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April 29, 2008

Hanging out on the beach with my daughter.

One of the very best things about living where we do is we are literally one minute away from the beach. So yesterday, after I picked Lyric up from school, she said, "Let's go to the beach." That's exactly what we did.

It was so nice, one of those unexpected things that you didn't even know to look forward to but was the best thing that happened in a while. We just walked through the surf, got too wet, laughed and talked. For some reason there was an apple, two oranges, and a cantaloupe rolling through the waves. We tried to keep track of each of them each time the waves crashed and receded. It's hard to explain exactly how much (or even why) fun this was.

Anyway, I was thinking that these things that you don't plan but that end up being very memorable need a simple name. Any ideas? Have you had any of these moments lately?

Posted by jason on 12:49 PM | Comments (3)

Pushing through.

One lesson I'm learning here is how to face despair, or lack of inspiration, or just general laziness (or the potent combination of all three.) Yesterday and today, I forced myself to just write the Tovenray story. I'm becoming a real believer in the advice to "finish it badly." That's infinitely better than not finishing it at all. Once you have that initial lump of clay at least somewhat formed into something, it's much easier to refine.

If you don't write the pages, you have nothing.

I've found that there is no "quality" correlation between pages that are hard to write and pages that are easy to write. Sometimes the easy stuff is brilliant, sometimes it needs to be completely re-worked. Same with the difficult stuff.

"Finish it badly" is really just taking the pressure off so that you finish it at all. In reality the chances that it's actually bad are the same as any other time.

It's a discipline. A very difficult discipline to develop, because there are so many aspects of creativity that it's always tempting - especially for me, who loves the thrill of inspiration - to just wait for God to walk into the room and let those magical moments do all the work for you. But those bursts of inspiration are pretty rare. To be a consistent storyteller (or songwriter, or anything creative) you have to develop muscles that force God into the room, even when you don't believe there is a God. Even when you don't believe there is a room.

Yesterday and today, I rewrote the 19 pages I had already written (cutting them down to 14) and then wrote 8 shiny brand new pages, too. Not bad. I'm back into the story. Another crisis averted. These times are actually monumental for me, because as an inspiration junkie in the past... it might have been another six months before I started writing again.

Posted by jason on 12:11 PM | Comments (0)

April 28, 2008

Procrastinating

I have to admit, I'm in a funk for Tovenray's Curse, my latest screenplay. I have to break out of it today and tomorrow, but where my normal routine is to write pages every day, I haven't written anything since last Wednesday's class.

Fortunately, I'm learning to procrastinate while doing other things that I actually really have to do. So I put together most everything bureaucratic for the season of Screenwriting Competitions, which took a tremendous amount of time, while rewriting my screenplays. I worked a lot on my comedy spec for the Office. I read more screenplays and made notes for my internship at Maguire.

And now it's just me and the blank page and I have to move on.

On thing that was quite helpful was that I went on a hike with Lyric and Ollie yesterday and they wanted me to tell them the whole story from start to finish. To see the way they responded to it and liked it encouraged me on the strength of the story. In fact, I told Lyric that my instructor wasn't like it so much so far and she looked at me amazed. "Why, doesn't he like good stories? Who wouldn't like it?"

So that's the audience I need to write for.

Posted by jason on 01:39 PM | Comments (9)

April 26, 2008

Rewrites

I dedicated yesterday to re-writing, and literally spent from 5 pm to 3.30 in the morning rewriting my Harriet Tubman script (working title: Her 14th Mission) and a comedy called Retro Band. I cut Harriet from 138 pages 120 pages (and actually lost very little actual scenes... it was just getting rid of redundancy and desciption and lines that didn't need to be there) and cut Retro Band from 128 to 120.

It was exhausting, but both scripts are better now...

I'm tired.

Posted by jason on 01:52 PM | Comments (0)

April 25, 2008

My First Day of Interning at Maguire Entertainment

Today was my first day, and it consisted of reading reading and more reading. I read 3 full length scripts and made notes on them. They were all entertaining. Two of them were excellent and one had some fairly large flaws (but was still very good.) I think I'll be able to give valuable notes.

And also, reading these made me realize that my scripts can hang with these other scripts. With more rewrites, perhaps, but I can get there.

Posted by jason on 02:26 AM | Comments (4)

A violation

The day started off brilliantly, as someone smashed the window of our Prius and stole our iPod. ARGH. So annoying, and such a violation. Poor Lyric and Ollie were pretty upset about it. Ollie said he wanted to find that thief and hurt him with his karate and his real sword because he loved that window and that iPod.

I feel the same way. It really stinks. Who would do this? So selfish to put us out $700... I really hope it doesn't happen again.

Posted by jason on 02:15 AM | Comments (4)

April 23, 2008

My Office Spec

We went through my Office beat sheet in class tonight and it was very well received. In general the note from my instructor was that Dwight was too passive in his story line, and he's right. But overall people really thought I nailed the tone of the Office and it was really funny. So hurray for me.

