Friday, December 21, 2007

Christmas is coming!

And we're getting the hell out of Dodge!

(Or Seattle, rather)

This blog will take a temporary holiday as I stuff my face some more.

Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

On a personal note...

It’s the holidays so once again its time for…

Stuffing your face.

With all manner of unhealthy things…like booze, cheese, nuts, cookies, brownies, booze, eggnog, cake, pie, booze, turkey, ham, booze, cranberries, booze and more booze.

So here’s the thing…

This August I committed myself to working out on a more regular basis and started eating not just healthy but to “maximize my performance”. It was a little intense, actually, going from one day a week max to six days a week, cardio & weights. I wanted to get in shape and lose some weight. I ran. I did the elliptical trainer. I pumped iron. I started talking with an Austrian accent (okay, not really).

And I did get in shape. In fact, I even ran a mile in under 8 minutes, which for me, was pretty damn impressive seeing as how back in August it was tough just to finish running a mile at all.

So I was in shape. But my weight stayed exactly the same.

Okay, I lost, like six pounds. Finally, after over three months or so…

Six pounds.

Most days in September and October I got on the scale, saw that I was the exact same weight as the month before, and exclaimed “what the f--!”

(I still say that now.)

This holiday season my workout schedule has suffered. I’m lucky if I go jogging just one day a week. I’ve also been eating like crazy. Working in an office you get access to all sorts of free lunch, cookies, candy, brownies, etc. And the holidays bring out the baker in everyone. There are devilishly good cookies sitting not two feet from me right now.

But here’s the fun part…

My weight is exactly the same as it was two months ago when I was working out furiously and paying attention to my eating habits.

The conclusion is that it doesn’t matter hard I try. My body wants to be this weight. It will thwart all my best efforts. Granted, I know I should workout to remain healthy, and will continue to do so, but will no longer hope for a slimmer, shapelier me.

So I might as well at least enjoy whatever food I want whenever I want. Like cheese. I love cheese. I know its just flavored fat, but still…I’m salivating thinking about it right now.

Cheese and wine. Or beer.

This holiday season I’m going to eat and drink and be merry.

Here’s to stuffing your face!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Real Theater, Real Fast

I’ve been invited to participate in the upcoming 14/48 Festival in January as a “virgin writer”.

I’m totally pumped.

Not for the festival, just because someone is calling me a “virgin” again.

CUE Madonna song…

Okay, not really. I’m actually totally jazzed about doing this festival. Slightly honored, and raring to go like a racecar before the green light. But I gotta admit to being slightly anxious. In a good way.

I mean, I’ve written a screenplay in 21 days, right, so how hard could it be to write a ten minute play overnight? Or two?

For those who don’t know, the 14/48 Festival is “the world’s quickest theater festival”! There will be 14 plays conceived, written, rehearsed, scored, designed and performed in 48 hours.

See, how it works is they give all the playwrights a theme to write on, as well as a cast size, at 9 pm on Thursday night and then we go write our plays by 8 am the next morning. We hand it off to the director and actors to rehearse. Then they perform it that Friday night.

We don't get to bask in our glory too long, though, because then we get a new theme and do the whole thing all over again for Saturday night.

If you’ve never experienced a 24 hour play festival, either as an audience member or as a participant, then you just haven’t lived yet. Up until now I’ve only enjoyed them as an audience member--except last year when I volunteered to usher the 14/48 festival in the summer. (Which, I gotta say, everybody there totally rocked, was really nice, professional, and just a fun bunch of people. Which is another reason I’m excited about being part of this festival—I have this thing of wanting to work with fun, nice people. Don’t know what that is about…how weird, am I, right?)

For more info, check out their website.

You should totally mark your calendars. See the shows. Or better yet. Volunteer to help out. They always need ushers and set builders and what have you. C'mon, it'll be fun.

And now back to your regularly scheduled Monday.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

A Thousand Words

Pictures do so much more than words.

While I’ll always support “le mot juste”, I do love a good visual.

There’s that old maxim, “Show, don’t tell” and that’s tied into the same idea. Telling us the main character is tired is not as effective as describing red eyes with bags under them, ruffled hair, pallid skin and a body moving slowly, as if about to fall asleep.

Also visual gags are more funny sometimes than wordy gags.

Shorter is better.

This is actually very important in plays, and even more important in screenplays. Even though plays do have more words and dialogue, so much can and should be conveyed through stage pictures and the gestures of the actors. Also, audiences receive a lot of information via the set, costumes and lighting design. For instance, in Beckett’s Happy Days, we have a woman buried in a pile up to her waist and chatting merrily as can be with her husband, sitting in a chair nearby. Not much more needs to be said there to add to that picture, even though Beckett continues to pile on more and more meaning (no pun intended…okay a little…).

I’m learning this lesson as I work on the office Holiday Play. As some know, I work in a major non-profit with a lot of smart people. MDs. PhD.s. Scientists. Doctors. All kinds of intelligence in the room, usually. Smart people are not necessarily good at writing jokes. Also, references to science articles and organizations are not necessarily the stuff of comedy.

So there are some challenges there.

Basically I’d really like to insert some fart jokes. Or some blue humor. Anything.

But I can’t.

I work around it by inserting jokes with gags that set up the punchline delivered in the form of a picture (projected via PowerPoint). Our show is modeled after The Daily Show and they do this quite effectively. I won’t go into the tedious details of analyzing why it’s funny, but needless to say we’re able to cut a joke down from a paragraph to one line because the picture tells the whole story.

Something to remember when writing your scripts. If I can show this in some visual way, how do I do that? How can I cut the words down?


Now, if you’ll excuse me, I only have till tomorrow to make some props…like a fake ransom note and some sock puppets.

Monday, December 10, 2007

AMPTP fights back--take that writers!

Finally, a producer from the AMPTP is explaining things!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Thinking about writing

It is said that thinking about writing is not writing. Only writing is writing.

And that’s true.

But thinking is important. Too many writers out there don’t think first before they type something up. Most people these days are so quick to say something that they never stop to ask themselves if they have something to say.

Only writing is writing. And that’s why it’s important to write something every day. It could be writing in your blog, writing a scene, a synopsis, a cover letter, a grant submission, a poem, a song, a dirty limerick, whatever…The point is exercising your creative muscles and finding different ways of communicating ideas through the written word.

I used to think that only sitting down and typing on a play or screenplay was really writing. Truth is, there are aspects of writing that you need to do in order to ensure that the writing goes well.

I like to call that…thinking.

Thinking is an important aspect of writing. Thinking can be outlining. Thinking can be visualizing the end product. Imagining scenes. Fleshing out what your characters look like (are they rough around the edges or polished?). Thinking about what the set should look like (an apartment? A subway platform? A park?) . Thinking could be simply asking the question, “Is this the kind of play I’d like to see on stage?” or “Has this been done before?”

My December will likely be my thinking phase. I have many projects bubbling and they need some time for me to jot down ideas and let my mind wander a little bit. Before I start writing.

And then the holidays will be upon us (as well as a trip back East to visit family and jaunt around NYC for a few days).

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Those wacky striking comedy writers

This is funny clip courtesy of

Of course, the unfunny part is how the strike is still going on...

Friday, November 30, 2007

This Machine Kills Fascists

A story could have many different outlets.

I read an essay that playwright Marsha Norman wrote, basically saying that if you can express a story to somebody and all that means in a telephone conversation, then you should just do that. Don’t write a play or screenplay. Just call somebody.

(I’m paraphrasing here.)

If the story warrants the amount of time and depth, and it must be expanded into something larger, then by all means, get to it. But not everything has to be an opus. Some of the best poems are only a few lines long, after all.

That’s why I wonder sometimes if I should just quit writing plays and screenplays and try to write folk songs.


Folk songs can brilliantly convey story and depth in the span of a few minutes. And people are more likely to give you three minutes of their time to listen to the melody of a folk song then they are to sit in a darkened room with you for two hours.

Maybe its just because this guitar I want to buy inspires me to write folk songs.

I don’t know.

But I’ll say this…I’m glad it’s Friday.

(By the way, that title was the words on Woody Gutrie's guitar...)

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Daddy Wants a New Axe for Xmas

I was at the guitar store the other day and I've been debating a purchase on a new guitar (deciding between a Takamine and a Martin). I'm actually pretty sure I want to get the Takamine, actually. It just feels right and sounds great.

