January 31, 2009
A Good Education
The other day I was driving Ollie and he asked me, "Is Ruby Bridges still alive?" I'm a little ashamed to admit that my answer was, "Ruby Who?" and he proceeded to tell me that Ruby Bridges was a brave little girl who was black but attended an all-white school in the South and people threw things at her and yelled at her but she didn't quit because she knew it was wrong that she wasn't allowed to go to this school just because she was black. So she prayed, and stayed brave, and eventually now there are no schools just for white people.
I was very thankful for the education!
That same day, Lyric was humming a beautiful song, and Darby and I asked her to sing it louder. She started singing the words and melody to "We Shall Overcome" perfectly. It was quite wonderful.
And this is my moment to say that I love how much the kids' school emphasizes these important times in U.S. History. I think it's fantastic that Ollie knows about this brave little girl, and that Lyric knows this beautiful song that galvanized a people.
I went to a small private Christian school, and somehow they never taught this stuff. Sure, they would mention MLK here and there, but truly it wasn't a part of the curricula - I learned more about MLK from one U2 song than I did in all my years at school.
And, considering Christianity's influence on ending slavery and then the Civil Rights Movement, I think that's a tragedy (truly, it's one of the very best things Christianity has done in America, in my opinion, and a template for how to keep the Christian faith alive and relevant in our society). Now maybe it's because our history books were so old that they ended with the intriguing but hopeful question, "Do you think that someday a man will be walking on the moon?" or maybe it's because there was one black girl in my whole class, ever, but somehow my school missed the memo on just how important all this was.
And I'm glad my kids' school hasn't.
January 29, 2009
Yes! Narnia is saved...
I am so glad that Walden Media has managed to find another partner for continuing filming the Narnia series. I thought Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe was excellent and Prince Caspian was better still. And I really think the films are cast so well so I didn't want to miss out on using the same actors and actresses as time goes on.
Bravo to Walden Media for salvaging this once Disney (foolishly, I think) cast them off.
I like to offer to give notes on people's scripts. Really, for a couple of reasons. One, I like to read what other people are writing, get inspiration, keep track on their style, what they do well, what works, and what doesn't. But secondly, I want people to know me as someone who is willing to help, and - more importantly - someone who can help a script.
This impossible business that I'm going to break into is actually much more a rewrite and job business than it is a spec and sales business. What I mean by that is that it's much more of a common scenario that I will be hired to fix someone else's script, or develop a script from a producer's story idea. Coming up with new stories on my own and selling them whole cloth is actually much rarer. So I think I need practice to do that first part.
This past week I read through a television pilot and a feature film. I was very happy to see that I could see clear areas in both where I could offer fixes that, in my opinion, would make the script much stronger. The feature in particular was already very good, but the writer knew it had problems. I feel like I really identified them for her and gave her a clear prescription to make it an amazing story. I definitely see myself doing that more and more in the future, and in fact I would very much like a crack at her script because I know I could make it into something very special.
The one problem with my constant offer to give notes is that many people take me up on it, and I have a fairly large backlog of scripts.... oh well, I'll get through it.
January 24, 2009
Super High Resolution Image of the Inauguration
Check this out! You can zoom in so far to see what was going on all over the scene, it's pretty amazing.
January 23, 2009
Neatorama gets LETHAL
I am sure you all know about LETHAL by now. Well here is some awesome news about it.
Today Neatorama published a feature article about it!!!!
This is just so cool. For one thing, Neatorama is a HUGE site. Their readership is astoundingly large and the site is constantly winning awards. On a personal level, it is just a cool feeling to have something published there. I read that site every single day. I have been a (borderline obsessive) loyalist for years. Being a guest author there feels like I was asked to play guitar with one of my favorite bands at a big show.
This week has been such a roller-coaster ride as we track the sales of the app. Some days, we think that we are going to make millions of dollars. Other days it seems that we will be lost amongst the THOUSANDS of apps for sale. The day that TUAW reviewed the app, our sales increased 2000% and we rocketed to the top 1% of apps sold by apple! Things have leveled off since then, but we are hoping that today will be a big day for us.
Check out the Neatorama article and try to win a free copy of LETHAL by answering one of our questions at the end!