I'm having a hard time getting through the Tovenray story right now for some reason. But I'm 19 pages in, and I think I like what I've written so far, at least for a first draft. I really dig a lot of the story, though.

Posted by jason on 03:15 AM | Comments (4)

April 18, 2008

Funny Question

I'm taking a class called "Identiying your assets" with former agent and producer Arnold Rifkin. We were talking about my internship with Maguire Entertainment last night and he said, "Ok, let me ask you something. You had a pretty important corporate job at one point, right? You were a Vice President of Marketing at a Fortune 500 company. And now you're going to be an unpaid intern for Spiderman, is that right?" I said yes, that's right.

Is that a good thing? He asked. Does that feel like a step forward or a step back?

And I can honestly say I believe what I answered, which was, "Where I'm coming from, with what I want to do, I think that's an awesome step forward." And he responds. "Good, that's all I wanted to know. Then you're in the right town."

Posted by jason on 05:27 PM | Comments (2)

My Office Episode Beat Sheet

For my spec, my assignment this week was to beat out all the action for the episode. Here's where it is right now.

Show: The Office Title: Going Green by Jason Latshaw

SCENE 1 - TEASER - INT. OFFICE - DAY

Jim enters , a metal briefcase chained to his hand . Dwight asks what’s in the briefcase. Jim: “That’s confidential.” Jim’s cell phone rings (“24” ringtone). Jim: “I’m on my way.” Leaves.

ACT ONE

SCENE 2 – INT. RECEPTION AREA – DAY

Pam calls Michael. Ryan wants the agenda for their monthly meeting, been calling all day. Ryan wants to see it before meeting in person the next day.
PAM TALKING HEAD: Pam talks about her frustration because Michael sends all his calls from Ryan directly to her. And she never knows what’s going on. And Ryan gets annoyed at her.

SCENE 3 – INT. MICHAEL’S OFFICE – DAY

Michael is distracted while talking to her on the phone. He watches “Cute Polar Bears dying” from “An Inconvenient Truth” on youtube. Michael ends the conversation. Tears in his eyes.
MICHAEL TALKING HEAD: Michael explains that when he has a stressful day – like Ryan wanting an agenda for a meeting – he likes to do a google search for pictures of adorable animals to get him in the right frame of mind. Now the weight of the world is on his shoulders.

SCENE 4 – INT. OFFICE – DAY

Michael orders everyone into the conference room. “Turn off your computers first.”

SCENE 5 – INT. CONFERENCE ROOM – DAY

Michael lectures. He asks them to view the tiny clip on his laptop, and no one can see it. (“You’re all going to have to crowd in closer because it’s so small.” “That’s what she said.” Jim: “She said that, to who? You? What were you doing?”) He’s shocked and upset to find out that this is news to no one, that everyone knew about “An Inconvenient Truth,” and that no one seems to care. Mentions that Phylis’s carbon footprint must be huge.
CREED TALKING HEAD: Creed cared about the environment until he had a revelation that all pollution is just fake and purposely orchestrated by world governments to distract people from the larger Illuminati conspiracy. Just like the Superbowl. And romantic love (or “and sex” or “and the g-spot” or “and oral sex” whichever is funniest).

SCENE 6 – INT. CONFERENCE ROOM – DAY

Michael decides they must make pledges. He bought sneakers made of recycled materials. But everyone recycles already, (he doesn’t because it’s “annoying.”) Toby drives a Prius. (Michael: “That car is so gay!” To Oscar: “Which is why I want one. And why I affirm and respect the lifestyle choices it has made.”) Michael promises “real lasting changes.”
MICHAEL TALKING HEAD: Michael asks what kind of world it would be if you were walking down the street and you didn’t see Polar bears. That’s not a world he wants to live in.

END OF ACT ONE

ACT TWO

SCENE 7 – INT. MICHAEL’S OFFICE – DAY

Air conditioner cranked up, Michael’s visibly cold. Print outs of polar bear pictures completely plastering the walls. Michael types furiously. Pam brings in more polar bear pictures from the printer. The pictures remind Michael “what’s at stake.” The room is cold as a tribute to the way things should be in the Antarctica. Pam points out there aren’t polar bears in Antarctica. Michael says, yes, exactly, that’s what they have to change. He types again. She thinks it’s the agenda.
MICHAEL TALKING HEAD: Michael looks disheveled. He talks about being a creative person, a writer, and not being able to turn off his creativity when it possesses him. It’s like he just gave birth. And he has a message to deliver, like Moses. He’s like Moses, if Moses ever gave birth. And Ryan couldn’t expect Moses to write an agenda right after having a baby. Because Moses would be on maternity leave.

