February 14, 2009

My rewrite

I worked basically all day on my rewrite of Tovenray.

(ok, that's not completely true. Darby and I went on a hike with a friend of mine who is a graduate of UCLA's Screenwriting program and now works as a producer. And I also had an excellent phone call with my mentor / friend Paul Castro)

But other than that, I worked on Tovenray.

here is how I did it. I had a print out of the script, along with my written down notes from my manager. I read through the print out first, pen on paper, making changes or marking where I would make changes. For me, the tactile feeling of the pen on the paper is much better for any stages of writing that feel more like sketching or sculpting or painting - the early stages where you're still trying to figure fundamental things out. The idea of actually opening the script on my computer and making changing right away with the keyboard is really... just wrong to me. It's hard to explain.

So fortunately, I made my way all the way through that pen and paper stage, solving most of the problems raised by the notes, and pretty happy with the direction the script is taking. I then opened the file on the computer, and made actual changes to the script up until page 33.

So that gives you an idea of how much more I have to do. All in all, it took about... 11 hours today.

Weird thing is, I'm falling behind on writing my next script by spending the time on this one. Not to mention iPhone apps, my taxes, other school projects, blah blah blah.

But I really can only do one thing at a time, so it's triage, baby.

Happy Valentine's Day (since it's past midnight.)

This has never been a particularly special day for me and Darby, but it's still nice to get candy and all. Darby is actually quite wonderful at getting the kids special stuff for V-Day. I always forget about it, honestly.

Posted by jason on 03:11 AM | Comments (4)

February 13, 2009

Taking a Punch

I had my notes meeting with my manager today. It went very well. I'm more sure that she will really help me make sales. What's great is that her notes aren't dramatically changing the story itself, they are just emphasizing and defining and deepening certain things that are already there.

Taking notes - suggested improvements about things that are less than perfect about your baby - can be a hard thing to do. I honestly don't like it. But at the same time, I do, because I know it'll get my script to where it needs to be. One of the things that I've really learned is how to take this criticism.

I'm becoming more and more convinced that to be successful one of the most crucial skills someone can learn is simply to take a punch. To be able to get knocked down, and survive. To hit the ground and not give up. This kind of resiliance is one of the greatest disciplines someone can develop. I don't think there's any coincidence in the fact that God's name for his chosen people meant "wrestles with God." Or that Jesus wants us to learn how to "turn the other cheek."

My ability to hear about improvements will help me in the industry. I could tell my manager didn't know how I'd react to her notes, and was quite pleased with the fact that I could hear them without any defensiveness or tension...

Learn to take a punch, people. It'll really help you out.

Posted by jason on 12:25 AM | Comments (3)

January 29, 2009

Giving Notes

I like to offer to give notes on people's scripts. Really, for a couple of reasons. One, I like to read what other people are writing, get inspiration, keep track on their style, what they do well, what works, and what doesn't. But secondly, I want people to know me as someone who is willing to help, and - more importantly - someone who can help a script.

This impossible business that I'm going to break into is actually much more a rewrite and job business than it is a spec and sales business. What I mean by that is that it's much more of a common scenario that I will be hired to fix someone else's script, or develop a script from a producer's story idea. Coming up with new stories on my own and selling them whole cloth is actually much rarer. So I think I need practice to do that first part.

This past week I read through a television pilot and a feature film. I was very happy to see that I could see clear areas in both where I could offer fixes that, in my opinion, would make the script much stronger. The feature in particular was already very good, but the writer knew it had problems. I feel like I really identified them for her and gave her a clear prescription to make it an amazing story. I definitely see myself doing that more and more in the future, and in fact I would very much like a crack at her script because I know I could make it into something very special.

The one problem with my constant offer to give notes is that many people take me up on it, and I have a fairly large backlog of scripts.... oh well, I'll get through it.

Posted by jason on 03:07 AM | Comments (3)

January 20, 2009

Loose ends

Funny story:

Ollie asked me the other day, "Who's Martin Luther King?" I explained about the Civil Rights movements and the marches and all that. He smiles and says, "No, Daddy, you're wrong, that's not Martin Luther King." I said that I was right, and he responded, "Nope, Martin Luther King is Martin Luther King Jr's daddy. You got them confused!" Clever boy. He set me up! Turns out he knows all about MLK(J!)

Another one:

Lyric asked me yesterday what I was thinking about. I told her that I was trying to figure out an equation in my head that I could use to make one set of data we have about smaller towns' crime rates work with another set of data we have so we can arrive at the crime rates that we need for Lethal, since we're trying to get more specific information for LETHAL. She laughed and said, "Wow, Daddy, that's hardcore thinking. I was just thinking about cute baby animals!"

After my marathon writing session last week, the producer has already read my script. She said:

"Jason, good job on this draft. I really like it, especially when I got into 2nd and 3rd act! I'm writing up my story notes, when do you have time to meet and go over this draft? Thanks for your great work again, we've got a good start!"

I'm really glad she liked the draft - especially that she liked the 2nd and 3rd acts. I believe that for me, a first act is always pretty easy to write, because that's the setup, the initial idea that made me think "Wouldn't it be cool if..." But it's in the 2nd and 3rd acts where you really have to tell a story, not an idea and not a setup. The people who say something will "write itself" don't really understand all the work it takes to get through those acts. AND, I was actually personally disappointed with the 3rd act and I know it needs some work. But overall it is a good draft. I agree with her assessment. Good scenes, good characters, good stakes, good story.

I want to take a moment to comment on how unbelievably cool it is that people I don't really know are liking my writing. That this specific producer read some of my scripts, liked them a lot, and then wanted to work with me on what is her thesis project, the most important thing she does in grad school... is incredible to me. That my agent, who isn't taking on new clients, loved my Tovenray script enough to make an exception and add me to his roster... again, incredible. That I recently came in first place in a screenwriting competition where thousands enter. Unbelievable. I know I like writing, and I do believe I'm good. But I honestly believe so many things are good that ultimately most people ignore or dislike, so to find this kind of recognition is still just dreamlike (and of course I haven't sold or produced anything yet, but even so.)

One of the major factors that pushed me to leave the comfortable cocoon that is home on the east coast was my realization that wherever I went - school, work, etc - eventually I could win people over and they'd like what I did. So I thought, if I really want to make movies I need to be around those people so I can win them over with what I do. And INCREDIBLY (and honestly it's more impossible and incredible than I ever realized when I was on the east coast, if I'd known the real odds I might not have made the trip), I've had a large number of people recognize and appreciate things I've written.

It's almost too good to be true, so sometimes I just think about other things...

Posted by jason on 04:43 AM | Comments (4)

January 17, 2009

that was insane

I'm tired and feel like I didn't do much this past week other than write or try to focus on writing and fail. I wrote 46 pages today, it took me 16 hours, but I finished a first draft of "Oulu and the Faraway, Foggy Island" There's a lot to like in there (I think... I was too tired to actually read it through and check for errors before I sent it of to the producer.)

It's interesting because I know that I wrote a very different screenplay than I would have had I taken more time to write it. Very often I would want to stop writing because I'd hit a snag in the story that I'd have to figure out. Normally I would indeed stop at those times and kind of run things through my mind while doing something else. But this week, because I had such a crazy deadline, I would literally have to sit and figure it out in the moment. Some of the solutions that I came up with were downright cool. Some maybe not as much (I am decidedly unthrilled with my ending.)

But there you have it. By the way, Lethal up to #4 in the Lifestyle Category and has held steady there all day long. We're really hoping Apple features us because we want #1 and to break into the top 100 of the overall list. One thing that is quite honestly a thrill is seeing so many people react positively to it. Like here, and here, and here. The idea that we created this thing that total strangers are using and having a good time with is just sooo cool.

Posted by jason on 03:35 AM | Comments (3)

January 15, 2009

A midweek break

Only during a week where there's an impossibly high writing goal would 2 meetings and seven hours of class feel like a break. This is the one day this week that I'm not going to be able to work on the screenplay because I didn't get home until midnight and I'm just going to go to bed...

Today was a very good day. I had a meeting with my agent and his agency partner and it went better than I could have imagined. In the next two weeks I'm meeting with a couple of managers that they think might be good for developing my career. Then we're going out with The Kingdom of Tovenray the week of 2/3.

I pitched 4 ideas to them to see which they think I should write – which they though they could sell. They about fell off their seats when I pitched one story idea I've been kicking around called "Skeet." It was a great meeting, because they were very impressed by my ability to pitch a story in the room, which is vital to eventually making sales and getting hired for jobs. Anyway, they were so excited about Skeet – a character driven thriller that could include really juicy roles for some excellent actors – that they wanted to know the soonest possible time I could have it completed.

So now I need to get a first draft of SKEET to them by 3/1. It's my second script they'll be going out with.

Good times!

Right after the meeting I got an email from "the Movie Script Competition" telling me "congratulations again on your first place finish for A Well Adjusted Boy." What?! I didn't know I won anything. I guess I missed an email, but I won $1000, a trophy, and some other cool stuff. They were asking for my picture and answers to some questions so they could promote me on their site.

Cool.

There is this outside chance right now that by February I will have made a sale, and the Phillies and the Eagles will have won a world championship. What life am I living?

Posted by jason on 03:36 AM | Comments (9)

January 14, 2009

A crazy week of writing

My previous record for writing a full length script was 8 days for THE BLACK FAMILY SINGERS, the screenplay that got me into UCLA's film program, and that I will make into a feature film some day...

I'm smashing that 3 days here, and really almost 5. Because of some holiday procrastination, and then some extended holiday procrastination as Jenna, Jessica and Drew visited, I started this latest story on Monday. And I have to hand it in on Friday before the weekend starts.

And I'm out all day tomorrow.

Here's the plan. 25 pages yesterday. (I did 26!) Another 25 today. (I've written 12 so far.) None tomorrow (Hoping I can sneak some, actually, but I have a meeting with my agent at 11 and then class until 11 PM so it'll be tough. I need to spend the morning getting ready for my meeting) Ha, that's fun to say... a meeting with my agent. Then 25 on Thursday and another 25 on Friday. Clean it up. Send it out by 5.

Like I said, craziness. But so far this exercise has been great in the creativity it's throttled out of me. So many times I just want to get up and do something else, but I CAN'T so I'm forced to solve a problem and coolness happens.

What's also very interesting to me about this project is that it's based on a similar premise as KINGDOM of TOVENRAY but it's turning out completely different, with some very interesting plot and character deviations. It's been a fun ride. But I can't wait until it's over.

So I can start another script!! Yeah for me.

OK, now to finish those last 13 pages for the day.

Posted by jason on 12:51 AM | Comments (6)

December 13, 2008

The most positive rejection letter ever

I really can't help but feel good after reading this rejection... it's funny.

Thanks so much for having [person I know at the Sundance Labs] give me A WELL ADJUSTED BOY. With regrets, I'm writing to let you know the disappointing news that we did not select it for our Screenwriters Lab. We thought your writing displayed a fresh voice and that your characters were charming, and we ultimately found the story to be quite touching. I can absolutely see why [person I know at Sundance Labs] is such a fan of yours. The unfortunate reality of having so few spaces at the Lab is that we just can't support all the worthy and engaging projects that come our way, and we end up having to make some really tough decisions. We sincerely appreciate you giving us the opportunity to consider the script, and wish you the best of luck with finding the resources to move forward with it. I hope you'll think of us again with future work. Warmest wishes for a joyful holiday season and a very Happy New Year.

Posted by jason on 01:26 PM | Comments (3)

December 06, 2008

Representation

I'm thrilled to announce that as of today I officially have an agent. This is a HUGE step towards a screenwriting career. And the good news is... I very much like my agent. He's got a great attitude. It seems like such a great match.

And by the way, the producer option deal finally came my way... and predictably, though still disappointedly, the deals are not good. But at this point that's just fine, because Paul (my agent) wants to try to sell both of the scripts anyway, and for a much better deal than I'd get from a new producer.

Posted by jason on 02:56 AM | Comments (13)

December 04, 2008

Autumn's Honey

This quarter I've been developing an idea for a TV half-hour series that is called "Autumn's Honey." Thought I'd share what I have so far with you. There's a lot of material. Be warned!

The Pitch

AUTUMN BOY (MIKE) BUFFALO (28), is the oldest son of SID (short for Siddharta) and MAG (short for Magdalene) (early 50s), the beloved leaders of a sprawling mother-earth-christian-buddhist-hybrid-honey-growing-home-schooling-gun-
toting commune in the mountains of Topanga, California called “Sid and Mag's Spiritual Path Towards Luminance (or, to the chagrin of Sid and Mag, “Sid and Mag's SPTL, pronounced "Spittle”). Autumn asks that people call him Mike, his birthname. No one in the commune does.

Mike has many brothers and sisters but he really only knows three of them. (Because there are SO MANY.) SUMMER BOY (26), a former math league superstar pining for his former glory, expects to step into SPTL's Lead Guru position some day. WINTER GIRL (23), is a honey savant who inherited her mom's bee sense. SPRING GIRL (18) acts like the perfect commune resident, but is living a double life.

Those are the kids that his parents had when they were still a normal 9-to-5 suburban couple (a lawyer and an accountant!) – before Sid has his Moment of Illumination at a roadside honey stand somewhere in the Valley, a dramatic moment that involved accidentally dropping acid, a velvet painting of Christ, and a Buddha keychain. Sid and Mag renamed their children and themselves, dropped out of the rat race, and
bought as much cheap land in Topanga as they could afford.

