Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Writing Week part 4

You know, I was just thinking to myself last night how good ti feels to be back in it, writing on a nightly basis (maybe a bit more daily on the weekends). There’s just something to be said for writing regularly. It’s like working out. It can be hard to get into the routine in the beginning, but once I do, I feel guilty for missing a day. Writing, even just my hour a day, seems to validate something inside me when I tell people I write screenplays. I always felt I had lied when that inevitable question, “What are you working on now?” would arise, and my answer would be, “Well, nothing at the moment, but I have ideas.”

The process that I’m working with now is different than any other I have used in the past. Typically, I tended to favor having complete outlines done before writing, or at the very least an entire outline for each act before I began putting pages out. However, with this script, I find myself outlining and researching as I write. I’ll sit down and begin my nightly hour, only to realize that there is something I don’t know, a plot hole I have yet to fill, or a chunk of outline yet to complete (that last does not typically come as a surprise).

The result is that I am getting pages written much more slowly than normal. Usually, with an outline all set to go, I can write about 5 pages in an hour (why is it that we talk so much in terms of pages?). These nights, I get maybe 2-4, depending on how many gaps in the outline and research I’m facing.

But that doesn’t mean that I feel the process is any less efficient. In a way, perhaps it’s more so. Rather than just banging out pages mechanically, I’m still thinking about them, thinking about what should come next, what would come next, and how to progress. The story has more room to evolve naturally than it ever could if I had an outline that I felt—whether consciously or not—obligated to adhere to. It’s also more fun for me. I am still discovering the story each night, rather than simply elaborating upon the bullet points I’ve laid out for myself.

Really, I don’t know if this process is going to make the story any stronger or not. We have our next meeting on Saturday, and I’m eager to see what people think. There are almost always problems within a first draft of a first act (that’s how much I sent out to the League), so I’m not expecting solid praise. But, I am curious to see how well the script is received, if at all. Perhaps, too, it could just be that I’m more engaged with this project than I have been with others. Then again, that could be because it is still almost as much a mystery ride for me as it is for the rest of the League.

Monday, January 28, 2008

"Juno" reaches 100 Million while "Meet the Spartans"...F*ck

I remember back when we really started doing this thing back in March of last year. There wasn't much to report at the box office at the time, and I remember thinking it was the end of the world when Wild Hogs was aggressively going up against Ghost Rider for box office supremacy.

Well folks, it always gets worse.

I don't really consider myself a movie snob, mostly because I like cheesy, awful movies about as much as I like "good" ones, but on a weekend where I was watching Chinatown for the first time, for free, a collective $36.8 million was spent by movie-goers nationwide to see Meet the Spartans and Rambo. I mean...hasn't anyone heard of Netflix?

In other news, Juno grossed $10.3 million to put it at the $100 million mark, while the Paul Thomas Anderson drama There Will Be Blood brought in just $4.89 M (for a $14.8 M total thus far). For anyone keeping track, through 1/13 the grosses of the other three Oscar nominees for best film are: No Country for Old Men at $46.7 M; Michael Clayton at $39.3 M; Atonement at $25 M. I guess these figures shouldn't surprise me, but it does go to show you (I'm looking at you There Will Be Blood) that it, literally, pays to get in the theaters earlier on in the Oscar season.

The top ten, by the by, looks like this:

Meet the Spartans - $18.7 M
Rambo - $18.1 M
27 Dresses - $13.6 M
Cloverfield - $12.7 M
Untraceable - $11.2 M
Juno - $10.3 M
The Bucket List - $10.3 M
There Will Be Blood - $4.89 M
National Treasure: Book of Secrets - $4.66 M
Mad Money - $4.61 M

Write on...

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The As-Late-As-We-Can-Get Week in Review

While I'm sure a lot happened this week, I'm going to condense this because it doesn't feel appropriate any other way.

The nominations for the 80th Oscars were announced

What happened: the nominations for the Oscars were announced this week. I'll be honest with you, I don't know if there are any surprises in the lot. Seeing the nominations just made me realize how out of touch I've been with movies this "Oscar Season." That being said, Oscar.com is up and running, and you can find all the nominees plus some hooplah. The ceremony is set to begin at 8:00pm on February 24th. John Stewart is set to host.