SCENE 8 – INT. RECEPTION AREA – DAY

Michael drops a 200 page tome on Pam’s desk, his environmental missive. Michael wants copies made for everyone. Pam suggests that it might be a waste of paper, suggests emailing it. Michael says that the environment is a higher cause – if they waste paper to save it then so be it. Plus email takes too much electricity because it’s “electronic mail.” After he leaves, Pam calls Jim’s phone. She disguises her voice, speaking in fake russian german hybrid.

SCENE 9 – INT. JIM/DWIGHT’S WORKSPACE – DAY

Jim puts it on speakerphone. Dwight listens to the Russian as Jim jots something down. Jim gets another mysterious call and leaves the room. Dwight takes the notepad and photocopies it.

SCENE 10 – EXT. PARKING LOT – DAY

Michael rides up sweating and exhausted on a bicycle. He wears a really strange linen looking suit, and carries an enormous backpack. Everyone is gathered outside. No electricity in the office. Michael says he shut it off, to kick off earth friendly work habits. He asked if anyone read his missive yet. No, It was dark. He opens his pack, he’s selling Jan’s candles for $30 which is a discount. His suit is made of hemp, and he made it himself.

SCENE 11 – INT. OFFICE – DAY

Michael threw away all the pens and pencils and notebooks in the office because those things are wasteful (lead and toxins). No one can really do any work. Phones are dead. Michael charged his cell phone overnight with a solar charger. But it’s dead. Michael finds a typo in his missive (spelled “wasteful use of paper” as “waistful use of paper.”) and tells Pam to reprint all of them. She has to drive across town to do it because they have no electricity.

SCENE 12 – INT. TOBY’S WORKSPACE – DAY

Michael waits for Toby to open his desk drawer, which is packed with aerosole hair spray bottles. Toby receives a trophy made of trash for being the worst pollutant in the office.
TALKING HEAD TOBY: Toby points to his balding head. “It’s pretty obvious I’m the kind of guy who needs all that hairspray, right?”

SCENE 13 – INT. DWIGHT’S WORKSPACE – DAY

Dwight looks through huge crusty old volumes.
TALKING HEAD DWIGHT: Dwight can’t crack it based on any of the arcane cryptograph techniques he knows. It’s pig latin. “Pyso Howdownso: Arehousewo Oono Ommorowto.”

SCENE 14 – INT. OFFICE – ACCOUNTING AREA – DAY

Michael makes the rounds to see if anyone has read his missive yet. No one reads it. Angela gets a headache from the smell of the candles. She gets up to go home. Michael says she can’t, forces her to read the missive outside. Creed snips off a bit of Michael’s hemp suit and smokes it.

SCENE 15 – INT. OFFICE - RECEPTION AREA – DAY

Ryan and his David Wallace (CFO) arrive for their meeting with Michael. David asks Ryan what they’ll be discussing. Ryan says he doesn’t know.”You really need to get an agenda from your direct reports.” Michael ushers them into the conference room.

END OF ACT TWO

ACT THREE

SCENE 16 – INT. CONFERENCE ROOM – DAY

With all the candles, it’s better set up for a seance. Michael hands them his environmental missive. Michael and Dwight act out being a polar bear cub and mother with their home melting. Ryan starts to talk, but the Manager asks if he and Michael can be alone.

SCENE 17 – INT. OFFICE – DAY

Pam purposely speaks Pig Latin to Kelly in earshot of Dwight. Dwight insists she tell him what code that was. “Pigs, huh? I knew they were Communists. Or maybe... Liberals.” Dwight cracks the code, checks time, grabs night vision goggles from his desk, and bolts.

SCENE 18 – INT. WAREHOUSE – DAY

Dwight hides and watches a horribly over-acted showdown between Jim and a large figure dressed in black. The figure overcomes Jim. Dwight attacks. The figure runs off. Jim tells Dwight he has helped avert an international incident, but that they can’t tell anyone.
DWIGHT TALKING HEAD: Dwight won’t go into details because they’re confidential but he knows he’s a hero.
JIM TALKING HEAD: Jim says Dwight’s feeling pretty good about himself, which is nice, he’s been going through a tough time. Of course, that wasn’t the plan all along.

SCENE 19 – INT. CONFERENCE ROOM – DAY

Michael’s presentation chokes the David up. David really likes the way the Bonfire candle smells. Michael is commended for his environmental strategy and sells a lot of Jan’s candles.

SCENE 20 – INT. BREAK ROOM – DAY

Ryan waits. Kelly comes in. They stare at each other by candlelight. Kelly: “Remember the last time we gazed at each other by only candlelight? Remember what you promised?”

SCENE 21 – INT. OFFICE - RECEPTION AREA – DAY

Michael sees off Ryan and the manager after their successful meeting.
MICHAEL TALKING HEAD: We learned that a good green policy helps, not hurts, business.
ANDY TALKING HEAD: Andy complains that he didn’t make one sale today.

