Archive for November 2008

Yes, I’m Still Alive and Blogging…

November 18, 2008

… Do you really think I would abandon you, after all we’ve been through together?

Things have been busy at WriterDad Manor. I’d like to say that I’ve been away on a production rewrite in some exotic locale, knocking out pages from my five star hotel room and basking the adulation of a cast and crew who can’t believe the good fortune that I was available to grace their film with my creative genius. But really I’ve just been changing a lot of diapers and trying to find the time to vacuum our home before the dirt and bacteria start evolving and build a technologically advanced civilization in our carpet.

On the domestic front, the big news this weekend was that we moved the Peanut from the bassinet in our bedroom into the crib in her own room. Truth be told, she’s a bit overdue; the kid is now four months old, and when she held her arms straight out from her sides, her hands would stick through the slats — I almost wanted to give her a tin cup that she could rattle against the bars of her tiny cage. Still, the Missus took it pretty hard; I half-expected to wake up in the middle of the night to find her side of the bed empty and her sleeping on the floor of the baby’s room. Fortunately she toughed it out, and the Peanut didn’t seem to care in the slightest that she was now sleeping in a different area of the house, away from Mommy and Daddy. We did, however, discover that we missed the ocean sounds of the Peanut’s Sleep Sheep so much that we hijacked the travel version of the critter that we kept downstairs and installed it beside our bed.

My plan to wake up with the Missus at the ungodly hour of 4:50 every morning is still in place, which is good because the only writing I’m getting done lately is between 5 a.m. and 6 a.m., before the kid wakes up and the day lurches into overdrive. I’m in a mad dash to get the rewrite of my latest script — the Apatow Rip-Off — finished in time for the December 1st deadline of this contest. I’m currently wading through a rough patch in the story (the dreaded second half of Act II) and I honestly don’t know if the script will be ready to send out even if I do get to “Fade Out/The End” in time, but the ticking clock of the competition is providing me with a much-needed kick in the ass. I don’t have nearly enough time in the day to accomplish what I want to accomplish, creatively speaking, but I’ve resigned myself to the fact that even if I only write a quarter of a page, it’s a quarter of a page that wasn’t there yesterday. It may be a crappy quarter of a page, of course, but I’ll take what (little) I can get.

We’ve also been marginally more social than usual. Two weekends ago my parents flew out from the east coast for a weekend-long visit, the first time we’d seen them since the Peanut was born in July. (Mom tried not to take it personally that the baby cried every time she tried to hold her.) And this past Saturday, my buddy Dave came over for a brief two-man writer’s group meeting, discussing his latest script; followed by a typically amazing dinner cooked by the Missus, who is to kitchen applicances what Hendrix was to the Strat and Marshall stack; and some Xbox playing, during which Dave introduced me to the joys of multiplayer mode in JEDI ACADEMY and the awesomeness that is the original GEARS OF WAR, the latter of which prompted the Missus to remark, after watching some serious onscreen ultraviolence, “I never thought I’d miss BIOSHOCK.”

So that’s what’s going on — oh, that and the bout of stomach flu that wiped out the entire WriterDad clan just in time for the Peanut’s first Halloween, but that horror story (and trust me, it was a horror story) is so far behind us I won’t bother rehashing it. Now we’re prepping for Thanksgiving and the feast that the Missus and her sister are going to unleash upon the family. I’m slipping into a food coma just thinking about it.

Hopefully I’ll stay awake long enough to finish my script.

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The Reluctant Early Bird

November 7, 2008

It’s been a real struggle to get back into the writing groove over the past couple of weeks. The good news is that I’ve finally figured out what I need to do to get things rolling again creatively: time, focus, and energy.

The bad news is that I have none of those things.

I realized that the key is time: if I could carve out an hour during which I would face a minimum of interruptions, I could focus. I finally made my peace with the fact that until the Peanut starts going to bed around 8:30 pm or so (and when that will be, I can only dream), I will not be able to get any serious writing done after work, and even if I could, I would most likely be exhausted anyway. My energy level is at its highest when I first get up, naturally. Ergo, the best time for me to write is before work.

Of course, the time between waking up and punching in at the office is hectic — get up, get showered, wolf down breakfast, get the kid up, get the kid to daycare, get to work. No time to write for ten minutes, let alone an hour.

