Thursday, January 31, 2008

This is why you bring a business card

I'm not, how do you say...good with the networking.

It involves all kinds of social skills like walking and talking (and sometimes gesticulating), which usually come natural to me but seem to run away screaming when I'm around people I don't know in a social event or (even worse) attending something specifically designed for networking. Even the word makes me cringe.

I fare much better when distracted by a particular set of goals, like when I'm volunteering at an event, taking a class, meeting a writer's group for the first time, etc. At least I think so... But for some reason there's still just something unnatural to the whole thing as far as I'm concerned.

The other day while I was walking at Fox over my lunch break, I ran into a guy who had temped in my office a few months ago for about a week. We caught each other up, reminisced, complained and so on. Like you do. Eventually he took off and I walked silently for a bit, and if you're wondering why you should look at the first two paragraphs again.

A bit later he was walking with a woman and called me over to introduce me as they passed by. We talked, it was relaxed and comfortable, and I learned that she was (shocker) also an aspiring writer and that we had similar taste in TV shows. Fantastic.

In a networking sense, logically the next step would have been to exchange emails or phone numbers or at least last names and yes I realize how uncomfortably close to dating this sounds so don't think that didn't weird me out ... but instead when the picketing ended we just walked to our cars, mouthed some lame promises to keep in touch (how exactly?) and went our separate ways.

Which brings me, finally, to the title of this post: This is why you bring a business card.

Yes, I'm sure I still would have felt weird and lame and pretentious whipping out a card, but at least I would have had something ready. Instead, I still felt awkward and didn't even get a possible contact out of it.

So... Sara (or Sarah? who knows?), if you're out there and by some chance actually reading this, sorry if our conversation turned strange at the end; I was just trying to do the Hollywood thing and fumbling. At least in retrospect I can feel slightly amused at my ineptitude -- that's every writer's right.

Anyone else out there have any amusing/embarrassing networking stories?

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Adopt A Writer...if you dare

No, it's not like housing a foreign exchange student. And yes, that was a very bad joke.

Been doing a little research lately and ran across a really cool project happening in the Blogosphere called Adopt a Writer. Here's what it's all about in the words of the organizers:

Adopt A Writer is a project organized by entertainment bloggers in support of the WGA, in association with United Fandom and United Hollywood.

Several of the top independent TV blogs have signed on to participate in the project which may continue even after the labor dispute is resolved, depending on interest. Each participating blog will interview a TV writer about their life as a writer—and as a striking writer—with the goal of putting a new face on the WGA for our readers and showing the public that the average writer is much more like the average viewer than the AMPTP wants us to believe.

Participating Blogs:

If for no other reason, go to the site to check out the picture under the main title. It's a collage of surly, lovable writer mugs that makes me want to have one of my very own. Yes, I did mean have my very own writer.

And speaking of lovable, those people who say Craig Mazin (of Artful Writer (in)fame(y)) is out of touch and doesn't walk the strike lines can stuff it. Yeah, that's right, you big jerks! I saw him walking at Fox for at least 20 minutes yesterday.* That's 20 minutes he'll never get back! This paragraph has a lot of exclamations!!!

*He was there when I arrived, so it's quite possible he was there the whole day, but that knowledge kind of defeats the point of heckling.

Monday, January 28, 2008

The Dynamic Duo...and apparently sometimes Trio (but never the Fantastic Four)

This weekend, Jul and I attended a one day class on writing teams through UCLA Extension. Not only was it taught by a writing team (the guys behind this), they also brought in a panel of teams (or really 1.5 teams, since it was three other guys--responsible for this and this, among other things) to discuss how they work together and have navigated the business in their careers so far.

(An amusing-to-me sidenote: Jul and I recognized two of the guys from the picket lines...though her story was better, since one of them actually gave her his jacket at Mutant Enemy Day. Yes, Hollywood really is that small of a town.)

More than anything it was just useful as a kind of therapy for Jul and I. Hearing that other teams go through the exact same things as us, that they have similar problems and joys...it was validating and cathartic. And hearing that most of them had screaming matches on an almost daily basis made us feel a lot better about our small and infrequent spats.

We also learned a few surprising (and *cough* crazy *cough*) things--like the fact that threesome writing teams actually exist, and some teams don't divide money or labor evenly--and a few practical writing tidbits--like the idea of having both writing partners create a version of the same scene at the same time. In this way you'll not only get to see if you're on the same page (most likely you won't be, not exactly) but also probably find new ideas for the scene that you otherwise wouldn't have. Very, very interesting, especially on a pilot or feature spec where you're building the characters, setting and tone from scratch.