Mike dreams of having a normal ”sit in a cubicle farm all day” job. He longs for the day when he might himself be a corporate sellout, enjoying the life his parents once lived and now disdain. He craves structure and normalcy.

But instead he's stuck tending the Hallelujah Homemade Honey Shack selling Autumn Boy's Organically Blessed Honey. (Yes, they named it after him since he's so sweet!) This Honey is Organically Blessed... Since the honey bees regularly pollinate robust crops of Marijuana, Opium, and Patchouli, the Honey has a unique kick to it. Sid and Maggie run California's largest organic honey empire.

But Mike's parents are controlling and any mention of getting out of the Commune is met with weeks of theatrical mourning. Even a forced weekend long “love shackle” session, which involves a sweat lodge, a couple acoustic guitars, and three of the prettiest girls from the commune.

Mike dreams of living in an fancy apartment complex in Santa Monica and living a normal life. But truly, in a twist that puts both Mike's dreams and Mike's relationship with his older brother, Summer Boy, at risk, Sid and Mag are grooming Mike to take over the commune once they retire.

The Main Characters

AUTUMN BOY “MIKE” BUFFALO
Twenty-eight. Son of the founders of the “Spiritual Path Towards Luminance” commune. He has mixed feelings about it. “Oh, the SPTL commune? I’ve visited it once or twice. They have good honey there. Oh, you heard I lived there? Well, yes, by “visited it,” I guess I mean “lived there my whole life.” But really, it’s just like any other place, except for the free love and the armory.” He wants everyone to call him “Mike.” Nobody does.

Mike leads a double life. He’s comfortable at the commune, but often miserable. He cares for every person in his community, yet dreams of getting away from them and living his own life. Mike often secretly dresses up in a 3 piece suit he has hidden under his mattress and hitches his way into the big city (Santa Monica). “Imagine for a moment, a whole cube, all to yourself. Three walls, a phone and a computer. Writing memos, drinking from a water cooler, logging your hours. Living the dream.”

But often, normally just at the moment when he’s on the cusp of getting such a job, a crippling fear sets in. “I just don’t know if I’m really outbound telemarketing material. It’s a pretty cut-throat world, one I don’t think I’m prepared for.” He longs to live in a world that he doesn’t believe he can survive in. Because of this, he’s often studying books from the popular “For Dummies” series. “Telemarketing For Dummies is the best, even though half of it was in Indian.”

Mike longs for love. Normal love. The boring kind. Not the free wheeling casual love that the commune encourages.

Mike is loyal to and protective of his parents – even while he thinks they’re loony. Yet, Mike gets what they’re doing and even believes in it... to a degree great enough that he doesn’t really fit in anywhere. At the commune, he’s a black sheep because he’s not a totally sold-out true believer. Outside the commune, he’s often viewed as weird because he’s from the compound. His instincts are just a little off. He has almost no shared cultural references with people.

Mike’s friends are split into two groups – true believers and refugees from the commune.

MOLECULE “MOLE” CANDYCANE
Twenty Nine. Mole is a refugee from the commune, trying to scrape out something approaching a normal life. He’s Mike’s best friend. He is the manager of the pizza section of the Countrywide Mortgage Corporate Cafeteria (something he definitely lords over Mike.) “What can I say, Mikey Boy, some of us are born with special talents, with the ability to survive outside the warm safe cocoon you cling to. But I can’t blame you, serving pizza slices isn’t exactly something you can learn. you either have it or you don’t.”

Mole rues the fact that the best he can do to give his name any semblance of normality is to take on a nickname based on a small furry creature, but oh well he didn’t have much to work with.
Mole is one of those guys who is always working on some plan, some scheme, some new project. He’s often developing a new skill that no one had any clue he even had an interest in. Like luging, or thermonuclear physics, or animal husbandry (focusing on albino rats for the time being, thank you very much.)

And while he’s amazingly – almost in a charmed way – successful, in the end he often makes decisions that mean his life doesn’t really change for the better.

Case in point: Mole played the lotto. And he actually won. $37.3 million dollars, after taxes. Quits his job. Wonderful!

But then he was back the next day, asking for his same job back. Why, you may wonder? Well, it turns out that he had purchased, at auction, the life sized model of the Millennium Falcon used in the actual filming of Star Wars: A New Hope. It was $37.2 million dollars. He spent all his money, and, along with the fees from the warehouse that it’s stored in he now owes an extra $127,438.23. So yeah, he’s handing out pizza slices again. But also, he lives in the Millennium Falcon. “I’m the luckiest guy in the world, are you kidding? Whose living in the Millennium Falcon? Oh yeah, it’s me.”

Now, you wouldn’t believe it, but that Falcon does bring in the ladies. Course, most of them are wearing metal bikinis or have blue skin, but Mole finds that kind of hot anyway. One part of the commune which Mole has no need to rebel against is the free loving.

SID BUFFALO
Fifty Three. Sid (short for Siddharta) rules the commune with a surprisingly blissed out iron fist. “My child, all good things here, the hooka and the free love and the organically blessed honey, they all declare that every word pouring forth from my mouth are direct to you from Jesus, Buddha, or whichever Hindu god you prefer. But if that doesn’t convince you, remember... I’m the one with the key to the gun room.”

Sid, once a corporate lawyer, now wouldn’t be caught with such corporate frivolities such as tailored suits, or blackberries, or shoes. He wouldn’t be caught with these things, because he hides them all in a heavily secured underground bunker. Here, he indulges in his love of all things fashionable and technological without anyone needing to know. No one, that is, except for his two close personal friends, Donald Rumsfield and Bill Gates. They’re the only ones who are ever allowed into Sid’s special bunker. “It is true I have banned fancy Italian suits and the creeping influence of Microsoft Vista from this compound to protect my flock while at the same time enjoying the smooth silky goodness and the talking paperclip. Does that make me a hypocrite? No, my friends, it makes me a leader.”

Because of a booming honey empire, Sid is actually a very wealthy man, and takes care of any number of problems by throwing money at it. FBI staking out the compound? Here’s a bribe. A rival compound trying to move in on the honey business? Pay some burnt out homeless men to set up a shanty town near their honey shacks and scare away customers. His prophecy about rain looking increasingly unlikely? Hire the government to seed the clouds.

For all his faults, Sid is trying to lead the way on the Spiritual Path Towards Luminance, and does truly believe in his quest, regardless of how many times he might swerve, falter, or father illegitimate children.

MAG BUFFALO
Fifty two. Mag doesn’t believe in SPTL as much as Sid does. She still keeps her accounting books and outfits hidden away, just in case. Sid was the one who had the vision, and Mag’s kind of along for the ride. But part of that ride includes children – lots of them – and since Mag truly delights in her many kids, she doesn’t complain too much. And the bees, Mag LOVES the bees.

More than anything, Mag doesn’t want to be abandoned. Mag’s mom left her family and had an affair with the local family dentist when Mag was only 8. Mag never really got over it. “Mom used to say, “At least you get your cavities filled for free now!” but all I could wonder was who would fill this cavity in my heart.”

Mag talks like that a lot, semi-poetic, semi-Hallmark, but never fake. Always genuine. Because of her childhood issues, any hint that a family member might be thinking of leaving unleashes a flood of tears, guilt-tripping, and knit hats.

When Mag is stressed out, she knits. Her family can always tell how things are going by how many knit items are in Sid and Mag’s Grass Roofed Geodesic Dome. And we’re not talking peaceful, soothing knitting either, we’re talking angry, swear-word muttering, extreme knitting.

Mag has a soft spot for Mike, and often defends Mike against Sid. She can relate to Mike, because in many ways she feels the same way.

Mag is preternaturally beautiful and fertile, considering her age. Many people confuse her for Mike’s sister. In a free love environment, this leads to some very uncomfortable moments for Mike. The way Mag dresses, she doesn’t exactly discourage this, but she’s also oblivious to her affect on the boys. “One of the Anderson’s sweet boys told me that he’d like a chance to get together and spread my honey, isn’t that a hoot? It’s good to see the kids take an interest in honey.”

ISABEL PORTAL
Twenty Five. Isabel’s a sweet, hip, buttoned up, beautiful, driven midwestern girl who moved to California to conquer Hollywood. She has very strict boundaries, and is very strict about having strict boundaries. “In order to maintain true intimacy in any relationships, I first have to establish healthy intellectual, emotional, and physical boundaries. In other words, next time please ask before you take a bite of my king sized snickers bar.”

She meets Mike when she visits the commune to option Sid and Mag’s story rights, because her studio wants to make a feature film about SPTL. She’s always wound a little too tight, and Mike helps her out of a semi-nervous-breakdown.

Mike and Isabel are intrigued with each other, yet reluctant to admit it. Though Isabel likes Mike, they share so little common understanding that they are often at odds. Isabel: “No, Mike, a Glock 179 is not a good present for a first date.” Mike: “I knew I should have gone with the Beretta 92. I just didn’t know if that would be sending the wrong message.”

Isabel lives the life that Mike can only dream of, and Mike, smack dab in the middle of communal living, basically lives Isabel’s nightmare. And it certainly won’t help this conflict-ridden relationship when Mike eventually learns that Isabel wants to shape the SPTL feature film so that it portrays Sid as a corrupt, manic David-Koresh-style cult leader.

Isabel has no interest in kids or marriage until “she’s old,” and spends most of her free time surfing or singing in her medieval chamber music choir. Both of these activities are very strictly kept secrets, however.

The Pilot Episode Treatment

Autumn’s Honey Pilot Treatment “Honey Sticks Like Glue”

AUTUMN BOY “MIKE” LUMINS (28) rides a beat-up rusty bicycle wearing a three piece suit and slicked-back hair. Mike changes in a public beach restroom and stuffs the suit into a backpack. Mike dons loose-fitting hemp cloths and musses up his hair. Mike rides his bike up steep canyon roads. He talks to himself, practicing what he should have said in a failed job interview he’s just now leaving. “Yes, Mr. Wundkell, I do believe that I would make an impressive addition to your already formidable staff. Ugh! Of course that’s what I should have said. Is it so difficult, Mike?”
Mike pulls up to an IMPOSING GATE marked “Spiritual Pathway Towards Luminescence” (SPTL, pronounced “Spittle”). Mike’s ordered to lie on the ground. A group of hippy soldiers with LARGE ASSAULT RIFLES surround Mike. Mike calls many of the soldiers by name, tells them they don’t have to do this with him. They shoot in the air. Mike drops to the ground. They pat Mike down, and then cheerfully let him into a compound. The guards inform Mike, who they call Autumn, that he must see his parents for an audience. Mike asks that they call him “Mike.” They don’t.
Mike sneaks into his crowded, shared Yurt (a permanent circular tent) and thankfully finds it empty. Mike hides his suit in a large underground compartment normally covered by a rug woven from Yak fur. Mike takes a weathered brochure advertising a Santa Monica condo high-rise building and looks at it longingly, and then sticks that in a pocket.
Mike is shocked to find his friend, MOLE, hiding in the compartment. Mole and Mike discuss Mike’s failed interview from earlier in the day. Mike hears people outside the tent and tenses up, trying to force Mole back into hiding since the refugee Mole is not welcome on the compound anymore.
Mike rushes to meet with his parents. On the way, Mike meets a number of wacky inhabitants of this commune. It’s clear that people count on him for all sorts of compound-related problems – to referee heated disputes, fix the finest dish of tofu cutlets, even to drain a filled up organic outhouse.
Mike visits his parents, SID and MAG (50s), the leaders of this commune. They ask Mike where he’s been, and Mikes fibs about looking for... “new strains of honey.” Sid informs Mike that Sid has tragic news: a Cousin has left the compound and taken a swanky corporate job in the Big City, abandoning their values and betraying all of them in process (The Cousin is a clerk at the Walmart in West Hills.) Mag dramatically breaks down at the news. Sid acts as if this Cousin was selling state secrets to Bin Laden. Mike tries to defend the Cousin, which doesn’t go over well. Finally, Sid demands Mike get out to the Hallelujah Honey Shack – the compound’s popular roadside shop on the border of the compound and “the outside world” – to meet a visitor, a woman. Most likely an FBI agent, Sid and Mag have Mike believe.
END OF ACT 1

Mike meets ISABEL PORTAL (20’s), at the Hallelujah Honey Shack. Mike acts as if Isabel is an FBI Agent, because Sid and Mag suspected she would be, but Isabel is actually a movie producer. Following compound protocol, Mike presses the “FBI Panic” button and compound members swarm the Honey Shack with weapons, anointing oils, and their finest blends of honey (not available for sale to the public!), terrifying the other customers and Isabel in the chaos. Only after Isabel is threatened, sanctified, and bribed is she able to make Mike understand that she’s not FBI. Isabel offers to buy Sid’s life rights because she wants to make a movie about the commune leader.
During the meeting, Isabel’s boyfriend, FRANK WILLS (30s) enters the Honey Shack, angry to discover that Isabel is here on business. Frank is rude and calls her a workaholic (among other things.) Mike steps in to defend her. Frank becomes jealous of Mike and drives away, promising to move out. Isabel is on the verge of tears. Mike skillfully works to pull together a honey-based remedy for her. While doing so he drops the brochure to the Santa Monica high-rise on the ground. It’s actually where Isabel lives! On impulse (no doubt influenced by the Organic Honey Drink), Isabel mentions that she’ll need a roommate to cover her rent. On impulse, Mike declares he could live there with her. They plan on a meeting place where Isabel will pick him up later that night.
Mike approaches his parents to tell them he’s moving out. While there, Mike cannot get the words out. Sid and Mag are cunning, and by the end of the conversation, instead of leaving, Mike’s been given more commune responsibilities, and gets re-assigned to a nicer Yurt.
Isabel waits at the meeting place. It’s dark. She checks the time and drives away, sad.
Mike leads a new meeting at the commune and then moves into his fancy new Yurt. He examines the condo brochure and turns it over. It’s Isabel’s number. He hides the brochure under his pillow.
END OF ACT 2

Posted by jason on 03:30 AM | Comments (16)

December 03, 2008

Great great meeting today

I had a fantastic meeting today that represents amazing progress towards the whole screenwriting dream. If you'd like details, email me.

