Friday, November 30, 2007

One Last Pitch For The Movie

I'll be attending the Grande 4-Plex screening on Sunday at 3:30 with a few friends. Hope to see you there!

YIDDISH THEATER: A LOVE STORY
A NEW DOCUMENTARY BY
DIRECTOR DAN KATZIR AND PRODUCER RAVIT MARKUS
OPENS IN THEATERS IN LA ON FRIDAY NOVEMBER 30TH

LA TIMES:
"Charming... an irreplaceable record of a life and a movement..."

LA DAILY NEWS:
"Touching documentary."

NY TIMES:
"Funny, wistful and resolute."
Critics' pick in the NY MAGAZINE:
"Intriguing and entertaining..."

Recommended by the LA WEEKLY:
"Gentle homage..."

PLEASE COME TO SUPPORT US IN OUR OPENING WEEKEND IN LOS ANGELES THIS WEEKEND STARTING NOVEMBER 30TH!

PLEASE FORWARD THIS EMAIL TO YOUR FRIENDS AND FAMILY.

DIRECTOR DAN KATZIR AND/OR PRODUCER RAVIT MARKUS WILL ATTEND ALL SCREENINGS ON THE OPENING WEEKEND AND DO Q&A'S AFTER EVERY SHOW.

The film is in ENGLISH (and a little Yiddish with English subtitles)

YIDDISH THEATER: A LOVE STORY is already playing its 2nd week in NY and 3rd week in Tel Aviv. It is opening on Friday in two theaters in LA: the Laemmle's Grande in Downtown and the Laemmle's Fallbrook in the valley.

Schedule:

Laemmle's Grande

345 S. Figueroa St.
Downtown Los Angeles, 90071
213-617-0268
Fri Nov 30: 5:30, 7:30, 9:20pm
Sat & Sun Dec 1&2: 1:30 (sold out), 3:30, 5:30, 7:30 & 9:20
Mon-Thu Dec 3-6: 5:30 & 7:30

Laemmle's Fallbrook 7

6731 Fallbrook Ave
West Hills, CA, 91307

818 340 8710
Fri, Sat & Sun Nov 30 Dec 1&2: 12:00 noon, 5:00pm
Mon-Thu Dec 3-6: 1:00pm & 6:00pm
Wednesday Dec 5: 11am, 1:00pm & 6:00pm

FOR TICKETS: http://www.laemmle.com/viewmovie.php?mid=3304

Thursday, November 29, 2007

My First Movie Is Getting A Theatrical Release This Weekend And This Title Isn't Misleading At All

Okay, it kind of is.

A more correct title would be "The First Movie I Worked On" etc, etc.

Here's the trailer, which does a pretty good job of setting up the story (a rarity):



Here's the official movie site and the prod co site.

I'm about to go into a long post that's a little bit about the movie and a lot about my experiences with the people who worked on it, so before I do that I have a question:

Anybody interested in going to see it with me this weekend? I can't go Friday (sad), but do plan on going to a Saturday or Sunday showing.

Besides wanting to drum up business, I'd love to meet some of you (others, not so much...I kid...Or do I? Dum dum dum!).

Also, since Jul and several friends will be out of town, I'd love the company :)

You'll most likely get to meet the director and producer if you're with me, though it will probably be a brief chat since I'm sure they'll be swamped. (And even if you don't go with me, apparently they're going to be doing a Q&A after every screening this weekend, so there's always the chance of talking to them on your own, if you're into that sort of thing.)

On to the long post.

I think the movie's pretty darn good, but admittedly I'm biased. I've known Dan, the director, and Ravit, the producer, since late 2003 when they brought me on as an intern at what was then Markus/Katzir Productions. Now it's New Love Films, which you already know if you clicked on the prod co link above. It was my first real "industry" experience, and it was perfect for me at the time.

Because it was unpaid, they understood completely that I didn't have endless free time to devote, so at first my responsibilities were limited to simply reading and giving coverage.

As you might imagine, this was an eye-opening experience for someone who was new to the entertainment industry. Having majored in Creative Writing in college, I should have been more prepared, but the level of suck I went through reading those scripts still boggles my mind. I kid you not, 95 percent of what I read was simply atrocious. No sense of story, no feel for dialogue--hell, there were a lot of scripts where I literally could not tell what was going on because the writing was so confusing... And I'm a good reader, dammit! I've been writing since I was 5. I was on the staff of our university lit mag all 5 years (lay off me, I was a double major and frightened of the real world) and head editor for 2. I got skills, yo. (Which I now realize is a type of phrase Jane might want to consider adding to her list of clams.)

The worst part by far for me was having to wade through rampant misspellings and grammar mistakes. I completely understand that it's nearly impossible to have a 100 percent clean script, but there's a point where I almost can't read any more. There are certain things you should know as a writer before sending your work out to a professional company. Like the difference between the various "yours" and "theres." Or a sixth grade understanding of when to use periods, commas and other grammatical marks. And misspellings?? For god's sake, people, there's a thing called spellcheck. Normally I hate it because I think it encourages you not to learn how to spell, but if you already don't know how to spell... USE IT.

Still, for all my annoyance at the bad, it was worth it when I finally did come across those few good scripts. Nothing beats the feeling of discovering something great. Except maybe the feeling of getting that something great out there to the world, but that's something I can only guess at for now, since during my time there nothing quite made it through the grinder. Ah well.

After a few months passed, Dan and Ravit came to value my opinions pretty highly and had me take on more and more responsibilities. Over the next year or so, I did research; I corresponded with writers and directors and guided rewrites; I helped on pitch proposals, funding requests and the like; I interviewed potential new interns; and I sat in on editing sessions for Yiddish Theater. (And yes, after my rant, I'm now questioning the grammatical correctness of that last sentence.)

Basically, they liked me, they really liked me. And for moi, it was great experience seeing different facets of the development process.

