Monday, June 28, 2010

My First Rejection Letter!

From The New Yorker Shouts & Murmurs editor:
Dear Teresa,

We’re sorry to say that your piece, “Invisibility Cloak Not Necessary,” wasn’t right for us, despite its evident merit. Thank you for allowing us to consider your work.

Best regards,

The Shouts Dept.

Can’t help but feel the bit about my work’s “evident merit” is a backhanded compliment, but I am definitely grateful for the personalized response. I remain positive, knowing this is the first of many rejection letters I’ll receive as I continue to write and put my work out there. Bring 'em on!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Fiction Friday: Invisibility Cloak Not Necessary

Harry Potter has no idea who I am. Why should I care if he lives or dies? We’ve had the same classes for years, but he’s never once sat next to me, asked me about my day, or given me any indication that he even knows my name. I wonder if he does. I wonder if he’ll ever know how much I love him.

I watch him every day, walking through hallways, oblivious to my presence. Always locked in some intense conversation or another with those two friends of his. Everyone says the Dark Lord wants to kill him, and he acts as if the rumors are real. He’s so serious all the time. I wonder what makes him happy. I often stare at the back of his head during Potions. His dark hair, soft and messy, makes me want to reach out and touch him on the shoulder. I want to make him smile. I want him to smile at me. Recognize me. See me.

We’re the same, you know. Different, special, unique. Except he has friends and I have none. I’ll ask him about that someday. How he came to this school with so much fame and learned how to have what most people would call a normal life. Friends, sports, more fame. How did he do it?

I came to this school with nothing. My parents are dead (just like Harry’s!) so I was raised by my Aunt Livvy. She wasn’t the most brilliant wizard by any means. She’d been a good student at Hogwarts, but life simply had other plans for her. When I was growing up, she worked at the Three Broomsticks as a barmaid, coming home well into the evening, dropping her daily tips into a jar by her bed. “Someday,” she’d always say as she delivered each coin, one by one. “Someday I’m going to buy a broom and leave this place. There are wizards all over the world, you know. I’ll go someplace and be somebody.”

Aunt Livvy was always sad. Unfulfilled might be a better word. She never talked about what happened, where her wizard life had turned toward the ordinary, but she wore her sadness like a cape. She always looked so weighed down.

She never did buy a broom. She sent me to Hogwarts instead. I study hard, knowing she sacrificed her dream so I could have mine. Though I would throw it all away if Harry Potter would only take my hands into his and say, “I’ll take care of you.”

Click here to read Invisibility Cloak Not Necessary, Part 2

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Interpretation is in the Eye of the Beholder

It’s not something I’d do.
It’s not what I expected.
You sure?

See a story in those four lines? Then you should enter the Interpretations Film Contest, run by the team behind the blog You Offend Me You Offend My Family. The challenge is simple – present your interpretation of the script in a three-minute short film. Five winners will be awarded $3,000 each and bragging rights for decades.

When I heard about the contest, I instantly envisioned a story and wrote out my interpretation. I asked two of my favorite people in the world to be my cast and another friend to be my editor. I’m planning to direct the short myself – my directorial debut!

I’m excited and inspired, which is exactly what the contest was hoping for. To quote the mission statement, “The point is to convey the message that all types of filmmaking will be embraced as long as there is an original vision behind it.” I look forward to presenting my vision to the contest judges and to the world. Watch this blog for more details on my Interpretations production!

Inspired yourself? Check out these professional examples that were created to launch the contest. The following are two of my favorites. Watch and see how diverse the interpretations can be!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Size of Your Elephant Doesn’t Matter

Pop quiz. You have a refrigerator and you have an elephant. How do you get the elephant into the refrigerator?

Jace Hall, the executive producer of ABC’s alien drama V, posed that question at a panel I attended last Saturday called EMERGING as an ARTIST in Today's Global New Media World. He pointed at a guy in the first row for an answer.

“Get a blender!”

The audience gave an obligatory chuckle. Jace explained that funny guy’s answer was actually right in line with most people’s answers. Chop it up, shrink ray, fold it in half, etc. – all variations on the same theme – it can’t be done easily. Jace went on to say, “If you ask a six year old the same question, he’ll say ‘I open the refrigerator and put the elephant in it.’ “

His terrific point, if you haven’t figured it out already, is that we create obstacles where they needn’t be any. We’re the ones who decide that the elephant can’t possibly fit inside the fridge. We picture the fridge in our kitchen and Barnum & Bailey's Jumbo rather than a walk-in fridge and a baby elephant. We see the obstacles so instantly. Why not learn to un-see them?