Posted by jason on 11:06 PM | Comments (4)

November 25, 2008

Yet Another Fade Out

I just wrote the final page of my latest screenplay, titled REMATCH. I'm sure it needs work, but I think it just might kind of rock. It's kind of like a meditation on second chances, and losing things you love to really truly gain them, and learning lessons later in life. It's kind of like Dennis Quaid's baseball movie, THE ROOKIE, only with football and with more humor. (I don't mean plotwise really, but just in terms of feel and emotion.)

Of course it's 2.26 AM and I'm very tired so my senses and intuition aren't completely to be trusted right now. I'm hoping in terms of football films, it's JERRY MCGUIRE, but it might just be NECESSARY ROUGHNESS or THE REPLACEMENTS.

I finished WELL ADJUSTED BOY as my first UCLA MFA program screenplay last december. Since last december I've written WELL ADJUSTED BOY, HER 14th MISSION, THE KINGDOM OF TOVENRAY, MARRY THE MAN TODAY, and now REMATCH. I love the pace UCLA forces me to keep, 5 screenplays in less than a year seriously rocks rocks rocks.

And actually I kind of have to write one more screenplay during the winter break (I've been tentatively calling it A FARAWAY FOGGY LAND while my producer has been calling it AN AMERICAN PRINCESS), so that will technically be 6 completed screenplays in one year. Which is stupidly crazily awesome.

Posted by jason on 05:25 AM | Comments (8)

November 14, 2008

Working Together

Tonight I attended the class of a producing student that I'm working with to develop a screenplay that I will ultimately write and she will use as her graduate thesis. She'll have to put together a full marketing plan and package to try to get it set up.

I'm mostly doing this for the experience, and to create good relationships with the producing students. Also, the story we're writing is intriguing to me. And, this producing student works for a very prestigious organization, and may be able to get some of my scripts to the right people there, which could make for a great opportunity (vague, I know. Hit me up for more details if you know me and want them.)

I like working with this producer, but so far this hasn't been easy. It's easier, of course, for me to just write a story and go with all my own instincts because that's what I'm then excited about and these things build upon each other. Even if I have to go back and change things after the fact, for that first rush of storytelling I personally like to move forward quickly. Anyway, there are just some different styles at work here, and again, this is a great learning experience for me to be able to work within this different process.

So tonight, at the class, all her producing peers were discussing the treatment we had submitted. And it's just funny working with someone else, because inevitably they will throw a curveball, intentionally or not. So we're talking to everyone about this fantastic, enchanted world in our story, a faraway foggy island that cannot be reached by normal boats because it's magical. People are asking what this island looks like, and my partner says, "Oh, everything there is very high tech and modern!" Now this was the first I'd heard this, and I had always thought it would be idealized chinese / asian architecture with a magical / fantasy overlay. but this started a pretty big uproar among the producing students, all of whom wanted to know why I would make that choice for this story, and what I'm trying to accomplish with that...

Of course, I'm not one to reveal any stresses on a team, so I rolled with it, saying that we're still working to flesh out the details of the way the island looks and feels, and some of the technology might actually be magic and enchantment, that kind of thing, not really ipods and skyscrapers.

It was a funny, but strange experience!

PS. She apparently also slipped an American Idol-like scene into the treatment that people didn't like, and this choice was again attributed to me. I just kind of said we'd examine that and see if maybe it doesn't work in the flow of the story.

PPS. Overall it was a good experience, don't let me give you the wrong impression. I like this relationship. But as in any relationship, things can get unpredictable!

Posted by jason on 03:36 AM | Comments (4)

November 09, 2008

So close and yet so far...

Things have been strange lately.

There are so many positives going on, yet so many of them are mostly positive only in their potential. I have not one, but two situations which could result in me having an excellent agent, and another possibility with a group of producers which continues to simmer. Both agent scenarios involve UCLA professors personally recommending me, which I greatly appreciate. Yet I know that all of these amazing going-ons could result in zilch... nothing.

This is probably the life I've chosen for myself, because at no level are things every "automatic." They are almost always a great deal of potentially awesome things that may or (more likely) may not pan out. I have to develop the fortitude to just suck it up and deal with it.

Today we visited the Westside Vineyard in Venice. Darby and I will continue to go to an evening service at Mosaic (one of us going with a mutual friend every other week), but for the kids we're trying to find a better situation. We'll see if this is it. On the one hand, they do a great job at community outreach, the pastor seems like a genuinely nice person who gave a good, practical teaching, and Ollie liked the Sunday School. One the other hand, it felt very churchy, and not in a good way. I can't help but find the language and culture of an extremely churched up environment really uncomfortable, it just seems as disconnected from real life and real emotions as a Hallmark Card.

Posted by jason on 10:27 PM | Comments (11)

October 29, 2008

Meeting today

I'm not going to get into a ton of details... if you want to know specifics write me an email. But I can say generally that my meeting with the producers was very positive today, they made clear their intent to option two of my scripts and appear to have a very smart plan together. I am now awaiting the specific offer so I can review it with a lawyer and other experts.

So it's a waiting game to see if this is the right way to go.

The Phillies and this on the same day. Wow! And Ollie get's his special Snow Leopard Gecko tomorrow, too.

Posted by jason on 11:51 PM | Comments (2)

October 24, 2008

Could this be a good thing?

A producer called me today after having finished reading THE KINGDOM OF TOVENRAY and HER 14TH MISSION. She was very excited, and loved both of them. She's just now leaving her former production company and teaming with another exec from other companies to form a new one.

Anyway, I'm meeting with both of them on Wednesday to discuss where to go from here. She said they both already can see HER 14TH MISSION on the screen, and have a real vision for it. And she said if I'm close to signing with an agent or a manager I might as well put it off for a week or two so I won't have to share the money I'll get from these scripts. That's pretty much an admission that she's going to make an offer... I would think.

Now, not one to want to get suckered (and susceptible to it because I'm an optimist!), I know that maybe she doesn't want me to get that manager just yet because they might push for a better deal. However, I don't feel like she's trying to trick me because she said, "You will want to be sure to have a good lawyer to look over it for you, though." And I'd like to think that we're kind of friends now. (See, that optimist thing again.) And she said she can already tell I'm a writer she'd like to work with a lot because of the unique voice and the storytelling range I displayed in the two scripts she's read. (I also have a weakness for those who like to compliment me.)

There is also the dilemma of selling the option to a script that is currently being read by many people around town... to a brand new production company with no track record. They could conceivably present the project badly to the studios around town and get passes from all of them, killing its chances of actually getting made. And while money is and would certainly be nice... I'm writing films to see them on the screen.

So now I have to start figuring out how much they can offer me for an option that is worth that risk. I'm not sure of the number, to be honest! And with companies expressing interest, I just don't know exactly what I should do.

I guess it's a nice problem to have, though.

Posted by jason on 11:47 PM | Comments (16)

October 22, 2008

Austin Film Festival Wrapup

The Austin Film Festival is hectic, packed with tons of great guests and information, exhausting, and also a tad bit depressing. Yet ultimately it served to make me feel really good about where I am.

Let's start with the good. Listening to panelists like Shane Black (writer of Lethal Weapon), John Lee Hooker (writer/director of The Rookie and The Alamo, among others.), and Danny Boyle (director of Trainspotting, 28 Days Later, and Slumdog Millionaire) was nothing short of inspirational and illuminating. Oh yeah, and Laurence Kazdan was there too. Writer on Raiders of the Lost Ark and Empire Strikes Back.

This is a nice little time to tell the story of the first time I saw The Rookie, which is the baseball movie starring Dennis Quaid (NOT the movie directed by Clint Eastwood. The writer of that movie was in Austin, too. I talked to him after his session, saying, "I just loved the Rookie!" and he said, "Wait which Rookie?" and I said the baseball movie and he said, "I didn't write that one. That one is better than the one I wrote." And now I found myself in a conversation with someone who I didn't want to be talking to anymore, I hadn't even seen his Rookie!). I saw the good Rookie film on a flight to California when I still worked at JP Morgan Chase. I was going on a business trip to meet with folks at Disney. I saw this film, about a man recapturing his dream when he thought he had given up on it, and I just couldn't stop crying! It spoke to me so much at the time, and made me believe that I could give this writing thing a shot. I'm not going to say it's the sole reason I made the life change I did, but it contributed. Movies are powerful!

And then the films. It's fun to be able to watch free films every night, and have your choice of a ton of them. It's also hard to explain just how cool it is to watch a film at a festival, it's more like a theatrical play atmosphere, where the crowd is quick to laugh and quick to cheer. I was 1 for 3 on the movies I saw.

W was horrible. Avoid it unless you have a morbid curiosity on what a bad film looks like. The thing that I found so tragic was that there actually was a good movie that could have been made. James Cromwell's performance as the elder Bush was excellent. If Stone had decided to play the story straight and emphasize the Shakespearean elements (the father/son/brother elements could have been sooo strong) he could have had a Godfather caliber political story on his hands.

Instead he resorted to a badly done extended SNL skit, with one dimensional caricatures. It was the political equivalent of one of those "Epic," "Scary," and "Date" Movies, which doesn't really make jokes or add anything new that's humorous, they merely re-create a scene from another film and declare it funny. Remember when push choked on a pretzel? Remember all the phrases he mangles? Ha ha! What a missed opportunity. It could have been about so many things. About the tension in the room, with all these advisors with agendas, a high stakes 10 Angry Men. It could have been the family story. It could have been the opposite of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, where an idealistic man comes to Washington and becomes really, truly corrupted. It could have been the story of a group of men that really duped a country. It could have been anything and been better than what it was, which was a bunch of skits that had no story or point of view.

The other movie I saw wasn't really worth discussing too much. We watched it because we ate lunch with the director and he begged us to. He didn't mention he was in it. And naked. It made no sense, was not funny, was crude, and seemed like an extended 3.5 million dollar ploy for him to get to make out with a hot girl.

But both of these downers were made up for by the triumphant film Slumdog Millionaire. Please support this film when it releases. I don't want to spoil anything about it. Just watch it. It should win an Oscar. Just incredible filmmaking.

Now for the depressing part. Parts of the festival just had the stench of desperation hanging heavy over it. So many people there with their one screenplay, dying to make this festival their ONE BIG BREAK. It's horrible to be around, it's embarrassing to watch. People have to play it cool, be confident that you have the talent to eventually make it.

After just about every session, there was time for questions and answers. Inevitably, people would ask some question that actually was a long extended way of them saying how awesome they were. "Hi, I've written a really excellent TV Pilot and I need to find a way to get the people at HBO to read it. Do you have any suggestions?" Translation: PLEASE READ MY TV PILOT I'M HERE IN AUSTIN TO BREAK INTO HOLLYWOOD.

And many people were looking for distribution for their films. Common scenario: You self finance a film and put 150K (and up) on credit cards and a payment is due. You have dreams of showing the film at a festival and some studio exec will say, "This is incredible! I want to buy your movie!" I don't know how many people I heard saying "I told the exec from Paramount Vantage about my film, she said she might stop by and see it." Later, we found out the exec from Paramount Vantage went to see the University of Texas football game. Needless to say, no films were purchased.

It was sad and naive and honestly I didn't like to be in that audience and somehow get lumped in with them!

Last notes: Sessions started at 9am, which on my west coast time was 7am. I was exhausted. The days were long, we didn't really get to explore Austin, which really was a beautiful town from what I could see. The BBQ was delicious. I want to go back.

So in the end, I'm really glad I went. I met some cool people, had a fantastic time with friends from UCLA, and learned a lot. But I will only go back once they invite me as a panelist... Or as a filmmaker.

Posted by jason on 11:22 PM | Comments (3)

October 16, 2008

The Austin Film Festival

Since I had not one but two screenplay that placed in the Austin Film Festival screenwriting competition, I'm hopping on a plane tomorrow with two of my best UCLA friends (who also placed) and attending it! I kind of can't wait, actually, it should be a blast.

I've never been to Austin, Texas before, but I've heard great things about it. And the festival itself looks amazing, with a ton of opportunities to meet people and learn from experts. Since we placed in the competition, we'll be given special badges and treated like royalty (ok, one of those two statements are true.)

Posted by jason on 01:00 AM | Comments (8)

October 14, 2008

Nicholl Contact update

It seems the second wave of contacts from the Nicholl is better than the first. Today I got an email from an executive at Steven Zaillian's production company. Steven Z wrote a little film you might have heard of called Schindler's List. She said that people were emailing about scripts that placed in the Nicholl and that a couple of people said mine was really good and she should read it. Not bad, right?