Michael asks Pam to rent him a car to get home. Dwight offers to give him a ride. Michael doesn’t like to share a car with anyone, likes to be alone with his thoughts. Michael needs a bigger car, to carry the bike. Dwight reminds him the Avis at the train station rents that Hummer.

KEVIN TALKING HEAD: Kevin has a scratch on his cheek. He says Jim promised it would be safe, and it seemed like an easy twenty bucks. Dwight should really be a spy.

Posted by jason on 04:52 PM | Comments (3)

Some updates

Pitching my stories at the comedy spec class went very well. I only had to pitch one story, actually. The professor liked it so much he said I could stop. I was the only one in the class that only had to pitch one idea. And, after class, he said I pitched very well and that I gave excellent story suggestions to the other classmates, and that both those things are invaluable when you work for a TV show.

By the way, it'll be the "Going Green" episode. I got some more great ideas for it, it should be really fun. And also, the Office has really returned from the writer's strike with guns blazing, it's been awesome out of the gate. Desperate Housewives, not so fortunate. That first episode since the strike felt like it was written by people who didn't know the show at all.

I'm starting the internship with Maguire Entertainment next Thursday. Should be awesome.

Posted by jason on 04:21 AM | Comments (4)

April 15, 2008

La Strada

This is the first film I've seen by famed Italian directer Fellini. I very much liked it, and it was truly carried by the unique acting strengths of the female lead, Giulietta Masina. She brings such a childlike wonder and her face emotes so much with just a look, she's very captivating. Anthony Quinn also plays his boarish character so convinvingly that Darby and I suspected he was not really acting.

I very much like films that open you up to a world that you didn't even know existed. In this one, it's the life of the travelling circus performer post WWII. Very Very interesting (and... depressing.)

It's a very sad tale, tragic in the end. But captivating, very accessible, and worth your time. I've been on a good run with the old foreign films lately (this one was released in 1954).

3 out of 4 – You should like this film.

Posted by jason on 05:28 PM | Comments (2)

Update on Internships

I'm happy to report I was offered an internship at Maguire Entertainment. I also had an interview this morning for Misher Film, whose office was actually on the Paramount Studios Lot, which was kind of just awesome. I really got along well with the contact there, and am trying to figure out a way to work in both places.

Exciting!

Posted by jason on 05:25 PM | Comments (7)

April 13, 2008

Comedy Spec - the Office

I know I have waffled back and forth so much here, it's embarrassing. But now I've moved away from Hannah Montana again and have landed firmly on the Office.

I'm pitching three main story ideas on Tuesday. Actually 2 fully developed ideas, and then one "back pocket" idea if the teacher and class don't spark to any of the first two. Read on to see what they are.

Going Green

Michael watches “An Inconvenient Truth” and decides that the office must become more environmentally conscious. He calls a meeting where everyone talks about the sacrifices they will make in their personal and professional life. He leads off with his choice to switch to sneakers made from recycled material and filling up with gasoline that is 10% ethanol. However when he finds out that Toby drives a Prius and everyone but him recycles, he’s driven to one-up them environmentally. He arranges a Dunder Mifflen Earth Day festival, forces his staff to work an afternoon without any electricity, and attempts to prove that Toby is actually living an environmentally insensitive life. In the end he creates more waste and finally learns to simply start recycling and use low wattage lights at the office as a start.

Meanwhile, Angela wins a free makeover and wardrobe overhaul and attracts an unusual amount of attention from the men and jealousy from the woman. She becomes rather striking, and her personality changes as well. Pam has a hard time with no longer being “the hottest girl in the office” and Dwight is tortured even more than usual. Finally, when Angela finds out that Kevin is keeping a snapshot of her new attractive self as a screensaver, she quickly reverts back to her former plain, cranky self, to the disappointment of most.

________________________________

Redecorating

Michael learns about Google and Pixar’s unique offices and decides Scranton workspace is too cookie cutter. He takes the crew on a field trip to Toys R Us to liven up their office. He installs a slide from his office down to the cafe on the first floor. Ryan visits and is horrified by the misuse of company funds. But due to making a good impression on Toys R Us management, Michael lands a huge new account, causing his office’s bottom line to rise above any other regional office. As a result, the CEO of Dunder Mifflin asks Michael to draw up plans for all other regional offices.

Meanwhile, Jim starts coming to work with a metal briefcase handcuffed to his arm, raising Dwight’s suspicions. Pam plays along, leaving messages for Jim on his voicemail (which Dwight overhears) in Russian. Jim and Pam continue to act mysteriously, leading Dwight towards a confrontation with Kevin (in disguise). Dwight is convinced he helped Jim foil an international plot, which boosts his self-esteem in the face of his breakup with Angela.


________________________________

My third idea is basically that Michael enters everyone in the Office into a "Body for Life" competition. And also that Kelly arranges a "costume party" where only Darryl and she dress up in a costume, making her very angry at the rest of the office.