The other panelists – Kelly Hu, Sandeep Parikh, and Mitch Allan – all spoke to the same point. If you want to be an actor, writer, musician, or any form of artist, no one is stopping you but you. With the power and reach of the Internet plus the wide availability of tools and resources at a nominal cost, it’s easier than ever to have the artistic career you dream of. All you have to do is do it.

Inspiring words that definitely resonated with me as I come into my own as an artist. This summer, I’m writing, writing, writing while going to auditions and producing two short films, one of which will be my directorial debut. No more waiting around for opportunities. I’m creating my own.

Get ready, Mr. Elephant. It’s refrigerator time.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Contest Winners Named. Myself Not Included.

So I didn’t win the Six Word Story Contest I entered, but I had fun coming up with my entry submissions, so it’s all good. Can’t wait for the next one! Here were the winners:

Marriage counseling -- husband brought girlfriend. Adios!

Headline: Peace! Our bomb clinched it!

Nun Kissed the Priest. God Knows

And apparently the whole concept of a Six Word Story was created by this famous Hemingway story:

For sale: baby shoes, never worn.

How genius is that?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Ideas Available for Execution

If you ask me about the scripts I’ve written, I’ll tell you about them. If you ask me about my new television pilot ideas, I’ll tell you about those too. The novel I’m working on? I’ll send you chapter one. And you can read my short works of fiction (almost) every Friday on this blog.

But I’m a writer, you say. Shouldn’t I be keeping my ideas locked away like precious silver? Aren’t I afraid you’ll steal them and set up a first-look deal at Warner Brothers for millions of dollars?

Not really. Because as a writer, I know that ideas are plentiful. Execution is the real skill. A television show about the personal lives of doctors can look like ER or it can look like Scrubs. Sex and the City is a show about four single women relying on friendship as they navigate the dating world. So is TV Land’s new sitcom Hot in Cleveland.

So when someone files a lawsuit against a wildly successful entertainment product – TV show, novel, film – claiming they had the idea first, I tend to side with the writer. They’re the one that executed the idea to success. The one filing the lawsuit didn’t.

The latest case of “I did it! No, really, I did!” comes in the form of Chuck Zito, an actor and former Hell’s Angel member who recently filed suit against FX claiming Sons of Anarchy was his idea. Sons of Anarchy creator Kurt Sutter fired back today with this supremely awesome blog post - Douchebaggery Is The Greatest Form Of Flattery... Again. He dissects the claim and repeatedly misspells Zito’s name. Cheeky fun stuff.

So steal all the ideas you want from me. If you can make them work, more power to you.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Sometimes the Dress Doesn't Impress

Never wear anything to a theatrical audition that you might also use in a Halloween costume. Why?
1) It’s like telling the casting director they have no imagination.

2) You look like an amateur.
Two stories to prove my point:

Story #1
The scene at a recent workshop with the casting director from a top network medical show:

Actor 1
Do you have any do’s or don’ts at your office?

Casting Director
Yes. Pay attention to the signs in the hallway,
don’t wear medical clothes to your audition,
and always be prepared.

Actor 2
(not catching on)
Um, what did you mean when you said
‘Don’t wear medical clothes to your audition?’

Casting Director
(you moron)
I meant don’t wear medical clothes to your audition.
Don’t wear scrubs, don’t wear a lab coat –
don’t wear medical clothes to your audition!
Got it.

Story #2
While at a WGA panel about pitching for television, several showrunners were discussing the merits of using visual aids during a pitch. One showrunner admitted he utilized a visual aid once while pitching a family show to help keep all the characters straight, but otherwise it wasn’t recommended.

Another showrunner of a hit TV show added, “Because it’s weird, right? It’s like when an actor walks into an audition wearing a lab coat and we all go, ‘This guy’s cra-zy!’ “ To which all the other showrunners laughed and nodded in agreement. Burn.

Bottom line, we’re actors. All we need is our voice, mind, and body. Costumes and props detract from our work as well as insult and annoy casting directors.

So leave the accoutrement on the stage or in commercial auditions. Just act.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Fiction Friday: Mabel, Part 2

Click here to read Mabel, Part 1

Mabel’s head swirled as she tried to understand what he was saying. Finally, the effort to remain standing was too great and she fell into his arms. Confused and foggy, but still upset about the birds, Mabel felt herself being lifted and carried across their yard. Her eyes fluttered closed as the sun blazed against her face. She tipped her head forward against Hank’s arm to keep it from bouncing around.