I also was contacted by 2929 Productions. These are real companies, people!

Posted by jason on 05:19 PM | Comments (9)

ScriptShark Semifinalist

I just found out that both RETRO BAND and A WELL ADJUSTED BOY made the semi-finals of the ScriptShark screenwriting competition. Finalists will be announced in November.

Posted by jason on 05:16 PM | Comments (4)

October 13, 2008

Want to be a creative person? Prepare to get the smack down!

Well, goodness... I've been sending scripts out to people who request them because of my placement in the Nicholl Semis, and look at this delightful email I get today.

Jason-

Thanks so much for letting me read HER 14TH MISSION. Unfortunately its a pass for me. I think your writing is quite strong but the subject matter is a hard sell. Studios are rarely buying any specs these days and historical specs are not selling at all. Its very rare.

Structurally - you've done a great job of hitting the three act structure. I think the topic is very interesting about Harriet Tubman's 14th mission however this to me feels more like a TV movie of the week than a feature. It wasn't elevated enough. I tend to respond stronger to writing that "pops" per say or has a distinct voice. To be honest your dialog was a little bland and I understand due to the historical nature of the piece it had to be that way.

Being that the concept and dialog were both a little too down the road- it wasn't something I ultimately responded to. Thank you again for sending me your script and best of luck with it.
Best,
A

I can handle it, but man it's not all that great to get a message like this! So I just tell myself... Keep writing... Keep working. Everyone can hate you, it only takes one to love you, and your film could get made.

I could respond to this email in a more point to point fashion, but I don't want to come across as the bitter, defensive writer... so no comment.

Except... it's "per se," not per say. And it's pretty redundant to say "Structurally, you've done a great job of hitting the three act structure." And how in the world is my writing strong if my dialogue is bland and said strong writing doesn't pop? And... oh nevermind. (Although I have more.)

And by the way, I really do take most critiques and notes really very well, but ones that give you no concrete examples or guidance and are all over the map while clearly contradicting themselves? Well, I guess I do have one point of agreement with the writer of this message.

Unfortunately it's a pass for me, too.

Posted by jason on 01:34 AM | Comments (7)

October 11, 2008

The Nicholls Contacts Begin

It seems the list of winners from the Nicholl Fellowship competition was released today, because I have already gotten 6 different people email me, asking to either read the script or read the logline. Hopefully something positive will come of this. So far, the people who have contacted me have been managers, production companies, and one agent...

It's pretty exciting, so in honor of this occasion I will share one of my favorite images with you.

v6q6wm.gif


Posted by jason on 01:26 AM | Comments (7)

October 08, 2008

Slamdance Screenwriting Competition

First, a tiny smidge of bad news. I didn't advance to the final 10 in the Nicholl Competition. Oh well, again, that would have been icing on the cake, so while it would have been fun, in the long run it's no big deal. Placing as a semifinalist will give me a ton of momentum regardless.

Now, to take the edge off of all of your obviously crushing disappointment, I am happy to tell you that I found out today that A Well Adjusted Boy has placed in the 3rd round (the top 50) of the Slamdance Film Festival. Over 1900 scripts were submitted, so again, that's an achievement. They'll announce the final 25 on 10/13.

It's funny actually, they have been trying to get in touch with me since 9/30 but my email apparently kept bouncing for them. So I got a desperate call yesterday because they need me to sign a release form and send a new pdf of the script.

I also have a meeting with another producer set up for next week. Taking meetings with producers once a week is probably a good habit to get into.

Again, I'm not expecting anything huge to break from any of these events, specifically. But you get enough sharks in the water and eventually somebody gets eaten. (hmmm, maybe not the best analogy.)

But you know what I mean.

Posted by jason on 03:13 PM | Comments (5)

September 29, 2008

Another Fade Out

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

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

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

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

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

But I do have to prepare my pitch, too.

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

September 15, 2008

Back in the saddle

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

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

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

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

I need to write.

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

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

August 31, 2008

The Writer's Room

Today I had my first taste of an honest to goodness full day of just writing and working on figuring out an entire season's worth of story arcs and then pitching stories and breaking out each single episode. Honestly, it was a lot of fun, and I love the group I'm working with. This should be a great experience, and I think the final product will be very high quality.

Unfortunately, I still feel sick, and my skin hurts and I have hot flashes and I can't hear half of what people say because of the ringing in my right ear. On top of that, I can't really hear anything out of my right ear either. So it could have been better. But considering my health, it truly went as well as it could have.

I realized too that myself and a close friend of mine, Ed Goodman, were the only two invited to take part in this project that aren't specifically TV track here at UCLA. This is apparently quite an honor, and is because we have a rep for being good in a writer's room setting and at writing, obviously. Yes for us.

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

August 29, 2008

The Nicholl Fellowship

I've gotten a lot of questions about the Nicholl Fellowship, so I just wanted to put information here for all to read.

1) It's the premiere screenwriting competition in the world. It's run by the Academy of Motion Pictures – the same group of people who award the Oscars. And the judges are the same group of writers. directors, actors and producers who vote on the Oscars. This is the main reason, I think, why it's so respected in the industry. These are the same people who bestow the highest honors on produced films!

2) There is only one more round. If I make the next cut, I'm one of the 10 winners for this year. And the prize is $50,000. But at this point I would like to advance, but making it to this spot is already amazing in terms of recognition and contacts. Making it to the Semis is a huge step in a writing career.

3) It's hard to make it to this level. In my whole program here at UCLA - which is the best screenwriting school - it's only myself and one other person who placed. Of the 5,224 scripts that are submitted, 5% made it to the Quarterfinal round, and 2% made it to the Semifinal round.

4) I'm feeling really lucky, blessed, whatever. Look at those odds! It's a good script, in fact I love it... but come on. I obviously got the right people to read it, somehow.

5) The funniest thing about this particular script is that I could tell the instructor who ran the workshop at UCLA where I wrote it wasn't completely thrilled with it. He really helped me a ton with it, so I don't begrudge him his opinion, but it was clear to me that he thought it needed a MASSIVE rewrite. But I have a very trusted friend and fellow student in the program - Matt Pedrolie - who read it, loved it, and gave me extensive notes which really helped me. I did one rewrite based on his notes (and also stuff from my instructor that I felt were true to the story I wanted to tell) and submitted that. I was on the border of not submitting it at all because of how much work my instructor thought it needed... but then he told me he did not like No Country for Old Men or There Will Be Blood and I thought, "He's a genius, but it's just one opinion." Thank goodness I went with that instinct and submitted it!

6) This is the particular script that I've said could win an Oscar (if not for the screenplay, then for the actress who plays Harriet), so I think it's fitting that the Academy likes it so much. I guess I was right about that.

7) I have a great community here at UCLA and a great group of friends all over. I can't even count the number of emails, facebook messages, and texts congratulating me about this whole thing. It's very very cool.

Posted by jason on 11:23 AM | Comments (15)

July 28, 2008

Some Good News

Two bits of good news:

I have two scripts that placed in the Landlocked Film Festival screenwriting competition. Black Family placed as a semifinalist and Well-Adjusted Boy is one of three finalists. On August 23rd they'll announce the winner of best in show, which could possibly be mine. Pretty cool.

I've become friends with a guy who is a UCLA grad in producing (he worked at Maguire with me). He just got a job as a manager for a company that both produces films and manages writers and he wrote me saying he'd love if I'd be his first client.

Nice!

Posted by jason on 11:06 PM | Comments (5)

July 23, 2008

The Black Death Revisited

I spent most of today reading through and doing a light re-write on the second screenplay I ever wrote, "The Black Death." I re-arranged some scenes, made some action sequences clearer and more exciting, cleaned up some dialogue, deleted a lot of unneeded dialogue.

I haven't read it in some time, and I was happy to see that there is still much to like here. But what was actually quite surprising to me was how much of it was similar in conflict and setup to the latest screenplay I completed, "The Kingdom of Tovenray." I've heard it said that every writer has a story they are always trying to tell. One of my mentors at UCLA always has children caught in messed up, dangerous situations, for instance. If you had asked me yesterday if The Black Death and Tovenray had anything in common, I would have honestly told you no, not much, because I was completely oblivious to how similar things were. So I must be trying to get something out of me here.

Both stories have a reluctant hero who doesn't want to take up their grand destiny (in fact, the opening of both stories finds the heroes actively denying who they're meant to be) but is forced into the quest to save a loved one.

Both stories have a young boy who is captured by the evil villain and pressured into becoming that evil villain's son.

Both stories have a part where the hero is being trained by a mentor character and thinks he (and she) is ready and don't need any more of this training.

Both stories have a moment where the heroes refusal to take up his (and her) destiny results in a tragedy.

In both stories, the evil Villain has a daughter who actually is good hearted and ends up helping the good guys.

Of course there are tons of things which are very different, (and in fact I could probably think of many other stories that have these same basic elements in them, ones that aren't written by me at all) but still I was pretty stunned to see how many similarities there were... I guess there's a lot to analyze about my psyche there!

I'm happy to report that I'm now MORE charged up about adapting this story into a graphic novel. It was only my second script and I've learned so much since about writing and what you should be doing with a screenplay, but I must say that it's a very visual story with a ton of cool moments to see on the screen, yet there's a lot of heart in the story too. So all together, not bad. And actually, pretty good.

Posted by jason on 01:23 AM | Comments (7)

July 11, 2008

Retro Band

A Vice President at Gracie Films just requested to read Retro Band because she read the logline in the UCLA Showcase Festival program and thought it sounded like a great idea for a film.

She's reading it now.

Gracie Films produced a number of amazing films... like Spanglish, and As Good as it Gets, and Jerry Maguire, and Big and Say Anything. Oh yeah, and a little show you might have heard of called the Simpsons.

I'd of course be amazed and honored to be in that company.

It's crazy, I now have some kind of interest around 5 of my scripts. I know these things can evaporate, but I do feel like there will eventually be this tipping point and stuff will really start rolling.

Posted by jason on 07:22 PM | Comments (5)

July 08, 2008

Always exciting...

One of the reasons it's so great to live in LA is that the people you meet and talk to every day are involved in film making. So there are just often exciting opportunities and tantalizing events, so many that I know eventually this whole career of mine is just going to break through and be amazing (I have definitions for what that means, but I'll leave it up in the air for now.)

Two more kind of exciting things happened today.

1) I was emailing the guys at Maguire to remind them this is my last week, and thanking them for the chance to work with them, and promising to stay in touch (after all, Trevor is making that short that I wrote.) I also mentioned to Trevor that I want to sit down with him because I'm getting serious about filming my script The Black Family Singers of the Church of God Hallegulujah next summer and I wanted his advice on funding and distribution and all that good stuff. (I don't remember if I've made it clear, but of the 8 screenplays I've written, Black Family is the only one that I feel like I need a large amount of control over to make it just right... mostly because I want many of the guys from boysetsfire in it - I wrote it with specific people in mind for specific parts - and I have a very specific sense of what the whole project should be.) Anyway, he got excited about the project and asked if he could produce it. I told him, yes, for sure... I would love if he did. Having a good producer on a project is essential, and Trevor already has so much know-how and so many contacts. So maybe we'll have a feature film filming next summer, and do this the right way. Trevor's an up and coming producer, so having such a great relationship with him is just awesome. And the chance to actually make the Black Family will be so gratifying.

2) A UCLA grad student in the Producing Program wrote me and told me she loved by script called Retro Band and wanted to know if I had anything else she could read. At UCLA, the producing program students "final project" is to identify a script that they love and pitch it around town, in all their classes, at their final showcase, etc. She's looking for that perfect script now. I asked her what she was looking for, and she said ideally family fantasy action adventure and multi-cultural inspirational dramas. Sometimes things seem realy tailor-made, because the last two screenplays I wrote are Tovenray's Curse, which is a G-rated family fantasy, and Harriet's 14th Mission, which is a multi-cultural inspirational drama. I pitched her both ideas and she loved them both, especially Tovenray. I'm in the midst of a re-write for that right now, but I'll send it to her when it's ready.

Making good impressions on and relationships with producers while they are on the rise and still young in the business is the best way to break in, because you develop your working relationship and then in 3 years they are running the show, and they already trust you and your work. So it's very cool.

Things like this just keep happening. The situation with the producer in town is still awesome for Well Adjusted Boy, and it just feels sometimes like it's headed towards a tipping point... It's very very exciting.

Posted by jason on 10:08 PM | Comments (5)

July 01, 2008

Update on the Well Adjusted Boy situation

The boss at the production company read it over the weekend and really liked it a lot. The producer wrote me and said she still has to talk to him about how they want to proceed, because today was extremely busy because Nicolaus Cage agreed to star in one of their films.

So I wait, but at least he responded to it, initially. We'll see how this goes.