I decided that my only solution is to rise when the Missus wakes up to do her various mommy duties before she has to drive off to her own white collar hell. If she can drag herself out of bed, then so can I: the buddy system worked like a charm on Boy Scout camping excursions and school field trips, so it should work just as well for my marriage, right?

Trouble is, she gets up at 4:50. Every damn morning.

Ugh.

The Missus likes to remind me that way back at the beginning of our relationship, I told her that I would turn her into a morning person. Well, turns out that I was right, though I suppose I had to knock her up to do it. And now I miss the woman who wouldn’t wake up before double digits unless she had to.

ANYWAY, I guess that for as long as I can crawl out of bed and pump myself full of coffee before I drift back into a coma, I’ve got my writing hour. Now I have no excuse to not get my shit together… at least for the time being. I’m sure I’ll come up with something sooner or later.

Matt’s Column – “How Do I Write a Script that Attracts an Agent?”

November 4, 2008

Here’s something that will hopefully happen fairly regularly in the future — a guest column from reader Matt. Unlike my previous guest, he didn’t even have to sleep with me to land this gig. He only had to achieve what I and many of you reading this blog dream of: breaking through and making a living in the screen trade. Take it away, Matt…

WD offered me some space to detail the last year of my life when I went from writing my fourth spec (the first three went nowhere) to getting an agent and my first work as a professional screenwriter. This column will be the stuff I wish someone had told me before I was signed and in the first few months of my career. If there’s anything specific you’d like me to address please make note of it in the Comments. Schedule permitting, we’d like to do a couple times a month. Here we go.

The question I am asked with the most frequency is HOW DO I GET AN AGENT? There is no helpful answer to this question. You either get an agent from a connection passing the script along or a manager passing the script along. You get a manager through a very witty query letter or the recommendation of a connection. If you live in Los Angeles and are reasonably extroverted, it isn’t too hard to find someone young and hungry to take a look at your script.

The real question should be HOW DO I WRITE A SCRIPT THAT ATTRACTS AN AGENT? To be honest, 95% of that answer lies within your own talent. You’re either good or you’re not, and no amount of blogs, books, or practice will change that. But many writers, myself included, are probably good enough to achieve some success, but are going about things ass-backwards. So here is my step-by-step guide (with digressions) to writing the script that will get you an agent.

Wait. There’s just one step.

Mark Twain once said something to the effect that the tragedy of most lives is people never do what they’re best at. And it’s the same with most writers, I’m afraid. I believe that most writers are simply writing the wrong script. Maybe it’s because they’re writing for the marketplace. Maybe they’re just scared. But unless you write from the basic, essential core of your writing DNA, a long career just isn’t going to be in the cards.

What is your writing DNA? Thankfully, you can process your own genome with one simple answer:

What is the most important movie in your life? Not your favorite movie, not even the movie you’ve seen the most — I mean what is the one movie that you saw and decided I Want To Make Movies! For Kevin Smith, it was SLACKER. For Martin Scorsese it was FACES. And with both of their first movies, they made stuff heavily influenced by that — Smith with CLERKS, Scorsese with WHO’S THAT KNOCKING AT MY DOOR (writing in your favorite genre is something Scorsese sticks to — his next movie, MEAN STREETS, was a re-telling of his favorite Italian movie, I VITELLONI).

Now that you have that movie in your mind, drop whatever you’re working on and write a movie like that. I can’t tell you how many amateur writers — myself included — don’t write a movie like their most important movie. I wrote a kid’s comedy, a romantic comedy and an action comedy until I realized that my most Important Movie was A CLOCKWORK ORANGE. “But wait,” my brain said, “There is no chance anyone would ever buy an ultra-violent satirical fantasia in this day and age.” I was right: no one bought the fucker. But there was so much passion — Kubrick had been so encoded into my writing DNA — and originality (we are most original when we are grounded in the past and ourselves) that it got me an agent and my first job.

Moral of the story: don’t write broad comedies if your Most Important Movie is STAR WARS. Don’t write thrillers if it’s JERRY MAGUIRE. Stop writing what you think will sell. Stop writing what you think people want. Write the exact movie YOU are dying to see.

If you do that, and if you have talent, you will have a career. Because the point of that first script — and by first I mean the one that gets you attention — is not to sell. It’s to attract attention and get you work. And the only way that’s going to happen is to nurture your voice. Go forth!