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March 31, 2008

Celebrity Sighting - I'm a Mac edition

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Yes, while Collin and Linds were visiting, another sighting. This time, not 3 blocks from an actual Apple Store on the 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica, there he was, Mr. Mac himself, Justin Long. He was posing near a dinosaur -shaped bush fountain.

Collin saw him first, and said, "Look, there's Imamac!" I didn't know who Imamac was... but then I saw him, and yes, he was I'm a Mac. Nonstop fun and action, here.

Now where is PC?

Posted by jason on 12:00 AM | Comments (2)

March 29, 2008

A Temescal Newt

My daughter and I went on a beautiful hike in Topanga State Park yesterday, taking the Temescal path up to the waterfall. At the base of the waterfall, we saw a lizard swimming in the water. She caught one, and then more. It was very exciting, and also a truly magical experience, one that you'll remember for the rest of your life. (One that always makes you want to stop at a stream and look under rocks because you never know what you'll find.)

I can't figure out exactly what kind of newts these were, they don't match up exactly to any of the 10 that apparently live in the Santa Monica Mountains. I think it's either of California Newt or a Monterey Newt, but honestly it looked different than either of those. They were very friendly and very cute.

And parent of the year alert... either way, it was probably poisonous! It secretes toxins through it's skins that can kill a human. Good thing we washed our hands. (It doesn't bite.) Of course, I didn't know this at the time. But apparently, as long as you make sure to wash your hands, you'll be fine.

If anyone could tell me what kind of newt this was, I'd appreciate it.

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Posted by jason on 02:08 PM | Comments (8)

March 28, 2008

The Lady Eve

In the battle of old films with the name "eve" in the title, All About Eve wins hands down. The Lady Eve, which was supposed to be a romantic comedy, didn't work in either sense for me. It was a cute story, I suppose. A con artist woman tries to swindle a good-hearted millionaire out of some of his money, but in the end she falls in love with him (for real.) But it wasn't funny, for me. I didn't laugh once. In a comedy, this is a problem. After knowing that an old film like Some Like it Hot can indeed keep me laughing throughout, this isn't really acceptable for me.

Don't recommend this movie. (Sorry, if I'm wrong and I missed something, please enlighten me.)
1 out of 4 - I'm not understanding why this is a great film.

Posted by jason on 02:20 AM | Comments (2)

March 26, 2008

suggestions needed

For my comedy class, our main project will be writing an episode of an already existing, on the air right now comedy.

I need suggestions. It can't be the Office, that's overdone. And that's almost all I watch in terms of comedies.

Help me. (Can't be Curb Your Enthusiasm either, that might be done).

Posted by jason on 10:43 PM | Comments (18)

A little bit of rejection

I didn't make it in to Mike Werb's 434 class. Oh well, not a big deal. Since he didn't cotton to the story idea I submitted, it's for the best. You definitely want to surround yourself with people who react well to your core idea.

I think I'm learning to handle rejection better and better. I've learned not to take it personally, to take a really wide angle view of it and see that rejection can be the best thing and really you just have to keep pounding away regardless.

Things that are too easy normally aren't worth it.

Posted by jason on 03:59 AM | Comments (4)

March 24, 2008

Audition Time

UCLA's MFA in screenwriting runs their class enrollment process is a very different way than most. Not only do you have to audition and work to get into the program in the first place. But once you're in, you need to audition and impress in order to get into specific classes. It's stressful, to be honest. But at the same time, I think they want to prepare you for the industry that you have chosen. If you're going to be in movies, you're always trying to get the next job.

For next quarter, I had to audition to get into a comedy spec writing class (where you write an episode for an existing comedy series as a sample of your work) and then also I'm hoping to get into Mike Werb's 434 Writing Workshop.

I just heard back on the Comedy class. I'm in. Another sigh of relief, as the competition was fierce, and it's tough to be told you're not funny. Apparently, I'm funny. At least a little.

Still waiting on the Werb class... I really hope I get into that.

Posted by jason on 02:57 PM | Comments (4)

Happy Easter

Today started off with an early morning easter egg hunt. I didn't get enough sleep last night, and what sleep I did get was interrupted and fitful. But I managed to still put together clever clues (that actually rhymed.) It was fun and nice, but it didn't make up for the fact that the kids didn't get to go on the easter egg hunt with their cousins and grandparents. Of course, Collin and Linds are here, so that's awesome, and that makes up for a lot of it.

Then we went to church at Mosaic in Beverly Hills. It was a very good Easter service and I continue to be impressed by Erwin Raphael McManus, he's so genuine and honest and funny. (Funny is probably the most impressive part for me.)

I would definitely recommend that you go to iTunes and subscribe to the sermons. They are continually excellent. I especially think you should listen to the billboard series, the one about judgement. It's amazing.