Posted by jason on 03:23 AM | Comments (1)

June 26, 2008

Really encouraging - Well Adjusted Boy related

I was recently asked to submit A Well Adjusted Boy to a producer in town who had read the logline and thought it looked intriguing. I sent it yesterday... she wrote me back today.

hey jason,

just wanted to let you know that i read well adjusted last night,,,and cried the last 10 pages or so... and before those pages, i was thoroughly intrigued and fascinated. the characters were brilliant.

loved the script. absolutely loved it. asked [her boss] to read it this weekend... hope you don't mind. also asked my fiance to read it, as i know it will affect him as it did me. i hope you don't mind. i
believe [her boss] will respond to it, given his own personal experiences, and i believe my fiance will respond for the same reason. i guess we all have our own issues... [her boss] said he would read it over the weekend, so hopefully he will do so. i am anxious to hear his response.

i hope you don't mind, but when i told him who wrote it, he told me that he remembered you and that your father was a minister... which made me realize why your material explores religion (at least the two
scripts you have submitted to me). i just started reading the other script at work, but need to finish it. again, good stuff...

what are your plans for these projects? i just want to know before i attempt to push one or both of them...

thanks again for sending them to me. well adjusted boy really spoke to me on so many levels... that is why i wanted other people to read them, because i want to make sure i am not projecting my own issues on to a project...

will be in touch soon!

Not bad news at all. In all honesty, this is the very reason I write. To create a story that touches someone this much... it's exhilarating and makes me feel like a success already. All script sales and mansions in Malibu aside, this is why I do this.

Posted by jason on 01:52 AM | Comments (14)

An Update on the Short Film Script

Trevor loved the screenplay I wrote, and said it was awesome and he could really see it on the screen. He liked all the choices I made in adapting it... so basically it's all good news.

He also said that Dan (the main exec in the office) wants to produce the project, so this really might be a real film that will get me credits and everything.

Exciting.

Posted by jason on 12:06 AM | Comments (2)

June 23, 2008

My short film script - The Interlopers

Cross one of the list of goals, I worked hard over the weekend and finished a first draft and two slight rewrites of the adaptation of the short story for Trevor at Maguire. I sent it to him today. I really like it, and think it will make an excellent short...

I'll keep you posted.

Posted by jason on 03:28 PM | Comments (6)

May 30, 2008

2nd Draft of My Office Spec

Here it is, rewritten. I think this version is much improved, much tighter. It also removes Ryan from the scenes (since he's been arrested), and trims 2 pages off the page count, which is important.

If you'd like to read it, here it is.

Posted by jason on 05:48 PM | Comments (0)

"Just Marry Him" treatment update

I handed it in, and they really dug it a lot. However, that project is currently stalled, as Warner Independent was dismantled when Warner Bros took on New Line Cinemas... and the project was set up with Warner Independent. They are still waiting to here back from WB on the exact status of a number of projects. But they said once they know more, we can talk.

Posted by jason on 11:30 AM | Comments (3)

May 29, 2008

My "Just Marry Him" Treatment

Tomorrow I'm submitting my full treatment (which is like the story told in a summarized, prose form) to the people at Maguire. Hopefully they'll like it! I think it's a very solid idea, and will probably write the screenplay regardless. It's got great roles for a guy and a girl, and it's very different kind of romantic comedy. Most romantic comedies act like the wedding day is the end, when really it's the beginning...

If you want to read the treatment, click through....

“Just Marry Him”

PROLOGUE
Young Christine and Tristan (ages 8) share a bonding moment of
pure kindness among a group of mean children. They are now BEST
FRIENDS FOR LIFE.

ACT 1


CHRISTINE RICKER (38) always believed that she should make the
most of herself and it showed. As one of three partners (who are
also best friends) in the top event planning company in Seattle,
Christine is at the pinnacle of her career.

However, she always had even higher standards for her one day
husband. And because numerous boyfriends had come along and
failed to stoke her flames of passion, Christine now finds
herself pushing the snooze button on her biological clock and
(though too shamed to admit it) terribly lonely.

But at least Christine didn’t settle, like the bland, lame
parents attending Fisher Price’s Noontime Jamboree (To her great
displeasure, she drew the short straw and was now in charge of
it.) Of course... damn, that kid is cute. Oh, and that one too.
And, look... that was kind of nice how that woman’s husband
played with the kids so she could have a couple minutes alone to
eat her lunch.

But still, do their toes curl when they look in each other’s
eyes? Probably not. They look like they settled. Just like her
business partner and best friend, Robin was about to do. Robin
had found a man who met only 4 of the key 15 points of
compatibility, but was about to get married to him because he
was kind.

Christine had to put a stop to it.

That evening, she waits in her immaculate, modern, sparkling
clean condo for “the girls” to show up for cocktails. First to
arrive is JOCELYN SUTTON (38), a hard-charging woman who wears a
diamond the size of a gumball. She bought it for herself as “a
lifelong commitment to supporting” who she is. Jocelyn is also
Christine’s co-conspirator in the evenings Intervention.
The victim of their plans is ROBIN BINKLEY (38) a quiet,
brilliant yet oblivious savant who harbors a deep deep
unquenched thirst for men (ie this mousey woman is actually a
freak about sex). Yet, damned if she doesn’t have a traditional
streak. She might pretend to a power hungry go-getter, but what
she really pines for is someone to make a savory meatloaf dinner
for.

One thing these ladies share is that they are fabulous, yet
single.

Their night grows longer, and the alcohol takes affect. What
starts as a carefully crafted confrontation turns into a teary
support group, where they all confide that they want to get
married and have children, but Mr. Right hasn’t come along yet.
Where Christine and Jocelyn thought they were the ones laying a
trap for Robin, she actually makes them see the wisdom in her
“settling” philosophy.

Finally, Christine points as that as businesswomen, when they
need a supplier, they don’t wait until “Mr. Right Supplier”
comes along, they find the best supplier and move on, satisfied.
They all agree that maybe Robin has the right idea... What they
need to do find the man that they’re already most comfortable
with and marry him. No questions asked.

They think it’s a great plan, while still inebriated. But the
next day, in the cold light of day, it seems like foolishness.
Christine can’t help but wonder “What if right after I settle I
meet THE ONE, the perfect guy, the full package... and now I’m
trapped with Mr. Comfortable Enough.”

Yet then Christine sees it. The comfortable familiarity of a
couple who have been together forever, and their darling little
family. It’s enough to drive her over the edge.

Christine convinces them to take a vow to just “Marry him, to
settle for good enough.” Then they each mention the nice,
unassuming guy in their lives that they’ll marry. The one
they’re already most comfortable with. When it’s Christine’s
turn to say the name, the other’s start laughing immediately at
the very thought. They say in unison... “Tristan?”

CUT TO: Tristan. He’s a grown man-child. Sweet but disheveled.
Eating sugar cereal. Playing video games. Playing Dungeons and
Dragons. Thick glasses – but just for the looks, his vision is
20/15. He reads foreign language philosophy. He writes foreign
language philosophy. His house is a MESS. But it oozes
character. He works for the Seattle Museum of Natural History.
He’s the one who writes the plaques that go alongside the
exhibits. He takes it very seriously. He’s an artiste when it
comes to these plaques.

He goes to get the mail (in a BATHROBE, at 3 in the afternoon),
and sees his neighbor’s young son. The boy looks sad because he
failed an algebra exam that day. Tristan’s eyes light up. He
LOVES algebra. He makes plans to come over after dinner and
tutor the boy, but only in the boy’s mom makes dessert.
Christine meets Tristan at the mailbox. To his great surprise,
she PROPOSES to him while he’s wearing his bathrobe (leaving out
the part about her settling). He accepts. He thinks it would be
fun, and hey... Christine is his best friend.
At the courthouse, the trio of friends each have their
respective “Good enough”s. They go into separate courtrooms.
Christine and Tristan leave the courtroom MARRIED. Robin and
Jocelyn got a sudden case of COLD FEET, leaving Christine as the
only one who went through with the pledge.

ACT 2
As they celebrate Christine’s and Tristan’s marriage, the three
friends are approached by three men who are seemingly “perfect”
in every way, meeting every criteria on the list. Jocelyn and
Robin start passionate relationships with their Mr. Perfects.

While Christine’s – he’s a freaking Baron for Christ’s sake – is
heartbroken to hear that she just got married... but encouraged
when Jocelyn confides that it’s a passionless marriage, made
just to fulfill a drunken promise.

Still, Christine can’t bear the thought of breaking her best
friends heart – and she’s oddly old-fashioned about the idea of
divorce – so she determines to make the marriage work.

Christine and Tristan must go through the difficult process of
learning to live together. And while she was comfortable with
Tristan when they were just friends, their incompatibility is
now sorely testing her theory that “Mr. Good Enough” is better
than no one at all. Dungeons and Dragons Game Night seems so
much more adorably harmless when it’s not held in your perfect
condo while you’re trying to impress clients.

It certainly doesn’t help things that Baron Von Perfect
continues to woo her, yet without admitting his true intentions.
And Tristan is so sweet that he isn’t suspicious, he’s just so
darn trusting.

Also, both Jocelyn and Robin are embarking on their own
whirlwind romances, the likes of wish women only dream of.
Weekends in Paris. Moonlight canoe rides topped off with catered
picnics. Meanwhile, Tristan has taken to drawing Egyptian
Cartouche names as his latest obsession, and surprises Christine
with a trip the Cartouche Convention in Hoboken.

Jocelyn and Robin’s men write them achingly beautiful sonnets.
Tristan leaves Christine messages written... In German. And
French. And Farsi. She doesn’t even bother getting them
translated.

Oh, and the ultimate embarrassment... Christine and Tristan
haven’t even had sex yet. They tried to kiss once, it was very
awkward. No one’s mentioned it since. Jocelyn points out this
isn’t such a bad thing... they haven’t consummated anything yet.
It’s not too late for the Baron.

Christine starts going out to “coffee” with the Baron. He’s more
than advertised, he lives up to the hype, and he’s everything
Tristan isn’t. Christine falls for the Baron, with the
relentless encouragement of her feverishly in love friends.
And yet, damn Tristan. He really is so nice to her. Too nice.
She doesn’t have to pretend to be anything she isn’t when
they’re together.

With the Baron, her friends, her clients, everyone... she puts
on heirs... it’s actually exhausting.

Tristan and Christine both skip their work, and Tristan takes
her to “his most secret place in the world. NO ONE knows about
this place.”

They infiltrate a sub sub sub sub basement of the Natural
History Museum. There Tristan opens up a storage room that
SPARKLES with GOLD and JEWELS and... stuffed elephants and just
about every random thing... “I love this place because it just
proves to me that deep below the surface, where you can’t see
unless you really really try... there’s always treasure.
Treasure that only people who have seen it can even believe.”

There and then, they make love, and it’s INCREDIBLE.

They begin to change for each other, just a little, working to
make the other happier, doing things the other is interested in.
Christine joins a game of D&D, and she’s AWESOME at it. Tristan
dresses himself up and goes out to a club with Christine,
completely impressing everyone... maybe a little too much,
because it drives the Baron mad with jealousy.

Jocelyn and Robin decide they need to push things a little. They
inform Tristan that the only reason Christine married him was
the drunken promise.

Tristan is angry. And heart-broken and betrayed. He and
Christine argue. Christine breaks up with him.

Christine throws herself into the “perfect” relationship with
the Baron. It seems like she should be happy, and she pretends
to be exactly that.

Tristan, meanwhile, had completely fallen in love with
Christine, and now mourns the loss of both his best friend and
the love of his life. He loses much of his zeal... writing truly
uninspired museum plaques, unable to help his neighbor’s boy
with algebra.

Things come to a head when Christine and the Baron are on a date
at a fancy restaurant and she learns that her Grandmother has
died. The Baron has a complete lack of empathy, and is actually
angry that she wants to cut the night short. She has to take a
cab home.

Tristan meets her at her house, and he’s in wonderful supportive
best friend mode. Christine starts to ignore the Baron, and
spend more time with Tristan. But Tristan rebuffs any of her
advances, preferring to preserve their friendship.

But oh no, the Baron’s not happy to have his calls go
unreturned. He threatens to expose their relationship to
Tristan. He DOES exactly that, showing Tristan notes and
voicemails and pictures that imply that Christine loves the
Baron, not Tristan.

Tristan, heartbroken and ashamed, demands a divorce and MOVES
OUT. Christine is heartbroken, too.


ACT 3

Tristan goes on a vision quest, determining to fast without
sleep and live in the 350 acre Magnuson Park until he receives
his new life purpose, now that he has nothing to live for...

Robin and Jocelyn see this as only good. Now they can all marry
their Mr. Right and move on with their fabulous lives.
Christine, however, can’t let it go.

Christine’s friends surprise her, and set up a meeting with the
Baron. He proposes to her. Dear Lord, it’s the perfect fairy
tale proposal. At Magnuson Park. A symphony orchestra. A movie
screen set up with pictures of him... lots of pictures of him.
Oh, and some of her, too. So happy together.

Christine tries to play along, accept what she thought she
always wanted. Robin and Jocelyn’s “Mr. Rights” are arguing with
them, the passion seeping from those relationships. She can tell
those relationships are flaming out.

Christine REJECTS the Baron, and runs.

She ends up at the Seattle Museum of Natural History, and sneaks
into the sub sub sub basement.

Tristan is there, the culmination of his vision quest, waiting
for the answers to emerge. He sports a beard from his days spent
in Magnuson Park. He smells. He’s dirty.

She confesses that she missed the treasure, missed it so badly.
Like her life would be over without seeing the treasure. She had
to see it again.

They kiss.

In the last scene, we have another Fisher Price event, only this
time Christine and Tristan are two of the dorky lame parents
that settled, and they couldn’t be happier. They picnic with
Jocelyn and Robin and their two “Mr. Good Enough’s”

Posted by jason on 04:56 AM | Comments (5)

May 27, 2008

My Office Spec Script - 1st Draft

For those of you who are interested, it still needs to be re-written, but there's a lot of funny stuff in here and I think it captures most of the characters very well.

