February 09, 2009
An Update (Long coming)
Here's what I'm up to:
I had a meeting with a potential manager last Thursday. It was set up by my agent. The meeting went very well, I loved her outlook, and she is now potential no more... she is my manager. It's pretty cool because I remember just a year ago sitting in a 434 with screenwriter Michael Colleary and he was talking about "the business" and he said it was essential to form a team around you of people who tried to sell your work. I remember at the time thinking it would be so difficult to get an agent, and a manager. It seemed so far off.
And now, just a year later, I have an awesome agent and a really great manager, and they're getting ready to start selling my work!
So the plan right now: I have a notes meeting on Thursday with my manager. I'll address those in another draft, and then my agent will take that script out to sell. Cross your fingers! I'm now writing another script that will go out in early March.
All great news. It's such a strange time in life. I really have literally no idea what life will look like in one year. That is such a strange place to be in, honestly.
December 21, 2008
The Long Trip Home
At 4 am on Wednesday December 17th, we set out from our LA condo to the airport, visions of being home in frosty PA/DE by 5.30 Eastern Standard Time. It would be perfect, just enough time to still grab a bite to eat and catch up with family before we had to catch some Z's.
We caught our plane out of LAX without a hitch – showing up early and being well prepared will do that for you. And that's about the last time anything worked out for us.
We landed in Las Vegas for a 15 minute layover. We weren't even allowed off the plane, it was going to be so short! Just 15 minutes. But then we were told that Philly wasn't giving us clearance to take off. Wicked, difficult Philly! Something about swirling weather patterns. So we waited. And we waited. And we waited.
They let us off the plane. "But be sure to hang around the gate as we may have to reboard on a moments notice so we can take off!" That's what we did. And then we got that blessed call, time to reboard, time to take off! OK, so now 5.30 EST would be turning into the slightly less convenient 7.30 EST. So maybe not a long leisurely dinner, but something quick before we want to bed.
Then it started to snow. In Las Vegas. What?
Now let me now tell you that I didn't even know it ever did snow in Las Vegas. And that's because it doesn't, normally. But this was no normal trip, so it was snowing. Apparently the people who ran the airport also didn't know it snowed in Las Vegas, because they only had two de-icers for all the planes that needed to take off. Because of this, they told us we could get off the plane again, but still.... to be read at a moment's notice. Another couple of hours pass, and the snow is now a strange surreal desert blizzard. The kids, who had been doing so well, were now getting frazzled and impatient.
But then we got the call again! Scramble scramble back onto the plane, and this time we actually pull out from the gate. Yes, we're finally leaving. We may have blown our arrival time by 6 or 7 hours but we'll be there. But then the captain says, "I hate to have to give you bad news again..." which had become a fairly common intro to just about everything he had to say. Because those two de-icers were not able to de-ice fast enough, apparently. And now, at 4.30 PM, for a flight that had landed at 9 AM and was meant to be back in the air by 9.15, we were told the airport was closed and all flights canceled.
MADNESS. Like some kind of apocalypse, without the antichrist and the zombies. Phones weren't working anymore, people were sobbing (the leader of which being Ollie, who was just heartbroken to hear we were stuck there.) The line to re-book a flight instantly grew hundreds of people long. The baggage claim was basically a riot of angry travelers and bags that weren't ours. I was able to get enough of a signal to call a casino / hotel on the strip called 'New York New York" and book a room. Darby tried to entertain Ollie by putting him in a wheelchair. It didn't work. Lyric heard people saying, "Oh, the saddest thing... that little disabled boy just wants to see his cousins for Christmas and he won't be able to." Darby kicked the cheering up a notch, sitting herself in the wheelchair and putting Ollie on her lap and then rolling down an incline – all to nearly disastrous results as she lost control of the contraption and nearly collided, mother and child, into the floor. She insists only an angel stopped them from certain calamity.
Our kids our too tired to make them wait as we sit in that neverending line. The Southwest phone number is so overloaded it just hangs up on you. You can't rebook online because the internet is slammed and unresponsive. Ollie and Lyric get scolded for leaning against a slot machine in the airport – They are everywhere!
We wait for our bags at the crowded baggage claim. Our kids are losing it – it's now nearly 8 PM and they're bitterly disappointed. Loud, inappropriate Vegas-y ads run on the big screens. Ollie really starts to lose it, so Darby and Lyric plan to meet us at NY NY with the bags later so I can take him now. This was a bad idea, we should have just left, because Darby and Lyric never saw our bags.
Ollie and I take a shuttle to NY NY. The Shuttle driver stops to TAKE A PICTURE OF THE SNOW. "This never happens here!" Lucky us.
Ollie's spirits brighten because he gets to make snowballs and throw them at cars. I vaguely sense this isn't the best behavior, but it's been a long day and honestly I feel like throwing snowballs at cars too so I let it slide. We get to NY NY, which is a huge bustling (pretty cool) replica of the city. As we wait in a forever long line to get our key and all that, Ollie and I have a good conversation about gambling.
Ollie: Why can't kids play with these (slot machines), they look like they're for kids (which they do.)
Jason: Because Gambling is actually very dangerous for people.
Ollie: What's Gambling?
Jason: When you spend some money to try to win a lot more money.
Ollie: But then why wouldn't kids like that? Kids love money.
Jason: normally you lose. You normally lose all your money.
Ollie: Oh, is that why they call it "Lost Vegas"? (clever, that boy!)
Jason: You know what, if that's not why they call it that, they should start doing that. But some adults lose their houses, all their money in the bank, even money they don't have. Some become homeless.
Ollie: Well, that wouldn't happen to kids. I'd just spend the dollar you give me!
I finally get the key and get to the room. Darby texts me and lets me know that Lyric is now breaking down. I tell her to forget the bags – which we've learned will be sent to Philly – and just come to NY NY. I finally get through to the airline. And now the horrible reality of our situation... no new flight until 12/19, and it won't get us into Philly until midnight. So we've now lost 3 days of our time home. These tickets cost me $2,000 for the family, in the hopes of getting together with family and friends, to lose 3 days was killer. It made me quite grumpy. I got all Jack Bauer on the phone, telling them to route us to NY or Washington or Baltimore but we needed to leave the next day. She said SWA hadn't authorized rebooking outside of the original city pair, and they had no control over the weather. I said what they did have control over was authorizing a new city pair, and that's what they needed to do. She got a manager to do this, but no flights to any of those cities were available either. Jack Bauer hung up.
Darby and Lyric finally arrive at 10 PM. Lyric is very tired. This girl hates things to change, and I feel so bad for her. We go to bed.
The next day, we make the best of it. We go to a fun arcade called Gameworks, check out a bunch of the themed hotels which are fun to see, go to a "Secret Garden" which has lions and dolphins and cheetahs and tigers. We have a genuinely good time despite the disappointment of not being elsewhere. Darby and I also have to do our best to shield our kids' eyes from seeing the many different advertisements and billboards and videos which prove that Vegas has earned the name Sin CIty. In the words of my daughter Lyric, much of it was "Weird."
That night, Lyric gets violently ill and throws up every 20 minutes. Darby decides that we'll probably have to postpone our flight again because Lyric can't travel like this. I check the Saturday flights, and the only one available routes through Chicago, which has a winter storm advisory. I honestly, at this point, consider just going back to Calfornia. Vegas has run us all down, and I can't imagine waiting our an illness in this hotel room and paying for all the meals and the room rate for who knows how many days. Darby says maybe if Lyric can sleep until 10 AM, she might get healthy enough to fly. She asks me to take the wakening Ollie "out" so she and Lyric can get some sleep.
Taking a 6 year old boy out into 7.30 AM Vegas is not fun. The only thing people do in Vegas at this time is drink and gamble. There really isn't really anywhere to even sit and do anything else. Ollie and I wandered around from casino to casino in the sub zero weather, trying to find an arcade or a pad of paper for sale or even a pen. Fortunately we found a pad of paper for sale, but no pen. Finally we found a cheap breakfast buffet at Excaliber. Sick of Vegas buffets (this being our 3rd in 2 days), Ollie got yogurt and I ate a biscuit. It occurred to me that as cheap as it was, we weren't getting our money's worth. We folded paper airplanes and tried not to eat the nasty food available to us. Then we wandered again, upset at all the arcades that wouldn't open until 10. We found a 2 foot long novelty pen and bought that. I wrote him math problems and he answered them as we sat on the floor of a casino lobby.