Why it matters: It's really the granddaddy of them all, and whatever you think about giving awards for films or what have you, you have to give the Oscars credit- the pageantry of the show really captures the size and magic of the movies. If that makes you want to puke a little, that's fine by me. There is a running subplot about whether or not this thing is even going to happen. The writers are saying they will boycott and picket the ceremony, and the Screen Actors' Guild has said they won't cross picket lines. Of course, my girlfriend points out that there are a lot of people in movies than just the actors. Point taken. Tracking...

Heath Ledger, 28, dies.

What happened: if you don't know by now, Heath Ledger was found dead in an apartment in Soho on Tuesday morning. There was a bottle of prescription sleeping pills on the nightstand where his body was found, but so far the police do not suspect foul play.

Why it matters: I should note that there's more to report about this story, including a masseuse that didn't call the cops when she found his body, and Mary Kate Olsen's involvement in the whole thing. So as to not speculate, please see above when I say, "...so far the police do not suspect foul play." I guess defining something as a tragedy is completely relative: for example, Mr. Ledger's death is 8 billion times more sad for Michelle Williams than it is for me. That being said, I find his death to be profoundly sad in that there's no real way to evaluate Heath Ledger's potential. He was already a wildly talented actor with a well-reputed work ethic. I've already been entertained and moved by his performances, and I know if he had lived, he would have continued to entertain not only me, but millions of people worldwide. You can't always say this about celebrities, but you can for him. I didn't know the guy, and I won't pretend that my life can't go on anymore, but I'm going to find it deeply troubling when his face pops up on the Oscars death montage.

What stood out in the week for you? Post away in the comments.

Write on...

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Mars vs. Venus, Or, on Feedbacks

The most shocking feedback I got during last week’s meeting was that my romantic comedy’s love interest was an asshole. The specific words used were “evil”, “sociopath”, and “demon from hell here to destroy women”. Obviously, I was surprised. I had specially given my male protagonist a good amount of thought. I wanted him to be a player, but likable and sympathetic. I knew before sending the pages out that the scenes were much too long, but I was actually fairly pleased with how I built him.

“I don’t know any guy who would do this.” Cake Man said. And I assume that Cake Man knows a lot more about male mentality than I do. I went home disturbed.

I know that my moral and violence sensibility are a bit skewed. It’s very likely that my romantic view also got warped somewhere down the line. I could have simply not realized this because all the romantic relationships in my past scripts were supposed to be twisted. How on earth am I supposed to write a romantic comedy then?

On the other hand, I’ve had my fair share of girls’ night out since high school, and I never shocked anyone with my point of view about men or relationships. The first person I consulted was my sister, who has an impressive resume of heterosexual relationships, both long and short terms. As my mother would say, she knows men. Perhaps even better than Cake Man. I told her about my protagonist, and she loved the idea. Even wanted me to include Onyx’s brother’s story.

This was such a contradicting comment from the group I was iffy. After all, she might have seen most romantic comedies out there, but when reading my last script, the only problem she had with one of my characters cooking and eating someone’s arm, was that there was no way the said arm’s owner wouldn’t bleed to death before the ambulance arrived. We had a passionate argument about how much of the arm was I allowed to hack off. (In the end, I simply cut the scene.)

I brought the script to T&A, the League’s sister group. I didn’t mention the League’s problem, in case I effect their point of view. No one brought up anything about disliking the love interest. I finally asked the question toward the end. Did anyone have a problem with Matthew? The girls paused, and said quite frankly, no. They liked him. Thought he was kind of sweet and kind of sad. One member even defended him, justifying him to me. The scene was too long and they did want more personality, but that was it. The conversation then moved on to contraception and roofies and men who fuck with your mind vs. men who fuck with your mind knowingly. One member who had gone out for a bottle of wine returned and asked what were we talking about. I told her the original question, and she immediately said, "yeah, he was kind of a dick."

I miss the good old days of math when there was only one right answer.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Whose Structure?

