Monday, May 10, 2010

Monday, May 10, 2010
Waning Moon
Pluto Retrograde
Mercury Retrograde

My post-Derby article is up on FemmeFan here. My editor loved it, even though I felt it lacked sparkle. Motivates me to make the Preakness article this week twice as good!

Exceptionally cold all weekend, frost on the ground this morning, and the scumbag landlords had the heat off until 6 AM today. Typical.

The alarm didn’t go off this morning, but Elsa is better than any alarm clock, so I went out for my run by 5:15. It’s quite light out, with just a sliver of waning moon, singing birds, corporate types scurrying to the train station . . .

So, where do I start? Didn’t write on Saturday at all — on purpose. Needed to refill creative well. Did my errands, sorted, purged a bunch of junk, took stuff to storage. Read. Cooked.

Got some good ideas for the next section of the urban fantasy.

Was about to order a great futon couch. It looks good, the price is good, and it will fit through the doorway — since they put in the new doors, I can’t bring in my sofabed. the doorway is now too narrow. Not to mention the doors suck. Anyway, I was trying to figure out the shipping costs, and, when I read the fine print, it clearly states that they don’t deliver the couch to the house. They deliver it TO THE CURB. If you want it taken into the house (or, in my case, the third floor apartment), you negotiate with the delivery guy when he arrives and you pay him cash on the spot. Sounds like extortion to me — no price quotes, no regulations. So I’m not ordering the futon. Bite me, assholes. You think I’m really that stupid? I wonder how many people were stuck with furniture left on the curb and wound up paying a couple of times more than they paid for the pieces themselves just to get them inside the house?

Elsa was up and down on Saturday — much better than she was on Friday, but still not doing as well as last week. I got up early on Sunday to give her the medicine, went back to bed, and had a weird dream.

In the dream, I was brought in to script doctor some piece or other rehearsing in Greenwich Village. I’m assuming it was a film, but maybe it was a play. That was unclear. It starred an actor who tops the list of people I still want to work with. He looked completely dazed at the disorganized chaos. No one seemed to be in charge. There were far too many producers floating around (as usual), saying, “I’ll take care of it” when something was brought to their attention and then doing nothing (as usual). We had to fill out huge packets of information we were told were “for tax purposes” but read like psych evaluations. I told the actor I was excited to work with him, just not sure it should be on this. He laughed. Some other guy asked me to watch his stuff because “You’re the amateur.” I said, “No, I’m the writer” and he replied, “Same thing.” I did NOT watch his stuff. I knew a lot of the actors in the project in the dream and had worked with them before, although in life, I’d only worked with one actress in a big musical. She kept trying to match-make me with this one and that one, whether I was interested or not (which she tried when we worked together). I was about to pitch a fit and either take over or walk out (in spite of the actor I really, really wanted to work with) when Elsa sneezed in my face and woke me up.

Obviously, I’ve been thinking about production a lot lately, since POWER OF WORDS takes place behind-the-scenes on one. This dream is a warning, the the specific actor representing not just himself, but everyone that’s still on that list of people I hope to work with (poor guy). Knowing how my dreams work, it may also be a caution– an opportunity may present itself and it may not be what it initially seems. I shouldn’t accept simply because there’s someone involved who’s on my list. So I stand warned. The nasty comment from the guy who wanted me to do PA duties represents the way writers are often treated in this business.

Made some cuts in SETTLING THE SCORE on Sunday, wrote twenty more pages, made more cuts, wrote eight more pages. Printed it all out (now that I have ink and paper again) and saw a huge, huge, HUGE logistics gap. There’s no way that character could have that piece of information vital to the plot machinations at that point in time the way I’ve got it laid out. I wrote some notes — I want to complete the draft before making any more fixes and running any more copies — and will move forward. Also, in the final draft, I’ll have to fix some formatting things. When I write scripts, I triple space between dialogue bits instead of double space. And the default font on this machine is Helvetica, which is fabulous to work in, but for script purposes, I have to change it to Courier (I loathe Courier). That will also drop the page count, which is good, because I’m up there now, and there’s still another good third of the movie to go. My goal is to have it run just over 2 hours, but feel like about 85 minutes.

