Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Scary Thought

I had an alarming thought the other day while I was riding on the train, either to a job I didn't like, an interview for a job I didn't particularly want, or just to kill time since my day is currently pretty empty.

If thirty, or forty, or one hundred years from now, I've come and gone, and not had a single thing I've written produced, then in the eyes of my writing self and my college degree, I will have been a failure.

Not to be unnecessarily gloomy --and one must accept the fact that probably forty-five percent of people, if not more, wind up working in a field that was not even remotely related to their degree-- but the thought hit me rather abruptly. I was gazing out the window at a gorgeous day, fortunate enough to still be above ground on the train so that I could appreciate the light hitting the trees at just the most stunning angle. And then it hit me. Just as I said. "If I don't wind up becoming a writer, then I will have failed in that area of my life."

Mind you, I am not equating failing to succeed as a screen or play writer as failing in life. But it was a shocking thought, one, which I'm not sure I really can disagree with either. My parents spent an exorbitant amount of money on my education so that I could become a screenwriter. So what happens if I don't do that? I know people who earned English degrees to go on an work in management of big non-profits. Not exactly English. Did they fail?

For me, though, it's not so much about deviating from what I've planned to do. It was the thought that "only I am to blame if I do not succeed" that really got me. Because, fundamentally, it's true. People can change the course of their lives. It happens all the time. But I don't foresee changing the fact that I want to write, or do something in film. But I had a glimpse of myself as a middle-aged man walking onto the train and sitting across from me, briefcase in hand, suit jacket flung over my back, long having distanced myself from any hope of making it as a writer.

That was what scared me.

Because immediately after I had that image, I had a counter-thought. "You can do it. Ten years from now, twenty years from now, you can be a successful writer. You just have to work at it." That thought was right. I do just have to work at it. If thirty years from now, I walk onto the subway on my way home from a long day behind the computer at my cubicle where the closest I get to Hollywood is watching DVD rentals, then I've let myself down. I've failed myself.

I guess, in the end, seeing myself walking onto that train, overweight and unhappy (or if not unhappy, not where I wanted to be), sparked me into action. Not necessarily that very second. Not necessarily even when I got home that day. But I knew, when the image faded, that I have all the power to prevent that from becoming a reality. All I have to do is work for it. I've had my training. I know I need to work more. Hard. But I shouldn't have to be that man on the train thirty years from now.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

LoKor is AFK

Hey guys, FYI, I'm in Santa Fe until late Monday night, so expect thing to be awfully quiet around here for the rest of the week. Cake Man may put something up, and if so, check back on our Facebook page for notices of our updates.

Really quick though, RE: Lost

1. Nice beard, Jack. Maybe the fakest thing I've ever seen

2. 'Bout time someone (no pun intended) cheap-shot an "Other"

3. How exactly did Locke get control of his legs? And wasn't there a hole in his stomach?

4. Wow. That ending....yeah, I'll go into this more later, but if they end up structuring the show like they did The Nine from here on out, I'm going to be really, really angry.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Monday Afternoon Blogging - Shrek, Script Frenzy, and More!

The shock isn't that Shrek the Third came in first place this weekend, or even that it grossed over $100 million. I don't know about you, but given how strong Spider-Man 3 has been, I wasn't expecting Shrek the Third to reach $122 mil, breaking its predecessor's own animation record set three years ago. Wowza!

Needless to say, it did. My thoughts, see below, haven't changed one bit since seeing it on Saturday night, and given the fact that there really hasn't been anything resembling a kid's movie since Disney's Meet the Robinson's, I guess I shouldn't have been surprised at all.

The top five rounded out with Spider-Man 3 ($28.5M), 28 Weeks Later ($5.2M), Disturbia (wtf?, $3.7M), and Georgia Rule ($3.5M).

Next week, of course, is Pirates 3. You know, honestly, aside from what it can do, it should top $100 million. That'll be three movies in the month of May that debuted with at least that much. How are all those naysayers who fear the end of the movie industry feeling now?

Also, apparently the Cannes Film Festival is going on. I'll be totally honest, I don't have a clue what's happening over there. Anyone know any good blogs or news sources (do you like how I differentiate the two?) that stay up to date with the info? You can check out the official (English) site here.


This is a fun one: someone on ink Canda's facebook page brought this up and I thought I'd share. Script Frenzy isn't so much a competition as it is an opportunity to write a 20,000 word screen or stageplay over the month of June. The site has the details, but I think this is a perfect opportunity to work through an idea that's been nagging at you and you haven't quite been able to crank out. Remember that play idea I mentioned last Monday? Expect to see me doing my best to make that a reality. If you're worried about copyright info and whatnot, I don't know what to tell you. Perhaps their FAQs have something that can help.