Then a nice steak lunch made on the grill (with Collin's famous grilled asparagus that I wouldn't dare touch), tthen a great time on the beach. All in all it makes for a pretty great Easter.

Even though we'll probably need a redo when we get back to the east coast.

Posted by jason on 01:40 AM | Comments (5)

March 20, 2008

Imagineering Success

Tonight I had a phenomenal experience. But first, I have to give you a little backstory so you understand the impact.

For our advanced Imagineering class, we have an assignment to pitch a project for Google pretending they want to build a physical presence that would have a positive affect on their brand. (It's all just a project, Google didn't really assign us to do it, it's just an exercise).

I was in a group of 9 people, and at first we put together this very large, very grand plan where we never said no to anything people in the group came up with because we were all being too nice. Our mid-term came, and we were told to present our idea in progress, as a checkpoint on where we were.

It was an unmitigated disaster. Crash and burn. Probably one of the worst things I've ever been a part of.

All 9 of us presented. We rambled on, we were confusing, we were unclear. We were boring. And the instructor (head of Imagineering) and the other Imagineers who came to hear our pitches basically told us we were horrible. I didn't even want to post about it, it was such a terrible memory.

Anyway, I decided then and there that I had been too nice, and from now on I was going to speak my opinion. My first suggestion is that we start over. We were too big and unfocused. I had another idea early in the whole process which was smaller but very targeted towards a specific group (children in elementary schools) and also could tell a really good story. I got together a few people in our group who I could totally trust and pitched it to them and asked them to help me get the rest of the group on board with this huge change of direction.

It worked. Everyone agree to let our old idea die, and start over. We developed this new idea, which I'll go into in more detail some other time, and we developed the presentation around it, realizing that the presentation had to be a story that gripped people emotionally. We worked ourselves like crazy, meeting a ton of time outside of class and perfecting everything.

Tonight we went to the Imagineering office in Glendale for our official pitch. There were 12 Imagineers there to listen to us.

And we rocked it. I mean totally amazingly, better than we could have ever expected rocked it. We narrowed the presenters down to two people - me and another guy who could really speak well about our idea. We limited our visuals to just these amazing animations of our idea, taking all text out of it so that we wouldn't just be reading it. We just had them in the palm of our hands the whole time, and in the end they didn't have one negative thing to say about our idea.

Here is what they did say:

We should start a company and pitch it to google today. They would pitch it as is today. Animation and art gorgeous. This could be made. Love the story. Amazing turnaround from midterm. Great testimony to multi disciplinary team. Love that the kids are filling up the meter. We should call Sergei from google. Even if this isnt something google was planning to do they'd build it anyway. Both presenters were great. Narrative of the presentation was great. They could tell we worked as a cohesive group. That we put this together in such a short amount of time is so impressive. Perfect extension of google brand. Everything in the room reflected google. Loved that we actually had kids moving through room. Companies come to them all the time for this kind of thing and this would be perfect for that. Animation never lost them, they knew exactly where they were. The story gripped them emotionally.

Seriously, one of the toughest critics of the previous groups (we were the 3rd of 5 to pitch) said only: "I love it, I would pitch this just as it was just pitched today. I wouldn't change one thing. It would get greenlit." That's a high-ranking Imagineer saying that.

And the best thing... they awarded a "best in show" for the project which would get made. And yes, from worst to first, that's us. They even said that all 5 of the presentations were incredibly excellent and that any one of them would have won first prize in previous years (Disney runs this class with UCLA every year). So yes, that means that our pitch was the best of all time.

Unbelievable.

And they offered us all internships basically, if we're interested.

I have to admit, I am kind of tempted.

Posted by jason on 03:14 AM | Comments (6)

March 19, 2008

Kind of a crazy week

Monday night, marathon notes session until 3.30 in the morning. Tuesday, meeting with Michael Colleary about my historical epic, I'll tell you now what it is since it's registered with the WGA and a first draft is finished: It's about Harriet Tubman, and while it covers much of her life it focuses on a section that hasn't gotten as much attention but is truly incredible. Her civil war service where she was a nurse, then a spy, then led a military raid where she destroyed a bunch of plantations that were supplying the confederates and freed over 700 slaves. She was the only woman to lead a military operation in the civil war (and maybe even ever in american history). Colleary liked the first draft, loved a lot of moments. But of course he had a ton of notes and I have so much work to do. Still, Colleary doesn't even believe in first drafts, he calls them dirty drafts... so I think it's in pretty good shape. And I know he cares about it, because he said to call him once I've done work so he can read it again and help me get it ready.

By they way, he has an interesting philosophy about creative work. He says that while things may be good or bad, it's not that helpful to label them as such while you're working on them. He says that for your own creative survival, and to stave off despair, you should just ask if it's "ready" or "not ready," for the next stage -- ready to be read by an agent, ready to be read by a studio, ready to be shot, etc. Pretty cool way of looking out of it, takes some of the sting out of being told there are weak sections.

