Thursday, August 21, 2014

My Romeo & Juliet Dream

Last week, I dreamt I was in the audience of a stage production of Romeo & Juliet where Juliet was played by a perky blonde with a heart of gold & Romeo was played by a developmentally disabled actor.

The audience in my dream was politely silent as they processed the unlikely sight of an actor with Down's Syndrome wooing a maiden on a balcony. I didn't know what to make of it myself at first, but halfway through Romeo's monologue, I remember thinking, "This actor is fantastic!"

Now that I'm awake, this bold new take lingers and fascinates me. The adaptation writes itself in my mind. Two households, both alike in dignity, but separated by judgment, fear, and an subconscious attachment to outward appearances. Set in the 80's before political correctness made "retard" a taboo word.

Juliet, surrounded by privilege and expectation, finds true connection for the first time with a Romeo who is refreshingly real and different. Romeo risks everything to be with a girl who sees his heart, not his disability. Star-crossed lovers that society cannot accept. Tybalt becomes a bully who wants to beat up the retard who has no place in his world and Mercutio dies a noble death defending him.

The themes of morality, judgment, and class seem so well-suited for this twist. A classical tragedy made infinitely more tragic.

I want to write and direct this adaptation so badly!

But alas, I've never directed live theater, so I have no credentials at all to make this happen. (Plus, I've got a pilot script to write...)

So this dream is staying a dream for now. It will go on my list of projects that I would love to direct someday, right below my all-black Much Ado About Nothing and my The Last Five Years starring Scott Keiji Takeda. I'll muster the time, courage, and funding to do them someday.

In the meantime, if someone else is sparked by reading this adaptation idea, please please please do it! All I ask in return is a front row seat for opening night so I can sit and enjoy watching my dream realized.

Monday, June 23, 2014

WGA Registration vs. Copyright? Both!

Congrats on finishing your script! Before sending it out, you need to register it with the WGA AND copyright it with the U.S. Copyright Office.

Yes, you need to do both because they protect you in different ways.

Registering your material with the WGA provides dated proof your ideas exist in the form of your script. It establishes evidence. If someone steals your idea, the WGA can't do anything legally to help you.

That's where copyrighting comes in. If you copyright your script with the U.S. Copyright Office and someone steals your idea, you can claim copyright infringement. Lawyers can step in and do their thing. Whether or not suing for copyright infringement is a successful tactic is a subject for another day...

(I've been told I'm protected if I mail myself a hard copy of my script through the US Postal Service, but that feels a little too DIY for my taste. I prefer a registration number.)

So I recommend always doing both -- registering your script with the WGA costs $20 ($10 if you're a member) and copyrighting your script costs $35. Worth the money to protect your words.

I consider the moment when I register and copyright my script as a celebration of its completion, so I lay down the money happily like I'm buying my script a drink.

For more information, check out the WGA Registry FAQ and the U.S. Copyright Office FAQ.

And check out these blog posts that also discuss the topic --

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Up and Down the Productivity Mountain

(I scribbled this process piece into my notebook on May 27, right before pulling an all-nighter to meet two writing program deadlines. If you've ever wondered what the self-flagellating mind of a writer sounds like, get ready for a glimpse. My writing is as raw as my emotions were at the time...)

I'm realizing that my productivity goes in cycles. There are days when I push, jam, and roll creatively and get a huge amount of writing done. I reach the end of those days and think to myself, "Wow, if I could be this productive every day, I could realize my dream of being a prolific writer!"

But that fantasy remains unfulfilled, because the very next day is often like today. One that starts slow, never picks up steam, and ends on a solid note of self-doubt and panic.

Let's see - what did I do today? A smidgen of writing, taking the whole morning and afternoon to write 10 pages that I would have done in an hour yesterday. (The yesterday of my dreams.) In between, I made lunch, repotted plants on my patio, sent mails and made phone calls for the short film I'm producing, watched 30 minutes of TV, ate cookies, put on workout clothes to do 15 minutes on my recumbent bike, watched YouTube videos (for research, damnit!), went to the Writers Junction, ate cheesecake someone left in the fridge, then sat down to write.

