Friday, January 28, 2011

Fictionless Friday: My Mad Mad Mad Mad World

I’ve been told that I don’t handle my anger well. Or rather, I don’t express it at all. And that worries me because this person also told me that unexpressed anger festers inside and becomes cancer. Great. I’m giving myself cancer by not throwing a proper temper tantrum every once in a while.

But where exactly does one throw a temper tantrum in modern society? I’ve beat my fists against my bed, screaming into my pillow at the top of my lungs, but the release is minimal. It’s not explosive enough.

What I want to do is hurl glass bottles against a wall and scream like a banshee. I want to take a baseball bat and smash a thousand mirrors into sharp, ragged pieces. I want to press my foot down on my gas pedal and close my eyes, feeling my car go faster and faster than I’ve ever driven. I want to throw myself off a cliff into the ocean below. That’s how angry I am right now.

Yes, I’m expressing with my words, but after I finish writing this, I’m still going to want to smash watermelons with a hammer.

So my friend is right – I don’t know how to express anger because right now, I want to destroy something. Total annihilation!

But I don’t want to get arrested or tossed into the looney bin, so I suppose I’ll have to settle for the little things – kickboxing class, Whack-A-Mole, kneading dough. I better buy extra loaf pans, because I have a lot of rage to work out.

Bread, anyone?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

I Like Short Shorts

Check out this short film gem, written & directed by Karin Anna Cheung, best known for her work in Better Luck Tomorrow and The People I’ve Slept With:

Did you notice the total run time? 1 minute and 31 seconds! Fantastic.

I love the idea of a short film that is truly short. 5 minutes or less. Many short films being produced today are 20-30 minutes, which is way too long. If a short film doesn’t capture me in the first minute, especially when watching online, it can feel interminable.

This is why comedy shorts play so well online. Make me laugh in the first minute and you’ve got me. Just like this one:

But can you produce a short short film drama that tells a complete story and plays well online? Now that is a challenge. Perhaps one that I’ll tackle in the weeks to come.

I ran into Karin last week at an event and snapped this photo. As if I needed any more evidence that I need to learn how to better pose for pictures...

If you know of any solid dramatic shorts online that are under 5 minutes, post them below!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Fiction Friday: Chinese Daughter

A six sentence fiction story in response to this Wall Street Journal article making the rounds on Facebook – Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior:

Chinese Daughter

When she couldn’t play the Moonlight Sonata without pausing to let her fingers catch up with her overworked brain, he told her she was a worthless piece of garbage. His harsh manner was a strategy learned from his parents to encourage his beloved child to practice more. He was puzzled when she went to college and stopped calling home, relating the news that she quit piano via text message. So he pushed harder, turning up the volume on his taunts and insults until he was screaming, wanting desperately for her to come back and play the music she played so beautifully all her life. He missed his daughter and hoped she knew how proud he’d always been of her. But he never got the chance to tell her before she slipped away entirely, moving across the world, never to return to play for him again.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Luck Be a Lady This Pilot Season

Let’s play word association –
Pilot season.
If you’re an actor like me, those two words conjure words of hope and triumph – steady job, series regular, network contract, dreams coming true. It doesn’t matter that if you’ve never actually had a pilot audition before. It’s a fantasy shared by all actors, whether they actually participate in pilot season or merely talk about it on Facebook.

It’s a lottery with terrible odds, yet we all want to play. Every actor believes he/she can win if given the opportunity to shine. And some actors do, though the numbers are still stacked against them. Match three numbers and shoot a pilot that doesn’t get picked up. Match five and shoot a few episodes before the show premieres and gets cancelled. Match all six plus the mega number and you’re Eric Szamanda on CSI. Eleven years of solid employment and counting – jackpot.

Still, being an actor is already such a leap of faith, why should pilot season be any different? It will always be the goal, and moving toward your goals is what being a working actor is all about. I’ll keep dreaming big and so should you.

Educate yourself to get ready by watching this live streaming event tonight from SAG Foundation – “Prep for Pilot Season: Pilot Season in Hollywood.” Guests include April Webster (“LOST”), John Papsidera (“No Ordinary Family”), and many more. It will be an inspiring discussion and you don’t have to be a SAG member to watch it. You can even email or tweet questions for the moderator to ask the panelists.