January 22, 2009
Busy in a Restful Way
This past week I've been very busy working on a ton of things, but without any stress, so it hasn't been bad.
I had a notes session with the producer for the script I wrote last week, and she was very positive. She actually had very good notes, too, but I'm not working on the rewrite just yet. I have to take a break from that and start working on my next script.
Most of my time lately has been taken up working on a major update to LETHAL. Any negative comments we've gotten should be addressed by this update, so that's really exciting. I had a 90 minute chat session today with the Indian developers talking about the update and also future apps that we have ideas for - there are 20 of them. I would love it if other than writing the main way I made money was through these apps, it's a really fun, fulfilling job.
January 20, 2009
Ollie asked me the other day, "Who's Martin Luther King?" I explained about the Civil Rights movements and the marches and all that. He smiles and says, "No, Daddy, you're wrong, that's not Martin Luther King." I said that I was right, and he responded, "Nope, Martin Luther King is Martin Luther King Jr's daddy. You got them confused!" Clever boy. He set me up! Turns out he knows all about MLK(J!)
Lyric asked me yesterday what I was thinking about. I told her that I was trying to figure out an equation in my head that I could use to make one set of data we have about smaller towns' crime rates work with another set of data we have so we can arrive at the crime rates that we need for Lethal, since we're trying to get more specific information for LETHAL. She laughed and said, "Wow, Daddy, that's hardcore thinking. I was just thinking about cute baby animals!"
After my marathon writing session last week, the producer has already read my script. She said:
"Jason, good job on this draft. I really like it, especially when I got into 2nd and 3rd act! I'm writing up my story notes, when do you have time to meet and go over this draft? Thanks for your great work again, we've got a good start!"
I'm really glad she liked the draft - especially that she liked the 2nd and 3rd acts. I believe that for me, a first act is always pretty easy to write, because that's the setup, the initial idea that made me think "Wouldn't it be cool if..." But it's in the 2nd and 3rd acts where you really have to tell a story, not an idea and not a setup. The people who say something will "write itself" don't really understand all the work it takes to get through those acts. AND, I was actually personally disappointed with the 3rd act and I know it needs some work. But overall it is a good draft. I agree with her assessment. Good scenes, good characters, good stakes, good story.
I want to take a moment to comment on how unbelievably cool it is that people I don't really know are liking my writing. That this specific producer read some of my scripts, liked them a lot, and then wanted to work with me on what is her thesis project, the most important thing she does in grad school... is incredible to me. That my agent, who isn't taking on new clients, loved my Tovenray script enough to make an exception and add me to his roster... again, incredible. That I recently came in first place in a screenwriting competition where thousands enter. Unbelievable. I know I like writing, and I do believe I'm good. But I honestly believe so many things are good that ultimately most people ignore or dislike, so to find this kind of recognition is still just dreamlike (and of course I haven't sold or produced anything yet, but even so.)
One of the major factors that pushed me to leave the comfortable cocoon that is home on the east coast was my realization that wherever I went - school, work, etc - eventually I could win people over and they'd like what I did. So I thought, if I really want to make movies I need to be around those people so I can win them over with what I do. And INCREDIBLY (and honestly it's more impossible and incredible than I ever realized when I was on the east coast, if I'd known the real odds I might not have made the trip), I've had a large number of people recognize and appreciate things I've written.
It's almost too good to be true, so sometimes I just think about other things...
January 17, 2009
that was insane
I'm tired and feel like I didn't do much this past week other than write or try to focus on writing and fail. I wrote 46 pages today, it took me 16 hours, but I finished a first draft of "Oulu and the Faraway, Foggy Island" There's a lot to like in there (I think... I was too tired to actually read it through and check for errors before I sent it of to the producer.)
It's interesting because I know that I wrote a very different screenplay than I would have had I taken more time to write it. Very often I would want to stop writing because I'd hit a snag in the story that I'd have to figure out. Normally I would indeed stop at those times and kind of run things through my mind while doing something else. But this week, because I had such a crazy deadline, I would literally have to sit and figure it out in the moment. Some of the solutions that I came up with were downright cool. Some maybe not as much (I am decidedly unthrilled with my ending.)