On today’s agenda: pack more stuff for storage, work on SETTLING THE SCORE, maybe work on the adaptation of BEHIND THE MAN. I need to get my scripts sorted and synopsised and loglined over the next few weeks for some upcoming meetings. I may take WOMEN WITH AN EDGE out of retirement briefly just for the meetings, even. I should also take a look at my spec TV scripts — I don’t even know what one is “supposed” to have in one’s portfolio this season. I don’t know if I can still even use the BUFFY sample or the STARGATE ATLANTIS sample. If I need to come up with new ones, it would make sense to do one for HUMAN TARGET, since I spent so much time dissecting the show, but I don’t think that’s on “the list.” Of course, I might do one anyway, just to prove to myself that I can.

I’ll check with some acquaintances and find out what this season’s “list” is, and then figure out if I should even do a set of specs, or just stick to the plays for the moment, and this next round of meetings. I’m not angling for a series slot anyway — there are, literally, thousands of scriptwriters more qualified, in line ahead of me, and in LA so to do. But sometimes, even if you’re not up for the job, that’s the kind of sample someone wants to see in a meeting.

I’ll pack extra Excedrin, too. The meetings aren’t for a few months, but it takes time to put everything together, write any new material necessary, and have it be good, so I’m looking ahead. That way, instead of scrambling, everything is ready, I can just pull what i need for that meeting out of the file, and it’s much less stressful.

I’d like to get back to the urban fantasy this week, since I figured out how to overcome it’s obstacle, and, of course, ANGEL HUNT. My worry with ANGEL HUNT is that, once I go down the rabbit hole with that, I won’t come out for weeks, because of the intensity of the project. With the Preakness AND a pottery workshop this week, AND paperwork to complete for next year’s teaching schedule (yes, I’ve already got some major bookings for 2011), I don’t know if I can go down that rabbit hole right now. However, I want to get the book out on submission by the end of the month, so I need to get cracking.

Hard to sort out when so much has equal value and equal importance. But, I’ll figure it out. And I have to talk to the vet. Elsa is steadying again, but it doesn’t look like we can wean her off the steroid just yet. So we need to discuss next steps.

Back to the page.

Devon

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Thursday, May 6, 2010
Waning Moon
Pluto Retrograde
Mercury Retrograde
Cloudy and warm

I’ve gotten some really nice emails/comments about both yesterday’s Jenny Storm interview and the Anita Blake essay. Thank you! I learned a lot writing both, and hope I can apply that moving forward. Talk about work in two very different arenas, right? But that’s what makes writing such fun. I can switch between a rather innocent piece for middle grade readers and an examination of using sex as a character-building device.

I’m going over the first six chapters of POWER OF WORDS and sending them to Trusted Readers. Normally, I wouldn’t send first draft pages – I usually send out about third draft — but I need to know specifics about what does and doesn’t work in certain elements here in order to focus on the next bit. The next bit, the section dealing with rehearsals, has to be massively rewritten. A lot of that is because of changes I made in this section, dealing with the audition process.