Eventually, she heard Hank’s boots walk up a set of wooden stairs and kick open a door. “Mama!” Hank hollered, “You here?”

Mabel mumbled, “I’m tellin’ your mama about them birds.”

Hank laid her carefully on the sofa. Mabel opened her eyes and saw a dark stain on Hank’s shirt sleeve. “Did you shoot yourself, you fool?”

“No Mabel. This is your blood.”

Mabel raised a shaky hand and felt a warm, wet spot on the side of her head. Pulling her hand away, she could see the dark evidence of fresh blood on her fingertips. Eyes wide, she raised both of her hands up and could also see streaks of dried blood all over them. Her breath quickened as she stared, confused.

Hank returned – when had he left? – carrying a basin filled with water and a washcloth. He dabbed the wet cloth onto her head and she flinched, looking at him in terror.

“Shhh, it’s okay,” he soothed. “It’s going to be okay.”

Mabel numbly stared at his worried face as he continued to wipe the dark blood off her head. There was pain to be sure, but somehow it felt as distant as the gunshot she’d heard not so long ago.

“Why were you shooting those birds, Hank? What did they ever do to you?

“I wasn’t shooting at the birds, Mabel. I was trying to scare them out of the tree. My daddy got tired of being shat on all the time is all.”

Mabel pictured the birds flying through the air after each shot. Flailing their arms in fear, attempting to make sense of this new threat. Many flew off, never looking back, but several circled the tops of the trees and eventually returned. Like fools. Not knowing the threat was still there. That there’d be another gunshot soon. It didn’t end.

“What happened to you, Mabel?” Hank asked gently, still cleaning up her wound. Mabel closed her eyes, attempting to conjure up and answer, but she had none. Her mind was blank. All she could see were birds. She shook her head and looked at Hank, eyes filled with sadness yet empty at the same time.

“I don’t know.” And with that, Mabel slipped into unconsciousness. Slipped into a welcome darkness. And for the first time that day, she felt peace.

(To be continued...)

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Six Word Story? Interesting. The End.

Devoted a brief 30 minutes this morning to writing entries for a Six Word Story contest. Sounds easy enough, right? Found it to be a delightful exercise in creativity and economy. Could have spent all day, but demands called. For your rapid reading enjoyment, here are a few. Can you guess which two I submitted for the contest?

Married. Conformed. Battled. Divorced. Realized. Grieved.

Friendship destroyed. Mission accomplished. Now what?

Sheldon adores me. Besotted. Broken heart.

Optimistic graduation speech. Shameful exit interview.

Jenny hated LA. Blamed me. Debacle.

Maura’s pregnant. Jim acquiesces. Charade begins.

She hated complications. Until Jason. Destiny.

Graduated. Hired. Fired. Wallowed. Awakened. Continued.

Blind marriage. Harsh reality. Justified murder.

Courtship. Marriage. Infidelity. Divorce. Revenge. Jail.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Quitting is the Specialty of Jerks. Don't Give In.

After countless hours of work, a personal life on hold, and a cancelled trip to Europe, I completed and delivered my latest pilot script to my agent. This morning, he told me he didn’t love it. The characters weren’t memorable enough and the premise was difficult to buy into. Bottom line – I’m missing another staffing season.

So here I am, back at square one. Am I disappointed? A little. I knew the script wasn’t a glowing beacon of my creative expression, but considering the time crunch, I did what I could with the hopes it would all be okay in the end. And it wasn’t.

Am I giving up? Hell, no!

I’m an artist. I’m learning my craft. The journey continues. Because I know I’ll do better next time. Because every script I write means more hours under my belt toward my 10,000 hour goal. Because I’m in a marathon, not a sprint. Because I’m not bullshitting the network diversity programs in my personal statements when I say that I live and breathe television and that I want to learn to express myself in that world. Because the only person who can really tell me to stop is me - and I’m not ready to stop.

So onward I press. Toward new ideas, new characters, new worlds, new dialogue…new expressions of me. I thank my agent for his kind words of encouragement. I thank this latest script for getting me to where I am now. I thank my spirit for the divine creativity that has yet to manifest in script form. I thank you for reading this blog and keeping it going. I am grateful for so many things, most of all the inability to stop writing.

Here I go again...