It's not that I don't love my Yamaha, because I actually really dig the warm sound and tone, but I want something that is also acoustic/electric and is also just slightly in solid back and front and overall craftmanship.

But oddly enough, I watched that live video of Glen Hansard from their ONCE promo performance and his guitar is almost the SAME MODEL. Okay, his is older and pretty beat up--err, much loved...but the design so similar it's just plain eerie. Mine is a cutaway and I think that's the only difference in the look of it.

Here's a video of him telling the story of how he got the guitar.

Monday, November 26, 2007


And so the screenplay is done. Finished as of Saturday. Clocked in at 109 pages.
The title is back to T.Y.A. I don’t know…I just can’t crack this title thing. They’re so elusive.

The script isn’t quite perfect, but I wouldn’t be embarrassed to hand it to anyone to read. (And that’s saying a lot, actually, as I hardly let anyone read raw stuff. It’s just too painful for them and me.) There are many moments that seem fresh and original, especially some of the ones based on real incidents. I can honestly say, “I’ve never seen a movie like this before…”

So now what?

I’ll let it sit for a month or two, then get back to it. Chances are good another rewrite and/or polish will be in store. And that’s okay.

Meanwhile, I move on to my next project.

Thursday, November 22, 2007


Eat some turkey!

Or if you're a vegetarian...some tofurky!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

I'm so there!

This ain't yo mama's biopic...

I almost forgot!

Aside from eating Turkey, the other exciting thing I'll be doing this weekend is checking out the new movie based on the many lives of Bob Dylan, I'M NOT THERE, directed by Todd Haynes.

If you liked Julie Taymor's ACROSS THE UNIVERSE, then you'll probably dig this. Of course, if you're like my mom and you hate Bob Dylan's music and find his lyrics random , you may want to pass. Because the movie unravels like a great Dylan song, rich in metaphor but short on explanation. (But hey maybe you like watching a movie in confusion thinking, "wait, there's a black kid playing Dylan...?" Or "I can't tell what time period we're suppossed to be in..."

Read about it here.

Here's the trailer.

Almost Done

My 21 day journey began earlier this month and the time has really flown by. There was something I just read in this book by Vicki King: that whatever time you give yourself to write a screenplay is the time you will take. In other words if you say you’ll write something in 21 days you can do it. If you say you’ll write something in a year, then that’s how long it will take you. Neither time schedule is better. Some stories take a long time to put down on paper. Some don’t.

Edward Albee claims that he never rewrites. He sits down and a play emerges from him, like giving birth. He works it out in his head (which in itself is really just rewriting without pen and paper) and then starts typing.

As quoted from a recent NY Times article by Jesse Green:

One day he finds himself “knocked up” with a play that had been gestating unbeknownst. Then he merely “delivers” or transcribes it, pretty much intact.
“Literally?” I wondered.

“Creativity is magic,” he said, “don’t examine it too closely.”

Personally, I find it hard to believe.

I’m not saying it’s not true. It's just hard to imagine anyone being that good. The only other person I can think of who did that was Mozart. But Albee is one of the best playwrights in America working today (The Play About the Baby, Three Tall Women, The Goat, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?...I mean, c'mon...)so honestly I don’t really care how he says he does it. I’m just glad he does it. And I like the idea that there is a certain magic behind creativity (perhaps its this magic that so baffles those who don’t practice the “arts”, like say…producers).

But I don’t work that way and most writers I’ve talked to don’t. So that’s reassuring.

Here are a few changes that have been made to my script since the rough draft:

Title of “TYA” to “The Honeysuckle Tour” to “Honeysuckle Road” to “Making Time”.
(and yes, I still don’t think that title “pops” and says, “hey watch me!”)

What was 126 pages is now 108 (on the light side maybe?)

Not all of the rewrites were cuts—I’ve added several scenes, between Jack and Eric, between Courtney & Eric, etc.

Added scene of Jack falling asleep at the wheel—hence he doesn’t get to drive the van anymore…

Weak opening is now stronger active image (monologue from the protagonist is now a visual image showing his compulsive behavior).

New favorite lines:

Courtney: “Whatever. It’s not sexual harassment if you’re in the theatre.”

Jack: “People say we live in a male dominated world. I have yet to find the proof.”

Jack again: “If we wanted easy, we wouldn’t be show people.”

So what’s the plan now? I have done my major rewrites and now need to finish with some minor tweaks in the third act (pps 90-120). Then I have my “closing ceremonies”. And I take a break and eat some turkey.

A month or so from now I’ll read through the script and see what glaring ugliness there might be and do my best to beautify it.

I'm looking forward to going back to writing some plays. Or rewrite some plays. Theater is my first love. Screenplays are really just a diversion. Who else but a writer would procrastinate from writing by writing in some other medium? We are crazy.

Here’s this lovely quote from Albee about theatre:

“Theater should be a tough experience like anything else, but it also has the responsibility not to be boring.”

Well said.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Race to the finish

So at this point we're almost done. What are we at? Day 19? (Actually I'm a day or two behind, I think...So it's probably Day 17 or 18).

Almost the entire script has been rewritten in some way. I’d say only about 30% of the original "random draft" is still in intact at this point, which is probably pretty high, actually. There will be more rewriting as I tweak and polish certain scenes. I’m still not completely happy with my ending (seems too “Hollywood”), but until I get some better ideas, I’m just going to leave it be. It's not that it doesn't work, it just could work a lot better--it's not very surprising or fun and thus not completely satisfactory.

Tonight and tomorrow I will continue to polish. Time to cut, cut, cut. Change dialogue into something more smooth and quick. Or just make it funny. Find the pacing of the movie and get rid of anything that slows it down (even if I like it).

Monday, November 19, 2007

Weatherman have it sooooo easy here...

Little known factoid of the day...

The rom-com Adam Sandler pic 50 First Dates, written by Pacific Northwest scribe George Wing, was originally set in the Puget Sound area. It’s seems perfect for a character who wakes up with no memory and every day is the same day for her. Because in Seattle, this could work. Every day could be grey overcast with temperaturas around 50 degrees. Or maybe there’s some sunshine. But mostly its gray overcast.

I recently thought about writing a movie about Seattle with Seattle characters, but I can’t get past the gloominess and all I’ve got are depressing stories (with Chekhovian characters).

There’s a reason Adam Sandler moved the location from Seattle to Hawaii. For one, if you had the choice of shooting on location in Hawaii or Seattle, which place would you rather go to? Second, sunshine creates laughter much easier than rain. And third, no one wants to watch 90 minutes of grey. Especially for a pick me up feel-good movie.

Anyway, my rewriting is feeling a little slumped. I’ve pushed back the deadline slightly and will finish it on Saturday. I have some major work to do on the last 30 pages and then some tweaking. And then I’m calling it quits for awhile.

Check out this insightful video of the key moments and history of the WGA.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Consistency is Key

Last night I did extra work so I could take a day off tonight. Also, I’m going to see American Buffalo at Theater Schmeater and then seeing Dog Park again (its so funny!).

The rewrites on pages 60-75 went well, so I kept working up until about page 90. I made a few additions, cut a scene, and reworked two scenes into one. The script is finding a good pace and gathers momentum nicely. It’s safe to say that I’m pleased and feeling “dandy”.

Does it have a few holes or problems still? Oh, yeah. But I'm ignoring them right now the same way I ignore that my ears are too big for my face when I look in the mirror in the morning.

I must say, though, I’m having doubts about this whole “writing a script in 21 days” thing. Part of it is that I do believe a writer needs some distance and time to pause and reflect upon his/her pages. Often it’s this time away that allows you to see where the writing could be improved. This could be a day, a week, or a month. At then end of the 21 days, I am going to take a month or two off and then sit down and reread the entire script through. Then we’ll see how it stands.

I'm still in the “this is brilliant!” phase of writing. And let’s face it, initially you need an ego like Zeus hurling lightning bolts to muster the courage to put words on the page. There's not time to reflect about whether or not its’ good. But when you’re rewriting, this all-powerful feeling ain’t so helpful.

To be fair, some of it could be brilliant. I’ll give myself a little credit. But, not every single word. That just doesn’t happen. And part of rewriting is discovering the difference. Experience has taught me that months down the line, it becomes easier to look back and whittle away the crap.

