October 30, 2007
My Movie Poster
Our latest assignment was to create a movie poster for the screenplay we're writing in our class. here's mine.
October 29, 2007
A very busy time
I'm finally going to get some sleep, but since Thursday I've been stressingly busy, having to:
* finish a christmas play
* design 3 websites, then storyboard them and put them into a presentation
* do 4 presentations for JP Morgan Chase
* Write 10 pages of my screenplay
* Write a 3 page dialogue assignment
* Do my "animatic" (and buy a scanner so I could do it)
* Do 2 different google adword reports
* Create a letterhead, powerpoint template, and proposal template in Office software that had a very small k-size yet still looked nice when printed. (Not easy!)
* Drive to San Diego (yeah, the San Diego that is on fire) on Friday night so we could celebrate Ollie's birthday at Sea World on Saturday and come back that night.
* Watch the kids while Darby volunteered at a Halloween Fair at the kid's school.
And I've got that all finished now, so I sleep. And tomorrow is my exhaustingly long day. (I'm not complaining... I love creating things and getting things done... but I wish I could space them out a little).
The "Animatic" of my animated short
An "Animatic" is basically the storyboards laid out to the desired timing, so you get an idea of the pacing of the sequence you put together. So this is mine, for "The New Kid."
Hope you enjoy it, (and understand the story).
October 24, 2007
My eyes are red and I'm tired
The fires in Malibu are about 80% contained, but the smoke and the ash and burnt leaves fly through the air, even though we're about 3 miles away. All this junk swirling around in the air is realy irritating our eyes, and I look like I'm constantly on the verge of tears. (Maybe I'm just sensitive.
Kind of like this.
As a result of the Santa Ana winds that brought all this trouble, it's also ridiculously hot here right now. One of my very favorite things about this area is that I never have to use AC either in the house or the car, because it's pretty consistently between 72 and 80 degrees.
But it's been like 90 degrees even in the evening. It stinks. It's like I live in the Valley....I think it ends tomorrow.
Now with the irritated eyes, it kind of stinks that I'm really drawing in earnest for my animated short. (Don't get too excited, it's only 15 seconds long). Today I had to stay at the lab 90 minutes long because it just takes so much time. So drawing for 4 hours straight can really take a toll on already red tired eyes.
When I get a scanner I'll post my storyboards.
I've been writing a lot. Working on two different full length scripts and a Christmas Play for church at home. It's funny how once you commit and start working on a story, the ideas just flow. I end up writing myself emails all the time, with a ton of ideas of snippets of dialogues, little character quirks, plot points. I also write them down alot too.
The Eagles are really bad. But honestly it's really hard to watch sports here on the west coast. The times are all screwy.
My parents come and visit next week, I'm looking forward to it.
October 22, 2007
Wild fire can be awfully destructive and scary, but the smoke created by it is really beautiful at sunset. (Picture taken from our house... about 10 miles away).
October 20, 2007
the casting out ep available in itunes
Their 7 song self-titled ep can be downloaded now, check it out. It's really good. (By the way, "Prey" is actually "Alone."
Radiohead Pioneers "Name your price" sale of record
As everyone knows, Radiohead is a very cool and very influential band. They have just recently released a new album called "In Rainbows" and they are doing something very cool with it.
They have released it EXCLUSIVELY online. Not just online like from itunes etc... As of now it is available only through a site dedicated to the album. The site is called inrainbows.com.
The interesting thing about how they are selling the album is as follows. You pay whatever you want. No joke, no strings attached. You name your price, pay for it, and download it right away. If you want to pay £1.00, you can. If you want to pay £10.00 you can. You pay what you think it is worth. No minimum, no maximum (as far as I know).
It is an interesting experiment. The thinking behind it is that their fans who have known them forever and who would buy the album at a normal store will probably just pay what they would pay for any other album. The no minimum price opens doors to a whole new fan base though. If you think "I don't really know them, but I would pay $1.00 for a new album just to try it out," you can do that. Hopefully you will like it, then you will buy other albums from them, shirts, concert tickets etc... They are basically giving away their music in hopes of winning new fans. It is a pretty innovative way of introducing a new album and gaining new fans.
Kudos to radiohead for their creativity. I hope this works out well for them.
In case you are wondering, the album is a great album. You should buy it. If you have your doubts, just pay what you are willing to pay to explore a new band. Try it!!!
