Thursday, October 28, 2010

United States of Movies

Saw this and had to post. The map assigns every state a movie that best represents it. How many of you have seen all of the movies on it? Do you agree with your state's? My state's was Taxi Driver. Hmmm... Yeah, NY back in the day that was 100% true. Now I think you'd start there then add a little Sex & The City polish on it mixed with some Wall Street, I Like It Like That and Do The Right Thing to get to the finish line...

Monday, October 25, 2010


I love it.

Friday, October 15, 2010

I Love My Hair

So this has nothing to do with filmmaking, but... so fantastic I had to post.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

24 Hour Shoot

Not the kind where you shoot for 24 hours (violating all kinds of union laws and going into overtime by the thousands). The kind where you hear about a job, you like the idea, and in 24 hours, you pack, travel, and show up on set and are shooting.

with no prep time!

I'm not in "story-time" mode here, where I try to get all cute - this really is my worst nightmare. As in, sometimes I go to sleep and I dream that I'm suddenly on set and I don't know what I'm supposed to be shooting. There's no shotlist, I've seen no wardrobe, no props, haven't met the dp, haven't seen the space, and from there I start my shotlist, and I'll be executing said shotlist within the next 10 hours.

PLEASE say a prayer.

It's for a great organization called Black Girls Rock. I'm just shooting the promo's, but definitely support it when it airs on November 7th. Because really, black girls rock.

Will give periodical updates tomorrow from the warzone.

Thursday, October 7, 2010


My illustrious producing partner. So proud. This is what I call "class."

How do you not love a girl like this?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Quote of the Day

"Don't let it bring you down/ It's only castles burning/ Just find someone who's turning/ And you will come around." -Neil Young

Sunday, September 26, 2010


It's a tough business. Good to know that failure is a built in part of the equation. Not forever-failure. Just sometimes-failure. When bad things happen it always feels like I've been singled out by the universe for this particular insult, and I have, I guess, but everyone gets singled out in that way at some point. The important thing is to "fail harder" as a famous ad man once said. And I guess to fail upwards until it starts to look like success.

I know, I'm being cloyingly positive today. It was a good week. I'm kind of posting this for myself since things shift so quickly that next week I may need to read my own words and watch this video for the motivation to get out of bed.

But then again, if things continue going well, I may just watch it because it is a really beautiful commercial...

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Quote of the Day

"Don't ask a writer what he's working on. It's like asking someone with cancer on the progress of their disease."
- Luke Angel

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Pitching For Film

Here's some tips from the WGA. These are the official ones. My un-official tip is always ask for tea that way if you get nervous you can blow on it to catch your breath. If it's too hot, make sure when they offer you water, you take it, that's also a good distraction when you're working out your nerves...

But now for the real...

Pitching for Film: Tips on What Works in the Room

“Non pros” know it as the interview. Actors call it an audition. Few, however, know the challenges writers face in preparing “The Pitch”—those ten to fifteen anxious, adrenalin-filled minutes when they lay their creative hearts and storylines out in the room for producers and executives to embrace enthusiastically, or, in most cases, reject.


* Your storytelling must invoke enough excitement for companies to give you money; anything less than that will not sell. Big comedies and family movies ("four quadrant" films) are the easiest pitches to sell. In today’s industry climate, pitches for dramas, independent films, or execution-driven stories are difficult to sell. In those cases, it’s better to write the spec.
* Currently, there are fewer opportunities to pitch original material vs. doing a “take”/concept for the producer on existing material with a branded franchise and/or built-in audience awareness.
* "The hire is always political," said Bendinger. Hiring an A-list writer is an insurance policy against the investment and a safer bet for the studio exec/producer.


* Pitching is hard, regardless of genre, gender, and access. Prepare and hone your technique, but know that sometimes even the “wrong” way works.
* Be conscious of the company’s ever-changing financial position at the time of your pitch. Your agent or manager should have a “finger on the pulse” to gauge receptivity. Novick noted that studios are more transparent now about sharing whether they have monies to spend.
* Producers have an unspoken “code of conduct” where they don’t act interested. They may interrupt or ask seemingly illogical questions about your material. Consider it a test about how well you know your material rather than a challenge to your creativity. Sometimes they just want to see how you respond to notes.
*Do research when pitching existing material:
o Utilize online resources, agents, representatives, etc. to discern the players and credits of the attached creatives, past producers, money already spent on a project, personal connections, etc. There is a make-or-break point at which monies invested in a project necessitate further action towards development or production.
o “Don’t throw spaghetti on a wall of spaghetti.” For open writing assignments, ask “What paths have already been taken?” to avoid repetition or wasting anyone’s time. Ask to see pre-existing scripts if available.
o The important “social matrix” of the business: getting hired or selling a pitch involves more than your writing. The sale doesn’t necessarily go to the best writer, but those who are “good on their feet,” and easy to work with. Use psychology, body language, even improv, to establish a human connection with someone who may eventually become your ally.
* A pitch is successful if the execs in the room can “see the poster.” Additionally, he uses an actor’s name instead of the character’s for a more memorable prototype and marketing hook.
* Executives on the panel generally agreed that there is no need to attach talent. The company may not see value in your particular attachments and decline moving forward.
* Attaching more producers to the project is not necessarily a plus. Again, it all depends on what individuals can bring to the table.
* Build self-confidence in whatever unique way you wear it. A bad pitch makes executives nervous and uncertain the writer will deliver.
* No one wants surprises in the room. Especially for existing material, gain clarity about the direction and focus desired. Keep your pitch tight, without going longer than necessary. Producers want you to succeed and fix the script’s problems, so your presentation has to be in the “range” of what they’re looking for. As Novick shared, “If you’re not in the ballpark, you don’t belong in that room.”
* Don’t over-rehearse. Keep it fresh, perhaps changing a few supplementary aspects with every pitch. Montroy and Novick agreed that you should rehearse enough so that you know your material cold, freeing yourself up to be spontaneous in the room. Anticipate questions that might be asked, i.e., if producers were to poke holes in your story. And if being “charming, lively, and entertaining” weren't enough, also try to "be relaxed.”
* Know how to answer questions regarding tone. Always reference hits.


* Be authentic.
* Be able to explain your logline in one sentence. Have detailed knowledge of your script, characters, character arcs, three acts, act breaks, plot points, etc.
* Milberg shared that ultimately you’re talking about character(s) and story, despite “set pieces.”
* There is a distinction between "general" meetings in which you "meet and greet" the exec, perhaps sharing two or three original ideas (in brief) versus a targeted pitch meeting regarding the company's acquired material. With original pitches, you are expected to have “worked out the kinks” so that the company can fine tune aspects according to their needs. For existing material, be "laser-focused" on the things that the producer says need work.
* Unless you are pitching to the person who can write the check, the exec will need to re-pitch up the ladder, so highlight important points or act breaks in your presentation (put in the "road map," as Novick called it) which they can remember to convey to others.
* DON'T: Be needy or desperate; Sacrifice characters for plot; Read directly from the page; Get defensive when asked questions; Take five minutes to set up something that only appears onscreen for one minute.
* DO: View the meeting as an opportunity to refine your pitch whether it sells or not; Recognize the human element of nurturing a professional relationship; Be brief and open to feedback.
* If given the chance to pitch on an open writing assignment, the expected turnaround is one or two weeks.
* Pitching aids can be helpful but should never overshadow the presentation. On one hand, if a producer re-pitches your material, visual materials may help decision makers envision your concept. For Bring It On, Bendinger showed ESPN cheerleading competitions which captured the energy of the film she had in mind. She also included data on the economics of high school cheerleading, providing facts for "uniquely positioned material." On the other hand, no one wants a distraction or an oddity that causes concern regarding your sense of judgment. Don't use props to cover up a weak story. As Novick concluded: if you're pitching a comedy and it's not funny in the room, nothing you leave behind will change that opinion. Also, trailers are usually a bad idea.
* The pitch is not a creative contract. Your draft retains the "spirit" of your pitch, so you can discover more during your writing process. If things change drastically, it is your responsibility to contact the executive to discuss concept changes. While producers prefer that you not work in a vacuum, they can also appreciate writing surprises that show off your creativity.
* Truth be told, not all great writers are terrific performers, so if you're just not good in the room, write a spec. If it’s good, it'll get passed around.