Lots of season finale's this week. 24, and Heroes are tonight. Lost is on Wednesday. I'll sound off on season 3 of Lost toward the end of the week - I have many opinions on the matter- but feel free to leave your comments about what you're watching. Have a great week everyone.

Write on...

Sunday, May 20, 2007

"Shrek the Third" Impressions

*Warning!! Contains some plot points which may or may not be considered spoilers, depending on how much you do or do not want to know heading into the film. Therefore, you may or may not be interested in reading or not reading this depending on what you feel or are not feeling this day or maybe the next*

I should preface this by stating that this is not to be considered a review. While I may know enough to give educated, qualitative feedback on movies, the idea of writing a review brings with it certain responsibilities, namely objectivity, which I don't particularly care to employ. Therefore, I like to consider these "impressions," and as the word implies, most of this is unabashedly subjective.

I will start off by saying that Shrek the Third was an enjoyable theater experience. There were lovable, familiar characters, keen as well as over the top humor, moments (albeit brief) of honest emotional resonance, and plenty of eye candy to go a long way. The animation is nothing short of incredible this time around-- we're nearing the point where CGI human beings are looking a whole lot like their real-life counterparts, but where the animation really shines is in the settings and the fantastical creatures/characters.

If the devil is in the details, then the animators have found a way to channel Satan. Settings have life-like textures and quality. The stones in a castle wall aren't just a plain wash - you can actually see the age, water damage, and wear and tear. Cannons have dimples and crevices. The Gingerbread Man's closeups draw memories of Christmas past. A perfect example is in looking at those hideous donkey/dragon children which have been all over the previews. To see them in the film, to notice the mixture of scales and hair, how some eyes are lazy and different colors-it's the details that make them hideously adorable, and thus, pretty darn hilarious.

The humor is the same sarcastic, social-commentating humor that we should be used to from this series, but in an improvement over the second film, there are a lot of jokes that are personal to the characters themselves. Let's just say that in one scene, the Gingerbread Man's life flashes before his eyes, moments before Pinocchio words his answers in long winded jarble just to avoid telling lies. Brilliant.

There are periods in the second act where the laughs die down, as could be expected, but when that happens, it becomes apparent that the emotional connection that has carried other animated films, such as Disney/Pixar's Finding Nemo or Monster's Inc., is just not there. It causes the story to drag, and it's disappointing. The problem here is a writing one, unfortunately, and one that could have been avoided simply by making the stakes heightened and more clear. **SPOILER?*** In the beginning of the film the Frog King informs Shrek that he is to be the next heir of Far Far Away, but naturally Shrek wants to go back to the swamp, and so the King tells him who the next in line would then be. This is a problem because a). while Shrek doesn't want to be king, it's not established why he can't be. Being an Ogre is awkward, but he'll deal if he has to. Because of this, if he can't find the next in line or convince him to take the throne, it's not the biggest of deals.

The "b" problem is that Fiona doesn't have too much to do until the end of the film, when everyone has to band together to save everyone's favorite green ogre (which is also a problem because Shrek literally does nothing but wait to be saved).

This and few other passive choices make the film dependent on the humor. I can confidently say that if you found the jokes and situations of the first two films to be funny, then you won't be disappointed. However, there is little substance underneath the superficial plot and jokes, so if you haven't enjoyed Shrek 1 or 2, this is not the film on which to go spend 11 dollars.

Friday, May 18, 2007

What's in a Feedback Session?

Tomorrow was supposed to be the League's first "real" meeting. (I say "real" because, though the members have all met as the League before, two of us just finished school -five of us actually just graduated- and some of us have been out of the city off and on since December.) So maybe I should clarify: tomorrow was to be our first feedback session. But it's been pushed back to the first weekend in June. That's my bad. Still employment-challenged, I had to jump on an opportunity to make a lot of cash this weekend, which sort of popped up last minute.

But it's actually for the best, because two of our ranks are not in the city now, and only one of us was going to be bringing work. The quality of the feedback session would have been severely hindered by those factors.

So what, in lieu of that, makes a good session?

The first thing I can say is PEOPLE. Not only numbers, but the specific ones there. In terms of numbers, groups, I've found, are generally best capping off at about eleven or twelve people, maximum. Beyond that, you're bound to get people who: didn't read the material because they figured everyone else would or didn't have the time since so many people wrote, don't comment because they want to be done or have somewhere else they'd rather be, just want to be argumentative for the fun of it, or repeat notes that someone else has already given simply so they have something to say. Or, frankly, the meeting can go on too long, and while the first person to have material is read gets good help, the last person might feel as though his/her time was rushed and feels cheated as a result of that. Big groups are much less effective for all of the above reasons and more. And, logistically, they're much harder to organize.