Overall, probably the best single-day class or learning event I've been to, and if you're considering the possibility of forming a team with someone, I recommend it even more. Much of the stuff about picking your writing partner that wasn't useful for Jul and I would have been invaluable if we were still looking. Perhaps the best thing I can say is: the class was free to us through Extension, but it's one of the few one-day things I've been to that felt like it would have been worth the money. Look for it next quarter if you're interested.

In other class news, while we're still slightly indecisive (more me than Jul), it looks like we're going to be outlining specs of Pushing Daisies and Chuck, respectively. More on that later...possibly a lot more.

Pink Raygun info that's not just a link!

It's two links! But also more, I promise. Sort of.

First off, Jul's latest column is up, so read and enjoy.

Secondly, those of you on Facebook should join both the Pink Raygun group and the cause Jul started for them.

Here's the little blurb describing the cause:

Support the Association of Women in Science's mission to achieve equity and full participation for women in science, mathematics, engineering, and technology.

How could you not support that? And by support I just mean joining, not donating. If you want to donate and can, fantastic! But this is much more about getting exposure for the cause than getting a few bucks here and there.

(PS, Jul dragged me kicking and screaming onto facebook, but now my ulterior motive is to convince people to join and friend me so we can play Knighthood. Yes, I'm a dork, but I'm also now a Knight, so eat it.)

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Are You A Better Surgeon Than A 5th Grader?

Ha!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Back to the stupid, stupid drawing board?

Ever write what feels like a pretty tight outline for a script, start writing and then realize that there are far more potential problems than you thought?

Yeah. It's fun.

Part of me wants to stop and go back to the outline to refine it and plug holes, but Jul and I have also been working on the damn thing so long that I also really, really want to just freaking write it. So that's what I have been doing, but it's slow going. Slower than I've ever experienced writing a script. I think. Maybe. My perception is probably influenced (slightly) by my frustration.

Ahh, well, time marches on and deadlines loom. The least I can do is keep trudging.

Friday, January 18, 2008

First Class Assignment

Read The Sarah Connor Chronicles pilot script.

Hmm. Well, I guess I can force myself to do that.

Gotta admit, though, looking down the syllabus the scripts that really excited me were for the unaired pilots Them and Marlowe. (If you click, you'll have to scroll down for the reviews.)

Shiny.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

DGA Deal - Now it gets interesting

From the DGA website:

DGA and AMPTP Reach Tentative Agreement on Terms of New Contract (January 17, 2008)

DGA Gains Solid Wage Increases with No Rollbacks Plus Precedent-Setting Jurisdiction Over New-Media and a Doubling of EST Residuals Rate

Some exciting developments...

...in Josh and Jul land, one of which starts tonight--our UCLA Extension class. I'm sure I'll bore you all about it sometime soon.

As for the other stuff, it's TBD.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

LISTEN CAREFULLY

Because The Wire is back, and due to the glory that is On Demand I've seen the first three episodes. <*grin*>

But season 5 isn't what I really want to talk about. Regarding that, all I can say is...oh, McNulty. Is there anything (or one) you won't do? Heartbreakingly hilarious and sometimes just heartbreaking. Especially after his arc last season.

But. What I want to do is alienate myself from the rest of the writing community by saying something shocking. Okay, it's not that shocking, but it is a little shocking. Are you ready? Do I enjoy having conversations with myself? Hopefully, and yes.

Here we go: I wasn't in love with season 4. <*ducks in anticipation of objects being thrown*>

Before season 5 aired, Jul and I bought and watched season 4 in its entirety over about a week. There's a lot of good in the season--a lot of good. McNulty finally getting his shit together made me smile every time. Prez discovering himself as a teacher was inspiring...and watching him uncover the bullshit that occurs like new computers and textbooks going unused made me feel his frustration and bemusement.

Cutty doing everything to be a good guy and get through to the kids, only to realize that he was still screwing up just hurt. And Bubs...god, it was painful watching him hit rock bottom--at least I hope it's rock bottom for him. Not to mention that every single thing the main kids went through was agonizing because of the way we (and they) are continually made to feel hopeful, only to have those hopes dashed...for the most part.

