Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Blogger Aid Day

There's a large effort underway in the blogosphere today at a 'bloggerthon' to donate to charities which will aid the victims of Hurricane Katrina. I plan to donate to the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army today.

I know John Rogers is matching funds, so you might want to reference him if you do it (if you want to make him feel the pinch). Or, check with your employer to see if they do matching contributions.

I have family in Mississippi who escaped the flooding. Others aren't so lucky. They are in my thoughts and prayers.

UPDATE: Actually, the official 'Blogger Relief Day' is tomorrow. I'll be registering my website with the effort. Stay tuned for details tomorrow. Feel free to donate today of course. :-)

Monday, August 29, 2005


If I'm not so talkative, you know what it means -- I'm writing. I have to finish my House spec to turn in on Wednesday, so I'm furiously writing this week. I have 14 pages to go and big chunks to rewrite before I turn in a semi-not-crappy draft to my instructor.

Then I get a day to rest. I'll talk to you Thursday.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

You say it's your birthday...

So, now I'm 31. Yesterday was my birthday.

I didn't make a big deal of it because, frankly, it isn't a big deal. I also wanted to see how many of my friends remembered.

Everyone I count as a 'close friend' forgot or ignored. Close family remembered. Even a couple of acquaintances remembered. Friends of my sister remembered. It's the close friends forgetting that I'm bummed about, of course. I don't even know why it gnaws at's just a effing birthday, right?

The problem is that when you're a kid (most people anyway, you weirdos who didn't celebrate birthdays need not apply) everyone makes a big deal of your "special day". You get used to people treating you special on your birthday. As you get older, you hit certain milestones that get celebrated wildly -- 18 and 21, for example tend to be great birthdays. 25 was even a good one. You might even get a good party out of some friends for a non-significant year.

I have an extra twist to my birthday: my sister was born on my 3rd birthday. That's right, it's 'her birthday too.' When we were kids, this was a nightmare for my parents. Imagine trying to hold birthday parties and try to make it special for each one. I sympathize with parents who have twins and have to deal with this issue. It was also sometimes torture for us. I can't tell you how many times we were cheated with a gift that was to *both* of us. What about my goddamn special day?? And she was thinking the same thing...

Now we're older and we handle the whole birthday thing much better. In fact, we embrace it. We buy ourselves cake, take a trip, whatever. It was really nice for a group of her friends who have adopted me too to share OUR birthday with us. Still, I was sad that MY friends were MIA.

I always feel bad mentioning it's my birthday too, like I'm soliciting for birthday wishes. The person you've told feels obligated to say 'happy birthday' and you feel crappy that you had to tell someone. Except when free food is involved. But then, I don't want a crowd of wait staff singing to me in another language while a large sombrero is placed on my head. Not my idea of fun, really.

So, don't feel obligated to wish me happy birthday. I'm only mentioning it because yesterday is on my mind and I needed to spew about it so I can get on with my day.

Today is someone else's birthday, somewhere. If you know anyone who has a birthday, even if you haven't talked to them in years, wish them happy birthday. They'll be glad you did and you'll feel better too.

You don't know if anyone else has taken the time to do it. And you could make that day special for them again.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Dog Days

I always have mixed feelings about August.

On the one hand, I love it, it means school is around the corner (though I haven't been in the backpack and pencil buying set for quite some time). It also means my birthday is near. But, despite all of that, it is still August. Hot, sticky August. There's a reason very little happens in this month. It's so hot no one wants to move. That Iraqi Constitution? I don't blame them for moving slow -- IT'S AUGUST! In fact, it's a great excuse. The Pope forgot to bless people? It's August! Another pretty girl is missing? It's August! Can't get your screenplay written? You guessed it, it's August!

I dreamt about a dog that had 5 heads last night. It's August.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Back from Vegas

No, I didn't win any money, so 'Plan B' (i.e. Keep the Day Job) is still in effect. 'Plan A', otherwise known as 'Win the Lotto and/or Sell Spec to quit said Day Job' is on hold for another day.

Otherwise, it was a good weekend and a good break. Sorry to miss the Screenblogger's Shindig, but hopefully no one had a swordfight. I'd hate to miss a good swordfight.

I've got some stuff to blog about this week, so stay tuned. More to come on Monday.

Friday, August 19, 2005

AB 777

One of my least favorite California politicians has drafted an interesting bill that has bipartisan support. The bill, AB 777 would provide tax breaks to keep film production in California. (See recent posts at The Artful Writer for more on runaway production).

Legislators are hoping to push the vote on this bill quickly, so it can land on the Governor's desk before the September recess.

I'll keep an eye on this...

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

A moment of silence...

For Joe Ranft. Not only was he a brilliant story guy at Pixar, but he actually breathed life into some of those digital creations by voicing Heimlich the caterpillar here.

He died in a car crash yesterday. He was 45.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

What, you were expecting a party?

I'm having a crappy week. The only salvation is going to Vegas this weekend.

I was hoping to hear about a potential job -- it's disappeared without a microbe left behind to identify it ever existed.

A family member had some recent health issues. No, I'm not sayin' who or what.