Eventually I moved on to lazier pastures and stopped doing regular work for them, but I'm always happy to make myself available if they want my opinion on a script or need help with something. They're good people. And I truly believe that when they do make it, I'll make it. Or at least they'll do everything in their power to help me do so.

So go see the movie support a couple of the good ones in this town. Or haven't I convinced you yet?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Why My Bosses Can Keep Writing And Making Their Movie

I am behind on my TV watching and even further behind (though there's no schedule) on my writing.

The Dexter spec literally went backwards a few weeks ago--we were basically done with breaking the story, then realized that the actual show had made our B-plot irrelevant--and, though we've come up with an idea for a fix, we haven't fleshed it out enough yet to claim the story to be broken...and yes, it's funny how that phrase works both ways.

Because of this, and a nagging desire I have to write something, I've decided it's time to talk to you again about writing for animation, and why the movie I'm on can stay in production even though the writers--my bosses--are still writing the current draft.

This will be neither a defense of their decision to continue working during the strike nor an apology for it; instead, I just want to explain why, legally, this can happen.

And why, though I'm glad to still have a job, I think it's really, really dumb.

As always, these thoughts are not gospel; they are solely based on my experiences and understanding of things. Try here if you want it from the horse's mouth. I haven't read much of the site because I don't want to be proven wrong and realize I should stop writing this.

Ahem.

Here's the short version: Animation writing (except in specific instances like The Simpsons and Family Guy) is not covered by the WGA, but IATSE...meaning animated films and TV shows aren't on strike.






Why? you ask.

Well, that requires the longer version. Back in the good old days when Uncle Walt was the only game in town, animated features didn't have "writers." The artists and animators came up with the story as they drew, piecing it together along the way.

But Josh, if you're "coming up with the story," aren't you a writer?

Not in this case. Not legally, anyway.

These people were classified as animators. They didn't write "scripts," at least to the best of my understanding. From my experiences here, I imagine they simply put lines of dialogue on the story panels, and if you're drawing everything anyway, that's the only thing that would need to be written out.

So they were designated as animators. As such, they fell under the jurisdiction of IATSE, which in a very general sense tends to represent technicians in theatre, film and television. Honestly my IATSE knowledge is mostly anecdotal, with a little extra info gleaned from the 5 minutes I just spent on their site, so please feel free to correct me if you deem it worth your time.

Okay, you say, but if I go on IMDB, it lists lots of writers on old Disney productions. Snow White alone has eight writers. They have more writers than dwarves! How do you explain that?Well, fine, Mr. or Ms. Smarty Pants, look stuff up, why don't you. My answer is that titles don't mean everything and things got wonky as animation grew in popularity over time.

What does that mean?

Well, for one, there are definitely scripts now. Trust me, most of my job is simply trying to keep the script up-to-date, printing it up for various meetings, breaking it into sequences to assign to individual artists, titling things, re-titling things, dating and re-dating...there's definitely a script.

There also seems to be greater variety in the animation being created. There are projects that give more leeway to the animators to "write" as they draw, and there are projects where the script is the law and for the most part the animation adheres to what's in the pages.

But make no mistake, there are always pages.

Also, it's nice to be credited as a writer, but that doesn't mean jack to the studios or the networks. All of animation is covered by IATSE, so they can pay you less than WGA minimums and there are no residuals for reuse of your work. For all intents and purposes, they're basically saying, "Well, you're not a real writer." Tell that to Andrew Stanton. Or Paul Dini. Or Micah Wright.

But while it's ridiculous, that's exactly what those writers are told.

So there you go. A tiny little hopefully-correct history lesson on animation writing and why I continue to get a paycheck and feel simultaneously lucky and bad about it while friends are getting laid off left and right.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Hey Hey, Triple A!


Anonymous left me a comment yesterday--one of only a handful of Anonymi to have done so--on an old post that got me thinking.

And here's what it got me thinking: What the hell, AAA Teleplay contest? The finalists were supposed to be revealed more than a month ago.

Which leads me to: If you have any knowledge of what's going on with the AAA Teleplay Contest, I'd love to hear it.

Has anyone been notified of anything? Were finalists secretly contacted and now I should hang my head in shame? Did the organizer skip town and steal all of the entry fee money? Is there a delay because of the strike?

Monday, November 26, 2007

Want to annoy some studios?

Have to link to Lisa Klink for this one. It (hopefully) happened today and will be continuing tomorrow.

Call many times. Use different voices and personalities. Recruit your wannabe actor friends to ply their trade.

Mom Ratings

For the last two years, Jul and I decided to forgo the traditional family Turkey Day and make our own holiday fun. In 2005, we went to the Grand Canyon and the Painted Desert, and at some point I lost Jul's cell phone. Last year, we drove to Vegas and I got food poisoning at Quark's Bar and Restaurant. (Don't trust Ferengi-prepared dishes. Even if the host is nice and agrees to say hi to your mom on your cell phone.)

This year that changed. I hadn't seen my mom in more than 12 months, and Jul's parents had just visited, so we decided to bring her to LA...after realizing that 2 tickets to Ohio would cost more than $1000. So not worth it for a few days.

Anyway, since this is a TV/writing blog, here's how this kind of sort of maybe fits in with my normal format: We made my mom watch TV with us!

Aren't we the exciting ones.

So here for your reading pleasure are my mom's reactions to what we watched and my interpreted "review" based on those reactions. Enjoy!

Pushing Daisies

Mom reaction: Snoring within 10 minutes. Granted, we started watching after she had taken medication, but still not a good sign. (Good son and future daughter-in-law that we are, Jul and I finished watching, then woke her up so that she could sleep somewhere besides my desk chair.)

My interpreted review: We were watching something? Really? I don't remember. Was it good?

Verdict: Incomplete due to drug-induced sleep, but veering toward not good. You're boring the heartlanders, Mr. Fuller.