October 15, 2007
LA, where everyone loves everyone.
One thing has kind of stood out to me since I moved here and joined this program. It's especially true in the program, and in the film department at UCLA. But it's even true out and about, especially around West LA.
Everyone is so friendly to me. Like... everyone loves me.
Now before you think I'm just egotistical... rest assured that I am 100% sure that 98% of the time it's 68% fake. But hey, I really think that a fake good treatment is better than "real" rotten one.
So let me explain. This is my theory. Many people in this town have the goal of succeeding in the entertainment business. Or at the very least, making money somehow. And also, in West LA especially, many many people are involved – often in positions of power – in this same entertainment business. At UCLA in the film school, it's just a basic fact that about 60% of us will go on to do something somewhat influential in this same business.
So, in a town where lots of people you meet may have the power to help or hurt your career now or in the future... how do you treat people that you meet? In a word.. very well. (Ha, that's two words).
And that's what I find here. Hey, it may be self-serving, but it's also smart. And with the kind of turnover there is in the industry – a high ranking creative executive on average only stays in her post for 2 years, and assistants ascend to the position of bosses in a ridiculously short time – your wise to treat everyone, no matter what they're doing and what level they currently reside on – with respect.
And that's what people do. It's what I'm doing too. And I have to admit, this was basically a professional belief of mine already. You treat everyone you come in contact with well, because you're hoping they treat you well. I worked with a lot of people who only treated people ABOVE us well, and people on the same level they actively undermined. Guess how it worked out for them when those people got promoted? Not good.
So while it means that I know to take every bit of encouragement with a grain of salt... at the same time, I do kind of dig it. I think people should treat each other well, as if we all have the power to help or hurt each other.
Because the truth is, we all do.
October 09, 2007
It turns out that our instructor, Paul Castro, wants us to write our screenplay somehow based on our "most shameful event." I can see why he's doing this. This most shameful event is very emotional for all of us, and accessing emotion and writing emotionally is the most important skill a screenwriter can develop.
So he's targeting that immediately. And while I had another story I wanted to write, I can appreciate this. And actually, I'm thrilled that he's basically squeezing another story out of me which I wouldn't have otherwise written.
Our assignment in preparing for the story is to write a 2 page monologue in the voice of the main character. If you want to read it, click on, my friend.
I’m Laurent. Yes, Laurent. Not Lawrence, not Larry. Don’t try to give me a nickname. Mom doesn’t like them.. she says they’re demeaning. I think she’s right. I can’t think of the last time she’s been wrong about anything.
I’m named after one of Jean Piaget’s children. Mom’s really fond of Piaget. He was a psychoanalyst who studied children. How we thought, and how we learned. So Mom studies me. She studies how I process emotions. That’s how she says it. “Processes emotions.” Those are two words that I don’t hear other children my age say very often. And I mean, ever.
Mom’s pioneered something she calls “doling out affection.” She likes to say that, that she’s pioneered it. I looked it up, and I guess she’s saying she made it up, like she loaded up a wagon and discovered it. Good for her, I think.
It means that she doesn’t just hug me or whatever when she feels like it or when I feel like it, but when it is contextually appropriate. It’s all part of her plan to make me the well-adjusted child. Look it up on Amazon, that’s the name of her book. And it’s based on me. My picture is even on the cover.
I think I want to be a psychoanalyst, too. They seem to be pretty nice. When mom takes me to conferences, they all treat me really well, asking me all sorts of questions and clapping when I answer them. I even sign autographs for some of them, right on the cover – my cover – the one with me on it.
I may be well adjusted, but I’m not perfect. Mom helps me with that. I’m scared of school. Very scared. I wish the other kids could be more like the psychoanalysts at the conferences Mom goes to. They aren’t.
Mom says that too many friends can actually be emotionally overwhelming. I guess she’s right. So it’s good that I stay in the class and help Ms. Simpson prepare the lessons. Ms. Simpson is a good friend. Of course, I have good friends. Mom’s a really good friend, too. I shouldn’t really want too many. I need to stockpile my emotional resources, anyway.
Mom and I like to have fun together. When I get home from school, we play this fun game where she’s prepared flashcards about her latest theories, and if I learn them and get them right she’ll reward me. The rewards are great, like a nice hug, or going on a walk where we’ll hold hands.