Posted by jason on 02:52 PM | Comments (12)

April 11, 2008

Internships

Today I start interviewing for a internship at a number of different production companies around town. At noon I meet with Maguire Productions, which is Tobey Maguire's production company. Then I have an interview with Raygun Productions, which is currently working on a Renee Zellweger comedy called My One and Only.

My whole purpose of doing an internship is making relationships and learning more about the business. In the next week, I also have interviews with Thunder Road, Revelations (Morgan Freeman's Production House), Radar Pictures, and Misher Films. My hope is to find the perfect fit somewhere among all these companies!

The interview schedule, along with actually having to write pages already for Tovenray's Curse PLUS pitch stories for my comedy spec, is a tad bit stressful.

Posted by jason on 11:50 AM | Comments (7)

April 09, 2008

New Project - Tovenray's Curse

One thing I absolutely love about the program here at UCLA is the breakneck speed at which they force you to write. I'm still working on additional drafts on my Harriet story (watching all 6 DVDs of the Ken Burns Civil War Documentary to get a more historical flavor of the time and applying that to my pages), but already I have to start on the new story.

Tovenray's Curse is a family adventure fantasy. It could be animated. It could certainly be live action, too. This week I've been working hard, because today the "treatment" is due. The treatment is the whole story written as prose, without going into too much detail in certain areas. It's always a difficult exercise for me because "THE WHOLE STORY" is hard for me to figure out so soon in the game. But I did. Read on to check out my treatment so far.

By the way, it's my experience that the treatment and the final story are fairly different. Lots of things change when you actually start to write the pages.

Act 1 Voiceover and imagery tell the story of the beautiful KINGDOM OF TOVENRAY, perfect in every way. An evil creature, KELNIN (ageless) banishes the KING AND QUEEN of Tovenray, preventing them from ever returning with his dark magic. And now the oppressed subjects of this world wait to be set free from Kelnin’s curse.

LYRIC TOVENRAY (8) nods as she thinks about what her father, AARON (35), just read to her. He and Lyric’s mother, GWEN (32), wait intently for a reaction, holding manuscripts to the story.

“Kind of a dark choice, don’t you think?” Lyric asks. “You’ll scare the babies who love your stories.” Her little brother OLIVER (5) nods in agreement. “I’m scared of Kelnin.” Lyric shrugs, her point proven. Lyric then notices the time –

And is frantic as she prepares for her eighth birthday party. She’s upset to see statues and artwork from the Kingdom of Tovenray still spread throughout her house. She begs her parents to help her put them away. But her dad can’t tear himself away from playing “Escape from the Ogritch” (which is half Ogre, half witch) with Ollie. Only her mother makes any effort to help her out. Ollie in fact actively works against her, annoying Lyric to no end.

Lyric finds, to her horror, that her parents have set up a special shrine to her, and it includes her drawings of Faeries and Unicorns and Winged Kitties. And pictures of her fencing. And her archery awards. And her dressed up in traditional Tovenranian garb.

Just as her CHIC, TOO HIP FOR SECOND GRADE FRIENDS show up, she scrambles to gather up the shrine and hide it away. She’s flush, but she succeeds. And the party goes well. Except one of the girls thought the Kingdom of Tovenray – a popular charming series of fantasy stories – was really cool... when she was 3 years old. Lyric, embarrassed, laughs along and agrees, of course.

Everything seems to be moving smoothly, until gift time. Her parents give her... a PROPHECY BOX. Ornately carved, it looks like it comes right out of a Fairy Tale. Out of the Kingdom of Tovenray, where it’s a “tradition” to receive a Prophecy Box on your 8th birthday. (Her parents really take this thing too far sometimes.) Lyric manages to move onto the next present without too much damage but then –

Ollie walks into the room, carrying much of the Shrine Lyric thought she had hidden away. Her friends laugh at the drawings, of a picture of her dressed as a princess in Tovenray.

Lyric is ASHAMED and FURIOUS, and runs to her room and locks the door, declaring she HATES her family, HATES Ollie, and wishes she could stop being a TOVENRAY.

Her parents try to reason with her through the door, telling her to stop saying she hates these things, that words have power – and Tovenray’s words have even more power.

Lyric says it again, louder.

Later that night, Lyric is drawing at her desk, a new creature. It’s cute, kind of like a teddy bear. She’s hungry, but won’t leave the room. It’s raining and LIGHTNING FLASHES. And in her room, the creature she was drawing is now sitting on her bed. She can’t believe it, says she knows she ate too much sugar at her party. The creature is so friendly and tells her it’s here to make her life perfect on her 8th birthday.

It offers to take Ollie away to a place where people will really appreciate him, and make it so that no one even remembers him in this world. In fact, the creature will even make her parents forget about Tovenray, and make them normal parents. In her anger, Lyric agrees.

The cute creature becomes momentarily fearsome as it takes Ollie from his bed. He’s scared and looks to Lyric for comfort. She realizes what she has done, and tries to stop the creature, but fails. The creature opens a plumbing access in the closet, revealing a VAST CAVERN. Amid multicolor sparks, the creature and Ollie enter the cavern.