Last night, Onyx was hanging out at our (Captain Undead and my) place, chatting and killing some pixilated terrorists with us. We stumbled upon an interesting discussion, which really got me thinking.

As I mentioned in the pervious post, the Writing Week part 3, I started having some doubts as to where exactly my first act was ending, and whether or not it was becoming too long. Captain Undead interjected that he, too, was having some thoughts about the project he’s working on, since it won’t adhere to traditional act structure, per se (I don’t really want to speak for him, so if he wants, he can elaborate later).

But, that got us thinking; do we really need to feel compelled to follow act structure as it’s been taught us? There I was, sitting, talking with other Leaguers, worrying about whether I was going horribly off track because page thirty had hit and act one was still, possibly, not over. (Mind you, that’s a bit of an exaggeration…but not much.) I have an idea, which I think could be really sound once I get it written, an idea which we’re all excited about, and somehow, when Act Structure comes into view, the idea has to become putty and work around that.

I know that we are not forbidden to color outside the lines, so to speak. Plenty of writers and filmmakers have strayed beyond the three act structure and have made wonderful films. However, as a young writer, Act Structure is still quite a helpful, guiding force for me. I think it is for older, well established writers, as well. And there’s a reason for that: usually, it works. It took me quite a long time to figure that fact out for myself, but once I did, my screenwriting progressed tremendously.

But now, I find myself wondering if, perhaps, I’ve let the idea of Act Structure become too overbearing. Maybe I’m not letting myself work freely enough of it to really accomplish what I’m trying to do in my scripts. At the end of the day, I do revert, rather instinctively now, I might add, to the three act format. I suppose there’s really no solid conclusion I’m going to draw here, other than that I have a vague inkling that, as helpful as three act structure is, it’s taken a bit too literally as the way of the trade, that someday, I’ll be able to work outside it and progressive instructors will help students see teir way beyond it, when such a time is necessary.

The Writing Week part 3

A lot happened this week. For one, I missed a day of writing. To be perfectly fair, that happened the day of our meeting, so while I wasn’t writing for an hour that night, The League and I discussed my script for nearly that long. It wasn’t a waste of time by any means. While I left the meeting feeling more confused about certain things, I was able to digest the feedback and suggestions I got and turn them into something more workable a few days later. So that was good.

Additionally, I finished Act One! (More or less.) By that, I mean that I had outlined everything and wrote up through (roughly) the end of the first act. I got to a point where I was pretty sure Act One had ended, and I have not progressed past that. However, besides the obvious reason that this is a first draft and therefore an unfinished first act, I also have a lot of re-working to do in the pages leading up to the inciting incident. Once I hit that tent pole moment, the film becomes an adventure that can breathe on its own. But, I have a lot of work to do within those first ten or twelve pages.

Part of what happened at the meeting is that I realized just how much more I have to do than normal. Whereas in most scripts, the first ten pages are vital in setting up the characters and establishing a bit of their situation, with this script, I also have to lay the groundwork for an entire world. It’s not unusual to have quirks here or things that must be established within the world, but with this project (again, so as to not give it away, I must be cryptic), there is an immense amount of set up that must be done alongside establishing the characters.

So, this week, I should get back to those early pages and make them work within the new context of the script. I’ve answered a lot, in no small part due to suggestion from the other Leaguers. LoKor articulated it particularly well when he said, and I quote, “you're asking the audience to accept a lot about the world, try to keep as much of the other stuff as simple as possible.” Good point.

Until next week…(or the post I’m about to make).

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Week in Review

We missed last week, but we're back...

Rent to close June 1st
What Happened: After twelve years on Broadway and grossing over $ 600 M (Broadway and on the road), Rent is closing on June 1st.

Why It Matters: While I'm sure a Broadway historian could give a more profound analysis of this event, suffice it to say that it revived the rock musical to the extent that the better part of the next decade would see shows taking on similar styles and formats. Let's put it another way: there's probably no Spring Awakening without Rent happening first.

American Idol returns
What Happened: American Idol returned to airwaves this week, sweeping the ratings on both Tuesday and Wednesday night.

Why It Matters: It may not, but this is certainly a different television landscape than what they're used to. Their numbers are down from last year, but it'll be interesting to see if they can regain some of their prowess.