Finally, we found an arcade that was open. But it was lame, because half the games stole your coins, and the other half had parts that were broken. Why are all arcades like this now? on the skee ball game, only the "30" would register any points, all others would give you zero. Ollie and I proclaimed the arcade bad and were about to leave when a bleary eyed man gave us a fistful of prize tickets. We cashed them in and got a pretty nice assortment of prizes, half of them for Lyric because Ollie's a thoughtful little guy.
We brought Lyric bottled water and muffins and the arcade prizes. She had slept the 4 hours and was feeling better. Not good, but better. The flight was a go.
At the airport, we couldn't print our tickets at the self service because they were a switched flight. There wa a line about 200 people long to get our tickets printed for us. We saw, however, that there was a MUCH shorter line of people in wheelchairs.... Let's see. Wheelchairs. Sick kid. Short line. Wheelchairs.
it wasn't too long before Lyric was (embarrassed to be) in a wheelchair and we were in that shorter line. It worked like a charm. Except for the fact that it made Ollie insanely jealous, and he faked a knee injury, an eye injury, a sick stomach, tried to make himself throw up, and frequently collapsed to the floor in an attempt to score one for himself.
But it was a good thing we picked up extra time by skipping that long line, because the ticket lady took FOREVER issuing our tickets because there was an "issue." After whispering to coworkers and typing furiously and calling people and checking handbooks for what must have been 15 minutes, she finally issued us our tickets.
These tickets with the dreaded "SSSS" printed on them. Oh yes, of course we were selected for the "Specially Selected for Secured Screening." Lyric – in a wheel chair – and Ollie both got a complete pat down, (and of course Darby and me, too). They went through every one of our carry-on bags, and there were six of them. It took forever. Fortunately, the flight out of Las Vegas happened without incident, and we landed in Phoenix...
And sat on the runway for 45 minutes while we watched our connecting flight's board time come and go. And the take off time come and go. You know that portable hallway that they attach to planes so you can exit? THE ENGINE FELL OFF OF IT. Once again, we hear a chorus of "That's the first time I've ever seen that happen!" So now we have to wait for another gate to open. It does, and it's in another terminal from our connecting flight, which has fortunately been delayed an hour. (Finally, one of these neverending delays works in our favor!)
We run, Forrest Gump style, Darby pushing Lyric in a wheelchair, me carrying about 100 pounds of carry-on bags and truly winded, and Ollie sprinting like quite a champ. He had been complaining but I got down to his level and said, "Ollie, if we do not make this flight, we will not get back to the east coast tonight, and it's leaving soon!" Ollie took off like Steve Prefontaine, no more begging to be in a wheelchair, no more pretending like he needed to be in a wheelchair. it was impressive.
And finally, we arrived at the connecting flight with minutes to spare. As we were boarding the attendant said, "Folks, we don't mean to rush you, but if we aren't able to take off in the next 18 minutes, Philly Air Traffic Control will not authorize us to leave because of a winter storm warning they are receiving." Oh my goodness, de ja vu! Wicked Philly again, rejecting us. But people took the warning seriously, and in fact they boarded and left in record time. And then... a mere 4 hours later, we arrived in Philly. Only 55 hours later than we had expected.
December 15, 2008
As a family, we've developed three new holiday traditions here in LA, all of them awesome. And the nice part is that we get to add them to the traditions we had at home on the east coast, too, so we are all traditioned up this time of year.
1) Christmas at Disneyland
It's hard to describe just how awesome Disneyland is for Christmas, but let me try. First of all, there are real reindeers there. Yes, real ones. Secondly, they have a special fireworks and castle show just for Christmas, and a Christmas only parade too. All of these things are on par with their normal year round productions, and they end with it actually snowing on Main Street USA (ok, it's not real snow, but you wouldn't know that by looking at it.) They also (and I think this is unique to Disneyland, Disney World doesn't do this) do a complete and total overlay of both Small World and The Haunted Mansion for Christmas. Both of these overlays are incredibly impressive. Jack Skelton, from Nightmare Before Christmas, moves into the Haunted Mansion. Small World just gets all Christmas-fied, in a very impressive way. And then they project all these Christmas-y lights onto the Small World castle. Add to this the Christmas lights all over the park, and... Seriously, Disneyland owns Christmas.
2) The Grove. The Grove in LA is another place where it snows. I get more snow in LA for Christmas than I did on the East Coast. There are carolers and synchronized fountains and it's just very beautiful and fun. And because it's all outdoors, it has a certain Dickensian feel to it.
3) Ice Skating at Santa Monica. We just did this for the first time last night, but it's quite obviously an instant classic for our family. The kids LOVED it. They set up an outdoor skating rink in Santa Monica with lights and decorations and it's just so much fun. With an admission ticket, you also get a free drink from Starbucks, so that made Darby very happy. Finish a perfect evening off with a trip to Benihana's and really, how could this not be a wonderful Christmas tradition?
So I get to add these to the East Coast staples - the Wintethur Fairy Garden and The Longwood Christmas Lights... which unfortunately don't really end up being annual because it's so darn cold and not eveyone wants to go out every year. But still, when I can get everyone feeling adventurous, those are always fine evenings, too. But there is always singing O Holy Night while holding a candle at the Adoration Service.
What are some Holiday Traditions that you look forward to?
December 03, 2008
One Night Only with Tom Hanks
Seems the ET video clip was taken down from Youtube, so here's another clip about it.
An evening with the stars
Tonight Collin and I got to attend an amazing event on campus at UCLA. Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson hosted a special fundraiser for the Film School, which was extremely generous of them. To do this, they staged a reading of "You Can't Take It With You," and invited a number of their friends. Like William Shatner and Martin Short and John Hamm (Donald Draper from MAD MEN!), and Annette Benning, and Mila Kunas, and James Cromwell and Peter Krause... all amazing actors. It was simply a stunning performance, seeing all these stars on stage. And they were having such fun, sometimes improving lines. Tom Hanks was just incredible as a Russian dance instructor and truly all the performances were so amazing that to single out too many would give the false impression that others weren't up to the same level.
November 29, 2008
The Channel Islands
Did you know that 20 miles off the coast of Ventura County there are 5 completely undeveloped islands? I didn't until just recently, but we visited them today. I'll give pictures and more details later, but long story short: The island we visited, Santa Cruz, was amazing. It's 96 square miles. It's HUGE. And there are 140 species that ONLY live there. Cliffs and beautiful clear greenish blue waters and dolphins and seals. Just heaven on earth, and exactly the kinds of places I dream about being.
October 14, 2008
I'm so happy to put your collective minds at ease (I know you were all desperately worried) and let you know that Lyric's 2nd Leopard Gecko, named Serendipity, is apparently in fine health and with us for the long haul. (Unlike her first, Ivy, and Ollie's first, Leopard, which both got really sick, wouldn't eat, and eventually had to be taken back to the pet store.)
And I dare anyone to say that this Gecko is not cute.
Now speaking of animals, Darby and I were sitting on some rocks on the beach and what do we see swimming in the waters right in front of us? A seal! Which is very cool (but you do have to put the idea of seals attracted Great White Sharks out of your mind a bit to truly appreciate it.)
Now speaking of Great White Sharks, I got what is probably the best t-shirt created in the history of mankind.
Yes, that's a Grizzly Bear and a Great White Shark locked in a fierce dance to the death. You may now applaud.
Today was a crazy day. Wake up and send scripts and emails to agents, managers and production houses around town. Then send emails to software developers in India. Then go to the beach with Darby. Then the grocery store. Then campus, where I play basketball for an hour before going to my playwriting class for 3 hours. Then my screenwriting class for 3.5 hours, where I engage in class while also following the Phillies score on my iPhone (go Phils!), then out to Denny's with my classmates where we talk about books until 12.30... I was literally out of the house from 10 AM to 12.30 AM... What life am I living?
October 08, 2008
Today I had two very interesting meetings. The first was in Westwood with a genuine Navy Seal named Geoff. How do I know him, you wonder? He's a good friend of my mentor here at UCLA, a screenwriter named Paul Castro, who was also in the Navy. They are both fantastic people.
Geoff just got back from the set of Transformers 2, and he showed me a ton of pictures from the shoot. It looked amazing. (I'm one of the few film students who will admit that he loved the first Transformers movie... but then again I enjoyed Beverly Hills Chihuahua!) He was in the first film too, he played a secret service agent who was killed by that little boom box transformer.
I'm working on a web site for him, called iwanttobeanavyseal.com. He wrote and is now selling an e-book about training to become a navy seal. It's intense.
