I'd like to see me finish Act III by next week. Trying to set the bar high but within reason. I won't start class again for three weeks, so I have to use the time between now and then to push ahead, especially if I want a pretty decent awesome draft to submit for the ABC/Disney Fellowship.

Phone rang. Nope, they hung up. Even phone calls are in short supply today. I need to call the dentist to schedule my cleaning.

I'm taking suggestions for what to spec after I finish this one. Note: I am less inclined to spec CSIs, Law & Orders, or The O.C. Everything else is in bounds.

I'd like to finish another TV spec before breaking a new feature or rewriting my first screenplay. At least I've got two TV samples to send out that way while I keep writing other stuff.

Ugh, I need a nap.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Lost fans!

You've probably already seen it, but I thought I'd link to it here: The Oceanic Air homepage. I recommend clicking around the site, particularly on the home page -- there is an area which can be dragged to see a distress message and a script page.

Looks like they write "Lost" in 6 Acts! Good info when writing a spec...

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Movia mania

For the first time in a very long time, I saw a film every day this weekend. It was great.

Friday night I saw Lords of Dogtown which if you've seen the documentary is more of the same. If you haven't seen the documentary, I recommend it as I also recommend this film. The young actors, most are 'unknowns' or 'hardly knowns' are compelling. Catherine Hardwicke is a fine director and Stacey Peralta wrote a servicable if not exactly a gripping script. There's plenty of drama and tension to keep you wondering how it will all end, even if you have seen the doc. It's easy to forget the real history as you watch these boys go from scrapping along Venice Beach to fame on the skateboarding circuit.

Saturday night I took in the first film of the Cinespia season. On Saturday nights during the summer (this summer it is every Saturday) they show films on the side of the mausoleum at the Hollywood Forever cemetary. Before the show started, they informed us that we were surrounded by the remains of 95,000 people (good thing it wasn't a zombie movie on the bill). They showed Twentieth Century which is widely considered to be the birth of the screwball comedy. Starring John Barrymore and Carole Lombard the film is quick and smart and still resonant today, 70 years later. Seeing a movie out under the stars surrounded by thousands of other film lovers is a real treat. Pack a picnic dinner, show up early and pay 10 bucks each. It's well worth it.

Today I saw Cinderella Man which I found to be a well done 'feel good' film that makes me want to call my grandparents and apologize to them for having to live through the Great Depression. Russell Crowe is fantastic, there's no two ways about it. I think Akiva Goldsman cranked out some cheesy lines (it was hard to hear Renee Zellweger say 'You're the champion of my heart' without snorting my diet coke all over the seats, but somehow I restrained myself). The boxing scenes are really vibrant and exciting, a credit to Howard for keeping them constantly in motion without using 'shaky cam'. I suppose critics will call it the first 'Oscar contender' of the year, and they are probably right. In any case, it was a good film which I enjoyed.

So, a good weekend, and I got some writing done (I know, can you believe it). I have phone interviews tomorrow. Wish me luck.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

The Day Job

So, as previously mentioned, I work at BIG UNNAMED COMPANY. I've worked for BUC for 9 years, most of that time in Florida, but the last 2.5 years here in L.A. BIG UNNAMED COMPANY is outsourcing most of the IT department (and if you are up on current events, you might even be able to guess what this BUC is) and so I face an uncertain future. Fortunately, I got scheduled for an interview for a position still within BUC and not at the outsourcing company. If I don't secure a position here, I will most likely end up working for the vendor. The question is, do I still want to be doing this kind of work? I'm a supervisor of the computer help desk and I have to admit, my job isn't really all that strenuous. I have time to write in the evenings. Still, do I stay on this path or do I take a significant paycut and start at the bottom of the latter in 'the business'. I hate being faced with these kinds of dilemmas.

Spec script is written through the end of Act I. I'll be writing Act II tonight.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

From the comments

Here's a comment posted anonymously on a previous post:

do you use people you know as characters in your writing? are there people you won't use as characters (peole with certain relationships)?

do you write them as you know them, or do you change them for what you're writing?

I often use attributes of people I know in my writing. I've written characters who resemble in part relatives or friends of mine. I would never try to copy someone in real life, because I think that is unfair, unless I were making a biographical film. However, I think that attributes of that person (mannerisms, quirks, behaviors) are fair game and I use them often. I always make sure to use those attributes to enhance a character, not completely define him/her. I also make sure that I'm not demeaning anyone I know with the use of that characteristic.

Does anyone else have an opinion on this topic?

You are all priceless.

Seriously, I feel like doing a 'Mastercard' commercial right now. Cost of UCLA writing class $350. Copy of Lew Hunter's book: $14. Being told by actual writers to improve your writing and forget worrying about your grade: Priceless.

I incorporated a couple of the minor suggestions from the instructor but I have basically decided that I'm happy with my outline and have started writing pages. I hope to have the first draft finished by next week. I'm already 20% there (hmm, maybe I need to steal David's completion bar for my spec).

I appreciate all of the feedback, encouragement and advice. I respect working writers immensely. I also respect my fellow students and newcomers, because this ain't as easy as it looks.

Enough with the love, back to the writing.