But both Jul and I kept waiting for that inevitable Wire build and tension that happens in every season...and it just didn't come.

That last statement is perhaps too reductive. It wasn't that there was no build or tension, but that previous seasons had orchestrated it in such a way that the last few episodes brought you to the peak before releasing you with the final episode. In season 4, the storyline that had the most build and tension for me was Carcetti's run for mayor, and when that was resolved with several episodes left, it was like the wind was gone from the sails of the show. Every episode from that point on was mostly a series of downbeats and/or set up for season 5, which for me just wasn't as satisfying as previous seasons.

Don't get me wrong. I think that David Simon and company probably got exactly what they wanted out of season 4. The extended downbeats weren't as satisfying because they shouldn't be as satisfying. Loyal viewers could do nothing but watch as mistakes and failures played out, and in this way were put in the same situation as most of the characters in the show. Still, even knowing this and respecting the art of it...not as satisfying.

And it's not hard to figure out what was missing: there was no case to follow. Or rather, the case we followed against Marlow never felt like much more than set up, much like the Barksdale stuff from season 2. Except that in season 2, there was also the port case going on. Season 4's case, as it were, is what Prez and the main kids go through. And while the individual parts of it are all extremely well done, the whole just didn't quite do it for me in the same way that the "real" cases do in previous seasons.


All of that said, season 4 is still great television. Perhaps its biggest flaw is that it came after the uber-brilliant season 3, which for me stands as the best season of The Wire, and maybe even the best season of a TV show ever.

I dare you to try to one-up Bunny Colvin's Hamsterdam, Stringer's vendetta against Omar, or the final betrayals of the Barksdale criminal empire. Seriously, try.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

And now color me a bit baffled


As you can see in my last post, I was pretty impressed with the pilot for The Sarah Connor Chronicles that aired on Sunday. Last night's second episode, however, left me a little more mezzo on the whole affair and made me realize that I'm actually quite a lenient logic Nazi at times.

Here's the good:

  • I loved that they were confident enough to keep in the silent scene where the Hispanic chick sizes Cameron up. Nothing to do with the plot and no action--just a nice little slight comedy moment for the characters.
  • I love that Sarah knows when and how she dies (died?) and has to process this information, as well as the matter-of-factness with which Cameron tells her.
  • I love, love, love the fact that Cameron (obviously) is a badass, but Sarah is the one who manages to take out the Terminator (notice I say take out, not kill) near the beginning.
  • The introduction of others sent back to 2007--freedom fighters and Terminators--is an intriguing addition to the story.
  • The action sequences were still quite impressive.

Here's the mezzo/illogic:

  • After spending time in the pilot staying true to Terminator Rule #1 regarding time travel (i.e., that only living flesh can travel through time) by making the Terminator slice open his thigh in order to take out his gun, this episode pissed all over that by having the decapitated metallic head fly out of the time sphere into 2007 along with our heroes. Worse than that, it seems incredibly odd that, had a nearly intact Terminator been left in 1999, it would end up in a landfill instead of a military compound or some tech firm. I mean, come on, the entire plot of Terminator 2 is based on the fact that someone took the Terminator that Sarah Connor left crushed in the original movie--and all that was left of that one was a forearm and a few other small pieces. Even worse, with the reveal that there are already Terminators in 2007, it begs the question: Why even have the Terminator from 1999 come to 2007? What's the point? The silly explanations involved to make it work within the context of the Terminator world and even simply rational logic just feel like wasted effort for something that could have easily happened in another way. However...

...though my roommate was royally pissed off about this violation of Terminator rules to the point where he said he almost didn't want to watch anymore, I'm willing to give the show a pass. First off, there's always the possibility that they will be able to explain these inconsistencies in the Terminator mythology (as well as logic) in ways that will surprise me. Anything's possible, right?

But the more important reason for me: Everything that Bionic Woman got wrong, this show gets right. The characters are strong and clear. The writing is crisp and economical, while still allowing a little room for characters to breathe. There's girl power, but instead of being told about it or having it thrust in our faces in obvious ways, we simply see it happen when our two heroines kick ass. Because that's the story being told--there's no need for embellishment and hand-waving.

So... Where am I now?

Cautiously optimistic. I'm still not sure if this show has an of-the-week storyline or what those stories would entail. I feel like they've written themselves into a bit of a corner as far as the logic thing, at least where die hard Terminator fans are concerned. And I'd love to see them get away from having a Terminator in every episode, or really quick the Terminators are going to feel like the vampires in Buffy.