But I do say this about my little experiment...It’s planted my butt in the chair and had me writing at a consistent time every day and/or night. Usually my schedule is erratic. I try to put in ten to fifteen hours a week writing (notice the "try"...means I don't have to if I don't feel like...). But lately I've had a schedule and I've kept to it. Sure, my workouts have suffered. Sure, I have no social life (never really had one, anyway). Sure, my golf swing has suffered. But I find now that when I sit down to write it doesn’t take as much time for the brain to “get back into it” and get the writing flowing again.

And its making me write in this blog every day which is itself a fun exercise in shaping my thoughts into coherent words.

So lesson here is write at the same time every day. Make it an appointment you keep with yourself. Even if its just for an hour or even ten minutes. You’ll find it gets easier the more ya do it.

Who was the writer who said, “no day without a line”? I think it was Homer. (No, not the Simpson.)

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Yeah, hi...Um...Did ya get the memo?

So we watched a little bit of the classic movie Office Space last night. Not only surprised to see that Gary Cole strikes a resemblance to our friend Malcolm, but also my job is feeling more and more like that movie...

If you haven't seen that movie (what, do you live in a cave?) then shame on you! Run down to the video store and rent it. Get some comedy.

But the rewriting went well last night. I must've hit my stride in pages 45-60. Some funny stuff. I think it might go downhill from there. Tonight might be rough.

Oh, check out this fun video (if you like The Daily Show, which I do...) which has the writers p.o.v. on the stike.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Stuck in the middle with you...

The rewrites of pages 30-45 went well last night.

I mean, relatively speaking to how poorly it went the night before.

But at page 30 my characters are starting to become more three-dimensional. They sound like actual real-life people talking for themselves, not just uttering dialogue I'm trying to cram through their lips. In fact, they even surprise me with some of their actions and words. That’s a good feeling. And knowing that its there in that section means it can be there in the first 30 pages, or elsewhere. Because all the pages need to have that kind of energy and freshness. But it takes a lot of hard work and time to get it there....

By the way, for those that haven't written a screenpaly before or are slightly confused on the different sections (or beats or sequences or whatever), here's an explanation of what should be happening in pages 30-45. See the first 30 pages propels the protaganist (the main hero) out of a comfort zone and sets him/her on their incredible journey. We have stasis and some intrusion and some big question that gets posed (What do you mean, ghost of my dead father king, you mean Claudius poisoned my father before he married my mother? Oh, villain, damned smiling villain!)

In my movie, my hero takes the job on the childrens theater tour and meets the leading lady. On page 30 is the beginning of Act II. There is a big event, which causes the protag to act and react and start his journey towards…whatever…In this case, its the beginning of his relationship with the leading lady. He's taking steps towards the final outcome. Taking risks he otherwise wouldn't have taken. In my script, he falls off a stage and breaks his arm, causing him to have to let others do stuff for him--this is a big deal for a stage manager who likes to be doing everything himself.

Now sometimes this big event comes earlier or later but usually its around page 30 (or within 30 minutes).

Hey kids! Here's a fun activity! Next time you're at the movies, bring your glow-in-the-dark digital watch. When that first huge event happens, check the time on your watch. What does it say? 27 minutes? 32 minutes. Wow! That's fun!

On another note, after I finish this 21 day experiment, it’s going to be pencils down for me (at least for screenplays). Most of the strike coverage (or lack of) and the misunderstandings about why the WGA is striking is really starting to piss me off.

I’m with my tribe in solidarity. Time to work on my plays instead for awhile till it all gets worked out. Hopefully soon.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Suckage Continues...

Rewriting is not fun. I had a crappy weekend of reworking sludge into different sludge.

Maybe I should just stop writing, put my pencils down, be on strike like all the other WGA members.

Here's some of the cast from Reno 911. I love their advice to "go see some plays".

Yes, that strike thing is going on. And if you’re not aware, the labor unions on Broadway are striking, too. Totally seperate issues, but really its the same old story. Guess what the producers are saying about them? Yep. They’re so bratty. They’re spoiled. They’re acting like children…Those greedy bastards want to be paid fairly. Who do they think they are?

But who’s really got the big houses and paychecks?

It ain’t the writers and it ain’t the stagehands.

It’s the producers. Mainly, the corporations. I’m not big on corporations, especially having worked for a few of the big ones.

Seriously, read this:

And if you don’t know what residuals are or why they’re important, read John’s blog.

So what can you do?

Don't buy any DVDs. Don't download any movies or TV from iTunes or anywhere else. Make a small contribution. Because the 10 or 20 bucks you're spending on that downloaded movie is taking money out of a writer's pocket.

And really if you're taking money from one writer, you're contributing to how all writers are getting screwed. That includes me.

Please don't take money out of my pocket.

Please. Thank you.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Watching the movie in my head

Today I read through my "random draft". Out loud. Nonstop.

Other than the fact that I'm not a good enough actor to read all the parts, some of it wasn't too bad. A lot of it sucked. But not all of it.

There is a movie there.

Some parts of the movie are downright fun. Some sweet. Some of it is really boring. What was once only in my head exists now on paper. I gotta say, that's pretty cool. I'm going to enjoy that accomplishhment, at least for the day.

But I gotta say, writing this draft so fast like that...a lot of it is really honest. There's a lot of me in the main character, which usually doesn't happen. I mean, when you're writing, most of the time you're writing about yourself, but this time I'm really focusing on an aspect of myself (especially the stage manager persona I created while on tour). And although there's a lot of fictional circumstances--okay, most of it is fiction--there are somethings that did happen, albeit not exactly the way it happens in the script.

For instance, I did fall off a stage into the orchestra pit and break my arm. Not for the love of a woman, but still...

So okay, now that I see what I got. Time to rewrite. I'll go get my shovel and some scissors...

To dig through the crap and cut stuff out...

Friday, November 9, 2007

And on the 7th Day...

He rested.


And caught up on the latest news of the WGA strike at these wonderful links:

And here's a wonderful video presentation of why they're striking (for all of you who are feeling pissed off that you won't be able to see any new Daily Show or Scrubs anytime soon...)

Thursday, November 8, 2007

And I'm spent...!

Holy crap. I finished the draft and I’m exhausted. Last night was the final dash and its clocked in at 126 pages. The ending is rushed, but at least there is an ending.

At several points during the writing I had to fight back the negative blocks of thought, such as “Boy, this really sucks…”

Today I rest. Tomorrow I read the suckage. Then Saturday I rewrite the sucking into something wonderful.

Until then I’ll read the trades about the ongoing strike.

Oh, I found this from John August’s website. This comes from Josh’s blog and it sums up the WGA strike quite nicely.

AMPTP: Wow, Ms. Prostitute. That was some great sex we just had.
PROSTITUTE: Thanks, AMPTP John. That'll be three hundred dollars.
AMPTP: You're kidding. I'm not paying you.
AMPTP: I paid you three hundred dollars for sex last week. I consider this promotional.

For more info on the strike and the writers go to

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The Blank Stare

Last night I felt like banging my head on the desk.

I just couldn’t get started. I stared at the screen, as if anticipation for the characters to tell me what it is they were suppossed to do. I read over my pages from the day before. "Talk to me!" I thought. "Keep it going..." I had my outline. I knew what needed to happen. But still, I stared and stared, the light of the screen drying out my eyeballs.

But then something happened.

I said, “Ah, screw it” and just started writing something…anything…I told myself I needed to get some pages and it didn’t matter if the pages get cut later or not. Who cares if its good? Just get it down.

So I did.

And after about five pages of crap, I started to get into it and plunged into scenes I knew I had to write (scenes I was probably avoiding).

So the lesson here is sometimes, you just have to keep going, whether you feel like it or not. Because that's what writers do. They write.

By the way...didn't I say earlier how somewhere near p. 90 the other psychological hurdle comes into play? Well, there it is...or there it went, actually.

(Page count is now 110 —we are WAY overwriting…I figure when I go back to rewrite I will cut about thirty to forty pages, at least.)

Tonight I finish the draft. Whoohoooo!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The Journey is the destination

Writing is a process.

This is an obvious statement when you’re in the middle of the first draft.

Par for the course (I just love golf clichés), I am overwriting and am now at page 94. But that’s okay because I’m discovering so much about my characters. Of the four main characters, all but one are taking on a life of their own. That’s not bad for now and I know I can go back and develop all the characters further. The beautiful thing is that they are starting to surprise me, and new ideas are popping up that hadn’t occurred to me and that’s going to make the script more lively (I hope).