Now tonight, I have a presentation I have to give at the Imagineers offices in Glendale, CA. I'm kind of nervous, yet mostly I just want this to be over with... while it's been a great class, it's taken way too much time getting ready for this project. And I've learned that I really don't want to be an Imagineer, while earlier in my life I would have called that a dream job.

This week is full of getting "auditions" completed for classes next quarter. I'm trying to get into a comedy writing workshop and a 434 with Mike Werb, who is Colleary's writing partner. You have to write a bunch of stuff to audition of those. And of course, I have to finish a rewrite for my submission to Showcase.

And I still have to do my taxes. And I have bunch of other Elany and consulting work to complete.

It's stressful. But fun. I guess!

Posted by jason on 02:18 PM | Comments (6)

March 18, 2008

Very late

It's 3.25 in the morning and a marathon writers group session just ended where we discussed all of our scripts which we're submitting for the major contest here at the end of each year, call showcase. I'm fortunate to be a in group with such brilliant people, we all really make each other scripts so much better.

I'm going to bed. Ollie wakes up in 3 hours.

Posted by jason on 06:25 AM | Comments (2)

March 15, 2008

Tom Cruise

Last time Jenna was in town, we got to see Mr. Cruise. He was very nice. This is the video I shot. The paparrazi are crazy and rude and it's an insane scene. He was so gracious considering.

The video gets especially good at 1 minute 55 seconds, as in very close up.

Posted by jason on 01:41 AM | Comments (7)

A Crazy Night Out

My sister Jenna is in town, so we made sure to hit one of her favorite spots tonight, the Grove. It's beautifully designed, like an old European city, and very nice to just stroll in.

We noticed that there was a special event at the store that night... Tori Spelling from 90210 was going to be there signing books! Jenna and Darby got the books and had a great time, and apparently she was very nice.

Then while we were getting a drink at the cafe before we left, we saw Ben from Big Love. I LOVE BIG LOVE, so this was crazy to see him in real life, because he just is that character and really he should be living in Utah.

Anyway, like I said, crazy night. Jenna just brings out the crazy in LA.

(But not nearly as crazy as last weekend when my friend Chris was here, now that's a story I have to tell sometime soon.)

Posted by jason on 12:59 AM | Comments (1)

March 14, 2008

Also, about music

When I write, I cannot listen to music with lyrics. I concentrate too much on the vocals, and can't clear my head enough to focus on the storytelling. But silence doesn't help me either. What I do is listen to really intense movie soundtracks, and lately it's all been music written by Hans Zimmer. Specifically, I listen to the soundtracks from Pirates of the Caribbean, Gladiator, Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, and The Last Samarai.

It makes all my screenplays feel so epic and important while I write them.

Posted by jason on 02:05 AM | Comments (5)

New Music I'm listening to

Well, I was asked for any music recommendations, so I'll talk about the things I've been listening to lately.

Bob Dylan Essential Recordings
When I was working on the poster for my professor's play, I decided I should try to get into his head a little better. He had been telling me how much he loved the music of Bob Dylan. Now of course I'm not a cultural hermit, so I was somewhat familiar with his most popular song. But hearing all his great songs is really an ear-opener. Highly recommended! He's a fantastic lyricist and songwriter.

Paramore
I decided to download this album (legally, I'm a stickler about that) and I've not been disappointed. Kind of cool emo guitar driven music with a fantastic female lead singer.

Sia - Some People Have Real Problems
I first heard of Sia when her song was used as the soundtrack to the final scene of the excellent HBO series Six Feet Under. I was blown away at the time. Now this album is stylistically pretty different than that song, but it's still very worth listening to. Really inventive music here.

Thrice - Come All Ye Weary
A highly recommended acoustic EP from Thrice. It's really great music.

Eddie Vedder - Into the Wild Soundtrack
I listened to this hauntingly beautiful acoustic album about a thousand times at the end of last year. You have to know these songs.

The Weepies (and Deb Talen)
The Weepies are a songwriting duo (I think they're married) and any of their albums is worth listening to. I prefer Deb Talen to the guy in the band, so I love her solo work as well. I do like the guy, but sometimes he reminds me too much of Jars of Clay.

Posted by jason on 01:54 AM | Comments (2)

March 11, 2008

Celebrity Sighting Pt 2

I saw Fred Savage's little brother, the kid from Boy Meets World. At the Coffee Bean. Cool, I guess.

He was buying coffee.

Posted by jason on 04:01 AM | Comments (13)

March 06, 2008

Celebrity Sighting

Darby and I were eating lunch at the Pearl Dragon in the Palisades today and in walks Cheryl Hines, who plays Larry David's wife on the show Curb Your Enthusiasm. I'm a big fan of hers, so it was very cool.