But there you have it. By the way, Lethal up to #4 in the Lifestyle Category and has held steady there all day long. We're really hoping Apple features us because we want #1 and to break into the top 100 of the overall list. One thing that is quite honestly a thrill is seeing so many people react positively to it. Like here, and here, and here. The idea that we created this thing that total strangers are using and having a good time with is just sooo cool.
January 16, 2009
Lethal's third day
...was incredible! We launched up to #6 on the Lifestyle Category list and have stayed there (we're now at #5). The posting at TUAW ended up increasing our downloads 16 times over, and now that we're high on the list, people keep downloading it. It's all very exciting.
So exciting that I spent much of the day trying to write but following people's reactions to the app and things like that. I have to finish this script today, people!!!
Now back to writiting.... page 63.
January 15, 2009
LETHAL gets it's first review
And from a pretty heavy hitter in the Apple world, TUAW.com (or The Unofficial Apple Weblog.
Overall it's very positive, and it explains what the app does very well. This will hopefully be big for us. It's very exciting to get mentions like this, but also very vulnerable, because you run the risk of being skewered.
I love that he says it's fun and educational.
I don't like that he says whether it's worth $1.99 is "up to you." It's less than a cup of coffee, people! :-)
I wish he had mentioned the sleek graphics and awesome chart animations....
But I can't get too greedy, this is a great review and overview and if I read it I would download the app.
A midweek break
Only during a week where there's an impossibly high writing goal would 2 meetings and seven hours of class feel like a break. This is the one day this week that I'm not going to be able to work on the screenplay because I didn't get home until midnight and I'm just going to go to bed...
Today was a very good day. I had a meeting with my agent and his agency partner and it went better than I could have imagined. In the next two weeks I'm meeting with a couple of managers that they think might be good for developing my career. Then we're going out with The Kingdom of Tovenray the week of 2/3.
I pitched 4 ideas to them to see which they think I should write – which they though they could sell. They about fell off their seats when I pitched one story idea I've been kicking around called "Skeet." It was a great meeting, because they were very impressed by my ability to pitch a story in the room, which is vital to eventually making sales and getting hired for jobs. Anyway, they were so excited about Skeet – a character driven thriller that could include really juicy roles for some excellent actors – that they wanted to know the soonest possible time I could have it completed.
So now I need to get a first draft of SKEET to them by 3/1. It's my second script they'll be going out with.
Right after the meeting I got an email from "the Movie Script Competition" telling me "congratulations again on your first place finish for A Well Adjusted Boy." What?! I didn't know I won anything. I guess I missed an email, but I won $1000, a trophy, and some other cool stuff. They were asking for my picture and answers to some questions so they could promote me on their site.
There is this outside chance right now that by February I will have made a sale, and the Phillies and the Eagles will have won a world championship. What life am I living?
January 14, 2009
A crazy week of writing
My previous record for writing a full length script was 8 days for THE BLACK FAMILY SINGERS, the screenplay that got me into UCLA's film program, and that I will make into a feature film some day...
I'm smashing that 3 days here, and really almost 5. Because of some holiday procrastination, and then some extended holiday procrastination as Jenna, Jessica and Drew visited, I started this latest story on Monday. And I have to hand it in on Friday before the weekend starts.
And I'm out all day tomorrow.
Here's the plan. 25 pages yesterday. (I did 26!) Another 25 today. (I've written 12 so far.) None tomorrow (Hoping I can sneak some, actually, but I have a meeting with my agent at 11 and then class until 11 PM so it'll be tough. I need to spend the morning getting ready for my meeting) Ha, that's fun to say... a meeting with my agent. Then 25 on Thursday and another 25 on Friday. Clean it up. Send it out by 5.
Like I said, craziness. But so far this exercise has been great in the creativity it's throttled out of me. So many times I just want to get up and do something else, but I CAN'T so I'm forced to solve a problem and coolness happens.
What's also very interesting to me about this project is that it's based on a similar premise as KINGDOM of TOVENRAY but it's turning out completely different, with some very interesting plot and character deviations. It's been a fun ride. But I can't wait until it's over.
So I can start another script!! Yeah for me.
OK, now to finish those last 13 pages for the day.