It’s ironic that I’m essentially writing another road movie, on the heels of Tangled Up in Bob. It’s like I got a do-over on that sub-genre. Which is good, because I’ve already written up cliché situations already in that other script—so I won’t rely on the standard “car breaking down” or “pulled over by cops” etc. Instead, the story is about the actors and the show they’re doing, and the different venues they find themselves in. As well as the main love story.

I think I’m just having more fun with this one, too. And that’s always nice.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Still going...

While everyone else goes on STRIKE!

I keep working.

As of yesterday I now have 76 pages.

I’m a little ahead of myself as I'm only supposed to have 60 (actually, I just have a tendency to overwrite since all the same events are there in the rough outline, just on the wrong pages…well, that’s my story I’m sticking to it!).

Here's one of my favorite lines so far:

“I love vomit. Especially as a fashion choice.”

Okay, it’s not “You had me at hello…” but still…little remarks like that make me smile.

But considering it’s the first draft, it'll probably be cut or rewritten anyway.

I could take a break tonight, but I have another 15 pages to write…

Then it’s the home stretch.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

A few ways to procrastinate

Yesterday went well (we’re at 50 pages in the rough draft). Today is the next 15 pages (pps 45-60). After today I’ll have completed half the draft! Whoohoo!

This progress is being made despite my tendency for distraction…

When you are blocked, you may find these activities of procrastination helpful:

Checking email.

Writing emails to people you haven’t heard from in months.

Reading the online news.

Reading a script that is similar to yours.

Watching the first ten minutes of a movie in the genre you’re writing (doesn’t even have to be a good movie—I watched Adam Sandler’s 50 First Dates).

Scouring through your iTunes to find songs that you think might be on the soundtrack of the movie you’re writing.

Searching on the internet for the chords & lyrics of those songs to play them on the guitar

Google-ing yourself.

Writing in your blog.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Long Day's Journey...

So last night’s opening of DOG PARK went swimmingly! Yeah!

But now that I didn’t do any pages last night I have to do some make up today…so I have twenty pages plus another fifteen…so this entry will be short so I can get back to work…

Have a good weekend!

Friday, November 2, 2007


Getting started is one of the most difficult tasks of writing.

It’s this huge psychological wall you have to climb over. Once you get started you can say to yourself, “well, I’m in it now…gotta keep going...”. And you’re fine, until about page 90 or so when the other psychological block hits you of…”Oh my god, I’m almost finished with this draft…then what do I do?”

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Having a great idea for a movie or play is never enough. Ask some stranger on the street if he or she has an idea for a movie and they will most undoubtedly reply, “Well, let me tell you about it…”

But they don’t sit and write it down.

And let’s face it, sitting down to write 120 pages of a movie is a big commitment. It’s not just 120 pages. It's not just an idea. It’s a story and characters. It's a world. It's usually dealing with personal issues in some kind of public way. And it’s really hard to make it good…

Last night I began my first day on the 21 day journey to write a movie. The first assignment was to write 10 pages or for 2 hours, whichever comes first.

The goal was to just get as much down as possible as quickly as possible. The idea here is not to over think it or get blocked. I cheated a little and wrote too much, which I figure is not a bad thing…I got sixteen pages (which when cut down probably will be more like 5 anyway…) I discovered a few things about the story and characters I didn’t know. There’s a ton of stuff yet that’s still a complete mystery. But then if I already knew everything about the story, what would be the point of writing it?

Tonight I’m supposed to write another 20 pages thus completing the first act (the first 30 pages) of the rough draft (which this author is calling the “random draft”).


My play DOG PARK opens tonight (hence my doggy photo for today), so I may have to do two days work on Saturday to make up for my not doing any pages today. The Mamet Schmamet show isn’t until 11 pm and won’t be over till after 12:30 or so. I really don’t want to stay up till 2 am to get my work done. I’ll just do all the work on Saturday.

I’m just too darn excited about the show tonight. I’ve got some friends coming and I know its going to be good and funny… And I admit it…I like to see my work done well. It feels me with pride that my work can be done well and also that these actors and the director put so much work into it. And they did. And I’m soooooo grateful for that.

So happy opening to the cast & crew of Mamet Schmamet!


Thursday, November 1, 2007

Puttin' my hat on and gettin' to work!

Today is the Day

I'm going to put my writer hat on my head.

(Yes, Virginia, writers do exist!)

I’m ignoring the potential WGA strike by doing this, not that this matters much to me since I'm not yet a member of WGA...(sigh)...

(Yes, Virginia writers do write the movies and no, they don't get paid when you download the movie on your iPod.)

November has become National [blank] Writing Month.

It all began with the National Novel Writing Month. Then this included playwrights in the National Playwriting Month .

There’s even one for bloggers, can you believe it?

This means a bunch of workaholics are going to put some things on hold (like their lives) and write a novel/play/blog in one month. They will probably drink a lot of coffee and never sleep and their hands will cramp up typing. They may not even shower or shave. So try to avoid them in public. They may bite if you get too close.

Me. I’m charting a different path for myself.

I’m going to write a screenplay in 21 days.



Well, I saw this book that was titled How to Write a Move in 21 Daysby Vicki King. It intrigued me. Can it be done? How?

So I got the book.

As a “how to” book, and especially as a book on dramatic writing, it’s not that great. And trust me, I’ve read a lot of them, for my own personal study and for analyzing whether or not they’d be helpful textbooks for a class.

But it does have a schedule breakdown. As in…Day 1 you do this, then Day 2 you do this…etc. etc. It’s the challenge aspect of this idea that really excites me. I like the idea of having assigments and working under pressure. Sometimes as writers we really need that kick in the butt.

So today I start writing the movie—in fact, Day 1 is to write the first 10 pages. And then by November 22nd I will have a draft of my movie.

Until then, I’m going to be very cranky.

Granted, I’ve already got some of the hard work done. I’ve thought about the story and the characters and have written a short outline of my story. It’s still gestating and the story needs to be rewritten, fooled with, adjusted, etc. I learned a lot writing my last screenplay about how important it is to know what your story is, who it’s about, and where it should begin and end…before you write FADE IN. The writing of the scenes and dialogue is usually pretty easy for me once I get going. Of course, the rewriting of everything afterwards is where it gets difficult.

For instance, creating a logline can go through several revisions. Here’s the original:

“As a touring group of actors perform a children’s play across the nation, they embark on a journey from isolated individuals to forming their own version of a ragtag family truly unique to the theater.”

Okay, not bad. Not great either. I mean, what’s the story? Who is it really about?

I decided it’s really a love story—because everybody loves a love story. It’s a love story of a man and a woman, but it’s also another kind of love story—my love for theatre (good and bad as it is). The latter is hard to convey, but the first is quite easy.

So let me take another stab, this time naming my lead character.

“Eric takes a job as a Stage Manager for a children’s theater tour and falls for one of the lead actresses. Unfortunately, he doesn’t know how to win her heart while they travel on the road, forging new relationships and experience the different cities and towns of America.”

Better, but not quite there. Why does he take the job? What’s her name, for crying out loud and what does she want? And “forging new relationships” just sounds cliché, like something you’d find on a job resume.

So one more try.

“Out of job and running from a disastrous long-term relationship, fledgling film director Eric swears off love forever and flees New York by signing on as Stage Manager of a children’s theater tour. But he falls for Carey, the lead actress, already engaged to a successful dentist and planning to move to L.A. to do TV and film work. Can he win her heart while the show travels through the heartland from theater to small town schools before they return to the city?”

Now, that’s a little bit better. Still not quite there yet but you start to get the idea of what kind of movie this is, who the characters are, and what might be in store.

If I were to make a movie poster slogan, it might go something like this:

“All’s fair in love and children’s theater.”


“Love broke his heart, but his spirit might get mended on the road.”

Yuck. That sounds too sentimental or life-changing.

How about…

“Hell isn’t other people. It’s children’s theater.”

Actually, that last one is pretty catchy, but maybe too intellectual. I’ll keep working on it.

Stay tuned for updates on the progress!

Write on!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween

I would like to wear this mask for halloween but I don't think its sold in any stores.

Creepy, right?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Nobody here but me and my...masochistic compulsion...

