Monday, March 25, 2013

Crowdsourcing Extra Credit

Christopher and I are about to launch our Kickstarter campaign for his next project Early Retirement, an action romance short film starring yours truly and Justin Bruening. (You might remember him as the Knight Rider...)

Christopher has run a successful Kickstarter campaign before and I've given to many, many Kickstarter campaigns, so we're prepared for the marketing blitz we're about to unleash.

Still, when I saw the WGA was holding an event called Motivated Creators: New Financing Models – Crowdfunding and Beyond, I knew it wouldn't hurt to attend and pick up a few more tips.

Best perk of attending - Brad Bell aka Cheeks was there! Speaking intelligently and eloquently about creating an engaged online audience and looking damn handsome doing it.

Most surprising thing I learned - there's a heated rivalry between Indieagogo and Kickstarter. The Pepsi vs. Coca-Cola-esque tension in the room was palpable (and awkward for the audience) as the Indieagogo guy pitched all the reasons his site is superior.

Personally, I love the all-or-nothing goal structure of Kickstarter. It makes the whole campaign more of an event and forces creators to stay on their toes to drive engagement.

One point that Mr. Indieagogo-is-better made that I agreed with - there are no "magical elves" on the Internet, or people who surf crowdesourcing sites looking to give away money. Microfinancing campaigns are built on "love money," or contributions from friends, family, and loved ones.

That means you, dear readers! You'll hear more about the Early Retirement Kickstarter campaign on this blog very soon. I'll also be chronicling my efforts to get into shape to play this female assassin role. It's sure to be an agonizing and hilarious journey - you won't want to miss it!

LIKE the Early Retirement Facebook page for more updates!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Trekking Across the Creativity Desert

Sometimes I have what I call creativity dry spells, when ideas flow like molasses and everything feels flat.

I still write during these periods, but my words just don’t sing. I stare at them afterward and they look painfully ordinary. Judgments like “ugh, pedantic” or “so uninspired” swirl around my head. And I just have to look away.

I’ve learned the only way to deal with these periods is to work through them. The last thing I can do is listen to myself. I’d never pick up a pen again!

These are the times that test my discipline. Am I a writer or a waiter? Keep the faith, keep the pen moving – that’s my mantra.

During this particular creativity dry spell, I’m facing a long writing to do list. I have to get cracking on a new spec script for all the writing program applications, I have pages of brainstorming on new original pilot ideas that I need to distill into succinct pitch paragraphs for my agent, I have at least nine short stories that need resolutions and endings, and a long short story that is done but needs editing before I start converting it into a short film script, plus a healthy handful of feature ideas that I’m contemplating.

And I’m staring at all of it and just scratching my head, uninterested in diving in.

But I must, because the only way to get rid of a creativity dry spell is to dive right in.

So I’m writing this blog post for now before I get started on something. Because well-begun is half done – I saw that on a poster in my high school English class and have loved it ever since.

Even though none of my ideas are calling to me right now, I still have to push forward and start working.

Because I’m not a person who writes sometimes. I’m a writer. Writers write.

Here I go...

Friday, March 15, 2013

Fiction Friday: Mackie's Farm, Part 2

Click here to read Mackie's Farm, Part 1

It was an egg farm, which meant the sound of chickens clucking was always in the air. It was the worst ear-splitting racket up close. If Mackie’s dad walked into the main coop to check on the feed or whatever, a wave of panic would spread among the chickens and they’d cluck louder and louder until every chicken was caught up in the frenzy. Like a crowd gathering to see what’s in the middle of the excitement, only there’s nothing to see. Chickens were dumb like that.

I tried to stay as far away from that smelly coop, though I was expected to do my part on the farm while staying there, so three times a week I had to go in and feed the crazy birds. I asked Mackie once if his dad had any earplugs I could borrow. He said, “What the hell for?”

“So I don’t have to hear those chickens freak out over nothing while I’m in there.”

Mackie grabbed my shoulders and shouted in my ear. “Why?! You don’t like loud stuff?!” Then he let himself get shoved away as he cackled. He was such a jerk.

Photo / Creative Commons / Dwight Burdette
The chicken feeding wasn’t the only chore on my roster during those summers. There was the grass cutting and the potato peeling and the crate hauling and the barn painting. Mackie’s dad seemed to think my presence during the summer was best spent helping him get stuff done. Who wouldn’t take advantage of free child labor, I suppose.

When chores were done for that portion of the day, he’d send me and Mackie out to “play.” I put that in quotations because there was never any play involved in what happened next.

(To be continued...)