Then I had a really great meeting with a producer here in the Palisades. We talked for more than 2 hours about what she was looking for, and then the stories I've written. She seemed very into many of the stories, and asked to read all 5 that I pitched to her. Not bad! Of course, you always know the best meetings can result in NADA, but still, just getting acclimated to talking your own stories and seeing what interests people and what doesn't is great.
September 28, 2008
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...
September 20, 2008
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.
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.
September 03, 2008
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.
September 02, 2008
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.
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....
August 30, 2008
"The Cut" - a web series
A contact I made while I was interning at Maguire (who is also a recent graduate from UCLA's Producing Program. Producers are the people who end up working at Production Companies or Studios or Networks) is pulling together a web series called "The Cut," which is about a fairly down and out agency in LA and its underpaid, overworked assistants. He asked me to be a part of the writing team, and I accepted. It's a great opportunity.
It should be pretty cool. Comedy writing legend Fred Rubin will be running the writing room, and the scripts we write count towards Writers Guild credits. For me, being in the WGA is definitely a major goal.
Fred wrote us an email on Thursday and said to come to tomorrow's meeting with 15 story ideas. 15!? So while struggling with an earache, general sickness, and going to Disneyland and down to Orange County to hang out with Jessica today, I had to have my brain working in the background kicking around ideas.
I came up with one!
Fortunately, this evening while reading through the characters descriptions and generally making the effort to be creative, I was able to develop 14 others. Many of them I think are good.
Should be interesting tomorrow, and I'll definitely keep you up to date on this project. It's the next 8 Saturdays, 8 hours a day.
July 07, 2008
Mosaic at the Mayan
My sister Jessica's seven week stay in LA is sadly coming to a close, and we go to hang out one last time before she goes to SF tomorrow. We went to Mosaic church at a nightclub called the Mayan in downtown LA. It is quite a experience, with a really excellent band, a smoke machine, cool multimedia art, a light show, and the whole building is decorated to look like a Mayan temple. And I'm a pretty big fan of the founder of Mosaic, Erwin McMahanus. He's got a great sense of humor, and a lot of wisdom too. So it was quite nice going there tonight.
The message was all about loving other people, and how it's actually easy to love God, but loving other people is where things get really difficult. And yet, proof of God's love on earth comes from people being able to love one another... it was inspiring.
After the church meeting was over, we were going to the Getty Center but it was closed. So instead we ate at In-N-Out burger and got a delicious ice cream sandwich at Diddy Reise in Westwood. All in all, it was a nice ending to a great time with Jessica being in town. It was a real blessing that she got to be here for so long, and a blast hanging out with her so much.
July 05, 2008
How Californians See America
Not that I (completely) agree with this, but I do think it's funny.
4th of July
I had a very Malibu 4th of July. Some of my fellow students from UCLA went to Zuma Beach, and my good friend Matt and I drove up and met them. The weather was really nice, and I met some very interesting new people (one of which worked marketing Disney films, and another is a writer for Entertainment Weekly). We threw frisbees and footballs around, went into the fierce tumultuous waves, ate at a seaside restaurant (that was surprisingly nice) and then caught a stunning sunset and fireworks show over the water.
Can't complain about that...
Except if you miss your wife and kids. Which I do! Only another week until I see them.
July 03, 2008
My main job at Maguire is to read a ton of novels and write coverage on them (which is basically a fancy word for a good old fasioned book report.) So I'm reading more novels then I've ever read before, sometimes even one a day. But I just had to take on a densely written 579 page manuscript which was about a post-apocalyptic world with monsters, ninjas, pirates, and mimes. It was actually a fairly good story, but wow did it take forever to finish.
The main exec at Maguire asked me to pitch the story of the book to him, and it was very good practice for one day when I pitch my own stories... which will hopefully be very soon, actually.
For some reason I'm having a hard time getting to bed before 3am these days. That's a bad habit I have to break soon.
July 01, 2008
The Ferocious Water Bug
Jessica and I went to Leo Carillo State Beach today, thinking we were going to swim. However, the ocean breeze (ok, it was more like a gale force wind) made that thinking instantly foolish, once we actually got there. Instead, we went to the Solstice Canyon trail.
We climbed that same waterfall, and swam in a really awesomely deep, clear pool. (It was over my head.) While in the water, we noticed that there was a ton of life swimming through the water. Lots of newts, and tadpoles, and we even caught a very small, very pale frog. But the most amazing moment was when The Ferocious Water Bug entered the scene.
I'm not making up that name. I looked it up online, because it was such a crazy bug. We thought it was actually a crab. It was BIG, like 2 inches long, and it swam excitedly from under a rock. It was brown and kind of flat, and really fast. And on it's back... a ton of eggs.
It looked like this:
Turns out the bugs with eggs are actually the males. The females cement the eggs to the males' backs. Interested, huh?
It takes it's name from the fact that it's actually quite vicious. It eats minnows, and tadpoles, and is even sometimes called a "Toe biter" because, well... it bites toes. (Only if threatened.) That sounds like a great insult for an aggressive short person, by the way, a toe biter. I will be sure to remember that for a script, and maybe even real life.
June 25, 2008
Goal Check In
I went through the 7 page treatment today and rewrote parts, getting it ready for my writing group, so I can really lock in on the story and write an outline.
I turned in my first draft to the director... haven't heard back yet. That's always the worst, working like mad on something, finally give it to someone and be met with silence. But it doesn't mean they hate it, there could be a ton of reasons that would happen. But still, it's always better to hear back immediately with a nice strong "Genius! The best thing I've ever read!"
I wrote my 3 page treatment for the whole episode, and I'm pretty happy with it so far. It's very funny, and feels very true to a Curb Your Enthusiasm show... Of course it needs work, but it's great to have a lot of that work out of the way.
Making the Bed
Every day so far. Not bad, right? I even did dishes today.
I'll have to shave it once I go back to be with Darby and the kids. It freaks the kids out. But it's fun to have for now...
I also worked out, did my taxes (finally mailed them off!), booked flights, and put a good number of things up for sale on eBay today.
It's AMAZING to me how much time there is to just do STUFF when you live alone. I mean, it's incredible. I get a ton accomplished and then find I still have a ton of time to do more.
But I would not trade this vast landscape of time for being harried and stressed to get the things... because I definitely miss time with the kids and Darby. It's crazy! Last Friday I realized that I went most of the day without speaking out loud at all. I even managed to go get a haircut in Westwood.
June 21, 2008
Just to put them all out there so people can either rejoice along with me or rub my face in my failures (depending on how things turn out), I wanted to make it a matter of record what I hope to accomplish this summer while in LA.
1) Write another feature film. The romantic comedy "Just Marry Him." (I will finish this by 9/1)
2) Write a Curb Your Enthusiasm spec script.
3) Prepare my own two 3-5 minute short film scripts for shooting in August.
4) Write the short film script for Trevor at Maguire (the adaptation of the public domain short story he wants to direct and film this summer).
Then there are some unrelated to film:
1) Grow a beard.
2) Make the bed every day.
3) Play an amazing concert with the Look Machine
4) Maybe even record a 2-3 song EP (how awesome would that be, fellows? Lose Yourself, Sing You A Song, and something else!)
If I do all those things, this will have been a VERY productive summer.
May 28, 2008
More Good News
I found out today that I won the Harmony Gold Award for Screenwriting Excellence, which is a $3,000 prize awarded on the basis of "artistic merit" to 3 UCLA grad students, selected by the faculty. So yeah, this is a good week!
These things, good and bad, they come in waves.
May 24, 2008
The Suite Life On Deck
Because I'm in the legendary Fred Rubin's comedy spec class, he did an incredibly kind thing for me and my family and arranged a visit to the set of The Suite Life on Deck (formerly known as the Suite Life of Zack and Cody, on the Disney Channel.) Fred's good friends with one of the creators of the show, Jim Geoghan.
It was awesome. We got to see them filming a scene for the upcoming season. Jim was incredibly kind. He brought us cookies, and got the kids a signed script and pictures from the cast. Another writer on the show , Billy Riback, was also so gracious and treated us so well.
One thing that really stood out to us was how well the cast and crew treated each other. They were behind schedule and stressed, but everyone was incredibly professional.
Jessica in "A Chorus Line"
I am very very fortunate that one of my sister's first stops on her national tour of "A Chorus Line" is good old LA. I got to see her Opening Night, and attend the after party, too.