Lyric screams and follows into the darkened cavern. But she’s GRABBED from behind.

Her dad pulls her out of the access nook and back into Ollie’s room. She’s crying, frantic. Her parents can’t figure out why. They don’t remember having a son. There was no creature. Ollie’s room isn’t decorated like his room anymore. The plumbing access isn’t a cave, it’s just a hole in the wall with pipes in it.

It’s just a bad dream, they comfort her.

She wakes up the next morning the center of her parent’s attention. And all traces of Tovenray are gone from the house. This is the perfect life. But she can’t forget Ollie’s eyes as he was taken from his room.

She goes back into the plumbing access in the wall. She enters the cavern.

Act 2
She creeps forward and hears things moving around her, sees dark shapes moving in the shadows. She breaks into a run, trying to get away from some creatures that are after her. She reaches the mouth of the cave and nearly runs over a STEEP CLIFF. She stops short, caught between a rapidly approaching creature in the cave and the drop off. And it’s raining, thunder, lightning.

A FLYING BLUR OF MOVEMENT swoops in and picks her up just as a fierce creature leaps from the cave and falls over the cliff.

She’s riding through the sky on the back of a FLYING KITTY (just like the ones she draws) and beside a elven looking teen, TORIN. As they fly, Lyric looks down on a desolate, dark, damaged world. “What is this horrible place?”

Torin answers, “Let me show you how it should look.”

They land in the most perfect grove and every little girl’s dream ensues. Faeries and tea parties and dancing and just this honeymoon period for Lyric. But then she remembers. Ollie.

She tells the story of her birthday and Torin instantly knows that Kelnin is behind this. He realizes it was her 8th birthday and asks what her Prophecy Box said. She admits she never opened it. Now they must go to the Wise Prophet and get her prophecy so she knows what to do.

Cut to Ollie, who’s imprisoned by Kelnin. But Kelnin is being seductively nice, playing on Ollie’s worst instincts, grooming him to be his rightful heir. Kelnin has a daughter, CHANCE (8) who thought she would be the next ruler, but she’s too kind hearted to impress Kelnin.

Lyric mentions her last name, and Torin is amazed. He takes her to a secret ruin, an old castle where a band of rebels lives. There she sees cracked stain glass portraits of HER PARENTS as KING AND QUEEN. They are the banished rulers of this land. This is the KINGDOM OF TOVENRAY. The real one, not just a storybook.

Lyric doesn’t believe it. THIS is Tovenray, the beautiful Kingdom she loved as a young girl and came to hate recently? No way.

The rebels, a ragtag bunch, look at Lyric with respect. They tell her she’s here to lead them against Kelnin. Lyric rejects that, says Tovenrays are nothing special, she just needs to save her brother. She leaves them disappointed.

Lyric wants to head towards Kelnin’s fortress, rescue Ollie and go home. Torin convinces her to do so would be madness without her prophecy.

Lyric and Torin set off for the Wise Prophet, but their flying Kitty is injured and they must walk through dangerous areas. Lyric has to remember things her parents told her, stupid stories that aren’t so stupid anymore, in order to survive. She becomes convinced that they are in Tovenray when one of their stories comes true.

They are met by Chance, who warns them that Ollie is turning into a bad boy. Lyric must save him, because Kelnin has planned a ceremony that will solidify Ollie as his evil heir. In a week.

Lyric decides she needs to go get Ollie without the prophecy, they are wasting their time. She needs to save her brother now, whether they have the prophecy or not.

Lyric rejects Torin, leaving him behind, and journeys with Chance. They realize they look very similar. Lyric dresses up like Chance and makes her way into the fortress, past the guards.

Lyric has a confrontation with Kelnin, who reveals himself as truly evil and scary.

Lyric visits Ollie in his opulent room – they have a nice moment together... To escape the castle, which Ollie doesn’t really want to do, she makes him dress up like a dwarf. He doesn’t want to dress up like a dwarf because dwarves are little and he’s becoming a big boy.

They have an annoying fight. But she convinces them they have to go, and they escape, just barely. And only with the help of Torin, who was shadowing them.

Torin takes them back to the ruined castle, where everyone is thrilled to see the Tovenray children. Finally, the curse will be lifted. Ollie is the son sent to break it. Ollie loves the attention, and Lyric gets jealous... she doesn’t get why it all has to revolve around her annoying little brother.

Lyric tells everyone that it’s time for her and Ollie to go back to their world. She came to get him, and their job is complete.

There will be no restoration of the kingdom. The ragtag bunch of rebels begin to fight with each other, tearing apart whatever community they had... their hopes dashed.

As Lyric and Ollie make their way back to the cavern, they walk through a peaceful town just as it is attacked by Kelnin’s army (who fly over the landscape on Winged Hairy Spiders, it’s very scary) and Lyric sees how horrible life is with Tovenray under a curse. She sees a little girl (who she made an emotional connection with earlier) crying.

