Friday, June 25, 2010

It's in the Cards

This is a bit self-serving, but bear with me.

I've been told by a co-worker that my astrological sign is a Cancer (my birthday falls on July 6).

At first I was like "ho hum, what does that matter?" But after checking out a website that describes the personalities of a Cancer, I was dumbfounded at how much it describes me - not only as a person, but as a professional.

Let me explain...

Here are some traits of the Cancer people:
Emotional and loving
Intuitive and imaginative
Shrewd and cautious
Protective and sympathetic

All of that seems pretty straightforward and generalized. Sure I'm emotional (not outwardly) and loving. I really do think I'm intuitive and imaginative - two things that go well with writing. Shrewd and cautious? Maybe not so much. Protective I can be, also sympathetic.

Here are some less than admirable traits:
Changeable and moody
Overemotional and touchy
Clinging and unable to let go

Mmmm - I'm not that moody. Definitely changeable. I don't think the rest really apply to me.

So anyway, here's where it gets weird:

"Cancerians have a retentive memory, particularly for emotionally laden events which they can recall in detail for years afterwards. They are strongly governed by childhood memories and they tend to live intensely in the past in memory and in the future in imagination."

This is very interesting. So what I'm getting from this, is that I am able to recall vivid memories from my past (which is a great storytelling skill) and look forward to the future (imagination). Yay for me!

"Their abilities fit the Cancerian for a wide range of occupations. As they are interested in what people are thinking and able to judge what they can safely be told, they can be good journalists, writers or politicians, though in this last capacity they are more likely to remain in the background rather than attain prominent positions of power."

I definitely couldn't do politics - because I hate politics. Wouldn't be good for journalism either.

Writing it is!

(Oh, and also... there's a number associated with Cancers - 69. Just sayin')

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Down in Fraggle Rock

You know, my Birthday IS just a few weeks away...

on sale at Amazon for $37.49 (that's free shipping yo!)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


I was writing up a big ol' post on writing query letters, but couldn't get it out. So instead I decided to dump all the random stuff floating around my brain right now:

This made me laugh all morning - seriously, it broke my work abilities.

Amanda Bynes wants to retire from acting.
Please don't Amanda, SHE'S THE MAN was pretty good and you're a great person.

Firefly: The Complete Series [Blu-ray] for $27.99 - that's free shipping on Amazon yo!

If I printed 5,000 of these, I would need more by the end of the month (and only if I gave them to the jackasses that park in the "compact" spots).

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

New Show: CBS - Mike & Molly

Here's a preview of the upcoming sitcom Mike & Molly on CBS:

This show was created by Chuck Lorre, who if you remember correctly, co-created The Big Bang Theory with Bill Prady.

Mike & Molly is about a couple who meet in a support group for their overeating. It's essentially about these two wonderful people who could stand to lose some weight (couldn't we all, amiright?).

I promised I wouldn't review shows before they are put on the air - but I will tell you which ones I would look out for if I were you. This is one of them.

If you're a fan of the Lorre shows (Big Bang Theory, Two and a Half Men, Dharma & Greg, Roseanne, etc.) then you will definitely enjoy this show. Lorre knows how to put a multicamera show our right and he does a good job with this one. After watching the pilot, my wife and I said "we want more!" and that is definitely a good sign for a new show.

Mike & Molly
Mondays at 9:30/8:30c
Starts this Fall 2010

Police officer Mike Biggs knows his way around the streets. As a cop, Mike’s not scared of anything—except dating, so he’s joined Overeaters Anonymous® to lose those extra pounds and gain some much-needed confidence. When he meets Molly at a meeting, the attraction is immediate, and suddenly Mike is excited about the prospect of a new life. But now he must find the willpower to give up his beloved junk food for the apple of his eye.


Monday, June 21, 2010

Toy Story 3 = Great

TOY STORY 3 is absolutely amazing and incredibly well done. Lee Unkrich has well outshined the enormous expectations that were placed upon his shoulders. He did his directing duty well and because of it, we can rejoice.

I read an earlier draft of the script (actually, come to think of it - I'm not sure it was official or not. The title was just "Toy Story 3"), and the storyline seemed very contrived and unoriginal. I'm really glad that they went another way.

What makes this movie so good? Why does it grab our emotions so well?

