Boxes of scripts

November 30, 2008

Naomi and I have been discussing how writing is sort of like dating, but only in the sense that you have an idea, get totally infatuated, think things like “HOW AM I SO AWESOME?!? THIS SCRIPT IS GOING TO BE THE BEST!” and then you actually sit down and try to outline it and you realize that you don’t have a plot, you just have two cool action sequences and half a page of dialog. So you go into a deep decline, what is my problem, why am I such a fool, why did I ever think I could do this, I AM MOVING TO MONTANA TO LIVE IN A SHACK. And then eventually with a lot of hard work you dig yourself out of that hole and come up with some kind of functional draft and then it’s rewrites and at some point you forget that you ever even LIKED this idea and you end up feeling surly and resentful and you hate everything and then slowly you start to think that maybe it’s okay, you’re not sure… wait a minute, what if it’s AWESOME? Actually, hold on, I don’t even care anymore! Because I have this other idea, see, it’s totally fantastic–

(…Dating is probably not like this for everyone.)

***

I just read THIS headline:

Watchdog group names 10 games bad for kids

Only I read it as “Watchdog group names 10 bad names for kids”. Which is an idea I kind of love.

1) Bronx
2) Mykynzee
3) Gluten

Etc.

***

I recently farmed out a box of scripts I was hired to read to a friend of mine and it was with some glee that I watched her go from “Wow! Maybe I’ll find someone TOTALLY AMAZING in this box of scripts!” to “…fuck, man.”

My friend Julie once told me that she thinks that writers can learn more from reading a whole bunch of awful scripts than from reading a whole bunch of great scripts, and at the time I was kind of “…” but then I thought back to my own box-of-scripts experiences, and you know, she’s totally right.

I recommend it to anyone. It will make you appropriately jaded and cynical and really prime you for a career in film.

One thing I have noticed to be pretty common in Boxes Of Scripts is that… okay, this isn’t FRANCE. Nobody owes you an arts grant. People buy scripts because they think maybe they can turn the script into a movie that will make a lot of money. Movies are EXPENSIVE. You need many millions of dollars to make them and millions more to market them, right? And many of them lose money. It’s a gamble. So… knowing all of that, would you buy your script? (I personally feel that I have only recently, with my current script, written something that maybe someone could buy and make some money off of. I’m not claiming to be particularly glorious in this respect, etc.)

I theorize that a lot of writers maybe don’t ask themselves this fairly important question and so end up with 120 pages of noodling on about their inner lives but think that the market will totally support said noodling. (“The zeitgeist is so ripe for a movie about me and my friends sitting around watching DVDs!”)

…or maybe not. Maybe the boxes of bad scripts are just because film (and TV) is sort of the dominant paradigm of our entertainment culture right now, so instead of thinking “I will write a bad novel about my characters noodling on about their inner lives!” as people might have done in the past, people these days think “A movie about me and my friends would be so totally great and everyone would want to buy tickets to see it!”

I can sort of understand this. After all, novels are long. Movies are 120 pages. Even lazy people such as myself can often manage to keep it together long enough to get to FADE OUT. But even so, I sort of think that asking yourself honestly if you would really invest a lot of money in your idea is a reasonable litmus test. (Again, I am not extra-glorious: I am often required to reject ideas I find totally awesome because the market for agricultural thrillers is extremely limited.)

(Now, if you lived in FRANCE-!)

***

I re-watched Casino Royale today, because I so very much enjoyed Quantum of Solace last weekend.

You know what struck me? HERE IT IS, and it’s important, so pay attention: if you have sex with James Bond, YOU WILL DIE. So I don’t care how charming you find him, ladies, swaggering in with his oddly-tan British self and his bon mots and his sociopathic violence, DON’T DO IT! Girls who sleep with James Bond die in HORRIBLE, HORRIBLE WAYS, often after being tortured! (Which would suck.)

You must be strong! Tell him to take his smirk and the Glock he somehow got through airport security and just keep on keeping on, because you’re not that kind of girl! Yes, it’ll be hard, and yes, you may regret it for years to come, but I always say that it’s better to regret the superspy you didn’t Do It with than to be found dead in a hammock.