Now, strangely enough, she sat down with her entourage, they looked at the menu, and then she got up. She went to the bar, asked where another kind of restaurant was, and then they left!

Bummer.

We felt kind of dissed. (No we didn't talk to her.)

Posted by jason on 11:58 PM | Comments (3)

Testosterone

I volunteered to help one of the heads of the program here at UCLA, Hal Ackerman, put together the posters and postcards for his upcoming play. It was kind of a risky to do this, as you never know how your style will jibe with other people. But I thought, oh take a chance, if you help him out and make his vision come to life than that can only be a good thing.

Life tip: Make it so that people always think "oh yes, he's here, he's going to make things better!" and people will always want you around.

Fortunately he loves it. So yes!

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Posted by jason on 12:33 PM | Comments (1)

All About Eve

All About Eve won the Oscars for Best Picture, Director, Supporting Actor, and Screenplay in 1951. It's about a conniving woman who's desperate for fame and undermines an aging Broadway starlet. I'm slowly but surely overcoming my bias against old films (loosely defined as black and white films) but I can still it's still deep within me because I'm pleasantly surprised whenever I can actually enjoy one of these older movies.

I very much enjoyed this film. The story was engrossing, the acting and writing were excellent, it's definitely worth a rental. I didn't know that people have been so obsessed with celebrity and fame for so long. I guess part of me thought that today's fixation was more a result of the 100s of cable channels, youtube, entertainment blogs, etc. But this film shows that these have been issues for decades.

4 out of 4 - You should love this film.

Posted by jason on 04:34 AM | Comments (2)

March 04, 2008

the life of lyric

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My daughter is now officially a blogger. She asked for a website today, so we set one up together. It's password protected for her own safety, so if you're interested in reading it, send me an email and I'll get you some access (if I know you're not a creepy predator.)

Posted by jason on 11:25 PM | Comments (4)

March 03, 2008

Finished the Historic Epic

I just typed "FADE OUT" on the first draft of my historical epic. This one was a doozy, and I just know that I have a ton more work to do. Already, I know of things I need to add, take out, and reo-incorporate. But still, it feels good to have the first draft finished, especially considering the fright I got about a week and a half ago.

125 pages. Is it in my tier 1 (will get made into a movie some day) or tier 2 (i'd be suprised if it gets made into a movie some day, but maybe with a lot of work it could get there) or tier 3 (deny I ever wrote the sucker)?

Tier 1, by the third draft, when I get everything just right.

(For the record, by my own reckoning... 4 of my screenplays are Tier 1, 2 are Tier 2, and 1 is Tier 3)

My Tier 3 was my first screenplay. All of you who want to write, hurry up and get that first one out of the way! (Unless you're Diablo Cody, then just hurry up and write it so you can win that Oscar.) By the way, good for her. That's awesome. Unlike A LOT of my class mates, I'm not jealous of her at all. I think it was an excellent script and she deserves the success she gets. And I saw 'BOO" to the Diablo Cody backlash. Juno is a great film that works on a number of levels. All the haters need to cool off.

Posted by jason on 01:29 AM | Comments (4)

March 02, 2008

The Rim of the World

For my birthday (which is coming this week), we drove about 90 miles east, to Lake Arrowhead and Big Bear Lake. 7,000 feet above sea level, and just breath-taking.

The drive up the mountain was terrifying because we drove through a cloud and we could barely see 10 feet in front of us while driving through sharp turns, alongside cliff's edges. Oh yeah there was this time that I tried to execute a U-Turn on one of the foggy roads and came feet from being broadsided by a large truck.

We went snow tubing today.

By the way, sorry about the cellphone pictures. My proper camera has stopped working. Ugh.

By the way, these pictures are taken when we finally got above the clouds. Yes, we are above them. And they call this area Rim of the World, which is pretty cool.

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Posted by jason on 08:47 PM | Comments (4)

Godfather Part 2

This film felt like more of the same excellence that was in the first Godfather. Yet it innovated enough and told a different enough story that it stood on it's own. I can't really say whether it's better or not, they are both fantastic. In my mind, this is a sequel done right. Don't rehash the same basic story, but expand on it.

Structurally, this sequel does something that I can't recall seeing anywhere else. The first Godfather told one story - the rise to power of Michael Corleone. Now for the Godfather part 2, they basically split the film and dedicate close to half to a prequel kind of story - the rise to power of Michael's father, Vito Corleone, and the formation of the Corleone crime family. Then the other story told here is the continuation of Michael's story. I've never seen a sequel do this, where it spends a lengthy amount of time on both the time before and after the original film. It worked very well, and I'm surprised more sequels don't try this.

You owe it to yourself to watch both of these films.
4 of out 4 - you should love it.

Posted by jason on 12:16 PM | Comments (0)