Recently in Miscellany Category
Sometimes running a blog is SO MUCH FUN!
As you all know, comments are down. We’re working on it. When the changes are done, you’ll have to register with a handle of your choosing (so Anonymous or Anonymous 2 or anthing you want is fine…you just can’t pretend to be someone else, etc.).
Meanwhile, until we fix all this, if you try and comment right now you’re going to get an error message about comment approval, etc.
Here’s a lovely note I received today.
It’s your site. Which means it isn’t censorship.
But you set up a forum that encouraged debate and comment.
And now you have to approve those comments?
Go fuck yourself.
And shove that piece of shit script for Scary Movie 3 up your ass, if it’ll fit with your head in there.
Aw, what a lovely human being!
Glad you’re enjoying the site!
For the rest of you, just to be clear, the new system will NOT involve me or anyone else approving comments prior to publication. Nothing will be different except the handle registration (which isn’t through my site, but through Movable Type’s site), so that fake Priyas and fifteen different people with the name “Anonymous” aren’t confusing the discussions.
Once we fix it, everyone will be able to tell me to shove my scripts up my ass again. Hooray!
Ed. Note: Still working on implementing this. Comments will be back soon. Bear with me.
New Note: Should be working now. If you registered for TypeKey but were having trouble, clear your cache, log out and back in, and it should work now. I hope.
You can still comment anonymously.
However, with the amount of comments we’ve been getting, two problems have emerged.
First, there are many different people all calling themselves “anonymous” or “anon,” and it’s confusing.
Second, people are starting to spoof each other’s names.
Happily, there’s a simple answer.
In order to comment now, you must “sign in.” The prompt to sign in is down where the comment box used to be (if you still see the comment text box, then reload your page until it goes away…you might have to empty your browser cache as well).
Follow the sign in link, which will take to a TypeKey login page.
TypeKey is a free registration service connected to the Movable Type blog platform. Signing up for an account is free. I do not receive any of the information you enter into the registration, nor do I receive any compensation or consideration.
By registering a unique handle for yourself, you can own your name and ID while commenting here without fear of counterfeiting.
I apologize for the brief inconvenience, but it should be worth it in the long run. If your cookies are set properly, the system remembers you for two weeks at a time, so re-logins should be infrequent.
If you’re having issues with registering for comments, then go to the Forum and post your question in the Feedback section. Hopefully we can help you figure it out. It’s pretty easy.
First, I was absolutely wrong when I said the WGA would only be picketing one gate at Warner Brothers. I apologize for getting the facts wrong.
Second, some of you may have noticed your comments getting eaten by the system. This appears to be the result of an overaggressive spam filter, which was junking any comment that included the word “loan” in it (much of the comment spam out there is from companies promising you low interest loans, yadda yadda).
I’ve changed the settings, so the word “loan” won’t kill your comment.
As always, I do not screen comments at all, and I welcome all criticism. Please keep your comments civil. I simply don’t have the time to moderate the comments after the fact the way I normally do, so you’re all on the honor system for a while.
I know…strange time to be talking about anything other than a strike, but since I’m not going to write about the strike until Sunday, I thought I’d get this up here and publicize it a bit, not only because it’s for an absolutely good cause, but also because it’s in support of our Teamster brothers and sisters in Local 399, many of whom will be showing their support for us in the coming weeks and perhaps months.
During the holidays each year Blood Centers nationally, including UCLA Health Systems, struggle to meet the needs of their patients. UCLA uses approximately 100,000 units a year. Extended shortages during the November 21, 2007-January 22, 2008 season could result in blood rationing and the cancellation of surgeries.
Winter blood collections drop as several condition come into play at once. The holidays are busy and potential donors often find they just cannot find the hour to donate. Large institutions (colleges, high schools, and businesses) which often run blood drives are closed at this time. Also, often times flu season strikes, making donors ineligible to donate.
Who better to save the day then union members of Teamster Local 399? We can keep track of the number of Teamster Local 399 donors, if they will sign in on a sheet and add ‘Local 399’ and specify: casting directors, location scouts, or drivers. Perhaps we can challenge other unions to do the same and make a difference this holiday season, and, demonstrate the power of union unity.
This year UCLA blood center is offering an incentive to go and donate. Along with a beach bag, 1-3 movie passes ( depending on whether you donate platelets or whole blood), and another coupon ( Starbucks, Subway, In & Out, or Jamba Juice, depending on availability). They are also raffling off a hotel room for two on Fiji!
If you donate whole blood, it is a 1 hour process. For platelets allow 1.5-2.5 hours. Platelets are used for patients with cancer, leukemia, transplants or blood disorders. Newborns can also require blood. Also, UCLA is a Level-1 trauma center, so many patients also require platelets to stop their bleeding.
The UCLA blood center takes donors on a walk-in basis, but suggests that you make an appointment so you do not have to wait. To make an appointment to donate whole blood call: 310-825-0888 #2. Whole blood donation hours are: Monday, 10:00 a.m.-5:30 p.m. and Tuesday -Friday 8:00 a.m.- 3:30 p.m. Also every second Saturday 8:00 a.m.-1:30 p.m. To make an appointment to donate platelets call: 310-206-6187. Platelet donor hours: Monday - Friday 7:00 a.m.- 4:00 p.m. and every Saturday 7:00 a.m. -11:30 a.m.
The blood center address is: 1045 Gayley Av., 2nd floor, L.A 90024. It is 1 block west of Westwood Blvd. and 2 blocks north of Wilshire Blvd., on the west side of the street ( across from Whole Foods).
Parking is free, behind the center at Lot #32. You may obtain your parking permit via mail prior to the day of donation (this is the best way). If you need to obtain a guest parking permit on the day of your donation, park temporarily in the alley behind the center at 1045 Gayley Av. and go upstairs through the glass door.
Who can donate? Almost anyone over 110 pounds that is in good health and hasn’t had a recent tattoo, baby, transfusion, dental work (24 hours), hepatitis, or lived in certain foreign countries. For more details on how to donate: www.gotblood.ucla.edu, or just call them.
I wish I lived in a world where this was as obvious as I think it is, but I guess I don’t.
Some people out there seem to think that I either:
a) speak for the WGA, or
b) believe I speak for the WGA
I speak for myself.
I am one person, the articles I post on this website express my opinions, I hold no position on the WGAw Board of Directors, I am not on the Negotiating Committee, and I represent no organization.
Various new outlets contact me through the site, because they read it. They ask for quotes or interviews, which I occasionally grant, but just as often do not. I do not identify myself in any way other than as an individual. I am, for a lack of a better phrase, a “talking head.” A commentator. An independent analyst.
Oh, and a union member.
I do not pay for publicity, nor do I retain the services of a publicist.
Okay, disclaimer done. Back to the important stuff.
There’s a really nice profile of The Artful Writer in the Wall Street Journal today. I think I can declare victory if I get away with calling the AMPTP’s proposals “nuts” and still get a nice quote from their spokesperson.
Getting dubbed “Hollywood’s Must-See” ain’t bad either, and it’s probably the first and last time I’ll earn that moniker.
I did want to add a slight bit of context to one quote. I said:
When it comes to union matters, I am the only game in town on this right now…
That’s mostly true. WriterAction is also out there, but they’re WGA-members-only, so in terms of public blogs, I’m the only game in town for this stuff.
At least, the only one I know of. Apologies to anyone else doing any serious coverage of this stuff. If you are, I’d love to know about it (and possibly offer a link).
Meanwhile, here’s the latest.
Things are getting worse.
The WGA rhetoric has now turned toward DVD residuals, which is utter nonsense. Everyone in the negotiating room knows that DVD residuals are the epitome of a sailed ship. Harping on doubling that rate is as pointless and absurd as the companies’ proposal to tie residuals to profit.
The fact that we seem to be moving backwards in terms of the seriousness of rhetoric is deeply disturbing. With weeks to go, tensions have steeply mounted. Furthermore, the companies have essentially initiated a lockout on feature writers. They’re not spending any more money on feature writing (so we hear) until a deal is struck.
I am growing quickly impatient with our side’s inability to knuckle down on the only topic that matters. DVDs, jurisdiction over animation and reality, product integration…all of it should be pushed aside. We’re beyond the point where red herrings and posturing are at all valuable.
If the AMPTP won’t grow up and talk like adults to us, then it’s incumbent upon us to claim the high ground. If we won’t, then saying “well they were acting like asses too” will serve as cold comfort on the picket line.
More to come.
Hey Dad? Wanna read a blog?I know that people read this blog. Lots of people. But beyond my own thoughts and those of the people who comment, it’s all conceptual to me.
That’s probably for the best.
Still, I got an email today that just made me feel all warm and squishy inside. The sender has granted me permission to print it here.
I really don’t do much in my life that anyone can call “good” or “bad.” I live in the neutral, I guess. But every now and then, I guess some good sort of happens.
Not intentional! I swear!
Anyway, here’s the email.
(read the above sentence with Casey Kasem’s “long distance dedication” voice)
I’ve become an avid reader of your blog, which rocks, over the last month. The way in which it indirectly wound up bringing about hitherto unhoped-for levels of familial harmony has blown my mind, and since everyone likes hearing nice things about their work, I felt a kind of karmic imperative to drop you a line.
I saw the film “The Lookout”, which I thought was bloody fantastic, with my dad. Quick relevant background: I’m an actor out here, and reared from the classic middle-class-Jewish-elder-son mold (which it sounds from your blog like you may know something about). I went to Yale: I wanted to go to a conservatory, but my folks wanted me to keep my options open, and Yale’s got the fancy name/quality education/can-brag-about-it-to-neighbors thing, along with a stellar theater program. Despite becoming a theater major and doing well there, and despite achieving some success in my first couple years in LA, my father is still hellbent, titanium in his will, that I need to give it all up and become something respectable and stable, e.g. a dentist, and perhaps resume my long-since-neglected viola lessons in the bargain.
But to the point: We saw this movie The Lookout together, and got into it the way fathers and sons do. For whatever reason, it was a nastier spat than usual; in a nutshell, I was saying it was great, he was saying it was one more dumb thriller. Our fights are very Dawson’s Creek sturm-and-drang, very Oedipal Complex.
We get back to my apartment, and it has come to this. My dad: “Okay, smart guy, if this is so good, let’s see what the CRITICS have to say.” Like that’s going to prove anything. But whatever, we look, and up on the Google screen comes an entry on your blog all about the scene between Luvlee and Lewis, which was the very scene I’d been leaning on in our argument. My dad stops cold.
You see, my dad’s an attorney, and he does labor law, among other things, in Northern California. It turns out he’s read your stuff from Artful Writer and Huffington Post on the Writer’s Guild for the last however many months, and has actually REFERRED CLIENTS to it to help them understand how to discuss labor issues persuasively and with clarity. I’d even heard him mention the site before, but I’d tuned it out.
And he scrolls down the entry, takes a few minutes, and then, for the very first time in recorded history, my father turns to me and says: “Well, you were right.” He got all quiet and reflective for a moment, changed the subject, and then, five or ten minutes later, to my total shock, gave me a hug. First time in years.
Then, just as quick, the moment was over: “So you were right. Sue me for Christ’s sake. Favete linguis.” (that last part is latin for basically “shut your damn trap”, which was a running joke in my fam. Yeah, I know.)
It was actually quite a moment. It seems to’ve opened some kind of door in our relationship. He even apologized for not being more supportive, which was doubly nice because then I was able to apologize for being obnoxious for the majority of my teenage years. I’ve started to read your blog consistently since, because, I mean, clearly the universe was pointing in that direction, and when I recently completed filming on my first lead-sized part in a flick (a truly ridiculous airplane action movie in which I murder a Backstreet Boy), I got in the mail a bootleg copy of The Lookout he’d gotten from some street vendor with the note “Maybe next time you can be in a movie that’s actually good. Congrats! Love, Dad”. Still kind of a sabotaging sentiment, but better than nothing.
Corny, deeply corny, but I felt like I had to send this along, probably to die forever unread in some spam in-box. But I made the effort. Be well, sir, keep up the good work, I hope our paths will cross someday.
Well, as a father with a son, this sort of thing gets me. I’m a sucker for it. And like the writer says, it’s corny…but corny isn’t always bad.
So to the son, I say “Thanks.”
And to the dad, I say “Well done.”
It’s been a couple of years, and I’m getting bored with the look here. Also, I’m seriously considering migrating to WordPress, because it just seems…well…easier.
So here’s your chance to tell me what you think works and doesn’t work about the current design. Should we stay three columns or go to two? Should the blog stay fluid (where it resizes as you adjust your browser page size) or go fixed?
The freakin’ quill???
Everything but the title is up for debate.
Also, if any of you know of someone really good at designing blogs for WordPress, clue me in. I’m willing to spend a few bucks to freshen the joint up.
Note: This redesign applies to the blog portion only. The forum is going to pretty much stay the way it is (for a while, at least).
Sorry, I know I’ve been a bit Larry Kingish in my quick, semi-insubstantial bulletins lately, but it’s been very busy at work. I’ll have something for you guys soon.
In the meantime, I just found out about LeapFish, a site that appraises the value of your domain name.
According to them, artfulwriter.com is worth…
Awesome! I am totally selling this place and buying a Buick LaCrosse!
As a point of comparison, yahoo.com appraises at $1,523,846,985.
I have some work to do…
Rachel was wrong…John August has some terrific video and a link to photos from his recent trip to Malawi.
He mentions malaria on his blog. Malaria, a disease that had been impressively curtailed decades ago, has returned with a vengeance, killing millions of children.
And why has it returned?
My opinion? DDT.
Specifically, the horrendously stupid ban on DDT.
I know, I know. We’ve all been taught that DDT is the devil’s chemical, spreading death wherever it goes. Unfortunately, the opposite is true.