Read it here.

In the re-write I have to take Ryan out (since he was just arrested) and add in Toby's replacement in HR. I also have to just work on it some more, make the rhythm of it move along more quickly, stuff like that. But it's in pretty good shape for a first draft.

Posted by jason on 01:38 AM | Comments (2)

May 26, 2008

Finished the First Draft of my Office Spec

Well, there's one weight off my shoulders. I have finished the first draft of my Office spec. Now I can focus on my Tovenray screenplay.

It's funny. Once I re-write a little I'll post it here so you can read it. It's basically unchanged from the outline in it's overall structure, but there have had to be some adjustments based on actual things that have happened in this past season of the Office.

plus there are new jokes, and taking out old jokes that didn't feel right in the actual screenplay.

Last week we had professional actors into our class and they read the first 18 pages. it was awesome hearing truly talented people take on the characters. It really worked as an episode.

Posted by jason on 05:27 AM | Comments (1)

May 23, 2008

CineStory Quarterfinalist

On the heels of last week's setbacks, it looks like this week is looking up. I just learned that I placed as a Quarterfinalist in the CineStory Mentoring Competition.

Check it out.

With CineStory, if you make the top 16, you get to attend a weekend of screenwriting mentoring where industry professionals work with you to make your screenplay top notch. Pretty cool, right?

(Eat it, anonymous. LOL)

Posted by jason on 04:27 PM | Comments (4)

May 05, 2008

Awesome moment

Movies are made of awesome moments. Of course a compelling story, and characters that you care for, and overall structure are an absolute baseline that you need... but if you have a number of moments and scenes in your film that people remember the next day, the next week, and even years later... then you know you have pure gold.

Think about the movies you love. I'm sure that immediately, moments come to mind. Indiana Jones - the big ball rolling after him. The light shining through the staff and showing the location of the ark. "Snakes, why does it always have to be snakes." I'd bet that every movie you love has a number of these scenes that made an impact on you.

When I'm writing, these moments keep me going. Sometimes I'll have a great moment, one that I want to see on the screen, and it just gives me this energy to make the story and everything else awesome. It's when I've stumbled across enough of these moments that the story really comes alive for me.

All this to say, I wrote an awesome moment in Tovenray's Curse today. Lyric has just entered this mysterious world. She's been swooped up by a flying Kitty, riden by a boy named Torin. As they fly towards the woods, they are followed by a Spidersus - a flying spider. It's a WW2 dogfight in the air between a flying kitty and a flying spider... who wouldn't want to see that on the screen? It's crazy awesome. The spider is dropping webs on the kitty, constricting the kitty's wings, sending it into a nosedive. Torin is frantically cutting the webs with his sword while Lyric tries to ready a bow and arrow to shoot...

I want to see it on the screen!

Posted by jason on 06:30 PM | Comments (1)

May 01, 2008

My spec episode for the Office - the full outline

OK, so this was the latest step in writing this episode. I have to say, after writing this, I feel like I've just about written the whole episode... it's just not quite in the right format and some more dialogue as to be filled in. Read it if you want. It's long. but I'm including it just in case people are curious about the creative process for this... from short story pitch, to beat sheet, to this.

