Wednesday, October 31, 2007

In Case You Are Expecting Things On This Blog...

I have a half-way finished blog post that isn't quite ready to go, so I'm putting it off until Christmas. Which is kind of sad because it was about torture in entertainment (specifically comedies about torture) and that theme fits more with Halloween than Christmas (unless, of course you are a Grinch).

However, I am going to take a one-maybe-two month break from the ol' blog because I will have too LITTLE time on my hands, particularly where writing is concerned.

Because I know some people read this, I thought I would warn you ahead of time - it is not going to be updated for some time.

Here is my writing schedule for the next two months (and remember, the writing schedule often takes the back-burner to job, family, and household chores):

Current writing projects - I am trying to enter three different scripts in the Slamdance Horror Screenplay competition. Currently, I have one completely finished one, and two half-finished ones. The deadline is November 12th, so I need to finish those two halfway done ones. There is a good chance I will only finish one of the two by the November 12th deadline. To give you an idea of the high-concept, lowest common denominator type of work I'm churning out, I'll give you the title of one of my scripts: Zombie Prom Queen!

Future projects - I am participating in NaNoWriMo this year. The goal is to write a 50,000 word novel in one month. Sounds like a lot until you break it down to 1,667 words a day. I write emails longer than that. Anyway, this idea has been cooking for awhile and I already have an outline, so I'm excited about getting it finished. Working title of the novel: Personal Myths.

After November (and NaNoWriMo) ends, the December projects are the annual Christmas letter (which will turn up on the blog) and a super secret project for the fans of the Filmspotting podcast.

Next year, I want to start out by writing another spec script for The Office (I have a brilliant idea for a show and it won't leave me alone) and then get another screenplay ready for the BlueCat Screenwriting contest in March.

So that's the pie-in-the-sky ambitious writing schedule through Spring '08. Hopefully, I'll work some blog posts in there, too.

P.S. I will still update my other blog, WTFDVDs, on a regular basis. As you can probably tell, it doesn't take much to maintain that one.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

My Rant about Cable Television Shows

Despite the fact that I occasionally write television spec scripts, I am one of those people who inherently doesn’t like television. However, I have to admit I obsess over certain shows when they get good.

And when I heard all sorts of people talking about how Dexter was nine kinds of awesome, my curiosity was roused. So I tried watching the critically acclaimed show and couldn’t get any further than Disc 1 of Season 1.

Let me tell you, Dexter is not nine kinds of awesome. It is like half of awesome, and not the awe part. It is some.

Here is my problem – people who develop original programming for cable really love breaking their own arms patting themselves on the back for creativity. “You can do things in this show you can’t do on normal television!” they exclaim. “We advocate complete creative freedom! We believe in quality more than anything else!” and that is just not true.

They believe in objectionable content. Nudity, sex, violence, whatever you can’t show on regular television.

And here is the tricky part, the show has to convince the viewers each week that this excessive amount of objectionable content is not gratuitous, that it is indeed necessary to the plot.

The only way to work around this is, of course, to have the entire premise of the show based around sex and/or violence. The main character is a serial killer. The main character is a Mafioso. The main character is Larry David.

The problem with a premise like this is that the longer the show continues, the less plausible it becomes. The classic example of this is Murder She Wrote . After 12 years of solving a crime a week, no one ever caught on that you should not invite this woman to your birthday party, because a guest was going to mysteriously die. And, yet, week after week they did this.

So you have a premise of a show where someone dies every week. Or someone gets raped every week. Or someone gets tortured every week. And the writers have to go out of their way to conform to the formula even when the storyline or the character development makes it reasonable to deviate from the show formula. It creates monotony, fatigue, and boredom.

Because the mantra is “This is something you can only get on pay cable,” somehow this means that you can’t do anything that could appear on just any old television station. You can’t have a show like Friends, you have to twist it into a show like Friends with Benefits.

So when I see shows like Dexter, all I see is marketing and formula. I don’t see creativity. I don’t see something interesting. I just see plain old television.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Buffy Report - Season 3, Disc 2

While the entire blogosphere seems to be documenting the new fall season, I am stuck squarely back in 1998. You see, I have never watched (or really cared to watch) Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

These are words of blasphemy to many of my close friends and relations, so I am quietly trying to work my way through the show just so I can at least understand what they are talking about when they resort to a pidgin of pop culture references and show quotes.

On a high level, I really did not like Season 1, but really enjoyed portions of Season 2. Two discs and eight episodes into Season 3, I am back to feeling lukewarm towards the entire endeavor.

From a technical side, Season 3 seems to be both a step forward and a step backwards. I don’t know if they upgraded camera or cinematographers (probably both), but the show looks better than it ever has. The lighting is very moody and fun.

However, it seems like the very sharp editors from Season 2 decided to move on to bigger and better things, leaving the show runners with the lowly interns and high school students who have been sitting around, not paying and not learning anything since the last time they fiddled with the editing dials, which I assume was either never or merely Season 1.

What I am really saying is this - We all know Sarah Michelle Gellar uses a stunt double, but at least make an effort to preserve the illusion of reality. Season 2 did a good job of hiding this with editing, but in Season 3, they don’t even try. That (combined with the obviously paper mache monsters) was one of the most annoying aspects of Season 1. There is nothing less terrifying than an obvious sock puppet, except maybe an obvious sock puppet in poor lighting.