* Every job situation is unique. Many companies first approach higher profile, established writers who are generally not available. Then they go to other options. Understandably, a writer’s rate can affect the hire/sale as well as having the writing skill.
* Unproduced writers can sell a pitch, even though it is extremely difficult. Still, Novick said he’s conscious of not sending clients "out to slaughter" if buyers are not receptive. As a reality check: one panelist’s company had not yet bought a pitch this year (2010); another company last bought a pitch in June 2009. Know that producers hear many pitches, and can indeed get frustrated at not being able to move forward with your good ideas due to the economic climate.
* Have faith that the "cream will rise to the top." Milberg acknowledged that there are unknown writers that "blow him away" with their voice. "Good material at its core will stand out."
* Focusing on the industry’s current buzzword “transmedia,” Lieb described this rising trend as the ability to tell “cohesive narrative across a variety of platforms (film, video games, TV shows, comic books).” Each piece can stand alone, as well as work as part of larger whole. While panelists discussed a strategy to acquire comic book properties simply because they were comic books, Lieb cautioned that often properties don’t carry a strong following or public awareness. As a result, he and others did not recommend writers shell out the expense to option materials.
* Bendinger recounted a recent deal where the producers who bought the rights to her book also invested in a "concept positioning study" with a marketing firm, to assess in advance what audiences liked in the material. Let the company absorb the development costs.

Ultimately, panelists likened the pitching experience somewhat to the playing field of serial dating. Odds are you won't click with a prospective partner each time, but put your best foot forward to see where the connections go.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Stranger Than Fiction

I saw this on one of my favorite websites. Such a beautifully, well-made short. I'm not ashamed to say I cried at the end.

Danny & Annie from StoryCorps on Vimeo.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Kenny Powers Gets Signed By K-Swiss

Every dog has its day. Finally my favorite baseball star gets some love.

Friday, August 27, 2010

quote of the day

I know, no recent postings. deadlines, deadlines, deadlines...

I think this quote perfectly sums up this week for me-

"There's nothing to writing. All you have to do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.""
- Walter Wellesley "Red" Smith

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


A lovely friend made it possible for me to see the musical Fela! on my recent trip to NY (twice!)

I feel so full creatively and remembered Robin Swicord (screenwriter of Memoirs of a Geisha) saying whenever you feel writer's block, it's because you're empty, and you need to see a show, go to a museum, do something - anything to re-fill your tank so you can flow again.

Having submitted two screenplays last month and about to start on revisions, as well as prepping several TV shows, I really did feel burnt out. But a little NYC ( my favorite medicine) and a fantastic show and I feel like, I'm back.

If you're stuck creatively (and it's not procrastination - different issue), I can vouch for Robin's advice. Go see a great show. Go to a comedy show. The museum. It works really.

Here's a little of Fela to get you on your way...

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Thursday, July 29, 2010

EMMYS: Q&A With Supporting Comedy Actor Nominee Ty Burrell

Love this interview. Phil is one of my favorite characters on Modern Family. And I always love stories where "nice guys finish first." Here's a great interview for all you actors. Be patient. As they say in Jamaica "soon come."

EMMYS: Q&A With Supporting Comedy Actor Nominee Ty Burrell

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Mi'd a like my MONEY!

So not exactly film-related, but you know I love my Jamaican videos. For anyone who's ever been a freelancer, I'm sure you'll appreciate this...

p.s. Shout out to Naketha for sending...

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Interview with yours truly-

Courtesy of the lovely Felicia Pride at the Atlanta Post

Friday, July 2, 2010

Quote Of The Day

"Everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt."
- Sylvia Plath

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Kelly Link Introduction

The following are a couple of questions from an interview with Kelly Link on writing. But mostly this is just an introduction to Kelly Link. I've never met her, but LOVE, her writing - it's not screenplays, but her short stories are so visual that they feel like little romantic, horror, mythical, dark short films.

The website where you can read a few of her short stories for free is

And here are the couple questions on who she is, and even better, her writing process...

"KK: When I first read Pretty Monsters, I was struck by how effectively you captured the darker side of being a teen- the cruelty of the boys in “Monster,” Miles’ self-absorption in “The Wrong Grave,” Clementine’s self-delusion in “Pretty Monsters,” the violent anger in “The Cinderella Game.” It is a very powerful technique. How do you tap into the emotions of teens, and how do you express it in writing in a genuine way?

KL: The height of my popularity was probably when I was in kindergarten. I’d have to check with my mother, but the way I remember it, I was in charge. I told other kids what to do, came up with games to play, or suggested doing things that we weren't supposed to do, and everyone pretty much went along with it. But by the time I knew how to read -- somewhere between 1st and 2nd grade -- my star was declining. Maybe reading was my downfall?

We moved from Pennsylvania to Miami when I was in fourth grade, and when I was in 10th grade, we moved again, to Greensboro, NC. I had fewer and fewer friends each time we moved. Not to mention, by the time I was in fifth grade, I was wearing headgear to school. Sometimes I’d also bring along my pet boa constrictor, Baby. I could wear her as a belt, and at the time that seemed really cool -- even though, of course, it wasn't. I spent a lot of time catching geckoes and anoles, and I didn't always have the good sense not to do this in front of other people.

The short version is, I was a weird girl with funny teeth who had a pet boa constrictor and spent most of her time reading fantasy and science fiction. Oh yeah, and I also wet the bed until I was in sixth grade. And I’m also pretty sure that I was awkward, socially inept, etc. etc. When you’re not popular, you spend a lot of time observing the people who are popular, for a couple of reasons: you are trying to avoid being noticed/made fun of, and also, you are trying to figure out how they do it. You spend a lot of time thinking about why people are the way they are. You imagine unlikely scenarios in which you might be friends with the people who are making fun of you.

When I write, it’s very easy to access all of those emotions again. I’m still the same person. I care much less about what people think of me now, but I still care about what people thought of me then. And in the end, I care about all of my characters -- the ones who are brave, the ones who are mean, the ones who do stupid things, or who never figure things out. I can imagine being all of them.

KK: Your bio on the book is brief- it mainly lists the awards you've won. Can you tell us a little about yourself, beyond the bare facts?

KL: I'm 41 years old, and married to Gavin J. Grant, who is also a writer. We run Small Beer Press together, and until last year we lived in a small farmhouse with a big, overgrown backyard in Northampton, MA. Earlier on this blog tour I wrote about our daughter, Ursula, who was born at 24 weeks and 1 and 1/2 lbs in February 2009. We've spent the last year in hospitals, with her, because of complications due to her prematurity. A couple of months ago she finally came home with us to an apartment in Brighton.

Before we started Small Beer Press, I'd mostly worked in bookstores, or done various freelance projects, partly because I wanted to avoid any job where I would have to wear panty hose, or answer a phone. I had a fear of jobs involving call buttons. My father was a Presbyterian minister who went back to grad school, when I was a kid, to get a degree in psychology. He now lives on a farm in North Carolina with my stepmother, and gardens, builds barns, and practices as a psychologist. My mother and I worked together in a children's bookstore for a few years while I was in graduate school. She's a teacher. I'm the oldest of three children. I have one brother and one sister.

I'm a feminist. I like dark chocolate better than milk chocolate. I like roller coasters and German board games. I spend too much time online reading posts on Apartment Therapy, Fandom Wank, and Jezebel. I like roller coasters. I'm left handed, I like Burmese food, and I really wish that at some point I'd managed to live on the West Coast -- Seattle, or San Francisco. I've lived all up and down the East Coast, and I'd love to live even closer than I do to an ocean, preferably one that I could swim in. The two best vacations I've ever been on were ones where I went swimming every day: in Jamaica, on a writer's retreat, and in Byron's Bay, in Australia. A perfect day would be one that involved swimming, some writing, dinner with friends, and a stack of good books waiting to be read.

KK: How did you get started in writing? What was your path to publication?