Life

Mom reaction: Awake, alert. At one point she got up to use the restroom and said not to pause it, but then expressed distressed at having possibly missed something when she came back in. (Luckily, I had paused.) Asked what time and day it was on (which I didn't know; um, hello, DVRs) as well as the title so she could look for it when she got home. Said: "I don't think we get this channel because I've never seen it" then eventually realized that yes, she did get NBC.

My interpreted review: Oh, my gosh. I can't believe Josh likes a show that's actually watchable! Why didn't someone tell me about this sooner? (I did.)

Verdict: Fantastic. If only someone out there was smart enough to realize that the only kind of shows we need are procedurals. Why would anyone watch anything else? Unless it has Harrison Ford in it, of course. Then it's okay.

Dexter

Mom reaction: Are you serious? We didn't show my mom Dexter. It was bad enough when I unthinkingly treated her to a DVD double feature of Talented Mr. Ripley and Boys Don't Cry and she thought I was gay. This is a woman who won't watch the Sci-Fi Channel because it's all "spookies." A show about a serial killer? Please.

So that's it. She actually asked about Ugly Betty because I apparently mentioned it to her at some point, but we didn't find time to watch it while she was here.

There's a lesson to be learned in these mom ratings, but I'm not completely sure what it is. Or that I want to learn it.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Jul Finds Serenity

In her latest Pink Raygun column.

Yes, that Serenity.

Welcome, Whedonesque People

So, this is what happens when you get picked up on Whedonesque, huh? In one day, I tripled the number of hits I had over the last month. Insanity.

Thanks for all the comments over at Whedonesque. I sent them a request for a membership so that I can actually talk to you there, but for now this is my only way to do so; ask questions, yell, shower me with praise or ask for my shipping address to send gifts in the comments here.

Feel free to mill about the place and check out links to many other fine writers on the right side -- professional and soon-to-be professional alike. For your further Jossverse pleasure, read my fiancee's interview with Jane if you haven't yet, or Red Right Hand's old interview of the man himself.

Oh, and I checked out the YouTube video mentioned in the Whedonesque comments, and it is indeed Emmett's sign that appears near the beginning. Sweet. Thanks for the heads up, ElectricSpaceGirl.

Monday, November 19, 2007

I Almost Killed Joss Whedon! or Bravery I Do Not Have

True story. Just look at the fear in his eyes.

I didn't think I'd be able to make it over to Fox for Assistants Day during lunch, so I got myself up at 5 this morning and walked in circles.

At 6:15 or so, when I arrived at the studio, there was a line of trucks that were refusing to cross the picket line. Awesome, I thought. Good for them. Later, I learned that one of them was warned that if he didn't cross the line, he would be fired...and he didn't cross. I saw him driving up Avenue of the Stars and laying on his horn less than a half hour later, still loudly proclaiming his support.

I don't think I have that kind of bravery. I hope strike captains made sure to get his name. I hope that he can utilize the Union Solidarity Fund. This sounds similar to the idea I proposed recently, although theirs will likely work, whereas mine would probably kill babies and puppies. I have no evidence to back that up, but based on the amount of planning and research I put into it, I wouldn't be shocked.

When I got into work a little after 9, I realized that my chances of getting out for lunch were better than I had thought, so I emailed a friend in the area to see if he was interested in heading over to Fox...if I could get out.

He was.

My bosses were flying in from New York this morning, so they would get in late and immediately head to another building for meetings. I knew they would want me to order lunch, so I had to be quick getting their orders if I wanted to picket.

Luckily, they arrived a few minutes early and stopped by their office before the meetings, so I made with the hounding and squeezed orders from them before they slipped away. Rockin'.

Lunch taken care of, I called my friend and told him I was headed over to Fox, then started driving.

The studio was busy. Not as busy as the big rally, I'm sure, but I couldn't make it to that, so this was the busiest I've seen the place.

The main picketing circle of writers, which a few hours earlier was maybe 20 strong...had swelled to several hundred people. Two assistants set up a lemonade stand that more or less said:

"Fox gave us lemons, so we made lemonade. 8 cents, No Negotiations."

Ha!

I picked up a sign and was about to join the line when a guy with a recorder asked me if I wanted to do an interview. Surprised and taken aback, I said sure. I don't even remember what I said exactly, but I felt like I was rattling off talking points:

"I'm supporting the WGA because I believe what they're doing now will benefit all writers--including me--in the future."

"The root of the argument is basically that they want us to work, but they don't want to pay us. That's something anyone can understand and get behind."

I'm sure I also rambled on about nonsensical stuff as well, and at one point I noticed The Whedon was walking a few feet in front of me and lost control of my motor functions, but hopefully he got a few nice little blurbs from me.

If you want to hear me, search for a radio station that has the call letters K, B and W. That's all I remember. And I'm less sure about the B and W, but there was definitely a K. Good luck. If you find it, let me know. He made me give my name, so ...there you go.

After that, I very slowly walked the picket line and my breath caught again as I noticed that Eddie was walking the line! Immediately I called Jul to rub it in her face that I had just seen her two favorite people (yes, even more than me; it's a sad reality) and she wouldn't be able to. We have a healthy relationship.

I made a very slow couple of rounds of the picket line before I was joined by my friend Emmett. You may remember him from my other Whedon encounter at Comic Con. Yes, that's Emmett in the Joker makeup. He had decided to one-up the idea I'd shared with him over the weekend: His strike sign not only read "Honk if you love justice!" he drew a (damn good) picture of The Tick on there as well. By our totally scientific poll, the number of people who like justice outnumbers the number of people who don't. I think this is probably a good thing. We trudged on.

After I surprised him with the knowledge that Ali Larter was picketing right behind us, we finished the picket loop and decided to cross the street (aka the Fox Pico entrance) because we thought we saw Joss on the other side. We were correct, but because he's Joss we weren't the only ones out to bask in his scruffy presence, so we just stood uncomfortably close while he was being interviewed and tried to solicit honks for justice. Overall, we were successful.