The Ahmanson Theater is a world class venue, and the 2000 seats were packed with eager fans. I was so proud, because there was my sister, dancing and acting and singing at the very highest level of musical theater, and she obviously fit right in, because she shined up there. She really was, as Variety said, "delightfully kooky" as Kristine, the nervous dancer who can't sing (and we all know, Jessica can sing, so pretending to not be able to sing is quite an acting feat.)
It helps that I really like "A Chorus Line." It really is a great show, and seeing Jessica up on the stage in front of thousands of people just really made me so happy for her. She's worked for SO long for this dream. it's fitting that she's in A Chorus Line, since it's main story is exactly her story, someone who's given up so much for so long in the pursuit of dancing at the highest level. To see someone make it, and not give up, and just bashing at the door until her sheer talent and discipline knocks it over is very inspirational.
After the show, I got to accompany her to a party, where she was a total rock star. Countless people, including Amy Adams from Enchanted (the "hot girl" from the Office, she's an amazing actress), came up to her and gushed about her performance. It was so nice to see her get the recognition she deserved after years of auditions gone sour... And to have someone of Amy Adams' caliber approach you and want to talk to you about the job you did, you know it's just your night.
One last note. I never realized it, but the next generation's Barbara Streisand has been determined, and it's my sister Jessica. Gay men LOVE Jessica. They absolutely adore her. They can't talk to her enough. They can't look at her enough. They love her style, her pixie hair cut, her long legs. It's really quite a phenomena, one that Jessica can parlay into a very long, successful career in Broadway and beyond... Their devotion for Jessica even overflowed towards me, I was asked if I had long legs, too.
I said only when I wear a unitard.
May 22, 2008
A week of losing
Well, you know I had a very good week a couple of weeks ago.. and you have to roll with the good times and the bad times. This past week was especially... annoying.
That Sidney Sheldan Award where I was the finalist, I lost. SO CLOSE! Oh well. I'm very happy for the actual winner, but it's hard to know I feel just short and see all the recognition she's getting. I mean, things were so close that it took them an extra 6 months to make a determination on the winner.
And then, this past week I learned that I placed just outside the winners for UCLA's Screenwriting Showcase. Like again, SO CLOSE. Someone on the inside of the contest said that many of the judges (who are execs and agents and stuff like that) really really liked my screenplay and I literally feel just a few points short because it was all averaged.
Again, so close but just falling a little short.
Such is life sometimes. One of the best things you can be good at is taking a punch and not giving up. So these things are all good practice.
May 17, 2008
Show me that smile again...
Yesterday I attended the Pacific Pioneers Broadcasters Luncheon. I was invited because I'm in the UCLA film program.
The luncheon was honoring... Alan Thicke, (Mr. Seaver from Growing Pains). I had the chance to talk to him afterwards and he was very nice. I also met Garry Marshall (creator of Happy Days, Laverne and Shirley, etc), Larry David's dad from Curb Your Enthusiasm, and an actor who always thoroughly entertains me in Christopher Guest movies, Fred Willard.
Everybody was very friendly and down to earth, just normal dudes. Pretty cool.
May 09, 2008
Another Day at the Internship
I'm starting to think that one of the most valuable parts of my schooling here will be taking advantages of the internships. It's just such a great education to be in a production office, hearing how they view the business, getting comfortable with the scene.
Today I was fortunate enough to be able to share notes with the assistant there. It was a great conversation, and I think he enjoyed it as much as I did. Many of my suggestions were very well received. One of the head execs there overheard much of our discussion and stepped in to tell us he thought what we were talking about was great.
Anyway, the most intriguing part of the day came when I was asked to read a magazine article that they have optioned. Yes, that's right, a magazine article. This company paid a large sum of money to the author of a two page magazine article for the right to use her article (which has no story and no characters, but just a general opinion... and yes that opinion is interesting and thought-provoking) as the basis for a feature length film. I love this town. I really do.
Anyway, it's very short, and there is no story, just a general point of view. He wanted to know if I had any thoughts on it, and I shared some. Then I asked about the script development process when it comes to an article without any story or characters or visuals or anything. He said they have been listening to pitches for some time now but they've all been wrong.
Now I happened to get a pretty good idea when I was reading the article for a comedy that could demonstrate what the article was saying while being entertaining and funny and heart-warming.
One thing I've learned out here is that no one ever offers you anything. They wait for you to ask for it. And once you ask for it, quite often they are happy to honor your audacity. So I thought "What the heck" and said, "Well I had a story idea, mind if I pitch it to you so you can see if it has potential?" He said... sure, that would be awesome.
I shared my story idea and he was really taken with it, saw the potential, and said that could really work. So now I'm writing a more fleshed out treatment of the story for him to review next week. Not sure exactly where that will head, but you never know. And I have to say, the story could really work.
One last bit to share. I'm learning and developing the skill to really think strategically. To not let everything "just happen" but to use the things that do happen to my further advantage. In that way, I learned in a class about the power of "triangulation." Meaning, when you've got one thing going for you, use that one thing in another arena so now you have two things going for you.
I made sure to tell Trevor about my exciting situation over at the movie studio that shall remain nameless, and how agents and execs are reading my stuff right now. He was suitably excited for me, and then... "You know, any scripts you'd like to bring in, I'd love to read. Especially stuff that might work for Tobey." Because in life, but especially in Hollywood, when people know that other people like you, they think, "Oh well maybe there is something here to really like."
So now I'm bringing in a treatment for an optioned article and some scripts for him to read. This really has been a very good week, professionally speaking. And again, it's not like any of these opportunities will automatically translate into a sale or work, but it's great to just be learning the ropes and experiencing these things already, in just my first year in school.
May 08, 2008
I can't get into a ton of details... but the upshot is that an exec at a major movie studio called me to tell me he read A Well Adjusted Boy and absolutely loved it. He said the characters were so deep, the dialogue so perfect, and the story was endearing and touching. He asked if I had representation and if it would be ok if he started showing the story to some of his agent friends and other studio execs because he could really see it on the screen.
I said yes!
Not sure this is BIG break, but it certainly seems like a break of some kind.
May 02, 2008
I have a class about presenting and controlling a room. Our instructor was talking about each one of us having a "tell," something that we carried with us that was uniquely ours and that could be good or could be bad, but that we needed to be aware of so we could use effectively.
After class I asked him what my tell was, in his opinion.
He said... "It's hard to explain exactly, but there is just this... holiness to you."
What in the world?
He continued. "Like you're a preacher delivering a sermon."
You can take the son away from the pastors, but I guess you can't take the pastors away of the boy....
He finished saying that it's not a bad thing at all, and there's definitely an energy and a conviction, but that I should be sure to calibrate because sometimes that energy is appropriate and sometimes it isn't.
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?
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.
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.
April 18, 2008
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."
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.
April 15, 2008
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.
April 11, 2008
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.
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.
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.
March 31, 2008
Celebrity Sighting - I'm a Mac edition
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?
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.
March 24, 2008
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.
March 20, 2008
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.
And they offered us all internships basically, if we're interested.
I have to admit, I am kind of tempted.
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!
March 15, 2008
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.
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.)
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.
March 06, 2008
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!
We felt kind of dissed. (No we didn't talk to her.)
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.
February 24, 2008
I took the kids to Universal Studios Hollywood yesterday. I've visited Universal in Orlando before (and their second park, Islands of Adventure), and both of those parks were incredible. I just kind of assumed I was in for more of the same.
I made the mistake of telling my kids of my expectations... that we would have "fun" and that there would be "rides." What was I thinking?
I'll tell you right now. If you have anyone in your group who's younger than 13, don't go. And even if you are all older than 13, use whatever discounts you can to get that admission price down. Because a day here is worth $30 at the most.
Let me give you a grand tour of the rides they have at this park.
1) Jurassic Park River Ride.
2) Revenge of the Mummy indoor rollercoaster.
That's it. And both of them are too scary for my kids. What did we do? The backlot tour is cool. And we saw an animal show. That's it. We got into the park at noon and left by 2.30.
I don't get it, I don't understand why people visit this place, and pay so much to get in. And I don't understand how Universal's corporate pride allows them to have such a poor park in their backyard in LA while the parks in Florida are so superior.
I thought they'd have some kind of rides for the kids. Nothing!
Oh well, hopefully you'll find this and be warned. Go to Disneyland. Same price, and you get MUCH more for the money.