KL: Here's a pretty complete history: I took three workshops with the writer Raymond Kennedy at Columbia College. In the last workshop I turned in three chapters of a novel, and he gave them to his agent, Binky Urban, as well as to his editor. They both asked to meet with me, to see if I was planning on writing more of that novel. I was about to graduate and go traveling -- I'd won a free trip around the world -- and I wasn't sure whether or not I could finish a novel. When I came home, I still didn't want to finish the novel, but I did decide to apply to the MFA program at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. In my second year, I started submitting stories to magazines -- before that, I'd entered The Writer's of the Future contest, and maybe also submitted something to The Twilight Zone, which was a magazine, along with Night Cry, that I loved. I submitted "Flying Lessons" to Ellen Datlow at Omni, and something to a literary magazine -- I can't remember which magazine, or what story. Those stories were rejected, but I also submitted "Like Water Off a Black Dog's Back" to a new magazine, Century, and was amazed when the editor wrote back to accept it. I also applied to the Clarion Workshop, and got in.

While I was at Clarion, Asimov's bought "Flying Lessons" and Realms of Fantasy bought "Vanishing Act." All of this was thrilling -- but then I didn't sell another story for the next two years. I was very slow to submit work before 1994. I thought that what I was writing was pretty good, but I also thought that as the author, I probably wasn't the best judge of whether my work was publishable -- or interesting to other people. So I didn't submit anything until I was pushed to do so. Ellen Datlow ended up being the editor who really championed my work -- even that first rejection was very encouraging -- this is what I tell writers who haven't sold their fiction yet. You may or may not be a good writer, but even if your work is publishable, it may take a while to find the editor who is the right reader for you.

The best thing to do is to keep on submitting to the places and the editors that you most admire, that you most want to be published in & by.

KK: When you write, what’s your routine? For example, do you need peace and quiet, or do you prefer to work with music playing?

KL: I have a mix on my iPod that I listen to, but I also like to sit in a cafe and have other people around me, talking and eating. I like a certain level of background noise. I like to work in the afternoon, and to have at least two or three hours to settle in. I love to work at a table with other writers. At a certain point in a story, I am still writing on my computer, but I also carry around a pad of paper so that I can put down notes or ideas or sentences that will go into the story the next time I'm at the computer.

KK: How do you write? For instance, do you use an outline, or write a certain number of words each day?

KL: I haven't written anything in the last year or so -- I've hardly managed to write even very basic emails, or to keep in touch with friends. But before that, I was starting to realize that I'm a writer who likes to have a fixed routine of some kind. And then, after a year or two, I need to find a new routine, because the old one doesn't work so well anymore -- I've started to come up with ways of avoiding writing. A lot of the time I'd rather do anything than write.

When I am writing, I start at the beginning of a story every time I sit down, and make revisions -- small and large -- until I get to the place where I left off. And then I do a little new work, and then go back to the beginning again, or to a part that doesn't yet feel right. I'm continuously revising. This method probably works better for stories than for novels, although sometimes, even with this process of revision, I can get a story done quite quickly, say in a day or so. Other stories take months, or even a year." -Interview by by Kirsten Kowalewski on the site

Monday, June 21, 2010

Quote Of The Day

"When once the itch of literature comes over a man, nothing can cure it but the scratching of a pen. But if you have not a pen, I suppose you must scratch any way you can."
- Samuel Lover (Irish songwriter, novelist, painter)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Monday, June 14, 2010

Spread Love

A Course In Miracles says "Only what you are not giving can be lacking in any situation." So if you want to be a filmmaker, help a sister out!

Filmmaker Tchaiko Omawale is making a short film and needs a few more $ to finish it. Anything you can give helps - oh, and she needs it like right now, so don't delay, send it as fast as you would want someone to send it to you.

"Please click on - donate what you can, and ask a friend to donate as well! See which of your friends are already backers, its kinda fun to see how small the world is. Every bit really does help us get this film made! Tweet about the project, Blog about the project, Follow us and support in anyway you can.

The film is about the unlikely friendship that develops between two
girls- Sole, who has an eating disorder, and Jasmine the seemingly
perfect girl who Sole admires through her bedroom window (a la Rear
Window), who has her own dysfunctional ways of dealing with her issues.

Our lovely casting director Aisha Coley has led us to a wonderful young actress Hope Olaide Wilson of Tyler Perry's "I Can Do Bad All By Myself". We are still casting for the role of Jasmine, and will be contacting Tatyana Ali (Fresh Prince of Bel-Air) this week.

the films blog:
at the blog you can see my past work, learn about folks involved and be a part of the process of getting this film made.

We are still looking for a Rear Window location so any referrals are appreciated.

Thanks again for any support - whether its $$, prayers, well wishes, or a phone call to say you love me and support me.

Ciao Ciao,
Tchaiko Omawale"

Thursday, June 10, 2010


These deadlines have taken me totally out of the loop...

Here's a great posting though from another writer (& even better a screenwriting teacher). Hopefully I am writing a page turner, sadly enough don't even have time to finish reading the article! I'll post Part 2 tomorrow...

"Writing Page-Turners, Part 1
by Hal Croasmun

Scripts that are labeled "a page-turner" almost always have more success. They move up in contests, get more recommendations, and quickly gain a reputation in Hollywood.

A real "page-turner" causes the reader to wonder what will happen next. Each page is somehow connected to the future. In fact, each page creates a possible future.

It has us live the present and worry about the future.

Every scene should send a person into the future of the script or at least to the end of the scene. You may have heard this saying;

"In a script, it's not what's happening now, it's what's happening NEXT that matters."

You need to cause readers to worry, wonder, anticipate, and fret over what will happen next in your script. And, believe me, any script worth producing is going to be full of page-turner techniques.

EXAMPLE from the movie OUT OF SIGHT:

As you read this scene, watch how Scott Frank, the writer works to propel our minds into the future of the scene and the entire story.

George Clooney plays "Foley" and Jennifer Lopez plays "Karen." Karen has just pulled her car into the prison parking lot to serve court papers on a prisoner. Unknown to her, an escape is in progress and Foley is the one who engineered it.

Pay close attention to my NOTES as you read this scene. You'll see that there are many times when we are propelled into the future of the script.


As Karen grabs the court papers off the seat, opens her car
door, glances at the fence and pauses as she sees A FIGURE
there, crouching down.

Karen turns on her headlights. No, not crouched. The guy is
coming out of the ground. On this side of the fence.

NOTE: A guy coming up out of the ground is an striking visual. Especially in front of a prison. Obviously, this opens a series of questions.

It also means there's going to be a chase scene and possibly, someone is going to get caught or killed.

Head and shoulders appear and another guy comes out of the
ground. Right in front of her.

Karen leans on the horn, holds it down and sees the two guys by
the fence -- Chino and Lulu -- look into her headlights, poised
there for a moment before taking off into the dark. Karen gets
out of the car...

NOTE: Karen using the horn to warn prison guards instantly causes anticipation. Now, we know that the guards will at least suspect that something is happening and will move into action.

Her getting out of the car puts her in danger. Once again, a possible future is created and we're worried.


As Buddy watches a spotlight from the tower come on and
follow the two cons as we then hear the sound of RIFLE
REPORTS before the men disappear into the dark.

Then Buddy sees Karen in his headlights, whistles softly as he
gets a good look at her long legs as she raises the lid to her


What's she doing?

NOTE: If you weren't already wondering what she's doing, Buddy's dialogue will make sure you do. It's a simple hook. The rifle reports also creates interest, making us wonder if someone got shot.

He watches her duck her head in the trunk and come out with a
holstered pistol.



But then she throws the pistol in the trunk, ducks in there
again and comes out this time racking a shotgun.



NOTE: We know from earlier scenes that Karen is a U.S. Marshal. So her emerging with a shotgun means Foley is in danger. Suspense and worry about the future. But there's also the pistol she just threw in the trunk. What part will that play?

Keep noticing how every action creates a possible future. This is well written.

And now Buddy watches her hurry to the front of her car and
raise the shotgun as we hear A WHISTLE BLOW IN THE
COMPOUND. Buddy gets out of the car...


As Karen puts the shotgun on two more cons, both filthy dirty,
standing by the hole they just crawled out of.


Get your hands in the air!

Buddy watches the two cons, both Latins, make up their minds,
start edging away -- shit, they've come this far.