Another family member is getting screwed royally at work.

I'm still doing two jobs at work, no end in sight.

I'm way behind on my House spec. And I can't make it all work in my head.

So yeah, I'm pretty quiet. I'll come back when I'm not so pissy.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005


And not a moment too soon, I might add. What were you people drinking while I was gone??

So, had a fabulous time driving around the state of Cal-ee-forn-ee-ah (best pronounced as Arnold does). Visited the giant Sequoias, Yosemite, San Jose, some garlicky Gilroy town (passed through on way to San Jose...smelled VERY BAD in Gilroy) and then down the PCH. Visited Hearst Castle yesterday and the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, both fascinating tours.

I live in a beautiful state. Pity I don't get out of the city much. What was strange was the feeling of relief being back in Los Angeles today. Maybe it's just the feeling when you get home from a trip, like 'I missed my bed' or other comforts of your home, but I was genuinely happy to be back. Happy to leave, happy to be back, the most I could hope for.

So, I didn't write a thing all weekend, and I feel recharged, ready to tackle the rest of my spec script and then dive into my next feature script. I'm looking forward to what I hope are some very productive days and weeks ahead.

Oh, and as for the film I wish I had seen in a theater, my vote goes to "House of Flying Daggers". Some may criticize how many films I see in theaters, but there are very few films out there I *wish* I had seen in a theater. My runner-up was "Dirty Pretty Things" just because when I read the screenplay I was dying to see it and I had to wait until it came out on DVD by that time.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Open Thread

I'm out of town until Tuesday, so I'll see you all then -- FINALLY getting out of L.A. to see some of the state that is not covered with smog.

Until then, I'll leave an open thread...what film did you discover on DVD/video that you wish you had seen in the theater on first run? (and you had the opportunity to see in the theater -- rediscovering a 1940's film doesn't count, unless you were a moviegoer at that time).

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

3-2-1 Contact!

If you have not read my previous posts about relationship management, check here.

So, it's Tuesday again, which means it's time to put aside the discussion of story, structure, character and what not and talk turkey about the business of screenwriting. Now, I am not a professional screenwriter (yet). I have not sold a script (yet). I have never been given an assignment (you guessed it, YET). What I do know is how to manage relationships. In my nine years at my day job, one critical component of my job has been to cultivate and grow relationships with others to maintain our business. I have taken many of the lessons learned there to better connect with people related to the film and television world. So, take my advice or don't...I'm just putting it out there, to try to help a few souls from making some of the mistakes I've made.

First up, I want to recommend a book. I know, not another screenwriting book. This one isn't really about screenwriting, per se, but it is a really interesting look into this world. Michael Lent's Breakfast with Sharks is a great read and pretty different from your standard 'How To' book. Oh, did I mention I've met Michael? Yup, he's one of my contacts.

Quick story: 2002 Screenwriting Expo. I did no networking. Very stupid, but then, I hadn't written a script yet and I didn't have a clue. 2003 Screenwriting Expo 2. My first day I vowed to meet at least 2 individuals I could keep contact with after the expo. One of the people I talked to was Michael. He held a panel which I attended and I talked with him afterwards. He had a booth in the vendor room, because he and and another person were co-producers on an indie film called "Hard Scrambled". I hung out with both of them in between my panels, chit-chatting and generally soaking up the atmosphere. They were both writers for Creative Screenwriting too, so I had already read a lot of their articles to get a feel for what their passions were. It was a lot of fun. I ended the expo having forged at least a passing acquaintance with these two writers. This was the start of my networking.

Here's the bad part. I didn't follow up with them...for 18 months! In March Creative Screenwriting put out an e-mail that they were hosting a mixer. I decided to go, just on the off-chance that Michael or the other person might be there, they being writers for the magazine and all. Whaddya know, they were! Better yet, after some prompting, each of them remembered me and some of what I told them about myself. In the meantime I had read Michael's book and was able to discuss it with him. I now correspond with Michael pretty often and I count him as someone I respect and admire a great deal.

I'm fortunate to have met Michael. I consider him one of the contacts that is fast morphing into a 'friend' relationship (I mean really, he is the nicest person I have met in all of L.A., he's kind of an alien here now that I think about it) and I feel very lucky to know him. In fact, I don't really consider what my contact with him will net me down the road, because honestly, his friendship means a lot. That's one great thing about making contacts -- some of them become your friends!!

The key to maintaining a relationship with someone will seem obvious after I say it -- you keep in touch. You don't e-mail them every day or call them every week, but you do it just often enough, maybe once a month or a few times a year (depending on the contact) for them to remember who you are and keep you in their mind. Most of the contacts can be maintained with a quick e-mail 'hey, how you doing, what's new' kind of messages. Others require more -- massaging, especially if they are to become a key contact.

A key contact is one you identify as possibly being able to provide you with a lead down the road. You should always look for ways to 'scratch people's backs'. Maybe you can recommend a dog walker or you have free tickets to an event. Don't go too far afield to work the contact, but hey, you are shmoozing here, try to find something that you can use. When you bump someone up to key contact, you might want to consider a coffee or lunch date (you pay, always you pay for your key contact) to get some good one on one time with the person.

