Just Writing

I’ve been so busy rewriting my script I haven’t had much time to comment on blogs or write posts. It’s screenwriting contest season.

Great news, I’ve entered my screenplay in the Nicholl. That is officially the very first time I’ve submitted any of my writing in a competition. This is a huge step for me as I’m actually a timid writer.

Austin is next and they’ve extended the deadline to June 8th. This is fantastic as I’ve lost a week rebuilding my daughter’s computer (hard drive failure, had to take it apart and replace it. This is an iMac and I think an appendectomy is easier to perform).

Anyway, one of the things that helped me do the rewrite was to have a goal. I told myself if I won Nicholl I would buy myself those Dr. Dre headphones I’ve been coveting.

After walking around with dark circles under my eyes from severe sleep depravation, I decided if I’d just make the first cut, I’d buy myself the headphones. I even went to Fry’s yesterday and tried them on again. To make sure.

I’m pretty damned sure. So it’s still on, right. And hey, I can up my chances if I enter Austin’s competition. If I place in that one, I get the Dre’s.

Wish me luck.

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Whatifwhatifwhatif???

Someone asked me a couple of days ago if it’s been hard to come up with something to write every day for the month of Holidailies. I told them has not been hard for me this year. In fact, I have several ideas per day. There just aren’t enough days for them or the time to give them the treatment they deserve.

The subject of writing for instance, that is one of the biggest and most important things in my life right now, but I never write about it or what I write about.

Oh well, anyway, ideas. There are opportunities everywhere. Take my inbox for instance. I don’t usually open junk mail, but just as I was about to hit delete on one from “Federal Bureau of Investigations” I just sat there and stared at it. I knew it couldn’t be from the real FBI, but what if it was?

I couldn’t believe someone had the audacity to impersonate the FBI.

The FBI!

Did I open it?

Hell yeah. It looked like a real letter with an FBI seal on it, street address, all that. The letter claimed I was under investigation for making transactions with a fraudulent Nigerian entity and they were going to help me get my money back. All they needed ws my ATM card number. Talk about kick a dog when he’s down, huh?

Now imagine for a moment that I had actually done such a thing, lost money to one of those internet scams?

What if?

Imagine if I’d sent my ATM card number to this FBI scam artist and lost even more? What if I had an endless amount of money to lose but was running low on pride and patience and thought it was high time I get even with these sonsabitches?

Dammit I love a revenge story. There is no glue that holds a story together better than vengeance.

Would I hire my own investigator and hit man because I’m obviously too stupid to know a con when I see it, therefore couldn’t possibly be smart enough to do that job myself?

I’d have to.

Of course, this main character wouldn’t be “me” per se, I’m being empathic, you know, putting myself in the shoes of someone who’s been screwed twice for being gullible and greedy.

Then the real work begins. How do I get you to like a gullible and greedy person? You have to like them to root for them to win. So, who has never had a moment of weakness, wanted something for nothing and got totally pwned in the end? We’ve all been had at one time or another.

There are endless stories out there waiting to be found, to be told. “What if” is a skeleton key to open the chamber and let them out. That’s one method to the madness.

Support the Strike

In case you haven’t heard, the WGA (Writers Guild of America) is on strike and you need to support them.

Yes, YOU.

Think you don’t know any WGA members? Think again. Max, who frequently leaves her words on this very blog is a member. She is a friend as well as a mentor, not just to me, to many who are trying to break into screenwriting.

And what does she have to say about all this?

First, she says to go read Toni’s post about why this strike matters to everyone, not just the writers. You know Toni, she’s that Cajun chick who wrote that book about Bobbie Faye. Toni also writes screenplays and works in film. I’ll be able to tell you more about that later when she is not so busy and tells me more about it.

What else does Max have to say? Go see, she is blogging about it at her place, Celluloid Blonde. Make sure you at least read this post she wrote.

Please support the writers. Don’t hate them because you are going to have to watch some reruns for a while. Hate the greedy corporations that refuse to pay them for their work.

Suitcase Full of Money

Every once in a while I look at some unproduced screenplays on Simply Scripts or Drew’s Script-O-Rama. Sometime last year there were a ton of these unproduced shorts that had one other thing in common besides being a bit unpolished. That thing was the “suitcase full of money.” Maybe it was a writing prompt in some unrelated workshop, or maybe someone wrote about the money and people copied the idea.

They were fun reads, but most of them were not about getting the money. They were about keeping it or spending it.

