Here’s what I’ve been up to . . . what are you watching?

I guess I really do love TV

I guess I really do love TV

Masters of Sex

Ray Donovan

True Blood

Vicious

Covert Affairs

The 100 (in reruns!)

Suits

Graceland

Rush

Satisfaction – I gave up on this one

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D.

Last Tango in Halifax – I like it but its too heavy for me right now

Series on Netflix and Amazon:

The Killing

House of Cards

Queer as Folk (I could watch this a hundred times – to me, it’s the most romantic and emotionally satisfying show ever to grace the airways)

My So-Called Life

For Research Paper:

Crime dramas from the 1950s through the present: Partial list (on my DVR right now)

Starsky and Hutch

The Blacklist

The Lone Ranger

Mod Squad

CSI: NY

Hawaii Five-O

Knight Rider

Murder in the First

Monk

Walker, Texas Ranger

Matlock

Dragnet

Studying Directors

I went back to school this spring, and will finally have my bachelors in TV Writing and Media Arts within the year. For my American Cinema Class, I have to choose a major star or director to focus a research paper on. We’re supposed to pick three films over the course of their career and discuss reflections on society at the time the films were made. Since feminist issues seem to be a central theme through all of my classes, I went in search of a great female director. I was only able to find a few with a large enough body of work to study samples from different time periods. Since I write screenplays myself and dream of becoming a slash, I’m super-concerned with the Hollywood boy’s club’s misogyny and ageism.

I chose the director Kathryn Bigelow. I knew of her, of course, but hadn’t seen most of her films or studied her in any way. Last night I watched “The Weight of Water,” from 2000, which was fascinating, although it received mixed reviews. I had no idea that she had directed “Point Break,” which of course I saw in my Keanu Reeves phase – hahaha. She’s building an impressive body of work, and at this point I’m frustrated about having to pick three to focus the paper on. I’m sure I’ll change my mind once the deadline starts looming, but I’m also sure that I’ll see as many of her films as possible.

Here are some interesting facts about her. She was born in 1951, which makes her 63 now and still going strong. She’s divorced from Cameron Crowe, which I’m sure was a huge factor in her earlier success — being married to him, I mean. I love that she beat him out for the Oscar with “The Hurt Locker.” Another factor that I find extremely interesting is that she is 5′ 11 1/2″ tall. I read once that tall men are more likely to be successful and make more money than shorter ones — I’m sure that’s true for women as well. Many people consider her movies to be “guy movies.”

If you want to discuss any other female directors, I’d love to hear from you. I’ll keep you posted on my studies of Kathryn Bigelow.

Here’s the trailer:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nelE1UbylSE

Book Review: Cult of the Amateur: How Today’s Internet is Killing Our Culture

In his book “The Cult of the Amateur: How Today’s Internet is Killing Our Culture,” Andrew Keen laments the loss of advertising dollars, TV news shows and Tower Records the way someone in the early days of the Industrial Revolution must have mourned the loss of blacksmiths. Every business has an era, and since the invention of the cotton gin, new technology has replaced former ways of doing things, and people have mourned the old ways.

Does anyone else get the feeling that Keen is an old man sitting around railing about how the world is going to “hell in a hand basket?” He claims that he isn’t anti-technology or anti-progress, but his book is a narrow-minded attack that blames many problems (as he perceives them) that can be ascribed to other factors besides the internet. The factor he seems most concerned about is the loss of income to trained professionals such as TV journalists, record companies and advertising agencies.

For instance, Keen spends considerable time lamenting the loss of Tower Records and the expertise that could be found there-in. The fact is, Tower Records was a huge conglomerate that put smaller record stores out of business. Like the days of Blockbuster and Hollywood Video, Tower wasn’t put out of business by the internet, but by the new technology that created mp3’s. People stopped buying records and CDs because there was a superior alternative available.

Another concern of Keen’s is that the music industry is falling into a pit of mediocrity from which it will never recover, despite the admission that “people love music more than ever.” Are we really supposed to feel sorry for the record companies that have notoriously been ripping off artists since the early days of recorded music? It seems to me that Mr. Keen’s real problem is not with the internet, but with the loss of revenues to big business and the abandonment of Capitalist ideals by the American People. I say, let advertising companies go out of business. TV programs and musical artists will find a way to go on without them. Newspapers and news shows have been pushing their own political and economic agendas for decades. At least the so-called “charlatans” posting to Wikipedia aren’t claiming expertise. Everyone knows that Wikipedia can’t be trusted. They teach that to kindergarteners today.