Enjoy and bookmark the page for their next event on January 27 – “Prep for Pilot Season: The Work.” If you’re reading this blog post after the fact, you can find a Quicktime version of the program in the SAG Foundation archives.

Break a leg, everyone!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

PSA Against Cringe-Worthy Grammar

To actors, writers, and all citizens of this great English-speaking nation...

Stop saying “in regards to.”

Please! Stop using it in your everyday conversations, stop making your characters say it in scripts, stop using it to try to sound erudite. Why?

Because it’s WRONG!

The proper English is “in regard to.” You can send multiple “regards” with a gift – “With warm regards” – but otherwise, it’s a singular “regard.”

Every time I see a professor or doctor character on a TV show say “in regards to,” I want to throw something at my television. A real professor or doctor would know better.

Evidence from an authority:
Kenneth G. Wilson (1923–). The Columbia Guide to Standard American English. 1993.

regarding, as regards, in regard(s) to, with regard(s) to

In and with regard to, regarding, and as regards are all Standard, synonymous prepositions, slightly longer and more varied than but meaning much the same as about and concerning: I spoke to him regarding [as regards, in regard to, with regard to] his future.

With regards to is Nonstandard and frequently functions as a shibboleth, although it can be Standard and idiomatic in complimentary closes to letters: With [my] regards to your family.... In regards to, however, is both Substandard and Vulgar, although it appears unfortunately often in the spoken language of some people who otherwise use Standard. It never appears in Edited English.

You hear that? It’s not a colloquial usage of the phrase. It’s substandard and VULGAR.

I’ve been accused of being an annoying perfectionist on this matter, but of course I am – I’m a writer. Excuse me for wanting to defend the English language against careless laziness.

More evidence:
Oh, and while we’re at it, “supposably,” “verbage,” and “irregardless” are not words. You made them up.

Refudiate” is also made up, but hopefully you already knew that.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Fiction Friday: Dear John

Another six sentence fiction story –
Dear John

I dreamt about you last night. My car had broken down and you came by on your bike and took my groceries. You said you’d see me at home, but then you took off in the wrong direction and turned down her street instead. Now I know you’ve said it will never happen again, but even in my dreams I don’t believe you. So why don’t we just stop trying to hold on to something that’s already gone. Do what you want – I’m taking my groceries home.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Creating My Chain of Success

Someone once accused me of not being a real writer because I didn’t write every day. I took that accusation to heart and have since tried to write daily, whether it’s pages of a script, fiction scribblings, or even a blog post.

But as Master Yodawisely said, "Do or do not. There is no try." So in 2011, in addition to my no-buying experiment, I resolve to write every day.

And I found just the tool at the Writer’s Store to help me stay on track – Jerry Seinfeld’s Don’t Break the Chain chart – a product named after the comedian because it’s inspired by his own method for creative success. Apparently he hangs a year-at-a-glance calendar on the wall and marks off the days he writes new material, feeling the satisfaction of seeing a chain of X’s, which drives his desire to never break the chain.

It reminds me of those bulletin board charts in grade school that my teachers used to track everyone’s reading progress or whatever. My line of gold stars was always longer than any of my classmates’, which gave me a sense of satisfaction I wasn’t going to give up easily. It drove me to continually strive for excellence.

So I’m going to do it again this year. Be an overachiever in my own classroom. Won’t you join me? Download your own Don’t Break the Chain chart and resolve to write, paint, practice your instrument, or whatever every day.

I won’t break the chain. Will you?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A Dollar Here, A Dollar There

How was my first week of not spending? Easy! I didn’t even break a sweat. While at the 99 Cents Only store, I simply stuck to the produce and food aisles and avoided the rest of the store. A penny saved is a penny earned, right? Or 99 cents earned in this case.

Here are some other ways I realized I could save or make a few dollars here and there. It adds up – trust me.
  • Library Fines – I used to justify them as donations to a public institution I value immensely. No more! The books go back whether I’m done or not. I can always check them out again.

