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September 29, 2008

Another Fade Out

I finished my latest screenplay, the romantic comedy. I think I like it, of course I have to read it. But what I remember of it and what I've read already has a cool feel. I think it could be a really good romantic comedy spec for me.

In one year I have written four feature length scripts. A drama. An historical epic. A child's fantasy. And now a romantic comedy.

In addition, I have written a short film script, written and filmed another short film, written two specs, two childrens' plays (one a rewrite, one from scratch), and also written 258 blog posts, too. So yeah, the phrase that has haunted me for forever... "Writer's write!," does officially not haunt me at all, at least in reference to this past year. Yes for me. It's cool to be able to carve out this small balance of discipline and inspiration...

I had another writer's room session today for the web series, and then came home, hung out with darby and the kids for a bit, watched the eagles get beat by the bears, and wrote the last 15 pages of my script. So it was unfortunately not a restful Sunday, and tomorrow is a busy day, with pitching two professors and taking a playwriting class. I will be on campus from 10 am till 10 pm. Not great.

For now, I'm just going to watch some TV and rest...

But I do have to prepare my pitch, too.

Posted by jason on 02:16 AM | Comments (7)

September 28, 2008

House party

The nice people in our 4 unit condo have decided it would be a great day to have a house party. It's now almost midnight and insanely loud. Thumping thumping boom boom boom all the time. I hate this kind of music. And we can't close our door because they're running an extension chord into our house to power their photo booth.

I really like these people, so I won't be a pain, but I'm on page 90 and trying to finish my script and I can barely think above this thumping thumping boom boom boom.

Wonder how late this party goes.

Goodness this music is bad.

Well, the script is, despite the impossibly loud beats, coming along. It will be done tomorrow. Another 10-15 pages and it's FADE OUT. But I can't write anymore now, this is just too loud.

Today Lyric, Ollie, Darby and I went to Solstice Canyon (where I had previously gone with Jessica.) It was great again. Lyric and Ollie really loved it. All the rock climbing was so much fun for them. Darby, when she wasn't worrying that they would fall to their deaths, managed to enjoy it too.

One moment was so special, and just exactly one of the reasons being a parent is so special and fulfilling. We were climbing back down a series of rocks, after swimming in a deep clear waterfall-fed blue pool. There was a tricky part and Darby grabbed one of Ollie's arms while I held his other. We lowered him down to secure footing. Ollie looked at both of us and said, "I love being a kid!" And I know exactly what he means, and I'm so thrilled that we're creating those moments for him that he can always remember. Moments of complete security, mixed with exploration and excitement... knowing that both your parents love you, and pay complete attention to little you...

Posted by jason on 02:43 AM | Comments (7)

September 26, 2008

Always something to do.

I just spent the second night working on an RFP, which is lingo in the corporate world for a "Request For Proposal," which was essentially a 20 page document of essay questions where I have to show why Elany Arts is a great choice for this company. It was exhausting, but it's due by next Tuesday. Yep, the same day as my screenplay!

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to write one word on that screenplay, but that's ok. I will hopefully be able to write a ton tomorrow and over the weekend and be done before Monday.

We had a BBQ last Sunday welcoming first year UCLA Screenwriters, and reuniting the second and third years too. A couple of my classmates were introducing me to some new screenwriters in the program, and they said, "This is Jason Latshaw, he's the best writer in the program." I was taken aback because they weren't joking! I said something self-depracating and humble, which they denied and said, "No, it's true, you should read the stuff he writes." First of all, I don't believe that because there is not such thing as best when it comes to writing... but it's certainly nice to hear.

It's great to start classes again, and be on campus... I love UCLA.

I heard from a producer today who read and loved The Kingdom of Tovenray, but said it wasn't right for her company. She said she had no doubt it would land in some production company that was a good fit, though. That's nice, huh?

Posted by jason on 03:32 AM | Comments (5)

September 25, 2008

That was weird

Many of you might have tried to visit thelookmachine.com this morning and been greeted with the garish oranges and yellows of go daddy rather than the soothing, familiar design you've become accustomed to. Sorry about that. Apparently my credit card expired when they tried to auto renew the domain. (By the way, that last sentence I wrote would make NO sense to someone in Shakespearean times, or even George Washington. Isn't language funny?)

