Thursday, June 28, 2007

Save me!

I'm very concerned about a problem I've identified recently with my appearance (besides extra weight)

I'm getting Paris Hilton's lazy eye!!!

Now, I don't know what I've done in the last couple of years, but I noticed it in this picture and then went back to look at other pictures -- this condition seems to have started a couple of years ago, possibly coinciding with the release of Paris's performance in "House of Wax". Or my laser eye surgery. More likely the former.

What does this mean? Am I supposed to become a skinny, skanky blonde celebutante? I'd take the money in a heartbeat, but I'm not sure I can handle all the other requirements.

All because of a lazy eye. My days are numbered.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Blog you need to start reading

Especially if you are into TV writing. What It's Like.

48 hours of horror

Let me preface this story with, I had a great time and it was a wonderful experience (the writing and filmmaking, that is).

Having said that, this may have been one of the most stressful weekends I've ever had.

It all started with a Friday deadline...

My sister and I have over the course of the last two years been developing a tv series idea. She and I wrote the bible and mapped out the series together, and I finished the spec pilot script a few months back. The last three months or so have been spent refining and rewriting that script. Two weeks ago, we threw down the marker. We had someone interested in reading it at a management/prodco and the plan was to send it to them on Friday afternoon. We sent the script out for some last minute reads over the course of the week, just to make sure I didn't have any stupid mistakes (I did) in the draft. Then, a BIG NOTE came in. At 4:30 in the afternoon. ON FRIDAY. And I was nearly beside myself.

I had stopped being precious about the script ages ago. I had thrown my ego away and only worked on the script with the thought of making the material great and servicing the story in the best possible way. My sister and I were on the phone together, trying to decide what we should do. Do we heed the note and postpone getting the script out? Do we press on? Meanwhile, I'm less than 3 hours from starting the 48 hour film project, and thinking about this note and this script is honestly, the LAST thing I want to be doing right before I'm about to throw myself into the maelstrom.

Then, as if to ease our troubled minds, another reader emails my sister -- the script is great. She's making a call to the company we are sending it to essentially to tell them to read the darn thing because she liked it that much. Needless to say, we were relieved, and after a couple of quick fixes, the script went OUT.

I took a 45 minute nap. Then the world changed.

I drove over to my writing partner Bernie's apartment. Bernie and I have been great friends the past 2 years, and we love to meet at the cafe' across the street from where he lives to write together...that is to say, we write our own things, but sit across from each other at the table staring into space, with only a rare interruption to bounce ideas or have the other read a fresh scene. Seeing as we get on so well, he asked if I would like to co-write and co-produce a short film for the 48 hour film project. I'd never attempted anything like this before and eager to get more production experience, I accepted the invite.

On my way to Bernie's he calls me. The genre draw has begun early! I arrive, *just* as we learn what the genre for our film will be (the director was at the event site, drawing our genre at random).


Bernie and I had thought about which genres we could write well. We are both plot fiends and logic Nazis, so we were jazzed about writing a mystery/detective story or even a western...heck, we were even up for attempting a musical. The list of genres was more or less agreeable, with the worst genres for this type of contest in the 'wild card' category. Every team is allowed a re-draw, but the re-draw occurs from this wild card grouping. Here's some of what we could have faced had we rejected our first draw:

Children's Film
Animal Film
Silent Film
War Movie
Period/Historical Film

See Mystery stuck in the middle there? We had a 1 in 8 chance of pulling that one from the awful choices.

Okay, I hear you. You're asking 'what's wrong with horror?' Well, nothing, I suppose.

Except it is extraordinarily difficult to write a horror film and make it genuinely frightening in this kind of competition. None of us were thrilled with the prospect of writing something which, if we attempted to do it straight up serious, would come across as unintentionally comical.

So we made it macabre and intentionally comical instead.

The writing went fast, and Bernie and I were feeling really great about our story. It had a beginning, middle and end. It was a good way to approach the genre, and it would allow our musical genius to score the hell out of it. We had a draft finished in about 3 hours and we spent another couple of hours tweaking it, though we knew there would be a great deal more to tweak once we got to set in the morning.

We had two complications which could not really be avoided. One, we wrote a large amount of action to occur at night (since it is naturally creepier), which meant pushing our call time to noon. When you have so few hours to make a movie, you usually want to start as early as possible to try to finish by a decent hour. We were already handicapping our ability to run ahead of schedule by making the bulk of the work take place at night.

The other complication was even trickier. We only had one location -- the director's house -- which required very careful cast and crew around freshly painted walls and new furniture. Let's just say, our horror film ended up being somewhat bloodless, due to the location and other variables.

Saturday morning Bernie, the director and I are up early, discussing the script. We work through some conflicting opinions on the ending and smooth out the issues. Then we make a run to buy printer paper and DV tapes. I hauled my printer to set so I could continue working on the script and printing new pages throughout the day.

At least, that was the plan...

Except for some reason, I couldn't get my printer to work with my laptop. I spent an hour in the hot sun (and have the sunburn on one arm to prove it) wrestling with my laptop and my printer. Finally we got one of Bernie's laptops to work with the printer, but it was no surprise to me when later in the day our drafts got out of synch. As I made changes on my laptop, I'd copy the file to a USB jump drive and move the file to his laptop to print it. This got tedious pretty quickly.