To read how DDT came to be unfairly villified…and the disastrous result of that politicization…check out this excellent essay in the New York Times.
You can read more about why American and international aid organization should support the use of DDT at http://www.fightingmalaria.org/
He’ll never get to use an iPhoneA lot of people in the business ask me how it is that I find time to run this blog and our forums, when I’ve got deadlines and family commitments and the rest of life bearing down on me.
Frankly, I don’t know. For instance, right now it’s just about 11:30 PM Pacific time, and I’ve got at least another two hours of writing ahead of me.
And so, I turn to this as respite.
By the way, if you don’t understand why a writer tired of writing would write in order to take a break from writing, then you may not be a writer.
Admittedly, part of my bleariness is because instead of writing what I needed to yesterday, I spent time getting and setting up my new iPhone.
Before I add to the infinite instareviews available to you on the internet, I’ve finally got my working theory about the ending of The Sopranos.
Yeah, I know. Old news. But I’ve been thinking about it for a while, and I’m not sure anyone else has forwarded this theory yet. I’m sure someone will dig up a link to something similar.
Like everyone, my first reaction to the final moment of the final episode was “Oh God, my TiVo…” Then I sort of reeled into a bit of shock. A bit of shock. It’s still a TV show, after all. Nonetheless, Chase managed to completely surprise everyone.
The quick theories were: it’s a meaningless surprise for surprise’s sake, Tony dies, it’s a cliffhanger for a movie…
I don’t think so.
I don’t think Chase invested so much time and energy and transparent deliberation into the final scene just to lead up to a “Ha ha, here’s something you never expected, it doesn’t mean anything but at least I didn’t do any of the dumb crap you predicted” moment. It just doesn’t seem within his creative character.
I don’t think Tony was killed. Yes, Chase wanted to ratchet up the tension to lead to what might be a whacking (and more on why when I get to my theory), but if the cut to black signifies Tony’s death, then why cut out on his face? Shouldn’t it cut to black off his POV?
Cliffhanger for a movie? That’s just dumb. An uncompromising master like Chase isn’t going to pimp his entire series out just to set up a first scene in some theoretical film that might or might not happen.
Why did Chase do that?
Remember when Carmela saw her own therapist for a single session, back in the 3rd season? A blunt man, he basically told Carmela that her problems weren’t psychological as much as they were crassly circumstantial: she’s married to a ruthless killer, and all of the money Carmela spends is blood money. The only advice a reasonable person can give is to take the kids and get away from Tony.
That was the truth.
Still, season after season, we the audience found ourselves rooting for Tony, particularly when inter-mob stories were introduced.
In the final season, Chase begins to really hammer home just how pathetic and evil Tony is. Tony kills Christopher. Tony celebrates Christopher’s death. Tony turns a session about A.J. into a whine-fest about himself. Tony cheats on his wife for the millionth time. Tony thinks about killing Pauly because he’s getting old and mouthy.
And yet, the audience (and by audience, I mean me and apparently many others) were mostly interested in how he’d make his way out of the mess with New York.
Would Tony win?
Chase seemed to recognize this. The federal agent once assigned to Tony but now on a terrorism beat apparently shared our problem. He slips Tony info to use in Tony’s war with Phil. “We might win this one!”
As awful as Chase made Tony, we kept loving him. When Chase would scold us for loving him, we would nod, then love him some more.
And our marriage to the show was a bad one. It had to end, because Tony isn’t a good guy, he doesn’t deserve our respect, and frankly, we shouldn’t give a damn what happens to a sociopath like him.
I think Chase’s finale ending was a message to the audience, and a bit of a punishment as well.
“You want to know what’s going to happen? Will he die? Is this just another day in his miserable life? Will he run the whole mob? You know what? Screw you. I’m not telling you. In fact, I’m pulling the plug on this relationship in the most vicious, unsatisfying manner just to rub your nose in your own sick need to care about this jerk.”
That’s my theory about Chase’s intention.
Tony’s intention? That’s easy. He picked it on the jukebox. “Don’t stop believing.”
Those are his last words to us. “Don’t stop.”
But Chase hit “stop” anyway, because Tony is a bad man, and we should take our TiVos and get as far away from him as possible.
So…that’s the old.
Here’s the new.
The iPhone is AWESOME. It’s everything Apple promised, and then some. If you can afford it, buy it. If you appreciate elegance in technology, buy it. If people say, “I don’t get it, it’s just a phone, Apple’s a cult, blah blah blah” then make a note that those people are idiots, and then get the iPhone.
I’d write more about it, but it’s a quarter to midnight now.
And there are pages to go before I sleep.
We got a nice mention in the Times today.
For those of you who are new to the site, the menu bar at the top of the screen breaks everything out into categories. If you want to search for particular topics, SEARCH is to the right.
Of special note is our forum, which is our general discussion area for all things screenwriting. You can access it through the menubar, the link under the search box or…hell…
…just go here to register. Like everything else on this site, it’s cost-free and ad-free.
So go ahead, look around. Kick the tires.
I’ll have a new article up later about the Writers Guild…and for the first time in a long time, it’s going to be a positive one.
I’m working on my next entry, and I’d like to embed a pdf into the text using HTML.
If I use the EMBED tag, the pdf embeds nicely in Safari, but doesn’t work at all in Firefox, and I haven’t even begun to check it in Windows just yet.
Any tips on how to best do this?
Update: Okay, I got it working fairly well in Vista on both IE and Firefox. Firefox for Mac still eludes me. If anyone knows how get Firefox for Mac to recognize embedded PDF’s, go ahead and comment.
Some of you have been struggling with formatting in the comments section.
Some tips. Normal line breaks are fine...the program knows to format them as such.
For italics, enclose your words in single asterisks.
For instance, *these words* will become these words.
For bold, enclose your words in double asterisks.
**These words** will become these words.
The asterisks trick only works up to a line break, though, so if you start a new paragraph, enclose each paragraph in the asterisks if you want to italicize or bold.
Of course, standard HTML tags work as well.
Nappy-headed schmoOh, blog, dear blog, I've been neglecting you. I'm racing toward a deadline on my script right now, so I've been keeping you at arm's length. Then, a couple of days ago, when I was thinking about posting, I gave myself a concussion (my head + underside of my son's wooden loft bed = pain and puking). But I can't stay away from you. I want to touch quickly on two topics that have been dominating the news.
First, the Virginia Tech jerk.
It's normal for everyone to navel-gaze and point fingers after something like this happens. One of the best classes I ever took in college was a course called "The Psychology of Justice." In that class, I learned about a phenomenon that is incredibly pervasive and persistent across all cultures: the Belief In A Just World. Belief in a just world often means that we deserve what we get, and we get what we deserve.
However, in cases like the Virginia Tech shooting, it's clear that the victims didn't deserve what they got. That doesn't mean Belief In A Just World goes away. Instead, the BJW theory says that great evils must have great causes.
The space shuttle doesn't blow up because a piece of rubber got cold—it blows up because of a culture of failure and the incompetence of an entire space agency and perhaps because of humanity's hubris… You know what I mean?
In this case, BJW says that video games, isolation, access to guns, non-access to guns, popular music, coarsening of culture and ultimately society itself is to blame for the tragedy at VT. Of course, the problem with BJW is that it's not true. The world is not just. Existence is not fair. Great evils sometimes happen for the most mundane reasons. The poor people who died at VT died because a mentally ill person made the insane choice to kill them. And if someone chooses to kill you, they are going to kill you, and there's nothing you can do about it. They might use guns, they might use gasoline and fertilizer, they might use poison…
…not a very comforting thought.
But that's life in an unjust, unfair world.
Of course, one can imagine Don Imus thinking to himself, "If only this asshole could have done the shooting a week earlier…I'd still have my job."
Frequent commenter Kevin Arbouet has a post up on the Imus situation. I agree 100% with Kevin that this is not a free speech issue at all. No one has the right to a radio talk show. The government didn't fire Imus. He's free to say "nappy headed-ho" all day long without fear of imprisonment or fines.
Now, when this whole thing went down, I was honestly puzzled. Imus has been saying stupid crap like that for years. So has Howard Stern. Have you heard the stuff the comedians say on the Friar's Club roasts? Hell, any four second sample of Lisa Lampanelli's act is waaaay worse than "nappy-headed ho's."
Should Imus have been fired? Yes, but years ago. For sucking. My view of this latest debacle is that it's an example par excellence of our nation's inability to discuss racial issues honestly. We have two cultures. The first culture is soaking in racial humor, racial observations, the n-word, bitches, ho's, racial suspicion, racial resentment and occasionally racial hostility. The second culture is a color-blind, multicultural rainbow coalition where no one sees race, no one ever says or thinks anything "offensive," and we all live, work and play in a bridge-of-the-Starship-Enterprise-like world of ethnic harmony.
The first culture is true. The second is a fraud. We all burble along in the first culture, until, occasionally, someone makes a stink. It's not always Jesse or Al. Sometimes it's the ADL, sometimes it's the guy from the Catholic League, sometimes it's GLAAD, sometimes it's O'Reilly yapping about the coarsening of culture. At that point, everyone suddenly pretends that the first culture is the anomaly, and the second, fraudulent culture is the reality. Somehow, we begin doing rhetorical backflips to denounce true culture as transgressive against a fictional culture that has never been and probably never will be.
But why Imus? Was Imus' "nappy-headed ho's" comment funny? No. Was it accurate? No, not even close.
The reason Imus said that comment is obvious to me: he thought he was sounding "cool." See, perversely, Imus is not part of true culture. He's out of the sphere of what is current. His attempt to be a part of that culture immediately rang false, and I think that's what caught people's attention.
If Howard Stern says, "Nappy-headed ho's," no one blinks. I guarantee it. Why? Because Howard has been manufacturing this kind of relaxed culture for years. Not Imus. When Imus tries it, it sounds tinny and fake and creepy.
Of all the stuff I've read about this affair, the best and most honest perspective is from this guy. I don't agree with everything he says in his piece (I don't have a stake in the cultural battles between black men and black women), and I think he's too hard on Cosby in particular, but when I read his essay, I thought, "Points for honesty."
When it comes to discussions of race in this country, we're in dire need of a Diogenes.
Look around the site, and you'll see lots of little icons next to all of the links.
Welcome to Snap.
Instead of boring links that send you to sites unseen, if you hover your cursor on the link, Snap lets you see a miniature image of the page you're thinking about visiting. To visit the link, just click the image of the site. You can also search within the snap box. Kind of neat, I think (unless you use Safari…the search function seems to crash it).
If you hate Snap, just click on the options or disable link within the link bubble to customize your preferences. Admittedly, I've installed Snap if only to keep up with the Augusts (who went and installed a super nifty live comment preview function on his blog that's apparently super easy for WordPress blogs like his, but on par with nuclear fission for MovableType blogs like mine), but I really like it.
If any of you blog on MovableType or are familiar with functionality you'd like to see here, please let me know. I'm always looking to improve this site, and fussing with php tags at 1:30 in the morning actually keeps me young.
Time for rebirth…Today is my 36th birthday. It’s also Jesus’ rebirthday. No, I’m not comparing myself to Jesus. And yes, I chose the picture because it’s so ridiculous.
I just love the idea of MEGAJESUS, looming over Earth like a hypoglycemic Galactus, pissed off at our stupidity and failure. He’s so angry, the back of his head has exploded outward, forming some awesome new nebula. The moon is this painting’s version of Jackie O., and it’s getting drenched in MegaJ’s cosmic brain splatter.
The tear rolling down The Boss’ cheek? That’s his burgeoning sense of retribution, the volume and pressure of which is so great it has begun leaking in liquid form from his improbably blue Jewish eye.
Just look at his brow. It’s telling you the entire story. That’s the brow of a man who is about to take a bite out of a planet.
But I digress…
I want to talk about endings and beginnings. Those of us who write are plagued and blessed at once by an overexposure to cycles. No, I don’t believe in reincarnation or the divinity of Jesus or some of the hippier notions about how we’re all one with Gaia, etc. I do, however, believe that all human experiences begin, then progress, and then end.
I’m a writer. I’m soaking in that. And because I write, I find myself constantly beginning stories, places, ideas, people, moments…then experiencing them progress…and then watching them end.
And when they end…they end as finally as anything can. I do not know what Keyser Soze did after he got into the car with his lawyer at the end of The Usual Suspects, and I’m pretty sure I never will.
Just like that….(poof)…he’s gone.
All this beginning and ending stuff can start playing with your head. Like mathematicians who started noticing small recursive fractals as compositional blocks of larger recursive fractals, you begin to see the cycles in your own life on multiple levels. There’s breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And then there are multiyear arcs, like movements of a symphony.
Maybe you don’t see this, but I do.
Curiously, my cycles seem to take on four year spans.
I won’t bore you with childhood, but high school was an interesting four years. College…four years. After college, I spent four years trying to make my way toward something I could do as a career…a search for permanency, perhaps.
And I found it.
I spent the next four years establishing myself as a working screenwriter as well as a husband.
I spent the next four years establishing myself as a solo working screenwriter, as well as a father.
And I’ve spent these last four years establishing myself as a…for lack of a better phrase…successful screenwriter.
Ding! Four years are up.
Last week, I had lunch with a friend. Another writer. I look up to him in a very pure way; there’s no creepy jealousy or competitiveness or resentment to infect my relationship with him. I’m not particularly prone to those things, but I’m not inhuman either—I’m lucky that circumstances are such that I can admire someone as cleanly as I admire this guy.
By the way, he doesn’t blog or comment in here, so don’t bother guessing.
Hint…it’s not Josh Olson.
So anyway, we sat at lunch and this guy lectured me. He actually said, “I want to lecture you about something.” And then he did.