So I have to ask, if you had a suitcase full of money, what would you do with it? Let’s assume all your debts are paid before you get started so you don’t have to use the dough for that.

Star Wars Seventy-Seven

I did not go to film school, nor did I study screenwriting in college, so what the hell makes me think I can write screenplays?

For too many years I believed that one did have to go to film school or college specifically for that. I guess it is because I worked in a licensed world, I had to go to school to be a nurse, pass the board to get my license, the doctors I worked under, med school…

When I started selling houses, more school, another license.

But screenwriters don’t need a license. It probably helps to have a degree in film when making a submission, but it is not necessary. It takes talent, drive, and some luck. All three.

And some.

I grew up in a movie theater my mother managed. Since this was a small town and there wasn’t much else to do, guess where I was every single day? At the movies.

I’d help her carry the film cans upstairs and splice films together. I had a drawer full of frames from my favorite movies and my room was wallpapered with real movie posters, even the ceiling.

Mostly, I watched movies. Every day, at least two an evening on the big screen. There were four to choose from. Often a movie got held over for weeks. Like Star Wars. It got held over for so long, I managed to watch it seventy-seven times. Not that I liked it, I never did. Not one single time.

See, not only did I get in for free, so did the friends I brought with me. That is how many times I got “asked” to suffer this one. It wasn’t long before I had every line of dialogue memorized, knew every prop, every mistake, you name it. Out of boredom and curiosity, I used to watch people’s reactions to certain parts of movies. Not just Star Wars, all of the movies I watched over and over again. There were many.

My mom was great with people. She knew everyone in town and when they came out of the show, she’d ask them if they liked it, then why or why not. Every single night. People of all ages and backgrounds. She could get them to talk. I listened and learned.

Mom got so good at feeling the pulse of movie goers that she could predict with great accuracy which movies would do well and which ones would bomb. Just by watching a preview. I listened and learned.

This was my childhood.

I am no longer privied to free movies on the big screen but I know the importance of talking to and listening to people of all ages and backgrounds. What makes them laugh or cry, what music they listen to, what they do for fun, what bothers them… Things that move them.

Did we know Star Wars would be a hit? Yes, unfortunately we did. There were too many things in there we’d never seen before. Mostly the special effects. We knew we were in for some suffering.

Sorry Star Wars fans.

Birth Of A Movie Line

Over the last few days I’ve been transferring some home videos to DVD. Most of them haven’t been watched since I recorded them the first time.

The first one I did was a video of my grandfather’s home movies he used to make on 8mm film. Silent but in color films. The film to video cassette we did years ago. My brother Shane and I went to his house and found all the films with us in them, and played them on the projector with the video camera running. It is not the greatest copy, but it is better than having nothing. What I found amazing was that while video taping these films back then, my brother and I discussed what was going on, what other things we remember from that day. An awesome commentary.

Much of those films were shot while on my grandparent’s commercial trawling boat. They were shrimpers during summertime. In the winter, they were fur trappers. So there is a lot of that stuff in there. Things not many would understand if Shane had not explained these things for my video. I was only about three or four when the films were made so there wasn’t much that I remembered. He was older and he spent a lot more time on the boat shrimping and trapping.

I had forgotten my brother was with me when I converted that film to video. I had forgotten about the “narration.” It is strange because Shane died last year. Now I have a hell of a lot more of his voice than those two old messages from him that I was saving on my telephone answering machine. I won’t ever get rid of those either, because there were some really neat things he said in there. One of them something I lifted and put in a character’s dialogue at the end of my screenplay. A really beautiful line. To me. Maybe it is not anything that would move anyone else. But that is one line I would never change in that screeenplay no matter how much money anyone ever tried to pay me to change it.

Now I know why writers give publishers and directors so much hell during rewrites. Things like that, we can’t let go, won’t let go. The thing is, this one little line was the driving force for the last half of writing this script. I kept hearing his words over and over again, that line I lifted.

There are other videos, one of Candace fresh out of the hospital after being born. It was sad to watch that one because all I could think was I know how it all ends.

I’m sure one day someone will watch those goofy monologues of mine from those acting classes and think the same thing after I’m gone. Had I found those a few years ago, I might have destroyed them. Me, a Cajun doing a British stage accent, or the one where I’m doing a Southern accent. Oh my, makes me blush just thinking about them.

Here is the Pathé Baby movie projector. It belongs to my Parisian friend. Her dad invented it. Cool, huh?

Fin

I am finished writing my screenplay. It happened at about 6:00 this morning and the feeling of accomplishment is extraordinary.