Another case of procrastination, procrastination, procrastination. It's like after a full day of writing, my psyche rebels by suddenly making vacuuming or doing laundry the most attractive activity ever.

This is where discipline should come in. It's moments like these when I need to stay focused on my goal and brush all those other distractions aside. Because with the exception of the pre-production work, I didn't need to do any of that other stuff today! It could have all waited until after my deadlines this weekend!

Discipline in a writing career means writing all the time, whether you want to or not. People across the country push widgets, perform surgery, or serve coffee and pie for eight hours a day, five days a week. Why shouldn't writers work the same hours? Or at last a fraction of them? My two or three hours this morning feels so unacceptable to me. Every minute I don't spend writing is a minute wasted.

I'm writing this blog post now, which is good - though this blog is something that can wait until the weekend. But at this point, the thought of looking at my script again is so undesirable, I'm partly writing this so I can say at least I accomplished something today. Something is better than nothing, right?

Ugh, no! I need to stop negotiating this something vs. nothing crap and just write! Because finished writing is what's truly better than anything.

Okay, let me try diving into this script again...

(Told you it wasn't pretty...)

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Why I Love Producing

In the midst of all my writing deadline stress last month, I produced a short comedy film for a friend. 11 scenes in 12 hours with 27 actors. Boom!

I smiled through the entire day, feeling like a superhero. Working on this project reminded me of all the reasons why I love producing short films. Here they are, in no particular order --

• I love problem solving

The producer's challenge: how to turn the first draft of the script into the first day of shooting. My analytical and detail-oriented mind enjoys breaking down a script into all the tiny challenges and tackling them one by one. I believe there's a way to do everything on a budget and checking things off my pre-production schedule is incredibly satisfying. Good traits for a producer to have!

My friend's script presented several challenges - multiple locations (including a conference room, which is always harder to find than it sounds), two dance sequences, and licensed music references. In the end, we did it all - a friend helped us with a conference room, we uploaded a video so the dancers could teach themselves the choreography, and we're hiring a composer to create vibe-alike music. Done and done!

• I love working with friends

The writer/director of this project was someone I've known since kindergarten, and helping him bring his vision into reality was wonderful. I was able to cast several actor friends, including my ex-boyfriend. It was great to have familiar faces on set - we had a blast!

Getting to share opportunities with people I love and play with them on set is such a joy. I can't wait to do more of it on a much larger scale!

(And I can't say this enough - if you're an actor, you MUST put your online resume link where your writer/producer/director friends can find it!)

• I love actors

Producing always restores my faith in actors. I cast more than 20 actors from LA Casting off their pictures and demo reels alone. Without meeting them at an audition, part of me had my fingers crossed they would all be professional, personable, and ready to work.

And boy, were they ever. Each and every actor I cast communicated with gratitude and excitement, showed up on set prepared and with a smile, and absolutely rocked their performance. Not a diva in sight - I can't wait to work with every single one of them again.

• I love having fun

Seriously, is there anything more fun than making movies? (Again, an important opinion for a producer to have...)

On this project, we introduced a sack of 99 Cent Only store props into a "Blurred Lines" parody, ran around back streets in North Hollywood wearing bad wigs and mustaches, and danced like Michael Jackson over and over. Who else gets to call that work?!

And the final piece of awesome -- this happened --

Monday, June 16, 2014

My Inevitable Creativity Temper Tantrum


Frickin' no!

I am wholly uninterested in being creative today, and that is that.

Context -- I have been laser-focused on my latest pilot script since last fall. When that was done, I face-planted right into a spec script for writing program applications. I submitted my last application on Friday night.

When I flipped through my notebook just now, I saw it was filled with pen strokes wrought with stress and panic from the last nine months straight. Pages and pages of words solving story problems, lists of stakes, wants, and character flaws, and beating out everything in my freaked out mind.