What do you think of the story so far?

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Writing Disabilities

The latest pilot script I wrote includes a lead male character on forearm crutches (like Dr. Kerry Weaver on ER). He's not a token - his disability is an integral part of his character. I loved sending him to a dark place over his limitations, but I wanted to make sure I wasn't misrepresenting people with similar disabilities.

So when I heard the WGAW’s Writers with Disabilities Committee was teaming up with Hollywood Health & Society last month to sponsor a panel called "People First: Real Disabilities, Reel Stories – A Conversation About the Portrayals of People with Disabilities in Film and Television," I RSVP'd right away.

The panel featured an incredible lineup, including screenwriter Ben Lewin who wrote The Sessions, actress and wheelchair dancer Auti Angel from the Sundance Channel’s Push Girls, and Eric Guggenheim, writer/co-producer of Parenthood.

I loved hearing them all speak frankly about the disabled clich├ęs they hate seeing in film and TV and what they want to see in authentic storylines.

I appreciated learning that stories when disabled characters long to be "normal" are particularly offensive to them, because it implies that they are not already normal. Point taken.

I came away from the panel with a better context for framing my story, not to mention a writer-crush on Margaret Nagle, who wrote the HBO movie Warm Springs about Franklin Roosevelt's struggle with his disability.

I approached her after to give her props for nailing women's voices so authentically on her short-lived Lifetime drama Side Order of Life, and she actually recognized me from the small co-star I did on the show! She was a wicked cool lady - I so want to work for her someday.

Watch the entire panel below!

Related article from The Talking Box - "Television Characters with Disabilities"

Friday, March 8, 2013

Fiction Friday: Mackie's Farm, Part 1

The beginning of a story, inspired by the first line, which was overheard. This is what I heard in that line.

Photo / albertsthaler
My cousin had a suicidal dog. A real idiotic mutt named Buster – so creative – who used to climb onto the back of his dad’s pickup truck when it was doing 30 miles an hour on the road into town. Stupid thing must have fallen out three or four times that summer. Broke a different leg each time. Mackie thought it was hilarious.

“Keep the damn dog on his leash!” his dad would yell every time we climbed into the back for a ride to get groceries and ice cream. Mackie would swear he would, but as soon as we turned onto that road, he’d unhook Buster and watch him run around the truck bed all excited.

“You wanna see where we been, don’t cha Buster? You wanna see?” And he’d tap on the rear door and egg him on until the dumb mutt started scratching his way up the back. If I ever reached over to try to save him from his foolish demise, Mackie would just elbow me in the chest.

“Mind your own fuckin’ business, JJ!” He always knew how to hit the same spot in my chest, which sucked because the previous bruise usually wasn’t healed before he hit it again.

I hated those summers, trapped on that farm with my stupid cousin and his stupid dad while my parents hopped around the globe. They were engineering professors at the local university with a research focus on water purification in third world nations. They took a group of grad students to various countries every summer to build aqueducts and wells and whatnot. They never took me, because they didn’t want me gallivanting around dirty, dangerous places.

So instead, they sent me to a different third world nation – Mackie’s farm.

(To be continued...)

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Hump Day Update: Crazy February Edition

How is it March already?!?!

February was a complete and total blur, filled with the same feeling as always - "I should be writing more!" Though when I look back, I can see how incredibly busy I was. Doing what, you ask? Here's a brief recap --

• Finally finished my latest TV pilot script and delivered the draft to my agent. Phew! Holding my breath while they read...

• After doing ten episodes as various nurses on Grey's Anatomy - ER Nurse, OR Nurse, Peds Nurse, etc. - I was finally given a name! Introducing Nurse Ruth --

Nurse Ruth was quite the rabble rouser in this episode --

• Saw two great theater productions starring great actor friends - the best kind of theater to see!

First was King Lear starring Larry Cedar --

Then Chinglish at South Coast Rep starring the lovely Michelle Krusiec. Went with my friend Katie, another fabulous actor that graduated from MIT. We should play sisters!

• Recorded some ADR for yet another episode of Grey's Anatomy --

And channeled my inner Majel Barrett-Roddenberry while recording a robotic computer voice for a friend's upcoming short film --

• Devoted several fulfilling volunteer hours to non-profits WriteGirl and Break the Cycle. Represented both at several community fairs --

• Finally, I booked and shot an AFI student short that fulfilled my fantasy of being in a science fiction film. I played a space pilot who got stabbed - how fun is that?

That was my February, people! No wonder I'm so stressed. Here's hoping March is nice and calm...   #yeahright