The Look Machine is a rock band from the Philly area that draws on everything from acoustic finger-style to melodic rock to create their own original sound.

February 21, 2009

Chasing Mist

I've always felt kind of bad for taking over this website, one that rightfully belonged to an amazing band, not some dude living in California, trying to make it was a writer.

So, I've finally done the right thing. You can follow my exploits at I'm going to miss this old place. But hopefully we'll have music related stuff to post someday in the future, so I can come back.


Posted by jason at 12:03 AM | Comments (5)

February 15, 2009

The "other Lyric"

If you haven't seen Coraline yet (and you should if you haven't!) then you probably don't know how cool and creepy this picture really is. My daughter sent this to me today.


(And let me just take a moment to say it's kind of surreal and also pretty great to have a daughter old enough to send me cool, unexpected things like this!)

Posted by jason at 01:37 AM | Comments (6)

February 14, 2009

My rewrite

I worked basically all day on my rewrite of Tovenray.

(ok, that's not completely true. Darby and I went on a hike with a friend of mine who is a graduate of UCLA's Screenwriting program and now works as a producer. And I also had an excellent phone call with my mentor / friend Paul Castro)

But other than that, I worked on Tovenray.

here is how I did it. I had a print out of the script, along with my written down notes from my manager. I read through the print out first, pen on paper, making changes or marking where I would make changes. For me, the tactile feeling of the pen on the paper is much better for any stages of writing that feel more like sketching or sculpting or painting - the early stages where you're still trying to figure fundamental things out. The idea of actually opening the script on my computer and making changing right away with the keyboard is really... just wrong to me. It's hard to explain.

So fortunately, I made my way all the way through that pen and paper stage, solving most of the problems raised by the notes, and pretty happy with the direction the script is taking. I then opened the file on the computer, and made actual changes to the script up until page 33.

So that gives you an idea of how much more I have to do. All in all, it took about... 11 hours today.

Weird thing is, I'm falling behind on writing my next script by spending the time on this one. Not to mention iPhone apps, my taxes, other school projects, blah blah blah.

But I really can only do one thing at a time, so it's triage, baby.

Happy Valentine's Day (since it's past midnight.)

This has never been a particularly special day for me and Darby, but it's still nice to get candy and all. Darby is actually quite wonderful at getting the kids special stuff for V-Day. I always forget about it, honestly.

Posted by jason at 03:11 AM | Comments (4)

February 13, 2009

Taking a Punch

I had my notes meeting with my manager today. It went very well. I'm more sure that she will really help me make sales. What's great is that her notes aren't dramatically changing the story itself, they are just emphasizing and defining and deepening certain things that are already there.

Taking notes - suggested improvements about things that are less than perfect about your baby - can be a hard thing to do. I honestly don't like it. But at the same time, I do, because I know it'll get my script to where it needs to be. One of the things that I've really learned is how to take this criticism.

I'm becoming more and more convinced that to be successful one of the most crucial skills someone can learn is simply to take a punch. To be able to get knocked down, and survive. To hit the ground and not give up. This kind of resiliance is one of the greatest disciplines someone can develop. I don't think there's any coincidence in the fact that God's name for his chosen people meant "wrestles with God." Or that Jesus wants us to learn how to "turn the other cheek."

My ability to hear about improvements will help me in the industry. I could tell my manager didn't know how I'd react to her notes, and was quite pleased with the fact that I could hear them without any defensiveness or tension...

Learn to take a punch, people. It'll really help you out.

Posted by jason at 12:25 AM | Comments (3)

February 11, 2009

My Own Little World

Often, when I am stressed or trying to figure something out, or overwhelmed by a ton of things that seem bigger than myself, I find that I like to make things smaller and within my control. For me, this often takes the form of video games, or computer games. The first time I realized that I did this was with a great computer game called Civilization, where you run a civilization from 4000 BC until 2000 AD and try to win wars, develop technology, colonize space... I would literally play that game all night sometimes. Because it was so nice to be in control of every little aspect, to have this whole world that I could understand and make sense of.

These days, my game of choice is Mario Strikers Charged for the Wii. it's a really arcadey version of soccer. And there are weeks that go by when I don't play it at all. Sometimes I do play it just for fun, but often I'll play it when I'm stressed and overwhelmed, or even trying to figure things out in my head.

If you want a clue for how things are going for me, let me just tell you that I've played 76 matches this past week.

Yep, I'm a little stressed. In fact, I've never been so hopeful and so worried about the future in my entire life. Weird, huh?

But the problem right now is the stress is actually taking a toll on my writing. As in, I didn't hit my page quota today because I was playing Mario Strikers, retreating to my own little world. I'm not sure it's a bad thing, really, but I have to kick myself back into shape in terms of churning out those pages.

Posted by jason at 04:09 AM | Comments (3)

February 10, 2009

The Outliers

I recently started reading a very insightful book called Outliers, which is a study of successful people. I highly recommend it, but one of the most interesting things he's observed is that it seems like in some ways talent is actually overrated, but dedication and practice are really the over-riding factors in success.

Malcolm Gladwell contends that before someone can be truly amazing at what he or she does, they need to invest 10,000 hours in developing that craft. 10,000 hours. Think about that! That's 5 years, full time hours.

Do you tink you've spent 10,000 hours doing anything specific?