However, as we saw with the League, smaller groups can also have their drawbacks. The League is currently made up of six members, which is a very manageable number. But, in order for it to function effectively, we pretty much need everyone there, or at least five people. Part of having between eight and ten members of a regularly meeting writers group is that not only do you wind up getting enough feedback from enough points of view that you, as a writer, can sense what is generally working in your script and what isn't, but you also have enough people so that one person's absence is not drastically missed. It is important to make sure you're getting enough feedback, which means that everyone ought to participate (remember that problem with a group being too large?) If a writers group is six people, then each person is receiving feedback from five people. That's pretty damn good. That's enough of a range of opinions that you're exposed to problems in your script, which you wouldn't see if only one or two people who thought alike read your material.

Which brings me to choosing people for a writers group. Besides ensuring the "correct" number of members (correct, really, being relative), it's important to get the right ones. This mostly means, as best I can tell, six things: 1) people who do not all think alike, but can offer many varied opinions 2) people who can constructively give criticism without making you want to jump off of a bridge 3) people who can take criticism without wanting to jump off of a bridge 4) people who don't take things personally 5) people who know you as a writer and 6) most importantly, people who generally want to be there, to help and be helped.

I already addressed the first point when talking about how many people tend to make up a solid, smoothly functioning group. In terms of the second point, some people are just mean. I've been in classes before with writers who would talk endlessly about why they "hated" this play or that script, how horrible it was, how awful a writer the person who wrote it is. That's not helpful. At all. Not only does it belittle the efforts of the writer, but it offers neither insight into the problems with the material nor suggestions for how to go about fixing the work. It might be the case that a script is seemingly beyond repair. But it is up to everyone giving feedback to try and find, if not the silver lining, at least some way of more gently explaining why things don't work. Bad writing is out there. We're probably all guilty of it at some point or other. But no good comes of making a fool of the person who wrote it.

***When giving feedback, put yourself in the other person's shoes. Try to recognize what he or she is doing or trying to do. Don't tell them that it's great, but try to refrain from using words like "hated" or "horrible." A) hate is a powerful emotion, how can you really hate ten pieces of paper with some poor dialogue on them? B) You can be more helpful. Say what you thought was not working, but also suggest improvements. Remember, people might not take your suggestions, so don't try to tell them how to write their script. It is theirs, after all. But it is important to show them that there are in fact ways to improve their piece. It often can help to suggest films for the writer to watch as good examples of the genre/type of film he or she is writing in. I was working on a Sin City type script, but it had a lot of elements of old Western movies to it, so a lot of people suggested I watch those. If something is totally not working, say that. A character might be extraneous. A scene might be useless. Help the writer to see this. A strong writer will accept what he or she probably knows deep down is not working when others say this. Don't be afraid to give negative feedback. Just do not give your feedback negatively!***

On the other hand, point three: taking feedback. I've seen some writers so ashamed of their work that they have physically left the room before it was critiqued. No one can improve by not sitting through what might feel like torture, jotting down notes, and letting others' criticisms sink in. If we all allowed ourselves to remain delusional about the high quality of our work or refused to even allow for the idea that there were problems with it, we'd get nowhere. Part of being a writer is developing a truly thick skin. How do you think professional writers would ever get through bad reviews, never being nominated for writing awards, or having their names associated with one of the year's top ten worst films if they never toughened up? The answer is: they wouldn't. I'll be honest, the best writing teacher I had tore my work to pieces the first six times I brought it in to class. Thankfully, that was when I was a senior in the writing department, and not a freshman, or else I don't know that I would have stuck with it. But by that time, after three years of giving and getting feedback, I had learned to take it. And, not surprisingly, that was the class where I truly felt my writing improve the most. It may sound strange, but we should all be so fortunate to find someone who can (benevolently) rip our work to pieces and make us see it for the flawed piece it is.

Point four is pretty straightforward. Have you ever played Risk, the game of world conquer? If not, the premise behind it is that each person controls an army and tries to defeat everyone else in a quest for the entire world. I play it with my friends a lot. But getting defeated can suck. A lot. Especially when everyone gangs up on you. Being in the hot seat during feedback time is like that. People (hopefully) aren't picking at your pages because they don't like you, but because they see problems with your work. Know this. If you take every criticism personally, not only is your skin not yet tough enough, but you will most likely feel like you've lost your friends. Taking things as personal attacks, or making them attacks, gets everyone nowhere and does nothing.

All of the above points basically go to make this fifth: it is important to have people who know one another as writers. Since my fellow Leaguers know me as a writer, and a friend, they know that they can and are actually invited to tear my work apart, where it's due. (All "tearing of work" that I've mentioned ought only be where it's due. I hope that was obvious.) They know what to expect in my writing, so they know when I'm trying something new. And when that something new isn't working, they know how to help me fix it. They know how to give me feedback and know what kind of feedback I will give them. And, while I might not be the funniest guy on Earth, if they try their hand at a comedy, they'll know when to truly listen to my advice and when to simply appreciate me for giving it. Knowing your fellow group members for who they are as writers will make everything infinitely easier. It's hard to give someone you don't know, either as a friend or a writer (because those are often two different things when you're in the hot seat) helpful advice for fear of insulting them. Know your group members. You'll be that much closer to final drafts.