She turns back towards the ruined castle.

Kelnin does not call off the ceremony which will solidify Ollie’s evilness. He predicts tthe boy will be there... senses something in Ollie that will make him a good heir. Senses that Ollie wants it.

Lyric and Ollie’s entrance into the ruined castle pulls the rebels back together. Lyric pulls together a few of their best fighters (herself included, with the archery and horseback riding training and all), and they fight off Kelnin’s forces from the nearby village.

Word of this magical little girl and her brother inspires more subjects of Tovenray, who gather at the ruined castle. People start to restore the castle. A fractured stained glass portrait of the King and Queen is fixed and lifted so the sun can shine through it.

They free more villages, claiming more and more of Tovenray. Lyric and Ollie start working together, learning more about each other’s strengths, and they make a good team. Ollie actually saves Lyric at one point, and she grows to appreciate him more.

Of course, this is all driving Kelnin crazy. He disguises himself as that cute creature that visited Lyric on the night of her birthday and heads out into the woods.

Lyric has a clever plan for how to restore the kingdom, based on things she learned from her parents and her own unique smarts. Ollie doesn’t like it. They disagree... in front of everyone. He pushes all her buttons, like only a little brother can. She tells him she hates him and doesn’t need him to win. He runs off... hurt. Lyric doesn’t follow him.

He’s found by the cute creature (Kelnin in disguise), who comforts him and takes him back to the fortress. Ollie becomes convinced that he can be king without Lyric, and a better king because of it. But in a quiet moment alone when he momentarily mistakes Chance for Lyric, he admits that he misses his sister.

Ollie’s adoption ceremony is publicized far and wide, and Lyric decides the best time to attack for the final showdown with Kelnin would be then. She’s angry that Ollie has joined Kelnin. “He’s made his choice.”

ACT 3
The plan executes brilliantly, and everything seems to be falling into place. Except the last bit. Kelnin protects himself with Ollie, where Lyric cannot hurt Kelnin without also hurting Ollie. Ollie won’t step aside from Kelnin. “We will soon be one, you see, you cannot attack me without attacking your brother.” Lyric can’t bear to hurt Ollie, as annoying as he is. Lyric puts down her weapons,

Kelnin offers her a sweet deal. She can return to her world, where she and her parents will no longer be Tovenrays, and will have no connections to this world any longer. Ollie will stay among people who love him and be their king.

It’s the life she always wanted. She just has to sign away her rights to this world. Her other choice is death.

At the mention of death, Ollie gets upset at Kelnin. He moves away from him, and throws a bow and quiver to Lyric. Lyric quickly shoots Kelnin. But Kelnin is too strong to be taken down by just her. Ollie has to show off his sword skills. They work together to defeat Kelnin.

At Ollie’s coronation, the curse is broken and their parents – Aaron and Gwen – join them, in their Kingly and Queenly regality. Aaron hands Lyric her Prophecy Box. The Prophecy reads that the Curse can only be broken when Sister supports Brother, and Brother supports Sister, and they must rule together. They are both crowned rulers of the Kingdom of Tovenray.

Posted by jason on 11:24 AM | Comments (7)

April 08, 2008

Kurosawa's Ran

Since Kurosawa and I are getting along better, I decided to watch another of his films, this one from 1985 and his last "epic," Ran. He directed it when he was 75 years old. Just a second to point out that Rashomon was made in 1950 and this film was made in 1985. That's incredible longevity.

Ran is truly epic and important and beautiful on a grand scale. As much as I didn't like Seven Samarai, I loved Ran. The story is taken from Shakespeare's King Lear, where an aging Lord trusts his sons with his Empire, and tragedy ensues. The battle scenes in this film alone are worth the price of admission... I think Braveheart and Lord of the Rings took some inspiration from them.

4 out of 4 - You should love this film.

Posted by jason on 11:25 AM | Comments (2)

April 07, 2008

The Getty Center

Sometimes I;m reminded that I'm living in a world class city. I'm constantly blown away by how awesome it is to live somewhere that you'd normally visit on vacation.

Yesterday Ollie and I went to the Getty Center, which is an incredible indoor - outdoor complex that houses an amazing art collection It's a phenomenal example of architecture, set high on a hill, and the overall effect is just breath-taking. It feels like you're walking around in some amazing city from Star Wars.

Ollie and I loved it. And it's free.

Posted by jason on 02:23 AM | Comments (0)

Rashomon

After my last experience with Kurosawa, I approached Rashomon with caution. In fact, I received it 2/27 and only just watched it last night. That's a good deal of avoidance there.

It's just that after not getting his other film, the thought of watching another black and white Japanese language movie, this one released in 1950... it just didn't appeal to me to much.

Fortunatley, I was wrong to worry. I found this film very engaging and entertaining.

