I be a good righter.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Daddy's Girl

So, it's Parents Achievement Week here in the blogosphere! Congrats to Ras' mom, who must be awesome to have created Ras! There should be an award for that!

So, listen. It's the holiday season. Which I'm sure you're probably aware. It's a big time for giving. So, I thought I'd warm your cockles (hee!) with a little story about how my dad just recently got the first award that's truly important to him!

My dad grew up in Detroit. He was a hooligan (my grandma's word). Lots of fights, lots of suspension from school, lots of drinking, girls, souped-up cars. It's all very romantic to me, hearing the yarns spun about my father's early days. Apparently he was in some gang, named after the pizza parlor where they all hung. My dad's got scars, well, everywhere, from beating up or getting beaten up by other punks (or his brothers). Okay, seriously? When I envision my dad's early years, I think he's Danny Zuko. When I envision the fights he got into? I envision West Side Story. I'm pretty sure this isn't reality, but you understand, hopefully, why I'd find it all fearfully romantic!

When my dad "graduated" from high school (after going through summer school to complete his credits) he needed to find a job, stat. He literally fell into a job at the Detrot News as a photographer. I'm assuming they were desperate since he had exactly zero experience being a photographer -- so he studied and studied photography, like he'd never studied, well, ever.

Once there, he really excelled. Maybe they saw something in him that he hadn't yet recognized. He moved quickly up the ranks (his photos on the Detroit Riots are compelling -- I'm sure this has a lot to do with it), and soon he was offered a job with United Press International (UPI). He was sent to Munich to cover the Olympics, only to find a massacre. He was sent to Nicaragua to cover the war. He was sent to various Presidential campaign trails -- when Jimmy Carter came to my hometown, I got to ride on his shoulders (uh, I was two)! Actually, my dad's introduced me to a lot of Presidents -- which is odd, because someone like me doesn't meet Presidents. But, that brings us to...

When I was ten or so, my dad was sent to D.C. to be White House Photographer for UPI (hence all my President meeting). It was when he was stepping through the White House gates that he saw a homeless guy. He took a picture. It's an amazing photo of a throng of D.C. businessmen stepping over this guy lying in the middle of the sidewalk, just outside the White House. This was at a time when Reagan was denying that there was, in fact, a homeless problem.

My dad left UPI, sick of the political climate, sick of the denial. As he learned more and more about the homeless, he realized that the true victims of homelessness were the children. One day, at a shelter, one of the kids who lived there, tried to grab my dad's camera. He wasn't trying to steal it, he was just curious. My dad let him take it. Soon, my dad was surrounded by all the kids. All curious about his camera and photography. So, he started a program. Teaching kids photography.

This is at a time when gang activity in D.C. was at an all time high. Not the romantic gang life that I imagined my dad having. No East Side Story here. This was full on murder, retaliation murder, murder -- lather, rinse, repeat. This was, "roll your window up, BooM, we're nearing 14th street" times.

So, these kids needed something to do after school. After spending *some* time in my dad's program, some of the kids went back to gang life. In fact, I remember one of them was pretty brutally murdered upon his return. But, some of them really succeeded, in a way that I don't think they would have had my dad not come into their lives.

Have any of you seen Born Into Brothels? Well, that movie is an homage to my dad. Have you seen Dogville? The photos at the end? Those are my dad's.

Oh, and then the awards:

He's been nominated for three Pulitzers, has a shelf full of awards from places or institutions I've never heard of. To my amusement, he was awarded Father of the Year... TWICE. Once by my sister and me (immortalized on some really crappy home-made blob), and then by "Parents" Magazine (an honor accompanied by a beautiful crystal award -- but, I like to think he likes the crappy home-made one better). He always brushes aside his achievements. Almost embarrassed.