And, finally, invite people you know will want to be there. It's no fun when people keep checking their watches or making phone calls to plan their evenings while at a group meeting. Going to your group's meeting should never feel like a chore, so try never to make it feel that way. Serve drinks. Have a potluck. Hold an all naked meeting. Whatever will get people "excited" (I couldn't refrain) about showing up and participating. A writers group is also a support group, and it should feel that way. Surround yourself with people you'd want to spend your free time with, and who want to spend theirs with you. At the League, we sort of have an all-for-one, one-for-all mentality: if one of us makes it big, we'd like to think that he/she would stick around, continue to be a member, and try to do whatever possible to help the others break in to the industry, as well. You'll probably find that the people in your writers group are some of your closest friends, since writing is such a private and personal thing, and those are the few people who see you bare your soul on a regular basis. If you can't stand the idea of someone in your group reading something you've written, you've probably made a mistake being in the same writing group as him/her.

In short, your gut should tell you who ought to be in your group. It will probably even let you know when you've invited as many people as you should have, at least for budding groups. But your gut can't tell you how to take feedback. The only way to truly deal with feedback is if everyone is on the same page about it, how to give it, and how to get it. Don't be afraid of it. Embrace it. Without feedback, a writers group is just a group of people who call themselves writers.

Welcome to New Friends

On behalf of The League, I wanted to extend a warm welcome to the members of ink Canada. May you enjoy sharing in our brooding, rants, comics, and musings.

Write on...

How It Really Goes

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The End of Another Week

In one of the more interesting conversations that I had this week, my friend Rick and I were talking about his insomnia and his new-found ability to actually control the events of his dreams. Naturally, we considered the cinematic possibilities of this, and without really deciding upon it, we tossed around ideas until we came up with a thriller, the premise of which is very intriguing. I'm a little weary about spilling the beans regarding the ideas for my scripts, so if my vagueness is annoying, I apologize.

The point of bringing this up is that some of the projects I'm currently working on have become a chore, a frustrating one at that, and I've found it difficult to set the time aside to get some work done. Part of it is the 9-5 lifestyle, the setback of which being that I get home with a thick layer of brain fog. Getting through this while in the comfort of my own home is difficult to say the least, and the problem seems to be exacerbated by the dinner-time hunger, just having stood through a 45-minute train ride (usually crowded), and my shiny new Nintendo Wii just glowing at me from the corner of my living room. It's gotten to a point where I don't want to put forth the effort to exhaust myself further by churning out pages and (as has been the case lately) struggling to do so.

Also, the newly discovered thriller and a couple other script ideas have piqued my curiosity, resulting in an interest to explore them further, but I feel as though I have a responsibility to the projects in which I'm currently engaged (one of which is a collaboration). I find myself wondering whether or not this is a phase I need to let myself pass through, or if there are productive ways to go about maximizing my productivity without burning myself out. More realistic guidelines? Rewarding myself? Instilling new habits (writing away from home)? It seems as though it's time to explore some options.

If anyone reading has any suggestions about combating the aforementioned brain fog, the laziness associated with just ending a day at work, or any tricks that might help get through this period of lethargy, comment away.


As most readers are probably aware, Shrek the Third opens this weekend. The reviews seem pretty mixed at this point, but, honestly, if you liked the first two, would you really not see the third? It must be difficult writing reviews for sequels - the majority of your audience will have already made up their mind whether or not they're going to see the movie. Anyway, I was checking out the writing credits on IMDB, and it's fair to say there are a fuck-ton of writers attributed to making this thing happen, including some guy named Peter Seamen.

I bring this up because if you're looking for an idea how this installment in the Shrek franchise is going to feel, you'll be quick to notice that the writers consist of the guys responsible for the live-action How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and another team credited for Shrek Two. The only people on board from the first film, my favorite of the two so far, are Andrew Adamson (didn't write, but directed the first), and William Steig (the creator!).

Needless to say, if the movie feels a little jumbled, at least we have an idea why.


Anyway, there's a comic coming later today, be sure to check out Onyx Enforcer's post (below), and have a great weekend!

Write on...

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Commence Recharging

“Dude, I heard you finished up.”

“Yeah, I’m a bachelor of fine arts.”

“B to the motha F’in A. Right on, man, right on.”


“So what are you going to do now?”

“Well I think I’m going to go back home and recharge for a bit.”

“Right, recharge, good deal. Just remember, when all else fails, use a cluster bomb.”