I think a lot of it stems from how well we know the characters. We've seen them and traveled with them for so long. We've known how they reacted in the past and how they would react today. A strong character (or characters) can help direct a story and build drama/excitement/laughter/sadness.

[spoiler alert]
When the group is headed for the incinerator and they are looking to each other - giving in to their fate - we are completely 100% with them. We know that even though they are heading toward certain doom, they are doing it together and that's all that matters - that they are together. This is one of the most emotionally powerful moments of the film and I could have sworn that the tough dude sitting next to me was wiping tears from his eyes.
[end spoiler alert]

My friend is writing a pilot about a young college girl who has a pet monster. She goes out at night and rids the world of evil by having her monster eat them. During the day, she's your average "woo" girl who likes to party and have fun during her college years.

During a moment of desperation he texted me:

"Ug! Why am I writing about a crazy college cheerleader! I know nothing about party girls! Writing crisis! Agggggg"

To which I replied:

"Don't 'write' a crazy college cheerleader. Write a character that is secure in who she is. Confident in her decisions. Focused at night at her real job and relaxed and social during the day. I think if you concentrate on what she is, what she does will come naturally."

I don't know if what I said really helped him out or not. But it sure helped me out. By texting him that long text, I was able to get past a few story problems I've been having with my own spec. I was trying too hard! I wanted to fit the characters within my story mold, but what I needed was to have the characters show me where the story was supposed to go.

So what I'm getting at...
is be true to your characters and they will tell you what they want to do and say.

And Toy Story (all three of them) has accomplished this very well.

Buy the first two movies - $29.99 on Blu-ray!!
Toy Story (Two-Disc Special Edition Blu-ray/DVD Combo w/ Blu-ray Packaging)

Jersey Sure

All blogger friends (and everyone else too) should go to this man's Tumblr website and RSS it.

His name is Greg White and he is a writer on Comedy Central's UGLY AMERICANS.

He uses Tumblr the way Tumblr should be used -- For random craziness.
June 20th: "You, madame, have a fake name."
(He was responsible for posting the weird Russian baby video first. In fact, he posts it pretty much every day.)

Friday, June 18, 2010

Time Perspective

This video is about ten minutes, but is well worth the time investment.

It is the famous Philip Zambardo discussing the economics of time and the powers it has over our minds. He also goes in to how these things effect our current cultures.

Also, it is pretty amazingly animated. So check it out and we'll discuss:

Discussion as related to entertainment:

A lot of what Mr. Zambardo is saying about how this effects the attentiveness and alertness of young people's minds translate directly to how television and film is being shaped.

I was listening to the book-on-cd of STORY by Robert McKee while on my way into work and Mr. McKee was describing three types of story plots:
  • The Arc-Plot: where everything happens to the extreme - situations are life or death, the characters go through extreme changes and as a result the audience goes through extreme emotions (anger, elation, sadness, etc.). THE A-TEAM was a perfect example of this (very enjoyable in all those extremes).
  • The Mini-Plot: where the characters go through only minor changes during the course of the film, but it is more impactful and dramatic. I thought that AN EDUCATION was a really great example of this one.
  • The Anti-Plot: where the filmmaker is purposefully not allowing the audience the satisfaction of an overall character arc. Very subversive. Very 1960's Traffaut. I loved THE BEATLES: YELLOW SUBMARINE which very much follows this form.
I have to say, I'm a big fan of the Arc-plot. I love the Arc-plot. Most people do. It's the type of movie that I like to go see and that I will (hopefully) eventually write. In-between those great blockbuster films though, I enjoy watching the more cerebral and intelligent films every now and then. Not sure so much about the Anti-plot style, I just don't have that much time.
Quick side note: I am really in love with the show ADVENTURE TIME on Cartoon Network. I can't tell you how much I love this show (and how much my wife hates it). It is a lot like the Anti-plot, but if you dig deeper you see an inner Arc-plot.
Here's a great article that illustrates how Spielberg's JAWS changed how the movie industry began releasing films. "Hollywood had been happy to hit for average, spraying singles and doubles around the field; after Jaws it began swinging for grand slams."

In other words, they have made it bigger, faster, harder, and more intense.

Getting back into what Mr. Zambardo was discussing, this fast-paced forward thinking society of ours has turned our entertainment (and most specifically, the films that spend the most money and make the most money) into nothing more than an onslaught of explosive action, excessive comedy and jittery camera work.