Show: The Office
Title: Going Green
by Jason Latshaw

SCENE 1 - TEASER - INT. OFFICE - DAY
Jim enters, a metal briefcase chained to his hand. Jim acts like nothing is unusual. Dwight is, of course, intrigued. Dwight, “What’s in the briefcase, Jim?”. Jim: “I would love to get your input on my situation, but this is classified. Level 25 Clearance, if you can believe it.” Jim’s cell phone rings (“24” ringtone). Jim (Jack Bauer intense): “What have you got for me on Chevensky? You are going to tell me what I want to know; it’s just a question of how much you want it to hurt. No, that’s not possible. You’ll have to upload the schematics to my phone.” Jim leaves. Dwight looks around.
DWIGHT TALKING HEAD:
“I’m the founder and sole member of the Scranton Domestic Disturbance Task Force. The last time I intercepted a parcel, which was cleverly disguised as an Amazon.com box, I seized a Terrorism Training DVD called “Fight Club.” And a copy of Halo 3. I kept that for myself. I have to find out what’s in that briefcase.”
JIM TALKING HEAD:
Jim opens up the briefcase and reveals the contents with a smirk. It’s his bagged lunch and thermos.
END OF TEASER
ACT ONE
SCENE 2 – INT. RECEPTION AREA – DAY
Pam calls Michael. Ryan wants the agenda for their monthly meeting which is scheduled for the next day. Ryan has been calling all day. Ryan wants to see it before meeting in person the next day so there are no surprises.
PAM TALKING HEAD:
Pam talks about her frustration because Michael sends all his calls from Ryan directly to her. And she never knows what’s going on. And Ryan gets annoyed at her. And he also flirts with her. “Ryan told me I’m the least competent office manager in the whole company. Then he added that seeing me is the highlight of his visits.” Kelly’s walking by... “What did you say? Did you say what I thought you said? The highlight?” Awkward. Pam: “ I don’t like Ryan very much.”
SCENE 3 – INT. RECEPTION AREA – DAY
Pam on the phone: “I know, Ryan. It’s coming very soon. He’s working on it. No, you can’t talk to him right now... No, he’s not in a meeting. Yes, he’s in his office. OK, I’ll transfer you to him.” She punches the appropriate buttons. She sees Michael in his office, his phone lights up and rings. Michael pushes a couple of buttons and transfers Ryan back to her. Pam: “Hello, Dunder Mifflin... Oh, hi Ryan. Yes, I transferred you to him. He transferred you back.”
SCENE 4 – INT. MICHAEL’S OFFICE – DAY
Michael’s distracted while he’s on the phone with Pam. He watches the “Cute Polar Bears dying” scene from “An Inconvenient Truth” on youtube. Michael, “Yes... yes... Pam. I hear you, but... this may be hard for you to understand, but there are more important things in this world than Ryan’s agenda.” He hangs up. There are tears in his eyes.
MICHAEL TALKING HEAD:
Michael explains that when he has a stressful day – like how Ryan wants an agenda for a meeting – he likes to do a google search for pictures of adorable animals to get him in the right frame of mind. It’s a trick he picked up in High School, and it’s much easier now that there’s an internet, saves him a trip to the library. It backfired, and now the weight of the world is on his shoulders. Ryan sent an example of what he’s looking for, which Michael holds up. “How am I supposed to prepare something as involved as this in my vulnerable condition?” It has three bullets of lines. On each line, there are just two words.
SCENE 5 – INT. OFFICE – DAY
Michael orders everyone into the conference room. “It’s time we change our world, everybody! Come on, let’s start a revolution.” He sings the Beatle’s “Revolution” and comments, “Best sneaker commercial ever.” People ignore him. Stanley: “We have a sales deadline to meet at the end of the week, Michael.” Michael belittles it, “That doesn’t compare to what we have to talk about.” Kevin: “You told us yesterday that we needed to treat these sales as if our lives depended on it.” Michael: “I was just being motivational! It’s like some of you have no idea what it means to be a leader.” Everyone ignores him again.
SCENE 5.5 – INT. UTILITY CLOSET– DAY
Michael opens the circuit breaker and reveals a huge amount of levels and switches. He vamps to the camera. “Time to power down the tractor beam.” He makes the “power-down” noise and switches off a number of them.
SCENE 5.6 – INT. UTILITY CLOSET– DAY
ALL the computers lose power. Dwight stands up, intense. “Everybody down! We have a situation!” He strikes a karate pose and slowly turns, checking every door and window for attackers. Michael: “It’s not terrorism Dwight. It’s eco-terrorism. The good kind of terrorism.” Every one loses what they were working on. Michael: “You shouldn’t keep electronics powered while you’re in a meeting anyway.” Andy hits the desk loudly. “I lost the sales spreadsheet I spent all morning on!” Michael: “That’s why I back up my files. You gotta back that thing up!” He dances for second, then stops himself. “The time for hilarious jokes is past. Important meeting time!”
SCENE 6 – INT. CONFERENCE ROOM – DAY
Michael lectures, “Now I’m going to open your eyes to a threat you probably don’t even know exists. I’m going to warn you now, it’s scary. And you’re not going to be able to look at the world the same way. There is a threat to all of us...” Dwight nods along, punctuating Michael’s talk with agreement. Finally, he cuts Michael off, “Domestic spies, right Jim?” Jim looks around like he doesn’t have the slightest clue what Dwight is saying. Michael: “No, Dwight. I’m talking about... Greenhouse Gases.” Everyone moans and gets up to leave. Kevin, “Everyone knows about that already, Michael.” Michael closes the door and tries again. “But do you know that they’re making everything warmer. Things are melting!” Angela: “We’re getting a new heaven and a new earth very soon. This one is disposable, anyway.” Michael asks them to view the tiny clip on his laptop, and no one can see it. Michael says, “You’re all going to have to crowd in closer because it’s so small,” and then can’t help but adds a “That’s what she said.” Of course, Jim picks up that this particular “That’s what she said” isn’t so complimentary to Michael, so he asks, “She said it’s so small, to who? You? What were you doing? Why were there a bunch of people there?” Michael: “I don’t get it, Jim.” Michael’s shocked and upset to find out that this impending environmental calamity is news to no one, that everyone knew about “An Inconvenient Truth,” and that no one seems to care. Phyllis says she’s already living a “Carbon Neutral lifestyle,” and that she and Bob Vance “have vowed to have as light an impact on Mother Earth as possible.” Michael suppresses a laugh. “Right, Phyllis. Right. There’s a lot of things you are. Jolly. Matronly. Punctual. But a light impact on the earth isn’t one of them.” Phyllis: “Doesn’t have anything to do with weight, Michael.” Michael mentions that Phyllis’s carbon footprint must be huge. Jim work on a cryptic sudoku on his cell phone and Dwight tries to decipher it for clues.
CREED TALKING HEAD:
Creed cared about the environment until he had a revelation that all pollution is just fake and purposely orchestrated by world governments to distract people from the larger Illuminati conspiracy. Just like the Superbowl. And crossworld puzzles.
SCENE 6 – INT. CONFERENCE ROOM – DAY
Michael decides they must make pledges. He bought sneakers made of recycled materials. But he learns, to his shame, that everyone recycles already, (he doesn’t – and won’t – because it’s “annoying.”) Toby drives a Prius. Michael instinctually blurts out “That car is so gay!” Then immediately, he realizes what he said, and turns to Oscar, “Which is why I want one. And why I affirm and respect the lifestyle choices it has made.” Michael promises “real lasting changes. Recycling is just temporary, because then you have to do it again, and again, and again. Blech, that’s boring. We’re going to make a difference that is forever. ”
MICHAEL TALKING HEAD:
Michael asks what kind of world it would be if you were walking down the street and you didn’t see Polar bears. That’s not a world he wants to live in.
END OF ACT ONE
ACT TWO
SCENE 7 – INT. MICHAEL’S OFFICE – DAY
The air conditioner is cranked up and Michael is visibly cold. Print-outs of polar bear pictures completely plaster the walls. Michael types furiously. Pam brings in more polar bear pictures from the printer. “These print-outs are taking up a lot of paper, Michael.” The pictures serve to remind Michael “what’s at stake.” The room is cold as a tribute to the way things should be in Antarctica. Pam: “You know, there actually aren’t any Polar Bears in Antarctica, they’re in –” Michael cuts her off, “Yes, exactly, that’s what we have to change. If we all chip in and make a difference, there can be again” Pam watches him start typing furiously. “Oh good, so that’s the agenda for Ryan, right? Because he keeps calling me. I mean, he’s calling you. But you send the calls to me. So I have to talk to him.” Michael nods and she leaves.
MICHAEL TALKING HEAD:
Michael looks disheveled. He talks about being a creative person, a writer, and not being able to turn off his creativity when it possesses him. It’s like he just gave birth. And he has a message to deliver, like Moses. He’s like Moses, if Moses ever gave birth. And Ryan couldn’t expect Moses to write an agenda right after having a baby. Because Moses would be on maternity leave.
SCENE 8 – INT. RECEPTION AREA – DAY
Michael drops a 200 page tome on Pam’s desk, his “Mother Earth Manifesto.” Michael wants copies made for everyone. Pam suggests that it might be a waste of paper and recommends emailing it. Michael says “that the environment is a higher cause – if they waste paper to save it then so be it. If we learned anything from Vietnam, it’s that sometimes you have to burn the village to save the villagers. Sometimes you have to destroy a tree to save a tree. Plus email takes too much electricity because it’s ‘electronic mail.’”
PAM TALKING HEAD:
Pam flips through the 200 page document for the camera. Many of the pages just contain clip art or one word.
SCENE 9 – INT. MICHAEL’S OFFICE – DAY
Dwight informs Michael of the mysterious spy game Jim situation. “Until I have a firm handle on the threat, I ask that you authorize me to suspend personal liberties in the office.” Michael responds that no one in the office has any personal liberties anyway. Dwight: “Michael, I’m going to need you to grant me Executive Wartime Powers for Extraordinary Situations. We have to crack down on gatherings of more than two people in the break room. The hallways are insecure. And Oscar doesn’t shred all of his documents.” Michael wants to get back to his environmental plans and end this distraction, so Michael signs the document Dwight provides. Dwight, drunk on his power, demands access to all phone calls, email, internet use, Close Circuit video, and computer keystrokes. Michael informs that he doesn’t know that information because corporate doesn’t trust him with it anymore.
TALKING HEAD MICHAEL:
Michael: “I still doesn’t understand how they could have said I misused the surveillance technology. The whole purpose of the stuff is to spy on people. And that’s all I did. So now I know that Meredith writes “fantasies” featuring her, Jim, and yours truly. (He holds up handwritten letters) Who does that hurt? If anyone, it’s an ego boost. I mean, that’s not bad company.”
SCENE 10 – INT. RECEPTION AREA – DAY
Pam calls Jim’s phone. She disguises her voice, speaking in fake russian german hybrid.
SCENE 11 – INT. JIM/DWIGHT’S WORKSPACE – DAY
Jim puts it on speakerphone. Jim: “Don’t listen to this. It’s classified.” Dwight listens to the Russian as Jim jots something down. Jim gets another mysterious call and leaves the room. Dwight takes the notepad and photocopies it.
SCENE 12 – EXT. PARKING LOT – DAY
Everyone is gathered outside. Michael rides up sweating and exhausted on a bicycle. He carries an enormous backpack. His tie looks like burlap. Toby: “Michael, the electricity isn’t working in the office, I called...” Michael cuts him off. “Ten minutes off the grid and you’re already reaching out for the fossil fuel teat, Toby? I cancelled our electrical account with Scranton Power. We need to be serious about earth friendly work habits. It was all in my Mother Earth Manifesto, did you read it?” Stanley: “No, It was dark.” Micheal: “Oh Stanley man up, your brothers in Africa don’t even know what electricity is. And they still manage to be warriors and hunters and gatherers. And you can’t even be a salesman.” Stanley: “I need a phone and a computer.” Michael beams and pulls out a small solar panel. “My phone will charge by the power of Ra, the Egyptian Sun God, in tribute to Kelly!” Kelly’s offended: “I’m not Egyptian, Michael.” Michael snorts, “OK PC Police, Egyptian-American, whatever.” Angela complains, “We can’t work in the dark.” Meredith, who wears sunglasses, disagrees. “I like the darkness, Michael. The bright lights give me a headache.” Angela: “What are those of us who don’t have hangovers going to do?” Michael opens his pack. “I’ve selling “Candles by Jan” for $30 a pop. A discounted price, and a steal, if you ask me.”
MICHAEL TALKING HEAD:
He holds a candle. “I know we’re not together now, but as the principle investor in her business, this is my retirement. So I hope you like Bonfire.” He looks more closely at the cameraman. Holds out the candle. “No, I’m serious, I hope you like Bonfire. Smell it. Isn’t that great? Only $30. You interested?”
SCENE 13 – INT. OFFICE – DAY
Each workstation is dimly illuminated by a candle. Angela: “It looks like we’re setting up for a seance, Michael.” Michael: “You’re right.” Michael takes a folded up piece of paper from his wallet, it’s a picture of the chair model from the catalog, “Does anyone know how to conduct a seance, I want to talk to her!” Workers use their cell phones, not being able to hear people well, losing connection. Oscar puts his phone against him and shouts “I gotta take a confirmation number. It’s accounts receivable. Pam, where are the notebooks?”
SCENE 13.5 – INT. SUPPLY CLOSET – DAY
Pam looks at the shelves. They are empty. Michael enters, looking proud. “No pens, no pencils, no paper, no toxins, no lead, no dead trees. I threw it all away. Actually, I threw it in the river so nature could wash it away and bring purity.”
SCENE 13.75 – INT. OFFICE – DAY
No one can really do any work. Oscar’s phone dies before he can get the confirmation number. Pam’s cell phone rings. She doesn’t recognize the number. She answers. It’s Ryan. Ryan: “Pam, I never got Michael’s agenda. We’re on our way but I’d really like to know what we’ll be discussing. Oh, hey... is this your cell phone number? Nice. Let me add this to my contacts.” Pam wants to end the conversation: “Oh no looks like my battery is dying and we can’t plug our phones in to charge them and...” and Pam hangs up. Pam asks Michael how Ryan got her number. Michael: “Pam, I explain this to you every day. You’re my assistant. I forward my calls to you. My phone died. I don’t know why, I plugged it into the solar charger all night.” He points at the darkened table, where it’s plugged into the solar charger again. “And it’s not charging now either for some reason.” Michael holds the Manifesto out to her. It’s opened to a page which says simply: “Don’t WAIST Paper!” next to clip art of a tree crying. “Did you know there are two ways to spell Waste? Tricky. I need you to reprint all of it. The Mother Earth Manifesto has to be perfect or no one will take the cause seriously.” Pam, “But can’t we just reprint that page and -” Michael cuts her off. “Don’t cut corners, Pam. How does Jim like it when you stop without... completing the job?” Pam doesn’t know how to answer. Michael continues: “I already ordered the re-prints. Pick them up at Kinko’s before Corporate gets here.” Pam has to drive across town to do it.
SCENE 14 – INT. TOBY’S WORKSPACE – DAY
Michael waits for Toby to open his desk drawer, which is packed with aerosole hair spray bottles. He makes a big deal of the discovery, calling out to everyone in the office. “Oh, look at what Toby has in his desk! Have you ever heard of the Ozone Layer, Toby? Do you think about the holes you’re punching in it when you drive around in that... happy little Prius?” Michael reaches into the drawer and pulls out plastic 6-pack connectors and grocery bags. “Don’t you know turtles mistake these for jelly fish and eat them and die because they can’t regulate their buoyancy? Sea Turtles tremble at the sight of you, Toby the Destroyer! The Scourge of the Oceans!” Michael gives Toby a trophy made of trash for being the worst polluter in the office.
TALKING HEAD TOBY:
Toby points to his balding head. “It’s pretty obvious I’m the guy who bought all that hairspray, right? I mean, how else could I maintain this style? Right?”
SCENE 15 – INT. DWIGHT’S WORKSPACE – DAY
Dwight’s desk is piled 6 feet high with mounds of huge crusty old volumes about cryptology. He looks at his photocopy of Jim’s writing from the notepad. Then thumbs through a book, looking excited, like he’s on the verge of a great discovery. Then.... frustration. Nothing.
TALKING HEAD DWIGHT:
Dwight: “I’ve cross-referenced this with some of the greatest cryptology ciphers known to man. Navajo code talkers. The Caesar code. Even the legendary Rachmonchof Encryption. Nothing. I don’t want to alarm Michael, but we’re dealing with a highly sophisticated foe.” Dwight holds up the photocopy and says, “Yspay Owdownshay: Arehouseway atway Oonnay.” It’s pig latin.
SCENE 16 – INT. OFFICE – ACCOUNTING AREA – DAY
Michael makes the rounds through the office, stopping at the different workstations to see if anyone has read his Manifesto yet. “OK, that’s actually good that you haven’t because I have a new updated version.” He replaces the old drafts with new drafts. People put it aside, don’t read it. Angela stands up abruptly. She gets a headache from the smell of the candles, and threatens to go home. “It smells like incense in here, Michael. And incense is only in the air when people are smoking pot, being Catholic, or worshiping whatever the hell Kelly worships.” Michael forbids her from leaving and forces her to read the Manifesto outside. Creed sniffs in the air like a blood hound, and ends up with his nose right against Michael’s burlap looking tie. Creed: “Flying Dutchman. I haven’t smelled this blend since that summer in Amsterdam.” Michael: “Finally! Someone noticed my hemp tie. You think I want to wear this hideous thing? I wear for Mother Earth.” Creed snips off a bit of Michael’s tie and smokes it. Kevin: “Dude, that’s awesome. You spent a summer in Amsterdam?” Creed: “No, why do you ask?”
SCENE 17 – INT. OFFICE - RECEPTION AREA – DAY
Ryan and David Wallace (the CFO) arrive for their meeting with Michael. Pam informs them that Michael will be ready in a moment. David asks Ryan for an agenda “You know I hate walking into these meetings blind.” Ryan has to admit he doesn’t have anything. David is displeased. “You really need to get an agenda from your direct reports, Ryan.” Michael overhears Ryan being reprimanded: “Still learning the ropes, huh? Not so easy making the jump from Business School to running with the big boys, huh? Hey, if you need a mentor, the offers still on the table. I’d be happy to take you under my wing.” Ryan: “Technically, I’m your boss, Michael.” Michael: “Lesson Number One, Ryan: Try not to run your business based on technicalities.”
END OF ACT TWO
ACT THREE
SCENE 16 – INT. CONFERENCE ROOM – DAY
It’s loaded with candles. Michael, Dwight and Andy meet with David and Ryan. David: “Someone holding a seance, Michael?” Michael gets serious. “No, do you know how? Because I’ve got this girl...” he reaches into his pocket. Ryan shakes his head “no,” and Michael picks up on the signal. Michael hands them his Mother Earth Manifesto. Ryan: “Michael, why isn’t there any electricity in the office today.” Michael tells them to be patient, all will make sense. Michael and Dwight act out being a polar bear cub and mother with their home melting (while Andy does narration and music.) The skit ends, to stunned silence. Andy claps at the performance, then stops and no one joins in. David turns to Ryan: “Do you see why I need an agenda for every meeting, Ryan?” Michael laughs. “Sooner or later, we all have to learn in the school of hard knocks, Ryan.” Ryan tries to take control of the meeting. “So, we wanted to talk about third quarter sales projections -” David cuts him off. “Ryan, could you and the rest leave Michael and I alone for a moment. I have something I want to talk to him about.”
SCENE 17 – INT. OFFICE – DAY
Pam purposely speaks Pig Latin in earshot of Dwight. Dwight, invoking his Wartime Powers, forces her to divulge the code. “I promised Jim I wouldn’t break, but... we’re acting on behalf of oppressed people in our region, and I know you can help. It’s a highly complex code called pig latin.” Dwight: “Pigs, huh? I knew they were Communists. Or maybe... Liberals.” Pam: “It’s hard to explain exactly how the code works, but the initial consonant sound is placed at the end and an ay is then added.” Dwight rushes back to his desk and can’t quite figure it out. Pam walks up behind him and helps him out... he still doesn’t get it.Pam basically gives him the whole message: “Spy Showdown in Warehouse at Noon.” Dwight checks the time, grabs his night vision goggles from his desk, and bolts towards the warehouse.
SCENE 18 – INT. WAREHOUSE – DAY
Dwight hides and watches a showdown between Jim and a large figure dressed in black. Jim dials his cell phone and horribly over-acts into the phone: “I’ve got six hostiles wearing explosive vests. Four of them are staying near the hostages; I expect their orders are to detonate if we make a move. The other two are roaming. I’ve got two security doors on the north east side of the concourse; both are chained but are currently un-guarded.” The figure overcomes Jim mid-sentence. Jim drops his phone. Dwight attacks, injures the figure. The figure runs off. Jim: “Dwight, you have helped avert an international incident. But promise me, you won’t tell anyone. This was all absolutely classified.” Dwight solemnly promises to keep it a secret.
DWIGHT TALKING HEAD:
“I can’t go into details. Because it’s all classified. It’s classified because it involves dangerous people who were subdued by a smarter, more dangerous person and if people realized that they worked in the presence of such a lethal hero, they would not be able to get much work done. So it’s highly confidential. Most heroic actions of this magnitude are.” Dwight smiles.
JIM TALKING HEAD:
“Dwight’s feeling pretty good about himself, which is nice, he’s been going through a tough time.” He’s facetious: “Pam and I were just trying to have some fun with him... that certainly wasn’t the plan all along.”
KEVIN TALKING HEAD:
Kevin has a scratch on his cheek. “Jim promised it would be safe, and it seemed like an easy twenty bucks....” He traces the wound with his fingers. “Dwight should really be a spy.”
SCENE 19 – INT. CONFERENCE ROOM – DAY
David: “Michael, that was... terrible and embarrassing. But that you would sacrifice your dignity like that tells me you have passion for this. My wife has been bugging me for months about this, and as much as I’ve asked, Ryan won’t put together an environmental strategy.” Michael: “If it’s not a website or a woman, Ryan doesn’t care.” David: “I’m afraid that might be true, Michael. But you have conviction.” Michael: “That’s something that can’t be taught.” David picks up the Manifesto. “I’m going to pass this around back at corporate, but you’ve really laid out a roadmap for us here. Thank you.” David stands and starts to leave. “Oh, and... what is that smell?” Michael: “Bonfire.” David: “Where did you get those candles, if you don’t mind me asking.”
SCENE 20 – INT. BREAK ROOM – DAY
Ryan waits. Kelly comes in. They stare at each other by candlelight. Kelly: “Remember the last time we gazed at each other by only candlelight? Remember what you promised, Ryan? Did you mean it?”
SCENE 21 – INT. OFFICE - RECEPTION AREA – DAY
Michael asks Pam to rent him a car to get home – the bike ride exhausted him. Dwight offers to give him a ride. Michael: “Oh, no. No! Only Wussies bum rides like that! What kind of example would I be setting? An environmentalist can’t drive his own car, all by himself, he always needs a little driving buddy because “it scares me to drive all by myself... look at me, I’m the wimpy little treehugger.” No, I’m going to show them that you can love the earth, and drive a big, beefy, manly car. And Pam, I do need a a bigger car, to carry the bike.” Dwight reminds him the Avis at the train station rents that Hummer. “Yes! Exactly. A Hummer. Now there’s a car that will say, “I’m an environmentalist, but I’m still cool.””
ANDY TALKING HEAD:
Andy hits the wall in frustration. “Ugh, shut out. Goose egg. Shooting Blanks. Swing and a miss. Not one. Not one sale.”
MICHAEL TALKING HEAD:
“We learned that a good green policy helps, not hurts, business. In the end, it all comes down to a little phrase my mother used to whisper in my ear when she tucked me into bed. “What would Jesus do?” Jesus didn’t use electricity. He never drove a Prius. And he rejected all brands of hairspray. And I’d like to add that Hitler... did all of those things. So, you figure out which side you want to be on. Jesus. Or Hitler.”