…writing happens

Recharge. I’ve used this word more times in the last month than I have in all of the twenty-one years leading up to it. Recharge has become more than a word. Right now, it’s the plan. The plan used to be find employment in the city (New York = the city) and remain in the city upon becoming a bachelor of fine arts. So much for that. But I left with my chin up because I gave it my best shot and I got pretty close. In fact I was close enough to feel assured of employment. I was already thinking ahead to the next steps beyond job hunting. It was a mistake, and that mistake ended up being a hard punch to the gut when things didn’t fall into place. But hey, what doesn’t kill you makes you live a little longer.

So here I am, back in Cambridge, MA and officially recharging for an undetermined amount of time. To be honest I’m not too worried, and I’m pretty comfortable. Cat and cat allergies aside, it’s the most comfortable I’ve been in a while. I’m looking forward to long nights at the bar with friends as we all try to help one another figure out what happens next. I’m also looking forward to sitting down and doing some writing away from school, but it’s going to be a challenge. God knows the ideas are there, but I think I’m going to try and stay away from all those historical dramas that I’m itching to write. It’s time to do something in the here and now and with a reasonable budget. It’s also time to make use of those film kids and write some shorts. I think that sounds like a great way to recharge; alternating between getting boozed up and writing. I’m sure there will be some nights when I do both at the same time. Then eventually, when the tide is right and the stars have aligned, I’ll target New York.

See what I did just there? By using “target New York” an intern at the NSA will probably have to read up on the league tonight. Hopefully he/she is an aspiring screenwriter who knows people in the industry. It could happen.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Before Spider-Man Fades into Oblivion....

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Monday, May 14, 2007

Spider-Man: M(ust)B(e)N(ice), and Other Musings

Spider-Man 3 dropped off 60% at the box office this weekend but still grossed $60 million dollars and made about $50 million more than it's closest competition, 28 Weeks Later.


Talk to me on Monday after Shrek the Third actually offers Sony some kind of challenge.

(and then, of course, Pirates 3 is just around the corner...)

It's a little disappointing that Hollywood is releasing all of its heavy-hitters in the earlier part of summer. Don't get me wrong, I'm stupidly excited about Harry Potter (both the movie and the final book), but is there any real reason to cram three of the four biggest movies of the summer into its first month (if we can even call May summer)? Can I possibly use the word "summer" any more in this paragraph? No.

In other news NBC has released its Fall lineup, with few surprises. Friday Night Lights is coming back, but into a dreaded Friday night time slot (kiss of death, anyone?). Studio 60 is gone, and The Office is taking over the holy grail of comedy television: Thursday at 9. In its old spot will be 30 Rock. After Sunday Night Football ends in January, some show called Lipstick Jungle will air Sundays at 10, and based on nothing but the title, let's just pencil that in to be gone by March.

I'm more curious to see what ABC looks like next season, specifically when they're going to start the criminally short 16-episode season of Lost.


I was in one hell of a funk last week, watching some of my better friends go through graduation, something I did 2 years ago. While I can logically talk myself down from the ledge, the immediate feeling was something along the lines of "holy crap what have I accomplished?" If that's not bad enough, I turn 25 in December. I don't think I've written a more frightening sentence.

In an attempt to snap myself out of it and get some work done, I dove head-first into a collaboration with a friend of mine from my glory days at NYU. Up to this point, we were both feeling uneasy about the beginning of the script, particularly that our protagonist wasn't pursuing anything. It's a recipe for disaster if your first act consists of a character sitting around, waiting for an inciting incident, and at least it's clear now that he's doing something. Perhaps coincidentally, perhaps not, the relationships between he and his wife and kids has become a lot more three dimensional, if only because his concern over his goal is causing everything else to unravel.

Meanwhile, I've been thinking about writing a play about a man who kidnaps a fitness celebrity, which gets more interesting to me the more I see those godawful Fitness Made Simple commercials on ESPN. John Basedow even has a Myspace page. Isn't that music great?!

Here's John Basedow
He's gonna show you how
To meet your potential
And turn your whole life arouuuuuuuund, yeah!

It's Fitness Made Simple!
Made for real people!
It's Fitness Made Simple!
It's changing real lives!

He's really just asking for it. I mean, look at this guy:

Consider your life changed!


Anyway, Zach hit the nail on the head: writing is for writers what heroin is for junkies. Sometimes a fix is all you need.

(so he didn't word it like that, but still....)

Write on...

Thursday, May 10, 2007

And on it Goes

I had had a job interview last week that I thought went well. Not only was I happy with just having an interview, but having one that I thought went well and was for a job I could actually care about was a much needed breath of fresh air. But the problem with fresh air is that stale, polluted air always tastes that much worse afterward. I didn't get the job.