We finally got our first shot off at 1:30 PM. Not horrible, considering call time was noon (and we had some late comers). Things seemed to be rolling along pretty smoothly.

Then, my sister phoned me.

I just woke up from a nap, she tells me, and there's water coming through our ceiling and down the walls of our living room and YOUR bedroom.

I don't swear much on my blog but... SHIT. I raced home to survey the damage. Fortunately, my sister managed to catch this problem in time to cover some of the furniture and save ourselves from major damage to our belongings. Still, water was seeping through the ceiling of our living room and dripping down the walls of my bedroom. Not exactly good.

I went back to set while plumbers and mold specialists were called (at 8 o'clock Saturday night). Verdict: broken pipe in 3rd floor wall/our ceiling. This is the third broken pipe in our building this month. The last one cost us over $20,000 in plumbing work to fix. At this point, a bake sale to cover the enormous repair bills the HOA is racking up won't quite do it. We'll need to take out a building loan to pay for repairs now.

Back on set, it's finally gotten dark, and so the major scenes are being shot. While I was gone there were some line changes I wasn't privy to, but the co-writer was so, I guess I have to be ok with that. Score one mark for wanting more creative control in the future.

We wrapped at 2:00 AM, at which time the editor was already logging tapes...

To Be Continued...

Monday, June 25, 2007

Contest deadlines looming

Austin Film Festival has already passed, but other teleplay competitions deadlines are coming up fast. A quick recap:

ABC/Disney Fellowship: The big kahuna of teleplay competitions, the program selects somewhere between 10-15 fellows in the feature, drama and sitcom categories combined for the one year program. Deadline: July 1st

Screenwriting Expo: Believe it or not, I actually had some pull on getting this one started. Several people (including myself) annoyed the contest organizers to add a teleplay competition for this year. They have heard our whining and come through for us. Top prize is $1000 for both half hour and one hour categories. Don't let me down, guys. Enter!! Early Bird Deadline: July 1st, Regular Deadline: July 31st, Midnight Oil: August 14th

Warner Brothers Writers Workshop: The program is being 'revamped'. Website should have updates by July 1st.

Slamdance: fox21 sponsored pilot competition (half hour $30 and full hour costs $40). They also have options for coverage and multiple readers for the contest (costs extra). Grand prize is a blind script deal to develop a tv series. Early Deadline: June 25th, Regular Deadline: August 21st

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

In case you are keeping score at home...



Sal (blog taken down) - STAFFED

New Yorker in Hollywood (blog defunct) - STAFFED

Shawn (Agents are Evil blog now gone) - AGENT, not yet staffed.

Hmm. Most of these people don't have blogs anymore. Maybe there's something to that...


Wow, has it gotten slow on the interwebs.

I finished the pilot! Again! Rewrite number 1458653286 is finished and the script is GOING OUT this week! Of course, this is just round one, but I'm glad to *finally* be getting something 'out there'.

Contest deadlines are approaching. I am working on a post with all the pertinent contest deadlines so you can follow along at home.

I'm back working on

Monday nights you can find me at BlogtalkRadio talking TV, films and other geek stuff. This week we talked Viral marketing. Next week there's an interview with a sci-fi/fantasy author and she and I will be talking Battlestar.

This weekend I'm doing the 48 Hour Film Project with a gaggle of other insane people.

I'm ramping up on writing 2 new pilot specs. One I'll be writing in Tom Blomquist's Pilot class starting next month at UCLA Extension. This is my 3rd class with Tom. Clearly I like the guy.

Oh yes, I'll be at Comic-con. Big surprise there, I'm sure.

So, what are you guys up to this summer?

Monday, June 18, 2007

Does anyone work in this town?

...apparently TV writers do.

Usually they get a nice long break before being called back to 'The Room', round mid-July.

They're already writing now.

Why? Possible writer's strike silly! All the productions have sped up to accommodate what everyone threatens is the nuclear option for writers. And of course, writers have no choice but to go along with it.

I've noticed job openings at Prodcos are at a shortage. I happen to know a very (very) qualified CE who is looking for a new position somewhere. If anyone knows of any leads, drop me a line. Maybe I can take you to lunch if it pans out!

Thursday, June 07, 2007

The Uprising

The fans of Jericho have succeeded. The NUTS campaign (which reportedly sent 20 TONS of nuts to CBS) convinced the network to give Jericho a second season order for seven episodes (expect some characters to disappear or die suddenly when it returns -- they had to cut budget in order to do this).

Now, watching the success of this campaign, some Veronica Mars fans are emboldened. Introducing the Mars for Mars campaign! $1.79 will get you a Mars bar sent to the CW (and right now it's free shipping).

This news comes from Aint It Cool News. The poster of this story muses that if each fan gave $2 upfront to pay for an episode, (with supposedly at least 1 million viewers) they could have $2 million per episode budget. I talked about this kind of subscription model during the Geekerati show on Monday night. I don't think the timing is right for this yet, but I wouldn't be surprised to see some lower budget indie-type show financed in this way.