I recently read a short essay which mentioned Dr. Edmund Bergler, who basically says that writers write because of “psychic masochism”. He also coined the phrase “writer’s block”. So, according to him, we're either all crazy or we're completely repressed.

Thanks, doc. You're a big help.

(Psst, that was sarcasm, by the way...)

Although, I do have to say...sometimes the act of writing can feel manic or masochistic. But I don't think that means that writers are crazy. Okay, some writers are crazy.

But some normal people, or maybe just the ones who ride the bus here, are crazy, too.

At any rate, for me, writing is usually compulsive.

For instance, although I told myself to take a break for the month of October, I sort of cheated. For one, you may have noticed a couple of blog entries. Okay, that’s not a big deal. No diatribes. Nothing of serious content, but still. I could’ve left it alone, right?

Also, during my break, I wrote two songs. One of them was a blues song for a co-worker who is leaving the department. The other is a song for Lisa (I write a song for her every year for her birthday—I’m a little early this time around).

I’ve also started jamming out ideas for the Holiday Play. Yes, our department does its own sketches and whatnot—I’m now like the “creative consultant” on the project, which means I’m not quite head writer but not quite a peon, either.

And I have to write my Dramatists Guild report for the region for The Dramatist magazine. That’s due in…oh, a day…

For some people, writing is “fun”. I don’t know them or maybe I don’t want to hang out with them. Writing is not like flying a kite or going to Disneyland. It can be rewarding, joyous, and sometimes exciting, but it’s not “fun”. It’s like describing running a marathon as “fun”. Too much hard work and concentration goes into it to be “fun”.

Writing is hard work but it’s also a painful necessity. It’s an urgent need to express emotions, thoughts, and connect to another human being.

It’s hard to turn that off.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Mamet + Dogs = Funny

I was in a very good mood yesterday after sitting through the rehearsal of DOG PARK (which by the way debuts next Friday, Nov. 2nd, so go ahead and get your tickets now at brownpaper tickets. Okay, enough of the plug...).

The director has done a lot of lovely work and the three actors are just brilliant and @#king funny!

And that's all for now.

I have to go call my mom soon--it's her birthday! Happy Bday mom!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

What the… ?!?

It’s been cloudy and/or rainy for over two weeks.

Two days ago it hailed.

Today its 70 degrees and sunny.

But don’t worry.

Forecast for tomorrow

Is rain.

And then rain the next day, etc., etc…

Days like this just make me think that any sunny day in Seattle outta be a forced holiday. Businesses should close. Schools should shut down. Everyone should be forced to picnic in the park or go boating or hiking or have a cocktail on the front porch.


(By the way, any academics or Lit majors want to guess why this particular monkey photo?)

Friday, October 12, 2007


Terry, my friend (and former best man) is in this little show on Broadway and it opened last night!

Congratulations to him and to the cast!

You can read about it here.

Judging by the picture--that's him in the towel-- and seeing as he also did the show Take Me Out, I now have to ask him if it’s in his contract to be slightly naked for all his acting roles.

To see a picture of him taking his Broadway bow, go here…I got a little weepy with pride seeing it m’self.

You rock Terry!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Feelin' a lil' bit Irish today

The indie movie ONCE looks pretty inspiring...Made in Dublin, it's a musical about love and music, or is it music about love? Here's a clip of a live performance...

If you listen to this song while looking out the window at a rainy sky you will become a deep thinker.

Try it.

Actually, I really just wanted to see if I could put video on this blog.

I feel like after that accomplishment I should call it a day.

For the trailer of ONCE, go here.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Darkness Approaches

There is a new movie coming out called 30 Days of Night.

At first I thought it was about January in Seattle, but no, it’s about Vampires in Alaska. I guess there are worse places to live, especially if you’re not keen on those vicious blood-suckers.

I thought of this because this morning at 6:30 am I walked the dog in pitch black darkness. I started to remember last Spring when Lisa and I were looking at the calendar at when the sunrise would be back to 8:30 am or 7:30 am or even 7:00 am.

Hint: it’s a really, really long time.

After surviving the first winter in Seattle last year, I can now sympathize with those astronauts who orbited the moon, huddled in their little space capsule as they creeped over to the dark side, waiting to emerge to see the sun again and make contact with Houston.

Because it’s not that it rains so much here—in fact it doesn’t really “rain” at all here, which I’ll explain in a moment. It’s really the fact that it gets so dark in the winter. Going to work at 9 am in darkness and then leaving work at 5:00 pm in darkness really starts to get to you after doing it for weeks and weeks.

And during the day its mostly cloud cover, so it’s perpetually gray outside. All day long.

It’s a wonder so many people jump off the Aurora Bridge—look it up, its second in suicides only to the Golden Gate.

This is why I need to get one of those special sun lamps. Or take some “happy pills”.

As for the weather…

For those of you who don’t live in Seattle but would like to experience a typical day, please try this fun exercise.

Get a spray bottle.

Fill it with water.

Set the spray to “mist”.

Spray it above your head.


That’s what the weather is like today. It will be like that until December or so. Then it might snow. Then it will actually rain, the kind of rain that is recognizable as actual raindrops falling from the sky in force. Then it will go back to this mist. Then, sometime in May perhaps, we will see the sunshine again, peeking through the clouds.

On another note—I used to worry about my hair getting messy and looking all scruffy but not anymore. Now I just remember…I’m in Seattle. Everyone here has scraggly hair. Most men just tie it up in a scraggly pony tail and call it good. It matches their scraggly beards.

And I think to myself...somewhere in the world people actually care what they look like when they leave the house…

And there’s sunshine, even in the winter months.

I’d like to live in that place again some day.

Okay, so I know this blog has become a personal tirade and has steered off course from the original intent of musings on, well, the muse, so in the future I aim to stay away from the random diary entries about my mundane daily existence.

But the next few weeks I’m taking a break from all writing. It’s not that I’m blocked or giving up, just need a vacation to rest the mind. Also, I’m extremely busy at work and its sucking all my energy. On top of that, I’m organizing the Drama Guild Regional Meeting.

So I’ll see you in a few weeks.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Puttin' on THE RITZ

See that guy under the table (under Rosie Perez)?

That's my pal Terry (aka Best Man at my wedding) on the left, with his shirt off, of course, to show his manly arms.

His show THE RITZ opens offically on October 11th, but you can get tickets now for previews. That is, after you see my show LOVE & DEATH IN THE TIME OF CRAYOLA.

Love & Death Tonight!

If you're in NYC, go see my award-winning play LOVE & DEATH IN THE TIME OF CRAYOLA. It's in this tonight at 8 pm! I dare ya!

Or see it on Sunday at 2 pm!

C'mon, just do it...please...You'll like it! It's funny!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Totally Gross

It’s yucky rainy outside—not quite sprinkling, not quite raining, just a spitting water in your face kind of nastiness. And the clouds are doing what they do best in Seattle--block any and all sunlight. I looked at the forecast and it says we have six more months of rain…no, seriously.

Time to get out the B vitamins and Selenium and ask my doctor about anti-depressants.

Yet, in spite of the weather and the thoughts of impending darkness for months and months, I will remain positive.

I do, however, have to mention one thing…Seattle is not as clean as it would like to believe.

WARNING: The following anecdote is gross and its about poop so if poop is not your thing, just stop reading now…I mean it.

Last Monday—a week ago—I got off the bus and walked down the steps for the underpass by Mercer, to go under Aurora Avenue. On the steps was a pile of human feces. Yes, poop. It must’ve been there at least since the night before and was probably delivered by one of the many homeless people who sleep in the lawn masquerading as a park across the street. I walked on and thought nothing of it…

Until Friday of last week when I got off the bus, headed down the steps of the underpass and saw it again. If you’ve never seen a pile of four day old human poop, it’s a sight to behold.

And then I forgot about it…

Until today.

When I got off the bus.

And it was STILL THERE.

It’s starting to get black like charcoal and shriveling, but its still a pile of human poop.

And I face a slight dilemma here because I’m thinking to myself, “who do I call?” Who’s job is it to clean up the poop? It must be someone’s job, right? And surely, I’m not the only person who has been witness to the defecation. And yet, it’s still there.

This is obviously a sign that Seattle does not do enough cleaning of its streets and sidewalks.