One of the psychoanalysts at a conference in Seattle made the comment that I’m remarkably resilient considering the lack of a father figure. Mom said that was the result of her doling out the affection. So I think it’s a good thing she pioneered that, so I could overcome my risk factors.
Sometimes I wonder how much more well adjusted I would be if I had Dad around. I wouldn’t say that to Mom, though. I mean, I wouldn’t say that... again.
I think my name sounds kind of like a girl’s name. I do think that. The kids in my class do, too. They used to say that to me, but Mom got Ms. Simpson to make them stop. But it’s the name Mom picked, so I like it. It’s just that there is a girl in my class named Lauren, and when Ms. Simpson calls her I think she’s calling me. For awhile Ms. Simpson started calling me Larry to fix that, which I liked. But then Mom found out. Ms. Simpson calls me Laurent again.
I don’t really want to go to school tomorrow. I’m scared. I know what the kids say about me. Mom says the basic problem is that I’ve moved onto a Formal Operating stage of reasoning, while most of the kids in my class are still in the Concrete Operating stage, and I agree. I could even swear Justin’s stuck in the pre-operational stage, but I wouldn’t say that to him. I know that’s just mean.
And in case you're wondering how this relates to the shameful moment... below is the bare bones story idea for now...
We have a boy, son of a widowed single mom. The mom is an acclaimed child's psychologist, and uses him as her "test case" for most of her methods. She's even published a book, called "The Well-Adjusted Child" (this is what I'm using as a working title for the story as well), and she takes him to conferences where people can ask him questions. After school, she teaches him all the right catch phrases and theories using note cards, so he is very bright and knows what to say... "Depression is anger towards inwards, etc." He's quite impressive to her colleagues.
Yet she is very clinical, and very closed off, and while she talks
about emotions and things like this, it's like a paleontologist
talking about dinosaurs – fascinating for sure, but studying evidence
and not experiencing the actual things.
So the boy is a little different in class, not very well liked, he
prefers the company of adults. Hangs out with the teacher during
recess, etc. Then a new girl joins the class... and they click. She
gets him, and likes him. And... this girl has a mom who is everything
the boy wants and needs from his own mom and doesn't get. She's
loving, she's voluptuous, she's warm. Around her, he actually gets to
act and feel like a kid.
Through spending time with his new friend and the mom, he discovers
parts of himself, that he loves physical activity, and is actually
pretty good at it... False epiphany... he's ratcheted up the
popularity ladder because of his new found football skills. People
start to like him. Conflict -- mom's not so happy with these developments.
Then the rug's pulled out from underneath him... the incident
(shaming incident, something like that) occurs, AND his friend isn't
there to support him. He feels totally alone. He goes to her house
after school and finds her not wanting to talk. Because her mom has
cancer (or some disease that will make her die).
His mom tries to get him to deal with these things in very clinical
terms, and he plays along, bottles things up again. But then he's
watching TV with her, and he sees some televangelist miracle worker –
a total scammer – promising healing and all that. He wants this to be
true so much, and in his childlike way, he's formulated a plan.
And that night he runs off with his new friend to find this
televangelist, to get something to heal the mother. Act II, they face
obvious obstacles in doing this, but they eventually get the "relic"
that will heal the mom. They are both SURE that this is the answer by
the point, and elated to have succeeded in their quest. This will be
the second false epiphany... because hopefully they will be so sure
of it and the audience will be taking their childlike perspective
enough that they may believe it too.
But – predictably enough – the cure doesn't work. The "good mom"
dies... but not without thanking the kids for what they did, and
believing they didn't go on a fools' quest. This is meant to be the
big gloom. Now back with his real mom, he cries – really cries – for
the first time. And he's adamant with believing the things he needs
to believe as a child – that there is a heaven, that his friend's mom
is there, that his dad is there. His raw emotion breaks through his
mother's closed off sections, and she acts like a mother to him...
thus an exchange of gifts – him getting her to open up, her giving
him the love he's needed...
iPhone saves the day.
I don't know what my problem was, but I didn't really realize the assignment that I posted below, a "2 paged double spaced typed" expansion of my most shameful moment, was due in class yesterday. When did I find out? During my first class of the day. On my Monday... when I have no breaks between class.