So the job search goes on. When I told my mother that the company had gone with someone else, she just shrugged her shoulders and said, "Oh, ok." Either, she already knew, because my aunt had most likely told her. Or, she knows that it is never easy. I had made the mistake of putting more faith in getting the job than I probably should have, but doing that lifted my spirits in what sometimes seems like a soul-crushing job hunt. In a way, the near miss, while pissing me off, also gave me a temporary reprieve from sending out resumes to recharge my batteries and jump back on the proverbial horse. In an odd way, not getting the job gave me the boost to keep applying (though, obviously, had I gotten the job, that would have been better).

Also, the writing goes on. The League is about to have its first meeting, in about a week. One of the things that will be read there, I hope, will be the first draft of the first act of my play. I'm not going to kid myself into thinking that it is very good, but first drafts aren't usually. LoKor wrote earlier about needing to finish a draft he knew he wasn't going to use in order to lay the foundation. That's what I'm doing. I'm hoping to be able to use more of my first draft than LoKor does, but it's the same thing. Foundation.

It took me a long time to realize that aiming for perfection is not always wise. Yes, in the end, the point of writing dozens of drafts is to have the best possible screenplay, play, novel, comic book, or porn script possible. But none of us are going to hit gold the first go around. And even if we seem to, we can't think we will. Or nothing will ever get written. I used to spend so much time trying to one up each line, getting cleverer and smarter and deeper with each next sentence that I'd write myself out. I would burn out two pages in because I was not bothering to just write; I was trying to do the impossible. I was sacrificing the plot for words that, in a film at least, would get twisted by the actors anyway. So now I aim lower. If people understand the action, get what I'm trying to say, don't feel I've wasted the past four years, and stay awake through the whole thing, then I think that I've gotten the first draft to do what it basically needed to do.

It took me even longer to realize that I need to write every day. Not everyone does. I think that most of us do, however. But for me, it's more than a discipline. It's more than just getting work done. I actually feel better when I write every day. The sun seems a bit brighter, the sky is a bit bluer, and I notice an extra bounce in my step. When I don't write every day, as I haven't yesterday or today, I tend to feel... dark inside. Like there's black tar slowing me down, pulling me down, trying to drown out the life. It's surprising what a difference a day can make for me, but I really do feel as if something is wrong when I don't write. I feel like the day's been wasted and I'm heading down a spiraling path, which I know is not going to be a fun ride.

So I try to write. Every day. To keep the sun bright and the sky blue and the storm at bay. And it usually helps. Especially if I'm letting the writing come without trying to be perfect.

The Worst Movies Ever

Because awful movies never get old...

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Congrats Grads

To all League members who graduated this year, a big congrats. It seems to have taken my entire college career, but I now finally feel that I've found the long-term college friends that everyone seems to hold on to, no matter how old they are.

And to everyone else who is graduating school this spring, congrats and best of luck.
World, be ready. It's our turn now.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

I Think Spring Is Usually Like This...

As the vertical cursor blinks against the plain white screen of whatever word-processing program I happen to have open at the time, the same thought keeps coming to me as I stare into the abyss of possibility that is a blank document. I like to type out it out, just to see how it looks. There is something about the physicality of words that gives thought a sense of legitimacy. To me anyway.

I usually put it in quotes and precede it with an ellipsis. It has a quality of being being spoken after a long, full pause.

" where do we go from here?"

I don't really know what it means. Who is "we?" Where is "here?" I have no idea, but it's become reflective a crossroads, a blank state, a sense of disarray. There's a short story in my head, one that begins with a young man waking up and smoking a cigarette out the window of his Parisian hotel room while a beautiful, naked woman steals a few more moments of rest. There is one major decision about my protagonist's backstory that's holding me back from diving into a second draft of my screenplay. There's another one that I've been wanting to begin since January, but haven't quite worked out the details. None of this includes a few collaborations, and while I don't think there's too much on my plate, I do suspect that it's all so damn distracting.

With so many directions, can things be said about me when I make a choice to commit the time to one or another or all? Can I afford to put things on the back burner, perhaps to never resurface for months? Where does it go, indeed.

There may be something deeper, as there usually is, but in going through this plenty of times, it almost always works out that when I'm writing, everything else feels infinitely better.


I guess I should throw in my two-cents about Spider-Man 3, although what hasn't been said? I could certainly pinpoint why, but suffice it to say that while I had a great time seeing the first two installments of the franchise, I actually did not enjoy myself watching Spider-Man 3. Maybe the assholes sitting behind me that didn't stop talking/snickering the entire film played a part in it. Maybe it was because I had to go to the bathroom for the first half of the film (the minute Peter Parker sat down at the piano, I literally clapped my hands, turned to Megan and said, "Well, I'm going to the bathroom."). I just wasn't engaged. The pacing was off, the writing was to coincidental and formulaic, and I was really surprised to see Tobey Maguire give what must have been his worst acting performance in years. He's too talented to sit back and rely on his big baby-blues and readily accessible tears. It came off as showy, a mailed-in performance, totally lacking the true emotional depth that he's showed before.