It’s bad enough I clean up my dog’s poop. But I draw the line at human poop. Humans should know better. There are other places more suitable for pooping. The next time one of those unfortunate souls asks for money, I’m going to slip the smelly guy a dollar and say, “Look, here’s a buck if you don’t poop on the steps anymore. Find a bush, for God’s sake.”

Okay, and now I promise not to write about poop in this blog for at least a month.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Super Duper!

So here’s the scoop.

If you read Variety on a regular basis, or you’re a total comic book geek, you might already know this but Warner Brothers studios is putting together a movie version of Justice League of America. Based on the DC comics, this group of superfriends are made up of Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Aquaman, Flash and sometimes others like the Green Arrow. George Miller (director of Babe and Mad Max and most recently Happy Feet) has signed on to direct.

WB is on the fast track to make this movie because there are impending contracts about to run out—SAG and the WGA. What does that mean in movie business terms? It means there could be a whole lot of negotiations and a possible talent strike. When a talent strike happens, no movies get made. So all studios are ramping up projects in pre-production and pushing up production dates to get a whole lot of movies made and banked for the summer of 2009. They have to start making the movie before March to not be affected by the upcoming negotiations.

The JLA project is one of those movies.

Also, it seems that the two actors you’d think most likely to be in the movie, Christian Bale (Batman) and the other guy who played Superman in the movie, or even the guy who plays Superman on Smallville, are NOT signed on and will be unavailable for filming in February.

So a talent search is on and for some reason the casting call went out to Seattle. I got wind of it through a message board sight. The allure of the fact that it films in Sydney for three months, starting in February, made me send in my headshot just for the hell of it, knowing full well that I’m not really right for Superman or Batman, or any other superhero (barely young enough and definitely not in superhero shape). The casting director called me in anyway and I was glad to go because I have yet to audition for this person and want them to consider me for other projects.

They sent out four options of different sides to prepare. Now, the script for JLA has just been finished and is being kept under wraps. So the sides they gave me were for other movies. Not obscure movies. Very well known movies.

Good Will Hunting. Swingers. A Few Good Men.

Now, I really wanted to do the “You can’t handle the truth!” speech from A Few Good Men—I mean, it’s really fun to say—but I just couldn’t get Jack Nicholson out of my head, so opted for the Swingers scene. Besides, I’m more the Jon Favreau type anyway.

The casting office was located in Westlake, not too far from work. I decided to walk. Of course, by the time I walked over there, the drizzly cloudy day became a hot, sunny day and I was sweating up a storm by the time I arrived. I literally had to dry myself off in the bathroom. And of course, no one in Seattle ever has any thought to regulating room temperature so the offices were hot and humid and I just kept sweating. Eventually, I dried off before I walked into the room.

I met the two women who were running the auditions who were very full of energy (evidently they did the casting for Sleepless in Seattle, so they’ve been around awhile). I stood on my mark for the camera and told them my funny story. They laughed (a good sign). Then I did my audition. It went really well, actually. Mostly, I think any anxiety about it I had was dissipated by the fact that I was obviously not right for the part (I could tell by the listing that they want hot young 25 year old models who can barely form sentences). Afterwards they even commented on how well my transitions were from beat to beat.

I walked out of there feeling good and then walked down to the Seattle Rep to see a reading of a new play with Lisa.

Will I ever hear from the casting people again? We’ll see. Perhaps there will be a commercial or other film project in the future that is better suited for my talents.

Friday, September 21, 2007

A funny story from my past...

I have my audition today...(aren't you curious to know what it is for?) I have to come in with a funny story so this is the story I'm going to tell them...

This happened to me in college, my first or second year, and I had this house with a friend of mine which had a gas fireplace. At the time I was acting in a production of Romeo & Juliet and trying to grow a beard for the show. I was dating this girl for about two months. We had yet to have sex, yet, though…and I was planning this big night for us…I was going to cook her dinner, watch a romantic movie, and she would stay the night…My roommate was going to be gone that night and I got all dressed up. I put some laid back guitar music on and then she came over. I cooked chicken marsala and lit some candles and poured some wine. I had never actually lit a gas fireplace ever, in my life, but for some reason I thought tonight would be a good night to try. I said, "Hey, lets take our wine over by the fireplace."

So I turn on the gas and I try to light a match. It doesn’t light. So I try it again. And again. I just can’t get the stupid thing to light and this girl is kind of laughing at me…

And meanwhile the gas is going hisssssssssssss….

And then I finally light a match and reach my hand into the fireplace to light the fire.


A huge fireball explodes in my face. I freak out. The highest pitch scream I’ve ever made is coming out of my body and it frightens me almost as much as the fact that I think I'm on fire, my eyeballs are melting or that I'm going to be disfigured for life. My hands are patting myself down and I'm backing away. She screams. Then I catch my breathe, realizing that I'm not on fire. I can still see. It's okay. Until a searing burning sensation creeps onto my face. Like a really intense sunburn. I go look in the mirror and see my beard and eyebrows singed.

Then to make matters worse, she takes me not to the ER of the closest hospital but all the way across town, like a forty minute drive, because they have a special burn unit. Now I’m pissed for several reason 1) I'm obviously not getting laid tonight and 2) my face hurts more and more every passing minute and 3) it’s 8 o’clock at night and I’m pretty sure the burn unit probably deals with real emergencies, like people stuck in burning buildings or reconstructive surgery. So I really want to yell at her to go to the closest ER but I don’t because I’m afraid she’s going to not take me at all. It turns out I’m right. We go to their ER where they X-ray my lungs because they think I might’ve “swallowed some of the flame” and then after they tell me its not really that bad and to put this ointment on it.

We broke up about a week later. We never had sex. And I had to shave my beard.

But luckily my eyebrows did grow back. Who knew they were so resilient.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Save Me

“We could be heroes…just for one day…”
-- David Bowie

Have you ever wanted to be a superhero?

If so, which one?

Friday I will be auditioning for a superhero…

And no, it’s not to dress up as Spider-man at some birthday party.

More later…

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow...

“Do not put off till tomorrow what can be put off till day after tomorrow just as well.”

Mark Twain

For the past few entries I’ve been meaning to talk about…Procrastination.

But I’ve been putting it off…

It’s not like I haven’t been busy…My day job has acquired 30% more work because of some shifting around of personnel and it’s the crazy month of the year before the new budgets, blah blah blah…And I’m organizing this regional meeting for The Dramatists Guild of America, and I do actually want to spend time with my wife and my dog and have drinks with friends and see movies and plays and enjoy the sunshine, if and when it ever appears again…so it’s not about being lazy…it’s just about putting things off…really…

This is not about finding the time to write, which is difficult and could be the topic of another blog. Because sometimes you sit down to write and find yourself doing other things, like checking email and surfing the net (I like to call that “research”). In your fast-paced life, there are just too many things going on that eat up your time. Carving out time to write is difficult but can be done. I can bitch and moan about having to work 50 hours a week and have a family life, etc. but others have paved this road before me and been successful.

When it comes to writing, procrastination can kill. A project can be put off and putt off until the impulse to write, the desire to express something or tell a story just fizzles…

That’s one good reason I like the theatre—it gives you a hard deadline. At some point an audience is coming to the show and you have to be ready. Sometimes you are, but usually you need two more weeks. But opening night always looms over your head.

Before any production, though, you’ve got to write the play. And to do that, you also need a deadline. You need to set an “opening night” for yourself. That could mean setting a date for writing “Fade out” or actually setting up a reading yourself with actors to hear your finished script.

The key to battling procrastination is to create deadlines and stick to them by setting small goals, breaking things down into little chunks. To finish that play or screenplay, say to yourself, “I need five pages a week for twenty four weeks—that will be a 120 page screenplay. The deadline for that would be…” And put it on your calendar. Stay on track, even when you don’t feel like writing and especially when it seems you don’t have the time. You never have the time. No one ever does. That’s just life. So find the time. Take the big chunks and the little chunks and see what you can do with each. Sometimes I’ve done some great work when I’ve had to write a scene under the gun. You just have to think about what you want to accomplish and aim for that goal.

Writing happens word by word. We string words together and make sentences, then pages Simple, right. If you only write a one page scene don’t beat yourself up about it. You’ve done something.

A writer writes. So stop procrastinating.

Oh, and if you’re really looking for a challenge, the National Playwriting Month, inspired by the idea of National Novel Writing Month, which gets people to write a novel in one month.