I couldn't even find thelookmachine.com domain under my normal godaddy account, which was kind of making me panicky. Had I lost it to some domain squatter ALREADY? But it turns out I had registered this domain under some little known other account that I had to dig up in a forgotten corner of internet. And $34.97 later, we're back.

I wrote 17 pages yesterday on my screenplay, and they were Act 2 pages, which are never easy to write. That is a very good thing. I'm up to page 66 and I can see the path to the end. I like the script, it's unlike anything else I've written. It almost feels like a play, which is to say actually that I think I'm going to have to go back and punch up the visual aspects of the storytelling. It's a lot of sharp dialogue right now.

I have my first class of the quarter today. I auditioned and made it into Fred Rubin's Writing the Comedy Pilot class. Another good thing, because I'm one of the few people in the class who isn't in the television writing track (they get priority.) I'll be taking a feature writing class, a playwriting class, and a pilot writing class this quarter (you have to develop your own comedy show in the pilot writing class.) That's a pretty huge creative output, so I hope I can keep up.

Posted by jason on 11:34 AM | Comments (5)

September 24, 2008

Sub Prime Mortgages

A good friend of mine sent me this excellent explanation of the bad loans and how we got here... I will warn you the language is a bit... salty, shall we say? But it's completely hilarious and informative. Check it out here. (It's a PDF download.)

Posted by jason on 05:54 PM | Comments (2)

The Bailout Part 2

OK, I looked into this situation, and I think I understand it better. And I think it's... even more wrong and misguided, and I don't think it's going to help anyone out.

Here's what happened. Banks lent a ton of money to "no doc" loans (meaning that people didn't have to prove they could afford to make the payments) and "subprime" loans (meaning the banks loaned money to people who in the past had already not been able to pay back money they had borrowed.)

In the business world, that is called a risky move. But it was one the banks decided to take because they felt like the payoff (more mortgages! more fees! higher interest rates!) would be worth it.

But uh-oh, a huge percentage of those loans are now going bad. As in, people aren't paying them. And the housing market fell at the same time. They took a gamble, and they lost. I was in vegas earlier this month. Normally when you do that, you walk away without any money.

Enter the U.S, government. With our taxdollars - $3000 per US citizen, to be exact (that's $12,000 for my household!) is going to buy these horrible bad misguided greedy loans. You see, these banks can't find anyone to buy these loans. The last bunch of bad loans that were purchased on the open market were bought for the price of 22 cents on the dollar. (So, 1 dollar of bad loan was purchased for 22 cents). But it looks like the government is stepping in and buying these bad loans for around 50 cents on the dollar. At a time when no one in their right mind is buying bad loans at all.

That's called a bad investment. A very bad investment. It's like someone owned a horrible terrible car that they wanted to sell for 10K and everyone said, "No, that's such a horrible car I wouldn't even buy it for anything!" and then the government came in and said, "I will give you 20K for that fine car."

There is something very fundamentally dangerous about the government artificially inflating the value of things (in this case, bad loans.) It leads to inflation. Because they are devaluing our money by doing so. (It's no coincidence that the dollar plunged today while gold soared.)

It's really not a good idea. And it's really not fair either. Oh, I forgot to mention. What was originally conceived as a bailout on bad consumer home loans has now apparently been expanded to potentially include bad commercial real estate loans, bad consumer credit card loans, even bad auto loans. Yes, courtesy of the taxpayers, it looks like everyone is trying to get one big giant UNDO button on their horrible business decisions.

Posted by jason on 02:14 AM | Comments (13)

September 23, 2008

The Bailout

Do you guys realize that a bunch of Wall Street businessmen made bad decisions and pushed the economy to the brink of something terrible... and now the government is dedicating $700 Billion Dollars worth of our money to "bailing them out." This means that the money that the government didn't have put towards health care or poverty they all of a sudden have to erase mistakes made by corporate decisionmakers in search for more and more greedy profits.

It doesn't seem right.

And this was just WAY too quick. $700 Billion dollars should never be spent on the basis of a plan that was quickly pushed through in a week. Newt Gingrich said:

Congress was designed by the Founding Fathers to move slowly, precisely to avoid the sudden panic of a one-week solution that becomes a 20-year mess.