But, remember back when he had just gotten his first job? Well, he studied. And, like, most people are drawn to someone unique who specializes in their field, he was drawn to one photographer. A man from the 1900s, a pioneer of sorts. This was my dad's idol. Is my dad's idol. And, this award he's just recieved? Well, it would be like me getting the Joss Whedon award. And, yesterday I received an email from my dad. Boasting! He's proud of himself! No embarrassment! This is a major coup for him, though I doubt anyone's ever heard of the award. It's a poignant moment in his life. The man he studied 40 years ago... well, yeah. You get it.

To relate this to writing: my dad had no aspirations of lawyerdom or doctordom for me. He just hoped I wouldn't become anything creative -- because he knew how hard a life it was. So, when I told him I was going to be a writer... well. Yeah. When I had a modicum of success, he was all, "I have a great idea for a story for you." Actually, he says this a lot. And he emails me a lot, with random news stories. I need to have a chat with him about that. My brain can only take so much information.

Anyway, big ginormous congratulations to my Papa!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Rejected Schmejected


RASAH ROOLS THE WORLD! You SO wish you were her!

Now to the rejectees:

It's that time of year. You've submitted your scripts to the contests, you've either gotten a call that you've advanced, or you've gotten a very generic letter informing you that you haven't (usually because of their overwhelming response, or something). If you're the latter, I'm sorry. If you're the former, congrats!

Except, getting a call that you've advanced is only great if you get in -- right? This is not the Oscars where it's an honor just to have been nominated -- RIGHT? This would have been the blast needed to get you into the screenwriting orbit. So, if you've gotten in: Congrats! If you haven't, I'm sorry. My only consolation is: neither did I.

If you didn't advance, but you got at least got a call and an interview, then this is a post written for you. Specifically you in the back. If you didn't get a call, you just weren't good enough (and by you, I mean me). And, you have to figure out what you can do to improve your writing. Okay, the next bit's for you (the no callees):

Here's the thing I'm noticing a lot on writers' message boards, bitterness. People are wondering why they didn't get a call. I know why I didn't get a call. My script sucked. I'm not being coy, and secretly expecting you to say "your script was great!" Because you didn't read it. You didn't see the typo in the title, and the three typos on the first page. You didn't see all the logic flaws. You didn't... well, you just don't know. But, I do. Now, on the flip side of this, I know what I wrote, what I sent in, and I knew I wouldn't get a call. So, in some ways I'm assuming you sent in something similar. Because why else wouldn't you have gotten a call? Right?

Okay, here's the flaw in my logic. I also applied to another contest, with the script that got me into one program (Disney -- two years ago) and got me an interview with another (CBS -- last year). I sent this in to another contest (NBC). And, I didn't get a call. I'm a little surprised -- but, only because it did well in other contests. But, the way I see it? I did the best I could with that one, and that script already did well for me. Personally, I hate that script. But, other people seem to love it, so I continue to send it out. So, I'm assuming there were 299 people who had scripts that were better than mine -- which is believable.

Thing is, a lot of people don't think this way. A lot of people think they're entitled to a spot in Disney or NBC or.... Or, what I've seen recently, what's inspired this post is the mentality that, "Contests are rigged." Apparently contests are not recognizing your genius. But, I submit to you: Maybe you're not recognizing your inability to write an effective script? Maybe you suck right now. Maybe you need to write some more, and get some feedback from people who aren't your mother. I'm über hard on myself as a writer, and I don't encourage you to be that way. But, I do encourage you to find people who would be equally as hard on your scripts as I would be. Because, believe you me, I'd rip you a new one. Just for fun. NO, this is not an offer to read your work. I have writing to be procrastinated...

Okay. Tough love for the rejected out of the way. Back to the semi-finalists and the finalist...

So, this October, November or December you got a call. Your caller ID revealed an 818 number (or, 323 if it was from Television City). Congratulations! You are in an elite group!