Relationships in this industry tend to be transient, not because the people are shallow, but because, when you spend 18 hours a day for months working on a creative process, creating as a group, there’s a special bond and intensity that no one outside of that specific project shares or understands. The project ends, as it must, you scatter to other projects, and it starts again. Some people you never see again, and that’s okay; some you miss a lot, but lose touch with. Some strong friendships are formed, and you keep in touch regularly wherever you go. Some people you don’t really keep in touch with, but if you land on another project again or even run into each other in the street, the warmth is there instantly and you pick up the conversation right where you left off. It’s very different than working in any other industry. People truly do fall in love during a project — it just is often not a “forever” type of love portrayed in romance novels. That doesn’t make it any less real or less intense, but it’s a different kind of love than most people see as the traditional, settle down forever love. It takes a lot of life experience, self-knowledge, and self-esteem not to blur the line between the creative process and one’s life. And there are all kinds of strong emotional bonds created on a production that have nothing to do with affairs or romance. Some do, of course, but plenty don’t. You’re dependent on each other for your creative and emotional lives. And since each project is sooo different and each experience so different, only those on a particular project can ever really understand the experience. Even when it’s bad, there’s a bond. It’s much closer to the type of bond soldiers share in the field than people going to an office. The threat of physical death rarely exists on a production (unless the director and producers are totally irresponsible, hence the strong safety regulations enforced by unions), but the threat of emotional devastation is always there. Some directors feel they get better work out of actors if they are emotionally or verbally abusive. I think that’s a crock, myself, but that’s the way some people work. Or, you can pour your heart and soul into a project, but sometimes it still doesn’t work No one WANTS to make a bad film, but sometimes the elements just don’t come together, for a variety of reasons. That’s devastating, not just because it can make it harder to get hired again, but because you gave your all and it failed. Usually, it’s because the original vision was diluted by a bunch of executives who shouldn’t be making creative decisions, but are trying to justify their salaries. The more diluted the vision, the more of a mess the project. Or, if you cast because you want a name instead of getting someone who’s not only right for the role but enthusiastic, you can run into problems. You want someone low-key, with a strong work ethic, who treats people well and can retain a sense of humor in difficult situations. Theatre-trained people tend to fit that bill better, because it takes a lot of stamina, professionalism, and humor to do eight shows a week indefinitely. It’s one reason, when I have a say in the casting process of my own work, I am adamant that there’s a good theatre resume. Most big name actors who are known for their acting rather than their lives have solid theatre credentials, and come back to Broadway when they can (Denzel Washington, Meryl Streep, Hugh Jackman, etc.).

It’s an interesting challenge to try to present the complexity of relationships on a production. I did a bit of that in REAL, although the circumstances of the production and the primary relationship in that book were very different. There are some similarities — the creative team has enough clout to tell many an exec to go f–um, go away! 😉

I have to say something about Tuesday’s episode of LOST. Yes, it was sad and very well-acted, but really, how could anyone be surprised by this? Look at the way they’ve jerked around the audience for six years. Again, much as I like the scene work and the actors, I sit there and shake my head and say, “Of course they chose that.” The creators never regained my trust after they broke it several years ago. I think they created a wonderful phenomena, and the amount of creative control they were granted shows how good work can happen when you leave the creative team alone to fulfill their vision and keep executives from diluting it as mentioned above. I wish networks would learn from this, but instead, they try to copy the show, instead of developing other creative teams’ unique potentials. Yes, I’m watching this final season. And I have yet to be surprised. They moved around the order of a few things I expected, but nothing, so far, has surprised me. I appreciate the talent and the vision that goes into the piece, and I think it will remain as a wonderful example of creation, even when I don’t find it personally fulfilling overall. I’ve certainly learned a lot from it. I hope the people from the show don’t keep getting hired in the hopes of recreating it; it would be nice to let them fulfill new visions, and not compare everything they do to LOST. Once it’s done, let it be what it is and appreciate it as an entity unto itself, because that’s what it deserves. However I feel about certain elements of it, it’s always been a top quality production.

A bit of work on the urban fantasy this morning, then another pass at POWER OF WORDS so I can get those chapters out (along with a list of very specific questions). Some of the typos I’ve caught are screamingly funny and entirely change the context of the chapter they’re in. Then, it’s tackling the ANGEL HUNT revision. I think I’ve finally figured out how to wrestle what I need from chapters 12 & 13. I’m going to combine them, strip them, and then rebuild them. It’s a true “re-envisioning” of this section, not just fixing a few typos. This book has made such a huge transformation since its original life as a serial, and I’m so passionate about it. It’s the best, riskiest, most challenging thing I’ve ever written.

I also need to get back to the BEHIND THE MAN adaptation. So I’ve got a busy day.

We’re adjusted Elsa’s medication to wean her off the steroid, and she’s in that delicate transitional stage, where one minute she’s better and then she’s not.

Devon