NOTE: So Karen is facing down these two cons who have little to lose. Will they respect her "authority?" Is she in danger?

They look out at the spotlight sweeping around in the dark,
then look the other way, along the fence towards the main gate,
to see armed hacks coming out on the run, and that decides it
for the cons. They take off running...

Now Buddy watches as Karen puts her pump gun on them, but
doesn't fire...

NOTE: Of course, we're wondering what will happen to the two cons. But also, why didn't she fire? This creates uncertainty about whether she is really a threat.

The hacks running from the gate with rifles beat her to it,
open up all at once and keep firing until the two convicts are
cut down as they run.

NOTE: Now we know the possible fate that could come to Foley. Intensifying our need to find out what will happen to him.

The hacks glance at Karen, but don't bother with her, more
interested in the hole the convicts had come out of. Now they're
standing by it peering in, edging closer with their weapons
ready, then they all step back at once, bump into each other

A head appears wearing a guard's baseball cap, the guy now
saying something to the guards, his face smeared with muck,
excited, pointing towards the orange grove.

NOTE: What's he pointing toward? Are there escaped convicts in the orange grove.

They run off, pausing briefly to kick the convicts they shot to
see if they're alive, then keep going.

The man in the hole, Foley, climbs out. He takes his time,
puts on a show, standing with his hands on his hips like an
honest-to-God hack, that serious cap down on his eyes.

Buddy waves to Foley to come on and Karen turns and puts the
shotgun on Buddy. Buddy raises the palm of his hand.


It's okay, honey, we're good guys.

NOTE: Since we know Foley is a con, we're wondering if the prison guards will catch on. And now that he is confronting Karen, will she shoot? We also know that Buddy is there to break Foley out. So that creates a question about whether Karen will buy their scam or not.


What're you doing here?

Not so much asking, but putting it to him the way cops do when
they're already pretty sure what you're doing. She glances
around to include Foley, now coming at her like some creature
out of the swamp, giving Buddy time to take her around the neck.

She fights him, jabs him in the gut with the butt end of the
shotgun before Foley wrenches it from her grip.

They drag her to the rear end of her car, the trunk lid still
up, and crouch there as some hacks come running along the fence,
past the dark gun tower and cross the road towards the orange
grove. A moment later, they hear bursts of gunfire, then silence.


I bet that's all the hacks they send
out. Otherwise nobody's left to mind
the store.

NOTE: There's now the hope that they may get away with it and the fear that Karen will get hurt. Also, did another con just get shot? There's clearly danger all around, but these guys are having calm conversation which creates even more interest. Are they so good that this situation isn't stressful or are they so unaware that they don't understand the danger?


Why don't we talk about it later?

He turns to see Foley and Karen staring at each other in the
headlights from Buddy's car; Karen not at all afraid.


Why you're just a girl. What do you
do for a living you pack a shotgun?


I'm a federal marshal and you're under
arrest, both of you guys.

NOTE: Of course, every moment here, we're wondering about Foley's fate. Will he get away or die like the others? But now Karen is trying to arrest them through sheer will and courage. Here, she appears to be a force in their way. What will they do? Also, we've seen a small amount of violence toward her when they took the gun. Will that continue and/or end in her death?

Foley keeps staring at her like he's giving the situation serious
thought, but what he says is...


I bet I smell, don't I?
Listen, you hop in the trunk and we'll
get out of here.

Karen looks at him, then gets up, climbs into the trunk. She's
reaching around, trying to find her pistol, when...

Foley gives her a shove and gets in with her, wedging her against
the wall of the trunk, pressing against her back like they're
cuddled up in bed.

NOTE: Okay, she's got the gun and Foley is in there with her. Both are in danger. There's many questions created here that take us into the future. Will she shoot him? Will he take the gun from her? Will the two cons harm her? The last phrase "cuddled up in bed" is a hook that makes us wonder if something sexual will come from this.

So far, we've seen at least 10 ways the writer Scott Frank creates a future with this action scene. In the conclusion of the scene, we'll see even more. But that will have to wait until Part 2."

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


I'm now in the middle of two re-writes and both are going well, or at least they're going. While writing the first drafts, I thought both would be a walk in the park, and a year later (!) I'm having to pull up much of the foundation of both and start from scratch.

On one, I thought I was super clever, writing off the top of my head (as if that has ever worked for me) in my goal of writing a finished screenplay in 10 days. It ended up being closer to 2 weeks - but still quite a feat. And while I did get a major comedy producer attached, all of their development notes are things that had I let the process take the time it should take, I might have noticed on my own and wouldn't have to re-start by doing all that character work, mapping out all the relationships and how they work, getting to the heart of the theme, etc... now (when I'm blindingly busy).

I'm also writing a script for Lifetime, which I did thorough prep work on, but it was all "required" prep work, meaning the network needed those outlines. I should have down much more extensive character work for myself until I loved each character and knew everything about them. Now, it's the same deal, the re-write is really in developing all of the "secondary" characters. And even though they don't know the problem is I wasn't in love with all of those characters to begin with. I know it. So... back to the drawing board.

I remember Toni Morrison once saying she doesn't start writing until she knows what soap the characters use. So this week when I write, I'll remember it's okay for it to take longer so I can do all of that character work, it's okay to spend a month or longer notecarding so that I get rid of all of those stale ideas I got from other movies and get underneath them to the ideas that are fresh - and mine, it's okay to outline until I get it right, then pitch that to all my friends until I have a story that keeps people's interest.

Do the work now, don't take the shortcut, or I'll have to do it all over again anyway...

This is me not taking the shortcut in Mexico...

... and a couple more from the weekend in Mexico

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Laugh...

Peter Bogdanovich on comedy in the movies he directs…

*(I used this quote this morning because I saw Date Night a few weeks ago with a friend and I enjoyed it, but I wanted to LOVE it, and I didn't. I love Tina Fey, love Steve Carrell, loved the premise, so why was I a little disappointed when I left the theater? I think what Bogdanovich says here might come a long way in explaining it as this is EXACTLY how I felt in the theater).

"You set up something. You get a laugh with it. And then you top it. The trouble with most comedies today is that nobody understands the principle of topping a joke. This means that you get a laugh and then if you get a laugh on top of that one, it's always the big laugh. Most times you see comedy you feel kind of like you laughed but you wish that you'd been able to have a big release and the reason you don't have it is because they haven't topped the the gag. That's all it is it's as simple as that.

My favorite example of that in What's Up, Doc? was the sort of classic gag which was the one where the cars are all making a U-turn and they all smash into this Volkswagen bus which is parked along the curb. There are three cars and each one smashes it and each time it gets a bigger laugh. It never fails. The third car that this it is a bigger laugh. Now I could have left it there because I did three - one, two, three - and each one was bigger. Well, the topper is when the guy runs out who obviously owns the car, opens the door, and the whole thing falls over. Thats' the topper and that's the big laugh. The audience actually falls apart because you have led them up to that. It isn't that they're happy. It's a release. Because it's laugh, laugh, laugh, and you want one more and there it is. It finishes the situation - no way you can get another laugh with it."

Monday, May 10, 2010

A click a day...

One of the places that I volunteer with although - not as much lately as I'd like to - is Project Angel Food.

Project Angel Food's mission is to nourish the body and spirit of men, women and children affected by HIV/AIDS, cancer, and other life-threatening illnesses. Volunteers and staff cook and deliver free and nutritious meals prepared with love throughout Los Angeles County, acting out of a sense of urgency because hunger and illness do not wait.

This year, they're one of the "ideas" nominated to receive a huge donation from Pepsi, if you have a second please help Project Angel Food move to #1 and receive a donation of $250,000 from the Pepsi Refresh Everything project by clicking here and then voting:

Vote every day through May 31st. With a simple online vote a day, you can help provide 50,000 meals, making a huge difference in the lives of our most vulnerable neighbors who are struggling with life-threatening illneesses and in need of free, nutritious food.

We’ve moved up to Rank #102, but we have much more to go. We need your vote every day to become #1.

You can also vote and share through Facebook:

1) Click Link Above
2) Click "vote for this Idea"
3) Click the Facebook icon on the left
4) Click "connect"
5) Click "vote for this idea" again
6) Click the "Share this idea" facebook icon to post on your wall

Thank you for clicking! And please do so EVERY DAY until May 31st.

