The truth about screenwriting…

8 October 2010 | 1 Comment

right here in The Onion.

It’s either laugh or cry. I choose to laugh.

Enjoy your day.


8 March 2010 | 7 Comments

Nicola and I Tivoed the E! preshow awards because we like to look at all the pretty dresses, and then of course the Oscars. We drank beer and wine and ate dinner while we watched (skipping all the commercials, which is the beauty of TiVo). I got snockered, because I do every year for the Oscars — they are, even more than writing awards, my Great Big Dream of Recognition, and I like to drink and wave my arms and opine about the speeches, and most of all to imagine myself there. My BA is in Acting, and I’ve been on stage, or writing, or both, since I was 8 years old: the Oscars have always been one long evening of what if and what I would say and how marvelous it would be.

So, a few thoughts on tonight:

Isn’t Kathryn Bigelow awesome?

Helen Mirren is so gorgeous and I want to be her when I grow up.

I love that for the Best Actress and Best Actor nominations, they bring out people who have actually worked with the nominees who can say something personal about them and their work. It’s a big award; it’s nice to have a chance to see the nomination be truly meaningful.

I read the screenplay of Precious recently, and thought it was astonishingly moving. Screenplays are not novels: it’s not so easy to make them interesting reads. This one is really good.

James Taylor can still sing. It is nice to see age and experience onstage. Youth and energy and potential has its place, but the older I get, the more I enjoy seeing potential realized.

Someday writing awards will be sexy. Today is not that day.

Can I just double down on the Kathryn Bigelow thing?

In 1989, after Clarion, when Nicola was back in England and I was in Georgia, I wrote her a long letter that was essentially a play-by-play of the Academy Awards. That year they made a bunch of unfortunate women dress up like dancing stars with tap shoes. The star costumes covered their heads and bodies, so out on stage they were just great big gold stars with legs and arms, tapping away. It was a particularly funny production number, and with any luck at all we will not see its like again. I sat on my sofa with a glass of wine and drew Nicola a little picture of the dancing stars. I don’t remember who won that year, but I remember wishing that she was there. So tonight was a good night, you know?

Have a good week. The world is full of magic: I hope some of it comes your way.

Læta Kalogridis talks about screenwriting

3 March 2010 | 2 Comments

I haven’t been out of my editing/writing cave in a while, and I’m missing the movies. I like matinees with quiet grownup audiences and fresh popcorn. I like that immersion in story…

But right now it’s all about the Netflix, and that’s good too. There’s lots on our list right now that I’m looking forward to, including Shutter Island. I’m always curious to see how writers handle adaptations of fiction like this, that has an essential secret at its heart. It’s easier to keep these kinds of secrets in prose, it seems to me, easier to bring the audience into the mystery without making them feel jerked around.

And so I was interested to read this interview with Shutter Island screenwriter Læta Kalogridis. I thought I’d be reading about adaptation: instead, I found a very thoughtful discussion of women in Hollywood, urgency and violence in narrative, and a lot more.

And she’s from Winter Haven! (*Tampa native waves at Læta Kalogridis through the internet*)


An open letter to the Academy

27 February 2008 | 1 Comment

Dear Oscar guys,

And I know you are all guys, because no one who has ever actually worn one of those dresses would make people sit in them that long for such a boring stupid program.

I was fairly amazed at the cluelessness of it all. I understand that the reason the Oscars are a million hours long is so the network can sell 999,999 hours of advertising and make a packet. But yeesh, people, there’s no point in selling ads when the audience isn’t watching. (This year’s ratings were The Worst Ever since Nielsen started tracking the show in 1974.)

And why aren’t we watching? Because we are bored. I can only imagine the suffering of the live audience — at least I can TiVo through the worst of it.

Here is what I want: a return to dignity. It’s Hollywood’s biggest award, so why not let the awards, and the nominees, shine? I don’t need a funny host (and if we have to have a funny host, can we at least have a funny host?). I don’t need a monologue. I’d love to see a confident, successful actor host the evening — Denzel, Meryl, Jodie, Tommy Lee, I have a list. I’d like them to open the evening by saying, “Welcome to the 81st annual Academy Awards show. I’m honored to be here, and to have the pleasure of recognizing the fantastic work of this year’s nominees. Tonight, we begin with the nominees for Best Actor in a Supporting Role.” Ba-da bump. On with the show.

And then have one presenter for each award. One actor in nice clothes who comes out and makes a brief, heartfelt, personal speech about the category for which they are presenting — what the category is, and why it’s important to film. Don’t make the presenters be “entertaining,” and for the love of god don’t make them pronounce anyone’s name.

And then show lengthy clips, at least a minute each, that highlight the nominees’ work — including the cinematographers and the composers and the editors and the writers. Oooh, that’s hard! Here’s the thing: if you aren’t running around like a blue-assed fly trying to write jokes for presenters, you might have the brainpower/critical sensibility/time you need to select clips that would (and here’s the really radical notion) actually make people want to see the movies!

And then give the winners at least 90 seconds each to thank their goldfish if they want to. You Oscar guys are so fucking rude to the winners that it’s unbelievable. So what if their speeches are lame? They just won an Oscar, dude, they deserve their 90 seconds. And I would rather watch a minute and a half of someone being incoherently (or even tediously) happy than watch one more second of lame scripted patter between presenters who are only there because their agents had power lunches.

And then end the show.

Oscar guys, why is it so hard to understand the power of simplicity, dignity, and focus?

I’ve just written my first screenplay. Of course I’ve written my Oscar speech… but when I imagine giving it under the circumstances of last Sunday’s award show, I just want to put a nail through my forehead.

I will not thank you for your attention, since I suspect you will pay none. But mark my words, one of these days it will be impossible to tell the difference between the Oscars and “Dancing with the Stars.” Oh wait, “Dancing” will be the one with the bigger audience….

Of interest to writers

12 February 2008 | 1 Comment

Well, certainly of interest to this writer.

First, John Scalzi’s excellent post on the harsh realities of the business (and this follow-up). I wish I’d had this when I taught Clarion West this past summer. It would have saved a lot of conversation. I could have just said, “Go read Scalzi’s #4,” et cetera.

Speaking of which — the 2008 Clarion West workshop is now accepting applications, but put your skates on. Deadline is March 1.

Looking for an agent? Colleen Lindsay has just hung out her shingle

If you’re at all interested in screenwriting, I recommend looking back through the comprehensive coverage of the WGA strike at Deadline Hollywood Daily. If you’re not too worried about being linear, then start with this blow-by-blow reporting of the recent events leading to the recently-announced deal. And don’t just read the post — ponder the 300+ comments that follow, and what they reveal about the human cost of the strike. The last strike was in 1988, when there was no technology for this kind of immediate, urgent public discussion — and it reveals the huge losses for many below-the-line people who aren’t writers and didn’t have a choice, and the long-term damage to writers and the industry as a whole. In these comments are redline levels of excitement, despair, empowerment, uncertainty, and vitriol, interspersed with some thoughtful examinations of Hollywood business and the writer’s place in it.

Book publishing isn’t as different from Hollywood as you might think — book writers may not have a union, but we do have some of the same issues. There are lessons here for every writer.