There is one big difference between Jericho and Veronica Mars -- Jericho had at least 7 million viewers when it pulled the plug. The first six or seven episodes had at least 10 million. Veronica Mars season high of viewers: 3 million. It's a steeper hill to climb to convince CW to renew Mars. The only promising news I can give you is that Rob Thomas had a concept for a 'reboot' of the show for another season, and the CW is pretty hard up for content right now.

This is all very interesting. Some shows have been saved before through the sheer devotion of fans, but this strikes me as a potential paradigm shift. The fans are going to need to do more than send nuts or candy bars to support their show, however. A show needs viewers. These fans are going to need to find a way to recruit new viewers (or reenlist old ones) to keep the show's ratings from sinking again. That requires a lot more commitment than clicking a 'buy' button at an internet store.

Will a viral campaign from fans work? Time will tell.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Same old song

I hate when I hit a lull like this. It happens every June just after the frenzy of upfronts. For a week, I am firing on all cylinders, posting three or more times a day, keeping up with the news. It's heady and fun. My web traffic spikes to levels I never see the rest of the year (well, unless some show like 'Smith' gets cancelled, and brings me three thousand people looking to find out why).

And then...nothing. Summer movies, which I generally don't have any energy to blog about. Besides, what else can I say?

And that question then starts to apply to everything. What am I adding? What value does my voice have? Am I just a broken record? Sound and fury signifying nothing? White noise?

I come back to WHY I STARTED. I started an online journal on my old website (still up and running though more a place holder than anything useful) because I just had to vent. Then I felt like I had nothing else to say. So I stopped.

I started this blog nearly three years ago (3 years next month in fact) at first to start venting about random stuff, and then just to warm up for my screenwriting. Then it evolved into TV news, writing links and other randomness.

At some point I took my soul out of the blog. Part of the reason may be that I already feel that there is far more information about me on the web than should really be there. I suppose I feel like keeping some of who I am out of public eye.

Again, I don't know what I'm adding to the conversation. Would you really want to hear about what I do when I'm not writing (day job, watching too much TV, playing Guitar Hero, or finding reasons not to go to the gym). And really, what more is there?

I guess I feel a little like Tony Soprano these days... "is this all there is?"

I need a nap.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

News for my parents (and other Jericho fans)

Several sources are reporting that the campaign to save Jericho may have actually had an impact. Apparently CBS received THOUSANDS of pounds of nuts sent from fans (and having talked to someone inside CBS, I can confirm that it was A LOT of nuts, most of which got donated to charities). Sources (starting with and TVWeek, linked above) say that CBS is close to a deal to bring back Jericho as a midseason replacement, starting with an 8-episode commitment.

If true, this is a monumental achievement for the fans. Stay tuned.

Monday, June 04, 2007

John Mayer at Hollywood Bowl on Saturday

I have an extra ticket to the Saturday concert. If you are interested, contact me through email and I will let you know where it is and how much. Definitely less that those tickets on craigslist. Probably upper levels.

Geekerati BlogTalkRadio Show tonight

We got a better time slot -- now you can listen to us at 7 PM!

Tonight the Geeks will be discussing the ever increasing interactive nature of entertainment. It is a brave new world when an audience can choose not merely how and when to watch the shows they like, but also contribute to what stories are being told in more direct ways then ever. What is the future of entertainment now that the "Choose Your Own Adventure" generation is getting more and more control of many media? Steven Merrill will also be reviewing The Complete Champion, the most recent class book for Dungeons and Dragons.

Stop by and give us a listen.

I Have a Talk Show

Here are some of the topics we have covered in our prior episodes:

  1. Summer Blockbusters with the Geeks: During this episode the panel discussed the, then, upcoming blockbuster season and talked about what films we planned to see and which ones we planned to avoid. It was a lively conversation and a nice premiere for the Geeks.
  2. Downloading the Upfronts: The upfronts are the event where the major television networks discuss the shows they will be adding to this year's fall schedule. It is when those employed in the television industry jump for joy, sigh with relief, or cry with panic. The geeks discussed which shows they were looking forward to in the upcoming fall season, and which ones they thought wouldn't last until Halloween. Minus a couple of technical difficulties with Skype, the show was an excellent discussion. This show also featured the beginnings of a playtest of Out of the Box game's Cineplexity.
  3. Cinema, Cineplexity, and TV Wars: In this show you can begin to see the development of our format. We began the show with a discussion of two of the blockbusters which have already been released in theaters, Pirates and Spider-Man. We then moved on to what will soon be a regular feature, Wes's MMORPG Moment. Wes reviewed Lord of the Rings Online and discussed a growing controversy over CCP's EVE game. If you have an opinion on the CCP controversy, you can comment on the Geekerati site. This was followed by our weekly game review where Christian Johnson gave Cineplexity a full review, listen in to see what I thought. Then Shawna and Christian discussed the summer television season when many cable networks run their big shows during the broadcast network's summer hiatus. We also had our first listener giveaway, a copy of Free Enterprise.