It didn't suck, but I do have to take back just about everything I said on Friday about the NY Times review. It turned out to be pretty dead-on.

(I won't, however, forgive Manohla Dargis for her Superman Returns review. Ever.)

Write on....

P.S. With Cake Man graduating this week, don't hold your breath waiting on a comic. We'll be back up and running at full speed next week.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Web of Tears

I saw Spider-Man 3 last night after building up my excitement for the picture over the past few weeks. The film had a lot of promise, going by, if nothing else, the track records of the previous two films in the franchise. The villains were some of Spider-Man's oldest and most interesting, there were a lot of unresolved issues between Harry and Peter, and the whole MJ thing just started going well for Peter. (I'll refrain from spoilers as best I can. Suffice it to say, if I feel like I'm about to give something away, I'll warn you, but that shouldn't be the case.) So what was my take on the third installment?

"Oh... Huh."

I was not impressed. I'm a fan of comic books, so it's annoying that there's little way I can phrase my following thought without seemingly coming down on comic books, but within the first ten minutes of the film, I kept thinking to myself, "This is just so much more comic-booky than the other two, in a bad way." By that, I think I mean that where I felt the first two films tried not only to be good superhero/comic book movies, but also good movie movies, this one was just going for comic book film success. The script seemed nowhere near as strong as did the ones for the first two movies. Every plot point was so driven by the writer, it was as if I could sense that, well, "it's time for a plot point, so here comes the incredibly ridiculous coincidence."

I acknowledge the fact that a lot of what happened in the film, well, some of it at least, occurred as it did in comic books. Coincidences are comic books. Things don't really happen to normal people in comic books. By that, I mean that once a normal person becomes a super person for whatever reason, every other cosmic event or random happening seems to happen to him or her only. And that's ok. But in Spider-Man 3, everything just seemed too easy.

I remember writing a scene for my own comic book movie where the love interest of the protagonist is kidnapped by a villain, without the villain's knowledge that she had anything to do with the hero. In fact, the hero's rescuing her was the impetus for the relationship. I got a note form a classmate (and fellow Leaguer) that he could see that coming from a mile away. While the teacher agreed it was somewhat predictable, he conceded that I had done my job well, and that it didn't read as though I had twisted fate within my script to create an impossible situation for the benefit of my plot.

But in Spider-Man 3, that's exactly how I felt. A few times. If I had brought that script into class, my teacher would have smacked me across the face with it. Everything was so driven by the writers that nothing seemed to flow naturally from the story. That was my biggest problem with the film.

But not my only one. Problem 2) the crying. So much crying. I don't know why Spider-Man didn't just cry on Sandman to kill him, it would have been more effective than anything else he was doing. Everyone was crying in the movie. Peter. MJ. Harry sort of. Aunt May. Uncle Ben (in flashback). The Sandman... somehow. Gwen Stacey. A bunch of extras. The usher in the theater, because apparently in Spider-Man world, crying is contagious.

Problem 3) Venom... er, the lack of Venom. Venom, who I understand to be Spider-Man's foil and arch-nemesis, the anti-Spider-Man, was barely in the film. He was introduced just to be defeated about ten minutes later. He was like Bane in Batman and Robin, completely under used and kind of dumb looking, a great villain turned into a temporary, fleeting threat. Way to go, Marvel.

Problem 4) -and this is where you might want to skip if you're concerned about spoilers- The Sandman/Uncle Ben stuff. Sandman was cool, but he was completely gratuitous. Unnecessary. The only reason Sandman was in there was so that there could be a double team fight at the end, which could have been done any number of ways sans Sandman, albeit not as a two-on-two brawl. Sandman looked cool, but there was no way, in the film, that Spider-Man was going to be able to beat him, and his presence added about a half hour of useless plot. What irked me the most was how, because of Sandman and the need to tie him personally to Peter, the filmmakers decided to change Uncle Ben's death to put it on Sandman's hands. (Um... remember those really coincidental coincidences I was talking about?) So most of Sandman's screen time was dedicated to rewriting how Uncle Ben died, which we didn't need. If they still wanted to make a 2 and a half hour movie, Avi Arad and co. should have cut Sandman and decided to focus more on Venom, who was almost lost in the picture.

Problem 5) Emo Peter. Um... yeah. I wonder if we'll get an Emo Spider-Man action figure that cries when you squeeze it. Or at least dances really badly.

Bruce Campbell was good in the film, but that's because, well, when is he not? But other than him, I was actually pretty disappointed. Marvel seems to have a habit of making lukewarm first installments of a trilogy, nailing the second completely, and just crapping out on the third. That's how the X-Men films went. That's how many people feel about the Blade series. That's certainly what happened in Spider-Man's case. And, if trailers for the second Fantastic Four are any indication, that's how that trilogy is going, as well. (Of course, with FF, there's been no real talk about the third yet, but the first wasn't great, and the second looks better, so we'll see.) I really wish that someone had stepped in and done something about Spider-Man 3. But, then again, when you're guaranteed to make almost 150 million your first weekend, if not more (just a ballpark figure I threw out) why even bother trying? So, yeah, I'm glad I eagerly waited for that one.