Quote Of The Day

"It is necessary to write, if the days are not to slip emptily by. How else, indeed, to clap the net over the butterfly of the moment? For the moment passes, it is forgotten; the mood is gone; life itself is gone. That is where the writer scores over his fellows: he catches the changes of his mind on the hop."
- Vita Sackville-West

Friday, May 7, 2010

What I Learned From Brett Ratner

I'm enjoying writing this "What I learned from..." series. I've met some remarkable people in this business, people who it's no mystery that they became successful. And what they had was often something that if you paid attention to, was pretty easy to learn. Since I had the pleasure of learning firsthand, I figured I'd pass it on.

What I learned from Damon Dash (previous article) was an easy lesson for me having been a lifelong workaholic, but what I learned from Brett Ratner - Director of the Rush Hour Movies, X-Men 3 etc... was a revelation.

First the backstory of how I know Brett, it'll be short because it's not terribly interesting. Sophomore year. NYU. I introduced myself to Brett, then a popular music video director, and he said I should be his intern. The next day I showed up at his office (then a production company in Union Square) and told the office manager Brett said I worked there now. No one ever questioned me and from then on, I guess I worked for Brett Ratner.

He was shooting a lot of videos and when he got swamped, he'd let me write treatments for the tracks he hadn't gotten to, which then led to me writing treatments for everyone else, which ended up paying my bills through school. He was also tremendously supportive of me as a filmmaker often letting me use accounts and vendors for free to finance low budget shoots of my own. I still credit Brett with being one of the most instrumental people in my career.

So here's what I learned from him: It really is okay, not just okay, it really is imperative, to toot your own horn, and to do it with excitement because you shape the way other people perceive your work in a very active way.

In other words, the work can be good, but unless it is groundbreaking, then you better be your own best hype man and make sure people pay attention to exactly what YOU want them to see.

Example. Brett had just done a video for Mary J. Blige. He wasn't happy with it. He came into the office in a rage. He was mad at this one and that one, going on and on about how much he hated it. The phone rang. It was the label. I put them through. I was truly interested to see how Brett ate humble pie. Here's what happened next. Brett: Did you see my Mary video? She looks hot. I made her look better than anyone ever has. No one is gonna look at her the same after this. She's soft, beautiful, sexy...

The label agreed and hung up. For those who watch True Blood, you'll know that Brett had just "glamoured" them.

He could have started with a million excuses and apologies (and there's a time for that too), but instead he started by finding the one great thing in the video (and she did look good) and pulled their attention to that, then went on and on until what they left the call thinking was Mary has never looked better.

Now, embedded within this is Brett's natural talent for making people feel like he's with you. He's never defensive, he always acts like "we" are on the same team, no matter if the "we" is the head of the record label or the valet parking his car. So when he went on about it, the label felt like they were a part of making her look great too and walked away feeling good about themselves.

I remember once in a director's workshop, the teacher telling an actor who was trying to "play" charming, that a charming person is charming because they make the person they're talking too feel like they are charming. And when you speak to Brett, he listens as if you are the most interesting, fascinating person in the world, he is enthusiastic about having just met you - God's most amazing creation, and then you're with him, and he pulls your attention to what he wants you to see.

It's a tough trick to master, but it has made him one of the most successful directors in Hollywood. If you don't get it right and you try, well, you can come off as a bit disingenuous. And the truth is, I don't think it's just a trick in Brett's case. I think he really is interested when he meets someone new and it shows, whereas so many of us are interested in showing who I am, Brett is interested in learning about the other person and it isn't something you can fake. In any case, and back to the point... while you're learning that, start finding the great things about your work, and instead of showing it to people and starting off with, "we really didn't have much money, time, etc..." start out with what's great about it so that that's what they look for.

Glamour them.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Quote Of The Day

Every day I mean to write a new post, but busy beyond belief... in the meantime, here's a lovely quote...

"To me the greatest pleasure of writing is not what it's about, but the music the words make."
- Truman Capote

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

What I Learned From Damon Dash

There was a period of a few months (some millions of years ago), when I had to spend every single day around Damon Dash - then head of Rocafella Records. I was working on a long form project with him and from his house to the office to spending time with his friends, it really was an all-in situation.

I learned a lot from him - well, at least one really important thing - and it was that if nothing else, he's a man of action.

If he had an idea at 11:58, by noon he was on it. He was making calls and he would follow up and he wouldn't stop until it was happening.

I know so many people with so much talent who tell me these great ideas, and often one of two things happen. 1. Nothing. Or 2. They start, but don't finish. And by finish I mean, really stick through the roughest, ugliest, non-money-makingest part of it until it happens.

I know from watching him that Damon's follow-through was impeccable. Even now, I don't count him out because I know the man. Whatever he's working on, the moment he had that idea he put it into motion and he won't stop until it happens. I know it seems un-timely to talk about what I learned from him with so many stories swirling about where he is now, but this isn't a story about what it takes to stay "there," but what it takes to get "there." And that "quick to action" added with "don't stop/ won't stop-ness" - the will to push and push on the same project - not jumping to something else - until the first one happened instead of giving up when things don't magically turn out the way they want in 6 months. Or a year. Or even two years... is THE way to get there and the most crucial part of filmmking because:

1. The average length of time it takes a script to go from script to screen is 7 years.
2. At every WGA seminar inevitably someone asks about sending out treatments of a script as a writing sample and the panelists tell them absolutely not and by the way don't tell ANYONE you're writer until you have a feature length script to show because if you were a writer you would.
3. Filmmaking is not so much a profession as a life-long commitment. It's like joining a convent. You give your life to it. You get hurt by it, you get knocked down by it, rejected by it. You have to go to meetings ALL the time, work EVERY day, FINISH scripts, face rejection and uncertainty constantly and if you don't know going into it that you can do that, then make your life easier and go to school for a 2nd degree in a lucrative, stable career like law.

Otherwise - when you have an idea, jump on it, wrestle with it, work it out, PERFECT IT. Do it NOW. And then DON'T. STOP.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Filmmaker's Intuition

I'm re-reading the wonderful book The Filmmaker's Intuition by Judith Weston - if you haven't read it, it's fantastic, although I would check out her book Directing Actors first (it's on this site somewhere if you want to see what it looks like).

She had one paragraph that so succinctly described the director's job that I thought I should repost it.

"The film director's task is to tell the story. The tasks involved in telling a story filmically can be grouped thus:

1. Choose a script, and investigate and imagine its subtext story;
2. Supervise the design elements, and make sure they tell the story;
3. Plan and supervise the shots, and make sure they tell the story;
4. Cast the actors, block out their physical action, and make sure their performances tell the story."

She later adds, "There are two crucial directorial duties that many directors are clueless in carrying out: setting the blocking (physical movement) of scenes; and creating pace and tempo-rhythm... Rehearsal can be a place for directors to make these choices, thus preventing chaos and despair in editing."

You're welcome.

Friday, April 23, 2010


Today is the day that William Shakespeare died. (It is also the day of his birth - he certainly knew how to bring a story full circle).

A moment for the greatest. I know - plagiarism and all, but really, it's pretty hard to write Hamlet and The Bible in one lifetime without a little, um, borrowing.

So for giving us Romeo & Juliet, Macbeth, the Taming Of The Shrew, Julius Caesar, King Lear, The Tempest, The Merchant of Venice, Othello, Much Ado About Nothing, Twelfth Night (and those are just my favorites and not even half the list of his work), oh, and again, The King James Bible - Thank You.

Shakespeare didn't just write - he wrote a HELL OF A LOT, so today - get started on being prolific. Maybe it'll end your writer's block, or procrastination to set a goal to just write as many things as possible in your lifetime, you can revise them in the next...

"It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves."
William Shakespeare

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

When It Hurts So Bad

Sometimes it stinks doing what you love. Sometimes you're up at 5am, and you still have no clue what you'll say in that meeting - which is happening in a few hours.

Sometimes you have to force yourself to read awful scripts when you don't feel like it. Sometimes you're procrastinating working on a great script because you're afraid. You've been hurt before afterall.