Our Arc-plots have to become more intense and absurd as a result.

Thinking about recent history, a film that I thought was beautifully done and excellently paced was THE KARATE KID (the Jaden Smith one). Although it was done quite well and I felt the 140 minutes flew by, apparently it was incredibly slow for everyone else.

Around the mid-point of the film, several kids in the audience started to get very restless. One teen in the front pulled out his iPhone and was checking facebook during the majority of the film. One kid sitting next to us said, "when's it going to be over?" Even my wife got the fidgets during the movie, but we've long discussed how difficult it is for her to sit through a movie so that's okay - she at least admits it.

What is the deal people? Am I taking crazy pills? Am I the only one in this world anymore that has the patience to let a movie take its time?

Hopefully not, but still - it's good thing to keep in mind when trying to write a screenplay or pilot: Today's audience is easily bored. Keep them entertained and engaged or else they will start tweeting during your film.

(Next Time: A comparison of two dramatically different trailers, one from the 70's, one from the present - and matching them according to the same principles of attentiveness and forward time thinking.)

Wild Russian Baby

This is totally weird, and cute at the same time. So many mixed emotions...

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Another FANTASTIC Scott Pilgrim Trailer

I can't contain the awesome!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

No Seasons, Just Giving

Yesterday I explained a few things about the TV industry. Since I work for both a Television agent AND a Feature agent, I thought I would explain a similar process that happens in film.

The benefit of being a writer of features over TV is that feature has no "seasons" really. There's no rush to get our writers onto a series. The only rush comes to try and get a feature before the job is given to someone else - and the jobs happen all-year round.

This is where OPEN WRITING ASSIGNMENTS (OWA's) come in:

OWA's are for feature scripts on their way to being produced that needs another writer attached or needs a new writer altogether. This includes projects that are sometimes shelved for years and never produced until a young exec digs it up and wants to go for it again.

The project can be an original concept that a studio or production company executive has come up with and needs a writer to make his ideas become reality (The Hangover was an original idea based on an executive's wild night in Vegas). It can also be for an existing property that is being turned into a feature (one of my favorites is Scott Pilgrim vs. The World which was based on a sweet graphic novel series. ) And of course - there's always the amazing spec script that was good enough to be bought by the studio, but not quite there yet (Book of Eli was amazing, but some things were definitely changed).

This is happening right now with the Fraggle Rock Movie. Writer/Director Cory Edwards has been working on a new take of the fantastic Jim Henson Company tale (so jealous by the way), yet he has been told by The Weinstein Company (who are producing) that they are searching for another writer.

Mr. Edwards wrote recently on his blog:
Not to be too alarmist, but I am struggling to stay in control of my own movie at this point. The Weinstein Company gives me no confidence these days. Why? For starters, they have begun the search for a new writer, presumably to rewrite my entire script from scratch. Now I’m a big boy — I can take the blow if my skills are not up to the high, high standards of the Weinstein Company (he said with too much sarcasm in his voice). But this is happening behind my back, without consulting me or even asking my opinion. I enjoy working with other writers and have no doubt that the RIGHT person could help make any script better. But to not even ask me? Adding insult to injury, the search is basically an open assignment. This means the net has been cast wide, virtually posting in the “classifieds” of the movie business. The Fraggles do not deserve such treatment.

I understand his frustration. It sucks to be undermined like that. Here's the thing though: All films, even really really really wonderfully written ones, get other writers added. Sometimes more than two, sometimes close to a dozen.

You won't see these other writers on the credits at the beginning of the movie though. The ones you see on the big screen had spent a great deal of time and had a good percentage of their writing in the final shooting script (which changes each day of production). It also helps to have a really good agent who negotiated a bunch of guaranteed steps (more on that in a later post).

It is very surprising how much or how little these "extra" writers actually do. Sometimes they are brought in for a day of punch-ups where they sit and discuss dialogue that could be better or jokes that could be funnier. Sometimes they are given the task of revisions and they spend a week or so reworking the script.

Then there are the extreme cases - the kind that Mr. Edwards is describing on his blog. In those cases, the studio doesn't like the direction the writer has taken the property at all and wants a page one rewrite. This happens far more often than you would think, but it doesn't mean the previous writer did a bad job or is a terrible writer. All it means is the executives had an idea of where they wanted it to go and the writer delivered a different take than what they wanted.