In fact, it was such a good lecture, it sent me hurtling toward my therapist, but in a good way. What this guy said to me was something I really needed to hear, and I really needed to hear it from him. It was the best compliment I’ve ever received, and almost certainly the scariest too. Good for him. His lecture may very well be the thing that sets the table and defines my next four year cycle.
What I’m saying is that I think I just typed FADE IN: on myself yet again.
“Okay,” you’re saying. “Enough preamble. What was the lecture??????”
…would you mind terribly if I didn’t tell you?
Cuz I’m not.
It’s not for you. It’s for me. It wouldn’t apply to you, and that’s true if you’re a hundred times more successful than I or a 15 year-old desperate for some guidance. This stuff was custom advice (although if you really want a hint…I’ll say this…I doubt I’ll use the language I used to describe the last few cycles when it’s time to describe the next one…)
What I can tell you is that you’re in a cycle right now, whether you like it or not.
Did you know? Do you understand it? Is there a rhythm to it?
Are you at the beginning?
Lost in the desert of your own 2nd act?
Nearing the end (that’s the scary one)?
Do you care?
You don’t have to. Honestly. Most characters are blissfully unaware that they’re in the stories we write, so why should we torture ourselves by getting recursive with the narrative of our own lives? I only dabble with the recursion myself. I’m sure Pirandello would think of me as a self-oblivious dolt.
Still, birthdays tend to do this to me.
And so, I’ll think I’ll give some of you a gift.
This gift is for the struggling. Particularly, it’s for the struggling young. This gift is for the people who have begun the “set out on my own” cycle. Maybe you’re in a new city. You’re trying to make it in a new business. You have no experience. You have no connections.
That was me…beginning of Cycle 3.
I don’t archive much of my life, but there’s one piece of paper I’ve saved all these years. I finally scanned it and laminated it, because it’s so important to me. When I arrived in Los Angeles in July of 1992, all I knew is that before anything good could happen to me, I needed to get a job.
I stood out on the corner of La Cienega and Pico, leafed through a payphone yellowpages (ahhhh, the pre-cell, pre-net days), and started cold-calling temp agencies.
I had a pen, which ran out of ink…and a pencil.
Today, I’m a rich guy with a hot wife and two great kids and a nice house and I do what I love for a living.
But fifteen years ago…
….I was this piece of paper.
Note the boxed note in the top middle. The one where I set a meeting with Louise at The Friedman Agency for 2:30 on Wednesday, July 29, 1992. That’s the meeting that gets me my first couple of temp jobs, one of which becomes a permanent job, which becomes a writing job, which gets me a marketing job at Disney, which leads to my career as a screenwriter.
I’m particularly fond of the question mark floating above it. I have no idea why it’s there, but I love that it’s there.
This paper is not some trophy or something. It’s my reverse Ozymandias. Know what I mean?
Look upon my Beginning, Ye Mighty, and smile!
I’m not saying you’re going to be rich and happy and famous. Honestly. I don’t know what you’re going to be. Drug-addicted hobo isn’t out of the question.
What I’m saying is…treasure your beginnings. That’s where all the fun is. That’s what I’m doing right now. Because I’m beginning a new cycle.
Let’s see where it goes.
Thanks, Parallels!I was going to write this week’s essay about screenwriting analogies (you know, “It’s a blueprint!” or “It’s a roadmap” or “It’s a rough guideline!”), but I got a bit sidetracked.
See, I’ve been a Mac user my whole life, ever since my first Apple IIe clone back in ‘82 (the Franklin Ace 1000, to be exact…a computer that cost my poor dad $1400 back then…a computer I bought on eBay a few years ago for exactly one dollar), but every now and then, you find yourself stuck needing a Wintel machine. It’s not the way it used to be, where software offerings for Mac were seriously impoverished. There’s practically nothing you can’t get for the Mac nowadays, but it’s that “practically” part that still bugs every now and again.
A few years ago, feeling the need for a Wintel escape hatch for those occasional non-Mac apps (like that stupid Clifford The Big Red Dog Teaches Your Kid How To Read! game), I bought an IBM ThinkPad.
I hate everything about that machine.
Well…not everything. I am a bit fond of the little track nubbin (perhaps because it’s clitoral), but that’s about it. The case is plasticky and shoddy, the screen is horrendous, the drive is about as quiet as a VW bus going up hill, the key feel is cheap and clacky, the sound is dismal, there’s no firewire input, the CD tray is a half a foot-pound away from snapping off at any given moment, and even the power supply is bulky and ugly.
Other than that…
I didn’t mind Windows XP Pro so much, to be honest. It’s a decent system, although it comes up terribly short compared to the latest versions of OS X. Spotlight runs circles around the poky “cute li’l doggy” search function in XP, the Windows Explorer app is ugly and diminished compared to the Finder, and the entire look and feel of XP is very much…well…I want to say 90’s, but that’s almost being generous.
Even worse, any time XP had to do something on a root level (like install certain apps, reboot, upgrade some system software or run a diagnostic), it showed its true, clunky colors. Suddenly, I would find myself looking at fonts from 1983, jagged edges and all, while graphics drawing from a vast palette of about 16 colors blocked and flashed their way across my screen like the images from some awful BASIC program I wrote on my Atari 400 in 1981 (saved on cassette tape drive, natch). The overall effect was like paying for a high-class hooker, getting a low-rent one, and then watching horrified as she removed her wig, glass eye and fake leg.
Plus, if you have sex with her, you will absolutely get a virus, followed by worms, followed by a Trojan Horse humping you from behind.
Yeah, I’m not a Windows fan.
Maybe that’s why I balked at the notion of replacing my aging ThinkPad with a new one. I just hate the idea of spending more money on hardware that exists only to drive software I don’t even like that much.
Because my MacBook Pro is powered by an Intel Processor, it should theoretically be easy to run Wintel apps, right? Well, sort of. I flirted with some apps that promised to run individual Wintel programs within the Mac OS, but they were pretty kludgy. Didn’t have much success with Crossover, for instance.
Parallels, however, works differently. Parallels doesn’t actually run the Wintel apps; rather, it works as a bridge between OS X and a separate installation of a Windows OS that you put on your Mac.
And so, off I went to purchase a copy of Windows Vista to see if this Parallels thing would work. First thing about Vista is this: hey, Microsoft…you still SUCK at packaging. You’d think getting mocked by your own design department would be enough of a sign, but apparently not. Opening the Vista container was slightly harder than convincing my very Catholic girlfriend in 11th grade to give up her virginity. Of course, the fact that they slapped a huge piece of cellophane tape over the “Certificate of Authenticity” didn’t help—in order to open the package, I had to basically shred the certificate, so here’s hoping I never need to show my papers to the Man.
Once the Gordian Knot of Microsoft packaging had been cut, I started up Parallels on my Macbook Pro and loaded in the Vista CD. I tells ya, folks…it worked like BUTTA from there. Took a while, sure, but once it was all loaded in, why, I had a fully operational Vista OS working in full-screen mode on my MacBook Pro. Hell, it somehow managed to tie right into my wireless network without me even telling it how to.
In fact…I’m writing this post within Firefox within Vista within Parallels within OS X.
I wonder if this is how transgendered people feel…
I just wrote a piece for The Huffington Post expanding my thoughts on the upcoming WGA negotiations, including what I think is going to happen. So, wondering if there’s gonna be a strike or not? Read "Something Picket This Way Comes". To those of you visiting from HuffPo, welcome to our humble site. We hope you stick around.
So this kid named Ryan sends a message to me through my never-used MySpace page (I took one out to park my name…please don’t send emails to me there, or ask me to be your friend or whatever MySpacy type of stuff you enjoy) telling me he enjoys my films, and asking for some advice about film school.
I tell him about this site, give him the best advice I can, and that’s that, I figure.
But no. See, this kid is also in touch with James Gunn (who wrote The Specials), and James tells him I’m married with kids, but my MySpace page says I’m single with no kids…so this guy now wants to know if I’m the REAL Craig Mazin, and could I tell him some fact about James Gunn that he could verify with James Gunn in order to prove that I’m really me and not some nefarious Craig Mazin impersonator.
At this point, I should I have just walked away, because I’m thinking there’s now a 60% chance that this kid is James Gunn or Jamie Kennedy or some other person who knows me, and they’re just screwing with me.
Still, he’s purportedly in college, I’m trying to be a nice guy, so I email him a fact about James that I think isn’t public.
Then I email him again to point out that pretending to be Craig Mazin has to be the stupidest charade possible. I know this, because I am Craig Mazin, and there don’t appear to be any perks or fringes to this gig, like models or concert tickets or blow. Why would anyone even bother?
He emails me back with the following.
I’m waiting for James to get back to me about the Astroburger thing, but wasn’t that on the DVD?? Even I knew about that. Why would Craig Mazin get two things wrong on his profile? If this IS the real Craig Mazin, then you’ve got to put SOMETHING on your page proving it’s the real you. Everyone I know to be legit (James, his wife Jenna, Nathan Fillion from Slither) has something proving it’s them. Take a picture of yourself in front of your MySpace page on your computer. Or something. For every real celebrity on the internet, there are 1,000 people pretending to be them. You know that. Why do they do it? Your guess is as good as mine. Honestly, take a picture of yourself in front of your page.
Take a PICTURE in front of my MySpace page proving that it’s ME? Hey, why don’t I just drop everything else I’m doing and DRIVE TO YOUR HOUSE?
Then I could have lunch with you! You could see my driver’s license, and then touch me on the arm. If that’s not good enough, I could leave some hair behind for DNA testing…
Yes, the “single” and “no kids” thing is suspicious, because no one would EVER create a MySpace page and then NOT FILL IT IN ACCURATELY, right?
Maybe when I built that page, I didn’t want people to know I had kids. Maybe I didn’t want them to know I had a wife.
…wait, this is starting to make me look bad.
Honestly, I don’t know why it was filled out wrong.
I fixed it now, because I’m pretty much your employee now, Ryan. My job? Proving that I really am the oft-imitated but never-equaled Craig Mazin!
Like I said, I want to believe this is just a put-on, but this guy’s MySpace page is pretty detailed. I know, I know, maybe I’m as gullible as he is suspicious, but he seems real enough to me.
So, Ryan, if you’re reading this…
…this is not the way to go about winning friends and getting ahead in life.
For the rest of you, I know, I know…things have been sluggish around here. Stupid work getting in the way. I’ve got a ton of Q&A’s built up that I’m going to answer in one big burst, and then after that, an article that a number of you have requested: a primer to explain what the hell the issues are facing the WGA in the upcoming negotiations, whether or not I think we are going to have a strike, and what this all means in simple, easy-to-understand non-wonky language.
But first, I have to send a stool sample to Ryan.
It’s that time of year. My family and I will be spending Christmas in this lovely cottage depicted to the left. We call it “Olson’s Yule”, and you’re all welcome to join us. Doesn’t it look warm and toasty? It has twelve fireplaces. No matter how cold it gets outside, inside it’s always an inviting 575 degrees.
I’ll be rerunning some of my favorites for the next couple of weeks. Look for new stuff starting in the second week of January.
In a few minutes I have to go make some pies and cook a turkey and do all the other busy things the day requires, so I’m going to make this quick.
This year, I’m thankful for solving the problem of my migraines.
The path has been long and very, very painful. About ten years ago, I started experience pain around my eyes, accompanied by frequent nasal congestion. Sinus pain, in other words. Nothing worked, so I eventually underwent sinus surgery.
The pain didn’t go away.
In fact, it got worse.
I’ll describe it like this. I would wake with it, and the sensation was as if someone was digging above my eyeball with a fish hook, curving it up behind my brow, and then pulling. When it was bad, it was debilitating.
Eventually, a physician realized that my problem wasn’t sinus pain. My problem was migraine disease.
I tried anti-inflammatories. I tried nasal irrigation. I tried Excedrin. I tried meditation. I tried deep breathing. I tried sleeping more. I tried sleeping less. I tried breathe-right strips. I tried anti-anxiety medications. I tried anti-depressants. I tried anti-convulsants.
Nope. Nada. Nothing.
The only thing that would actually stop the migraines was Imitrex. Imitrex is one of a class of drugs called triptans, and they work by disrupting the…well, I should explain what a migraine is, hmmm?
All headaches are caused by the dilation of blood vessels in the head, neck and face. Blood vessels dilate for any number of reasons, but it seems that when they over-dilate, it’s usually in reaction to over constriction. Tight muscles can constrict blood vessels. They dilate in response…and voila…you have the cause and effect of a classic tension headache.
However, it’s not the blood vessels themselves that cause the pain, but rather the nerves that they’re slamming into when they expand. The culprit nerve for many migraineurs is the trigeminal nerve. When overstimulated by surrounding vasodilation, the trigeminal begins pounding the pain drum, triggering the release of pain-causing neurotransmitters. In addition to pain, this reaction can cause swelling and congestion, leading to more irritation of the trigeminal nerve, leading to more pain…
…until you’re in a full blown migraine. Some migraineurs (but not most) experience a visual warning, or aura, that is probably the result of increasing pressure on the eyeball. For me, there was no warning. I would simply wake up in pain. Sometimes it was so intense, I would either vomit or simply lie in bed.
And mind you, I have a rather high threshold for pain.
Imitrex and the triptans disrupt that vicious cycle, and the first time I took it, I was so happy I thought I’d cry. My migraines almost always last 10 hours or so. One hour after I took an Imitrex, it was gone.
Even better, Imitrex isn’t a narcotic or barbiturate or benzodiazepine or anything like that.
So for a while, things were okay. Wake up with a migraine? No problem. Imitrex. Feel one coming on? Imitrex.