February 10, 2008
The Old Los Angeles Zoo
We visited something that many locals don't even know about here in LA. In Griffith Park, they abandoned the old LA Zoo, but didn't destroy it. So there are all these fake caves and cages and passageways that you can still explore. It's really eerie. But really cool. I love stuff like this.
February 07, 2008
Darby and I just saw a whale, from our house. In the ocean. Cool.
January 28, 2008
Sorry I haven't updated in a while, my laptop is getting repaired. I've been hard at work on writing. I finished the second draft of A Well Adjusted Boy (I think I've gone back to that title), but will be working on another one soon, I'm sure. I also just finished a 10 page outline of the next film I'm going to write. That was VERY hard work, and I'm so glad to have it finished.
It's strange, when I'm first working on a new story, my mind is just constantly attacking it from all angles. I find that very often I daydream the story, different little scenes, different problems, it's like I'm on autopilot. I don't decide to do this, and I guess I could actively work against it, but for the most part my mind keeps going back to solving the story. It's good, I think, but at the same time I can become kind of withdrawn and really quiet. Darby noticed it again today, and knew what was going on.
The good thing is that it does stop, normally when I start actually writing pages. The prep time is actually kind of the hardest. By the time you are actually writing pages, it's a relief.
You may notice that I haven't really talked much about what my next film is about. That's because I want to finish it before I publish anything about it online, because it's about a historical figure and it could easily be taken away because it's public domain. Now, mind you, I've done a ton of work and I think the angle I'm approaching the story is unique and novel. That's exactly why I don't really want to discuss it. But I'm very excited about it, it's going to be a fantastic screenplay, and it's not like anything I've done yet.
I will be discussing my outline in class tomorrow, and then in the next 4 weeks we have to finish the first draft of the screenplay. This pace is daunting, but it's also exhilarating and inspiration. I mean, I know that I can write a screenplay in 1 week, because I've done it. But to be able to consistently polish them off in 10 week chunks, that's just a great feeling. I have so many ideas, and I'm one of those people who HATES wasted potential, so just the thought of getting another one of those ideas down on paper every 10 weeks is so amazing to me.
We went to Mosaic Church in Beverly Hills today. The pastor there was talking about the story of the Witch of Endor, and asked people to raise their hands if they had heard this story before. Out of like 400 people, only me, Darby and around 4 other people raised their hands. WHAT? That story has always been one of the most intriguing in the whole Bible to me, with Samuel the ghost showing up and talking to Saul and his death. Who are all these people not even knowing that story?
Lyric and I played Monopoly for like 2 hours today. It was fantastic. She's going to win though. She got all the good monopolies.
My 434 workshop is so fantastic, because we're getting two geniuses for the price of one. Michael Colleary has a writing partner, Mike Werb, who sits in on our classes and actively gives notes and suggestions. They are both, without exaggeration, geniuses. And they have such helpful attitudes. I feel like I've lucked out so much in my first two quarters, managing to learn under 3 screenwriters who are currently working (well, once the strike ends at least), and getting movies made, and successful. It's exactly why I wanted to be here.
I got into the advanced Imagineering class, which is taught by the Chief Creative Imagineer for Disney, Bruce Vaughn. It's going really well. Our main project is to put together a total plan for a physical presence and experience for the Google brand. We are going to be pitching it to actual Disney execs at their studio in Burbank. Pretty cool. Also, we are visiting Disneyland with Bruce and getting backstage tours... we'll also get to visit the Imagineer labs in Glendale. For a Disney fan like myself, this is all pretty amazing.
So yeah, things are going well. Stressful, but good.
January 10, 2008
Mad Money Premiere
Tonight my sister Jenna and I watched the red (green, actually) carpet for Mad Money, starring Katie Holmes, Diane Keaten, and Queen Latifah. And we saw, up close and personal, all three of them. Plus Tom Cruise, Ted Danson, Ethan the villain from Lost, and the Haitian dude from Heroes.
Tom Cruise was actually quite nice with the crowds, he impressed me. Queen Latifah was as well.
The rest kind of ignored the fans.
Videos of Tom to come. We got some very good footage.
January 06, 2008
Added Note: I'm an Idiot
In case any of you ever doubted it. I was checking in yesterday, because we were supposed to leave THIS morning for California. Checked the kids in without a problem, but Darby and I were getting an error. Because I booked the kids for a flight on Sunday and Darby and I for a flight on Monday.
What in the world is my problem?
I couldn't switch anyone around so we could all be on the same flight, and I have to be back tomorrow (my first class).
So I'm going tomorrow with my sister Jenna (who's visiting). And Darby is coming on Tuesday. Alone, just her and the two kids.
I need to sell some screenplays so I can hire a personal assistant. Clearly I cannot do this on my own.
Going back to California
I leave in 5 hours to catch a plane. Tomorrow is going to be kind of crazy, because I have my first class when I get back, and it's at 6.30 until 11 PM western time so in eastern time standards my day tomorrow is going to be forever long. Like from 3 AM to 2 AM...
Definitely going to miss everyone here. But also definitely looking forward to the excitement that awaits me. It's hard to describe just how exhiliarting California and UCLA are for me right now. Sometime I'll try to capture it.
Ian got married yesterday, it was a very beautiful service. He had put together a slideshow and the last song in it was Simpler than it Seems. It was pretty bittersweet listening to that song, it sounded so good... We'll definitely have to play some shows in the summer. Congrats Ian "the Small Wonder" and Laura Palkovitz!
I've been kind of itching to make some more music lately. I have been inspired by Kimya Dawson's music on the soundtrack for the (incredible) move Juno. It's so lo-fi, so "I just pushed record and started playing" and I really like it. I think I'm going to start giving that a shot. I even have a perfect name I will record that music under.... To Be Announced. I kind of want Darby to play it with me too.
Today the announcement went out of the people who made it into Michael Colleary's class. The people in my program are so nice and supportive, I've been getting congratulatory emails all day long.
December 15, 2007
Shark Attack, Shark Attack, Shark Attack
Yes, I finally saw one. I gazed into its jet black eyes and didn't blink. It gazed back at me, a kindred spirit. And just like that, we bonded. One day I plan on swimming in the ocean, and he will have been released to the open waters, and see me, and mistake me for a seal. And just as he almost chomps down on me, he will remember me from the aquarium, and let up mostly, but still give me just a little nibble. So that I can tell my story of being attacked by a Great White Shark to everyone I meet.
Ollie and I took a little trip all by ourselves to Monterey, California, which is a pretty awesome town. Seals in the harbour, barking loudly. I saw an Elephant Seal on the way home, in Big Sur. That was pretty incredible. Unfortunately, I made a VERY bad decision. I thought it would be cool to come home on PCH, which is a breathtakingly windy road up high over the ocean. It was seriously one of the most beautiful trips I've ever taken.
But Ollie got sick to his stomach and threw up in the car. Lesson learned. It's the 101 from now on with kids.
December 12, 2007
what you can do help
Writers-- Please pass this on far and wide!
There are a couple of important things (besides picketing) you can do
to support the WGA striking writers. And we really need your help!
One way to help is to send an email to the studios producing your
favorite television shows. It's easy, just go to here.
Write an email supporting your favorite show (or use the text
provided) and the email will be sent automatically to the correct
studio when you click "Submit".
Another way is to make a short statement telling advertisers who
support the studios you won't buy their products until this strike is
settled fairly. Just go to here.
Have a party and ask someone to bring a laptop that has a webcam and
make a bunch of individual statements at one time. Upload to YouTube
and be sure to put the advertiser's name(s) as a tag on the video.
Advertisers do searches of their names and this will be of great
concern. Economic pressure is the only way to end this strike quickly.
Please take one or both of these actions today. Christmas is coming
and either action would be a HUGE gift to the WGA writers who are on
the forefront of the battle for fair pay. If we lose, every writer
everywhere will lose.
Thanks so much for your support. Please pass this on to as many
writers and fans as you can. Your participation can help bring the
strike to a fair resolution.
December 11, 2007
Finalist for a Screenplay Competition
I'm happy to announce that I found out today that I'm 1 of 3 finalists for a UCLA Screenwriting Competition called the Sheldon Award. I only submitted the script last Monday, but already they've read all the submissions and narrowed it down to 3! And one of the other finalists is going to be a writer partner with me!
December 08, 2007
This isn't good. strike update.
The latest news is not good at all.
AMPTP BREAKS OFF NEGOTIATIONS
Today, after three days of discussions, the AMPTP came back to us with
a proposal that included a total rejection of our proposal on Internet
streaming of December 3.