Posted by jason on 03:50 AM | Comments (7)

April 29, 2008

Pushing through.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 28, 2008

Procrastinating

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 26, 2008

Rewrites

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

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

I'm tired.

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

April 18, 2008

My Office Episode Beat Sheet

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

Show: The Office Title: Going Green by Jason Latshaw

SCENE 1 - TEASER - INT. OFFICE - DAY

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

ACT ONE

SCENE 2 – INT. RECEPTION AREA – DAY

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

SCENE 3 – INT. MICHAEL’S OFFICE – DAY

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

SCENE 4 – INT. OFFICE – DAY

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

SCENE 5 – INT. CONFERENCE ROOM – DAY

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

SCENE 6 – INT. CONFERENCE ROOM – DAY

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

END OF ACT ONE

ACT TWO

SCENE 7 – INT. MICHAEL’S OFFICE – DAY

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

SCENE 8 – INT. RECEPTION AREA – DAY

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

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

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

SCENE 10 – EXT. PARKING LOT – DAY

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

SCENE 11 – INT. OFFICE – DAY

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

SCENE 12 – INT. TOBY’S WORKSPACE – DAY

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

SCENE 13 – INT. DWIGHT’S WORKSPACE – DAY

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

SCENE 14 – INT. OFFICE – ACCOUNTING AREA – DAY

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

SCENE 15 – INT. OFFICE - RECEPTION AREA – DAY

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

END OF ACT TWO

ACT THREE

SCENE 16 – INT. CONFERENCE ROOM – DAY

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

SCENE 17 – INT. OFFICE – DAY

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

SCENE 18 – INT. WAREHOUSE – DAY

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

SCENE 19 – INT. CONFERENCE ROOM – DAY

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

SCENE 20 – INT. BREAK ROOM – DAY

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

SCENE 21 – INT. OFFICE - RECEPTION AREA – DAY

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

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

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

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

April 13, 2008

Comedy Spec - the Office

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

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

Going Green

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

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

________________________________

Redecorating

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

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


________________________________

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

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

April 09, 2008

New Project - Tovenray's Curse

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lyric says it again, louder.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She turns back towards the ruined castle.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 05, 2008

I'm in Tim Albaugh's 434

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

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

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

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

April 02, 2008

Fred Rubin's Comedy Class

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

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

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

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

March 26, 2008

suggestions needed

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

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

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

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

A little bit of rejection

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

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

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

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

March 24, 2008

Audition Time

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

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

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

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

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

March 18, 2008

Very late

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

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

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

March 14, 2008

Also, about music

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

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

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

March 03, 2008

Finished the Historic Epic

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 29, 2008

In the Home Stretch

I'm almost at page 100 in my historical epic screenplay I'm writing, so fortunately things are coming along fairly well. After I received the extensive notes from Colleary, and I just couldn't really move forward, because I didn't quite know where the story was.

I decided that it would be best to go back to page 1 and apply his notes, then get through the rewrite up until I was writing the new material. That way I would have a handle on the plot, the characters, and the relationships, all of which were changing.

That plan has worked out. I think the story is in a much better place now, due to the notes, and I'm psyched about how it's shaping up.

I have to be finished this first draft by Monday. I think it'll end up being very long, like maybe 140 pages when all is said and done. I'll probably have to cut it down.

My mom is in town. It's always so nice to have guests from home, makes the distance feel shorter, makes it seem more familiar out here.

Posted by elanyarts on 01:12 AM | Comments (2)

February 23, 2008

Losing my Mojo

I had a personal meeting with my instructor yesterday about my latest screenplay. And I have to say, I continue to be convinced that the man is brilliant. He gave me a number of fantastic notes, that wil really help my story.

But he's also a big time professional, and because of this, his style is to kind of assume everyone in the program is a competent good writer and do away with any of the extraneous compliments.

Now I hate to say this about myself, but I happen to like a certain kind of balance when given constructive criticism. Basically I like to hear 9 overflowingly wonderful accolades for every hit of improvement that I could make. And that's not really an exaggeration.

The ratio of my meeting the other day was not this way. And in all honesty, it couldn't be. There was only time for the stuff that would immediately help. I got those notes in spades.

But since then I was having the hardest time just sitting down and writing again. I had lost my confidence! Such a fragile thing...

One of the wonderful things that has happened here at UCLA is that I've become a part of a close-knit group of writers (we call ourselves the 431, because that's the first writing workshop you take here, and that's where we all met). We help each other, meet regularly to read each other's stuff. And when one of us is going bonkers, we talk each other down from the ledge. Here's some awesome email I got when I sent out my pathetic "whoa is me" message. (And I let them know it was pathetic and whoa is me, too)

Consider!

1) You're writing something I would never dream of writing. If it doesn't have girls or guitars, I don't want it. That means you're all grown up and I'm 14. So, there's something. The reason we love this story is A) it's true and B) we don't know it. Colleary's job is not to stroke your ego. It's to kick your ass and make you a better writer. Get the love from us. Forget the UCLA faculty in that regard. They've seen it all (including people like us stopping in for a few days, picking their brains and then going off to buy houses in Malibu). We'll be thanking them (ALL of them, Doc) in a few years so bask in it. Lean into the harsh wind and know we are all fighting the most honorable of fights. We asked for it. We begged for it. Your sitting with one of the more sought after instructors we have and you've told us his knowledge and notes are awesome. Know that.

We're just students to these people. Numbers. The next batch. We're all 16 year old wise asses to them.

We (the 431) will not give over to the Writer's Lament (It's also the Actor's Lament and the Improviser's Lament, by the way.) We'll put that shit on the page and bend the reader to our demands. Bitch.

2) I am gonna hip us all to the theory of Resistance. Short explanation is anything that stands in the way of your creative flow, anything that you let stop you from rocking is Resistance and every day we have to fight Resistance like we're fighting a mortal enemy. I used to teach the SAT like this:

If you fall asleep, the SAT wins. If you get bored, the SAT wins. If you get distracted, horny, hungry, angry, nervous or scared, the SAT wins. And if the SAT wins, you don't go to college.

Same idea. Lack of praise, fear of finishing, judgment of the work before it's done, these are all the faces of Resistance.

One of my all time top gurus was a little bisexual man named Mick Napier. He was a master improviser, director and actor. He wrote some guidelines for The Perfect Actor. Here's one of them:

MAKE STRONG CHOICES: F$%& your fear. We want to see your power, not your fear. Nobody has time for your fear...

Sometimes I really miss that man. Just sitting with him made you want to go home and make something.

3) http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/10009167-fools_gold/

Anyway, get in there. You know in your gut you can. We've all seen you do it. Use whatever means you have to. This is war. You gotta order a pizza for lunch? You gotta blast the Black Sabbath until the neighbors complain? You have to go down to the beach and scream until your horse? Do it. Just punch those letters onto that page.

Draft one, baby. Don't get it right, get it written. Don't worry about good. That's our job. You just get it down on the page.

In short, f$%$ it. Write.

I love the 431.

EG

And here's another.

It's the infantile stages of a biopic draft. It's going to have some bumps the first time through. The further you get through it, the more it will come into focus so you can nail it the next time. If you need some direct feedback on pages, send them away and we'll check them out. Hold on to that confidence, because without it, you'll feel like just a crazy man with a computer. And you're not.


And from another member of the group who is also writing a "true story."


Dear Fellow Writer Of A True Story,

To put it simply: Yes you can write this story and it will be brilliant.

I know exactly where you are. Take comfort in knowing that I am right next to you in this leaky life raft we call a 434. Listen to the goodness and J.J. Wise stuff there. (I may thank them all in a few years, but I don't have to like it!)

Honestly? You and I should start a support group - Biopics Anonymous. I've come to believe that what you're feeling (which is what I'm feeling) is a fundamental part of writing this type of story a - the dread, the flatness of the scenes and character's the first time through. It's a tough high to come down off of, the realizing that this story that's just been sitting there for anyone to pluck has plucked you(what great fortune!) and then you set about committing that story to paper (it already happened right, I mean it's just sitting there, begging to be told, right? It's gonna be awesome!) and it acts like any other story - like a pain in the ass that doesn't want to get into shape and be a good story. Plus, on top of that you're haunted by the fact that these people really lived. That your telling someone's story. Someone with relatives. Someone that people already know and feel they own a piece of! But you know what, if you get it out - even if it's one big glorious hot mess when you finally do (80 pages just the second act!), you can do what one day we'll be paid stupid money to do - rewrite it. And that's when - as we all know - the real writing happens.

Don't think. Don't judge. Just put it down. Even if it's wrong. Even if all the alarms are going off in your head and you know you're going to have to throw it all out. Take solace in the fact that even then - you'll know more about the story and how to write it - you'll know what not to write.Then it gets easier to bring the brilliance in and make it sing.

Just know that I am walking the exact same path, my friend. We will be brilliant in the end. Trust in the 431 and just do it.


And finally.


Jason- I can't add much to the genius advice of the other scribes....but all I have two pieces of advice: "Get to the end and start again." And "It doesn't have to be good, it just has to be done." That has saved my sanity on many an occasion. Like someone else said, just churn it out and leave it to us to help you polish it. It is a more than good start, I have faith in you, and you are a very talented writer based on everything I have seen thusfar.
And just remember....the difference between us and all those other schmucks sitting around me at Starbucks, is that we DO IT. We don't just talk about writing, WE WRITE. And then once we do that, we get trusted advice from others on how to make it shine.

And I promise you- we would not lead you astray. If we thought you were writing shit, we would tel you. I hope I can expect the same from y'allz.


I'm just so thankful, in the course of a couple of hours I get a bunch of brilliant, encouraging advice. I can't really underestimate this. I've wasted so much time trapped in disbelief of my own ability, unable to get out. One time, I didn't write a screenplay for a full year and a half after I lost in the early stages of a screenwriting competition.

That is so stupid.

And I was able to put 10 pages in today. I'm back on track.

Up to page 80. And it's going to great in the end. Not easy in the meantime, but great in the end.

Posted by jason on 02:31 AM | Comments (4)

January 11, 2008

Another one finished

fadeout.jpg

I reached FADE OUT on my latest screenplay, the one kind of without a name, but I'm leaning towards "Mother's Boy." I like it, it's very different from anything I've written so far.

In case we're keeping score, here is what I've written so far, from the most recent to the oldest.

Mother's Boy - Drama
Retro Band - Comedy
Hunter of Hunter's - Crime Drama
Black Family Singers of the Church of God Hallegalujah - Comedy
The Black Death - Action Adventure
War Between the States - Historical Drama / Romance / Fantasy (this is the one that sucks).

6 full lengths is not so bad. I'm not writing the sex(less) comedy this quarter, by the way. Michael Colleary was really excited by another one of my ideas, so I'm writing that one. Makes sense to me to write the story people in power are excited to read, especially when it's one you've been wanting to write for some time. But this one will take a ton more work.

I'm ready, though. Bring it on.

Posted by jason on 04:55 PM | Comments (10)

January 03, 2008

Next Quarter

I just got some fantastic news. Next quarter I'll get to take a 434 (the main writing workshop at UCLA) with Michael Colleary, writer of Tomb Raider and Face/Off. You had to submit a writing sample to be chosen, and i got in.

I'm especially excited about this because I have an action/fantasy script that I've written that I really like, and I'd love to get a connection and feedback from a writer who's successful made one of those kinds of movies.

Posted by jason on 07:49 PM | Comments (2)

December 30, 2007

Finishing the first draft - and requesting help.

I am working on finishing the first draft of my latest screenplay during this Christmas break. I had 30 pages done, based on notes from my instructor and classmates I cut those down to about 25, and now I'm up to page 60. I think this one will be just around 100 pages when it's all finished.

So I have 7 more days of break, I need to write just over 5 pages a day. Not bad. 5 pages could be 20 minutes and it could be literally 3 hours, depending on what's going on in the story, and how the inspiration is flowing.

While I'm in the program at UCLA my plan is to always be working on 3 screenplays at a time. Rewriting the screenplay from the previous quarter, writing the new screenplay for the current quarter, and outlining and developing a story for the next quarter. Not sure if this is the best approach, but it seems similar to what I'll have to do once I'm a working screenwriter, juggling a number of projects.

i need your help about something My instructor loved my screenplay so far, except for one thing. He said maybe I could come up with a more compelling title. I actually kind of dug mine, which was "A Well Adjusted Boy." But now I'm fielding suggestions. It's the story of a intellectually precocious 12 year old boy, the son of an esteemed but controversial child rearing expert, who believes in very carefully doling out both affection and experiences to her boy. He has a traumatic experience at school and runs away with his new (and only) friend to visit a texas televangelist who he believes can change his mom into the loving parent he needs.

Any ideas?

Posted by jason on 08:46 PM | Comments (14)