Everyone. Hear me. Finshed! The first draft, that is. Now comes the rewrite.

I started it in August or September of 2006, thought it would go fast because I had a detailed outline, but got caught up with some pretty rough life events. But I never gave up.

Seems like there would be a lot of words for this moment. There aren’t. Just feeling. I could almost weep.

If I Was a Sculptor…

Sweetpea is the only one of my children to ever ask, “What should I be when I grow up?” She’s asked way more than once and as time goes by she seems more panicked about it. I remember being just like that at her age, when it is most important.

I wasn’t always like that. At the age of six, we had a neighbor who was a nurse. She wore white uniforms and the nurse cap and a beautiful black cape. That’s what I wanted to be, a hero in a black cape.

Then I wanted to be a nun. We had a convent in town and that place was gorgeous. So was the cathedral. I wanted to live there. It had dramatic ceilings was full of stained glass and marble sculptures. A lot of the nuns were either school teachers or nurses, so that didn’t mess up my first dream. I could be both.

Then the artist came to our house. My mom was sewing the bridesmaids dresses for a wedding she was in. She came by for a fitting and stayed the afternoon. I was forced to go play outside, so I don’t remember her, the artist, just her car in the driveway. It had been rear-ended so it was all crumpled up and tied closed with a piece of rope.

My little brother and I had to go inspect. We could see in the trunk and get our tiny hands in there. I don’t remember if it was he or I who did it, who stole all those paints, all I know is that for years we had a stash of high grade oil paints under the house. And so began my love for creating art.

I started with paint by numbers which is really a bad way to learn. That is not how real painting is done. It just teaches you how to stay in the lines. That is something no one should be taught.

I was always creating things. I’d paint, sew, sculpt, whatever, to make the things I wanted. The idea of making something out of nothing thrilled me. What facinated me most though, was machines. I wanted to build one. I also had a deep fascination (still do) with cogs and wheels. Electricity scared the hell out of me so all my stuff was hand crank. Once I made a movie projector out of a flashlight and paper towel rolls so I could show the neighbor kids a movie I’d drawn. On paper towels. No, it didn’t work, but I was gifted at selling things, see. I convinced them it did work. They witnessed for themselves my complete failure on the big screen, but left my theatre believing they’d just seen my movie.

The materials I needed to build my things were not only unavailable to me due to lack of funds, I just didn’t have a basic understanding of tensil strength. I was always making things out of paper.

“Dancers” made out of lobster shells by some French artist.

So. When I met Blane, a guy who always knew he wanted to be an engineer, you can’t imagine how he rocked my world. He understood machines, he had buckets of cogs and wheels and he knew how to build things and wasn’t afraid of fooling with electricity. He invented things and they worked.

For a while I thought I might be a hairdresser. I’d started cutting my own hair when I was about thirteen. After practicing on my brothers, I got really good. Next thing you know, I was cutting my dad’s hair, my grandmother’s, my friends, their mothers… The reason I didn’t become a stylist was because every person I interviewed about that career told me not to do it, that they stay on their feet all day.

Funny that I would become a nurse and stay on my feet all day. It was a career that was intense, yet satisfying. Every day was different.

A perfect fit for what I’m doing now, writing. Hospitals are full of all sorts of people from every background, and as a nurse I was privied to intimate details about these people. Information gathering which I’d store in my mind for later use.

Funny how things turn out.

The thing that stands out the most in my mind about growing up and what interests fit me best is the movie business with the neighbors. I loved it that they believed in my show, my story. But most of all, me.

So my advice to my daughter is to do what she loves doing. I remind her of her talents, her strengths. Never her weaknesses. She probably does enough of that herself.

Eccentric Writing Must Haves

There are a few little things I need before throwing down the pages. I’m talking script pages. Not brainstorming. Those ideas can go on anything that takes ink; a receipt, a memo pad, the back of an envelope. I’m using an outline for this script, but I don’t look at it often.

For script pages everything has to be just right or it’s a no go. Here’s what I need besides the computer and screenwriting software (Final Draft).

1) At least the midnight hour.
2) Noise cancelling headphones.
3) Ipod loaded with music, music, music. I’ve been listening to a lot of metal for this screenplay.
4) Diet Dr. Pepper.
5) Ice from Sonic. Pellet shaped. Here’s a photo.