They are holding to their offer of a $250 fixed residual for unlimited
one year streaming after a six-week window of free use. They still
insist on the DVD rate for Internet downloads.
They refuse to cover original material made for new media.
This offer was accompanied by an ultimatum: the AMPTP demands we give
up several of our proposals, including Fair Market Value (our
protection against vertical integration and self-dealing), animation,
reality, and, most crucially, any proposal that uses distributor's
gross as a basis for residuals. This would require us to concede most
of our Internet proposal as a precondition for continued bargaining.
The AMPTP insists we let them do to the Internet what they did to home
video. We received a similar ultimatum through back channels prior to
the discussions of November 4. At that time, we were assured that if
we took DVD's off the table, we would get a fair offer on new media
issues. That offer never materialized.
We reject the idea of an ultimatum. Although a number of items we
have on the table are negotiable, we cannot be forced to bargain with
ourselves. The AMPTP has many proposals on the table that are
unacceptable to writers, but we have never delivered ultimatums.
As we prepared our counter-offer, at 6:05 p.m., Nick Counter came and
said to us, in the mediator's presence: "We are leaving. When you
write us a letter saying you will take all these items off the table,
we will reschedule negotiations with you."
Within minutes, the AMPTP had posted a lengthy statement announcing
the breakdown of negotiations.
We remain ready and willing to negotiate, no matter how intransigent
our bargaining partners are, because the stakes are simply too high.
We were prepared to counter their proposal tonight, and when any of
them are ready to return to the table, we're here, ready to make a
John F. Bowman
Chairman, WGA Negotiating Committee
November 21, 2007
Sorry it's been quiet for so long, things have gotten very busy. Scripts, animated short, and other work are taking up a lot of time.
Collin and Linds are coming into town for a week tomorrow. Rock on, it should be fun.
November 09, 2007
The Strike Rally at Fox Plaza
What a day. It was very cool. Just such a huge gathering of people, tons of support from cars driving by. I stood next to Larry David (Said, "Hi Larry.). I saw Julie Louis Dreyfus, President David Palmer from 24, Jessie Jackson talked to us. Tom Arnold was there. Alec Baldwin was there. Zach sang with Tom Morella! Toby and Kelly from the Office were there (not their real names, but that how fans of the show will know them).
We walked and talked to actress Cobie Smulders for about 30 minutes and she couldn't have been nicer. She introduced us to one of her co-stars, Josh Radnor. I guess I should watch an episode of that show!
Andrew Zuckerman from 90210 gave me a t-shirt! One thing that was really cool... even though I admit I was kind of starstruck, all of these people were real normal people, and there mostly for the writers that are struggling to make it... they themselves are basically set. It was a very nice, peaceful day of camaraderie.
Being a big fan of Larry David, I have to share a story.... because he was just about exactly like he is in the show. One of his friends wanted to get him to talk to Jessie Jackson. "He's a fan, Larry, he'd like to meet you." But Larry was embarrassed to just walk up to him. "Oh no, why? I don't want to just say, hi I'm Larry David. Why would he want that?" And eventually he stuck to his guns and faded back into the crowd, away from Jessie. It was hilarious seeing him.
November 08, 2007
I'm mostly posting this to make Ian, Collin, and Shane jealous... Tom Morello, of Rage Against the Machine, will be playing an acoustic mini-set at the picket line tomorrow outside Fox Plaza.
It's going to be a good time!
Tomorrow, join thousands of your fellow writers at Fox Plaza in a major show of solidarity. Do not go to any other picket location. This will be the only picketing to be held on Friday.
Parking in Century City is extremely limited. Carpool if you can. You can also park for three hours in the Westfield shopping center at no charge with a purchase.
Be on time! The police are blocking Avenue of the Stars for this rally, which will begin at 10 a.m. and end at 11 a.m., to be followed by picketing on Avenue of the Stars and at the main Pico Gate.
10 a.m. to 12 Noon – Friday, Nov. 9, 2007
2121 Avenue of the Stars, Century City
(between Olympic and Pico boulevards)
Speakers will include WGAW President Patric M. Verrone and Screen Actors Guild President Alan Rosenberg. Singer-activist Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine, AudioSlave, the Nightwatchman) will open the rally with an exclusive acoustic mini-set.
Here is a very badly shot of the television while my pencil test of a girl walking and jumping was playing. The flicker on the screen was making large black arcs, but if you look through and around that, you'll see the gist of the animation I did today.
November 07, 2007
Power to the People
I'll be walking a picket line on Friday, outside of Fox Studios.
Of course, I'm working hard to become a professional writer, so even though I'm not yet a member of the Guild, I'm going to support those who are. For those of you who don't know, the main issues of this strike are DVDs, and other "New Media" -- which are online downloads, digital delivery, cell phones, etc. Little bit of background: back before anyone knew what a cash cow DVDs would be, the studios said to the writers: "We don't really know how much money these can really make, so we can't really promise you anything concrete in terms of money from DVD sales. How about we just see how the sales go, and then re-negotiate something fair? For now, you can have 3 cents (yes, 3 pennies) per DVD sold."
That was... oh... almost 20 years ago. Guess how much the writers... the people who make up the lines, the scenarios, the stories, the characters make now every time you buy a TV or film DVD? 3 or 4 cents.
So this is why they (we) are striking. Because now that digital, online distribution is the wave of the future, what are the studios saying? Exactly what they said about DVDs. And the writers are saying, no, we deserve more. You never re-negotiated after you found out just how much money you could make.
I appreciate that the writers now are unified and striking now, because their sacrifice will benefit me once i start selling and working. So I'll be there with them, Mr. Labor Union.
Support your Writer's Union.
November 02, 2007
I'm really learning alot about animation, and for the first time the other day, I felt... it... the illusion of life, that I created with pencil and paper. The key to getting things right, is actually not to do too much. I was drawing too many pictures, trying to get too much done in the amount of time. But the other day i actually learned how to work the "Lunchbox" which is this tool that captures each frame and plays them back, and perfected what I was drawing. The cute little main character of my film, blinking, then having her smile fall into a frown. And it was so strange, when I saw her there, blinking, and it worked like it was supposed too... It was not unlike the feeling I got when I first saw one of my kids look at me in smile. I know that sounds weird, and of course it wasn't to the same degree, but it was the same kind of magical "oh my goodness this is otherworldly in its amazingness" feeling.
I really really like it.
And the writing is going well too. I think just because I'm in a program with so many talented people, and I'm keeping up with them, it's just making me better. It's like, I'm being nerdy and playing this game Mario Strikers charged for the Wii lately, online. Where people are fantastically, ridiculously good. I used to get blown out 10-1, never even be in games. But now I win more than I lose, and play pretty even with people who are really good. Just because I hung around, I'm better. I feel like its the same thing here.
October 29, 2007
A very busy time
I'm finally going to get some sleep, but since Thursday I've been stressingly busy, having to:
* finish a christmas play
* design 3 websites, then storyboard them and put them into a presentation
* do 4 presentations for JP Morgan Chase
* Write 10 pages of my screenplay
* Write a 3 page dialogue assignment
* Do my "animatic" (and buy a scanner so I could do it)
* Do 2 different google adword reports
* Create a letterhead, powerpoint template, and proposal template in Office software that had a very small k-size yet still looked nice when printed. (Not easy!)
* Drive to San Diego (yeah, the San Diego that is on fire) on Friday night so we could celebrate Ollie's birthday at Sea World on Saturday and come back that night.
* Watch the kids while Darby volunteered at a Halloween Fair at the kid's school.
And I've got that all finished now, so I sleep. And tomorrow is my exhaustingly long day. (I'm not complaining... I love creating things and getting things done... but I wish I could space them out a little).
The "Animatic" of my animated short
An "Animatic" is basically the storyboards laid out to the desired timing, so you get an idea of the pacing of the sequence you put together. So this is mine, for "The New Kid."
Hope you enjoy it, (and understand the story).
October 24, 2007
My eyes are red and I'm tired
The fires in Malibu are about 80% contained, but the smoke and the ash and burnt leaves fly through the air, even though we're about 3 miles away. All this junk swirling around in the air is realy irritating our eyes, and I look like I'm constantly on the verge of tears. (Maybe I'm just sensitive.
Kind of like this.
As a result of the Santa Ana winds that brought all this trouble, it's also ridiculously hot here right now. One of my very favorite things about this area is that I never have to use AC either in the house or the car, because it's pretty consistently between 72 and 80 degrees.