Sometimes it can be nasty though: the executive hated it, the executive owes someone a favor, the writer offends the executive, the writer tells the company he's going to write one way but then changes directions. Any number of reasons why the studio or production company would
toss the writer and get a new one. I'm hoping that's not what Mr. Edwards did. From what he said on his blog, this probably wasn't the case, but he should watch out with what he says. He could easily get kicked off this project if the Weinsteins aren't happy with him.

'Memba when Megan Fox said something nasty about Transformers and Michael Bay?

Hope it was worth it!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A Season of Giving, and Not Giving

Last month I witnessed one of the most terrifying and harrowing spectacles ever:

Let me explain what this means:

Staffing Season is the time of year when each Studio and Network decides what pilot scripts they want to put into production. Then after several gut-wrenching weeks of production and philandering - they decide which shows they would like to put on the air.

So here's where we come in. The agency looks over all the scripts of the upcoming shows and decides what material of our clients we would like to submit to the Studio Executives, the Network Executives and the Showrunners (basically the director of the show) for their consideration in hiring our clients to work on the show.

This means a lot of reading.

And then there's the fun part - the selling. For weeks all the agents can think about is how to sell our clients for each show. This can be a bit aggravating - especially when there is no forthcoming information from the powers that be.

What results is about a month and a half of non-stop stress and aggravation. And you know what they say - "The $#!% rolls downhill." Yup, that means us assistants.

From what I experienced, the worst part of all was the very fragile tensions that could easily be set off by a whisper. For good reason, when something was mistyped or done wrong or not followed-up on - the thunder was brought down upon me and life became a bit heavy.

That is to say though, it wasn't all that bad. For one thing, the constant keeping busy helped the day move much quicker than normal. There wasn't a moment wasted and every time I looked at the clock - it was almost time to go!

Another great thing about the whole experience was that I was able to learn the names of the big players at the studios and networks. When you have to make calls to the same person a dozen times a day - you get really familiar with who they are. I also got to read and learn about what shows were in contention for the upcoming season. It was fun to read them and say "that script simply didn't work" or "this should be picked up right away, it's amazing!" (Okay, that last one never happened).

And now, the fruit of all that stress - we have screeners!! We have DVDs of most of the new shows that are going to be on next Fall (even the ones that didn't get picked up). I considered reviewing some of the new shows, but wasn't sure if that would be cool (although, only three people read my blog and none of them would tell on me). Still, I think it best for me not to analyze these shows before they are on the air. If you are interested to know about any of the upcoming shows, let me know and I'll give you the dope. Maybe I'll review the ones that didn't get picked up and analyze why they didn't make it...

So I survived it all. And now things have settled down quite a bit. I have been there and I lived to tell the tale.
I survived at least until...


Monday, June 14, 2010

Sighting Funny People

Here are some celebs I've sighted in the last few months:

Jack Black at the Arclight Theater

Jason Segel at a GET HIM TO THE GREEK screening

Steve Carell at Ralph's Grocery Store

And also, I thought I saw Tim Robbins once, but upon further inspection - it wasn't him.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Questions and Blandswers

I've been thinking a lot lately about how I haven't been posting much, if anything at all.

It is bothersome to me.

Sure, I have some really sweet excuses -- (Finished three feature spec screenplays and am working a totally awesome full-time job) -- yet, I think my writing would best be served by participating more regularly on this blog - the offspring of my genius and inspirado.

I have some great ideas of what to post in the next few weeks, but I was thinking of opening it up to you my readers as well - all three of you. Maybe with our collective minds we can accomplish something great.

Here is what I propose:
  • Suggest some things for me to blog about (see how I turned it on you?) - they can be utterly crazy or ridiculous. I will do my best to write and/or go out and participate in said crazy activities.
  • Ask me some questions - what are you curios about? What do you want to know about Los Angeles? The entertainment industry? Working at an agency? Writing? Producing? Life?
  • What videos or pictures can I take that would be interesting? What do you want to see? (no, I don't have kids - sorry pedo stalkers).
  • Storytime - Suggest something fantastical for me to write and share on the blog. I will write a script, short story, poem or song to entertain you. This also might help my mind flow with creative juices - of which I can soak up in the giant paper-towel of productivity.
Hopefully, with your help, I will soon have no reason to shake my fist at my own negligence.

Thank you.