Go here to check it out.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Everybody Poops...Eventually

"Writing is easy. All you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead."
- Gene Fowler

My mom used to always ask me if I was “regular”.

This is probably far more information than you’d care to know about me but it has to do with this whole thing people call “writer’s block”. Everybody knows to eat your fiber and bran and all that and that the signs of a healthy person can be seen in…well, in their poop. If you poop regular, you’re good. If not, usually something is…backed up.

What does your poop have to do with writer’s block?

Nothing. I just wanted to have a blog about poop.

Kidding. A little.

In contrast to my belief that constipation can be a real serious problem, I don’t believe in writer’s block. Sometimes you can get stuck on some story idea or it can be harder to write than other days. Honestly, every day is a hard day to write. We’re constantly fighting the good fight of producing pages. Always. It makes us feel like Sisyphus, pushing the rock up the hill, watching it roll down, going back to get it…repeat…Most new writers have this ideal that writers only write when they get inspired, when the muse hits them like lightning (and the music swells just like in Shakespeare in Love and you write and write as if the gods were whispering in your ear and your pen burns the page its going so fast…).

This does not happen with most writers.

And the other writers that do experience that thrill of bliss…well, they aren’t much fun at parties.

Everyone who writes knows that writing is a pain in the ass. But having written…that’s glorious…its so nice to have something that’s been revised and polished and starting to resemble the first impulses you had long, long ago.

Someone once asked me awhile ago, “what do you do about writer’s block?” I told them, “I write.”

I know. It’s flippant. But it’s true.

I went on to explain that I write something—anything—down. Just to prove I can put a word on the page. I free write for a few minutes. That free writing can be thinking about the grocery list, the to do list at work, the annoying cube mate, my favorite beer, why I like coffee, or why I think Spielberg should cast me as Indiana Jones’ son in the next movie. Or maybe you can just write lists…a list of your favorite colors, favorite movies, or people or things that you hate…There are also plenty of writing exercises to be found in plenty of books to help you, as well. Whatever. The point is not quality, it’s to get the pen moving, or the hands typing. It’s to write. There’s always something to write about. No matter how trivial or stupid. Because once you start doing it, you realize that not all writing has to be brilliant. That’s probably why you’re stuck.

Because really there is no block. There’s just you and you’re in your own way.

To digress again…Remember in The Matrix when Neo goes to visit the Oracle and that little creepy bald kid is in the waiting room bending a spoon? He hands it to Neo and says, “There is no spoon.” Get it? There is no block, only the one you put on yourself. Once you realize that you don’t have to write a perfect first draft you’ve given yourself permission to suck. And that’s what you need. Permission will free you.

Once you get something down you can always rewrite. And like I’ve said before, rewriting is the promise of perfection (though you have to accept you never quite get there). The first draft always sucks. So let it suck.

You don’t sit down on the crapper with the pressure of “This must be the most glorious poop ever!” You’ll never be regular that way and you’ll always be disappointed.

There is no block. Say it. It feels good.

“There is no block.”

Now, procrastination…that’s another thing…for tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Keep that dead dog crap off my stage! (Private v. Personal)

The most interesting thing about writing stories is that no matter what the story is about, or who, it’s really about the writer. Give ten writers the same plot, characters, and events and the story would still be different. This is why Seneca's Oedipus Rex is so different than Sophocles'

Because plot is not necessarily story.

If you gave ten writers the plot, characters and events that make up “Little Red Riding Hood”, you’d get ten different stories. The plot is just a collection of facts. Red goes to see Grandma. Wolf tries to trick and eat Red. A hunter saves Red and Grandma by killing the wolf. But what’s the story really about? Each writer may think Red has different wants and relationships with the forest or the wolf. One Red may be frightened of the wolf or doesn’t want to go visit Grandma. Another writer’s Red may love the adventure of it or love Grandma’s cooking. Is Little Red Riding Hood the story of a girl facing her fears? Is it the story of her connecting with her Grandma (youth v. old age?)? What if we told the story, not from Red’s point of view, but from the wolf’s, who is just doing what’s in his nature? Suddenly the story might become a tragedy.

When we tell a story, we reveal how we see the world. So every story I write is really about me. All the characters are from my head and grapple with my own burning questions or issues. Some are more personal than others. No writer can write about something outside of his/her experience. And usually the personal issues of the writer are universal…becomes everyone has a family, has a lover/wife/husband/partner, feels love, anger, loneliness, or deals with rites of passage like growing up or follows their dream or whatever…

Stories should never be private. Private means “so personal, so secret” that it has no relevance to anyone else and is in fact not designed to. Private is not universal.

Personal is for others, involving humanity. Private is “just for me, “aka self-indulgent. In more crude terms…Personal is making love. Private is masturbation.

These thoughts are on my mind because I’m going to develop a solo performance. A monologue. I figure if it worked for Eric Bogosian, it can work for me. Bogosian is a playwright (SubUrbia, Talk Radio) and performer (currently on one of the Law & Orders) and you can check him out on Utube.

I saw him perform his show “Wake Up & Smell the Coffee” at the Jane Street Theater in New York City when I lived there. It was one of those theatrical experiences you remember because you think, “Holy crap, that’s a charismatic performer who doesn’t pull his punches and doesn’t waste my time. He’s got the goods.” Not quite as momentous as when I saw Mnemonic, but still quite thrilling.

What I like most about him is that he doesn’t merely stand up with a microphone and tell me a story about his personal life (like Denis Leary or Mike Daisey). He actually performs characters in dramatic situations. Okay, sometimes he tells personal stories—well, rants is a better word. He even did a character with his own name once. But he never confused the fact that he knew theatre was a construct and therefore the character of “Eric Bogosian” is different than the real person.

Sometimes that personal style of storytelling can be done quite well (Spalding Gray was a master). But usually in less capable hands, it sucks.

Why? Most times the solo performer confuses personal with private.

Theatre involves an audience/actor relationship. Solo performance is not merely a way of expressing emotions without any thought to what you are actually trying to convey. I’ve seen actors who “felt so sad” onstage, but communicated nothing to the audience. It’s not your job as performer to feel sad, but to tell a story. In the end, the audience should feel sad (or whatever you want them to feel, get, understand, etc.). Some solo performers confuse the art of confessing with the art of telling a story. So what you end up with is a lot of crap about a dead dog but no relevance. There’s no story, no social commentary, political context. No point of view about the world. It’s more “let me tell you about something that made me sad”.

So what?

Theatre is too important to waste time on triviality. Also, theatre is not therapy. Theatre is communication. So keep the banality and the confessionals off the stage.

I’m not interested in relating stories about my childhood like reading from some diary. And it’s not because I’m afraid of revealing my inner demons and secrets or telling the truth or “what will others think of me?” I’m a writer. I got over that a long time ago.

I won’t discount the idea of digging into my own personal memories and thoughts. But I want my stories to be compelling and universal. I want it to be about me and you and the world we live in. I can trust it will be about me, because I’m writing from my point of view. Who else is telling the story?

The real question I’m struggling with right now is “what is the story I want to tell as a solo performer”?

And that’s why I’m procrastinating by writing this rant instead of working on it. Or working at all, really.

Ah, procrastination…that’s a topic for tomorrow…

Monday, September 10, 2007

Mamet Schmamet!

I splashed soapy water all over my pants and shirt in the kitchen while washing my coffee cup. It must be Monday…

But anyway…

It has been announced that my short play DOG PARK will be produced at Theater Schmeater, here in Seattle. It will run with three other plays “that could have been written by Mamet”concurrently with their production of David Mamet’s American Buffalo.

For the announcement go here.

What is most funny is their tagline for the play (which I did not get the privilege of making up):

“In Seattle's Magnuson Dog Park, Jake and Duke take a special interest in the young pup Tiger, trying to get him to mate with Bambi, the poodle.”

By the way, I used the name Duke in honor of my sister and brother-in-law who recently lost a dog with that name. May he romp in doggy heaven.

If you are familiar with Mamet, you may enjoy this spoof movie trailer. If you don't know Mamet, beware--he uses the F**K word...a lot...

And now back to your regularly scheduled Monday. I have to dry my pants.

The image above is courtesy of Zach Trenhol from the Theater Schmeater website

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Have You Been Stolen?

Your Photo of the Day is courtesy of the Shanghai police.

They say a picture says a thousand words...this only says nine, but its really funny.