Brad Renfro, Suzanne Pleshette, and Allan Mellvin pass away

*moment of silence

Oprah gets own network:
What Happened: Oprah's getting her own cable network, to be called "OWN." Let all L33t speakers make their jokes now. Oh hell, Oprah, this one's for you.

Why It Matters: Oprah is without a doubt the most powerful woman in entertainment. This solidifies her position even more. What kind of programming we can expect to see, however, is yet to come.

Directors strike a deal (no pun intended)
What Happened: The Director's Guild of America reached a deal on a new contract with the MPAA. The deal includes compensation for new media, something that has been a particularly nasty sticking point in the negotiations between the MPAA and the WGA.

Why It Matters: basically, a precedent has now been set, and from what I understand, the terms the directors agreed to are less than what the writers are seeking, though it doesn't necessarily undercut their efforts. The agreement with the directors gives the producers the ability to say to the writers, "Well, if they agreed to this, why can't you?"

WGA strike to affect the Grammy's?

What happened: The group that runs the Grammy's is trying to reach a temporary agreement with the WGA so their show doesn't turn into, well, the list reading that was The Golden Globes.

Why It Matters: It's a little annoying, especially seeing as the DGA was able to quietly negotiate a new contract with the MPAA, but isn't it interesting to see just how much the writers do for not just Hollywood, but for entertainment in general?

Borat avoids lawsuit

What Happened: remember in the Borat movie when the title character had the etiquette lesson in Alabama? Yeah, well, that woman sued Sacha Baron Cohen, claiming she was duped into being in the movie. Cute. Needless to say, it didn't work out for her.

Why It Matters: Read what you're signing, people.

Did we miss anything? Got something to add? Post to the comments. Write well.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Writing Week part 2

Well, it's been a week already, somehow. The interesting thing is that I feel like I'm just as far along as I was a week ago, which is to say, a foot still on square one. However, that's not the case.

For the first time, I've done something other that either write or outline. (Sure, I've done research for past projects, too, but just minimally.) This time around, though, I find myself sitting at my computer typing page long answers to questions that I ask myself.

Briefly, so as to not give away too much about my script, the idea centers around a bounty hunter in a chaotic world. (Vague enough for you?) Of course I knew that there were going to be questions that I would have to answer before I could progress with the story. Up until I began sitting down each night to work on the script, I didn't realize how important the answers to the questions were. I literally couldn't progress until I answered a handful of them; I was stuck. By the end of the week--mind you, I started with three pages of script written--I was on page fifteen, but had over eight, single spaced pages of answers to myself. There was just so much I didn't know an anticipate having to know.

Truth be told, I'm not really content with the pages that I turned out. I was writing them while still lacking the answers I needed, trying to fool myself into thinking that was OK. Another first for me: I re-wrote scenes over and over, jumping back to them night after night, even though pages were piling on in front of them. It was that problem with the answers; my mind kept wavering, the pages kept feeling wrong to me, and the direction I wanted to take the script kept changing. Are the scenes stronger for that? No, I don't think so, because I'm still reworking them.

Last night, the final night of Week One, I had to ask myself a major question that I thought I'd resolved. In doing so, I upset the work I had done, once again requiring the two scenes I rewrote the most to be looked at again. In truth, it's an important question, and the answer to it will strengthen Act One (and the rest of the film) to the point where I can comfortable write it.

At the end of the week, though my mind was still foggy on many key elements of the script, I did have a few positive things to take away from those first seven days. For one, though I was unsure of many things, I did have a solid enough foundation laid out that I could embark upon the outlining process with little more than the natural stress and aggravation of outlining. Secondly, I had written through my inciting incident, however many rewrites it might require. And, lastly, while I was sitting in a diner having a work breakfast on Friday morning, I got that feeling. The feeling that things were good. The feeling that I was writing again and that being creative was going to lift my spirits. I had the urge to pull out a pen and paper and just write down ideas, dialogue, anything (which I actually did on my way to the diner).

Even if the pages weren't coming quickly, the creative juices were flowing. Week One was a very much needed foundation for the weeks that lie ahead.