Before the record companies and even book publishers, people found ways to be artists and writers and people will write and make music long after these corporations are a distant memory. Whether or not the TV advertising model will survive, or there will be as much money in the recording, TV and book industries will be determined as new practices fall into place. Just because all the money in the world was in TV doesn’t mean that’s the way it should be. The fact that the salespeople at Tower Records knew what they were talking about doesn’t mean no one else knows. And the fact is, whether Mr. Keen agrees or not, those knowledgeable people are much easier to find today, thanks to the internet. I know how to find them – don’t you?

According to the NY Times:

. . . Mr. Keen’s objections to the publishing and distribution tools the Web provides to aspiring artists and writers sound churlish and elitist — he calls publish-on-demand services “just cheaper, more accessible versions of vanity presses where the untalented go to purchase the veneer of publication” — he is eloquent on the fallout that free, user-generated materials is having on traditional media.

I believe that talent always rises to the top, and the internet is no exception. In my less-than humble opinion, Andrew Keen is a “drama-queen” who should get with the times.

If I’m not the only one shaking my head as I read this book, or even if I am, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Works Cited

Kakutani, Michito. “Book of the Times: the Cult of the Amateur.” The New York TimesNew York Times, 29 June 2007. Web. 30 July 2014.

Keen, Andrew. Cult of the Amateur: How Today’s Internet Is Killing Our Culture. Doubleday, 2007. EBook file.

Check in on Screenwriting

I was distressed to discover that it’s been almost a year since I’ve blogged. Certain life events interfered with the process for me, and it’s only now that things have settled down that I can commit to blogging on a regular basis.

One of the main occurrences was a job in a production company in midtown, where I am a part-time receptionist. Even working part time after not working for a while changed my schedule enough to cause major repercussions. I’m once again searching for a full-time job, so it will be interesting to see how much impact that has on me.

The first thing that went out the window after I started the job was my writing. I had always been a morning writer and now I have to leave the house at 6:45 to be at my desk by eight. I was already getting up at 5:30 and couldn’t imagine getting up any earlier. I tried to get the writing in later in the day, but no matter how committed I felt, there were many days it never happened. Eventually I realized that if I didn’t want to give up writing entirely, I’d have to get up at 4.  Since last Christmas I’ve been writing from 4 to 6 am. It’s become my favorite time of day, and I wouldn’t give it up for the world. I still try to get some more writing in later in the day, as well as on the weekends, but if life intervenes, at least I got that time in.

I hardly feel qualified to give advice to anyone, but when I look back over my blog, it seems preachy and know-it-all. I’ve decided to just keep the focus on myself and let any readers in on my process, rather than trying to teach anything. If it helps someone, that’s great.

Today I’m working on a new original pilot, and I have a final draft needed on my Sci-fi pilot. I have a couple of specs and an abandoned feature. There have been a few more false starts. I’m still a beginner. The only difference is, now I know enough to realize it. I’m working towards a body of work that I feel good about, and then I hope to win a contest and/or find an agent. I’ve applied for the network fellowships for the third year in a row.

If, as they say, the journey is more important than the destination, then I’m doing great. I can’t deny, though, that I have a burning desire to be staffed on a TV drama. Until that day, I’ll be logging my 10,000 hours.

The next thing I have to fit in is getting to the gym on a regular basis.

Thanks for reading, and keep writing!

Prep for Success

If you’re a relative beginner, like me, it is time to accept  that screenwriting comes with a long and difficult learning curve.

In addition to the daily requirement of  hours at the keyboard, one of the ways you can set yourself up to succeed is through ongoing involvement with screenwriting classes. Mine is with Writers Boot Camp. They have a great set of tools and a serious commitment to creating professional writers. They also have networking opportunities and events, and many other opportunities to stay involved.  If you are starting out, I couldn’t recommend it more. I started back in June of 2009 with Basic Training, the six-week class. I’d been trying to teach myself the craft from books for over a year, and could barely get my script out of Act One. I took the six week class and had a real first draft of the feature I was writing, complete with beginning, middle and end.

Because I loved the class and really wanted to do this, I enrolled that September in Project Group. The first six months was done online with one-on-one sessions by telephone with my instructor. The tools they teach are very difficult to grasp at first, and it was frustrating to me that I had to work so hard at them. Instead of an A+ and a pat on the back I’d get notes on how to make them stronger. The philosophy at WBC is that the focus is not on whether your work is good or bad, but on the goal of making a draft industry-worthy. I could see myself improving and the value of the system, but at the same time I had never worked so hard for so little positive reinforcement.