Sometimes the frustration of feeling stuck proves the saying "perception is reality" because even if you're making tremendous strides, if you are yet again working at home today and not on set, or if you're one of those awesomely brave people who are working at a 9 - 5 because you're smart enough to want to pay your bills while pursuing your dreams, the thought of coming home exhausted and writing for 3 hours also seems only slightly less preferably to standing in the middle of the street and waiting for some kind bus to take all of your problems away.

There's no silver lining, I'm just saying.

Oh... but I will add this. When you feel this way ask for help. Ask the gods of creativity or Allah or Jehovah or whomeva... that you receive inspiration (the very word means filled with spirit), ask to receive clarity, wisdom, good decision making and wonderful things just falling in your lap - not potential things, but actual, bill paying, creative explosions that are happening right now.

And right now, I am co-signing with you and stand in agreement.

May the force be with you. May you receive.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Quote Of The Day

“There are only two or three human stoires, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before.”

- Willa Cather

Monday, April 19, 2010

Quote Of The Day/ Free clips

"Ink on paper is as beautiful to me as flowers on the mountains; God composes, why shouldn't we?"
- Terri Guillemets

If you haven't subscribed to AFI's channel, you should definitely check it out. Conversations with some of the best directors ever - Wilder, Friedkin, Mendes, etc... on how they practice their craft and it's free. It' a whole film education and you pay nothing - unless you decide to make a donation - which I, of course, think you should.

and here's a link to this guy's page on youtube where he shares free public domain movies - super cool, old horror stuff like Night Of The Living Dead, Nosferatu, Phantom of the Opera, etc...

Thought today would be a little inspiration, and a little "freeness" to make Monday a little easier to bear. Enjoy

Saturday, April 17, 2010

AFI 2010

These are clips from the year's best STUDENT THESIS FILMS. Why is that in all caps? Because they look terrific. Who are these "students?"

Filmmakers, step your game up, your competition is young, hungry and talented as hell.

Friday, April 16, 2010


Today: Turn in one re-write, start another re-write, start an original script (under producer deadlines), reschedule a meeting, go to a meeting, Read a screenplay. Develop 2 pitches. Brainstorm visual presentation ideas for both pitches. Update calendar to make sure with all of this nothing is slipping through the cracks. Possible edit changes to music video. Read outline and give producer notes on directing project.

All of that to say...

No time for any thing of real substance. Here is a lovely quote of the day. Be inspired.

"A writer needs three things, experience, observation, and imagination, any two of which, at times any one of which, can supply the lack of the others."
- William Faulkner

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Bloomberg: 'Iron Man 2' Likely First Film Traded In Box Office Futures Scheme

Bloomberg: 'Iron Man 2' Likely First Film Traded In Box Office Futures Scheme

I'm just disgusted by this...

"Despite uniform opposition in Hollywood, stirred up by the MPAA, there appears to be a high likelihood for approval of Wall Street plans to bet on movie box office performance, according to a Bloomberg report today. It cites several sources that claim the Commodity Futures Trading Commission staff will recommend plans by Media Derivatives and Cantor Fitzgerald to create the futures program despite the potential for conflicts and manipulations. That decision could come this week, and Bloomberg reports it may be in time for Cantor Fitzgerald to sell box office contracts for Iron Man 2 as its first film.

Interestingly, Bloomberg quotes Lionsgate vice chairman Michael Burns as seeing an upside. Burns, one of the founders of the Hollywood Stock Exchange web site that is serving as a model for Cantor's formula, opined that "if the studios have a chance to have an equity position in the actual exchange, if Cantor offers that, I think that's a giant win-win. I think it will ultimately become a terrific hedging vehicle for the studios. You can buy corn futures, orange juice futures, it makes no sense you can't buy movie futures."

-Mike Fleming from today's Deadline Hollywood

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

An Evening With F. Gary Gray

An Evening with F. Gary Gray

Moderated by Greg Braxton of the L.A. Times

6:00 P.M. on Friday, April 16th, 2010

The Ray Stark Family Theatre, SCA 108
School of Cinematic Arts Complex
900 W. 34th Street, Los Angeles, CA



If you do make it out to this, make sure to leave a comment and tell me what you thought of the evening and what you learned!

Hump Day

Exhausted from so much work and so little sleep the last couple of weeks... but grateful. so grateful.

anyway, nothing too inspiring today, so will up load a music video I did year's ago, it's a perennial favorite. If anyone has any questions about the process of shooting something in all special effects, please feel free to shoot me an email.

On another the note, the song, even years later and having listened to it hundreds of times, is still amazing.

Here's Dashboard Confessional's "Hands Down."

When I asked the lead singer who it was about he replied, "My Girlfriend." I, then said, "oh, how long you been going out?" "Since 4th grade." Apparently there were some off times, but they were back on when he wrote this about kissing her in the 8th grade (I think it was the 8th grade anyway)... Can we please just go ahead and exhale a giant "Awwww..."

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Quote Of The Day

"There was one who thought he was above me, and he was above me until he had that thought." - Elbert Hubbard

That seemed so appropriate for Los Angelenos. Happy Tuesday.

(shout out to Tracey "too tough" Pennywell for the quote).

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Support For My Sister-Girls

I wanted to take the space to support a couple of fellow creative souls...

First, if you don't want to end up with a loser, please buy the very funny, great read by my sister writer Dee Sanderson

You can check it out here on her website -

Based on true events, this searingly funny yet sobering tale explores all of the choices we make in relationships without ever realizing how they will impact our lives. This "how to" guide can help you recognize the warning signs before you end up in "Loserville" or help you get there faster... if that’s what you really want!

Some of the more helpful chapters include:

"Where To Find Them... Couches and Guestrooms"
"Sex... or Lack Thereof"
"Honesty... or Lack Thereof"
"Sometimes They Come Back... The Proposal"

You can also check out her new relationship internet column at-

I also want to show some love to independent filmmaker Nia Danielle. She's superdope and continues to produce projects on her own with limited resources out of the ATL. Check out this interview with her

And if you want to check in with what she's up to lately or support her in any of her upcoming projects (through investing, acting, interning) also check out her website.

My sister Kim Hill (an amazing artist and superstar on LA's underground music scene) has one of the best, brightest blogs on life in the hood that's out there. Please check it out, follow it, and spread it around.

The lovely Kasema Kalifah has a blog that feels like entering a meditation garden and having a cup of refreshing herbal tea and taking a minute to re-center and re-focus before going back into the "real" world.

And finally, if you are an actor in LA my beautiful friend Sarah Sido has the must-follow blog/site

It has the most practical advice for actors (everything from auditioning, publicity and agents) that you're going to find. Even the books in the Minerva shop are must-buys for any actor who wants to consider themself a "working-actor."

AND, they have consulting services in this section - - where they'll consult with you on things like your head shot, how to get work in voice-overs, what the best acting classes are, who are the best coaches, etc... For any actor reading this, I would RUSH to get help like this.

Please pass this blog on so we can support our fellow artists and sister-girls!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Billy Wilder - About Billy Wilder | American Masters | PBS

Billy Wilder - About Billy Wilder | American Masters | PBS

a biography on the best - and that ends Wilder week. for now.

if you haven't seen "Some Like It Hot", "The Apartment", "Double Indemnity," "Sabrina," "The Lost Weekend," please rent, buy, search your TCM listings asap. you'll thank me later.

Thursday, April 8, 2010


This is just the week of Billy Wilder I guess. The more I think about him, the more grateful I am that he existed.

The book Conversations With Wilder (there's a link somewhere on the right) is all the film school you need.

Instead of one "Quote of the Day", here are a bunch from my favorite writer/director of all time-

(Also, if you haven't already, scroll down and check out his top ten screenwriting tips).

“I never overestimate the audience, nor do I underestimate them. I just have a very rational idea as to who we're dealing with, and that we're not making a picture for Harvard Law School, we're making a picture for middle-class people, the people that you see on the subway, or the people that you see in a restaurant. Just normal people.”

“I just always think, "Do I like it?" And if I like it, maybe other people will come and like it too.”

“Don't be too clever for an audience. Make it obvious. Make the subtleties obvious also.”