But it's been like 90 degrees even in the evening. It stinks. It's like I live in the Valley....I think it ends tomorrow.
Now with the irritated eyes, it kind of stinks that I'm really drawing in earnest for my animated short. (Don't get too excited, it's only 15 seconds long). Today I had to stay at the lab 90 minutes long because it just takes so much time. So drawing for 4 hours straight can really take a toll on already red tired eyes.
When I get a scanner I'll post my storyboards.
I've been writing a lot. Working on two different full length scripts and a Christmas Play for church at home. It's funny how once you commit and start working on a story, the ideas just flow. I end up writing myself emails all the time, with a ton of ideas of snippets of dialogues, little character quirks, plot points. I also write them down alot too.
The Eagles are really bad. But honestly it's really hard to watch sports here on the west coast. The times are all screwy.
My parents come and visit next week, I'm looking forward to it.
October 22, 2007
Wild fire can be awfully destructive and scary, but the smoke created by it is really beautiful at sunset. (Picture taken from our house... about 10 miles away).
October 15, 2007
LA, where everyone loves everyone.
One thing has kind of stood out to me since I moved here and joined this program. It's especially true in the program, and in the film department at UCLA. But it's even true out and about, especially around West LA.
Everyone is so friendly to me. Like... everyone loves me.
Now before you think I'm just egotistical... rest assured that I am 100% sure that 98% of the time it's 68% fake. But hey, I really think that a fake good treatment is better than "real" rotten one.
So let me explain. This is my theory. Many people in this town have the goal of succeeding in the entertainment business. Or at the very least, making money somehow. And also, in West LA especially, many many people are involved – often in positions of power – in this same entertainment business. At UCLA in the film school, it's just a basic fact that about 60% of us will go on to do something somewhat influential in this same business.
So, in a town where lots of people you meet may have the power to help or hurt your career now or in the future... how do you treat people that you meet? In a word.. very well. (Ha, that's two words).
And that's what I find here. Hey, it may be self-serving, but it's also smart. And with the kind of turnover there is in the industry – a high ranking creative executive on average only stays in her post for 2 years, and assistants ascend to the position of bosses in a ridiculously short time – your wise to treat everyone, no matter what they're doing and what level they currently reside on – with respect.
And that's what people do. It's what I'm doing too. And I have to admit, this was basically a professional belief of mine already. You treat everyone you come in contact with well, because you're hoping they treat you well. I worked with a lot of people who only treated people ABOVE us well, and people on the same level they actively undermined. Guess how it worked out for them when those people got promoted? Not good.
So while it means that I know to take every bit of encouragement with a grain of salt... at the same time, I do kind of dig it. I think people should treat each other well, as if we all have the power to help or hurt each other.
Because the truth is, we all do.
October 09, 2007
It turns out that our instructor, Paul Castro, wants us to write our screenplay somehow based on our "most shameful event." I can see why he's doing this. This most shameful event is very emotional for all of us, and accessing emotion and writing emotionally is the most important skill a screenwriter can develop.
So he's targeting that immediately. And while I had another story I wanted to write, I can appreciate this. And actually, I'm thrilled that he's basically squeezing another story out of me which I wouldn't have otherwise written.
Our assignment in preparing for the story is to write a 2 page monologue in the voice of the main character. If you want to read it, click on, my friend.
I’m Laurent. Yes, Laurent. Not Lawrence, not Larry. Don’t try to give me a nickname. Mom doesn’t like them.. she says they’re demeaning. I think she’s right. I can’t think of the last time she’s been wrong about anything.
I’m named after one of Jean Piaget’s children. Mom’s really fond of Piaget. He was a psychoanalyst who studied children. How we thought, and how we learned. So Mom studies me. She studies how I process emotions. That’s how she says it. “Processes emotions.” Those are two words that I don’t hear other children my age say very often. And I mean, ever.
Mom’s pioneered something she calls “doling out affection.” She likes to say that, that she’s pioneered it. I looked it up, and I guess she’s saying she made it up, like she loaded up a wagon and discovered it. Good for her, I think.
It means that she doesn’t just hug me or whatever when she feels like it or when I feel like it, but when it is contextually appropriate. It’s all part of her plan to make me the well-adjusted child. Look it up on Amazon, that’s the name of her book. And it’s based on me. My picture is even on the cover.
I think I want to be a psychoanalyst, too. They seem to be pretty nice. When mom takes me to conferences, they all treat me really well, asking me all sorts of questions and clapping when I answer them. I even sign autographs for some of them, right on the cover – my cover – the one with me on it.
I may be well adjusted, but I’m not perfect. Mom helps me with that. I’m scared of school. Very scared. I wish the other kids could be more like the psychoanalysts at the conferences Mom goes to. They aren’t.
Mom says that too many friends can actually be emotionally overwhelming. I guess she’s right. So it’s good that I stay in the class and help Ms. Simpson prepare the lessons. Ms. Simpson is a good friend. Of course, I have good friends. Mom’s a really good friend, too. I shouldn’t really want too many. I need to stockpile my emotional resources, anyway.
Mom and I like to have fun together. When I get home from school, we play this fun game where she’s prepared flashcards about her latest theories, and if I learn them and get them right she’ll reward me. The rewards are great, like a nice hug, or going on a walk where we’ll hold hands.
One of the psychoanalysts at a conference in Seattle made the comment that I’m remarkably resilient considering the lack of a father figure. Mom said that was the result of her doling out the affection. So I think it’s a good thing she pioneered that, so I could overcome my risk factors.
Sometimes I wonder how much more well adjusted I would be if I had Dad around. I wouldn’t say that to Mom, though. I mean, I wouldn’t say that... again.
I think my name sounds kind of like a girl’s name. I do think that. The kids in my class do, too. They used to say that to me, but Mom got Ms. Simpson to make them stop. But it’s the name Mom picked, so I like it. It’s just that there is a girl in my class named Lauren, and when Ms. Simpson calls her I think she’s calling me. For awhile Ms. Simpson started calling me Larry to fix that, which I liked. But then Mom found out. Ms. Simpson calls me Laurent again.
I don’t really want to go to school tomorrow. I’m scared. I know what the kids say about me. Mom says the basic problem is that I’ve moved onto a Formal Operating stage of reasoning, while most of the kids in my class are still in the Concrete Operating stage, and I agree. I could even swear Justin’s stuck in the pre-operational stage, but I wouldn’t say that to him. I know that’s just mean.
And in case you're wondering how this relates to the shameful moment... below is the bare bones story idea for now...
We have a boy, son of a widowed single mom. The mom is an acclaimed child's psychologist, and uses him as her "test case" for most of her methods. She's even published a book, called "The Well-Adjusted Child" (this is what I'm using as a working title for the story as well), and she takes him to conferences where people can ask him questions. After school, she teaches him all the right catch phrases and theories using note cards, so he is very bright and knows what to say... "Depression is anger towards inwards, etc." He's quite impressive to her colleagues.
Yet she is very clinical, and very closed off, and while she talks
about emotions and things like this, it's like a paleontologist
talking about dinosaurs – fascinating for sure, but studying evidence
and not experiencing the actual things.
So the boy is a little different in class, not very well liked, he
prefers the company of adults. Hangs out with the teacher during
recess, etc. Then a new girl joins the class... and they click. She
gets him, and likes him. And... this girl has a mom who is everything
the boy wants and needs from his own mom and doesn't get. She's
loving, she's voluptuous, she's warm. Around her, he actually gets to
act and feel like a kid.
Through spending time with his new friend and the mom, he discovers
parts of himself, that he loves physical activity, and is actually
pretty good at it... False epiphany... he's ratcheted up the
popularity ladder because of his new found football skills. People
start to like him. Conflict -- mom's not so happy with these developments.
Then the rug's pulled out from underneath him... the incident
(shaming incident, something like that) occurs, AND his friend isn't
there to support him. He feels totally alone. He goes to her house
after school and finds her not wanting to talk. Because her mom has
cancer (or some disease that will make her die).
His mom tries to get him to deal with these things in very clinical
terms, and he plays along, bottles things up again. But then he's
watching TV with her, and he sees some televangelist miracle worker –
a total scammer – promising healing and all that. He wants this to be
true so much, and in his childlike way, he's formulated a plan.
And that night he runs off with his new friend to find this
televangelist, to get something to heal the mother. Act II, they face
obvious obstacles in doing this, but they eventually get the "relic"
that will heal the mom. They are both SURE that this is the answer by
the point, and elated to have succeeded in their quest. This will be
the second false epiphany... because hopefully they will be so sure
of it and the audience will be taking their childlike perspective
enough that they may believe it too.