After the online portion of the course, I attended a class in New York City every two weeks, with weekly phone sessions with my instructor. I was lucky to live where I could take the course live, and even more lucky to have a very dedicated teacher who was willing to go over and above the call of duty. Since I knew TV was where I wanted to be, he suggested I do extra work to break down and study some of my favorite shows. With his help, I learned what made them work and how to bring some of those elements into my own writing.  By the time I finished the two year program, the tools clicked into place and were of great benefit to my writing process. My understanding of them continues to grow and so does their usefulness to me.

Being hard-working and committed to my writing, after the 2-year program I was invited to join Bivouac. It’s an alumni group designed to bridge the gap between Project Group and Professional Writer. In addition to a monthly meeting, I finally got my chance to evaluate scripts, which is nearly as valuable to my education as the tools of WBC. I was carefully trained to assess student scripts according to a strong set of guidelines and focused notes. The process is so effective that it allows me to help every single writer to advance to the next-stepping stone and make their script better. It has been incredibly rewarding and has a profound effect on my own writing.

If you want to be a screenwriter, it can help to surround yourself with people who have similar goals. Find a great teacher  and develop a writing process that works. If you are willing to use the available resources and work hard to master the craft, then it the question of “if,” becomes a question of “when.”

These are some of the ways I have set myself up to succeed, and I’d love to hear about yours. Keep writing…

Goals Review

It’s a whole new month – the summer is flying by and I’ve hardly blogged at all. I’ve been very busy, interning for a production company, writing my original pilot, looking for paid work and reading and evaluating scripts. Not to mention trying to keep my two lazy teens busy and all the maintenance tasks life requires, as well as helping my husband with his business. Is it any wonder I can’t find time to blog? Nonetheless, it’s important to me and I am re-committing to a regular publication. Ideally I’d do one each day, but will be happy with once or twice a week.

I decided this would be a good time to review my goals. Here is the list I made of New Year’s resolutions for 2012, along with a progress report on each one:

  1. + Continue to work on my screenplays every day, 5 – 7 times per week  — I’d say I’ve done a fairly good job at this. I write steadily, and if I miss a day or two I give myself a stern talking to and remind me what my priorities are, and that the writing comes first.
  2. + Keep a blog – Also a successful endeavor! I may not have blogged as much as I hoped I would, but at least I’ve blogged each month. There’s always room for improvement
  3. - Exercise 3 – 5 times per week – I’ve barely gotten to the gym, and now I know that I really need to in order to keep up with the pace of the life I want. Unfortunately, I’m not twenty anymore
  4. - Get back to Flylady’s housework plan: minimum input for maximum output – the house is a wreck and Flylady’s emails remain largely unopened
  5. - Open the mail and process daily; keep the finances organized and running smoothly – The finances are a mess and the mail piles up by the time I get to it. Thank the universe that most of the bills are paid through online banking!
  6. + Eat healthier; get the kids to eat healthier – I definitely changed our eating habits for the better, and am making healthier choices when I shop
  7. + Get out more instead of isolating at home – I’d still rather stay home, but it’s much easier to get out during the summer. Besides, interning for the production company I don’t really have a choice. I’ve also been better about making plans and meeting friends socially
  8. + Start that writing group and do more networking – I started a writing group, which worked for a while and died off. I’m in Bivouac, which is a professional writers group, and I’m doing quite a bit of networking
  9. - /+ Get a job writing for TV – okay, maybe that wasn’t a realistic goal. But I did enter the fellowship competitions at Disney/ABC, NBC Writers on the Verge and WB. Unlike last year, my applications were awesome, prepared ahead of time and my sample was very strong and tight. Who knows? I could hear from them… stranger things have happened.
  10. + Say yes to all opportunities – Yes, I have been doing that – now if I could only get a financially lucrative opportunity to say yes to!
  11. + Monitor progress weekly and monthly – Okay, maybe not, but I’m doing it now, right?
  12. x This one’s new – Rewrite my Original Pilot until it’s tight and awesome, then do another draft on my White Collar Spec, so I’ll have three strong samples, and start finding people to read them once they are really ready.
  13. x Get a real job with a paycheck and health benefits in the entertainment industry. I’ve been looking, but it’s tough out there
  14. x Start to form a real plan to move to LA

There you have it – the + means I’m making progress, the – need more attention, and the x means new. See you soon… Keep writing!