Unfortunately, they started getting worse. And they started coming more frequently.
And during the summer of this year, they started coming every day.
Every day, I would wake up in pain. That’s when I started to really worry.
So, what am I thankful for?
Ignore the silly cover. Buchholtz, a neurologist, runs the headache center at Johns Hopkins. I reached for his book as a Hail Mary, the way I had reached for everything before.
His message was oh so simple.
My headaches had gotten worse because I was rebounding off the Imitrex. Okay, fine, but why was I getting them in the first place?
He reeled off a long list of things that can cause headaches, but the one thing he warned against the most, the one thing he said no migraineur should ever ever touch, was the one thing I had been consuming large quantities of for 15 years.
In addition to perking you up, caffeine is a vasoconstrictor. In fact, it’s such a good vasoconstrictor, they put a load of it in Excedrin. That’s why Excedrin works to stop headaches in some people when plain aspirin or Tylenol don’t. Unfortunately, if you’re neurochemically sensitive (and migraineurs are almost definitionally), that vasoconstriction will lead to vasodilation…and that’s going to lead to migraine.
I was waking up with migraines because eight hours of sleep meant eight hours without caffeine.
I was waking up in withdrawal, and once the migraine reaction had started, nothing but Imitrex could stop it…but that would only make matters worse.
So I went cold turkey. Quit the Imitrex and quit caffeine.
I will tell you that on day three, I was in so much pain I punched the wall.
But the headaches slowly started to recede.
First down to three a week. Then two. Then one.
It’s been a few months now. I have maybe one mild headache a week. Tylenol’s enough.
I’m incredibly thankful.
Like most things cool on the web, wikis began as little nerd repositories. The advent of Wikipedia changed that, but wikis are ours to do with as we wish. “Wiki” is a Hawaiian word for “shouldn’t work, but does.”
Mmm, actually, I think it means “fast,” but my definition is more descriptive. The idea that a largely unregulated conglomeration of random individuals should share collective responsibility for the editing of a resource is, well, crazy.
It’s wikicrazy, even.
Still, despite the well-publicized bumps in the road, wikis do tend to work.
Enter the Godfather Of The Scribosphere, John August, and his brand new jaWiki. It’s a terrific idea, not only because it’s a wonderful screenwriting resource our community can use and nourish, but because it provides guys like me with a lazy way of answering questions with a simple link.
The jaWiki is essentially a glossary of terms related to screenwriting and filmmaking. Users can add to entries, edit entries, etc. It’s still in beta, so you might experience some technical issues (although I haven’t yet). I’ve done a pass through and added about six or so definitions, and I plan on contributing more over the coming weeks. Go ahead and bookmark it now. It’s fledgling at this point, but I expect it’s going to eventually become a great (and free!) destination.
Well done, John!
Listen to the Jew…In the nearly two years I’ve been running this site, I don’t think I’ve been quite as annoyed as I was a few days ago. In the comment section of a recent article, a reader of the site made a joke.
A joke about vaginas.
Was it funny?
What’s more important is that another commenter felt it was absolutely necessary to take him to task for his offensive comment.
I say this to you all, but doubly and triply if you’re in college or a recent graduate of college: no one cares if you’re offended.
Before I go too far down this road, I want to make certain my policies and motivations are clear. In the comment section here, I have a simple rule: if you behave in a way that I think is uncivil toward another member, then I delete your comment.
Not because it offends me. I do that because I have an objective desire to host a civil discussion, because I like civil discussions. There’s nothing immoral or shocking or horrifying about uncivil discussions. It’s just that I don’t want to host them, and this is my party and I’ll cry if I want to.
Ergo, I censor.
Same with the forum. If you break our rules (pretty much the same rules), then you get censored. Same reason.
What frustrated me about the complainer in this recent case was that she implied that there is some higher law than my own here. Apparently, there is a species of human that believes that if an individual is offended, then a crime has been committed.
See, it’s perfectly fine to say “I don’t like vagina talk or Jesus talk or abortion talk or gay marriage talk in my house,” but if you go to someone else’s house and demand the same rules on the basis of some magical theory of “I’m offended ergo it is absolutely wrong,” then you become a tragic jerk that no one wants to be around.
You’d think writers would understand this.
Borat is, of course, Sacha Baron Cohen. And with his film, Cohen has done more to injure anti-Semitism than a thousand ridiculous Museums of Tolerance could ever hope to do. That is the power of comedy. It can subvert and undermine as well as anything, and our laughter is like a polygraph—we only laugh when the intent of the joke is clear.
Sacha’s intent is clear.
Of course, there are a lot of people who find Cohen’s comedy offensive. These are the kinds of people who are so addicted to the heroin of victimhood, they hate themselves for laughing.
Consider this missive from the Anti-Defamation League, which may be the most humorless perspective on a comedy I’ve ever read.
The premiere of Sacha Baron Cohen’s new film featuring his farcical character “Borat” has raised anew concerns among some in the Jewish community about the character’s notoriously boastful expressions of anti-Semitism and stereotyping of others.
When approaching this film, one has to understand that there is absolutely no intent on the part of the filmmakers to offend, and no malevolence on the part of Sacha Baron Cohen, who is himself proudly Jewish. We hope that everyone who chooses to see the film understands Mr. Cohen’s comedic technique, which is to use humor to unmask the absurd and irrational side of anti-Semitism and other phobias born of ignorance and fear.
We are concerned, however, that one serious pitfall is that the audience may not always be sophisticated enough to get the joke, and that some may even find it reinforcing their bigotry.
While Mr. Cohen’s brand of humor may be tasteless and even offensive to some, we understand that the intent is to dash stereotypes, not to perpetuate them. It is our hope that everyone in the audience will come away with an understanding that some types of comedy that work well on screen do not necessarily translate well in the real world — especially when attempted on others through retelling or mimicry.
It is unfortunate that Mr. Cohen chose to make jokes at the expense of Kazakhstan. It would have been better to have used a mythological country, rather than focus on a specific nation.
You know what that kind of absurd blather reminds me of?
Bad studio notes.
“Does he have to be Kazakhstani?”
“Will the audience get it?”
Anything that is subversive is going to offend someone. Anything. When people write me angry emails, astonished that I do not care that they are offended, what they’re really saying is either one of two things:
- I am a narcissist, so please adjust your world-view to my taste, or
- I don’t believe anyone should ever make any subversive statement, because being offended is worse than being scared of offending people.
Folks, I read things on the internet that offend me all the time.
No one is going to like everything, and no one thing will be liked by all. For those of us who make a living creating comedy for mass consumption, we’re all too aware of that. And if you write, it’s okay to worry if you’re offending others. Nothing wrong with that. Then make a determination about what you’re willing to put your name to, and live with it.
But for the love of Borat, please…don’t ever say the words “I’m offended” and expect anyone other than a college R.A. or your mommy to give a good sweet damn.
For the apparently gazillion of you that logged in to The Artful Writer this morning only to discover that the domain registration had lapsed, I apologize.
And I’m flattered. Honestly. I was buried under a deluge of emails. This site is like meth to quite a few of you.
The happy news (sort of) is that it wasn’t my fault. Yes, the domain had lapsed, but it’s not like I ignored renewal notices or used a bad credit card. My host also handles my domain registration, and they usually just renew it and charge me…
…but they sort of, um, forgot.
The good news is that because they work closely with the registry (and possibly even own it, I’m not sure), the problem was fixed ten minutes after my email to the owner. It’s rare that your whole site can ‘asplode and you come out of it loving your host even more, but I do. So thanks to Stacy Tabb at Hosting Matters for her excellent customer service.
For future reference, if things should ever go kablooey, I do mirror the site using theartfulwriter.com as an alternative address. Note that all of the links on the mirror will need to be manually adjusted in your browser to get the mirrored versions, but if you’re one of the seriously addicted, this will at least keep you from convulsing.
Sorry again for the downtime.
No, don’t go that far back…I’ve been writing for this site for a year and a half, and I’ve been dreading this post since I began.
It didn’t take long after the launch of The Artful Writer for The Question to be asked. It’s been asked a lot since then. A lot. Honestly, I’ve been resisting those words “How did you get your start?” for two excellent reasons.
Firstly, I find it terribly boring.
Secondly, I don’t think it’s going to have much relevance to anyone else.
Still, people keep asking, so here it is. I’m going to write it long, because I’m too tired tonight to be concise. Wherever I find places to possibly draw conclusions that might actually be helpful, I’ll bold them out. If I were you, I’d skip all the non-bolded text, but hey, you might be one of the people who asked The Question.
In the beginning (also known as 1992), I was a college lad who wanted to go into show business. I ran a public affairs radio program at school that had been started ten years earlier by a student named Garth Ancier. My experience writing, editing and producing media for broadcast sort of lit a fire in me.
One of the other alums of the radio program was working on a new sitcom called “Brooklyn Bridge,” and he promised me a production assistant job in the fall. I was thrilled. I’d graduate, spend one last lazy pot-smokin’ summer, and then hit L.A. in the fall and begin my career in the biz.
Two weeks before I graduated, the alum called to tell me that one of the other producers gave the job to a nephew. Honestly, I can’t remember if it was actually a nephew, but that makes it sound more annoying.
There are no sure things in this business. You have acheived something only when you can talk about it in the past tense.
I didn’t panic. No sir. After all, the summer before, I had interned at the Fox Network, and I was picked from hundreds of applicants, so obviously I was special. I would make it. Sure I would.
(later, my first boss, Dan McDermott, then the VP of Current Programming, would tell me that he chose me because I was, and I quote, “the least dorky.”)
And so, on July 5th, 1992, I packed my meager possessions into my meagerer Toyota and began driving across the country. I had $1400 to my name. I pretty much knew no one.
You don’t need to “know someone.” However, I definitely recommend having more than $1400 in your pocket. That was stupid.
I arrived in Los Angeles and quickly got an apartment to share with another college buddy who had come out to L.A. too. After first, last and the safety deposit, I was basically one month away from homelessness. Time to get a job. I went to The Friedman Agency to get a job…any job…but I figured since they placed you in the entertainment business, that was a plus.
Mind you, at no point had I ever considered writing. Okay? I just wanted to get a job. Sure, I had noodled on some spec sitcom scripts and thought myself a budding comic genius, but I never once thought that writing was something sane people could actually do for a living.
Louise at the Friedman Agency wasn’t interested in my fancy degree or my GPA or my permanent record. All she cared about was that I could type 110 words per minute.
Learn to type.
My first gig was at The William Morris Agency. In 1992, their employee manual was still xeroxed endlessly from an original hard-typed document. Yours truly was paid eleven bucks an hour to type the entire thing into Word Perfect.
If you work at William Morris and have read your employee manual…YOU’RE WELCOME.
My next temp job was at a boutique advertising agency called Jacobs & Gerber. Their gig was basically to produce promos for CBS shows. My position? Xerox temp. Because I applied myself diligently to my tasks, I was granted a permanent position as Xerox Boy.
Is writing your Plan A? Is your current job Plan B? Switch the letters. Make your current job Plan A. Why? The better you do what you do, the more opportunities you will receive…and opportunity is the currency all prospective writers need the most.
It was late October, 1992. I was a $20,000 a year Xerox Boy, and I was happy. So happy, that in a fit of anarchic mirth, I created a silly Halloween memo with fake blood stains and everything and passed it around the office.
An hour later, I was summoned to the office of the President of the company, an extremely sour and unimaginative creep named Albert Litewka.
And he fired me. Improper memo protocol, or something equally inane.
Sometimes you get fired.
As I cleaned out my desk in a stunned state, I got a call from the Creative Director of the agency. He liked my memo. “Yeah, well, it got me fired.”
He got me unfired.
Having appeared on the radar, I was quickly moved from Xerox Boy to junior copywriter. And while I had only made a jump from $20,000 to $23,0000 a year, the difference to me was enormous. I wasn’t an assistant anymore. I was a writer.
An awful one, but a writer nonetheless.
For the next two years, I churned out scores and scores of ads. And in those two years, I learned something that I wish every writer would learn before attempting to write a screenplay.
I learned how to write for production. That skill is something that simply isn’t taught at your UCLA extension or your USC class. It can’t be. Production is expensive. Even if the ads were only thirty seconds, I still got to write a ton of stuff that then got prepped, shot and posted.
Try and write for production any way you can. There simply is no substitute.
An exec at the agency was pals with a young marketing executive at Disney named Oren Aviv. Oren was looking for a guy who could write copy for movie posters and trailers. I was hired.
My career as a studio executive began. And for a while, I lived and breathed marketing. You can read about some of the lessons I learned (and their relevance to what we do) here.
Oren was a pretty ambitious guy (which clearly paid off…he’s only President of Production at Disney now), and he wanted to reach beyond marketing and into film production, so he encouraged me (and my then writing partner) to come up with ideas for movies.
Note again…I would not have been in this position had I not made Plan B my Plan A.
My partner and I saw Apollo 13, and while we enjoyed it, we thought it would have been much better if one of the astronauts was a complete idiot.
We pitched “Space Cadet” to Oren, he pitched it to Roger Birnbaum…
…and Roger bought it.
So there you go. Hard work and typing skills gets the boy into the right place at the right time, and he’s finally given his big break.
All I had to do is actually prove that I could write. And prove it I did. The script was good. The movie? Not so good. But the script? Good. Or at least…good enough.
I’ve been working as a screenwriter ever since.
So that’s what getting hacked feels like! No, the picture to the left isn’t what the homepage looked like. That’s just my spoof of the classic hacker yadda yadda…the laughing quaker is a staple in the forums at Fark.com. For those of you who emailed me to let me know, I thank you.
