Tuesday, November 28, 2006

It's the Cheese!

I'm awake. I've been sleeping in 4-hour cycles every 8-hours since I arrived, so I might be a wee bit cranky. I apologize in advance. So far, I've eaten at a pub -- with teenagers, hmm, didn't realize the drinking age here was 16 -- walked around this little village outside of Reading (where I'm staying), eaten fish and chips, had a nice long chat with a bartender about why pudding isn't a pastry, and almost caused a car accident by screaming when my friend turned into what I thought was oncoming traffic, er, forgot about the whole left-side driving business (did I mention I haven't been sleeping very well?). Since I'm from SoCal, I've been wearing three layers at all times, sleeping with two hot water bottles, wool socks, a fleece pullover on top of my fleece pajamas, and wearing gloves everywhere but to dinner. Oh, yeah, and drinking lots and lots of tea.

Tomorrow I'm going into another small village to get some writing done, then, will be following up on a rumor about some farm-fresh cheese. Since the dollar is at a 20-month low, I'm not spending too much just yet. I'm saving up for my trip to London this weekend, and Paris next week.

The village I'm staying in reminds me of the town I grew up in -- lots of rain, fresh bread, and all the beef you can shake a stick at. :-) My friend's baby is 22-months old and has a British accent that is so darn cute, I keep stealing kisses and begging him for "cuddles." Still haven't mastered the money (well, that's true in the US, so I don't feel too bad), but I have to admit I can't understand everything folks are saying to me. Where I'm staying the accent is relatively mild, but the rhythm sounds like a scratched CD to me. Funny how it can be easier to communicate with someone in a completely foreign language than another dialect of your native one, huh? I gotta find a way to incorporate that into my screenplay....

OK, I'm off to bed. Gotta start brushing up on my tourist French for the public humiliation next week. Anybody got any suggestions for villages in France I can visit on my way to/from London -Paris? I'm determined to eat French cheese and bread in France if it costs me $150. :-)

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Happy Belated Anniversary!

Last week marked my one year anniversary blogging. Thank you to everyone who visits on a regular basis, and to everyone who posts comments (it's better than getting snail mail!).

I've really enjoyed this experience and hope to find more and better topics to post about in the upcoming year.

I'm off to Europe and San Francisco for the next few weeks, trying to clear my head so I can finish some things up in time for TV season. If I can master the whole Internet cafe thing, I'll post about what I'm up to.

TV shows I'm following:

HEROES -- Against my will I enjoyed this week's show. My resistance is entirely related to the plot hinging on the cheerleader, when there are other, much more intriguing story lines. And what's up with the short chick's mutation being the power of persuasion? I mean, honestly, I get it's some kind of mind control, but the way it was played out, she just seemed really really convincing (like Bill Clinton with a pixie cut). Let's hope the Hottie Brothers get it together soon.

BSG -- Loved last week's show, but it felt like it was missing a subplot, and I'm not sure I believe Adama would believe he was personally responsible for provoking the Cylons. Anyway, hope they give Tahmoh some screen time in this week's boxing episode. :-)

Grey's -- I'm still watching, but not as avidly as last season. I guess I'm hoping they start taking the medicine seriously again. I always enjoyed the personal drama, but felt like it was made more realistic by the grounding in the medicine. Tough balance, but I'm hanging in there hoping the show finds it again.

Ugly Betty -- Needs to get funny again. Telenovelas always have a melodramatic story point in the middle of the season, but I feel like the strength of this show really is in the fish-out-of-water comedy of Betty in the magazine world, now that they seemed determined to make her the Magic Chicana who sees things clearly and can solve any problem, I'm getting nervous.

Dexter -- Who did not already guess that the sister's boyfriend was the Ice Truck Killer??? The show is still very good, and I love that they took his character to the next level, and hope that the flashbacks into his life reveal some good shit. Can't wait for the rest of the episodes.

DAYBREAK -- So, I dug last week's show. Was really excited about Taye Diggs, happy he found something that will position him with a different audience (males 18-25, as opposed to the over-25 females his last show targeted), and am looking forward to tonight's epi. This will really determine for me if the show's premise has enough room to allow for a full season (let alone multiple seasons).

THE UNIT -- I watch this show every week even though the dialogue is sometimes uneven (I imagine that's what happens when Shawn Ryan and David Mamet pass scripts back and forth).

I'm taping everything while I travel and when I return, plan to throw up the blackout curtains and burn my retinas out catching up.

What are you guys watching?

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Digging You Taye Diggs

I'm digging DAYBREAK. I was worried that it would be terrible, that it would take the premise and mangle it, or worse, be a ham-fisted attempt at reimagining the concept.

Thank goodness I was wrong!! I'm excited about next week. I'm a little worried that my head won't be able to hang on to all of the alternate reality details, I'm loving that Hopper's body reflects the events as if they happened in linear time, and hopefully that they will keep the production values as high as they were tonight. ABC is doing a great job with this big act-outs. I barely had time to pop some corn for the second hour of the premiere and I wanted to make sure I didn't miss a minute. Pretty unusual for me since I have a dvr, but I didn't want to miss the "flow" of the story. I'm going to roll it back now and watch the bottom half of the first half hour -- I wasn't paying attention because I was skeptical!

Let's hope Deja Vu is as good, but in a totally different way. Coincidentally it's a Bruckheimer film whose film deal is at Disney which is also ABC... or is it? Hmm...