So Naomi is convinced that I have an Imaginary Boyfriend crush on Edward Norton. I’m not completely sure how and why this came about, but like I might say “Hey, did you ever see THE ILLUSIONIST?” and Naomi will say “What, that movie where your BOYFRIEND, EDWARD NORTON, is a magician?”

It’s always really awkward, because if I disagree that he is my imaginary boyfriend (EDWARD NORTON IS NOT MY IMAGINARY BOYFRIEND! Sorry, Edward Norton. You are a good actor and people make fun art featuring you. But… no. I’m sorry, Ed. I know you are crushed by this reveal.) Naomi gets very “METHINKS THE LADY DOTH PROTEST, LIKE, WAY TOO MUCH!” but if I say nothing, I’m allowing the misconception to continue! So I usually say “…haha. …you know that I don’t really want to have his babies, right?” and she goes “SUUUUUUURE YOU DON’T!”

Basically I am trapped in a catch-22 of not being able to protest that I do not love Edward Norton, because that just makes it seem like I love Edward Norton! Hmph.

***

So Google Reader recently recommended to me a blog by a bunch of OBJECTIVISTS. I don’t know why. I clicked on it and read the first few pages in some amazement. I didn’t really know that anyone who’s out of college was still into that.

What always strikes me about objectivism is that it’s sort of like… reincarnation. That is, nobody ever says “Yeah, I’m pretty sure that in a past life, I was a serf. And a Plague victim. And a village idiot.” (even though statistically that’s QUITE LIKELY.) Instead, people always think that they were probably famous priestesses or pharaohs or at LEAST heroes who died gloriously in battle.

Similarly, Objectivists are always QUITE SURE that in an ideal world, an Objectivist world, they would inevitably rise to the top. Because they are just that awesome. The only thing holding them down is the strings of the near-socialist society in which they are FORCED TO DWELL.

Which, maybe you would rise to the top. Or maybe you are not anywhere near as awesome as you think and in a pure laissez-faire capitalist society you would be begging by the side of the road because unbeknownst to you, it’s the very strings of the near-socialist safety net that prevent people from firing you, because they hate working with you and find you douchey and incompetent and bizarrely self-satisfied for no good reason. DID YOU EVER THINK OF THAT?

DID YOU?

Also, one of the Objectivists was a military spouse taking advantage of the military’s comprehensive health care system to the tune of many tens of thousands of taxpayer-funded dollars and I kept thinking, MAN, YOU LIVE IN THE CLOSEST THING THIS COUNTRY HAS TO A CRADLE-TO-THE-GRAVE SOCIALIST STATE, but you can’t shut up about John Galt! That’s so ironic it could be a new verse in THE IRONY SONG.

Expensive taxpayer-funded treatments of a type that are often not covered by health insurance you don’t get from people other than the military
For an Objectivist who feels trampled by The Man
Isn’t it ironic? Like rain on your wedding day.
John Galt would probably punch you in the face! Yeah!

***

Happy Belated Thanksgiving! I spent the day with Julie and Keith and Mat and two dogs. At one point Julie said “Hey… Mat’s asleep.” and I didn’t respond because I was almost asleep, myself. And then I heard Keith snore lightly.

When we had all woken up again, I said that it really felt very homey and family-like to be passed out on the couch with a bunch of people post-turkey, and then Mat raised his voice stridently and said THAT HE WAS GOING TO GET SOME DESSERT, GODDAMMIT in an effort to really give our Orphan Thanksgiving the ultimate touch of home: a family fight!

Excellent.

VIOLENCE.

November 24, 2008

EVERYONE. I HAVE AN ANNOUNCEMENT.

QUANTUM OF SOLACE IS THE GREATEST MOVIE IN THE WORLD.

I have no real idea what the story was about, but it DID NOT MATTER, because it was awesomely violent in the way that makes me giggle nervously. It was a series of action sequences interspersed with James Bond looking very stylish in suits. I loved it. If it had gone on for two more hours, I would have been happy. I could see it again RIGHT NOW.

Seriously, it was SO VIOLENT! I… feel guilty that I like movie violence so much. I was raised by pacifist hippies, so I don’t know what happened to make me so bloodthirsty. Every time James Bond killed someone, I was like “!!!! EXCELLENT.”

My friend and I kept sighing happily afterward and going “MAN. That was VIOLENT!”

I felt like I was on some kind of violence-related endorphin high, honestly.