What can I do, my mind races?
iPhone. I write up that essay below on the iPhone during my first lecture class, and email it to myself. Then I stop by the computer lab, log into my yahoo email, copy and paste the stuff into Word, and print it out.
And now I don't start out my class as the idiot who didn't realize he had homework.
Bravo, iPhone, bravo.
My most shameful moment...
What I had to write for my class. Just a horrible moment in my life, happened when I was in 4th grade. WARNING THERE IS A SWEAR WORD IN THE FOLLOWING ESSAY, BECAUSE THERE WAS ONE IN THE ACTUAL EVENT.
We had just completed our third football game of the day. The sparkling 3-0 record made my flushed red face and sweat soaked outfit worth it. The jagged hole in my pants at the knee? I hoped mom would understand just how impressive 3 wins against zero losses was.
It was still early on the year, but already the early year role shuffling was coming to a close. We'd all had our chances, our short windows to make new impressions. Who we were in each others' eyes was setting like cement,
I'm going to seen as the guy who threw for 2 touchdowns and ran for another. This is very good. The annual reputation derby is ending with me in possession of the coveted "cool kid" status.
And what was that?
What was that? My face grows hotter, the flush more crimson. This time, not from victory, but from the...
I can barely breath. I try to subtly walk away from my friends. "where are you going?" I don't answer. I shuffle, an awkward gait that I strain to suppress...
Towards the Teacher's Aide ("ha ha the teachers have aids" I think, remembering the jokes we used to make, the cool kids... is this what I was going to lose?)
Does it stink? Dear lord, it does. It smells... bad. I have to get out of here. How could this happen, how here? Why now?
I'm barely able to talk as I beg for the bathroom. Recognizing desperation, the teacher's aide -- Mrs 'you can only go to the bathroom after snack and after lunch with no exceptions' Wade -- miraculously grants permission.
And I lurch towards the bathroom like a saddle sore cowboy. I have to get there. I was so close to the promised land, I strained through the everyday morning terror knowing I was one act away from losing all my friends. An act like this.
No one in the bathroom. There is a God. I've made it to the stall. Am I going to get away with this? Am I going to avoid the fate of Barry Dyneback and Ronny Syle, the Scab Eater and Pants Pee-er?
Now I'll just clean up and have to figure out an explanation of where I went so quickly. My departure and extended absence was sure to be the lead story in the 4th grade post recess rumor mill.
The cleanup is coming along, but goodness this isn't going to be fast. With every passing second, i know my excuse has to be more compelling, more remarkable. I've settled on telling people that I saw an open door in the neighborhood near the playground, and decided to conduct some espionage through the unlocked house. Dangerous, brave, and edgy... I would turn this into a chance to score more cool points.
The door. The door is squeeking open! And I'm no where near finished.
Maybe its just a kind-hearted grownup here to check on.... No, the footsteps tell me otherwise. Too light, too scurrying, too childish.
Oh no, it's Justin Borroughs.
I lift my feet, hoping to avoid detection with the sure to come "checking under the stall" technique. I hold my breath, try to still my heart. Can he hear my heart? It's so loud.
"You in here?"
Justin Burroughs! Justin Burroughs, the Stall Jumper. If there is a god, surely he and the devil are the same. Justin Burroughs, who likes to show off his athletic prowess by jumping up, grabbing hold, and looking down on whoever was going to the bathroom. The Stall Jumper jumps all over your privacy.
I try to remain silent, frantically working to clean up the evidence of my shame.
And then... the rapid two shot, the boom boom. The inevitable begins. He's jumped.
I look up in time to see his widening eyes magnified behind his thick blocky lenses.
"Oh shit, Jason!" I've never heard those words said infused with such glee. And he's off to spread the gospel, before I can say anything, before I can breath, before I can even cry.
Oh shit, indeed.
I consider not finishing the cleanup. Almost seems right, then at least my outsides and insides would match up.
But I do finish up, and stay hidden away as long as allowed by my teacher. And, predictably... she comes to get me. I slink behind her down the hallway. Back to class, back to my execution, my worst fears realized.
October 05, 2007
Rundown of my classes
For those of you who are interested, I think I've finalized my classes, so I'll let you know what they are...