I write something every single day. Sometimes it is just a few words. Sometimes it is a few pages. It is hardly ever a ton of pages. I know someone who once wrote 75 script pages in one day. She’s a ninja screenwriter. She can fess up to it in comments if she wants.

Do you have any eccentric writing habits?

I Want This Script

I’m reading the book The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger and so far, the movie is better than the book. Usually it is the other way around, correct? I’d really like to read the script but can’t find it in the usual places such as Drews Script-O-Rama or Simply Scripts.

What I like so much about the story is the way obstacles come flying at the protag and just when it can’t get any worse, it does. Meryl Streep will surely get an Oscar nominee for her performance, a masterpiece of work on subtlety.

prada

Dream Stalker

Since that time of those dreams about the man in the suit pitching his dark ride, my pc hard drive has crashed. It can’t be recovered. All things seemed a bit shifted out of place for a while. The real estate business was on the pc. My outline for the screenplay was on there. Along with some other things I wrote but never looked at again. Or ever would have probably.

Fortunately, this MacBook Pro I got a few months prior to the crash has the Intel Core Duo processor. It’s a magical machine because it can run Windows (in a Virtual machine). Why load Windows? That’s like giving the thing gonorrhea. Well, the real estate industry is set up for the pc world only. I had to do it.

It turned out to be a good thing. My screenplay outline that disappeared, that story sucked. The new outline is a whole new story that will appeal to a wider audience. It’s so difficult to let go of trash sometimes it has to be taken away before I realize it is really just that, trash. (No, I really didn’t have all my stuff backed up.)

It was a tough month researching and building a new computer and a new story and keeping the business running. It’s all good now, all my work is done on one bisexual computer and I’m still writing. Better off than before.

So bye bye dream stalker. (Now if only I could stop sleep walking.)

My Own Three Muses

I don’t think they know it.
Pooks, Max, and Toni. They are my three muses. All writing muses.

The first, Pooks, I’ve had the good fortune to live near where she teaches writing classes at a nearby college. She introduced me to the craft and I kept taking her classes over an over, for years, along with a bunch of other return students. She also taught me how to use the internet and Email when that stuff was new. She is the most resourceful person I know. You got a question, she knows the answer, or where to find it.
She knows everybody too. And everybody loves her. She’s a published novelist and an award winning screenwriter. One day you’ll see her western on the big screen and you will ask, “What was that other western? Brokeback, what was that all about?” Check out her Planet Pooks blog. She loves teaching and you’ll see her step by step instructions on how she writes. Amazing. You will learn something for free there. Because she wants you to. To know her is to know cool. She’s the first to do everything. It’s been too long since I’ve seen her.

Max. Via Pooks, in the online world. After many years of reading her website and forum and never participating, I finally got the nerve and posted in the last year or so. She wrote back.
This is The Writing Godess. Writing to me. Me?
She’s got movies in theatres. A book on screenwriting in Barnes and Noble down my street. I think it only happened because my stars were lined up properly. Max thinks about 10 times faster than most. When I read her stuff I wish I’d written it. Also a gifted teacher, she has that “thing”, that magical gadget which mainlines stuff straight into the brain. You don’t forget anything she ever tells you. Check out her website. Brilliant. She gets about 12,000 hits per month. Damnblonde in the blogroll is her too. You will bookmark them. No matter what you write, even if it is just thank you notes, you must own her Screenwriter’s Survival Guide.

Toni, another friend of Pooks. All it took was the first minute of her telling me about this novel she’s having published next year. I was entranced with her storytelling. I could see she so completely loved this world of her imagination and was so comfortable with it.
While listening to her, I heard a crack in that writer’s block of mine and finally, I too can step into my imagination. So with Toni, it was sort of a permission thing. To really dream. Her blog, is always hilarious. Look for her book, BOBBIE FAYE’S VERY (very very very very very) BAD DAY which comes out in 2007.

The funny thing about these three girls is they all know each other and go way back to the days just before we were all getting started on the internet. They were all over it test driving and making it better for writers. Right now I picture the three of them in a circle holding hands. With me in the middle of it.

Wow. I can embed links. A lot of work so, go to their blogs and websites. Now. Bookmark them.

Writing Again

I’m back on the horse, writing again. After going round and round with the question of whether to write this story as a a novel or a screenplay, I just dove right in with a novel. One paragraph into it I realized it is too visual for a novel. So screenplay it is.
And I’ve been writing like a maniac even though I’ve forgotten how to use my Screenwriter 2000 program.
And the damn thing has a history of not saving my work.
But I’m not letting scary things stop me.