Of course, waking up to the laughing quaker would be one thing. Waking up to a screen full of Arabic text followed by a ten digit number is another. Granted, this site doesn’t seem like something terrorists would be too interested in attacking (frankly, why would ANYONE be interested in hacking me?), and as always, Google came to the rescue. By copying and pasting the Arabic text into their translator, the mysterious hacker’s true motive became clear.
“Site infiltrated by Moshari The Phallic. Questions: 4829754834.”
That’s not the real number, of course. And then he listed a fake hotmail addy.
Well, Moshari The Phallic, you have bested me today!
Sort of. I mean, it took about two minutes to undo what he did (which was basically change the index page). Naturally, I’m going to be spending a little time in the upcoming days to try and patch up any security holes here and maybe reevaluate some of the peripheral software we use on the site (possibly change our chatware), but this, I suppose, is a cost of being on the web.
For now, this wasn’t as much a crime as a bit of silly teenage vandalism. I guess, in a way…I’m flattered. I mean, it’s great to have you guys as readers, but…Moshari The Phallic? Here? On my site?
Yes, we have a box office record to crow about here at The Artful Writer. What record? Well, as it turns out, Scary Movie 4 is the biggest Easter weekend of all…
…what? Oh, right. Pirates. I didn’t check the—oh? What happened?
It did WHAT?
Ladies and gentlemen, I salute Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio, who are now the proud owners of the single best box office day in all of film history.
Fifty-five million dollars.
In one day.
By the time the weekend is over, they will own the record for the largest opening weekend of all time. See ya, Spidey.
Congratulations, Ted and Terry. It’s an astounding achievement.
Today, I bought a computer. Again. For like, the ninetieth time of my life. I don’t just buy computers. I collect them. Yeah, I’ve got a Franklin Ace 1000 (c. 1982) in my storage room. So what? It’s a passion.
In celebration of my latest purchase, I’ve decided to leave all of the serious bloviating behind for a bit and talk about gear.
I love gear. When you hang around people who work with gear, nothing’s more interesting to me than to hear them descend into their patois about their gadgets and gizmos and preferences and hates. I’ll sit and listen to two DP’s talk about the merits of one bit of ground glass over another, one light meter over another, one camera body over another. I’ll listen to grips talk about clamps. I’ll listen to the wardrobe department debate stitch rippers. I really don’t care. I just enjoy the minutia of gear.
We writers don’t really have specific gear, but why should that stop us from having fun? I present to you my List Of Screenwriting Gear. Some of it is cheap. Some of it is expensive. I use all of it.
We begin, naturally, with the laptop. Specifically, the one I purchased today. This is the 17” MacBook Pro, the perfect fusion of OS X and Windows XP operability. It’s sleek and light with a beautiful keyboard feel (and a lovely keyboard sound), a spectacularly bright and clean LCD wide enough to hold two script pages side-by-side, and boy howdy is it fast. Laptops are essential for screenwriting, because our job hopefully takes us places. I’ve got a ThinkPad that I used to use when I needed to run something in XP. It’s plastic and lame, with a cheap feel, cheap keyboard and a dismal LCD that looks bad in any condition and from practically any eyeline. If you’re a screenwriter, treat yourself to the proper tool. Now that Apple has switched to Intel chips, you don’t have any excuse.
While you’re at it, consider making a proper home base for your laptop by hooking it into an Apple Cinema Display. Protect your carpal tunnels like Craiggy does by using an ergonomic keyboard. If you’re not used to a split keyboard, it might feel weird for about a day. You’ll thank me later. Finally, tack on the King Of All Trackballs, the Expert Mouse.
By the way, I’ve been using the same damned square piece of neoprene as a wrist rest for about ten years now (it’s getting a bit nasty). Can anyone point me to SOMEONE who sells these things? I don’t want a jelly pad. I want neoprene. A square. About an inch thick.
We may use our brains for a living, but that doesn’t mean we can neglect our spines, or even worse, our asses. Like everyone else, I sit in an Aeron chair. No other chair matters. But what about a desk? After much searching (in a desperate attempt to spend as much as possible on a computer desk), I purchased the Biomorph Maxo. Apart from being massive, it has a split level keyboard platform that is freely articulating and independently adjustable from the desktop (i.e. the distance between the keyboard and the desk is not fixed). Combine that with a chain-drive crank to raise and lower the desk in its entirety, and I’m in love. Be warned; it’s not fun to assemble. Having done it, I’d recommend shelling out the extra dough to have the company assemble it for you in your home. Be further warned; it weighs more than Saturn. Literally. I checked.
I know a lot of writers enjoy listening to music while they work. I’m not one of them. I prefer silence. If I can’t have silence, I prefer a total cacophany. As long as I can’t pick out specific noises, I’m fine. Sometimes I use my Bose QuietComfort headphones to drown out the sounds around me, but I also like to use a simple Sound Soother, which offers me a choices like crickets (annoying), heartbeats (too Poe-ish) or white noise (just right).
I have two printers. The first is my workhorse, pictured at right, the Brother HL-1440. I love this thing because it’s cheap and stupid. For around $125, you get a reliable laser (not “laserjet”) printer that gives you black and white text at fifteen pages per minute…and that’s it. Nothing else. That makes me happy.
Of course, if I want to go totally mobile, I’ve got a Canon Pixma ip90. Ted turned me on to this little sumbitch. It’s totally portable, operating off a battery and bluetooth. It works. Okay, it doesn’t work perfectly, but when I’m on the soundstage and I feel like printing out five pages of dialogue, it sure beats handing my laptop over to a P.A. with greasy hands to go run it over to the office, connect it to a printer, call me on a cell phone ten minutes later to ask me why it’s only printing one page, yadda yadda.
But hey, I promised you some cheap gear, right?
I’ll be back (probably on Monday) with yet another provocative post about writing. Start collecting blood pressure meds for Olson. In the meantime, I thought I’d keep you all posted on some changes I’ve been implementing here behind the scenes. Let me know if you experience any strange behavior when visiting the site.
Like anyone who runs a blog, I get inundated with comment spam. Loads of it. The weird part about comment spam is that while some of it makes sense (pitches for online gambling, viagra, incest with dogs, the usual), some of it doesn’t even seem to contain advertising at all. That’s the stuff that worries me, of course. No URL, no text pitch…just some weird profusion of comments saying something like “Hi to all is good for same!” published to twelve posts at a time. Wonder what those guys are up to…
Anyway, this site is powered by Movable Type, which has been doing a fairly decent job in the war against spam. Unfortunately, plenty gets through. Lots of sites (like John’s) have tried to deal with the problem using captchas (those annoying codes you have to manually enter in order to post a comment) or challenges (like John’s erstwhile “oxlip and nodding violet” test). I find those things intrusive and disruptive to my browsing experience (and lo and behold, John’s chucked the oxlips too), so I made a choice very early on to prioritize ease of commenting over ease of webmastering.
But over the last month, as more and more spam fought its way past Movable Type’s built-in filter plugins, it started to get very irksome.
Enter MT-Keystrokes, a brilliant little plugin for Movable Type. The author’s theory is that the vast majority of spam comments aren’t actually typed into the text field; that would be a terribly inefficient way of going about the task of bombing thousands of blogs a day. Instead, bots crawl the web, find blogs and then autopost comments to them. The answer? A plugin and some quick template hacking that requires my commenters to actually type something into the text field…or even just click the “submit” button. That’s it. If you do that, you make it to the next level (where you get filtered behind the scenes again by another plugin). If you don’t…I never even hear about it. You’re toast.
So far, the impact has been startling. The plugin author is aware that sooner or later the spammers will get around this, but for now it’s working like a charm. Still, if you attempt to post a comment and it doesn’t show up, let me know. It may be that something’s gone wrong.
On the hosting side, we haven’t yet moved to our new server, but it’s a-comin’. Also, I’ve implemented some coding changes recommended at Elise Bauer’s absolutely brilliant site, Learning Movable Type. These changes should reduce the load that this site puts on our server, and maybe even cut down on the slowages and outages. As an aside, one of the cool things about the internet is that there’s a person named Elise Bauer whom I’ve never met and probably never will, but she still means a lot to me (and God knows how many others). Like her counterparts in the scribosphere like John August, Elise decided one day that she would spend her own time and money to help people learn some of the things she’s learned. There’s no charge, there’s no advertising…just really useful information. Thank you, Elise!
Over at The Forum, I’ve updated the software (it’s a separate application called SMF). Every time I do that, something gets broken. This time, it was the link to our Chat Room, but our Forum Valkyrie (aka Denise) fixed that just today.
Finally, a quick note about the links to other sites. I never wanted a massive blogroll, because it’s my belief that a list of 500 hundred blogs means no one’s gonna click on any of them. My intention has always been to feature links to blogs that meet at least a majority of the following criteria:
- About screenwriting.
- Frequently updated…as in at LEAST once a week.
Personally, I hate hate HATE generic Blogger sites, and I really don’t know why anyone has a blog that they don’t update more than once a month (and don’t give me “I’m busy” because trust me, you’re not). On the other hand, Josh Friedman definitely scores big on criteria 1 and 2, so he’s not getting bumped. Similarly, you may have a beautiful, well-written site that you update daily, but if it’s not screenwritingish enough, I’ll eventually bump you.
The truth is that some sites are just plain excellent, and I don’t want them lost in a big list. Everyone knows about Josh Friedman and John August and I’m sure most of you have enjoyed Complications Ensue and Word Player and The Thinking Writer and John Rogers…
…but save some love for Warren Hsu Leonard’s The Screenwriting Life. It’s a really attractive blog. He deserves extra attention.
That’s the update for now. Thanks for continuing to read and make use of the site. We continue to grow, clocking about 18,000 unique visits a month now. I don’t know how long we can continue to grow at this pace, but I suppose we’ll find out.
Up next, my dream of the perfect studio. I call it…Scriptopia…
Those of you visiting the main site or the forum last night were probably greeted with a message saying we didn’t exist.
Yeah, that freaked me out a bit too. Had Josh Olson finally finished his “Hacking For Dummies” book? No, the Artful Writer is apparently a victim of its own success. We’re getting more popular. Our unique visitors per day count continues to rise, and more significantly, the amount of activity on the site has increased.
Our hosting company serves this site and others from one of a large number of servers they own. Lately, the server we’re on has been getting sluggish. Sometimes the load increases to the point where it sort of gives up, and the site is inaccessible for a bit. Naturally, I contacted our Hosting Queen (the mysterious and possibly deadly woman known as Sekimori) and said, “Hey, mysterious and possibly deadly woman, why am I on such a sucky server?”
And she said, “Hey, idiot, YOU’RE the reason it’s sucky. Your traffic is crashing it. I need to move you to another server.”
Actually, she called me “whelp.” We have a very strange relationship.
Anyway, congratulations, everyone. It’s not a party until someone breaks something.
Seki tried to move us last night, but there was some trouble, so we’re still on the Sucky Server. You may continue to experience sluggishness, outages and weight gain, although that last one isn’t my fault. When she makes another attempt to move us to the new server (a brand new dual Xeon server ), the site will probably go down for a bit again.
Bear with us. We should have a zippier Artful Writer when this is all over.
I usually post before a week goes by, but I’ve been really busy getting a treatment done for my next movie. Besides, don’t we all deserve a break after the megathread? Five hundred and nineteen comments on one post!
Hell, more if you include the deletions.
I want to thank all of you, even Josh, for making this website such a busy place. I’ll be back in a few days with some Q&A’s and maybe even a gestalt experiment. Something I call “Writopia.”
Everyone thinks better
on a mountain…It’s been a while since my last post, but that one had such an active commentary, I feel like I wrote more this past week for the site than any week before it.
Some questions were raised in that commentary that inspired contemplation. And so, I wandered up into the mountains, got naked, ate some mushrooms and stared into the sun.
What is the purpose of this site?
I’ve been saying for a while that Ted and I have a point of view about how screenwriters ought to think and behave in this business, and we want to spread that gospel before new screenwriters or currently working screenwriters turn into grouchy, bitter, self-defeating screenwriters.
Somewhere along the line, some people (okay, three so far, but still) have gotten the idea that Ted and I are screenwriting Uncle Toms. Quislings. Roy Cohn-like gay bashers.
Pick your self-hating metaphor.
How to address this? Well, it’s possible that our accusers are right. It’s possible that Ted and I hate ourselves and our vocation, and this site is designed to fill our unfillable spiritual wounds. We’re spraying our miserable contagion over the internet, because if we can’t be happy then neither should you. After all, if you’re a happy, well-adjusted, proud screenwriter who fights evil and defends good, then you’re living proof of our weakness, our servility, our slave minds.
Like I said, entirely possible.
But just as David Lee Roth didn’t feel tardy, I don’t feel Uncle Tommy. I like to do the job, I like to be known as a screenwriter, I like to talk about screenwriting, I absolutely take pride in my work (even if I have a natural tendency to avoiding sounding like a boastful schmuck), and above all, I want to empower other screenwriters.
Folks, I’m an activist.
Here’s what this activist actually believes. And from now one, when people question what I believe, I’ll be able to just publish the link to this post, and that will save us all time and carpal tunnel pain.
Screenwriters are professional artists: This means we’re creative thinkers, but we are also employees in an industry. I believe that if we do not accept we are both, we will self-limit.
Screenwriters are crucial: We are the story-telling experts in a story-telling business. Screenwriters and directors are the coauthors of films.
Screenwriters are disempowered: All people exist on various power continua. Screenwriters are relatively underpowered compared to the people for whom and with whom they work.
Power is not something that is deserved: Just a simple philosophical belief of mine. Mind you, I’m not Thucydides either. Might doesn’t make right. Neither, however, does deserving power make one powerful. Screenwriters ought to be more powerful? Sure. Of course, everyone thinks they ought to be more powerful. When everyone can make the same moral argument, that argument becomes worthless.