Mondays are my killer day. Seriously. I'm in class from 12 noon until 11 PM straight. It's really difficult physically – I can't get anywhere close enough between classes to get any food (lesson learned last Monday, I'm packing something from now on), it's hard emotionally (I hate getting home to find everyone asleep and not really seeing them all day), it's hard intellectually (difficult to pay attention for THAT long, and actually pretty stressful too because every professor goes over their time limit and then you have to make the decision between offending the one who is teaching now by leaving or the one who will be teaching next by come in late.) Being new to all these professors, I hate the idea of giving any of them the impressions that I don't care.
Monday starts with an hour long seminar on Screenwriting. It's a requirement of the program, and one thing that is actually disappointing about it... it's a huge class filled with undergrads who aren't in the film program. It's pretty general. The upside is it's taught by Richard Walter, the co-chair of the program, and a magnetic, wise legend in Screenwriting. So it's cool. I had thought it was going to be just the MFA students though... 12-12.50
Then I have an Introduction to Animation class. I'm actually one of the few non-animation majors in this class. At UCLA, Screenwriting is only the second most successful program at getting grads placed in "the biz." The best? Their animation program. Almost all of these people will be working at Pixar, or Disney, or Dreamworks, or something like that.... So yes, I'm a little out of my league, as the class is actually drawing cartoons by pencil, but I love learning how to do it. And it's a prerequisite for a "Writing for Feature Animation Class" that I really want to take. So here I am, draw 24 pictures per second of animation (or 12 pictures, depending on how I want the motion to go). I actually really love drawing, and this gives me the requirement to sharpen the pencil and draw often. The final project is a 15 second animated short that they actually shoot on film using the animation crane. Very cool. 1-3.50.
Then I have my "main writing" workshop, taught by successful screenwriter Paul Castro. He's very encouraging and very inspirational, which is excellent. There are 8 of us in the class, and it's an excellent mix. And you can tell Paul's going to try to break us down so we write emotionally, which is vitally important for screenplays... his first in class writing assignment was to write about the thing we're most ashamed of in our lives. It was heavy and intense, because we all had tor read what we wrote out loud. In this class we're supposed to write the first 30 pages of a screenplay (it seems that they ease you into the writing process here). I'm going to go ahead and try to finish it, because if I don't I might never actually finish this story and that would be a shame. 4-6.50
Then Monday finishes off with a course where I had to sign a NONDISCLOSURE AGREEMENT because Industry Bigwigs come and share their secrets weekly. Or something like that! it's a class about the business of television and filmmaking, preparing you for developing a strategy to survive outside of film school. It's very packed, and I have to sit on the floor for 4 hours.... which is actually difficult. 7-11.
On Tuesday, nothing. Time to catch up on writing, etc.
On Wednesday, an animation lab where I work in this weeks assignment. 1-3.50.
On Thursday, a discussion section for my 130A, screenwriting fundamentals. I'm actually going to try to write a different screenplay in this one, to get a headstart on the next quarter's screenplay, so I'll have two screenplays finished by the end of my first 2 quarters. Not sure if this will work. 11-11.50. Then another animation lab, 1-3.50. Then...
I get to take a class on three dimensional story telling and theme park design taught by the Chief Creative Executive on Disney's Imagineering Team, Bruce Vaughn. It's really really excellent. Another class where I had to sign a NDA, and they are very serious. Someone spilled some details after the first class and it nearly shut the whole class down. For you Disney fans out there like me, you'll understand just how cool this is... Legendary Imagineer Marty Skylar will be a featured guest for a class, along with other vital parts of that team. If you impress enough to stand out in this large (150 people I think) class, you're invited to enroll in a follow-up class which is just 35 people, and where you're expected to put together a whole Imagineer-style project just as if you're an imagineer and pitch it to actual Disney Execs. Pretty cool. That's from 4-7.
And that's my week. Throw in some pick up basketball at the Wooden Center, some impromptu lunches with classmates, and some required movie viewing, and that's the first quarter of my MFA in Screenwriting.
October 03, 2007
I got an iPhone
Yeah, I finally broke down and bought one. I needed something where I could easily add and access a calendar schedule of events... and also I keep meeting tons of people who want me to take their information and the iPhone makes that simple.
It's an incredible little device, and it makes all of my previous reasons of not getting one seem pretty minor in comparison to it's strengths. With the price drop and then the $100 credit from Darby's iPhone, it was an easy decision.
So yeah, I'm one of those iPhone nerds now.