TERRIBLE.

Then we went to see Twilight. (Yes, I DID see two movies in one day. SO?!? I wanted to add my LADYMOVIES ARE TOTALLY COOL money to the opening weekend total. Which is like 70 million dollars. TELL ME IT’S A FLUKE ON MONDAY PEOPLE, I dare you.)

I did not necessarily get large chunks of Twilight because I am not a teenage girl, and I find romantic teenagers more irksome than swoony, BUT, I am really happy that it found an audience and I congratulate Summit on its foresight and wisdom vis-a-vis young ladies having JUST AS MUCH MONEY AND OBSESSIVENESS as their male counterparts.

But mostly: JAMES BOND! He is totally fantastic.

Twilight

November 23, 2008

You have probably heard about Twilight (unless you’ve been living in remote Afghan caves for the past few years.) It’s this series of teen-girl/vampire romances, and the movie opened this weekend.

I am not a vampire person. Like, some people are just really into vampires. I don’t get it. I think I don’t have the required sense of high drama in my soul. I am also not really into romances. Unless the romances involve… explosions.

HOWEVER! I am totally excited about Twilight. Not so much to see it (due to the aforementioned skepticism about vampires and romance) but because I am hoping that it will make a gazillion dollars and people will briefly shut up about how girls don’t go to the movies.

First of all, that’s a self-fulfilling prophecy if I ever heard one. “Women don’t turn out in droves for movies where a male comicbook superhero saves the world and at some point beds a hot babe with nine lines! Ugh, women are so unpredictable! There’s just no pleasing them. Let’s stop trying.”

Second of all, I get really annoyed by the epically dull dramas that pass for “women’s movies”. Um, just because I’m a girl doesn’t mean that I don’t like fun, exciting stories. Just because I’m a girl doesn’t mean that what I really want is many boring ensemble dramas about someone with cancer getting a divorce. Why the surprise that these movies don’t make meeeellions?

Third of all, I think that people mostly go to see mainstream films to get lost in the fantasy. Your Walter-Mitty-style daydreams are mostly not about you playing the sidekick/assistant, are they? Most of us don’t daydream about being the person who brings the guy who’s saving the world a cup of coffee and a donut and who simpers at him and agrees with everything he says.

Since people who have enough money to make giant event movies tend to feel strongly that women do not really go to the movies, the majority of giant event movies cater to save-the-world daydreams from a dude’s perspective.The assumption, I guess, is that dudes would not turn out in droves on opening weekend if they were able to choose from such thrilling movies as:

*Ass-kicking, name-taking female superspy with many fabulous outfits and iPhones with LASERS IN THEM (also a broken heart due to her boyfriend dying in an underwater elevator… long story) makes snide remarks in the vein of “No, no, Professor. After you.” and then shoves villains off of skyscrapers. Also she has sex with some hot Russian guys but it doesn’t mean anything: men are disposable figurines in this universe.

*Hard-partying titaness of industry creates flying suit, uses it to party harder, battle insurgents, fight crime. Her loyal and long-suffering male secretary pines silently for her love. The titaness basically ignores him and has sex with random journalists instead.

*Nerdy female cube drone discovers that her mom was an assassin and that she’s inherited the killer gene! She’s recruited into a secret sorority of lady assassins (okay… there’s one hot guy assassin but he’s pretty much a fringe character who’s just there to look muscley) and a whole bunch of action sequences ensue. FYI, being a lady assassin is totally awesome.

Of course, the thing is, you don’t necessarily know that boys wouldn’t turn out for these movies. Because people don’t make them. So, because I like giant event movies AND I like stories about ladies, I really hope that Twilight makes a lot of money and movies like it make a lot of money and people around town stop going “Oh, pfffft, the success of that movie was a FLUKE! WOMEN DON’T GO TO THE MOVIES! I HAVE BEEN TELLING YOU THIS FOR A LONG TIME!” and sloooooowly start to entertain thoughts like “…huh. You know, maybe there is a market for female-driven event movies. GET ME A SCRIPT ABOUT LADY ASSASSINS. IN SPACE.”

Also, just to complain here, I have heard rather a lot of people at work say dismissive things about Twilight, along the lines of “Pfffft, so it’s selling out, so what? That’s just teenage girls. It’s a niche market! IT’S JUST TEENAGE GIRLS, IT DOESN’T COUNT!* STOP TELLING ME THAT IT COUNTS OR IS PART OF A TREND, BECAUSE IT’S NOT.”