We'd planned on being all uber-geeky and annoying Joss as soon as he had a free moment, but much to our surprise, he actually called Emmett over because he noticed the sign and liked it. This allowed Emmett to talk about CBR and the mutual acquaintance they have in Brian Lynch. Which reminds me, I need to start working for CBR. Seriously. Which probably means I have to read a lot more comics than the two I currently read. Sigh. It's a lifestyle choice.

Because I am a weak tool, I did not follow Emmett and stood by myself until he called me over to introduce myself. I shook The Hand of Joss: "I'm Josh." "Joss," he said. Um, duh, I thought, but smiled.

It has to be weird to introduce yourself when you get to the point where lots of people know your name. I imagine you try to introduce yourself like a normal person and assume the other person doesn't know you, but there's a split second where you're weighing whether they know you or not, and probably expecting that they do, but you can't act too sure about it or you'll seem arrogant and...and I'm on a tangent.

So I ended up saying something lame about Jul interviewing Jane about the new book and mentioned Pink Raygun, and hoped that I didn't come across as trying to sell myself. Or even Jul, for that matter.

That's the weirdest thing about going out on the lines as a wannabe writer: I truly don't mean to approach this as a networking opportunity, but to a certain extent it's unavoidable. I either sit at home and do nothing and say nothing because I'm afraid of being perceived as someone who's only out there for himself, or I go out and support something I believe in and just say come what may. If someone specifically asks me about myself, I'm honest. Otherwise, I'm content to keep my head down and my sign high and put one foot in front of the other.

Whatever Joss thought, soon after he told us he had to take off. He shook Emmett's hand and zoomed toward the crosswalk because the light was about to change. As he left, he waved at me and I waved back...and I think he felt obligated to shake my hand, because he bounded back to do so, then had to run across Pico before cars plowed into him.

Really, Joss, me getting a second handshake from you is not worth you dying over. Really. I can't be responsible for that. I'd lose a lot of friends and quite possibly a fiancee.

A first handshake, however...

And that's the end of my strike experience. Until tomorrow, because there are still circles to be walked and signs to be hefted.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Morning Comes for Dexter

Regarding tonight's episode:

HOLY. FUCKING. SHIT.



That is all.

Tim's Higher Profile Close Personal Friend

If you haven't yet, check out the newest Geekerati with guest Tim Minear.

He talks about all kinds of fun Minear-y stuff, like writing for cancellation (e.g. making sure you write a closed story because it might be the last episode you get), his new pilot hopefully coming soon to ABC, and how picketing makes him feel kind of ridiculous.

And buried in there somewhere is an exciting little nugget about the possibility of Tim and "a higher profile close personal friend" of his creating original shows for the web.

Hmmm...wonder who that might be?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Lazy Writing, or Just a Bad Idea? (If it's even true...)

So, an amazing thing happened this week: Heroes was kind of good.


Not "oh-my-god-it's-the-next-incarnation-of-Buffy" good, but it's back in my moderately good graces.

This was one of the big episodes that they've been building toward, the one that explains what the heck happened to the characters in the immediate aftermath of last season's finale, and for the most part it did its job well and was pretty entertaining.

I wasn't a fan of the Peter bookending and the flashbacks happening in his eyes, but that was as much a visual problem as it was one with the writing. Besides that, I thought the Peter and Nathan stuff was done quite well and answered most of the questions I've been asking since 201 in a satisfying way.

Fine, Heroes, you win. I thought for sure that you had painted yourself into a corner with the seemingly random and convenient choices made at the beginning of the season (Peter in Ireland? Amnesia? Mirror Nathan? Beardy Nathan? Who then shaves his beard without explanation when his kids want him to?), but you schooled me a little bit and even had some true "ooh" moments. Good on you, Tim Kring, and good on you, rest of the writing staff.

But I have to bring up a rumor I heard a few weeks ago, because it kind of influences how I feel about this episode and this season.

It's fairly well known, at least in writing circles, that each episode of Heroes is broken up and written by multiple writers. Each writer or writing team is given a character or the characters in a certain storyline and they and only they (...excepting Tim Kring, of course, who can rewrite whoever the hell he wants) write the scenes for that particular character.

This is not completely unheard of. Desperate Housewives does it, I believe. Fantasy Island divided into A- and B-plots and chose writers for each section. Other examples abound, I'm sure.

(Speaking of Fantasy Island, what a great, dark TV movie that became a so-so TV show. Seriously, you should check it out. Bill Bixby is warped. And Montalban's Mr. Roarke is creepy as hell. The episodic version is a pale, pale imitation. Back to Heroes.)

The rumor I heard that makes the Heroes situation different, and mind you it is very much a rumor...

Before the season, Tim Kring gave each of the writers a character and told them to write a complete script for that character (or set of characters). Presumably, 60 pages of scenes focusing on that character and a singular storyline for them. Afterward, these scripts were broken up into pieces and shuffled together (not literally, one hopes) to form the first 7 episodes.

In-frakking-sane. If true, of course...

But how could something like that be true?! It doesn't make sense. How could Kring possibly expect to make 7 coherent episodes (let alone good ones) out of pieced-together scripts? What about the arc of each episode? Shouldn't there be a story each week for the audience instead of a series of loosely-related scenes? I mean, I know it's a serialized show, but still. There's no way there's an ounce of truth to this rumor.

And yet...kind of explains a lot about the season so far, doesn't it?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Extensionizing

UCLA Extension classes for next quarter just went up and Jul and I decided to apply for the certificate program. Because why not? Nothing else for the foreseeable future but working, marching and obsessively clicking Deadline Hollywood Daily.

Nikki Finke, Nikki Finke/
She'll make you laugh, she'll make you think

(Thanks, Simpsons!)