“An actor entering through the door, you've got nothing. But if he enters through the window, you've got a situation.”

“You have to have a dream so you can get up in the morning.”

“If you're going to tell people the truth, be funny or they'll kill you.”

“A director must be a policeman, a midwife, a psychoanalyst, a sycophant and a bastard.”

“An audience is never wrong. An individual member of it may be an imbecile, but a thousand imbeciles together in the dark - that is critical genius.”

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


I went to an astrologer a few years ago as a birthday gift from my mother. The "astrologer" was really just her friend Jackie, but apparently she really knows her stuff.

Jackie told me about how artists should meditate every day and made some time predictions which didn't really come out the way I was thinking they would.

But then she told me there's a director, born under the same sign as "you who wants to help you as a mentor. He's passed, but his essence is still close to the earth."

I'm not really big on talking to dead people, but go on.

She said that when I get stuck with something to just ask him for his help. I asked her who it was she said there was a name that I wanted it to be when she first started talking and I should look him up and see if he's my same sun sign. Well, I did and it was Billy Wilder.

I have not taken much advantage of this cosmic connection, so I'll ask him now, how did you get to be so prolific? Can you whisper me in my ear when I write and make me somewhere in the vicinity of almost as talented as you were? Can you listen when I gripe about how different it is in my day, and then lean over and say in that heavy accent, yes, but get to work anyway.

I'm starting a new writing project today and am about to embark on two big rewrites, I'd like to invite you to give me little nudge when I'm missing something and ideas that you think might make the whole thing better. Thanks.


So, afraid of going it alone, I have decided to enlist the help of the deceased. Good I guess since once feature project I'm involved in is about zombies. Are there any creative souls you would like to ask for assistance from in the great beyond? Let me know who in the comments, maybe they can have coffee together.

Below is the previous post with Wilders Top Ten Screenwriting tips. I believe they're all you need.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Billy Wilder's Tips for Screenwriters

This was originally in the Cameron Crowe (Almost Famous, Jerry Maguire) book Conversations With Wilder - a fantastic read if you're interested.

Keeping in mind that all rules are meant to be broken - until you ARE Billy Wilder (my favorite writer/director of all time), may be best to start with the basics.


This is page one of Wilder's "Some Like It Hot" - the AFI's number one comedy of all time.

"A hearse of Late Twenties vintage is proceeding at a dignified pace along a half-deserted wintry street.

Inside the hearse, there are four somber men in black - and a coffin, of course, with a wreath of chrysanthemums on top.

One of the men is driving, another is in the seat beside him. The other two are sitting in the rear of the hearse, flanking the coffin. All four seem fully aware of the solemnity of the occasion.

Now they hear a SIREN, faint at first, but rapidly growing louder. The driver and the man next to him exchange a nervous glance. The other two men move tensely toward the rear door of the hearse, raise the black curtain over the glass panel, and peek out cautiously.

Through the glass panel they see a police car bearing down on them, the red light blinking, the SIREN screaming.

The two men at the rear window gesture to the driver to step on it. He does.

The hearse, obviously a souped-up job, instantly picks up speed, weaves crazily through traffic, the police car in hot pursuit. The hearse careens around a corner at eighty miles an hour, the police car right on its tail.

By this time the policemen are leaning out of their car with drawn guns, firing at the hearse."


What they want the whole way through.









There it is from the best whoever did it. On the AFI's list of 101 best screenplays ever he has 4 before you even get to 30 - in multiple genre's.

If you want a copy of Some Like It Hot, feel free to email me and I'll shoot it over to you.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Quote Of The Day

I loved this-

"I was inspired by the way Charlie Kaufman writes. He doesn't know where he's going and just writes from his intuition and gut and what he's interested in, and just follows that through. The first pass of his scripts are sometimes 250 pages long before he goes and whittles it down. Watching him work and the way his brain makes connections was very inspiring."

Spike Jonze on the writing process of Where The Wild Things Are…

If you want a copy of the script, feel free to email me and I'll shoot it over to you.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Free Acting Podcast

This is for actors, but I think it's really helpful for filmmakers to learn as much as they can about actors as well...

"The Los Angeles Theatre Ensemble would like to introduce you to one of our featured partners, Inside Acting Podcast. Inside Acting is a free audio podcast for artists, by artists. Each episode of Inside Acting brings you tips and insights from Los Angeles-area casting directors, agents, producers, writers, actors, musicians, filmmakers, personal finance gurus, and more. Get insider information on marketing yourself, creating your own work, and booking the gig -- straight from the minds of the entertainment industry professionals who are currently doing the same.

The podcast is co-hosted by two long-time Ensemble members, Trevor Algatt and Albert Meijer. You may have seen these two in Ensemble productions such as Wounded, I Gelosi, Survived, and Quixotic. Catch up with Trevor and Albert in episode 15, in which they field a few listener voicemails, discuss Albert's new stage name, chat about IMDB Pro and the "developing actor", then sit down for Part 1 of an inspiring and insightful interview with Steven Spielberg's go-to guy, actor Neal McDonough."

Monday, March 29, 2010

Best Quote Of The Day Yet

“If you’re willing to break rules, risk ridicule, and explore the unknown, and if you’ve somehow managed, despite social conditioning, to hold on to your imagination, then you can dissolve any so-called block simply by imagining extraordinary, heretofore unthinkable solutions and/or playing around uninhibitedly with language. In other words, you can imagine or wordplay, conjure or sport your way out of any impasse.”

- Tom Robbins

Friday, March 26, 2010

Interview With Yours Truly

Exclusive Interview With Nzingha Stewart (Original Director Of “For Colored Girls…” Adaptation)
By Tambay, on March 26th, 2010

In light of all the conversation/debate we’ve had on this blog recently about Tyler Perry’s adaptation of Ntozake Shange’s choreopoem, For Colored Girls Who Have Considred Suicide When The Rainbow Is Enuf - specifically on his recent casting announcements, and the furor over assumptions of how he may or may not have taken over the project from writer/director Nzingha Stewart – I thought I’d reach out to Nzingha, who, by the way, is a fan of this blog, and see what I can learn; but not only to find out what’s going on with the For Colored Girls… project (because she’s not at liberty to speak freely about it in detail), but also, I wanted to find out about her, Nzingha Stewart, the person and the filmmaker – subjects, it seems, have been mostly ignored, as the blogosphere has instead chosen to focus almost solely on the Tyler Perry fiasco.

So, thankfully, Nzingha granted me an interview! And what follows below is our Q&A session, which I think provides some necessary awareness of her that’s been missing all along, since most of us first heard her name last year, when the news about Tyler Perry’s assumption of the For Colored Girls… project livened up the web with lots of chatter.

In it, you’ll learn about how Nzingha got her start in the business, her previous work before attempting to adapt For Colored Girls…, projects that showed promise but were never fully realized for one reason or another (like one that was optioned by Will Smith’s Overbrook Entertainment production company), her handling of the For Colored Girls… project (including her involvement in it currently; yes, she’s still very much involved, even though we all thought that she was out of it completely), life as a black female filmmaker living in Los Angeles, how she defines her brand of cinema, what she’s been working lately, what she has coming up (including both TV and feature film projects), her recent get away to Costa Rica to finish a script she’ll be directing with Gabrielle Union attached to star, and much more… So, without further ado, read on below (obviously S&A is me, and NS is her):


S&A: I read that you got your start directing music videos for various hip-hop and R&B musicians. Is that really how it all began for you, or did you do something else prior to that, which led to music videos?

NS: I went to NYU, but not for film. I was in the Gallatin School where you could design your own major and designed a philosophy major with a thesis in Chaos and Order – that’s pretty much you’re average day in Hollywood. I could have just moved here early and saved myself four years of school.

While I was there, I interned for music video directors which led to me becoming a treatment writer for Brett Ratner, that then led to me writing treatments for the music video “class of 95″ – Hype Williams, Darren Grant, Steve Carr, etc…

Some of those directors were really supportive when I started directing and helped me get a rep, let me use their vendor accounts to shoot independent videos, etc… in particular Brett Ratner, who I still credit for helping me get started as a filmmaker.