But I'll continue watching because in two episodes, Josh Friedman was able to do what Bionic Woman, Journeyman and others couldn't do for me this season: make me care about what happens to the characters.

See you next week.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Wait and see if you want to live


I'm trying to withold my judgment on The Sarah Connor Chronicles until after tonight's episode, because I don't think we've yet seen what a typical episode will look like, but...

Color me impressed, Josh Friedman.

Sometimes I can be a logic Nazi (not that my scripts reflect that), but every time I snorted at something I found unbelievable, the show had an answer to what bumped me within a scene or two. Quick example: Sarah Connor hiding behind a simple La-Z-Boy type chair and it somehow shields her from a Terminator's gunfire. A pretty typical staple of action movies that's never really believable. So I scoffed, but accepted it anyway. Whatever, it's a convention. Then a scene later, there was a throwaway expository line from a cop noting that the chair was lined with Kevlar. Nice. I appreciate this kind of attention to detail.

And every aspect of the episode reflected this. It was fast-paced and action-packed--in a lot of ways, T2 with Summer Glau filling in for Arnold (bet that's never happened before)--but still left room for a few character moments and interesting hints at what's to come. In short, it was intelligent without feeling intelligent or slowing anything down. Which leads me back to: color me impressed, Josh Friedman.

Especially for a guy who was cursed by The Whedon recently. That's tough to bounce back from. :)

Suffice it to say, I'll definitely be watching tonight. I can only hope that supporting the few scripted shows that still have new episodes (as opposed to reality) is a good thing to do during this strike.

And stay tuned... After watching last night's episode, I'm inclined to write a little something about the timeline of the Terminator series, so I hope that will be appearing soon...here or elsewhere.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

It's not TV, it's...On Demand (1)

How is it that I've apparently had On Demand for months and just realized it? Lack of new TV will teach you these kinds of things.

It also allows you to do things like watch entire seasons of shows that you like but happened to miss, such as Weeds, or check out things you never got around to watching, like Rome and Flight of the Conchords.

Which brings me to my spoilerific review of Weeds season 3, since Jul and I started watching it last Friday and burned through the entire season over the weekend. Yay.


I like Weeds quite a bit, but I have to say that I definitely think it's going downhill. The first season had a hilarious storyline with characters that were very humorous, but still felt real. You could relate to them. You understood them. You knew them or someone like them.

Amazon's editorial review for season 1 has a quote that I think sums it up pretty nicely: "While Desperate Housewives yearned to be a suburban satire with bite, Weeds was the real deal, skewering upper-middle class mores with a sharp eye, a keen wit, and a mostly forgiving heart."

It's that last part that seems most important to me. I absolutely want to laugh at these characters when they do stupid things, and they should definitely face punishment for their bad behavior, but I also want to love them and feel that the creators love them. Getting a comeuppance is one thing; setting fire to someone when they're down and laughing at it is another.

Season 1 managed to do this beautifully, and season 2 was able to stay on track most of the way through, though I did feel like the show was written into a bit of a corner by the second season finale, regardless of how fun and surprising it was. Characters were also starting to feel a bit like caricatures, but not enough to really bother me. Overall the season was better than most shows on television--still funny, still inventive, and always watchable.

Season 3 veered more sharply off course for me. While filled with fun moments, great dialogue and a still interesting story that absolutely did pay off in a way that was satisfying, the journey there didn't quite live up to previous seasons. And much more so than in years past, our friends from Agrestic acted in ways that seemed completely out of character (Nancy with the tattoo, Nancy with Sullivan, Nancy with...you get the point), had storylines that didn't really go anywhere (um, Andy in the military? Shane in church-y summer school?), or did things merely to serve a joke.

(I say joke instead of comedy because I think you can almost always find character-based comedy in a particular moment, but when you're serving a joke, oftentimes you come up with a funny idea and try to make your character fit it rather than the other way around. Working with comedy writers like I do, I've seen this happen and heard them talk about it a decent amount. The general rule, they've said, is that a good joke wins out over a logic bump or someone doing something out of character. Basically, always go for the funny; the rest of the stuff will sort itself out. This isn't necessarily the wrong way to do things, it's just not a way that I like.)