But – predictably enough – the cure doesn't work. The "good mom"
dies... but not without thanking the kids for what they did, and
believing they didn't go on a fools' quest. This is meant to be the
big gloom. Now back with his real mom, he cries – really cries – for
the first time. And he's adamant with believing the things he needs
to believe as a child – that there is a heaven, that his friend's mom
is there, that his dad is there. His raw emotion breaks through his
mother's closed off sections, and she acts like a mother to him...
thus an exchange of gifts – him getting her to open up, her giving
him the love he's needed...
My most shameful moment...
What I had to write for my class. Just a horrible moment in my life, happened when I was in 4th grade. WARNING THERE IS A SWEAR WORD IN THE FOLLOWING ESSAY, BECAUSE THERE WAS ONE IN THE ACTUAL EVENT.
We had just completed our third football game of the day. The sparkling 3-0 record made my flushed red face and sweat soaked outfit worth it. The jagged hole in my pants at the knee? I hoped mom would understand just how impressive 3 wins against zero losses was.
It was still early on the year, but already the early year role shuffling was coming to a close. We'd all had our chances, our short windows to make new impressions. Who we were in each others' eyes was setting like cement,
I'm going to seen as the guy who threw for 2 touchdowns and ran for another. This is very good. The annual reputation derby is ending with me in possession of the coveted "cool kid" status.
And what was that?
What was that? My face grows hotter, the flush more crimson. This time, not from victory, but from the...
I can barely breath. I try to subtly walk away from my friends. "where are you going?" I don't answer. I shuffle, an awkward gait that I strain to suppress...
Towards the Teacher's Aide ("ha ha the teachers have aids" I think, remembering the jokes we used to make, the cool kids... is this what I was going to lose?)
Does it stink? Dear lord, it does. It smells... bad. I have to get out of here. How could this happen, how here? Why now?
I'm barely able to talk as I beg for the bathroom. Recognizing desperation, the teacher's aide -- Mrs 'you can only go to the bathroom after snack and after lunch with no exceptions' Wade -- miraculously grants permission.
And I lurch towards the bathroom like a saddle sore cowboy. I have to get there. I was so close to the promised land, I strained through the everyday morning terror knowing I was one act away from losing all my friends. An act like this.
No one in the bathroom. There is a God. I've made it to the stall. Am I going to get away with this? Am I going to avoid the fate of Barry Dyneback and Ronny Syle, the Scab Eater and Pants Pee-er?
Now I'll just clean up and have to figure out an explanation of where I went so quickly. My departure and extended absence was sure to be the lead story in the 4th grade post recess rumor mill.
The cleanup is coming along, but goodness this isn't going to be fast. With every passing second, i know my excuse has to be more compelling, more remarkable. I've settled on telling people that I saw an open door in the neighborhood near the playground, and decided to conduct some espionage through the unlocked house. Dangerous, brave, and edgy... I would turn this into a chance to score more cool points.
The door. The door is squeeking open! And I'm no where near finished.
Maybe its just a kind-hearted grownup here to check on.... No, the footsteps tell me otherwise. Too light, too scurrying, too childish.
Oh no, it's Justin Borroughs.
I lift my feet, hoping to avoid detection with the sure to come "checking under the stall" technique. I hold my breath, try to still my heart. Can he hear my heart? It's so loud.
"You in here?"
Justin Burroughs! Justin Burroughs, the Stall Jumper. If there is a god, surely he and the devil are the same. Justin Burroughs, who likes to show off his athletic prowess by jumping up, grabbing hold, and looking down on whoever was going to the bathroom. The Stall Jumper jumps all over your privacy.
I try to remain silent, frantically working to clean up the evidence of my shame.
And then... the rapid two shot, the boom boom. The inevitable begins. He's jumped.
I look up in time to see his widening eyes magnified behind his thick blocky lenses.
"Oh shit, Jason!" I've never heard those words said infused with such glee. And he's off to spread the gospel, before I can say anything, before I can breath, before I can even cry.
Oh shit, indeed.
I consider not finishing the cleanup. Almost seems right, then at least my outsides and insides would match up.
But I do finish up, and stay hidden away as long as allowed by my teacher. And, predictably... she comes to get me. I slink behind her down the hallway. Back to class, back to my execution, my worst fears realized.
October 05, 2007
Rundown of my classes
For those of you who are interested, I think I've finalized my classes, so I'll let you know what they are...
Mondays are my killer day. Seriously. I'm in class from 12 noon until 11 PM straight. It's really difficult physically – I can't get anywhere close enough between classes to get any food (lesson learned last Monday, I'm packing something from now on), it's hard emotionally (I hate getting home to find everyone asleep and not really seeing them all day), it's hard intellectually (difficult to pay attention for THAT long, and actually pretty stressful too because every professor goes over their time limit and then you have to make the decision between offending the one who is teaching now by leaving or the one who will be teaching next by come in late.) Being new to all these professors, I hate the idea of giving any of them the impressions that I don't care.
Monday starts with an hour long seminar on Screenwriting. It's a requirement of the program, and one thing that is actually disappointing about it... it's a huge class filled with undergrads who aren't in the film program. It's pretty general. The upside is it's taught by Richard Walter, the co-chair of the program, and a magnetic, wise legend in Screenwriting. So it's cool. I had thought it was going to be just the MFA students though... 12-12.50
Then I have an Introduction to Animation class. I'm actually one of the few non-animation majors in this class. At UCLA, Screenwriting is only the second most successful program at getting grads placed in "the biz." The best? Their animation program. Almost all of these people will be working at Pixar, or Disney, or Dreamworks, or something like that.... So yes, I'm a little out of my league, as the class is actually drawing cartoons by pencil, but I love learning how to do it. And it's a prerequisite for a "Writing for Feature Animation Class" that I really want to take. So here I am, draw 24 pictures per second of animation (or 12 pictures, depending on how I want the motion to go). I actually really love drawing, and this gives me the requirement to sharpen the pencil and draw often. The final project is a 15 second animated short that they actually shoot on film using the animation crane. Very cool. 1-3.50.
Then I have my "main writing" workshop, taught by successful screenwriter Paul Castro. He's very encouraging and very inspirational, which is excellent. There are 8 of us in the class, and it's an excellent mix. And you can tell Paul's going to try to break us down so we write emotionally, which is vitally important for screenplays... his first in class writing assignment was to write about the thing we're most ashamed of in our lives. It was heavy and intense, because we all had tor read what we wrote out loud. In this class we're supposed to write the first 30 pages of a screenplay (it seems that they ease you into the writing process here). I'm going to go ahead and try to finish it, because if I don't I might never actually finish this story and that would be a shame. 4-6.50
Then Monday finishes off with a course where I had to sign a NONDISCLOSURE AGREEMENT because Industry Bigwigs come and share their secrets weekly. Or something like that! it's a class about the business of television and filmmaking, preparing you for developing a strategy to survive outside of film school. It's very packed, and I have to sit on the floor for 4 hours.... which is actually difficult. 7-11.
On Tuesday, nothing. Time to catch up on writing, etc.
On Wednesday, an animation lab where I work in this weeks assignment. 1-3.50.
On Thursday, a discussion section for my 130A, screenwriting fundamentals. I'm actually going to try to write a different screenplay in this one, to get a headstart on the next quarter's screenplay, so I'll have two screenplays finished by the end of my first 2 quarters. Not sure if this will work. 11-11.50. Then another animation lab, 1-3.50. Then...
I get to take a class on three dimensional story telling and theme park design taught by the Chief Creative Executive on Disney's Imagineering Team, Bruce Vaughn. It's really really excellent. Another class where I had to sign a NDA, and they are very serious. Someone spilled some details after the first class and it nearly shut the whole class down. For you Disney fans out there like me, you'll understand just how cool this is... Legendary Imagineer Marty Skylar will be a featured guest for a class, along with other vital parts of that team. If you impress enough to stand out in this large (150 people I think) class, you're invited to enroll in a follow-up class which is just 35 people, and where you're expected to put together a whole Imagineer-style project just as if you're an imagineer and pitch it to actual Disney Execs. Pretty cool. That's from 4-7.
And that's my week. Throw in some pick up basketball at the Wooden Center, some impromptu lunches with classmates, and some required movie viewing, and that's the first quarter of my MFA in Screenwriting.