Oh, and P.S. In response to LoKor's post about the absence of any word about Venom in the NY Times review, I think I know why that was. He was barely in the film.

Friday, May 04, 2007


(Click to enlarge image)

Missing: an Extra Villain


The NY Times has their review of Spider-Man 3 out today...only it doesn't mention any way. There's also no mention as to whether or not the movie ties things up, completes the package set up by the other two Manohla Dargis even see the whole thing before writing her review?

My guess? Nope.

Manohla Dargis is probably my least favorite film reviewer...on the planet. She makes no attempt to hide that she brings her own agenda to her reviews (see Superman Returns or even X-Men 3), and when it's all said and done, after she gets off her fucking soap box, I have no understanding, really, what the movie is even about let alone why a normal person who doesn't think that movies necessarily need to make grand statements about society would or would not want to see it. I'm not asking for a synopsis and a thumbs-up-or-down, I would just like to see her, you know, address the matter at hand. Save the analyzing for the inevitable book that will flood (and collect dust on) book shelves everywhere.

Dear New York Times: please let A.O. Scott review a superhero movie. Just once. PLEASE.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Belated Box Office, an Interesting Weekend, and Other Musings

Call it the calm before the storm if you'd like, but basically nothing happened at the movies this weekend. Disturbia led all comers with $9.1 million, followed by the debuting The Invisible ($7.6 million) and the Nicolas Cage-driven Next ($7.2 million).

(Funny note about Next: remember that "The Best of The Wickerman" clip I posted earlier? Well, the NY Times review for Next mentioned that clip in order to highlight Nicolas Cage's horrendous taste in choosing roles. Needless to say, the review didn't get any kinder from there.)

The top five was rounded out by Fracture and Blades of Glory.

(Just to highlight how abysmal this month has been for the film industry, Blades is the only film in the top 10 that has grossed over 100 million. Assuming that the summer onslaught is about to begin, that's just...sad.)

Next week will simply be a question of how much Spider-Man 3 grosses. I'm thinking it's going to be something downright ridiculous. The hype machine has been churning since the second film premiered, all the reviews so far have been positive (but still willing to point out plenty of flaws), and this movie features one of the most popular villains in comic book history, a fan-favorite, and our hero's ultimate foil. Plus, the series just feels like it's built up to this, doesn't it? Though the second film was a great stand-alone effort, didn't you just get the feeling that it was all building toward something incredibly huge? Enter Spider-Man 3.


I finished what can only be called a "rough draft" of my script this weekend, writing a staggering 47 pages in two days. Cake Man was quick to question the quality of the pages, and he was justified in doing so - I like the ideas on the page. The execution on the other hand? Could have been better. He tried to rephrase his question before I could eek out an answer by saying, "In other words, will you just need to rewrite it all before you can show it to The League?"

The last half of the script has been an odd journey for reasons that I've brought up here before: I got excellent feedback on the first half of the script, notes that raised questions and ideas that would greatly change the first half. Those changes would, more or less, make the ideas I had for the second half almost completely moot. Sure enough, after proofreading and cleaning up the 47 pages from this weekend, I already realized that the script I had, as a whole, just didn't work. Already I had ideas for how I wanted to restructure the first act - including new scenes with different emphases that only retain the spirit of the original pages - and a much clearer idea of the characters, including one big one, who will come off as someone almost entirely different.

As I've mentioned before, the images invade my head and I can see things so clearly that I write them from there. But having finished a draft, it's like a new level of clarity has been created. To use a video gaming metaphor, it's as though the draft I finished had the graphics of early-released games for the PS1. Already, the ways I'm envisioning the scenes, the characters, and the course of the plot have taken a feel more akin to the last efforts of the original X-Box. It's just that different.

(and at some point this thing's gonna have to look like reality. Getting there...)

This is process. This isn't something that I'm bothered by, but the truth is that I don't feel a need to give anyone my rough draft for comments. There's just too many things wrong with it that I'm already aware of, that I don't think I'm going to get any helpful feedback. There is a writing group that I'm in that has seen the thing develop from the first 10 pages I submitted to them. They're a good group to work with. However, this has the feel more of an outline than a draft, a hurdle I had to get over, and so I'd rather get another draft completed before handing it out to people have no idea where it's coming from.

With that said, I would suspect that in the coming workshops I will be submitting new pages from the new draft for feedback as I go. So, for some of you in The Cartel waiting to take a look at this thing, and for anyone in The League that thought I was jumping in looking for feedback on a completed draft....well, sorry.

Write on...