Which I find frustrating, both from a “Hey… teenage girls deserve their own movies too, you know. MALE nerds aren’t the only ones with their allowance burning a hole in their pocket.” and from an “I like money” perspective.

Have people have not heard about the long tail? The future of marketing isn’t in making four 300-million dollar movies a year and hoping EVERYONE IN THE COUNTRY shows up, the future of marketing is in making more movies, cheaper, for niche audiences. AM I THE ONLY ONE WHO READ THAT BOOK?

PS, I have been reading these mysteries by this authoress Julia Spencer-Fleming, and they’re all set in this small town, and they’re sort of like…. if The Wire were more cheerful and set in a dying timber town in upstate New York. And not about drugs and full of white people who used to work in agriculture and the timber industry. Okay… maybe that was a bad comparison.

I just finished the last one and now I’m all GLUM. WHY AREN’T THERE MORE? Someone should turn them into a TV show. It would be so great! Every episode you could have a murder and the lead characters – a female Episcopal priest and the chief of police – would solve them and have angst about the state of the world and grumble about the snow and then go eat pie at the diner. I would be very happy. SOMEONE GET ON THAT PLS.

PPS, Get Your War On is particularly great this week, as they’ve run out of political things to argue about and now are forced to take that energy and have HEATED EXCHANGES about Jennifer Aniston and the Jolie-Pitts. Contains such gems as “Jennifer Aniston is like a cotton-candy Cadillac driven by Abraham Lincoln, with a beard MADE OUT OF DIAMONDS.”

*Zac Efron is standing in his personal diamond vault, laughing at you. RIGHT NOW.

Assistant trouble

November 19, 2008

I just read this tidbit from Hugh Jackman, on KEEPING THE PASSION ALIVE in his marriage:

How do you keep the passion alive?
“It’s easy with my wife. She loves the idea of me coming home in costume because it makes her feel like she’s having an affair in a good way. When we met, I was cast as a prisoner with tattoos and she’d say, ‘Don’t take your tattoos off tonight!’ and I’d be like, ‘All right!’ But what works best with her is the stockbroker look. She also says, ‘Do your sexy dance for me — an ’80s-like, hip-swiveling number — and that works for me.”

I am never getting married. NEVER. HORRIBLE. I had a whole argument with another assistant here about this.

ME
Ugh! Listen to this! Hugh Jackman KEEPS THE PASSION ALIVE!

OTHER ASSISTANT
Uh, that’s just ROLEPLAYING, it’s totally normal. Like for instance–

ME
STOP TALKING! STOP TALKING NOW!

OTHER ASSISTANT
You’re really weird.

Normally that assistant and I totally get along, because he likes to talk about things like Cyclops from X-men, and I like to say things like “What does Cyclops do with his eyes when he’s in the shower? Does he have special shower goggles? Why don’t his eye rays burn his own eyelids? If he’s powered by sunlight, why doesn’t he just move into a cave?”

***

You know what the main problem with being an entertainment assistant is? Here, I will give you an example.

Your boss asks for something. A MacGuffin. You don’t have it. IT DOESN’T EXIST. You start to say as much to your boss, but they get that blank look, a look I imagine late-era Roman emperors got when told that there was no way you could have perfume drift down from the ceiling. Your voice trails off.

“I’ll take care of it,” you say.

You spend the next two days begging people you hardly know for favors. PLEASE, your boss REALLY NEEDS the MacGuffin. You get referred from person to person, like a FAVOR RELAY. You threaten, you cajole, you offer minor bribes.

Finally you find someone who agrees to give you the MacGuffin. You have it messengered over to your office. You have brief, pleasant fantasies about how you’ll give the MacGuffin to your boss, and they’ll be really impressed– “Wow! However did you manage THIS? You’re the BEST assistant, I swear…” and then you’ll tell them at length how you managed it and they’ll hang on your every word and go “Wow! I never would have thought of that!” and be admiring.

And the MacGuffin arrives!

YOU WALK THE MACGUFFIN INTO YOUR BOSS’ OFFICE!

THE MORMON TABERNACLE CHOIR SINGS OUT A TRIUMPHANT HALLELUIA!