Monday, January 14, 2008

The Totally Irrelevant Box Office Report

For those keeping track, we didn't have time to get to the week in review this past weekend. It'll be back this weekend.

Anyway, I'll keep this somewhat short because I'm a little flabbergasted.

Here are the top two films of the weekend:

The Bucket List - $19.4 M
First Sunday - $17.7 M

...okay. Now, I don't necessarily think these movies looked bad. They just looked like an amalgamation of rehashed ideas. It literally looked like ideas were plucked from hats to put those two movies together. I'll just refer you to Cakeman's post about originality instead of making this site seem redundant.

Anyway, I'm happy to say that Juno was third this week, earning $13.6 M in ticket sales. The word of mouth generated from the early release of this film clearly helped when it was released nation-wide. As my friend Rob put it, this film is definitely this year's Little Miss Sunshine.

Numbers were really low, folks. Numbers 4-9 look like this:

National Treasure: Book of Secrets
Alvin and the Chipmunks
I Am Legend
One Missed Call
P.S. I Love You
The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: A Veggie Tales Movie

The only other film in the top ten with considerable Oscar buzz was bringing up the rear: Atonement brought in $4.22 M.

Friday, January 11, 2008

The Random Friday Musings/Links

(Editor's Note: This post is updated throughout the day. Check back for additions.)

I was pretty much bowled over when I heard that The Bucket List was getting good reviews, but I never expected the same from First Sunday. The New York Times' review of the film isn't glowing, but it's certainly more positive than I expected. A rental, perhaps?

Anyone who watched Doug when they were younger should appreciate this one.

Write on...

Monday, January 07, 2008

The Writing Week part 1

Until I come up with a catchier title for it, the weekly update I'd mentioned I was going to begin putting on the blog is called The Writing Week (I know, they gave me a degree for that?). We're seven days into 2008, and to be completely honest, I haven't written yet this year. So, this is where I start. This is my first Writing (or lack-thereof in this case) Week.

Tomorrow, come Hell or High Water (let's hope not) and with amazing will power, I plan to overcome my laziness (correct word?) and put fingers to the keyboard. At the moment, I don't think I will be starting a completely new project. No, I already have three pages written!

In all seriousness, though, the outlining stage is the hardest for me. Oddly, I didn't do it the last time I wrote a play, and I was quite content with the draft I produced of it. Much more pleased than I typically am with first drafts of screenplay that I have outlined. Maybe that's because of the difference in mediums. In a play, characters seem to have much more room to ramble on and find the point of what they're trying to say. In a screenplay, they have to get right to the point, often as subtly or subtext heavy as possible, and then get out of the scene (or have it leave them). Personally, I feel a screenplay requires much more outlining, so the notion of doing that first step is always daunting.

Yet, even with these first three (solid, I feel) pages, I wonder if I really want to pursue the project in mind. Maybe I want to do a play. I don't really have another screenplay in mind at the moment. I think I'm just allowing myself to be intimidated by the inevitable outlining. But, once that process--typically, if I really focus and eat, sleep, and breathe it, it lasts a week--is over, I feel good enough to move rather rapidly through the actual pages.

The idea I'm working with now, though, is just so large, so dependent upon setting up a remarkably different world that I am also facing something... different. Sure, I've created unique worlds before, but always with an element of fantasy or realistic abandon that I can get away with whatever I want. This world, however, is based on scientific occurrences, so I feel a need to get as accurate as possible, if not for readers and viewers than for myself.

Maybe, come to think of it, I just have to treat it like any other world. Pretend it's something completely different. Mold it as I need it. And go from there.

Tomorrow, regardless of where I am in preparation, I begin. Because, why wait?

Until next Week.

This is What We Get in 2008?

I saw I Am Legend a few weeks back. I didn't really enjoy it that much, but I found some of it entertaining. I like the post-Apocalyptic genre, so that alone made it interesting to me.

But, what I was most dismayed with were the trailers. Every single movie, save for The Dark Knight --which you better not let me catch you saying a bad thing about-- looked done. I don't mean "done" in that it was ready for theaters. I mean done as in, "That's been done before."