Power is something that must be gained: How do you gain power? Lots of ways. Some march, some starve themselves to death, others plot, others punch. Regardless, I believe in discussing strategies of empowerment without having to deal with the baggage of what I do or do not deserve.
Knowledge is a fundamental piece of any successful empowerment strategy: We’re all familiar with the “knowledge is power” platitude, but I’m here to tell you it’s not true. Knowledge itself is just, well, knowledge. Knowledge that informs purpose? Now you’re getting somewhere.
My purpose is to empower screenwriters: And yes, my chief strategic tool is knowledge. Because…
Screenwriters aren’t educated enough: This is not up for dispute. This is something I know, because as of two years ago, I knew so much less than I know now about issues with enormous influence over my work and my career, and I still don’t know enough. And, frankly, the odds are excellent that I know more than you. Part of my mission to empower screenwriters is to teach them what they don’t know…but what their employers do know. I want us all to understand the laws that govern our work, the economic principles that affect our livelihoods, the realities of the productions behind our movies, the details of the jobs that our collaborators do, the reasons why we are lied to and the truth that we’re not hearing…I want us all to know all of it. I want the screenwriter to no longer be satisfied with merely being the smartest guy in the room. I want the screenwriter to also be the most informed guy in the room.
Self-criticism is good: We’re not made of glass. We can do this. The fact that we are mistreated by others neither obviates the need for nor eliminates the benefit of self-critical analysis. Nothing should ever stop us from improving ourselves. Nothing. There is power we can take, and we should take it. While we’re working on that, let’s not forget the power we can make all on our own.
Whining is bad: I don’t like whining and complaining because it’s useless, and my time is too valuable for useless, losing strategies. Ted and I state problems, enumerate the symptoms, analyze causes and then propose solutions. We never just state a problem. If you’re looking for sympathy, take us off of your bookmarks. We’re not therapists. We’re strategists. Go cry on someone else’s shoulder. We’re busy.
I only suggest doing the doable: Because I want to empower writers, I only discuss strategies that I believe have a chance of working. I have no interest in strategies that strike me as ridiculous or ignorant of fact, circumstance or law. There are writers who believe that the best way to empowerment is simple: the WGA should ban rewriting. One writer, one movie. This solution is ignorant of fact, circumstance and law, and so I don’t bother with it. If you find anything less than revolution to be uninteresting or uninspiring, then leave this site and do not return. It will only upset you.
Nothing is taboo: When it comes to improving the working condition of the professional screenwriter, nothing is off the table for me. Producing, directing, flattering, fawning, yelling, screaming, quitting, acting, learning, manipulating, threatening, lying, conniving…I don’t care. All fair game. I want to win. No one in this business flights by Marquess of Queensberry rules. Why should I?
That’s all there is.
I want to empower screenwriters. That’s why this site exists. Think I’ve got it wrong?
Start your own site. Blogger’s still free.
If you’re a new arrival from Creative Screenwriting or the L.A. Times or any other place in which I’ve been shilling Scary Movie 4 and this site, welcome to our humble abode. Most of the articles are under The Craft & Trade, but there’s lots to see and do here. Use the navbar near the top of the page, or scroll through the archives in the right column.
Also, join our Forum, an active discussion community of aspiring and pro screenwriters. The forum includes a chat room, and without giving away too many details, at least two users have laid the foundation for screenwriting deals in the chat room, so it’s good for the purse as well as the mind.
This is a busy weekend (natch), but I should have an essay up tomorrow ruminating on critics, success and what it all means for screenwriters.
The premiere of Scary Movie 4 is this Monday. What better time to contemplate what an enormous failure I am? Of course, it’s not my choice. Stupid blog tag things. Stupid, stupid, stupid blog tags! Why must you torment me? Well, the way I see it, once August does it, I’m a jerk for not doing it.
This latest survey comes from frequent commenter Kevin Arbouet. I shall do my best to answer these questions honestly, although it hurts. It really hurts.
WHAT’S THE WORST THING YOU’VE EVER WRITTEN?
Hmm. Probably the first script I ever wrote with my then-partner. We thought we were so goddamned funny, and we were. Unfortunately, the script read like a 100 page live-action Simpsons episode. Had it been filmed, it would have been the worst movie ever. Ever. EVER.
WHAT’S THE WORST LINE YOU’VE EVER WRITTEN?
In my adapation of Harvey, a female character confronts a womanizing guy with what her friend once said about him.
KELSO: What was Lara’s line about you? (remembers) “Dr. Sachs, the man who put the comma in ‘drop dead, gorgeous’.”
Wow. Where to begin? Well, for starters, I loved that line when I wrote it, because I thought it was ohhhhh so clever. Unfortunately, it feels like a line. In fact, it’s a line about line. No, it’s a line about a line about line. There’s single quotes inside double quotes inside dialogue! Ridiculous. And precious. Argghhh.
WHAT’S THE WORST ADVICE YOU’VE EVER GIVEN?
“Don’t quit Princeton. You’ve only got one year left. If you drop out now and don’t get your degree, you will regret it for the rest of your life.”
That’s me in 1992 talking to a friend named Linus Upson. Linus dropped out. Then he went to work for Steve Jobs. Then he invented AvantGo. Then he invented some other crap I don’t understand, but it made him a lot of money. Then he invented this new spam filter called Qurb. He’s doing fine. I was wrong. Totally, completely wrong.
WHAT’S THE ONE TIME YOU KNOW YOU SHOULD HAVE SPOKEN UP BUT YOU DIDN’T?
When I was a kid, someone made a nasty comment about Jews. See, I don’t have a very typical Jewish last name, and I look vaguely Italian or something-ish, so I suppose this other kid figured I was Catholic like him.
I said nothing.
I think I said nothing more to avoid his embarrassment, but the result was that I was the one left feeling shame.
WHAT’S THE WORST PITCH MEETING YOU’VE EVER HAD?
This is an easy one.
Years ago, my then-partner and I worked with Betty Thomas on a pitch, and then went to pitch it to a producer we’ll call Eric. Naturally, it was a comedy, and I was already friendly with Eric, so it was very casual and fun. About five minutes into the pitch, Eric’s assistant walks into the conference room, which is highly unusual, as assistants are trained to stay out of pitch meetings.
She’s ghostly white.
She says she has a call for Eric and he needs to get it RIGHT NOW.
He gets up and walks to his office. All of us are left in the room, hoping that it’s not something awful. About a minute passes, and then Eric goes RUNNING BY, yelling at us as he goes.
“I HAVE TO GO!”
And he’s gone. We’re shocked. The assistant returns. I ask her if everything’s okay. She’s crying. Crying! “No. You guys should go.”
Shaken, we all head over to the reception area, when the assistant comes running back toward us.
“Don’t go! Eric’s coming back.”
Are you kidding?
He rushes out of the elevator, back into the room, out of breath, pale. Apparently, Eric’s wife put their newborn daughter in the crib, took a shower, came back out…and the baby was gone. Kidnapped. Stolen.
Turns out the babysitter had arrived on the wrong day, took the kid for a stroll around the block, and all’s well.
Eric asked us to finish the pitch.
WHO’S THE ONE PERSON YOU’D NEVER WORK WITH AGAIN AND AREN’T AFRAID TO NAME?
James Gunn. Not that there would ever be a circumstance in which we would work together again, but you asked, so I’ll answer. I think James is a really talented guy, but he’s not my cup of tea. At all. And I ain’t his.
WHAT’S THE WORST SCRIPT IDEA YOU’VE EVER HAD?
Probably this one.
WHAT’S THE WORST THING ABOUT YOU BEING ON SET?
I tend to get blabby with the actors, and that pisses the 1st AD off.
WHAT’S YOUR WORST WORKING HABIT?
John August described his as going back over yesterday’s work before moving on to today’s work, which I also do, but I think of that as a good habit, so there you go.
My worst working habit is feeling like I need to know the scene before I start writing it. Sometimes, I think I’d be better off just starting the writing and seeing where it takes me.
WHAT’S THE WORST MISTAKE YOU’VE EVER MADE?
Starting smoking. So stupid. Seven years of it. I quit ten years ago, and thank God, but it was really hard, and I hope I didn’t do any permanent damage.
Oh baby…Ladies and Gentlemen, I have seen the future. You can too, in ten days. On April 14, Scary Movie 4 will be the first major motion picture release to have been filmed with the Panavision Genesis HD system. It’s not the first film to go into production with the Genesis, but because we’re so damned speedy, we’ll be the first to the marketplace. This summer, you can see another small film shot on Genesis called Superman Returns.
First, let me apologize for this essay, which has absolutely nothing to do with screenwriting. I’m just so damned enthusiastic about this thing, and I want to sing its praises.
The Genesis uses standard 35 mm lenses, and the image quality is exceptional. It doesn’t look like video. It looks like incredibly detailed film. What’s more, when the digital files are ultimately scanned to film, they look exactly like film…because they are film.
The real benefits of the Genesis are in the way it makes production and post-production so much easier.
With film, you’re always checking the gate after your setups. You still check “the gate” with the Genesis, but it’s not really a gate (the chamber through which the film travels). It’s the gap between the lens and the camera body. As such, there’s almost never any hairs or dirt in there to necessitate do-overs.
The HD tapes are long, so you don’t waste as much time changing mags, and you never have to worry about spooling out during a long take. Watching dailies is a joy. With film, you can usually “rock n’ roll” backwards and forwards, but sometimes the projector won’t even let you do that, so it’s once through and then back to work. With HD, you can freeze frame dailies and replay moments at will. The Genesis dailes also look much much much better than your typically under- or over-lit one-light 35mm daily transfers.
But the real benefits are in post. All visual effects are less lossy; instead of going from 35mm to digital back to 35mm, you stay in digital until you’re ready for the final film out. Opticals are not lossy at all…no need to do optical fades, optical dissolves, etc. Also, you have a TON more latitude when it’s time to color correct. Digital images are much easier to manipulate and adjust than photochemical ones. It’s the difference between using a laser and a shotgun.
There’s no such thing as negative dirt or film scratches, and because there’s no film travel, the registration is perfect, so the subtitles and credits don’t dance around.
There’s no negative cutting! Think about that! No splices to deal with EVER.
Maybe the single greatest benefit of the Genesis, however, is the way it allows you to blow images up. The need for blow-ups is almost inevitable. There’s a boom that dips into frame, or maybe there’s a flag peeking in, or maybe you wish you had gotten a more extreme close up than the one you shot…etc.
With 35mm, you can blow stuff up about 15% before it starts to get really grainy and milky and take you out of the movie.
With the Genesis? We blew one shot up by 250 percent. We can barely tell. The audience? Not at all…especially after you film-out all of the HD so that the blown-up shot gets the same proportion of grain as the non-blown up shots. 250% vs 15%! The media is unbelievably versatile.
One thing to be aware of is that the viewfinder on the Genesis isn’t a reflex lens like the kind you find on a 35mm camera. It’s actually a video tap, and as such, there’s a (very) slight delay between reality and what the operator sees. Therefore, if you’re shooting things like sports or car chases where you need perfect precision operating, the Genesis might not be for you. Of course, this will be perfected in the near future (it’s currently like this because of shutter and light issues…give it two or three years and they’ll have a new system with a reflex viewfinder).
In about 15 years, when the studios and exhibitors finally get their acts together and come up with digital delivery systems and digital projectors, it’s my belief that film will be dead. Images will never touch emulsion again. And from what I’ve seen, abandoning film will cost us little or nothing in warmth and quality, and gain us so very much more.
…and the writers of Date Movie had nothing to do with Scary Movie 3 or Scary Movie 4.
People were askin’, is all.
Okay, okay, the darned scribosphere meme thingy has tagged me twice now, which means I’m screwed. I have to answer. Hmph.
ONE (1) earliest film-related memory:
I had just turned 6. I remember my father sitting at the dining room table, pointing excitedly at an ad in the newspaper. I don’t specifically recall him mentioning the words “Star Wars”, but I definitely remember him saying, “This guy…see this guy in the black helmet? He’s the bad guy. His name is Darth Vader.”
I think the moment was so impressive because my father was uncharacteristically enthusiastic about something…something we could both be excited about. So I was. I got excited over nothing more than the image and name of Darth Vader.
Oddly, my 4 year-old son is obsessed with Darth Vader, despite the fact that just like me in 1977, he has yet to see any of the Star Wars movies.
The dark side runs strong in my family.
TWO (2) favorite lines from movies:
“Just lie here, Pop. I’ll take care of you now. I’m with you now. I’m with you.” - Michael Corleone, The Godfather (Mario Puzo & Francis Ford Coppola)
“We all got it comin’, kid.” - William Munny, Unforgiven (David Webb Peoples)
THREE (3) jobs you’d do if you could not work in the “biz”:
FOUR (4) jobs you actually have held outside the industry:
Short order cook
Convenience store clerk
THREE (3) book authors you like:
Edgar Allan Poe
TWO (2) movies you’d like to remake or properties you’d like to adapt:
The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar
ONE (1) screenwriter you think is underrated:
Whoo hooo!I wasn’t planning on giving another “state of the blog” address until our first year anniversary (which is still a few months off), but lately, we’ve been experiencing a really nice growth curve.
In the month of October, we had 12,000 unique visitors. That’s pretty remarkable, I think, for a blog that is as studiously dry as this one. It’s not just gratifying to my ego (although, okay, it is); it’s exciting to me that my philosophy is getting out there. I can’t tell you how many times I hear studio executives moaning about the dropoff in writing quality. Is it partially their fault? Yes. Is it partially the fault of the writing and film academia? Yes.
Can sites like this help reverse that trend (if it really is a trend)?
