Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Writing Week part 8

I hit act three! The home stretch. The end, finally, is in sight.

Act two was very difficult this time. I thought the page 60 wall I hit was going to be impossible to get around, but I managed. Actually, once I rolled past 70, I had a lot of fun. I’m sill not sure about everything that happens. I’ll have to read the script in its entirety to better judge that. And, frankly, one of my biggest concerns is something that I wrote two nights ago.

Act two ends with a bang, as it often should, an adrenaline pumping action scene that drives the characters into their final quest. And what did I do after that? I let the characters take a nap. Garh, it felt so boneheaded as I was doing it, and it’s probably boneheaded that I kept it in there. I mean, who follows up a huge fight scene with twenty winks? To be fair, the nap scene does materialize into something else, and, logically, it is something that I would probably have to address—the need for sleep, that is. However much it fails to work, though, I’m going to keep it in for now. Now, I want to finish the draft. Then I’ll worry about mistakes like that.

It’s a great feeling to look down and see page 89 or 95 or 100 looking back up at you after only two months ago staring at that completely blank page 1. It’s a sense of accomplishment, regardless of whether you FADE OUT on 89, 95, 100, or whatever. Making something last that long, going that far and having more story yet to tell is quite a feeling. I remember my first semesters of college where the prospect of writing a 30 page (can you believ it? Thirty whole pages!) final project was daunting. I remember struggling sometimes with the five page assignments I had. Nowadays, some of my colleagues in the League have problems keeping their drafts under the standard 120 pages.

I guess I’m just amazed by how much things can change in a matter of four or five years. I certainly feel my writing has improved drastically (for my parents’ sake, I hope it has; otherwise, that was a big waste of cash). When I think my initial thoughts on new projects, I tend to try to map out at least the tent pole scenes and act breaks if they don’t instantly become clear to me.

The first time I finished a feature length draft, there was a sense of, “Wow, I actually did it.” I like that I still feel that now.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Seeking 30-something Agent, Well Connected

Hi, my name is Onyx and I'm looking for an agent with Scarlett Johanson lips, Catherine Zeta Jones eyes, and Scott Ruden brains.

Before I go any further, let me say a little about myself. I'm an out of town kind of guy, born several millenia ago in the dark void that exists between your improbable dreams and your inevitable fates. Where I'm from, after wraith school you either become a tormenter or a harvester. Long story short, tormenters have all the fun. They get to visit the physical realm and use their powers for either collateral damage or evil. I come from a family of harvesters unfortunately.

You see, misdirected human hope gives off a glowing dew that sustains my kind. The dew gathers over a period of about eight miserable failures. After that it settles into a slurpy film, something with the consistency of phlegm. This substance can be harvested using a number of tools, but my family is of the old style so we use our mouths to suck off the dew. So you see, no surprise why I decided to become a screenwriter and move to New York City.

I still don't have a place of my own, but the great thing about the big city is that I never go hungry, ever. What I really need is someone who can hear my words and get past security so that others in high places may hear them.

I'm a versatile writer who loves what he does. So far I've done historical dramas (love history), humorous historical romance, animated feature, contemporary drama, and some androgynous mutation of comedy and drama...my Quasimodo. What else can I do? I think the sky is the limit. I just need an agent in my life. So don't be shy, give a wraith a try.

You should also know that I'm pretty tight with these guys and a gal. We all like to get creative, so somebody who was into the group thing (representation that is...) would be most appreciated. You'll like our stuff and I know we'll like yours.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Search for Inspiration

Last Thursday I caught myself adding Instruments of Torture to my library request list, and realized it was time to take another dose of romantic comedies to get back on track.

Friday I watched The Big Lebowski. No romance, but I was stuck at a (hot) math student’s apartment, and it was either that or Lord of the Rings. I left around 3am uninspired. Funny stuff, but it had nothing to do with my script.