The interesting thing about Rashomon, and the reason that a good deal of (film) people still talk about this film to this day, is that it revolves around a horrible incident, where a woman is raped and a husband is killed. (Just so you know, none of this is graphically portrayed in the least... the "rape" consists of the woman being kissed on the lips, but more is implied just by dialogue.)

That's all we really know. We have a dead man, and then the film gives us 4 different people's perspectives of what happened, all of which are not only different but completely incompatible. It's a meditation on how difficult it is to arrive at an objective truth, and how different people remember or portray things differently. There is no "objective God perspective" in this film, that we can trust is "the way things really happened." We take this for granted in most films, but most films are shot from this perspective. In Rashomon, we're left not knowing what exactly truly happened.

Pay attention to the first spoken line of films. Often, the first lines are used to somehow get the overall theme across in a clever way. In Rashomon, the first line (and it's said 3 times) is "I don't understand." And that's exactly what this film portrays so well. It's very hard to understand exactly what happens sometimes.

This is an entertaining, well-acted, and short (88 minutes!) film. It's very watchable, even today. My one main critique is the music is ridiculous, and unfortunately it drains a lot of the tension from the scenes. Seriously, it sounds like jokey cartoon music during what should be very intense moments. I'd say if someone re-scored this film with music more in tune with our modern film soundtrack sensibilities, it would have much more emotional impact. (By the way, I'm not anti-old movie soundtrack, I loved the soundtracks to Laurence of Arabia and Citizen Kane. This film's soundtrack is unfortunately just laughable and inappropriate to the scenes the majority of the time.)

The film ends with one of the witnesses of the crime and a Buddhist Priest, both of whom have had their faith in humanity shaken by the crime and the inability to arrive at a true understanding of what really happened, coming across a crying baby abandoned. The Buddhist Priest has his faith restored when the witness takes the baby to take care of it. I think the meaning of this oddly satisfying ending was roughly "Hey, we can't really reach an objective truth because we all witness and remember things differently, but we can love and take care of each other, and that's where our hope lies." That's a sentiment that I can relate to. And, if you think about, a masterstroke for an ending. If the whole movie had just been this terrible crime, and in the end no resolution to it could be reached, the audience would have left annoyed.

(One minor quibble: it would have been nice if the baby had been somehow integrated into the overall story instead of just showing up at the end.)

3 out of 4 - I really liked it.

Posted by jason on 01:51 AM | Comments (0)

April 05, 2008

I'm in Tim Albaugh's 434

I'm happy to find out that I got my first choice for the 434 Workshop, the session taught by Tim Albaugh. Now I finally know my schedule for next quarter, and it's going to be a great lineup of classes.

Tuesdays I have my comedy writing class with legendary Fred Rubins. Wednesdays I have my 434 with Tim and then accomplished producer (and current host of a TV show on AMC) John Guber that night. Finally, Thursday nights I will have a class called "Identifying your Assets" with agent/producer Arnold Rifkin (Bruce Willis' creative partner for much of his biggest hits, from Die Hard to the 6th Sense.) The Rifkin class is set up to help us overcome issues that keep us from owning a room and being completely persuasive.

Lots of writing, lots of good times. I really do love UCLA.

Posted by jason on 12:39 PM | Comments (0)

April 04, 2008

Pitch Week is Over

My first "Pitch Week" has finally come to a close. Last quarter, I didn't need to do this, because I got into an early admission via a written audition. This time, that didn't happen. So it was sitting a room with 40 other students, pitching your movie idea one at a time, trying to impress the professor enough to get one of 8 slots. It's nerve-wracking, but I also like it. And it's good training, because it's what you do all the time in this business.

It's also very enlightening to hear other people's pitches. You really get a sense of what a good pitch is, and what it isn't.

By the way, this quarter I'm writing a children's fantasy adventure which could be animated or could be a live action PG movie along the lines of Harry Potter. Look forward to it., it's going to be amazing.

Posted by jason on 01:01 PM | Comments (3)

April 02, 2008

Stuff Christians Like

I have to say that I'm finding this weblog, called Stuff Christians Life, hilarious. Check it out, it does a great job skewering all the idiosyncrasies of churchy people.

Posted by jason on 04:21 AM | Comments (4)

Fred Rubin's Comedy Class

I feel very very lucky indeed that I passed the audition and got into this class, because it's going to be amazing. I can tell already. Fred is a fantastic instructor, and I'd even say based on this one class, a fantastic human being too. This is going to be quite a worthwhile experience, I can't wait.

Alas, I don't think my Hannah Montana plan will work out. I might write one anyway as practice, but in truth a sample like that would only get me work on other children's sitcoms, and I don't want to work for That's so raven or Suite Life of Zach and Cody.

I'm narrowing in on... My Name is Earl. But the Office, Weeds, and maybe even Californication are all still contenders.

Posted by jason on 04:17 AM | Comments (0)