So, things are going swimmingly for you. You've gotten the chance to pull up to the gates (or, if you're a semi-finalist in Disney, you got the thrill of the phone call!)! You've gotten a chance to park inside WB, NBC, ABC or CBS (perhaps FOX?). You've gotten the chance to spend days (weeks) prepping for that interview. You've gotten the chance to sit inside the building, next to your peers (or if you're a Disney finalist, you've gotten the chance to hang out with your fellow finalists at some sort of mixer where the higher ups test you on your ability to, well, mix -- which is weird). You've had many sleepless nights. Because you're thinking, "this is it! This is my career about to be launched -- please god, I want it sooooo bad, please please please?"

Except, here's the thing. You get a call. You take a deep breath before answering, ready for the good news. Except it's not. Not good, I mean. They're calling to tell you how great you are, how much they loved meeting you, what a privilege it was, how great a writer you are, but you're just not for them.


They're rejecting you? And, they're letting you down easy? THOSE FUCKERS!

In a daze, you hang up. Maybe you stare at the phone a little bit. Maybe you cry. Maybe you call a loved one. Maybe you've braced yourself for this eventuality and you've stocked up your freezer with Dulce De Leche ice cream (I tend to brace myself for every eventuality with this).

Now, I've been on the receiving end of both types of phone calls, and I highly recommend the whole, "you're in!" phone call. But, this isn't about that. This is about the OTHER phone call. The one where you're rejected.

But, see? You aren't. You didn't get a wooden spoon (that's what the no callees got). You have an official title now: "Semi-Finalist," maybe it's, "Finalist." Whatever it is, it's enough to leap frog you from being a nobody to a somebody. The only thing standing between you and getting an agent is the fact that you haven't picked up the phone and sold yourself to them.

(I am of the firm belief that, though some people go on to have wonderful careers after winning contests, the reality is, most contests get you nothing but an agent. And, in some cases, you don't even wind up with that -- I'm just saying, contests aren't the end all be all.)

I know it sucks right now. Really, really I do. But, you've got to get over the "rejected" part of all of this, and get to the "holy shit, I might be kind of good at this!" stage. Because, that's what being a Semi-Finalist and a Finalist means. You've got external validation from people who might know a thing or two about decent scripts, and you're on your way!!!

So, congratulations!

Friday, December 01, 2006

Uninspired Musings

Have I mentioned that I'm in Ireland? Oh. I have?

Well, I'm in Ireland.

And, it's really tough right now. Besides incredible loneliness (somewhat self-imposed), it's very moody, due to the incessant rain. Which, normally, is a great time for me to write. Curled up, in my office (at home), rain pelting at the windows, sinister forces at work... Hell, even when it's sunny, I've designed my office to be somewhat moody, slightly art-deco, very mystery-inducing.

But, here in Ireland (have I mentioned that I'm here?), it's just not doing it for me. I don't know what the problem is. I was in LA for a few weeks a few weeks ago, and wrote an entire script. In one day, I wrote 30 pages. Okay, they weren't great pages, but 30 pages!

There's something about being in LA. I think it's the slight stench of desperation wafting off all the people. Including the tourists. Last year I drove past a woman outside Tiffany on Rodeo, and she was waiting to cross the street. I'm not positive she was a tourist, but something made me think she was, so for the purposes of this story, she was a tourist. Okay? Anyway, she was just standing there, waiting. I noticed her because she was posing. Standing at the light and posing. Upon closer look, I believe she was also sucking in her cheeks. She was totally hoping to be discovered. But, she was putting it right out there. And, I gave her a mental "you go girl!" Because, really, who wouldn't love to recount how they got discovered on the corner of Rodeo and Wilshire?

Now, I'm keeping up with all the US TV. Albeit a few days later. It's like I'm in Canada. But, I'm in Ireland (remember?). And, normally, at home, any show I watch gets the wheels a-whirling. There's not a single show I watch, AT HOME, that I don't come up with an idea for. It's a curse and a blessing. It's also why I watch a lot of reality shows (but not ANTM, people, NOT ANTM. I do have principles).