January 13, 2009
LETHAL, the iPhone application
I'm really excited to tell you that the iPhone application I've been working on with Elany Arts is now for sale on iTunes. It tells you all the dangers that could be around you, anything potentially lethal. Animals, Crimes, Diseases, Disasters. Fun stuff like that.
January 10, 2009
Disneyland has Undercover Security Guards!?
Yesterday Drew, Jessica, and Jenna went to Disneyland with us. Drew had forgotten that he had a Leatherman tool in his pocket. While we were in line for security, another security guard approached him. She spotted the top of the Leatherman.
She told him he had to return the Leatherman to the car. Bear in mind that we had just waited 15 minutes for the tram to get to the entrance of Disneyland, so this was not an attractive option.
Instead, we thought Drew could just slyly walk out to Downtown Disney and stow the tool in a potted plant. We'd pick it up on the way out, and everything would be fine.
We executed this brilliant plan to perfection. I took Ollie and we created a distraction by looking at the kettle corn vendor's wares. Drew, with a well-honed subterfuge normally reserved for agents with codes like 007 and "Balloon," hid the Leatherman across from the La Brea Bakery. Now we were ready to enter the Happiest Place on Earth unarmed.
Until this dowdy looking woman wearing a baseball cap and a unamused scowl approached Drew and showed him a badge. A badge with a large Disney Script "D" on it.
"Sir, there are kids here, you cannot put your knife there." Drew got the smack down from Disney's crack security team, and in the following conversation he was treated with all the dignity and trust as would be afforded to unlawful combatants at Gitmo. In the end, the lady took his tool. Both physically and metaphorically.
On our way into the park, ANOTHER security guard sternly asked Drew, "Did you get everything squared away?" Apparently Drew is on some Disney watch list. Drew answered that yes, he did.
January 05, 2009
Playwriting is a separate form of writing than screenwriting, and one that I really appreciate. Last quarter I took a one act play class, which was part 1 of a 3 class trilogy. I, along with 3 other screenwriters, was all fired up to take part 2 starting today. We had already talked to the instructor, and while he seemed a little intimidated by the number of writers, he said he would see us during the first class.
Today, we sit down and he starts the class by saying, "OK, all the screenwriters have to leave. You can't take this class." We laughed because it sounded like a joke.
He said he had to limit the class to the 3 playwriting MFA's along with ONE SCREENWRITING STUDENT who he knew since she was younger so he was making an exception for her. He didn't want to take the time to read all of our plays. Now bear in mind that this would be eight people and we'd be writing the first act of a play, so around 30-40 pages. Now exactly overwhelming. Our screenwriting teachers read a full length screenplay from 8 student, that's 100-120 pages!
Very disheartening. And when I make my millions and look for a UCLA department to donate to, Theater will not be high on the list.
Sorry I haven't been writing much lately. I'll throw some random stuff at you since I don't really have time to write anything cohesive.
* It was nice, very nice, to be home, but as always we didn't get to see anyone enough and that made it tinged with sadness. Plus, it didn't snow! It never does for us.
* I have to write a whole screenplay this week. It's going to be madness.
* I'm also lucky enough to have Jenna visiting us and Jessica and Drew later this week. Good times.
* Our flight back was MUCH better than our flight out to the East Coast. We got switched to a flight that was direct so we avoided a dreaded mad dash in Phoenix. And we got 4 free roundtrip vouchers, too. Huzzah.
* 30 Rock is so funny.
* I can't believe the Eagles are still playing. They were so dead after that tie with the Bengals. Thanks Oakland, Tampa Bay, Minnesota, Chicago and Dallas!
* I saw "The Strangers." It was ok. Like 3 out of 5 stars ok. I appreciated the effort, and it was a solid horror thriller with real character and emotion. But the ending was really pretty lacking. Plus, it should have been called "Quiet. Quiet. LOUD!" because most of the scares came from it being really quiet, really quiet (like amazingly quiet, actually... this movie had so few lines of dialogue it was almost a silent film), and then BOOM something really loud happened. It was cool a few times, but that hand was overplayed.
* This week is unexpectedly stressful. I could have used another week of break, to be honest.
January 01, 2009
Thanks for a great screening
Hey all, it was a great turnout and a wonderful reception to the film. It was a blast watching it tonight with many of you.