Also, in theory my company should reimburse me through its continuing education program, so that certainly made the decision easier.

The course we're starting with, appropriately enough, is the beginning course in the sequence. It's kind of weird taking a beginning course when neither of us feels like a beginner, but I'm sure we'll learn a lot that we never even knew we should know. And meet people. Because we suck at that. Yay.

Just in case anyone wants to lay out a few hundred bucks to meet Jul and I, here's the course we're taking:

Beginning Writing for the One-Hour Drama: Building the Story and the Outline

Modeled directly on how writers write in the real world of one-hour dramas, this course focuses on what is most central to creating a strong script as well as the largest piece (40%) of the writer's deal with any show: the story and outline. The course goal is for you to master the process of constructing an airtight story and detailed outline so that you are ready to write a script for any current show as quickly and expertly as possible. The steps you take include choosing the best story for your spec script, mapping it out from beginning to end, and writing a strong outline in proper script format. In the process, you learn how to identify and capture the tone, characters, dialogue, and themes of any one-hour drama series--the key to breaking and staying in the field. This course also introduces students to the various genres (police procedurals, medical, legal, etc.) and their specific rules; what's popular in the current marketplace; and how to work within the special requirements of timeslots, outlet, and styles (for example, single-character drama versus ensemble cast). All student projects must focus on current shows; no pilots. Enrollment limited to 20 students. Students must have web access to retrieve course materials.

UCLA: 2325 School of Public Affairs Bldg.
Thursday , 7-10pm
January 17 - March 20 , 10 mtgs.

Greg Elliot, television writer; WGA member whose credits include Star Trek: Voyager, for which he was nominated for a Sci-Fi Universe Award. Mr. Elliot was a story editor on the WB series Savannah, an executive story editor on the WB series Charmed, and wrote for the Disney Channel series In a Heartbeat. He also has optioned feature film screenplays to Warner Bros. Studios and TriStar Pictures.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Tuesday, November 13 - One Dark Day

From the Glowy Box fan site: "On November 13th, this blog and the blogs listed below will be on strike for the day in solidarity with the Writers Guild of America. As fellow writers and as TV fans, we are coming together to express our strong support for the writers and their goals. We believe that when a writer's work makes money for a company, that writer deserves to be paid.

"Many writers depend on residuals for a stable income, and that income shouldn't be based on an outdated formula which ignores the existence of new media and all but a tiny percentage of DVD sales. The talented writers responsible for so much of what we love about television should and must be paid fairly and equitably, and we will stand with them until they reach that goal. For everyone's sake, and for the sake of television, we hope both sides can come to an agreement quickly.

"To further that goal, we are calling on our readers to sign this petition and to contact the following television networks, voicing support for the writers and for a return to the negotiating table: ABC, FOX, CBS,
NBC Universal.

"After the blackout, we intend to continue our campaign to support the WGA until the dispute has been resolved fairly. In solidarity:

The CineManiac
Daemon’s TV
Ducky Does TV
Gabby Babble
Give Me My Remote
Glowy Box
I am a TV Junkie
Mikey Likes TV
Pass the Remote
The Pie Maker
Ramblings of a TV Whore
Seriously? OMG! WTF?
Silly Pipe Dreams
Tapeworthy
Televisionary
TiFaux
The TV Addict
TV Series Finale
Tube Talk

Watch with Intelligence

Jul and Jane, Jane and Jul...jealousy growing...

After seeing that she was e-touring for a new book, I suggested that Jul contact Jane Espenson for an interview for her little column on Pink Raygun. (Pronoun confusion: Jane's book, Jul's little column.)

Neither of us thought Jane would respond, but apparently we underestimated her utter coolness; not only did she email Jul back, she did it twice! Of course, I'm pretty sure that's because she didn't realize she sent the first email, but still! Awesome!

And now I'm jealous of Jul. Sigh.

Oh well. Here for your enjoyment is Jul's interview with Jane. Spread the word to friends and enemies alike.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

It Affects Everyone

This morning, after reading yet another article about a crew member who has lost their job because of the strike (look here, here and here for examples), a couple of ideas occurred to me and I became annoying and emailed people. Sometimes it's fun.

Those who bore the wrath of my lightbulb moment are fans4writers and the WGA. Yes, I emailed the WGA. I'm sure they're not too busy right now to read it and get back to me soon. Busy with what?!

...
...

Anyway, here were my thoughts in a nutshell:

1) Goodsearch.

Lots of us who support the goals of the WGA are lazy, and Goodsearch was invented for lazy people who still want to make a difference in some way. I don't even know if it's possible for either the WGA or fans4writers to utilize Goodsearch, but I thought it would be a great way for people to support the cause who aren't in LA.

I think just about everyone who wants to help would be willing to use Goodsearch and put...let's call it the WGA Writer's Fund...as their charity of choice. Heck, most of us would go a step further and post a permanent icon on our various blogs and websites.

2) Crew Fund (or Below-the-Line Fund)

Possibly even related to #1, I think it would be fantastic if fans4writers or especially the WGA were to put together some kind of fund to help out all of those crew members who have already lost or will lose their jobs because of this strike.

Besides just being the right thing to do, I think something like this would go a long way toward helping to engender more goodwill for the writers and their cause. "Yes, we realize that this affects more than just us. With studios shutting down numerous productions, many or our co-workers are losing their jobs and their livelihood. To help them in this time of need, while we make a principled stand, the WGA/fans4writers/whoever, has created a Below-the-Line Fund to help our friends and colleagues until this is resolved."

I'm sure that I'm not the first to think of this, and I have no idea whether it's feasible at all, but if it is...come on, why wouldn't you put together something like this?

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Dexter Panel...or...attack of the godawful moderator

Wednesday night I went to the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences to attend a panel on Dexter.

I've been to a few of these things and think they're always fun and always worth it...but never quite live up to what you're hoping...and usually for the same reason:

The moderators aren't very good at, you know, moderating.