Posted by jason at 12:50 AM | Comments (7)

February 09, 2009

An Update (Long coming)

Here's what I'm up to:

I had a meeting with a potential manager last Thursday. It was set up by my agent. The meeting went very well, I loved her outlook, and she is now potential no more... she is my manager. It's pretty cool because I remember just a year ago sitting in a 434 with screenwriter Michael Colleary and he was talking about "the business" and he said it was essential to form a team around you of people who tried to sell your work. I remember at the time thinking it would be so difficult to get an agent, and a manager. It seemed so far off.

And now, just a year later, I have an awesome agent and a really great manager, and they're getting ready to start selling my work!

So the plan right now: I have a notes meeting on Thursday with my manager. I'll address those in another draft, and then my agent will take that script out to sell. Cross your fingers! I'm now writing another script that will go out in early March.

All great news. It's such a strange time in life. I really have literally no idea what life will look like in one year. That is such a strange place to be in, honestly.

Posted by jason at 01:47 PM | Comments (4)

February 04, 2009

An exciting day

Today was an action packed, self confidence boosting day.

I went boogie boarding with Lyric (in February, I still can't get over this!), and guess what swims directly towards me? A SHARK. Now, bear in mind that it was only about 4 feet long and dark brown, so I'm thinking it was a swell shark. But still anytime you see a shark swimming towards you in that distinct sharklike motioned way, you get scared (I say this based on my extensive experience of one time.) I grabbed Lyric's hand and we decided we must be a little too deep! We did, however, continue boogie boarding for another 45 minutes afterwards. No cowards, are we.

Then I negotiated my rent downward with my landlord, saving myself $150 a month. Not bad, right? I happen to know that our neighbors recently had their rent go up $50/month, so I am particularly proud of my accomplishment.

Then, I volunteered to get new judges for UCLA's screenwriting competition, so I started contacting some of the people who had contacted me when I placed in the Nicholl. Now that I have an agent, of course, they want to represent me too. It was funny, because previously I hadn't heard back from them, but now one of the specifically said he would love to be my manager. It's really true, nobody loves you until somebody loves you, and then everyone loves you.

Finally, UCLA's Professional Program asked ME to be a judge for their yearly competition, because of my achievements in screenwriting. Score! I'm honored to.

Good day. I didn't get eaten, too. That's always a plus.

Posted by jason at 02:20 AM | Comments (10)

January 31, 2009

A Good Education

The other day I was driving Ollie and he asked me, "Is Ruby Bridges still alive?" I'm a little ashamed to admit that my answer was, "Ruby Who?" and he proceeded to tell me that Ruby Bridges was a brave little girl who was black but attended an all-white school in the South and people threw things at her and yelled at her but she didn't quit because she knew it was wrong that she wasn't allowed to go to this school just because she was black. So she prayed, and stayed brave, and eventually now there are no schools just for white people.

I was very thankful for the education!

That same day, Lyric was humming a beautiful song, and Darby and I asked her to sing it louder. She started singing the words and melody to "We Shall Overcome" perfectly. It was quite wonderful.

And this is my moment to say that I love how much the kids' school emphasizes these important times in U.S. History. I think it's fantastic that Ollie knows about this brave little girl, and that Lyric knows this beautiful song that galvanized a people.

I went to a small private Christian school, and somehow they never taught this stuff. Sure, they would mention MLK here and there, but truly it wasn't a part of the curricula - I learned more about MLK from one U2 song than I did in all my years at school.

And, considering Christianity's influence on ending slavery and then the Civil Rights Movement, I think that's a tragedy (truly, it's one of the very best things Christianity has done in America, in my opinion, and a template for how to keep the Christian faith alive and relevant in our society). Now maybe it's because our history books were so old that they ended with the intriguing but hopeful question, "Do you think that someday a man will be walking on the moon?" or maybe it's because there was one black girl in my whole class, ever, but somehow my school missed the memo on just how important all this was.

And I'm glad my kids' school hasn't.

Posted by jason at 04:13 AM | Comments (16)

January 29, 2009

Yes! Narnia is saved...

I am so glad that Walden Media has managed to find another partner for continuing filming the Narnia series. I thought Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe was excellent and Prince Caspian was better still. And I really think the films are cast so well so I didn't want to miss out on using the same actors and actresses as time goes on.

Bravo to Walden Media for salvaging this once Disney (foolishly, I think) cast them off.

Posted by jason at 04:41 PM | Comments (4)

Giving Notes

I like to offer to give notes on people's scripts. Really, for a couple of reasons. One, I like to read what other people are writing, get inspiration, keep track on their style, what they do well, what works, and what doesn't. But secondly, I want people to know me as someone who is willing to help, and - more importantly - someone who can help a script.

This impossible business that I'm going to break into is actually much more a rewrite and job business than it is a spec and sales business. What I mean by that is that it's much more of a common scenario that I will be hired to fix someone else's script, or develop a script from a producer's story idea. Coming up with new stories on my own and selling them whole cloth is actually much rarer. So I think I need practice to do that first part.

This past week I read through a television pilot and a feature film. I was very happy to see that I could see clear areas in both where I could offer fixes that, in my opinion, would make the script much stronger. The feature in particular was already very good, but the writer knew it had problems. I feel like I really identified them for her and gave her a clear prescription to make it an amazing story. I definitely see myself doing that more and more in the future, and in fact I would very much like a crack at her script because I know I could make it into something very special.

The one problem with my constant offer to give notes is that many people take me up on it, and I have a fairly large backlog of scripts.... oh well, I'll get through it.

Posted by jason at 03:07 AM | Comments (3)

January 24, 2009

Super High Resolution Image of the Inauguration

Check this out! You can zoom in so far to see what was going on all over the scene, it's pretty amazing.

Posted by jason at 01:29 AM | Comments (1)