“Here’s the MacGuffin you asked for,” you say, modestly.

Your boss doesn’t even look up.

“Thanks. Just put it down.”

“…” you say, and put it down.

Then you slink off to your desk, ears all low and mopey.

Sigh.

BEST J-DATE EVER.

November 13, 2008

I am finishing up a polish* on my current script so I can give it back to Manager-Guy, so Manager-Guy can go “This is TERRIBLE” or “This is like PRINTING MONEY, Elana! Here’s a dog and a fruit basket and a card that can be redeemed with any of the major studios for the right to pen the war movie of your choice.”**

There’s a phrase in Dutch, “De laatste loodjes wegen het zwaarst” (I said it out loud to Julie last night, and she got the MY GOD IT SOUNDS LIKE YOU’RE GARGLING expression English speakers usually get when they hear a long run of Dutch for the first time.) – it means something like “The last bits are the hardest, the heaviest to carry”, and that’s how this feels. Like I’m really… very close, at this point, ALMOST THERE, and instead of just breezing across the finish line I’m off to the sidelines, CRYING. BECAUSE IT IS HARD. Good lord.

So I went to Canter’s. By myself. With my script. To pummel those last little bits into shape. I felt like bad diner food would make my work easier, basically.

And MAN, was that a good choice- I only got about half the changes I needed to make done, because seated next to me was the BEST BLIND DATE EVER.

EVER, IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD.

He: late 30s, mildly douchey in that LA way where it’s like “Haha, I’m sarcastic and not into your bullshit!” but really he spent 57 minutes getting his hair to do that.

Her: early 30s, attractive in that hard-edged, wears-too-much-makeup, LA way. Is simultaneously extremely impressed with herself and desperate to make the guy want her.

So they come in, they sit down. The girl immediately starts going “Do they have blintzes here? DO THEY HAVE BLINTZES HERE? Excuse me! (grabs passing busboy) Do you have blintzes?”

The busboy looks around. Uh, lady, you’re in Canter’s. YES, THEY HAVE BLINTZES, MY GOD.

“Because, omigod, I love blintzes. Do you have blintzes with like a sauce of fresh strawberries?”

The busboy looks around. AGAIN, you’re in Canter’s. NO, they don’t have a sauce of fresh strawberries.

The girl pouts.

And starts singing.

“Hey,” she says to the guy. “I love to dance. Want to see me dance?”

And to my amazed delight, she stood up next to the table and performed a SALSA DANCE FOR HIM.

IN THE MIDDLE OF CANTER’S.

At this point, I started texting my friends. After the dancing came the part where she mentioned that she spoke French, and then when he indicated mild interest in this, she started rattling away. In French. About how she was the kind of girl who liked nice people. For like three minutes, WAY beyond the amount of time I believe was required to impress upon this man that she was HOT AND SEXY AND EXOTIC AND FRENCH-SPEAKING.

Right about this time she also explained that she was “Very into chivalrous behavior, and so never ever went Dutch, or paid for someone’s dinner”, BUT, you’ll be happy to know that she’s “An amazing chef. Amazing.” who just the night before had made a “Completely amazing meal. What’s amazing is that I cook really fast. It’s amazing. It takes me like twenty minutes. My friend wants to do a reality show about me cooking and being amazing.”

She also explained that she loved her Mercedes, and didn’t understand why people drove Priuses, because they were totally not luxurious, like, AT ALL. The guy said that he wasn’t really into cars. This was her cue to talk about how totally amazing and expensive and luxurious her car was for another ten minutes.

Then they had to decide what kind of food they wanted to get. The guy got a turkey sandwich. The girl, throughout the course of the dinner, ordered five or six separate things. “Oh my God, this soup is bad. It tastes like sock water! Ugh. Oooh, maybe I’ll have a salad! Oh, this salad is really bad! This place is terrible. There are so many better diners in better neighborhoods! My knife is dirty. Sir! Sir! Wow, he totally gave me attitude. What is wrong with these people. I’m going to have a fruit salad. Oh! I’ll have some fries. Sir! Sir! Um… can you BELIEVE he just blew me off like that?”

Etc.

Other wildly amazing things included:

*”My boobs are growing! None of my bras fit anymore and they, like, push all my shirts open.” (One of my friends’ text response was “Why doesn’t she just blow him! It would be more subtle.”)