Which is mostly my way of saying, "I don't mean to single you out, Dexter Moderator Guy, because you're certainly not the only one, but damn, dude..."


He seemed to be channeling Charles Nelson Reilly and Chris Farley's "That was awesome" persona at the same time, which was just...weird.


Especially considering that, if he was as much of a fan as he purported to be, his knowledge of the show was sorely lacking. And that would have been fine. Just don't try to do the superfan thing. He actually asked if

(SPOILER) they would be influenced by slasher movies and bring Rudy back from the dead. Buh-wha? No one who actually watched the show would ask that question. (END SPOILER)

Which again, would be perfectly fine had he not tried to do the superfan thing.

I did learn one important thing about the show, however: it's "devastating." If I was a millipede I might be able to count the number of times he said it on my legs. Maybe.

The most interesting part of the panel was when he addressed the composer, Daniel Licht. To me, the music of Dexter is fascinating, so it was great to hear Licht speak.

According to him, the music is from Dexter's point of view and thus is often slightly skewed, or counterpoint, to the emotions and drama of what's happening on screen. He also tries to imbue it with a sense of wry amusement.

To that I would personally add a sort of dreamlike, ethereal quality that simultaneously draws you in yet separates you from the human emotion of the drama. It comments on the action, rather than reinforcing it, which adds to the sense of otherness Dexter feels.

Licht told us how he got his start in horror and thriller movies, then had to make the strange transition into straight comedy with the Fox half-hour Oliver Beene. Apparently he had to really rethink his approach to music in order to do comedy, because with drama you're constantly upping the tension, but in comedy you can only go so far before there needs to be a release. Otherwise, it's just not funny anymore. And now with Dexter, he feels he's able to use everything he's learned in his career since the show is a combination of each of those genres. Good for him. Even cooler, he found an instrument made of a femur that he's incorporated into the show this season. Creepy sweet.

The other part of the panel that would have been interesting was hearing Romeo Tirone, the DP, talk about the look and tone of the show. I kind of gave Licht credit above, but Tirone is at least as responsible for the dreamlike quality the show has achieved. So when the moderator asked him an actual intelligent question about halfway through the panel, I was psyched...then Tirone began to answer and the moderator almost immediately spoke over him and asked Licht another question. Ouch. What a dick.

I'm sure there were a few other interesting things said as well, but those are the ones that really stuck with me.

Oh, yeah...and they screened this upcoming Sunday's episode for the crowd. :)

A few of the things they're doing on Dexter this season I find uncomfortable and I'm not sure I like, but I'll reserve judgment until the season ends.

One thing they did do, though, was effectively ruin the B-plot Jul and I had for Deb in our spec. It's been dying a slow death for a few episodes now, but I was really, really hoping we could find a way to make it fit...somehow. Now, not so much. Sigh. Such is the life of a TV spec writer.

What really annoys me is that they took her character on the exact same journey we wanted to, but did it far better because they were able to spread it out over several episodes. Ugh. I'm serious, Daniel Cerone, you owe us a B-plot. Please. We'll bring you your favorite food on the picket line =D (Wow, two smileys in this post. I've exceeded my limit.)

Brief follow-up story: After the panel they had a little buffet of cheese and crackers, sandwiches and little desserts. And naturally I was raring to go since I hadn't eaten since 1pm and it was now after 9. So I loaded up my tiny plate with one of every cheese and cracker I could find, then added a small sandwich or two (Actually just one, but it sounds more dramatic if I say "or two." See, that totally worked.) and some kind of dessert. I don't even remember what it was.

My plate runnething over, I gorged myself while chatting with Jul and our friends as we stood outside the building by one of the pillars. Mid-bite, with cracker crumbles tumbling down my shirt and my mouth full of cheese, this random girl in her 20s came over with a really big dude, told us her name and started asking questions. Who were we? Why were we there? Where did we work? etc, etc.

She wasn't jerky or anything, just being friendly and doing the typical LA schmooze thing. Which was fine, except that not only do I normally suck at it, I was eating. Whatever. She put her hand out for me to shake, so I mentioned my name, wiped my cracker-covered hand on my pants and shook hers. Then we stood there for an awkward few seconds while none of us knew what to say to her before she and her large friend moved on. I went back to eating, thinking, "Okay, weirdo, bad timing to try to network." I was sure Jul and our friends were thinking the same thing.

I am often wrong.

While I didn't talk to her because I was annoyed at being interrupted in feeding my fat face and actually having to speak to another person, my friends were at a loss for words because they were trying to place her. They'd knew they'd seen her on Studio 60 and a couple of other shows, but there was something else recently she'd been in, a fairly sizable role...

And while I was still chewing and having the mental realization that she was an actress, they realized where they knew her from:






Yes, it was Julia Ling, aka Anna Wu, the hot asian Buy More chick on Chuck. And I shook her hand with cheesy, cracker-crumb fingers while wondering why the hell she was bothering us.

Because that's just the kind of guy I am.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Support

Clicky.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

I walk the line...on lunch breaks...when I'm not taking notes in a meeting

This week I've felt vaguely traitorous as I've sat at my desk with writers picketing everywhere around me.

I've also felt cut off (aside from the various blogs and news stories I read nonstop) because I've been inside. The closest I even came to any picketers was watching them from across the street as I walked from one building to another to deliver note pages to execs. It's been so busy I haven't even been leaving for lunch. Meaning: no honking.

Today, finally, that changed. I tried to get friends who had been walking when they could all week to join me, but no one was able to ... so I wondered if I should go at all... and hesitated... and worried what would happen if someone from work saw me...

And then I was in my car, and there was much honking, which slowly started to make things right.

I was on my lunch, dammit. My own free time. What could they do to me? (Note: please don't answer this question, it's not something I want to explore right now.)