But that is exactly what is going on here.

It just doesn't seem right to me.

Posted by jason on 12:13 AM | Comments (5)

September 20, 2008

Misc updates

Have you ever had one of those days where you work on stuff all day long and still kind of feel like you're procrastinating? I think that must mean you have a whole lot to get done. I spent most of today working on the 4th cut of Electric Chainsaw film. It's really just about getting there.

And now I just finished my outline for my episode in the web series that I'm working on. It's good. It's actually very good. So I'm happy about that.

But I didn't write a word on my latest screenplay. And I also didn't get together the iPhone application stuff I was planning on doing today.

Oh well, I guess that's why there is tomorrow.

Random thought that I always think is so funny. Darby and I have queued up this film called "Slappy and the Stinkers" on our Netflix instant cue and we always try to get the kids to watch it with us. It seems like a great family film, about a seal named Slappy and a group of misfit children named the stinkers. Hilarity should ensue with that mixture. But Lyric and Ollie steadfastly REFUSE to watch it based solely on what they consider to be a horrendous title.

I told Lyric I was going to buy her a Slappy and the Stinkers shirt. She said she would NEVER wear it.

Lyric has been reading the Judy Blume books with Darby (mostly) and some with me. Those books are so good.

I also just ordered a series of books that I used to LOVE back in elementary school called "My Father's Dragon" and it's about a dragon named Boris. I'm very excited about it. One of the best fringe benefits of having kids is the ability to rediscover things you loved as a kid and share them with someone for the first time.

The Producer Program here at UCLA requires their participants to do a year long thesis where they identify a script and put together a marketing plan for it and try to get it sold and set up as a film. One of the producers has approached me about using The Kingdom of Tovenray as her project. It's very nice to see Tovenray get some love.

Posted by jason on 03:35 AM | Comments (4)

this is how LA is different

Today I took the kids to a pool party thrown by a parent of a boy in Ollie's first grade class. First of all, it was one of the first houses that I've seen since I've been here that I was actually... envious of. It was situated around this slate courtyard that had a beatiful pool. It was wide open with lots of windows and wood floors and beams. And then... the view. The ocean was just spread out 360 degrees, it was really impressive. Now actually you could see our house from this house, which was kind of funny too. And I'm not ungrateful, our house and our view is incredible as well. This one was just a slight level up in terms of impressiveness.

Anyway, here I am at a this party, just a gathering of parents of their kids to kick off the new school year, and I end up in an interesting conversation with a movie producer... about my scripts. The talk went well enough that she emailed me and we're going to schedule a coffee to talk more.

And that's why LA just kind of rocks.

Posted by jason on 12:18 AM | Comments (5)

September 17, 2008

Updates on what I'm working on...

Electric Chainsaw Short
I've gotten a rough cut together, and it's in pretty great shape. It looks incredible. The performances are amazing, and it's got a great rhythm... lots of laughs throughout. What still needs to be done is getting the footage color / light corrected and also getting the sound professionally worked on. The good news is that the people who are watching the rough - pros who don't have to take the job, let alone be nice about it, are really responding well to the short. Pretty exciting.

Here are some screen grabs:
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Romantic Comedy Script
This is the first romantic comedy I've written, and I'm having a pretty good time doing it. I've finished 15 pages so far, and it's surprisingly easy so far... Of course I have been thinking about these characters and this story for about 4 months now, so that makes a good deal of sense. I like these characters, and I think they're fun and funny, so that's showing.

Comedy Pilot
This is a more recent project, but one I have to figure out to audition for a class this upcoming quarter. It's a fun idea, I can't give many specifics for now, but I'm liking it.

iPhone applications
In Hollywood, as with almost anything, you have a lot more power in any given situation if you can walk away from the table. So I'm always trying to figure out ways where, at least financially, I am so secure that money isn't a lead consideration when it comes to determining if a project is right.