All those shows? I watched them while I was home, and seriously, I was just inspired. Ideas a-flowing. I come back to Ireland (yes, that Ireland), I watch the same exact shows, and I'm dry. No ideas. No inspiration. It's watching TV purely to avoid thinking I'm here instead of there.

I get that I'm complaining. I get that a lot of people would kill to live here. And, that's great for them.

A lot of people tell me, go out, explore, you'll love it! I have. And, you know what? I was lonely. The Guinness tour is just not as fun when you're on your own. How else can one mock the rehab center next door? (Not that I'm mocking recovering alcoholics, it just seems kind of ironic that the major rehab center... see, you had to be there).

So, the year's drawing to an end. Writing-wise, this is what I've achieved:

A pilot outline.
A different pilot outline.
A spec outline.
A rough draft of said spec.
3 page one rewrites on another spec -- one I won't even show my mother.
Another spec outline.
A short story.
A rewrite of another short story.

With the exception of the rough draft of a spec and another spec outline, everything else was completed by July, all in LA. The rough draft and outline of another spec outline were completed in the few weeks I was back in LA. In between doctor's visits (we'll get to that) and seeing what friends I could, and visiting with family. I come back here? Armed with a ready-to-write outline. Hell, I've got the two pilot outlines that I could work on. Seriously, all they need is for me to write them. And, yet. I can't.

So, to psychoanalyze myself, here's why I think I can't (or won't, because it's probably all in my head) write here:

This place has awful memories for me. And, I can't seem to get it together. Right before we moved here, I had to have a biopsy in my hoo-hoo, because I'd had an abnormal thingy. So, you know, in between packing, trying to say good-bye to everyone, I'm dealing with the fact that a doctor cut bits of my hoo-hoo out so that they could test for the big C.

So, we move here, do some time in Guernsey, then come back here. However, whilst in Guernsey, having dinner with my husband's co-worker, just he and me. Drinking, hanging, etc, I get phone call. From doctor. I have cancer. In my hoo-hoo. Yes, this is awesome, because I wasn't looking forward to coming overseas, but, you know this makes it all worth it! And, you know, for the next hour, I have to pretend like everything's all right, before I can get back to the hotel and cry (yeah, like a baby).

So, I return to LA (my dad pulled some strings and got me in to see some fancy hoo-hoo/cancer doctor). They did another biopsy (goodness, those are fun!!!). And, you know what? I don't have cancer. In my hoo-hoo, or anywhere else. So, everything's great, right?

The day after we find out that everything's awesome? We also find out that online poker is now illegal. And, uh, my hubby's company deals in that. Well, IS that. And, his company? Not going public. So, you know, the whole reason we originally came out here (the prospect of becoming millionaires)? All gone.

So, we're ready to pack it in. And, we probably will. Cuz, really, Hiro came and switched our pocket aces for 7-2 offsuit.

So, we're stressing. I'm stressing. And, all I want to be doing is writing. Something other than a blog entry. I want, by the end of the year, to complete at least another rough draft. Then, I can spend the early part of 2007 cleaning them up/rewriting them and have two new specs for staffing season.

And, I just can't do it. I can't write to save my life. Oh, I open up final draft. I spell-check my outlines. I change a word here or there. I basically just piddle away. I create playlists for the episode. I re-watch eps of the show I'm speccing. Or... I plan tonight's menu. And, tomorrow's. The bathroom's sparkling. The kitchen gleams.

I'm making my Christmas shopping list. I remembered I forgot to bring all my Christmas cards, so I need to get new ones, and send them from here. We're booking travel for Christmas. We're...

Fuck. Why can't I get it together and write something?

And, why did life/fate/the universe/whoever send us here? What's the lesson to be learned here? Is there one? Fuck. It feels like such a fucking waste.

So, uh, any helpful hints on how to get yourself motivated when you're under a self-imposed mental block?