Saturday was Chasing Amy, Definitely, Maybe, and somehow Dance for Camera 2 and clips from 21 Grams were thrown in the mix. I was surprisingly disappointed by Chasing Amy. I had expected it to be mind-blowingly good....and it was good 2/3 of the way through. But the during last third I was outraged and flabbergasted instead. Definitely, Maybe on the other hand, turned out to be unexpectedly good. However, even with a happy ending, it was an extremely depressing movie about life. I was briefly cheered up by the perfectly cooked fish for dinner. After all, there was still tomorrow.

Sunday after church, I pulled out the last romantic comedy I had prepped: Someone Like You. It seemed like a winner: a) it was suggested to me by a normal, happy, non-writer girl, b) like my script, one of the love interest was a player, c) Hugh Jackman was in it. How could this possibly not spark some idea or motivation me to write? Well it didn’t.

At that point, I gave up. All that love and happiness were annoying the hell out of me. Screw my script. If I was going to waste a whole weekend, I'm going to enjoy wasting it. I rolled onto the carpet with a bag of white cheddar corn puffs and began binging on House M.D.

After four episodes back to back, somehow there were fifteen new pages attached to my script.

Moral of this story: Hugh Laurie is MAGIC.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Writing Week part 7

Well, as I mentioned last week, this week really did not see many pages due to my cabin trip. I managed to hit 70 before I left, and worked my way onto 75 last night when I came back. I was hoping to be at page 80ish by now in terms of scene placement, but I’m not. And frankly, I feel more and more of an amateur every time I talk about writing purely in terms of page numbers. My second act might be shorter than I had originally planned, but only by five or ten pages, and so what? If that’s all I need to tell the story for now, then so be it.

Though I didn’t get many pages out, I was productive, I feel, in other ways. For one, when I stepped off the bus at a rest stop on my way back to NYC, I couldn’t help thinking that all I wanted to do was write; that if someone told me right then and there that all that would be expected of me for the rest of my life would be to spend time each day making up stories, I would be infinitely happy.

I talked of spending my first paycheck on a house in the middle of nowhere, removed from the rest of the world. I found myself in a place like that this weekend, and though sharing a cabin with 21 other often inebriated people is not really a healthy writing environment, at one point, I found my Zen. I walked down to the creek with a friend, and we were standing in a tiny clearing at a bend in the water. With the sound of the water gurgling and an expansive view of a farm in front of a mountain backdrop, I pictured myself sitting right there, an old wooden desk in front of me, writing movies. I felt as if I would and easily could spend every single day of my life there, listening to the water while writing.

I felt that way when I woke up this morning, and I feel that way now. There is no question in my mind about what I want to do. And when. I want to do it now. This very second. For the right opportunity, I would pack up and leave at the drop of a hat. I hope that comes soon enough, because like LoKor with his, there is only so much patient waiting I can do. I continue to write, as he continued filling out applications and sending in materials. As he did all he could, so do I feel like I am doing pretty much everything that is expected of me. When the time comes, I will send out my query letters. I feel like my work is ready, and though I don’t expect any opportunities to simply fall into my lap, the time until I’m a part of the industry weighs on me as if I am Atlas with his burden.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

On Nerves

In my post from Tuesday, I mentioned how I've been eyeballing creative writing MFA forums, obsessively trying to determine when I may or may not be receiving notifications of acceptance from schools to which I've applied. I started doing this weeks ago, and at the time there was nothing to it. I enjoyed reading the comments and finding out how people dealt with the wait, where they applied, and where exactly their hearts landed on their sleeves. It was interesting since I'm new to this process, and as I've discovered, there are people that go through this for years before they finally end up somewhere; even then, they return to support their peers. It's not a stretch to assume they empathetically go through the same anxiety all over again; I would describe most writers as sadomasochistic.