Along those lines, myself and a group of my friends have a number of ideas for little program for the iPhone. These can be big moneymakers, once woman who put together a crossword puzzle application is making thousands a week. We have some really strong ideas, but no actually programming skills on the iPhone. So I've been talking to people who do have these skills from all over the world (including India!) to find a developer to hire to make our ideas into reality. It's been fun, and I think in a month or two we'll have some for sale on iTunes. Pretty cool.

Posted by jason on 12:18 PM | Comments (11)

September 15, 2008

Back in the saddle

I have a screenplay to finish by October 2nd or I owe some very good friends of mine $400. Yes, that's right. We all made a pact in my writing group that come 10/2, we show up at our meeting with a completed first draft or a 4 crisp $100 bills. I'm 6 pages in...

It's not that I haven't been productive. I have. But it's been plays, and re-writes, and TV shows, and web series, and shooting an actual short film. But now I have to get back to the business of filling up 100 plus blank pages with story and characters that will hopefully make people laugh, cry, and pull out their wallets.

The $400 deadline was an artifice to keep us all writing when we don't have to. This is a skill that I really want to develop. I have only written two of my screenplays when I really didn't have to. I am a deadline driven person. But I know I need to develop the skill to write regardless of assignments, and in addition to assignments, because I have to tell my stories.

I have a document on my computer called "Screenplay_Ideas" where I keep all the ideas for movies that I think of. Currently, there are 20 that I think are really good. Yes, 20! At five screenplays a year (which is a breakneck pace,) that's 4 years of material. And I add more ideas before I complete screenplays. So I can't wait for assignments to write if I'm going to tell the stories I want to tell.

I need to write.

Which is what I'm doing again, right now.

Posted by jason on 12:22 PM | Comments (4)

September 12, 2008

The heartache of pets

I've passed a lot of good things onto my children. Lyric is 100 percentile in math, and I always loved the numbers. Ollie just loves life, and so do I. (those are just a few examples...)

But something I seem to have passed to them is the Jason Curse of the Pets. And this is really really sad. Over my life, any animal that was mine... died. And now, both Lyric and Ollie's baby Leopard Gecko's got really sick and had to be returned to the pet store. They won't eat. It's horrible to watch my kid's little hearts get wrapped up in these adorable animals, and then have those animals get to death's door.

Doing my research, I think the problem is Petco. It looks like they sell sick lizards a lot. So once we figure out what to do in the future (if we want to try the grand pet experiment again), we'll look for a reputable breeder and assure ourselves that the lizards are healthy and eating first.

Posted by jason on 01:58 PM | Comments (9)

September 08, 2008

Vegas and Zion

I bet all the NFL games and ended up 8-5, winning $30. However, I also lost $70 playing poker. Poker in Vegas is hardcore, there are pros at every table. I realized pretty quickly that I would be losing all my money and just decided to try to make the experience last and maybe win one hand. And I did! I won one hand. Yeah for me, at a table of 10 players at the MGM Grand, coming away with the chips for at least one moment.

I lost another $20 in blackjack. So for me, Vegas ended up taking $60 from me. Totally worth it for the experience and fun alone. I didn't have any dreams of actually winning money anyway. I like to earn my money! Well, ok, I wouldn't mind winning some...

Tallies:

Brett: +$300 in poker (the guy is like Rainman)
Jonathan: Broke even in NFL bets (took the Eagles and Jacksonville), -$10 in Blackjack
Collin: -$50 in poker.
Me: -$60 total
Joe: - $90 (blackjack plus poker)
Christian: -$100 (all poker)

To get away from the absolute falseness that is Vegas, we drove 3 hours into Utah and experiences pure heaven on earth at Zion National Park. This was quite literally a dream hike for me, as I love rushing rivers and this hike is actually a hike IN A RUSHING RIVER. We hiked a slot canyon, a trail called the Narrows... 600 feet down, and sometimes the canyon walls get 10 feet from each other (though we didn't get to that point, closest they got for us was probably 20.) It was breathtaking and amazing and these pictures don't do it justice.

Update:
Photographer extraordinaire Brett Weber has also posted some incredible pictures at flickr.