  • Recycle Ink CartridgesStaples Rewards will give you $2 for every ink or laser cartridge you bring in. I went hunting for old cartridges left by the trash around my office and found two. Score! Those free dollars are definitely going to come in handy later this year when I need to replenish office supplies.

  • ATM Fees – Never again. I can go the extra three blocks to find a Chase. Besides, I don’t need to get cash that often!

  • Piggy Bank – The oldest trick in the book. That rattling noise is mighty satisfying.

  • Recycle Cans & Bottles – You know that empty water bottle you’re throwing away? That’s money! (Not that I ever threw water bottles in the trash before, because that’s not where they go!) Before I started taking my cans & bottles to a recycle center instead of recycling curbside, I was basically throwing money away every time I had a drink. The extra errand is worth it!

And so I continue forward on my thrifty new year’s resolution. If you have any micro-ways to save money, leave them below!

Until my next update, here’s to all the dollars staying in my wallet.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Fiction Friday: Adventurer

Perhaps you remember my brief attempt to write six word fiction? Well, I’ve discovered a new flash fiction challenge – six sentence fiction. Easier to write yet harder at the same time, though all around more satisfying to read. Peruse the offerings at Six Sentences and you’ll see what I mean.

The idea of crafting a beginning, middle, & end in six sentences excites my creative mind, so I’m going to try as many as I can until I’m published on Six Sentences. Here’s my first attempt, written late at night:

The globe in her father’s office was old, fading, and from an age of self-education and discovery that had long since moved online, but it was her father’s, so it always been her favorite thing as a child. She spun it lazily with the tips of her fingers, taking in all the countries that no longer existed – Yugoslavia, the USSR, one Korea – remembering all the nights she’d spent memorizing the places her father had traveled, preparing to regale him with her extensive knowledge of the exotic locales which he’d just been experiencing firsthand. It was a futile exercise – she could see that now – but her father had indulged her each time, smiling pleasantly through his pain, listening with all the focus he could muster in his exhausted state. “Being me has its downsides,” he’d always said, even though he’d be back out the door days later. She stared at the globe now, wondering where her father had lost his way so many years ago, and praying for the millionth time that he would eventually find his way home. Twenty-five years was far too long of an adventure, even for him.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Exercising My Thriving Television Imagination

When I was a teenager, I wrote episodes of Scarecrow & Mrs. King in my head. They usually featured me as a brilliant young spy working with Agent Lee Stetson on an international undercover operation. My cover was often an accomplished concert pianist or a modern dancer. Lee would act as my demanding yet dashing teacher while Amanda tagged along as my daft chaperone. Together, we would infiltrate embassies and investigate leads, often getting discovered and taken hostage. We would always escape before the end of Act 3.

And even though the show was called Scarecrow & Mrs. King, I was the one who would take down the Russian arms dealer or Libyan terrorist in the end. My fierce intelligence and spy savvy would save us every time. And at the close of each episode, I would share a romantic moment with the Scarecrow. That’s right, I got the handsome spy.

They were really great episodes.

Little did I know that all that fantasizing was early practice for the task I’m about to dive into – writing a spec script. A sample episode of an existing television show meant to showcase my writing skills. Coming up with a story that matches the voice of an established series, yet has my original stamp on it.

My sole purpose for writing a spec is to apply to writing fellowships around town in the spring. Because otherwise, spec scripts are dying a rapid death here in Hollywood. Agents, studio suits, & development execs all want to see original pilots as writing samples now. They’re tired of reading Grey’s Anatomy specs, I suppose.

The new feeling is that an original pilot is a much better snapshot of a writer’s unique voice and technical ability. Plus there’s always the hope that a Desperate Housewives will emerge from the field. (DH was an original pilot that saved ABC in 2004 – more on the challenge of writing an original pilot later...)

But despite its declining usefulness in the biz, a spec script is still the key to getting into these writing fellowships, which are highly coveted gateways into the inner circle of television writers.

So here I go. I haven’t decided which show to spec yet – The Good Wife, Castle, & Fringe are all contenders. If you have any opinions on which I should choose or any story ideas to offer, leave them in the comments below. I’m still in the brainstorming phase right now.

Though I know I will not be featured in any of them as an international spy. I’ll leave that character in my imagination.