And now that it's time to tackle the next items on my "Want To Do" list, I'm feeling ridiculously, overwhelmingly burned out. Like all the pens I've used up in the last year, I feel out of ink. Dried up. Physically, emotionally, creatively, and energetically spent.

And ready for a rant --

Why did I pick this damn career?! Why did a creative life choose me?! Why can't I be one of those people who only has one job?! (Seriously, those people exist - people who go to work, then come home and do whatever they want! They cook dinner and binge watch Netflix and surf Pinterest! I bet they even get to the gym! UNREAL!!)

The answer to all of those questions, of course, is because this is who I am. As much as I'd love to be one of those people, I know I'm not. I am a creative/analytical person with a thirst for life and a passion for expression that dwarfs my physical size. I have so much to say that I trip over myself trying to get it out. I do this to myself.

And I supposed being that person means I'm naturally going to have these moments when I rebel against my own expectations. A sure sign I need to take a break and go easy on myself before I drive myself insane.

Long story short - I'm returning to this blog for comfort. Sharing my crazy-packed days makes me feel a little less alone in my head. Get ready for more posts - I have much to get out...

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Video Distractions: Happiness Edition

Spilling words rapid fire into a vomit draft because deadlines are looming means I've been in a constant state of panic, self-judgement, and dissatisfaction. Here are some videos I've been watching on repeat to wash away the ick. Get ready for some joy!

First, I can't take my eyes off this delightful piece of choreography. "You'll never feel happy - until you try!"

Next, a slightly less finessed dance performance from Paul Rudd, though ten times more hilarious. The last song is my favorite --

In the middle of a 90s music nostalgia binge of old Moxy Fruvous CDs, which led me to discovering bassist Murray Foster's latest creative endeavor - writing and directing his first feature The Cocksure Lads.

Murray and fellow former Fruvous bandmate Mike Ford wrote and performed all the cheery Brit Pop-esque music. Here's one of their new tunes, animated beautifully --

Here's a tidbit from my sports-loving brother The Junk Food Guy that I can't stop watching. Apparently Shaq does not know what a pierogi is. Thank goodness Charles Barkley is there to set him straight --

And finally, some Olicity squishiness is always good for the soul --

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Tools of the Trade: Car Survival Kit for Actors

Your car is your mobile office as an actor. Make sure it's stocked with everything you need for your career!

Here are four things I always have in my car --

No, not mints. (Though those are a good idea too...)

#1 - Quarters!

For feeding meters heartily to avoid dreaded parking tickets.

#2 - Makeup!

I guess this is for the ladies. Especially handy for those same day audition notices you get when you're on your way to Trader Joe's.

Safety Alert: Do not do your makeup while driving! Also, be sure to check your makeup in the bathroom of the casting office before going into the room. What looks fine in natural light and might look garish under fluorescent lights.

#3 - Headshots!

I keep mine in this old padfolio. It looks professional and it keeps them nice and flat --

#4 - Thomas Guide

Color me old school. There's nothing quite like locating yourself on a map. And even though I mostly use my maps app to get directions, my trusty Thomas Guide is always there to back me up when my phone just won't connect.

That's my car survival kit! I polled a few actor friends for their car must haves - here's what they said --
"Navigation ability (map or GPS or phone navigation), 3 changes of clothing (casual, business, and fancy), and a hair brush. The fancy change is also good in case you drive by an event/premiere and want to crash!" - J

"Spray deodorant to freshen up." - M

"Hair product, voice recorder to memorize lines." - T

"I keep a mini stapler in the glove compartment so I can tack on headshots on the go." - H

"Extra clothes, especially for commercial auditions. I have a set of scrubs, polo shirts, etc. so I'm ready if they ask for a particular look." - R

"Hand lotion! You have no idea how many times I was surprised at a commercial audition when they wanted to see my hands!" - E

And one fabulously sentimental answer --
"A great support group or people around you who are very motivated so that it motivates you to do things for your own career. That's probably #1 for me. All the other stuff will be affected positively by the group of people you trust and respect in the business." - V
A great answer to any question!

Actors! What do you keep in your car? Post your answer in the comments below...