Progress…and a deadline

So I jumped off the diving board.

Not pictured: me Pictured: someone on fire

Not pictured: me
Pictured: someone else on fire

Too dramatic? I’ll tone it down in the next edit. The point is that I leapt. It’s time to move things forward with my script, and there is no turning back.

First: picked my actors. A tougher job than I thought, considering I wrote the script with specific actors who I personally know  in mind. The hard part was deciding who gets in at this early stage. There are easily a dozen actors I have in mind for roles that I did not consider for this reading because I don’t benefit for a large room at this time. For now, just a core group of people with the more substantial parts.

Second: picked three possible dates for a reading. A generous friend donated his apartment; cleared the dates with him.

Third: composed the email: “Can you do the reading? Are you interested? Do any of these dates work for you? Do you know who I am?” Send.

Fourth: held my breath. Didn’t take long. Half of the actors wrote back within an hour, giving their preferred dates. Hopefully the rest will get back in touch over the weekend. All tentative dates are less than two weeks away.

Fifth: Now that there is a deadline, it’s time to start the script revision. Go!


Making Arbitrary Deadlines Real

Back on August 9th I promised my future self I would have a reading of the new script before the end of September.

It’s now September 21st. I have nine days left to fulfill my promise to my now present self from my past self, or pack it all in and live in a cavern of regret, where shame slowly but regularly drips on my head for eternity.

This is the first image that pops up when you Google image search "Cavern of Regret." Keep rockin', Jordan Knight.

This is the first image that pops up when you Google image search “Cavern of Regret.” Keep rockin’, Jordan Knight.

Okay, that’s a bit dramatic. I’ll get a break from eternity to watch the finale of Breaking Bad.

But why wait? I go on about other projects, and I have a lot on my plate right now, but I can certainly squeeze in a reading. I finally allowed a second set of eyes on the script, a trusted and talented actor and writer who also will have a role in the script. He digested the draft, and then got back to me with some very interesting notes. He likes the story, but agrees that it needs work.
“So I should do another rewrite before I have a reading,” I said.
“Oh no. Put it out there now,” he sternly replied.
And that was a surprise. I keep forgetting that writing is a process and there will be no perfection, so no need to hold out for that perfect moment. I should just go ahead and have the reading.

So that is what I will do. Pick a few people to read it for me. Pick a date. And proceed. Stop talking about doing things. Do things. Let me say that again.

Stop talking about doing things.

Do things.

Here goes…

Getting back into it

So the vacation is over. Time on the east coast well spent visiting family, friends, and old haunts. We returned to Los Angeles on Tuesday and I plunged back into it.

By the weekend I had an antsy, restless feeling, and I couldn’t figure out what was wrong. Projects are on track, things are moving forward, post travel life was returning to normal. Except for one glaring omission:

I wasn’t writing.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I log my time and keep track of my own efficiency (and keep myself on track). As the week ended and I looked at my hours, it dawned on me that I had not put in a single hour on writing. I spent time working for others. I spent time networking, connecting, setting up meetings, and other productive career-focused events.

But no writing.

At first it was a relief: my unease stemmed from not doing something that I should be doing and that I love doing. Then I was frustrated: why was I not writing? Simply put, my routine changed when I went on vacation and I forgot to get on track. My brain got lazy. I need to be writing. I NEED to be writing. It’s good for my health, and since it’s my vocation, it’s good for my wallet. It’s scary how quickly and easily I fell off the rails. We all do it sometimes: a diet that detours after one bad meal, an exercise plan that halts after a few days of bad weather, a promise to see friends regularly is abandoned and suddenly months have passed. I think most of us default to a sedentary, mind numbing existence. Well, I won’t speak for you…I do. I can get stuck in front of the TV. I can schedule dinner with friends instead of scheduling time to work.

But eventually the hunger kicks in. So I’m back on track. Focusing some of my time deliberately on writing, revising, and editing scripts. Wouldn’t you know, I’m happier doing it, and the more I do, the more I want to do.

The reboot is complete. Now I’m excited to write new stuff, edit other stuff, and very excited to dive back into the script which this blog is supposed to be about.

Take that, lazy brain!

It’s about “character,” stupid…not stupid characters

Last night I went to the movie theater, plunked down $17, and over the next two hours had it stolen from me. This movie did not earn my money. This movie took it, laughing all the way to the bank. I am not alone. You might have been ripped off as well. In fact, as of last weekend, this movie has made over 80 million dollars.

That’s $80,000,000.

Not the biggest summer movie. Certainly not the best, and probably not the worst. But I chose to plop down my sweaty summer cash for this one, which is why it deserves mention in this blog.

I wanted to see this movie. I like the filmmaker. It features two Oscar-winning actors. It has a political storyline that intrigues me. The movie was well shot, the effects were excellent. The plot, with many holes, was still a good plot.

The characters were terrible. The good guys had very simple motives. The bad guys had zero motives. Add those together and you have two hours of no risks, leading to a predictable ending.

I learned a very important lesson here. Just because a character has traits, doesn’t mean it’s a good character.

You’ve seen it all before. A guy compulsively flicks open and closed his Zippo. A woman is an aggressive driver and screams at all the cars on the street. An old man is racist, even against the caretaker who diligently sits by his side. A doctor hasn’t slept in years. These are all traits. It’s what’s behind them that matters.

Think about some people you might encounter in your day:
The coffee shop barista who gets your order wrong.
The boss who insecurely criticizes you twice for the same mistake.
The waitress who is very slow to take your order.
The tourist who takes a picture of his food.
The co-worker who laughs too loud at the boss’s joke.
The person in front of you at the checkout line who is distracted by her phone and ignores her screaming baby.
The idiot who cuts you off on the highway and gives you the finger.

These are traits, or quirks. If your character has these, great…but the job is not finished. Actors will always do this work. Good actors will look deeper to find the motivation to justify their choices and the decisions laid out for them in the script. But those choices are internal, and there is no way for the audience to appreciate those golden nuggets of depth. So it’s up to the writer to do it:

The coffee shop barista who gets your order wrong, because he is distracted by the major fight he had with his girlfriend this morning about moving to the next phase of the relationship.
The boss who insecurely criticizes you twice for the same mistake, because her review is later today and she has a hunch her bosses are aware of the money she embezzled.

The waitress who is very slow to take your order, because she is very nauseous and is three days late for her period.
The tourist who takes a picture of his food, because he is a sous chef and the chef he works for is dying of cancer, and can’t travel to his favorite restaurants anymore.

The co-worker who laughs too loud at the boss’s joke, because the night before she accidentally sent him a provocative photo intended for her boyfriend.
The person in front of you at the checkout line who is distracted by her phone and ignores her screaming baby, because she is trying to pay online for her night course before the cutoff.

The idiot who cuts you off on the highway and gives you the finger, because he is late for his kid’s baseball game and if he doesn’t make it, it will reflect poorly on his custody battle with his ex.

The positive side of me is treating the $17 spent as a lesson, to make me think about ALWAYS providing depth of character. The negative side just wants my $17 back.