It’s worth a shot.
We promote “production-smart” writing here, so I hope it’s all catching on. Twelve thousand folks a month is a lot, and even though the biggest draw by far is our excellent forum (where I hear we may have actually contributed to a writer making a script sale!—but more to come about that later…), I’m hoping people spend a little time to read my screeds as well.
As part of my ongoing education in all things CSS, PHP and HTML, I’ve been tinkering with a few things on the site. I want to thank John August, the professional CSS advisor who moonlights as a screenwriter of some repute, for his generous assistance.
Lastly, I’ve been doing some link pruning and rearranging. I used to use an egalitarian alphabetical order system, but it’s been bugging me. If you have suggestions for blog links (or other links), head to the forum and point them out in the “Screenblogging” section. I don’t necessarily put everything up, but you never know what will tickle my fancy.
Thanks for reading and spreading the word. Up next, a look at the recent settlement between the WGAw and the WGAE…the gives, the takes, and why it’s not a perfect but “good enough” deal for the two unions.
The other, much
CraigI’m going to say something that I hope makes the slower writers among us feel very, very guilty. In the past 8 weeks, I have written three…count ‘em, THREE…drafts of my next movie. My brain feels a bit pudding-like right now. That’s probably why it’s been a few days since the last post, and while I normally have all sorts of wonderful things to say about the job and the business, my attention factor is really low right now.
As such, I’m going to do a more traditional blog-style update of what the hell is going on right now in my life, as way of explanation. After this brief update, I’ll get back to the screenwriting stuff. I swear.
The handsome dude you see up and to the left is Craig Bierko, a terrific actor who received fantastic reviews as Max Baer in Cinderella Man. Not only is he a great guy, but he’s the lead in Scary 4. I couldn’t be happier.
My son recently turned four, and my daughter is now 9 months old. My boy is still hovering around the 97th percentile for height and weight, and the girl is at the 90th percentile, so my dreams of having Brobdingnagian children who would physically crush anyone who dared threaten dear Poppa is apparently coming true.
The prepping of the movie is in full swing. I write pages, sit with David and go through casting, talk with the production designers about the sets that are coming up, the requirements of what must be built or not, the story implications of shooting certain scenes on location or on stage, and on and on and on.
And then there’s the notes. Now that we’re two weeks out, I can’t really do draft revisions anymore. I have to go scene by scene, depending on what’s coming up first. The 1st AD and I decided that the third draft should be the “white” or shooting draft. From here out, it’s revised pages and asterisks all the way.
Meanwhile, John August has a post up on his blog about gay marriage. I’d like to think that if I were gay, I’d comport myself like John—outly, matter-of-factly and with confidence in my identity as something beyond mere sexuality. John and his partner want to get married, but there’s that little issue of politics and law. The ensuing comments are almost entirely in favor of gay marriage, but I must admit that I’m still on the fence about the whole thing. Normally I’ve very sure about everything, so this is an uncomfortable feeling. In my comment on his post, I wrote:
I guess my stance is this: smart, faithful, reasonable, stable people should be allowed to get married, and it should be extremely difficult for these folks to get unmarried. The rest of the riffraff, be they gay, straight, bi, lesbian, polyamorous, etc., should keep getting drunk and screwing each other in bars. I know, I know…hardly realistic. Just like my long-held belief that only smart people should vote. But please, riffraff, if you’re not willing to stop getting married in Vegas drivethroughs to waitresses you just met or some geezer with cash, at least stop having kids, wouldja?
In other non-sexuality news, the WGA election will soon come to a close. This year’s campaign was a rather tough one, and I hope that the blood on the floor gets mopped up quickly and everyone gets back to business. I’m looking forward to working with a new Board, mostly because I get easily bored staring at the same people. Besides, I think the odds are good that, at the very least, my more-talented-than-I friends like Phil Alden Robinson and Scott Frank will join me in the room, although I very much want all of you eligible voters to cast your ballots for the candidates running on the Common Sense slate.
Last but not least, for those of you following the saga of The Crimson Ape at Josh Friedman’s blog, I think you ought to know that I spoke to the Ape himself today, and he said the following:
“You know how people tell a story about an incident that happened a long time ago involving two other people, and if you ask the other two people about the story they’ll each give you a slightly different version, or maybe a very different version? Well, this isn’t that way. The way Josh told the story?
Happened exactly like that. Exactly.
Back to work for me. Up next, I think I’m going to talk a little bit about something that’s been bugging me lately. WGA credit arbiters are supposed to determine who gets credit for “story” and who gets credit for “screenplay”, but I’ve come to believe that most arbiters don’t know the difference between the two, and that our system is routinely (and wrongly) denying “screenplay by” credit to writers because they haven’t fulfilled the requirements for “story by” credit.
Arrgghhh!I’ve been struggling through the latest Movable Type upgrade. Man, they just don’t make it easy.
In any way.
Still, everything’s pretty much working okay save for comments. Not sure what the problem is. I’ll be opening a tech ticket up tonight, probably, so I hope to get things back and running.
After all…what’s the point in publishing my big How To Pitch article if no one can tell me where to go stick it?
(Edited to add: I fixed it. Suffice it to say that the people who wrote the READ ME installation instructions should think about writing a new doc called STRANGLE ME, because that’s what they deserve.)
Yeah, I blog, so what?Perhaps most known for his membership in our world-famous Artful Forum, but also somewhat known for cowriting War Of The Worlds, Josh Friedman has a new blog called I Find Your Lack Of Faith Disturbing.
You should read it. It’s really good. I hope to God he doesn’t keep up his current pace of quality and quantity, because he’s making the rest of us in the scribosphere look like hacks. Or maybe just me.
Nice job, Josh!
A short while back, I wrote a typically unrestrained essay about all those screenwriting charlatans trying to separate screenwriting wannabees from their money—even though the authors of these “advice” sites and books were hardly legitimate screenwriters themselves.
It is, therefore, with great humility that I must now reverse course somewhat (somewhat! I say!). There actually is one very good book out there that you might not already own.
Alex Epstein is one of the most active members of the scribosphere (his site, Complications Ensue, is linked in our left column under Writing). The only thing that made me wary of Alex (other than his Canadianness, or his somewhat cliched political liberalism, or the fact that he went to Yale, which is an altogether inferior school to Princeton as everyone-who-didn’t-go-to-Yale knows) was that he was hawking his book, “Crafty Screenwriting” on his site.
“Sigh,” I sighed. “Why must everyone have written a book?”
When Alex offered to send me a copy, I accepted, thinking that posting a very frank review on The Artful Writer might serve the same role as a decapitated head on a spike in front of a castle’s walls.
“Ah,” thinks the how-to writer, “I’d better travel around this website. Nothing here but trouble…”
Alas, the book is good.
Actually, it’s very good.
What I like most about the book is that it’s written with a particular philosophy in mind, and it just so happens to be the same philosophy Ted and I espouse here on The Artful Writer.
Screenwriting is a job. A profession. A trade. A vocation.
For those of you who have been reading the essays here, you’ll find a lot in common between my views and Alex’s. He talks about the necessity of outlining (me too), the value of pitching, even if it’s just to your friends (me too), the importance of a good title (yup), the necessity of a good hook (check), and above all….the two most important sentences in the book (and on page 1, natch!):
A screenplay is not a complete work. It is not intended to be appreciated on its own.
Alex’s time as a development executive taught him what so many screenwriters fail to understand. This simple truth is our mantra here at The Artful Writer: the screenwriter’s job is not to write a screenplay, but to write a movie.
In addition to some decent passages on character and dialogue, Alex seeds in a few bits of insight, at least one of which was new to me. He makes a very cool distinction between horror movies and “terror” movies.
In a terror movie, you’re terrified of ending up dead. In a horror movie, you should be so lucky.
That’s a great bit of shorthand for someone like me who occasionally writes horror, but is still somewhat new to the genre.
So, is there anything wrong with this book?
Yes. In fact, there’s something terribly wrong with it, and if there’s ever a volume 2, I’m going to go to Alex’s house and sit on him until he fixes it.
The most important element to screenwriting is theme. I can’t be clearer than that. Theme drives everything. Theme must be an argument, and it must be present. It is a lack of thematic presence and progression that makes screenplays episodic (not a lack of character development, as Alex posits, although he’s at least not making the classic mistake that episodicism derives from poor plotting), and all good movies have a theme.
Alex doesn’t think so. Oh, how I gnashed my teeth and wept when I read this:
You don’t need to have a theme to have a great popcorn movie. Alien is a well-crafted story about a bunch of human beings in danger of being eaten by a monster. While we find out that an evil corporation put them in danger, the movie isn’t really about the danger of evil corporations. It’s about people trying not to get eaten by a giant bug. We come away from the film with just the adrenaline rush.
Arggh. No. The theme of Alien can be expressed in a few related ways. “Humanity’s greed will be its downfall.” Or “Our pride is our greatest weakness”. Or “There are things better left unexplored by man.”
The theme creates the details. Humanity is reaching beyond itself. It’s motivated by pride and greed. It believes it is safe. What it encounters in the form of the Alien is a lesson in humility.
Alien is, in the end, a retelling of the tale of Icarus.
If those elements weren’t there, the movie would be very very scary, but it just wouldn’t be as compelling. It wouldn’t be about anything.
Alex also makes the mistake of presenting themes that aren’t arguments, like “guilt versus redemption”. That’s not a theme, really. It doesn’t take a stand.
That weakness aside, the book is really terrific. Worth owning, especially if you’re an aspirant. Alex does a fine job of presenting a view of screenwriting that simply isn’t articulated often enough, and he does so to the reader’s benefit.
Well done, Alex. Amend that chapter on theme, and you’ve got yourself a gem!
I’ve been better…I like to get something up on the blog every three days or so, so if you’ve been wondering where I’ve been, I’ve got one word for ya: bronchitis.
Okay, two words: bronchitis and deadline. Hell of a combination. As the levaquin works its magic, two articles should be forthcoming rather soon. First, a discussion of whether or not it’s a good idea to “write to the marketplace”, and then an examination of so-called “orphan works” and how upcoming legislation may further cement the authorship rights of screenwriters in the U.S.
For our English readers, I offer this image in solidarity. I hope all of you and your loved ones are safe, and I salute the resolve and determination I’ve been seeing in the British people since the deadly attacks occurred.
Courage…Having trouble posting comments, getting into the forum or accessing the blog?
If you are experiencing intermittent “500 Server Errors” while using Movable Type and are using MySQL for your database, we are aware of the cause of the problem: a nightly CPanel update of a buggy version of the DBI and DBD::MySQL drivers. See this post on the Professional Network Weblog for more details. The MT engineering team has been actively working with developer to help him rectify the problem. We apologize for any inconvenience and will keep you up to date on our progress as well as post here when the problem is solved.
In other words, it’s not our fault. Lots of blogs are having this problem. Let’s hope they fix this one fast.
The forum is open…Well, the polls were pretty convincing. A whole lot of you professed an interest in posting in a full-fledged discussion board. There were a dozen or so folks interested in chats as well.
We’ve got the board up. It’s in beta, so pardon us if it goes out on you every so often.
Anyone can join, and of course, it’s free. There’s a verification email that the software sends you, and after clicking the URL, you’re up and running. I encourage use of real names, but it’s not a requirement.
I’m using Simple Machines Forum to power the board, and for freeware, I have to say I’m seriously impressed. It’s not as insanely configurable as vBulletin, but it contains all of the useful functionality of vBulletin.
There’s an integrated chat link, so take that for a spin as well. There’s a place in the forum to give feedback on it all, and we’d love to hear your opinion.
Jacob Sager Weinstein, who attended my alma mater and is our Intrepid Man In London, has launched a new blog that’s sort of a collective blog for various screenwriters who come and go as they please.
It’s a bit like eavesdropping in a bar where writers hang out. Cool premise. It’s called The Blank Page, and the link has been stashed under Writing.
We’re doing well…It’s been a wild couple of months for me. I’ve done three weeklies in a row—for the uninitiated, that’s where you’re employed on a weekly basis for work on a movie that’s been greenlit and is hurtling towards production.
All movies hurtle towards production. It’s like a rule or something.
Anyway, I’ve worked on three different movies over the course of the last four weeks, and I’ve got two more in the weeks ahead. This had made blogging difficult to say the least, so I apologize if the updates haven’t been coming frequently enough. The good news is that things won’t be quite so frantic…or at least, they’ll just be frantic on one project, so I should be able to crank it up a little more for you guys.
Since I finally got a chance to take a breather, I wanted to do a little housekeeping.
First up…some new links. I’ve added Sam & Jim Go To Hollywood under the “Writing” links. These guys are offering something completely unique (as far as I know) to the screenwriting blog scene. It’s a site of podcasts that they do about their experiences in the writing business so far. Give it a listen. The other new link is Terry Rossio’s new blog about his experiences on the set of the Pirates Of The Caribbean sequels. I get my Pirates production updates from Ted, and California-born Terry inexplicably spells the word “tons” as “tonnes”, but it’s still an excellent read. I’ve put it under “Interesting”, because that’s what it is.
Next, I’ve borrowed the cool “progress bar” code from David Anaxagoras. The bar shows my progress towards a somewhat interesting non-writing project of mine…but while the progress is public, the actual goal is a secret.
Well, okay, it’s only a secret until I hit 100%. Watch the bar move…slowwwwwly. I chose to keep the goal a secret just for fun. Possibly to torment you. Or perhaps I’m just coy.
Finally, I have some good news to report about this blog. I launched it back in the beginning of February. I emailed a few friends and associates to let them know it was up, and hoped that word of mouth would help it build.
I wasn’t quite sure that would be enough.