I barely even recall which movies I saw trailers for, but I distinctly remember thinking, "Wow, not one of these is original. And, to make things worse, none of them look good." I suddenly felt so dismayed with the film industry, so disgusted with it and wanting to distance myself from it. Yet, at the same time, I felt an overwhelming need to get out there, to write like mad, and to be a part of a film that audiences will see a trailer for and think, not only, "Damn, that looks sweet," but also, "I haven't seen that before."

We talk about telling stories that we just have to tell, stories that almost write or tell themselves. And yes, I would feel as if I were being suffocated if I couldn't or didn't write my ideas out, if I didn't put them on the page. But shouldn't making movies be about something more? Don't we want to excite? To entertain with creativity and surprises? To be new?

After seeing the trailers before Sweeney Todd (worse trailers than before I Am Legend), I'm not so sure that's the case. I hope I'm wrong.

The Terribly Amateur Box-Office Analysis

Editor's note: data was taken from late Sunday estimates. Actual figures may vary.

Is it just me or has it been an oddly quiet awards season? I know the strike has put a damper on everyones' spirits, but it's almost as though you could hear a proverbial pin drop. There don't seem to be any films generating an overwhelming amount of "Oscar Buzz" (which I'm pretty sure is a side effect of prolonged drug use). In past years, you could reel off six or seven films that could receive Oscar nods for Best Picture without hesitation. But now? Wouldn't you have to at least think about it a little?

Anyway, that being said, National Treasure: Book of Secrets took home the most moolah this weekend, grossing an estimated $20.2 million. For all intents and purposes, by this time next week, it should surpass its predecessor and be the highest grossing film of Nicolas Cage's career. Reread that sentence and tell me why it's odd: because you'd think there would be some other film, or because it's Nicolas Cage of SNL's "Celebrity Jeopardy" fame?

I Am Legend came in second with $16.4 million. Has anyone else already forgotten about this movie? Honestly, after its release, I've heard nothing about it. Even people that have seen it don't seem to say much. It's like everyone collectively agreed that it was time for it go away. But thank goodness. Because just when you were over the idea of a decimated New York, Cloverfield is on its way.

Playing the role of the obligatory "Indy movie that gets a lot of awards attention and also becomes a box-office success story" this awards season is Juno, which came in third with $16.2 million. The cool part about this? It has grossed $52 million since its release. The price tag? $10 million.

Rounding out the top five were Alvin and the Chipmunks ($16.0 M) and One Missed Call ($13.5 M).

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Entertainment Week in Review

This is a new feature we're rolling out here at League HQ. I would ask for feedback, but unless a ton of people hate it, we're gonna keep posting it. So...enjoy?

Onto item number one!

The world enters 2008; people still writing 2007 on documents

What happened: We passed into a new year! This year happened to be the 100th anniversary of the ball dropping in Times Square - here's to the ongoing tradition of dropping balls at the end of every December.

Why it matters: Because in two more years, we'll be able to remember where we were on New Year's 2000 and say that it happened a decade ago.

The Writers' Guild strike reaches that point

What happened: What didn't happen? The writers are insistent that they'll be picketing the Golden Globes this month, which has put the fate of broadcast, and even the ceremony, into question.

What else happened: The late night talk shows returned to the air, sans writers (unless you happen to work for CBS, who worked out a private contract with the WGA so that their hosts, David Letterman and Craig Ferguson could go on the air with writers). Reviews (yes, these shows were actually reviewed) suggest that Jay Leno came ahead as some kind of "winner," putting on a more entertaining show than his rival David Letterman. The very next day, the WGA started throwing a hissy fit over Mr. Leno's monologue, basically stating that he's in breach of the strike rules by writing and performing his monologue during the strike (Leno's a guild member). This would be a point where everyone watching rolls their eyes.

Anything else?: Why yes. The Directors Guild has begun informal discussions with the Producers Guild. There is general fear that the contract these two come up with undercut the writers' demands, which in turn will make the producers even more stubborn about giving into the writers' demands (which will likely not change, no matter what the directors do). I hoped you guys liked television. And the movies this summer. Because it's the last original content you're going to see for a while.