Here's what you DON'T do with a key contact:

* Ask for a job. I've done this in jest with a couple of people, so they know I'm serious about getting into the business, but I've NEVER actually approached a key contact with a resume, looking for a job. Let people know you are looking, if you are, but never ask someone to hire you.

* Ask them to read your script. If they ask you what you've written let them know. I suggest you wait for them to offer to read it. If I can remember the link, I'll post it, how someone sold their first script by keeping it from the person they wanted to read it. As I recall the story (and it is killing me that I don't remember who it was!) the writer had been working for a magazine doing interviews. He had finished an interview with an agent and mentioned he had finished a script. She asked to read it and he refused to send it to her -- repeatedly. He sent it out to everyone else in the world when it was ready, except the one person who asked for it. Eventually, she got her hands on it and wanted to buy it. He reasoned that she would want it more if she couldn't get it than if he had just handed it over to her and she passed. I have no idea if this would work for others, but I love the story...and if I find the friggin' link I'll add it!

* Don't become a burden. You do not want to ask this person for favors. You want this person to enjoy talking to you and want to help you, not avoid you like the plague.

So what DO you do with a key contact?

Talk. Discuss. And it can be non-writing things. Find out the person's interests, just like you would with anyone else. In my day job, I try to find out at least one hobby the person has, so I can ask them about it when I talk to them in the future (So, have you been skiing lately? How is that Lego version of Middle Earth coming along?) Ask about their experiences, but be polite. Don't take up too much of their time. Even if they wrote a crap movie or TV show, try to find a silver lining SOMEWHERE -- it may not have been their fault, after all.

If you manage your contacts well, a couple of things will happen. One, you'll feel more confident as a writer as you travel in circles with other writers and people in the business. You can gain a lot of insight into the business by befriending an assistant here or there (Michael Lent has a great chapter on being nice to assistants -- and I wholeheartedly agree. Even in my day job I find it critical to have a good relationship with the 'gatekeeper') The other thing that will happen over time is that your contacts will want to help you. They will offer to read your script, put in a good word for you, give you advice. Do not discount ANY offer of assistance from any contact. It may not always amount to one of your big goals, but you should always be appreciative of any help offered.

Beware of charlatans or poseurs. You know what I mean. If they start asking you to do more for them than seems right (like, write a script for free...that "producer" friend might not be all he's cracked up to be) don't be afraid to back away. As I've said before, everyone is a contact, but not everyone is a KEY CONTACT. Know the difference.

I have found over time in my day job that I have been on the receiving end of relationship management. This is usually good. It means people do things for me and I find some way to assist them with what they need. Usually the person being "managed" makes out on the deal, but that's the point. Your contact should get more out of your relationship than you do to start. You should reap the benefits on the backend.

It is an investment of time and energy, but done correctly Relationship Management can really put you ahead of the game when it comes to navigating the waters of whatever industry you are in (believe me, this works just as well in IT or manufacturing as it does with screenwriting -- why do you think trade shows and conferences are so popular??)

By all means, add your two cents. I don't claim to have the market cornered on how to manage relationships.

One final book recommendation -- this one is a general guide to managing relationships: The Relationship Edge in Business. There are lots of relevant strategies for screenwriters to use.

Film Friday (on a Tuesday) for 7/31

It's the end of the month and if you are a long time reader of this blog, you know what that means...that's right, time to recap the remakes, sequels and TV adaptations announced from the studios this month. No idea is too bad to remake or too good to sequelize. So, without further ado, I give you the roundup:

  • Road House 2 - The month started of weak and it wasn't until two weeks in we got our first news of a sequel, but boy what a sequel it is!
  • Hollow Man 2 - Didn't realize this one needed a sequel, but apparently, I was wrong. I love that they casually mention this "might" go to home video. I'm thinking that's a definite yes.
  • I Know What You Did Last Summer 3 - The best part of this sequel is coming up with a good title...I Know What You Did Two Summers Ago That Was Really Five Summers Ago. Maybe they'll just know something else someone did a previous summer...
  • Summer School - I'm guess Mark Harmon will not reprise his role in the remake, which is a shame, because I think he's available.
  • Untitled Smurf Movie - A SMURF MOVIE?? How did I miss this news? Stop the presses -- we must shout out to the world the smurftacular news! Smurfy!! Better yet, it's planned as a trilogy. Lord of the Smurfs, anyone (One Smurf to Rule Them All...okay, I'll stop)
  • The Omen 666 - Haley Joel Osment is too old so I guess they'll have to find an unknown to play Damien.
  • Voltron: Defender of the Universe - Saturday morning cartoons of the 80's had a good month!
  • Charlie Chan - But, but, there's a twist, see. It's his granddaughter! Played by Lucy Liu. Can't be too un-PC if she's doing it!
A little light this month, but fear not. We've already heard that the casting is rolling on the Invasion of the Body Snatchers remake, so you know Hollywood is still finding ways to remake what once was good into something...not so good. Glad to know all is right with the world.