Dig Deep

I have a manager friend who I've been recieving notes from over the last few years. He's read pretty much everything I've written so far, has always been supportive and insightful and he gives me usable, on-point notes. We were talking last night about the state of the business, how difficult it can be to get things done, and what the world of writing assignments looks like right now.

Writing assignments, for those who aren't familiar with the term, are when studios or financiers look to replace the writer of a project they own. Sometimes a writer is replaced because their deal is complete (I could do a post on writer deals if anyone is interested), sometimes a writer is fired from a movie with steps remaining in their deal, sometimes the idea was birthed internally at a staff meeting, sometimes it is based on a pre-existing property (i.e. book, movie, video game, etc.). The key here is that you are going to get paid to do the "assignment." When an assignment becomes available it is referred to as "open." Thus, open writing, open directing, is how jobs are often referred to, especially by agents, managers and execs, as in, "What do you have open in comedy?"

As studios move away from development and studio slates carry more and more films financed with outside money, the open assignment pool shrinks. This sucks for new writers, because after your first big spec, you want to make some of that assignment loot -- it's oh-so-sweet. The moral of my story: study your craft and always remain open to independent filmmaking. Making good movies is the only thing that matters.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Why Management?

Finally, by popular demand Part 1 of the Managers post!

This post covers much of the same ground as John Roger’s entertaining post about the different roles his manager and agent play in his career.

As I mentioned before in the agents post, the agency world is about making deals. Projects are talked about like trading cards, and agents spend the majority of their working day, supporting and advancing the agency’s agenda. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and I’m in no way disparaging the work of agents in the process of getting movies made.

For a manager, it is about making careers. Typically management agencies are also production companies. This arose out of the transitioning of several agents out of the agency world in the early 90’s as those agencies became more and more deal driven. I was just a wee little hottie (not yet a full-on Diva) back then, but over the course of about 5 years a slew of agents were forced out, jumped out, or otherwise ended up at these start-up management production companies. They scooped up actors, directors and soon-to-be hot young writers left and right and then commenced to “build” each one of these “talents” (and I mean those quote marks) into “brands.”

Managers are typically looking for clients who have raw talent, dramatic ideas, good work habits, and fast turnaround. This isn’t very different criteria than what an agent is looking for, managers are (usually) just willing to work with folks in earlier stages of their careers, and will spend time on less developed ideas. The biggest difference between a manager and an agent, is that a manager will take you around town to meet with executives, producers and directors when there isn’t really a job at stake.

Having a manager is increasingly important in Hollywood today because of the fragmentation taking place in the business. As has been pointed out in a number of places, the industry is moving towards a more "entrepreneurial" model of filmmaking. In my opinion, this move from the patronage system of the early movie studio model, to the free market financing that's starting to take place is a sort of balkanization, if you will, pitting artists against one another for the resources to make films.

All that to say, management can act like your own production company, providing in-house development, strategic planning and production capabilities. For most folks who want a career that lasts longer than 10 years, this is vitally important.


OK, so, I hope I didn't screw with anybody's day by labeling all these posts without a warning. If so, *smack*! That's me tossing you a kiss.

I have nothing to say for myself. Borat is number one at the box office, comedies rule, and for a drama writer an ill-wind is blowing....

I'm sharpening up the pages on the pilot for the next few days. The drama feature spec I've been working on has been writing itself for the past week in odd bits and snatches, so I'm going to give it another week before I find out if I'm just nuts or if the pages are actually working as well as I think they are.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Groundhog Day All Over Again

I keep seeing previews for this new ABC show DAYBREAK. Am I completely trapped in my childhood or is this GROUNDHOG DAY all over again? I don't remember the exact time that Bill Murray's character woke up at, but it was suspiciously close to the time they keep showing in that preview. I just don't understand how that can be taken seriously by anyone old enough to have enjoyed the original. Same thing with the new Denzel Washington movie DEJA VU. Isn't that 7 DAYS (which was TIME COP)?

I'm still going to see both of them, of course. I love science fiction premises and let me tell you, I'll watch every cyborg movie out there and then some. I guess I'm just wary and hoping that they each find a new take on the idea of revisiting the past, that the stories and characters tread some new emotional territory and that they are just plain good. I'm tired of watching sci fi premises created without respect for what makes sci fi so great -- it's ability to imagine a brave new world and explore the good and evil in it.

A friend of mine from high school recently contacted me. I went to a performing arts highschool and was a nut (let's not talk about the ballet shoes I insisted on wearing nearly every day my freshman year, or why I decided leotards, mini-skirts and a headwrap with hoop earrings were appropriate attire). Anyway, we were talking about The Six Million Dollar Man and how much we loved the show. He had a car accident a few years ago that was pretty terrible. Being an optimist, he, of course, mainly remembers how the equipment used to piece him together was straight out of that show. I guess that's what makes me such a geek. I do think the job of an artist is to imagine the future.

In other news, I had coffee with a senior producer on a current TV show. He gave me some great pointers on what to do this time around when I hire an agent (I was repped a couple of years ago, but didn't get staffed, so I moved to the Bay Area...), what types of pitfalls to avoid in my spec writing, and offered to read my current spec (as opposed to the pilot spec) when I've finished them. The pilot spec I'll have to find someone else to read because it turns out he is writing something in the same arena. Oh, well, I did pitch myself for a staff job if his script goes to pilot in January..... :-)

****** BREAKING NEWS ********

They just KILLED my favorite character on LOST. WTF??!!! i'M SOOOO DEPRESSED NOW.

Ugh, OK, I'm going to drown my sorrows in DEXTER, luckily I haven't watched last Sunday's episode yet.