Why it matters: Because A). The storm clouds of doom have become that much thicker. Also, B). I'm not sure about anyone else out there, but I'm getting so sick of BOTH sides, that I no longer sympathize with anyone (I do think the writers are right, I just don't care anymore), and I want to blow the whole system up and start from scratch. And C). I'm not looking forward to writing crap about the strike in this blog every week for the next two fucking years.

Netflix to stream directly into televisions
What happened: Netflix announced that later this year, they'll be able to stream movies directly into your television using a set-top box that sends the entertainment through a high-speed internet connection. No numbers have been released regarding a price, but similar products on the market run between 300 and 400 dollars.

Why it matters:
It's a bold move for the mail-order movie rental company. After Netflix made the "video store" relatively obsolete, Blockbuster struck back with a similar mail-order service that had the added convenience of being able to return your movies to any store. Netflix began offering movies over it's website, streamed through your computer (certain subscription packages included a number of hours per month that you could watch streamed media), and it seems that this is just the natural evolution. It's a good idea, and I like companies that take risks. Unless you're Sony and you make that albatross, the Playstation 3.

The final season of
The Wire begins this Sunday night on HBO.

What happened: It's the end of the best show no one ever watched. There is no crime show like it - it's visceral, authentic, and depressing. There is no better ensemble on television, and I'll miss it.

Why it matters: Because if you write for television or you've ever been interested in doing so, you need to start Netflixing this series. Right. Now.

Ugh. Britney Spears gets taken to a hospital following a custody spat.

What happened: Basically, and we don't know much, Britney Spears refused to return her two children to their father and her ex-husband, Kevin Federline following a court-monitored visit. The police had to intervene and the episode somehow ended with the former pop star being hauled away by paramedics and taken to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. It's being reported today that a judge has awarded full custody of the children to Kevin Federline, suspending Britney's visitation rights.

Why it matters: I put the "ugh" up there because I don't consider this "news," but I'm mentioning all this because Britney is dangerously out of control and I hope to god she undergoes a psychological evaluation and gets some much needed help. I hate how our society drives certain idols to, more or less, kill themselves, and then we stand around and wonder what went wrong when we damn well know that it's our morbid obsessions that make these peoples' lives a living hell. Let me just wipe off my soapbox here...

Write on...

Friday, January 04, 2008

Friday Musings

**I'm sitting on the subway last night when I see this:

Admittedly, I know nothing about this film, and last night was the first time I even heard of it. But does it irk anyone else that there's a grammatical error that large in the title of a movie?!?! I understand that it's syntax or slang or whatever, but really? How she move? Would it have killed them to put an "s" in the title? Is there a precedent for this? These are the things that keep me up at night.

**I'm moderately political (in my interest and activity, not in my views) and I promise that in 2008 this will not become a political blog, but it was kind of difficult to miss the results of the Iowa caucuses last night. The New York Times reported that over 347,000 voters (Democrat and Republican estimates combined) turned out. Democratic turnout more than doubled from 2004, signifying any number of things, but what I found striking was that in a time when our international policy is so concerned with establishing stable democracies in the Middle East, Americans have a chance to show the world what's so great about our system of government by getting out and actually affecting change! While we've always had that opportunity, it appears that it might actually be happening (the article states that large numbers of "young" and independent voters came out and got behind Obama, essentially propelling him to victory). This thing is far from over, but whatever your views, it's encouraging to see that people care.

**Paul Thomas Anderson fans who live in Queens (or New Yorkers that don't mind the commute) can see his first five films this weekend at the Museum of the Moving Image. Here's the info blurb, taken directly from the NYT:

"Five films by Paul Thomas Anderson can be seen this weekend at the Museum of the Moving Image, 35th Avenue at 36th Street, Astoria, Queens; (718) 784-0077, movingimage.us. On Saturday “Hard Eight” will be shown at 2 p.m. and “Boogie Nights” at 4 p.m. On Sunday “Punch-Drunk Love” and the 2003 short “Blossoms & Blood” will be shown at 3 p.m. and “Magnolia” at 6 p.m."

The entire article, including blurbs describing the aforementioned films, can be found here.