So I drove to Fox, the closest studio that isn't my workplace, and joined the party. I say that because that's what it felt like. I sincerely doubt it will feel that way in week 10...or 20...or 30...but for this week, for today, that's what it felt like. The honking was practically nonstop and totally obnoxious and it was fantastic. Two picketers just stood in the grass by the curbs soliciting honks and amusing the passersby. A supporter brought pizza and walked up an down the line with open boxes offering slices. And even though I was a weenie and didn't talk to anybody (and had to leave after 40 minutes...sadness...stupid traffic and stupid lunch break), it felt so good to be out there supporting those who I wholeheartedly believe are supporting me.

That's who this fight is for: me. And Jul. And probably most of you. We're the ones who are probably going to get most of our residuals from "new media." Unless, you know, we get none at all. Because that's where we are right now.

So I'm making a promise to myself here and now, that every free lunch I have will be spent on a picket line until this is resolved. I'd love to do even more than that, but...we'll see.

Time permitting, tomorrow I'll tell you all about the Dexter academy event and how Daniel Cerone owes us a spec idea and why cheese and crackers and meeting actresses don't mix.

Exciting, I know.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Dexter. TV Academy. Tonight.


Yes, it's the Day of Many Posts.

Jul and I (and a friend or two? I don't remember) are going to the Dexter panel at ATAS tonight.
Anyone else going to be there?

It's only a matter of time until someone makes a "Which Writer Are You?" game...at least I hope so

I ganked this from Scriptnotes. Don't want to take credit. Let the amusement ensue.

NOTES FROM THE PICKET LINE
By Lesley Wake Webster

Monday, November 5, 1 PM: I showed up at Warner Brothers Studios to join the WGA picket line. Everywhere I looked, there were writers in red t-shirts holding signs of protest; it was an amazing display of solidarity. As we marched and chanted, I had the privilege to talk to writers of incredibly diverse backgrounds. I chatted with staff writers who’d just joined the guild, with showrunners who couldn’t stop worrying about their employees and with veterans who vividly remembered the 1988 strike. From these conversations, one thing became crystal clear: we have good reason to be united. Though the Writer’s Guild has over twelve thousand members, there are really only five people in the picket line, and you meet them over and over again.

1. The Class Clown
• Picket line personality: Boisterous and friendly. Dances, waves to passing cars and convinces everyone to go to El Torito for margaritas afterwards.
• Most likely to have been kicked out of high school, dropped out of college or booed off a stage.
• Became a writer after trying to make a living by acting, bartending and/or selling childhood toys on Ebay.
• Can’t believe how much fun this is. Striking is even less work than writing!

2. The Good Girl
• Picket line personality: Cheerful and polite. Participates in chants, recycles everyone’s water bottles and makes sure that no one enters the crosswalk after the blinking orange hand appears.
• Most likely to have been class valedictorian, editor of the yearbook or a member of “Up With People.”
• Became a writer after receiving a Hello Kitty diary on her eighth birthday. After years of secretly journaling, the Good Girl shocked her parents and herself by quitting a perfectly respectable job in public relations to write for TV and film.
• Can’t believe she’s actually participating in a social protest. Oh my!

3. The Sullen Outsider
• Picket line personality: Aloof and slouchy.
• Most likely to love Russian novels and have been forbidden to watch TV as a child.
• Became a writer because it is the most important work in the world.
• Can’t believe how shallow most TV shows and films are. Perhaps this strike will clear out the dead wood and create a hunger for serious, important work like his two-hundred page screenplay, Death in the Time of Genocide.

4. The Fat Guy with a Beard
• Picket line personality: jovial and determined. For someone who spends most of his time sitting in front of a computer, he’s got surprising physical stamina.
• Most likely to be insanely wealthy and have created your favorite movie or TV show.
• Became a writer after a childhood spent indiscriminately watching TV. Can quote entire episodes of The Twilight Zone and Gilligan’s Island.
• Can’t believe that the AMPTP thinks it can break the WGA. As surely as rock beats scissors, the fat guys with beards will beat the fat guys in suits.

5. The Eager Beaver
• Picket line personality: Enthusiastic to a fault. Wants to meet everyone else in the picket line and know what they’ve worked on.
• Most likely to be a Dungeon Master and/or a virgin.
• Became a writer because, unlike in P.E., no one tried to give him a wedgie in creative writing class.
• Can’t believe he just saw Joss Whedon!

Lesley Wake Webster is a Good Girl and a writer on Notes from the Underbelly.

Things I've noticed about Dexter's 2nd season

While Dexter still pretty much kills a person each week, there's less of a procedural element/mystery/investigation into his victims' crimes. This element isn't gone, but it does seem diminished.

There appear to be two main season-long arcs developing:
1) Whether or not Dexter will be caught/revealed as a serial killer.
2) What really happened between Harry and Dexter's mother, and (how) did this color the way he raised Dexter?

Aside from the first episode, there really haven't been many Harry and Young Dex "story" flashbacks. Instead, we've been getting ... not flashbacks exactly, but backstory and reveals about Harry and Dex's mom via audio recordings where "ghosts" of Harry and Dex's mom appear. And flashbacks to Dex seeing his mom killed that are similar to the shorter flashbacks of Dex's dad last season. So there's a new spin on the flashback element, but it's not completely gone.

Masuka=Tang. Technically, Chuck taught me this, and that C.S. Lee deserves much better than a one-note character, but still.

Jennifer Carpenter is a much better actress than I gave her credit for in the first season. Thanks, writers, for allowing her to shine by providing Deb with a fascinating emotional journey so far. (And also...damn you, writers, for slowly and probably much more believably taking Deb on the journey Jul and I wanted to take her on in our spec. Jerks.)

It's every bit as engrossing as the first season, and in more disturbing ways. Rooting for and against a serial killer's love life is just a weird feeling. How is it possible that I'm more upset about who Dexter might sleep with than who he might kill next? What does that say about me? And the whole exploration of killing as an addiction and using support to overcome that addiction is...uncomfortable, to say the least.