*”Oh my God, so I went to the set and they totally thought that I was the star of the show because I look just like her only I’m taller and htoter, so they totally miked me and then I had to be all “Hee! I’m not the star, guys!” It was so hilarious.”

*”You look so much like my friend. Hang on, I’m going to call him right now! *makes call* Hey! So I’m on this J-Date with this guy who totally looks just like you! I’m going to take his picture and send it to you. No– don’t pose like that. Ugh. That’s horrible. Sit like this. No, don’t smile.”

*”Eating is very, very sexual for me.”

You may wonder, as did my friends, if the guy seemed like he was having a good time. It was IMPOSSIBLE TO TELL. I mean, if I had been having dinner with this girl, I would have slapped her and then stuck her with the bill, but… men are so hard to understand in these situations! I’m guessing he was sitting there hoping she’d say more about how eating was sexual and that would lead to shenanigans. Or thinking about sports and trying to nod at the right spots as she talked about what an amazing chef she was. And hoping she was the kind of girl who performed sexual favors to get a man to like her. But WHO KNOWS! Maybe he thought she was delightful, the kind of girl a guy could marry and take home to mom.

I left before they did, but it was hard. I really wanted to know how they ended up.

My Internet Friend the Anonymous Production Assistant emailed me the other day to go “Uh, I don’t know what happened but all of a sudden I can see your shared items in Google Reader. Also, you read really weird stuff.”

Embarrassing! Naomi and I ordinarily have our Google Readers set to just share our shared items with each other, because! Mostly we share blog posts on sewing or whatever, and who else but your Heterosexual Life Partner will be interested in that?

Or, okay… I SAY “blog posts on sewing or whatever”, but really, here’s why I might seem sort of odd to the untrained eye. My recent shared posts do include SOME posts on sewing, but also some posts on things like “Six found dead under freeway!” and “Here is a picture of a horse dressed like Rick James… bitch.” and me complaining that robbers who knocked over a 99 Cent store were thinking TOO SMALL and so doomed to failure.

I don’t know what happened to the Reader, but I immediately switched it back. NOBODY NEEDS TO SEE THE MURKY INSIDE OF MY BRAIN.

*Man… I can’t call it a rewrite. First, the changes are minimal. Second, if I call it a rewrite I might DIE, etc. So, “polish” it is. THANK YOU FOR LETTING MY DELUSIONS PASS UNHARMED.
**Door number two! DOOR NUMBER TWO!

Kato Kaelin, Role Model

November 8, 2008

Last night after work I went to to the movies with my friend Matt. Because I am always a little bit too optimistic about how early I’ll get to leave work, the 8:20 showing was full and then when we were swapping our tickets for the 10:30 showing, they sold the last two out from under us. So we ended up in the 11:10 showing. Which, uh, left us several hours to kill.

Because we are CLASSY PEOPLE, we spent these hours at the bar of the Cheesecake Factory, drinking domestic beer from the bottle and eating appetizers and talking about how commitment-phobic we are about everything (“I can’t be in relationships that last for longer than eleven months!” “Yeah? Well, I have panic attacks when I buy new towels.”)

And then Matt thought he recognized a girl who walked past, so we kept looking at her, but her date kept looking at us in this really… odd way that wasn’t exactly “Hey, why are you staring at my girlfriend?” and kind of weirded us out. And then Matt said “…I think that’s Kato Kaelin.”

Just as I was realizing that, oh my God, it WAS Kato Kaelin, KATO KAELIN WINKED AT ME, and I realized that he had this entire time been thinking that we were looking at HIM, not his date. I felt very awkward about the whole thing.

Matt and I had originally planned on seeing JCVD, because Jean-Claude Van Damme is TOTALLY AWESOME, but we couldn’t find it anywhere in LA. So we went to see Role Models instead. It was GLORIOUS and I loved it. It deserves its R rating for language and… grossness, but is basically kind of sweet.

Role Models! I recommend it to anyone! (Unless you blanch at salty language or have a child in tow. It may feature kids, but is not even remotely appropriate viewing for them. Which of course made it extra amazing to see that several parents had brought their 8-10 year-old kids with them. To a showing of a hard-R comedy. At 11 PM.)