When I first started out, the site was averaging about 250 visitors a day. That number has climbed steadily. Now, just four months later, we’re averaging about 1,350 visitors a day. The truth is that this might indicate total failure in web terms, but my ignorance is bliss. To me, a 400%+ increase in visitors is a big coup.
As we grow, I’m going to consider offering some additional features.
One possibility is an online forum. The other is a chat room, with regularly scheduled chats for all the artful writers out there.
I’ll probably gauge the interest in those features by using another feature, which is polling. I’ll be checking out some of the freebie pollware out there later, so be on the lookout for that.
In the meantime, thanks to everyone for visiting, bookmarking, linking, commenting in such a consistently thoughtful and civil manner, and above all…thank you for reading.
What I’m using nowEvery vocation has its gear debates. I drummed for a while, and nothing’s more amusing than listening to musicians scream at each other about which company makes a better tube lug.
There’s really only one gear debate in screenwriting.
Before you comment about how you still use some other suck-ass program or, God forbid, Microsoft Word, let me dismiss you quickly and preemptively with a “feh”.
One last bit of preamble—I am not currently associated with Final Draft or Movie Magic Screenwriter in any way. No endorsements or such. The following comments are unsolicited.
(Ed. Note: Since publication, Movie Magic has taken a shine to me. Good karma, I guess. In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve supplied them with an endorsement and in return, they may link back to The Artful Writer. All that notwithstanding, this essay was written and published prior to any contact with the Movie Magic people.)
So, here’s my story. I’ve been a computer nerd since 1982. Prior to 1982, I was just a nerd.
In 1993, I was working in advertising but thinking about trying to write screenplays. A coworker was friends with some guy named Marc Madnick who was selling a Mac program that would help format a screenplay. I drove over to B.C. Software’s Santa Monica offices, which had a frat sort of feeling to it, and bought this program called “Final Draft”.
Final Draft 2.0, to be precise. Came on two 3.25 inch floppies.
I fell in love. And for these last dozen years, ten of which I’ve spent as a professional screenwriter, I have used Final Draft. Updated religiously.
I’m here to say that I’m done with them. Through. It’s over. Filed for divorce.
When Final Draft 7 came out, I was disgusted with the half-baked nature of the release. Releasing bugware and then finishing the program by studying crashing early-adopters in the field is a time-honored software industry tradition, but 7.0 was a joke.
Still, I stuck with it. You must understand, it’s been twelve years of pressing “option-1” to get an automatic slugline that begins with “INT. -“. Old habits.
Now, as I posted recently, I’ve had a weird issue with Tiger and Final Draft 7.1. By “weird”, I mean to say not-solvable by me, and I’m an extremely proficient trouble-shooter in OS X. By “issue”, I mean to say crippling bug.
I think I’ve called Final Draft’s technical support twice in twelve years. Once was four years ago when the app suddenly decided it wasn’t authorized anymore.
The second time was on Thursday. Apparently, in order to talk to someone about the fact that the software I’ve licensed isn’t working, I must pay $2.00 a minute.
On Friday, I started using Movie Magic Screenwriter.
After about thirty minutes of set-up, I had become completely comfortable with using it. Worked out a few kinks and was feeling great. Ahhh, but there was one odd thing that was really bothering me (had to do with my preference to manually type the “time-of-day” portion of the scene header rather than choose one from a menu).
I called Movie Magic Screenwriter support.
Lo and behold, someone answered quickly. That person was knowledgeable and polite. He answered my question and solved my problem.
Oh, and he charged me the fair and reasonable price of zero dollars per minute.
MMS has every bit of the functionality of FD (actually, it seems to have quite a bit more). Furthermore, I’m going to be the 1st A.D.’s hero on my next movie, because the A.D.’s all use Movie Magic Scheduler, and MMS scripts will import much easier into that.
The most compelling reason for staying with Final Draft (“Everyone uses it!”) has been made obsolete by the popularizing of the .pdf format.
We’ll be using MMS on Scary Movie 4. Final Draft is kaput.
Why? Because Final Draft is contemptuous of its own customers, and Write Bros. (the company that makes MMS) is not.
Simple as that.
Since a bunch of you have identified as Mac users, here’s a heads up.
Apple just released 10.4.1 today. It’s broken Final Draft 7.1 on my system. The app launches, but it misreads all files as gobbledegook.
Happily, I still have Final Draft 6 installed, and it’s opening my files fine. That should make the producers of a certain horror movie happy, as I’m currently doing a production polish and they’re set to shoot in two weeks.
Something tells me that “the computer ate my homework” wouldn’t quite cut it.
Anyway, consider yourself warned. If you have FD 7.1, I’d wait for a fix before upgrading to 10.4.1.
Lastly, if anyone has successfully upgraded to 10.4.1 and NOT had a problem with their FD 7.1, I’d love to hear about it.
Okay, one last bit of Tiger news, but it’s related to the industry. The eventual progression of all end-user media towards High Definition is inevitable. Once you get it, you really don’t ever want to watch regular res stuff again.
I got this thing, and now I spend my TV time watching Discovery HD because it looks so damn cool. I don’t even care about the content.
Up until two days ago, if you wanted to download and watch HD video on your computer, you couldn’t. At least, not from any of the major video apps (e.g. Windows Media, Real).
Now you can. Tiger includes QuickTime 7, which has a new codec that supports high-definition video.
If you have QuickTime 7, check out the downloadable HD trailer for Batman Begins. It’s absolutely gorgeous.
Okay, I promise, no more Tiger talk. Coming up, an article on the screenwriting equivalent of the final exam essay—the dreaded arbitration statement.
Yesterday, Apple finally released the latest version of its OS. Nerds like me know it as 10.4, but most everyone else calls it Tiger.
Before I start raving about how incredibly beautiful and powerful this OS is, let me first establish my biases. I’ve been an Apple enthusiast since the days of the Apple ][E, and I’ve worked almost exclusively with Macs since their launch in ‘84. However, I also have an IBM ThinkPad running XP Pro mostly because I’m a geek who needs full geek coverage (it’s nice to know I’m taken care of if compatibility problems rear their ugly little heads).
Now, as much of a macophile as I am, there have been areas in which Windows admittedly outpaced the Jobs boxes. The most notable of those was Windows’ protected memory scheme, which while not perfect, was a damn sight better than Mac’s shared memory platform. The old Macs would crash a lot, because if one program lost its mind, they all fell apart.
All that changed with OS X.
10.0 was kind of an early adopter gee whiz thing. Didn’t work too well.
10.1 was functional, but clunky.
10.2 was solid. For the first time, the Mac operating system wasn’t just prettier and cooler than Windows, but also just as reliable (meaning…fairly reliable).
10.3 was clearly superior, IMO, to XP. Solid as a rock. I run my PowerBook 24/7. Never shut it down ever. No system crashes. Not one. Not ever. Not in over two years of heavy use. Incredible. Needless to say, no viruses either. No worms. No trojan horses, no browser hijacks. Meanwhile, my ThinkPad has had at least three “blue screen of death” episodes, and I barely use the damn thing. One XP crash was so bad, I actually lost data.
That’s something that should never happen anymore.
And now…10.4 is here. Folks, it’s a revelation. At this point, no screenwriter should be without it. :)
Okay, okay, I’m getting a little nuts, but this thing is fantastic. I’m happy to say that 21% of our site visitors use Mac. That’s a pretty good number, but I want it to be higher. I hope that Tiger convinces some people to switch.
Dashboard is pretty amazing (particularly the gorgeous dictionary/thesaurus and the yellow pages widget). The ability to do a four-way video conference with iChat is remarkable (and those frame rates!).
But to me, the real selling point…the thing that is practically worth the $129 in and of itself…is a little feature called Spotlight.
Spotlight is simply a text field for searching your files. That’s it.
Big deal, right?
Well, dig this. On XP, if I want to search for something, I type it into that annoying dog’s window, and my ThinkPad thinks about it. For a while. A long while. And the results are, oh…crappy.
To be honest, it was pretty much the same thing for OS X.3.
With Spotlight, you start getting results as you type. It’s that fast. Not just for file names, but file contents. If you search for “watermelon”, it will spit back a complete list of .doc files in which you wrote the word “watermelon”, and it will do it by the time you’ve typed “waterm”.
It will find your search term in every document, every mp3, every image, every e-mail (and I have 38,000 stored), even every pdf! It finds them with astonishing accuracy…and typically within 2 seconds.
Two freakin’ seconds.
Don’t believe me? Watch it in action. The movie might take a bit to load…Apple’s servers have been besieged over the last few days. However, don’t think they’re playing games with the speed of the search result in that movie. It’s accurate.
And no, no one’s paying me to say this stuff. :)
A final note. I don’t have anything against those of you using Windows, BUT…41% of you are using Internet Explorer. People, please. If you’re on a Mac, you should be using Safari. And if you’re on a PC, for God’s sake…use this instead.
Geek rant off.
Welcome to The Artful Writer, published by Craig Mazin and Ted Elliott as a free service for all professional writers. As you wander through the site, note that you can always return to the homepage by clicking the logo at the top of the screen.
If you’d like to comment on my essay in Written By (which first appeared here in a slightly different version), just click on the “Click Here For Comments” link at the end of this entry. While it’s always nice to know everyone’s name, you may comment anonymously if you desire.
On the right side of your browser window, you can see all of our recent articles. By selecting any one of the menu subheaders running across the top of the screen, you can see the articles grouped by interest. We’ve had discussions ranging from end credits to writers’ self-esteem issues to art versus commerce to various member questions.
As Ted and I both currently serve on the Board of Directors of the WGAw, you can also ask us any union question you’d like as long as you’re a member of the Guild.
If you have general questions or if you just want to drop us a line, you can email us.
Thanks for joining us!
…and everything seems to be running smoothly. John August alerted me to a potential problem with the old host (apparently they weren’t too fond of Movable Type, which is resource-intensive), so I moved the site to a more blog-friendly host.
If you experience any trouble with the site, please contact me.
I’ve been familiar with John August’s site for some time, and as we happen to share an agent (now watch John’s industry stock tumble…”he shares an agent with who???”), I was able to call him to ask his advice on blogware a few months ago.
I learned two things from that conversation. First, John’s a great guy. Second, he knows a bucketload more about designing websites than I do.
So I hired a designer. :)
Regardless, he hasn’t cut my shortcutting self out of his life, and instead was kind enough to plug our new site to his readers. Salve, Augustians!
Here’s another screenblogger with a terrific site called Complications Ensue. We’re artful, he’s crafty…sounds like a meeting of the minds. You’ll find Alex’ site on permalist over in the sidebar. I should check out his book one of these days. Maybe even review it.
Alex, you may commence worrying. :)
Okay, okay, I’ll make it easier. TypeKey has been a pain in the butt for some, so I’m going to an open comment format.
There’s nothing in the way now. You may indulge your desire to comment with impunity. We’ll keep it like this as long as my comment spam blocker is working. The first hint of free Viagra and monkey porn, though, and I’ll have to put the drawbridge back up.
Over at Yankee Fog, Jacob’s written a great essay about some yutz who tried his hand at screenwriting. Seems he couldn’t get his calls returned. He actually had to resort to offering one of the studio execs a job. Didn’t make a difference. Paramount never did buy that treatment of his.
Oh well. He went on to become slightly important in a different field. Hint: He was President of the United States and his initials were FDR.
I’ll say no more. Don’t want to spoil it or nothin’.
We had a glitch where previewed comments looked like arse. It’s fixed. Line breaks will preview properly now. Sorry about that.
It’s taken a bit more time than expected, but The Artful Writer is finally open to business.
And it’s free, free, freeeee….
The Artful Writer is published by Craig Mazin and Ted Elliott, but the title doesn’t refer specifically to us. We believe all writers can empower themselves by mucking ‘round in the non-creative realities of our profession—legal, economic, Guild-related, etc. Sure, we’ll present the occasional article on the craft of writing itself, but a love of craft doesn’t preclude a love of being crafty. Forewarned is forearmed, information is power, a stitch in time makes something something…
You get it.
While The Artful Writer is intended for professional TV and film writers, we welcome aspirants as well. Right now I’m writing most of the articles, but Ted will join in shortly. We’re both working on sequels to films (his sequel is much bigger), so articles will come along every couple of days or so.
All visitors may comment on any article (just click on “comments” at the bottom of each entry). You must register with TypeKey in order to comment. It’s a free service, and we only require it to avoid some of the spam problems other sites have experienced.
On the right hand side of our site you’ll find a list of our recent articles (I built up a good supply in advance of our opening). On the left hand side, some useful links. If you have any suggestions for links, send them along.
If you’re a WGA member with a union question, try the “Ask A Board Member” link.
Once again, welcome. Explore, enjoy and let us know what you think.
I think I’m allowed to take a break from writing about writing when something truly historic and wonderful takes place.
As one of, oh, what—five Hollywood screenwriters who openly supported and continues to support the liberation of Iraq?—January 30th is an honest-to-goodness emotionally moving day.
You can read some excellent coverage and opinion on today’s success over at fellow screenwriter and blogger Roger L. Simon’s site.
Well done, people of Iraq. Well done.
Well this is just absurd, but at least there’s a silver lining. The Financial Times reports:
A Beijing company has been found guilty of offering unapproved digital versions of eight books written by one of the country’s leading experts on intellectual property rights in what appears to be an extreme example of Chinese online copyright abuse.
Seven of the volumes allegedly made available on the internet by Beijing Scholar Digital Technology were about issues directly relating to piracy, including one entitled Knowing the Enemy and Yourself; Winning the Intellectual Property War.
Pirating books on IP piracy is pretty damned ballsy. Still, it wasn’t so long ago that China was the Mos Eisley of copyright law. It’s good to see their courts finally responding. You can read the complete article here.