By the way, Shanghai is the name of city and is also a verb (meaning to trick someone into servitude as a sailor, usually by getting them drunk...)

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Today is Wednesday

I am very busy at work. But here are today’s headlines:

I have started running with Maddy in an effort to get myself in shape and tire her out. So far the results are indeterminate on both...

I burned myself on my arm cooking Chicken Marsala last night. Mental note—don’t use too much olive oil…or get the hell out of the way when you splash it in the sizzling hot pan.

We also had drinks with fellow PhD candidates at Conor Bryne. Last night was "Old Time Social" hour. I have never seen so many fiddle players assembled in one pub before. Made me want to get up and dance.

Big news of the day: I'm happy to report one of my short plays will be produced soon right here in Seattle. More news to come on that front as it develops.

But since we’ve been playing odds lately, let me show you what I was up against:

65 plays submitted. 4 chosen.

The odds were 16 to 1.

So I did all right there. Yeah for me!

Oh, and I got my new Paul Auster book, Travels in the Scriptorium, which I haven’t started reading yet because I’m still finishing Hemingway’s Farewell to Arms.

Lastly, I start rehearsals tomorrow evening for two staged readings of two separate screenplays later this month.

More news tomorrow or the next day, I don't know...

Friday, August 31, 2007

Better odds in Vegas

I have to make a correction to an earlier post. But before I get to that, let me just say that I’m a gambling man. I like poker and I love craps. I play skins on golf holes. It reminds me that every shot counts.

When I lived in Vegas, I gambled. Not every night, but once in awhile. But living there is much different than being a tourist who flies in for a weekend for a big score. Those suckers will play anything, never knowing what they’re doing or their odds. They gravitate towards the slots because they’re attracted to the noise and blinking lights. I stuck to the tables, mostly shooting craps. People are intimidated by the dice. You know why? The casinos want them to be. Because the little known fact is that casinos lose most of their money on the craps table. It has the best odds payout.

You know what’s the worst thing to play in a casino, what helps build those high rise hotels and subsidizes the buffet and fancy hotels? The slots.

So here’s my correction, and my point (and sometimes I have one)…

Earlier in a post I said that 5,000 new scripts were registered with the WGA every year. The actual amount is 50,000. If each script was a person, they’d fill a stadium.

My confusion was that out of the 50,000, only 5,000 get optioned or purchased (leaving 45,000 unsold). And out of that 5,000 about 200 get made into movies. That’s about 4%.

So, here are the odds:

To get a script sold = 10 to 1

For a movie to be made from your script = 25 to 1

Why am I writing screenplays again?

Oh, right, because to get a play produced in a regional theatre has even worse odds and less money. That’s why. Because there are just as many playwrights out there competing for festivals where they won’t even make a dime, much less get royalties from a professional production.

The Chester Horn Festival received over 600 scripts from all over the world. For a short play festival. For no money. Only 12 made the cut. That’s 2 % of submissions.

So let’s break that down into the odds:

Short play getting produced for no money = 50 to 1

So although the theatre is my first love, I know the stats. I know which games to play at the casino and which to avoid. This doesn’t mean I won’t put a quarter into the slots now and then, but I sure won’t expect much payback.

But really, if you stopped to think about it, both games are crazy. Both involve risk. Risk means you will have losses. You just will, in gambling or in writing. If I went to law school or med school, I wouldn’t have to worry about job security.

But as the credo goes: “you gotta be in it to win”.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Strike Three!

Okay, so another rejection letter in the mail yesterday…this time from the Austin Film Festival Screenwriting Competition. Not a surprise, though, as the draft was pretty old.

But I’m not too sorrowful as I got this email today saying that the Chester Horn Play Festival is featured on the nytheatre podcast(featuring my play LOVE AND DEATH IN THE TIME OF CRAYOLA and runs in NYC Sept. 27-30).

Check out the podcast here:

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Seeing v. Hearing

A comment has been bothering me for the last week. It was made by a screenwriter who wrote a play that a famous star saw and produced into a movie (this was years and years ago so don’t try to guess who it is).

This person said, and I’m paraphrasing here, that “plays are not as structured as movies”.

The screenwriter also said that most plays don’t become good movies, which I have to agree with as a generality (did they have to make Closer and Proof so palatable?). However, I do think there are some really great plays that became very famous and well-known movies (I wonder how many people know that Casablanca was actually written as a stage-play when the studio bought the rights?). Some good examples of those writing for both stage and screen are David Mamet, Craig Lucas, John Patrick Shanley, Tony Kushner, Neena Beber, William Mastrosimone, Theresa Rebeck and Kenneth Lonergan.

But that’s a whole other blog topic.

And by the way, this screenwriter is not one of those people…

My real beef is this person seems to believe that the majority of the work in screenwriting is developing the story, creating a tightly-woven plot with fully developed characters and subplots woven in, whereas the majority of work in playwriting is just…dialogue. Or something. Evidently plays are not thought-out stories…Actually, I’m not really quite sure what this writer means by saying that screenplays are more structured.

Because here’s the point…no matter the medium, they are both stories told in dramatic form. Now, obviously they are completely different mediums…like the difference between painting and sculpture.

My initial “a-hole” response to the comment was “Wow, you must write some really bad plays…”

Because years ago when I first started writing plays I used to think plays weren’t structured much. I’d hear characters say lines of dialogue and off I went, wherever the story took me.

Those plays were bad.

(Not that I’m sorry to have written them because its nice to get all that bad stuff out of the way and then recognize it when it tries to infiltrate my work again.)

I don’t write plays like that anymore and I’m pretty sure that Edward Albee, Tony Kushner, and David Mamet do not, as well.

Bad playwrights write like that. But guess what, so do bad screenwriters.

Good playwrights work the story out, sometimes in their heads (or so says master Albee) and sometimes in outline form. Sometimes its just notes on a napkin. But playwrights, good playwrights, are master storytellers. Just like good screenwriters.

What I think this screenwriter might’ve been trying to articulate (and what the hell I’ll just speak for this moron), is that plays and movies are different because one is HEARD and the other is SEEN.

Maybe not as much anymore, but theatre (I use the French spelling on purpose because I have a master’s degree and they’ll take it away if I don’t…seriously...)…theatre began as an oral (aural) tradition and has remained so from the Greeks through the time of Shakespeare up to today. We go to the theatre to hear words coming out of live actors. This does not mean that spectacle doesn’t happen (who can ever forget the chandelier in Phantom?) but it means that we listen much more closely then we realize. Master playwrights use brilliant dialogue to convey the story, rife with its emotions and baggage. Pinter and Beckett can do more with two words than most playwrights can do with two thousand.

Movies, on the other hand, are visual. That’s why they’re called MOVING PICTURES. The story is told in pictures. The actors are nice to look at (how many ugly stars can you name?). The sets and background are detailed and the more exotic locale, the better. The important thing to remember, though, is that dialogue is completely unnecessary. It’s nice to have some good lines here and there, but you don’t need it to tell the story on film. Some of the best movie moments are visual. That’s the design of the medium. Seriously, read the script for Titanic—a movie that blew away the box office and won an Oscar. It contains some of the most atrocious lines ever. But the visuals…can’t be beat.

That doesn’t mean all movies have crappy dialogue. Woody Allen mastered the art of mixing neurotic witticisms against beautiful Manhattan backdrops. Most romantic comedies have a mixture of funny lines and funny physical bits (with very good-looking people).

So this is why a Shakespearean actor can proclaim on a bare stage: “Welcome to the forest of Arden” and BAM! The audience is instantly transported.

To do that in a movie, you need a real forest. You need to film it in Yosemite and you better have a great cinematographer to convey the type of trees the audience sees.

But it doesn’t matter what forest you’re in…You need a good story. And a good story is well-structured. That’s what makes it a good story.

Every great play is carefully constructed (some more so than most screenplays, I would say.) If you doubt that, take a closer look at Ibsen and Chekhov and Shakespeare, just to start. Then read some Shaw. Then read some modern plays like American Buffalo or Lobby Hero.

One of my favorite plays, Waiting for Godot, is a structural jewel. You won’t see it at first glance, but its there. Some critics have said nothing happens, but look closer and you’ll see a chain of events, an inevitable sequence leading to a justifiable conclusion.

It wouldn’t make a great movie, though, let’s face it. And I’ve seen some try.

Two guys waiting on a road...talking a lot…nah…put in Titanic again…