The greatest strength of the show it also the greatest weakness – it captures the feeling of high school. No, it is nothing like real high school, but it captures the exaggerated “everything is a life or death moment and all my problems are the center of the universe” feeling that is prevalent in most high school students. And while this overwrought attitude might resonate with the teenage demographic, to the cranky old guy it comes across as excessive underlining and exclamation points.

Here is my brief summary of the first two DVDs of Season 3.

Buffy loves a man who is no good for her.





So now that I’ve dished out some negativity, I will share some positives. Not surprisingly, they all focus on the character development. .The strength of the show lies in the characters and their interactions.

Two characters, one minor, one major really stand out so far.

The Principal
He is hilarious and menacing all at once, conveying a debilitating Little Man Syndrome with a mere stoop of the shoulders accompanied by a scowl.

Here is a stereotype fleshed out and made real. Is she smart? Is she stupid? Is she secretly nice underneath all that mean? Or is she really mean with flashes of niceness? I have no idea. Just like I have no idea what is going to come out of her mouth next. But yet, she is an amazingly consistent character. That kind of unpredictable fun is what makes her character such a deep fried pile of awesome.

So that is my report on what I’ve experienced so far. Now that I have put my thoughts in writing, I am sure the people who have seen the show and know what happens next will point out how silly my analysis is.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Appreciating Wes Anderson

Wes Anderson has a new movie out (technically a feature film and a short film), and it is now fashionable to bash him. Slate ran a poorly-researched puff piece calling him a racist… er… or rather… someone who mishandles race in his films. Both Slate’s Dana Stephens and Fresh Air’s David Edelstein managed to use the word “twee” in their reviews, which indicates to me at least that they’re all using the same Word-a-day calendar. (This coincidence isn’t as baffling as the year 1999 when all business and financial journalists suddenly decided to describe every executive as “a man who looks like he was raised on organ meat.” But I have digressed.)

I have a fondness for Wes Anderson, because he reminded me what a director does.

Let me explain – I don’t like to really comment on movies until I’ve waited a week, because more often than not my impressions change drastically as more time passes. As much as I may enjoy Michael Mann or Ron Howard films while watching them, they completely evaporate after a night’s sleep. Seriously, I know I’ve seen Last of the Mohicans and Ransom, but I do not remember a blessed thing about either of them.

I had the opposite experience with Rushmore. I saw it in the theaters, and walked out thinking, “That was pretty good, but nothing super special. Still, it was an enjoyable little movie.”

But over the next couple of days, I found myself thinking about the film more and more. I wound up going back to the theater to see it at least twice more.

My like for Rushmore grew to love which in turn grew into something bordering obsession. I bought the soundtrack. I actively sought out the movie poster. If someone built a Max Fischer action figure complete with velvet curtains and put it on eBay, I’m sure I would have bid on it.

It culminated in my purchase of the Rushmore screenplay, which I passionately tore through during a lunch break.

For those of you who loved the Rushmore screenplay, I commend you. However, the screenplay I read was crap. Bad dialogue, poorly contrived situations, and a weak conclusion.

Just to prove I wasn’t insane, I re-watched the movie with the script close by (for reference).

And it lined up perfectly. The movie was everything in the script, plus enough goodness to make it a quality experience.

Every once in awhile, I forget that for every person you see on the screen, there are about twice as many people behind the camera. I forget that not only are there writers and lighting technicians, but there are directors who hold everything together and guide all parties in the same direction.

And, whether you like his films or not, he is able to guide many different people in the same direction to create a singular vision of art.

Sometimes it is easy to forget. Directors like Wes Anderson help us remember.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Scriptapalooza Entry - The Office: Guitar Heroes

So I finished up my spec script for the Scriptapalooza TV contest and am prepping to mail it before the October 15th deadline.

Like 95% of the people entering the contest, I decided to write a spec script for the most popular show on television, The Office.

Here it is.

If you are really interested in how I've progressed as a spec script writer, here is my entry to last year's contest.

I am also available for birthdays, bar/bas mitzvahs, and proms. Tip your waitresses, please.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Realms of the Deeply Unwell

Colleen Doran posted this in her blog, and as much as I don't like reposting posts of things that have been posted, this was an incredible article about some of the wickedness the internet makes possible.

And it is not just the story, it is the way the story is told. Do you need an example of the incredible prose?

Here's some:

So I hear it through Tania that Audrey has decided to move to Colorado to be with Jesse. She’s quitting her job. Packing her stuff. Leaving her home. To be with a guy . . . that she’s never actually met.

I point out to Tania that pheromones have a lot to do with mutual attraction — what if the smell’s off?

“Oh, they thought of that,” Tania tells me. They exchanged “special pieces of clothing,” she says.

To smell.

I imagine two people, one in L.A., one in Colorado, sniffing each other’s underpants to see if they can handle living together, and I say, “Jesus, that’s fucking insane.”

“You shouldn’t judge,” says Tania.

I beg to differ. This is why we have judgment.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

The Cadver Calculator - Most Disturbing Blog Thing I Have Discovered

The Cadaver Calculator asks you a series of questions and decides what your dead body is worth on the cadaver market. (I assume this means med schools using bodies for dissection, not some sort of strange black market based on dead body practical jokes.)

Anyway, according to this Cadaver Calculator, my dead body is worth $4425.00. So if I ever star in a zombie movie, I'll know how much to ask for.

Wouldn't it be great if this was around when the movie It's a Wonderful Life came out. Good ol' George Bailey could have used this to see if he really was worth more dead than alive.

$4425.00The Cadaver Calculator - Find out how much your body is worth.

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