Write on...

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Yes, Lokor, a Resolution

Well, what can I say, Lokor got me thinking. I read his entry, and just had to do one of my own. Usually, because we tend to be pretty slow with many of these entries, we try to space them out a bit. Or at least I do. But, as Lokor said, 2007 is over; it's now 2000 and GREAT...

(yeah, that was pretty awful...)

and it's time to make some changes. Or resolutions. Or whatever you wish to call them.

Since, like Lokor, and everyone else who posts on thsi blog, I'm a writer, it's no shock that my resolutions involve writing. You know, the thing I talk about, yet don't do enough of. Yeah, that.

Where I differ from Lokor, though, is that my resolutions are not to simply finish projects that I complete--although, to be perfectly honest, I just finished a re-write that I was very pleased with, and it gave me a much deeper understanding of and tolerance for the re-write. But that's another entry.

No, what I want to do is get my head out of the clouds and back down on Earth. Too often I find myself lying in bed or staring at the computer screen and dreaming about the success of this script or this sale or that award. It goes without saying that all of the above are for projects that aren't even written. Or, if written, are still very much in the first draft stage. So, rather than sit around dreaming, which I believe is healthy albeit unproductive, I'm going to become much more proactive in my goals.

So, for 2008, I plan to write. A lot. And consistently. I tell myself now that I would like to have two projects always in development, though how likely that is, I don't know. One thing I will do, however, is post a weekly "Writing Update" on this blog. Next week, when I sit down to write, I'll keep note of all my struggles and thoughts throughout the process. Then, at the end of week one, I'll post them on the blog. I'll do the same at the end of week two. And week three. And so on and so forth.

Hold me to it. I think it'll be an interesting journey both for myself and for anyone reading this. Hopefully, for some, it will even prove instructive

It's fine to have my head in the clouds, so long as I'm shooting toward the stars.


Happy New Year, everyone. Maybe I should say, Happy two-thousand and GREAT!


(FYI - you can spell "two-thousand-and-great" like so: 2000GR8)

With the dawn of a new year, it's tradition to make resolutions. Yes, what better way to view a fresh beginning than with a critical self-evaluation? The problem I've always had with resolutions is that I never stick to them. December 31st rolls around and if I'm lucky (or unlucky) enough to remember what I resolved myself to, I end the year wearing goofy glasses, drinking champagne, and reminiscing on my failures. That is why I force my resolutions from my mind by mid-March. No one wants their shortcomings tainting a perfectly good New Year's Eve celebration.

That being said, and all sarcasm aside (I really dislike New Year's), it can be beneficial to set goals for oneself. Despite the previous paragraph and the sentiment expressed therein, I have set some goals for myself this year as a writer. Well, one goal, really: I want to finish the projects that I begin.

"But Joe," you say, "David Mamet supposedly has a chest full of first-acts of plays! Surely you needn't finish everything you start to be a good writer!" To which, I respond, what the hell? A chest? Like, pirate's booty? Like a chest of drawers? Realistically, I could counter with a summarization of a quote from John Irving's The World According to Garp, in which the protagonist, a novelist, expresses his belief that only in completing projects do you grow. I completed a new screenplay and a few short stories last year. Not much, you might notice. Well, it wasn't. In the meantime, I also have about three first acts that I started and didn't come close to completing. Perhaps I should stop blogging.

Let's move on.

The point is that I want to stick things out - see them through to their horrific end. I've become a master of first-acts. I can churn out a fantastic first 20 pages to a screenplay, and even the first 30 - 50 pages of a play. I. Rule. But I'm like the anti-Tom Brady. I can't finish. Mostly because I allow myself to get distracted...and once that happens, I move on to something else.

No more! If I send planes into the air, I will crash and burn with them. I will no longer swim to safety while my Titanic sinks. I will not sneak safely out of the jungle while the tour I'm guiding gets devoured by ravenous beasts. I will suffer the fate of my metaphors and all things literary in 2008. Most of it will be oh-so-bad, but if it makes me a better writer come 2009 (and I'm only 25, mind you), isn't that worth it?

Any resolutions? Leave comments. (Please?)

Write on...