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Posted by jason on 10:52 PM | Comments (21)

September 05, 2008

vegas

I'm in Vegas with other people from Elany Arts brushing up on design skills. I've never been before. It's one of those "like no other place on earth" locations. I certainly wouldn't say I love it, and in fact much of it is depressing... Yet something about the artifice and sheer craziness of building this gaudy grand replica of better places in the middle of a hot (HOT like 100+ degrees hot) dry barren desert is fascinating and has an energy that is cool to be around.

Because it's so hot they have basically built all enclosed cities - you can walk for miles without needing to take a step outside, it feels like the spaceship in Wall-E, and the casinos have taken advantage of this total control they have over your environment by assaulting every sense with a message convincing you of another desire you need to fulfill. (money! Women! Food!) it's a pretty coherent argument... But just like a fantasy theme park like Disneyland the illusion is broken by... The other people there. These aren't the glamorous ones availing themselves of the life promised by Vegas. These are for the most part the same people you'd see at a Walmart.

If you're curious, here's the tally:

Brett Weber: up $200
Me: up fifty three cents
Collin: down $1
Christian: down $20
Joe: down $40

Jonathan: did not gamble

Posted by jason on 12:52 PM | Comments (11)

September 03, 2008

Representation

Well, the lunch went very well. I like this guy, Sebastian, very much.

It seems he definitely wants me to be one of his first 2 clients. He's going to set up a meeting with me and Mike (the main bossman at his company) next week to get the final approval from Mike so he can make the offer.

Seb is very personable, easy to get along with, very smart, and I can tell he appreciates and likes my writing. And I appreciate and like that he clearly reads it, and can hold a pretty detailed discussion about the specifics of the story and characters. Also, I can tell he's going to be successful. He's just starting out as a manager, so he's hungry, too.

Our discussion was excellent. He gets that I like to do different things, and what he would want to do is split out my written scripts that are "ready" plus my story ideas according to studios and production companies that would be interested in that stuff and go with that strategy. So I basically would have a number of tracks, the comedy tracks, the testosterone track, the comic book track, the children's entertainment track, the indie drama track, the historical epic track.

The way they would run it for now is Sebastian would be on point for me, but Mike would often make the actual calls to get meetings set up with his contacts around town. Seb paints that as the best of both worlds, the eagerness of a new guy who depends on sales for his income, but the experience of a guy that's been around and has built up the contact base. Mike trusts Seb so even if he doesn't personally get excited about something, he will push it if Seb likes it.

I'm pretty excited about it, actually... I think it makes a lot of sense and Darby and I are in agreement that I should sign with him once he makes the offer officially.

Getting a manager - someone who is actively trying to sell your material and who depends on it to make a living - is a huge step.

Posted by jason on 04:40 AM | Comments (15)

September 02, 2008

A first

I have a first happening today. A Hollywood lunch. In a restaurant in Beverly Hills. Wish me luck.

ps. It's with a potential manager.

Posted by jason on 11:53 AM | Comments (8)

The waves go on forever

Today Darby, Lyric, Ollie and I did something here in California that... curiously... we've never done before. We actually bought bodyboards and went out into the surf.

Wow, I can't believe what we were missing. I've often heard that surfing is so popular here because you can ride the waves for a long time. Now that I've experienced it firsthand, I can see just how true that is. Imagine riding a wave a good 50-100 yards! The whole time you're zooming along as if you have a motor on your board, and what you thought was one wave actually seems to be two or three seperate waves that recharge your ride. It's thrilling and so fun.

Almost enough to make you forget that there may be... sharks. Yep, enough to make you forget that.

We had a great time today. All four of us were out there in the water, just loving it. Even Darby, which made me quite proud because I always warn her not to fall into the curious phenomena that I call "Mom on the beach." That is, the tendency for everyone in the family except for Mom to go out into the waves. I've always wondered when in the exact moment where a girl turns from the girl who loves the waves into the Mom who sits on the beach chair and reads and doesn't go into the water anymore. Any insight?

My "Mom on the Beach" musings as been enough to get many girls I know to get into the water, actually, wanting to prove that they aren't there yet.

PS. I actually know when my mom became Mom on the Beach. She was totally flipped over and wiped out by a wave, and that was kind of it for going out into the surf for her. Except sometimes if you find a very calm day, you may find her testing the waters....

Posted by jason on 02:10 AM | Comments (11)