To illustrate the decline: At one point during an episode, Jul and I paused it to reflect on what a sitcom the show had become. Instead of having one storyline played solely for jokes, all of them seemed like they were trying to out-ridiculous each other to get bigger laughs. Another time, we paused and commented that the show had become entirely about burps and farts, they were being featured so prominently.

And the continued degradation that Celia's character goes through almost every episode became sickening after a while. I know that she's a bitch and has done some truly bad things, but in three seasons she's...

1) had cancer and lost her breasts,
2) had her husband and daughter divorce her and continually spew hate at her,
3) had her lover, Doug, while still inside her break down crying after having sex and lament the fact that his wife left him,
4) been treated like a joke by the town council of which she was a member and
5) watched as her new lover, Sullivan, cheated on her with Nancy.

Enough. Please.

The other side of this is: why has she shown practically zero character growth? After all of that trauma, I have a hard time believing she would still act as horribly as she does, especially when she has to care for ex-hubby Dean when he becomes debilitated.

When she finally asked to be a part of Nancy's drug crew near the end of the season, I finally started to feel good about her character arc. Totally makes sense for her, wanting to be one of the cool kids. She even got to bond with Heylia in a way that felt real. And then how she rats them out in the end...perfect. Why wasn't there more of this Celia?

But all of these problems are also kind of why I think the season finale was wonderful and necessary and gives me hope for the future.

To put it simply: It was time to burn the whole thing down and get a fresh start.

Until I'm given evidence to the contrary, I'm just going to assume that this was the plan for the show all along and this season exists as a reason why the finale was necessary. I still think there might have been better ways to get us to that point, ways that wouldn't make me start to hate certain characters and feel bored with others, but at least this way I'm hopeful for what Jenji and crew have planned for the future.

There's still a great show here. I want it back.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Oh, look, another series of articles about the strike...and food

:)

Monday, January 7, 2008

And in amusing news...

Queen Elizabeth Adores the Wii.

A Letter of Thanks


Dear AMPTP,

The holiday season is still in our rearview mirrors, and this year I received a lot of fantastic gifts from people I love.

But it just occurred to me that what you're giving me now is the best gift of all: time.

Your stubborn refusal to get back to the bargaining table to try to salvage this (and possibly the next) TV season has freed up my evenings from all the new episodes I would normally be watching right now. And while I'm sad to see my favorite shows go, and hope they'll be back soon, I thought I'd let you know some of the great things your gift has already allowed me to do without feeling guilty about the TV I'm missing.

(In case I forget to say it later... Thanks!!!)

Here's just a sample of what I'm doing now that I'm not beholden to new episodes:

1) planning my wedding--I know, I know, it doesn't seem that important, but it needs to be done.
2) taking a UCLA Extension course in TV drama writing--no new TV? I'll have to make my own...maybe even literally!
3) throwing parties.
4) being a productive member of my new writer's group--I already gave notes on everyone's outlines! Over a holiday break! Without even reading anything! (that last one may or may not be a lie)
5) working longer hours and getting overtime! 3am Fridays, yay!
6) finally reading and critiquing the work of friends (I'm looking at you, M, and you, Matt, and (even more so) you, Furey)--like the Mad Men spec I read today, which to my mind was more engaging than most of the produced episodes in the first season.
7) starting to read the bajillion books I got for Christmas--bajillion is just an estimate.
8) meeting cool professional writers and realizing they're very much like me, yet still feeling intimidated by them.
9) going out with friends more--though we want to spend less, so I'll have to think about this one.
10) seeing more movies--watched Juno over the holiday and fell in love with both it and the soundtrack; they're like cute, snarky love letters (which, by the way, are the best kind...and when the money thing comes into play, there's always sneaking in :)
11) boycotting reality TV--except for American Gladiators because, come on, it's frigging American Gladiators and it already owns your soul and besides, it's being hosted by The Hulkster.
12) replying to people's emails--if I haven't gotten to you, I will...eventually.
13) blogging--just because it's allowed me to do it doesn't mean I've been doing it.
14) scheming creative ways to exploit "new media."
15) playing Wii and DS games.
16) picketing struck studios and productions!--see you at the Globes.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Disappearing Posts and Hate

When you spend a decent amount of time writing something and make sure to save it so that you can edit and post it later, you expect it to be there (FYI, the "you" the previous sentence is "me," not "you." This makes little sense because I'm tired.)

There better be a saved post waiting for me when I get to work on Monday or there will be hell to pay. Which begs the question: How does one pay hell?

Discuss while I sleep.