If we're to take the forums as an accurate point of reference, I might find out about one of my schools any day now. My ability to distance myself from the community and the situation as a whole has completely vanished. I watch the lists and read the comments avidly. Did someone receive a phone call today? Has one of my other schools bumped up their schedule by two weeks? I must waste almost an hour of work each day, I check my cell phone all the time, I wait in corners of rooms while my i-Pod connects to the internet so I can download any new email. It's not that I necessarily want to get into this school so badly; it's that I want to know what my future has in store. So much of my life hinges not just on whether or not I get into graduate school, but where I get in. There would be factors to weigh, any number of things to consider, and if nothing pans out on that front, there are other avenues of my life that will be open to evaluation and, ultimately, change.

And at the bottom of it all, like the eighteen year old version of myself that so desperately wanted to get into NYU, I desperately want to get my MFA. I mean that in every respect - from getting the diploma right down to the gritty, tiresome, challenging work that it involves. There was a recurring theme in my statements of purpose - that this was something I have to do. I still feel that way. I struggle to think of something that I want more than to write and teach, and in waiting for these acceptance letters, I'm looking for someone to validate that, to tell me that I'm worthy of that challenge. I want to hear that I'm good enough.

Perhaps I'm making a show of this just so I can create some forum for exuberance (or melancholy) later; I know myself well enough that it doesn't seem like such a stretch. But it may be telling that despite everything I could write about - with the Oscars coming up, or with what's going on in my own writing - when it comes to expressing something, this knot in the pit of my stomach is all I can think of.

Write on...

Friday, February 15, 2008

Norphen's Top Ten

It seems like my buddy Rob becomes an honorary League member this time of year. His top ten for 2007 is up at his blog, and we'll let you know when he posts his annual Oscar predictions post some time next week.

Some of you may see his list and raise an eyebrow or two (I hope no one was a huge fan of There Will Be Blood), but once you get to know his tastes a little more, things start to fall into place.

Back issues, if you will.



Write on...

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Writing Week part 6

This wasn’t the best week. I got sick. Beyond that, I hit a wall in my script. With the midpoint came a wall that seemed impassible. I think, knock on wood, that I hit back at it last night, finally, and maybe Sunday a bit, too. I’ve been working on another very small project for some friends for this weekend, so I’ve devoted part of my nightly writing to that, as well. Therefore, I haven’t even spent my entire hour each night working on the script.

Nonetheless, the hour seemed to stretch on indefinitely some nights. I was at a point in my script where there was just a gap of twenty pages ahead of me. I knew what was to come after them, but I had no way of getting there without infusing the script with scenes that didn’t help, didn’t further the story, and didn’t even interest me. As I said, though, Sunday night was the first time I felt things beginning to click, and last night I wrote a scene I’d been looking forward to for a while. I feel I still have about fourteen or fifteen pages that I’m not sure about (though there is another long bit coming up that I think will be fun). But it’s been stressful. It just goes to show that no matter where you are in your script, though it’s more common in the dreaded second act, I think, a wall can pop up and shoot you down on every attempt you make to pass it.

Maybe all I need is some time away from it, though now that I’ve got my legs back under me, I’m not sure that’s the best idea. (I will be away from it from Friday through Sunday this weekend due to a trip, so maybe I’ll come back refreshed on Monday).

On the other hand, something else happened this week. Well, it’s been happening for a while now. I’ve been getting restless. This week, more than last, more than the one before, I’ve wanted a change. I was standing along the East River in New York, blocks from my apartment in Queens. I looked up at the grey, midday Winter sky, and couldn’t help but wish that I was looking at a similar sky from the middle of the country, where rather than on a sidewalk, I would be standing in the middle of a large, frozen field. I found myself staring into the water, fantasizing about an old prairie house with acres of land around it and a river running through the back yard, a house that would be mine.

How could I get to that place? When could it be mine? The thing about writing, I concluded, is that it can open the doors for me that would take me the places I want to go. But in order to have that happen, I have to be the one to initiate everything. I’m not going to sit around and wait patiently anymore. I’ve given myself a timeframe. Maybe it’s unrealistic, but if anything, I think that helps. I want to write, to sell something, and to start my career. That’s not going to happen if I don’t work for it every day. The need for change ought to be motivation enough.


The New York Times has been pretty good with their post-writer's strike coverage. I've found two articles particularly interesting:

Who Won the Writer's Strike?


Agencies See a Window to Alter the Business of Television.

And of course, if you're wondering how your favorite shows will be affected...

Some interesting points are made in both articles, and I think it's only responsible that writers, while essentially getting what they were seeking from the strike, understand that they've altered their working landscape for what could end up being a very long time.


I've applied to graduate programs, trying to earn my MFA in Creative Writing, and I've become enamored with this niche of a writing community. Using the MFA Blog as a starting point, there are also two sites, here and here, that I frequently visit where the blog authors are actually compiling admission notification data. The sites themselves may not mean much to you, but if you read the comments, the soul of the writing community starts to come alive. Anyone who's missing their old writing programs, or who forget what it's like to cram way too many writers together in one place, should check it out.

Write on...

Monday, February 04, 2008

what runs in the family

The following is a conversation I had with my 10 year old brother:

Brat: Are you still writing scripts?

Me: Yeah.

Brat: What's it about?

Me: Well, it's about... it's a romantic comedy...

Brat: What's that?

Me: Er... that means it.... has jokes...and is fun...and people fall in love.

Brat: Oh, like Scream 4.

Me: ....No, that's generally considered horror.

Brat: But they usually start with jokes, and then there is horror, and then end with people falling in love. So it should be romantic-comedy-horror.

Me: ....Huh.

Brat: Oh I know! You can have one person sneak up to another person, and then shoot him!

The Writing Week part 5

Well, all in all, I suppose it was a productive week. Scratch that, it was a productive week (despite the fact that I missed a night on Sunday).

The League met again on Saturday, and once again, I submitted pages from the script I’m currently working on. Originally, I gave them about 12 or so to read. This weekend, I had 31 for them. All in all, the notes weren’t anything that required I put my forward progress on halt. Sometimes, unfortunately, the notes will illuminate the fact that the script is rife with problems, that it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, or that the all important tone is completely off (if not absent entirely).

This week, however, I did not face that —thank you, screenwriting deities. Rather, my notes were still mostly questions about the world the character is living in (though Backer did have a few things he took issue with other than that). By the time we met, I had pushed on to page 59 and hit the midpoint. Interestingly, many of the questions were regarding things that I tried to answer in that second chunk of pages. But what does that mean? Should I have answered those questions earlier, or were my compatriots just excited about the idea and the gears were turning in their heads? I think it’s a combination of both, or at least, I hope it is.

Like D.O.A. concluded in her most recent post, there’s no single correct answer. Some people were urging me to take more time with the world, while others wanted me to speed everything up and show the viewers less. Notes like that (ones that don’t require immediate attention to character or vital structure) are pleasant to receive, because they get me thinking about a lot, while not forcing me to start at page one again.

The last thing this week did, and, perhaps, one of the most important things, is that it got me thinking about competitions again. Well, to be fair, Onyx is the one who has really be steering that ship. Nonetheless, I found a contest (scriptapalooza) that has a mid-March deadline, and a mid-April final deadline. I am fairly confident that if I wanted, I could have a presentable draft by the late deadline (the early one might be pushing it). That’s not to say that I am going to pay $50 to send something in that is not finished. I don’t recommend that to anyone. However, the thought of it might help compel me to finish this quickly (yet effectively) and look for other competitions to enter it into. Another reason to attack the keyboard each night is always welcome.

101 Best Screenplays

I was searching the WGA site this morning, since Captain Undead mentioned news of a potential strike resolution.

In my search, I cam upon this, http://www.wga.org/subpage_newsevents.aspx?id=1807, the WGA's list of the 101 best screenplays.

Whether you're a screenwriting student, a recreational writer, or an expert, it always helps to read as many screenplays as possible. And, while this might not be your top 101, there is something to be said for each one chosen here. I, admittedly, have not read nearly as many of these as I should have.

So take a look, read up, study, and enjoy them!