Jul and I really need to leave an episode on the DVR long enough to break it down and see if it's still following the same patterns as the first season episodes. Has anyone bothered to do that yet this season?

Episode Countdown

The LA Times posted a handy-dandy little chart to show when your favorite TV shows are going to stop airing or go into reruns.

(Hint: It's soon for most of them.)

Monday, November 5, 2007

Blog(strike)action

Fellow future WGA member wannabes, I'd like to pose a question:

Who wants to get organized?

I'm talking about making plans for a group of us to visit picketing locations (perhaps with signs...or refreshments...or just encouraging words) while our hopeful one-day brethren fight the good fight for all of us.

As numerous sites have already reported, the picketing locations are available here.

We can figure out where each of us is located during the day and plan times to meet on the lines and show some writerly love.

Anyone interested?

Meme-d (or, something to take my mind off the fact that writers are striking across the street from me)

Shawna tagged me. She was tagged by the originator, Great Boobs and Tubes. The MeMe is on!

Find a song that inspires you to write something, whether it gives you an idea for a script or just puts you into a better frame of mind. AND/OR (don't you love choices) peek into the lyrics and find a stanza that sums up the theme of whatever script you're working on. It's quite uncanny how the two circumstances go together.

If possible, post a video of the song to really get people into the mood.
It's been a long time since I've truly written to music. In high school my writing life depended almost entirely on Nirvana, Nine Inch Nails and most importantly Songs in the Key of X.

I was in high school when X-Files reached its zenith, though naturally I was a fan from the beginning, and most of my favorite episodes are from those first few seasons. Songs in the Key of X was released in 1996, smack dab in the middle of my high school years, at what was probably the creative peak of the show. And it was a revelation.

For a long time, I could quote almost every song on the album verbatim, and for a few years, it was the only soundtrack to my writing life. I would sit in my car with the CD on and the volume cranked and write by hand in my black and write Mead notebook, then later painstakingly re-type everything on my Smith-Corona electric typewriter, praying I didn't mistype and have to use the awful and ugly correction tape.

(Appreciate your computers if you've got'em, younguns; it wasn't always so easy. Now I could buy a cheap computer for not much more than a typewriter, but a decade ago...and yes, we're playing everyone's favorite game, What's Grandpa Thinking?)

Mostly I listened to the album on repeat, but some favorite songs are:

Down In The Park - Foo Fighters
Star Me Kitten - William S. Burroughs & REM
Red Right Hand - Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds
Unmarked Helicopters - Soul Coughing
Thanks Bro - Filter
and of course, the secret tracks...

The CD cracked in half during one of my moves in college, and ever since then I've lamented its loss. In fact, this whole exercise just forced me (forced me, I say) to purchase it from a vendor on Amazon. Sigh.

I can't really think of any specific songs today that I use to write or that reflect the theme of the spec I'm working on currently...but...here are lyrics from a couple of songs that I think reflect certain overall themes or just inspire me lyrically (sue me for cheating and generalizing).

Jim Boyd - Father and Farther

Sometimes, Father, you and I,
Are like a three-legged horse
who can't get across the finish line
no mater how hard, he tries and tries and tries.

Sometimes, Father, you and I
Are like a Warrior,
who can only paint half of his face
while the other half cries and cries and cries and cries.


Now can I ask you Father?
If you know how much farther we need to go?
Now can I ask you Father?
If you know how much farther we have to go?


There doesn't seem to be a music video, so, moving on to the obvious...

Soul Coughing - Screenwriter's Blues

And the radioman says
it is a beautiful night out there!
And the radioman says
Rock and Roll lives!
And the radioman says
it is a beautiful night out there
in Los Angeles
you live
in Los Angeles
and you are going to
Reseda; we are all

in some way or
another going to
Reseda someday
to die
and the radioman
laughs because
the radioman fucks

a model too



As you can see, it's been awhile since I've really been inspired by music. I miss the feeling, I do, but not enough to go crazy seeking it out. There are other things to draw inspiration from...
Aww. Is that chedder I smell?

Let's see who's left to tag...

Scott, Joel and Elana seem to have escaped unscathed so far. And, let's see...why not--Jill Golick and Jane Espenson (Jul has her email, ha, ha, ha ...
not that she'll ever agree to email Jane for a meme, but still...)

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Another reason to resolve the impending strike...

As always, I'm late to the party, so rather than battle for scraps, here's a bunch of links that you may have already seen, in the order that I discovered them:

O Ye Of Little Faith: Whedon, Minear & Dushku Reunite For DOLLHOUSE!!

Eliza Dushku Lures Joss Whedon Back to TV!

TELEVISION SPECIFICALLY DESIGNED FOR ME

EXTREMELY GOOD NEWS


Step one - End this strike so we get some Whedon-y goodness sooner rather than later (not to mention so Fox doesn't change their mind on this as time goes by).

Step two - Figure out what kind of specs Joss would want to read...I have an idea based on things he's said in interviews...Jul and I might have to revisit a spec idea we decided not to write.

Step three - Charm him with our writing and/or wit and/or sexiness so that he realizes how much he needs us on his staff. (Seriously, Joss, it's not like you know a bunch of great writers who you can just pick up the phone and call or something...except us, of course...we'll get our numbers over to you right now).

Step three part two - Steal things to bribe him with. Like Cheetos. (Note: there is no evidence that Mr. Joss Whedon has any great affection for Cheetos; this is merely an example. A bad one.)

Step four - Get on staff and cry.

Step five - Say "SUCKAH!" to all of our friends and alienate everyone with our newfound sense of entitlement.

Step six - Enter a downward spiral that culminates in losing our jobs and living on the street with our chihuahua while taking up with Gary Coleman to try to relaunch his career.

God I can't wait.