Around 2001 I had a big year with some MTV & MVPA nominations – Common, Sunshine Anderson, Bilal, etc… and could stop writing for anyone else and became a full-fledged music video director.

My web page has a bunch of the videos I’ve done on it if you’re interested. It’s

I wasn’t thinking about features back then, I really loved music videos. I was working with artists that I loved (Jay-Z, 50 Cent, Common, Eve…) and getting to indulge my love of cinematic imagery without having to worry about tying it together with a story. But then of course, had an idea for a screenplay, sent it out, and it was immediately optioned by Overbrook, which made me start to consider a career in feature film. Ultimately, the script wasn’t produced, but it was the one that gave me the feature bug.

S&A: Your IMDB resume shows that you’ve directed a short film titled “The Marriage Counselor,” but not much else. And I’m not sure if you realize this, but “The Marriage Counselor” IMDB page links your film with Tyler Perry’s stage play of the same name, making it appear as if you directed one of his plays, which isn’t the case, I don’t think. It was all sort of puzzling to look at your page and find that, given all that’s transpired since then.

NS: Yeah, I don’t know how to change that IMDB thing. “The Marriage Counselor” was a short film I did that had nothing to do with TP’s stage play.

S&A: How did you get your hands on “For Colored Girls..?”

NS: I originally optioned the play and Ntozake was wonderful and supportive. I wrote a draft and attached the actresses you mentioned (Angela Bassett, Alicia Keys & Sanaa Lathan) so a studio could really see it as a film (it being such an experimental work). I’m now an executive producer on the project and am so happy that it is going to see the light of day. Its a beautiful work that deserves to be supported.

S&A: How faithful was your adaptation to the original work?

NS: It’s probably better for me not to talk about my version of the script because I don’t want it to take away from the version that is being produced now. Especially since the most important part of the story is that a movie based on a book of poetry about a group of nameless black women is getting made.

S&A: So, now that we all know that you’re not going to be making “For Colored Girls…” what have you been doing since then? In general, how are you living? You used to be in New York, and I’m guessing you moved to L.A. to pursue a career in film. Are things working out for you as you expected/hoped they would?

NS: I always miss NY, but moving to Hollywood was the right decision. Writing work has been pretty phenomenal and I definitely consider myself lucky. I sold a show to NBC (that eventually wasn’t produced because of the infamous 5 days a week of Jay Leno), but it opened a lot of doors and gave me confidence in myself as a writer. I then wrote a script for Outlaw Entertainment (the producers of Training Day and The Ugly Truth), when and if that’s produced, I’m attached as a director as well. And, am now writing (and slated to direct) “The Vow” for Lifetime starring Gabrielle Union, and being produced by Tracey Edmonds. I’m also polishing a comedy script with a huge comedy producer (can’t say their name until we finish signing the paperwork), but they produce the kind of movies with Steve Carrell and Jim Carrey. I’m attached to direct that as well.

I still direct music videos and commercials (I completed 6 commercials in January and am now editing a music video for Alexandra Burke, Simon Cowell’s new artist) because even with all of the writing work, nothing beats being on set.

Between directing and writing, I’m one of the lucky few that gets to make a real living at their craft. It hasn’t always been that way and I don’t take it for granted. I just traveled to Costa Rica for a few weeks to finish the script I’m contracted to Lifetime for, and while there, felt pretty emotional to be at the point in my career where if I want to pick up and leave the country for a few weeks because I don’t feel like writing in LA, I can do that. I know how hard it is for artists and I am grateful every single day.

S&A: How would you describe your brand of cinema – specifically, are you drawn to any specific genres and/or kinds of stories?

NS: I’m really drawn to great characters over any particular genre. The show I sold to NBC was a half-hour sitcom, my feature comedy has a white female protagonist and is kind of “The Jerk” meets “40-Year Old Virgin”. The Lifetime project is a romantic comedy based on a book by Essence editors Mitzi Miller, Angela Burt-Murray and Denene Milner. I’m also developing a dramatic musical with the producers of Chicago and Hairspray. The project for Outlaw is a “teen-genre movie,” and I’m developing an independent horror/ love story that is already financed and is a strange, cool “zombie love story.” So, as long as there is an opportunity to tell a story about a group of characters I fall in love with, I’m on it, regardless of genre.

S&A: As a filmmaker who happens to be black and female, with so few actually working in the biz today, and in the history of the biz, and with competition seemingly so stiff, how do you motivate yourself to keep at it, fully aware of the challenges in front of you? Or is that not even something you think about? When you walk into meetings with producers, do those age-old stories we’ve all heard about, happen to you – for example, the white producer telling the black filmmaker that they need to “blacken up” their screenplays, or to cast white actors in roles meant for blacks, because black faces don’t sell the way white faces do, etc, etc, etc?

NS: It really has never been a problem, in terms of competition. I think black people are always so scared of each other as competition, when the truth is when one of us does well, it helps all of us get our projects made. I think the same thing about female filmmakers. The real struggle is always when you go through those periods where you get a bunch of no’s or you get close on something and it goes away, but I’ve learned that in a game of chicken with the universe, you usually win. So often, I’ve had to make a conscious decision that even if it’s painful or it’s a struggle, I’m going to do this anyway, and usually within a few weeks (or once literally within minutes!) the universe will give in, and say “you win.”

In terms of the “blackening of screenplays” I’ve never been in that position because if I’m in a room, then they’ve seen my work and know, I’m not that kind of filmmaker – Take a look at the Bilal video or the Common videos or even Dashboard Confessional on my website and you’ll see what I mean. If they want some coonery, they’re not even going to take a meeting with me and vice versa right from the start.

I always try to approach things based on if I love it and if it’s worth fighting for. And then the discussion never becomes about race, but about whether things are right for the script or if they serve the story. Sometimes, the disagreements are so fundamental that it’s better for me to walk away or the studio to decide to go with someone else, but those disagreements haven’t been about race, they’ve been about story.

S&A: Are you strictly a writer/director, meaning would you rather be like a Woody Allen and only direct from scripts that you write, or are you open to being a director-for-hire, like an Antoine Fuqua, for example? And if the latter, have you put limits on yourself on what you’re willing to direct or not direct?

NS: Most of the projects I’m writing now, I’m also attached to direct. If we can make the schedule work, I may be directing the indie movie I mentioned earlier, and I didn’t write that one. -That’s another project that race never factored in any of the discussions. it’s a white writer, and the producers are white, they were just big fans of my music video work. They knew I was black before approaching me, but they want the movie to feel the way my music videos feel, even though the videos they’re referencing are largely black, and the cast is largely white.

S&A: And lastly, a question that comes up often – how do you define “black cinema?” We often discuss the label, and if it’s something that can be readily defined with a list of characteristics, or if it’s best not to define it. Your definition or thoughts on that?

NS: That’s tough. I started to say when it’s written and directed by black people, but I don’t know if I would even characterize at least two of the projects I’m working on now as “black cinema” since they have white leads. But I definitely think of myself as a black filmmaker.

Then I started to say “Black cinema” is when it stars black people, but are Will Smith movies “black cinema”? Is Beverly Hills Cop?

What about the projects that feel like minstrel shows to me, but other black people love them (and that’s not a criticism of the audience, my mother LOVES those movies)? They’re definitely “black”, but “cinema?” They’re more like a business idea than an art. So I don’t know… Hopefully, we’ll have a real definition soon because it’ll mean enough black movies are being made that we don’t need to reach backwards to answer that or think about one or two filmmakers that only represent a portion of what we can do to be definitive.


Alright!! That’s it folks! I thank Nzingha for her time, and for answering these questions thoroughly! Often I get these short sentence answers, and I’m glad she was wordy and forthcoming. So, get to know Nzingha Stewart, because I think we’ll be hearing more about her in coming years… at least we hope so! And, of course, once we know more about any of her upcoming projects, you’ll also know!

For now, as she verified, she is still involved in the For Colored Girls… project, in an executive producer capacity. Also, you can read read up on her Gabrielle Union project which we profiled last summer on this blog HERE. I think that was the very first time Nzingha’s name was mentioned on this blog, and my first time hearing about her.

Also, check out her blog HERE, where you’ll find all the commercials and music videos she’s directed, including this one – Common’s The Light: