Posts Tagged ‘screenwriting’

Story Scaffold

In Essays, Screenwriting, The Daily Drool on May 13, 2010 at 10:33 pm

I just decided that “Scaffold” is a cArAzy looking word.

But to the point… I’m finally FINALLY into pages on my latest project.  It’s been a difficult progression, a lot of hair-pulling and jaw-dropping “WHAT?”s going on in the course of it’s development, BUT, at long last… to script.

And I’m thrilled.

Because now it gets fun.

Because all that agonizing pre-work… the story-tooling and treatment-writing (and RE-re-RE-writing)… is where you get to hash out your problems, swear off writing altogether, come to your senses and re-swear your undying loyalty to the written word, only to run head-on (again) into the problem that nearly sent you over the edge in the first place… all in the hopes of building for yourself a stable and exciting story scaffold into which you can breathe new life via dialogue.   The only reason to torture yourself with front-loading the pain like that is so that you can enjoy (until you start re-writing again, of course) telling the story in pages.

I think about it like a coloring book: outlining the image can be tedious and frustrating, but once you start using all those magical crayons?  It makes the blood, sweat, and panic worthwhile… or at least, most of it 😉

So I’m in the fun part now.  I can breathe a little.   And I can be happy I was so hell bent to make sense of the thing before I dove into this stage, or else I’d be in for more hair-pulling, more cursing, more panic… with no sight of the joy!

And that’s why we write, after all – for the Joy of the thing.

Ahhhh, what a relief it is.

Where the heck is hour 25?

In The Daily Drool on May 10, 2010 at 8:52 am

Time… can… be… MADDENING.  Or rather, it’s the LACK of time that drives me crazy.  I find that the older and more writerly I get, the weirder I become about time and the stingier I get about making commitments.  I’m becoming a bit of a time nazi.  I think it’s because there is this backlog of projects just screaming at me at all hours, so if I have to spend, oh, say 32 hours training to be a census taker one week, and those 32 hours begin at the unGodly hour of 7a.m. every morning, rendering me stupid and barely able to put one foot in front of the other at 4:00, much less form sentences… well, you’re looking at one grumpy-ass Tiff.

When I was in the throws of obtaining my BA, I took UCLA up on it’s lovely student counseling offer because I found that I couldn’t realy manage the stress of my impending graduation and the OBSCENE number of tasks on my list.  The counselor did two really wonderful things for me, ONE, she asked me what the worst thing that could happen if I didn’t turn in the most awesome thesis paper ever for one of my gen. ed. classes.  I thought about it, and I realized that even if I turned in a C-grade paper (unheard of in this perfectionist’s file) I would still end up with a high B for the class.  She looked at me and strait faced asked if I could live with that and I was like (chorus of angels) YES!  Pressure relieved… no one was going to care what grade I got in “The Movie Score” class. And you know what?  I actually got an A on that paper and the class anway, minus the agonizing pressure.  The SECOND thing she did for me was drill this phrase into my head “Can I get back to you?” – you see, turns out I was a terminal “Yes” girl to any and all potentially exciting opportunities, leading my calandar to look like the Secretary of State’s.  I was so over-extended that I woke up everyday groaning at all the things I had to do, the places I had to be.  This simple change of thought (yes, I know it’s kind of silly to some, but for me it was mind-blowing) afforded me the time to actually look at that calendar before I piled another task onto my plate.

And all of this brings me to today, where I write so much and spend so much time thinking about writing, that time can once again freak me out with it’s fullness.  I have to be careful.  I have to pay attention.  And I have to keep things in balance.

I mean, this is the big gamble, isn’t it?  This move home was not so I could go out and get some 40 hour a week job (although I wouldnt’ mind the cash!!) But an opportunity to relieve some of the pressures so that a minimal work-week wouldn’t bankrupt me, and so I could pour those hours into my work, my writing… writing that is hopefully going to pay off and pay me eventually… It’s kind of all based on hope and faith and some creative magic.

But in the meantime, it doesn’t mean I won’t stop looking for that elusive 25th hour.

“I am looking for a very good screenwriter”

In Screenwriting, The Daily Drool on May 8, 2010 at 8:41 am

I got this email the other day: (You have to click on the screenshots to actually read them- I didn’t know how to make ’em fit correctly)

To which my initial response was (mentally speaking) Yeah, get in line sister.  Ain’t everyone in LA got some kind of “Life changing” story idea?  EVERYONE?!  But I wrote back- you never know what people are all about…

Her response:  (by the way, it doesn’t look like it’s here, but click on it and it will open up to read)

Wow!  Talk about a hard sell!  But there is just nothing here that makes me want to get involved.  Sounds like a lot of work for no pay, and in all honesty, if I wanted to work for free, I’ve got plenty of my own ideas that I believe in, that I can develop free from the restraints of adhering to someone else’s “Vision” and, with less drama.  Because let’s face it, doesn’t this whole letter just scream “DRAMAAAA-(tongue hanging out)-AAAAH”?

Now, is the producer I’m working with buying me yachts?  No.  But he’s taught me a lot (as did the ghostwriting job before him!) A lot about what you have to be willing to put up with and bend to when working on someone else’s material.  Most lay-people have an idea without any notion of the amount of work it takes to actually develop that idea into a workable, compelling story.  Most lay-people lack the skills necessary to ride the wave from idea (seed) to full blown dramatization (tree) – and instead you wind up trying to make something akin to a story out of a hard lump of unwieldy potential (stunted log-bush thing that needs to just be put out of its misery)  Most lay-people fail to recognize that asking me to devote months or years even, of my time to a project, for free, is like asking an architect to draw up plans for a house, a super-awesome mansion that will be the envy of the world, for free – You wouldn’t do that, would you?  And here I’ve spent my whole life amassing the skills necessary to be able to create something that (most of the time) stands tall, strong, and dramatic – how about a little respect?  (And if you’ve got a few minutes, check out this hilarious post by veeery successful screenwriter, Josh Olsen A History of Violence, on what it is like to be asked to read material all the time by people like Little Miss Email here.)

Which is to say, in all likelihood, were there pay attached, I could scuttle my own projects to the side and at least take a crack at listening to her further.  I fgured my response would either elicit a real offer of some sort, a confirmation of budget, or silence.  Instead I got this:

Now, didn’t she just validate all my concerns?

High risk… HIGH RISK?  I am living HIGH RISK of my own, why on earth would I want to absorb hers?  I moved home to live in my parents’ house so I could focus on my own writing sans LA pressures… I poured my Sallie Mae loans into a high-risk, big-dreams education with no gaurantee of return.  I handed my twenties over to a city that eats people for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert.  I have risked everything to get where I am now… all in the hopes that tomorrow it will all begin to work, to make sense, to fill up the coffers as it does my heart and soul, and she wants to talk to me about risk?

But no, she doesn’t want to talk to me about anything… she’s just looking for a really good screenwriter.

And really, I think it’s a pretty amusing exchange.  She’s got some guts, some determination, and she sounds like a godamned saleswoman – maybe she will find someone to help her get her project off the ground.

But it ain’t me.

Anyone want her number 😉

Pressing on… Punching through

In Playwriting, The Daily Drool on April 26, 2010 at 10:07 am

I’m working, I’m working…. I’m working on the same damn story I’ve been working on for MONTHS… all in preparation to go to pages (script) and it’s been maddening.  For many reasons.  But the thing I learned this weekend (or was reminded of rather- I already knew it) was that sometimes you just have to push your way through something to get it done… and then you can go back and spiff it up.

My first inclination in just about anything is to try to do it as perfectly as possible from the get go… and that’s amounts to a lot of pressure (on my end) high expectations (again, on my end) and a lot of wasted energy stewing over pieces that aren’t yet in focus.  The reality is that it’s NOT going to be perfect at the onset, there’s no ax looming over my head if the first draft feels like a first draft (I prefer it to feel like a 3rd!) and sometimes if you just let go of something for a while, it sharpens on its own before it comes back to you all BAM-like -in the form of the solution.

SO…. in pushing past some VERY BIG and VERY UGLY bumps in this newest storyline, I was able to be productive, answer the questions I knew, and let some of those bumps work themselves out on their own, in the back corners of my brain, where the muse must have had her thinking cap on.  (thank you Muse!)

I wonder, if I applied this philosophy to life, would it feel any easier?  More sensible?  Less out of control?

I don’t know.  I can only try to be more aware of and understanding of my own process and hope the world and I start clicking again.

Meanwhile, lesson of the post – Punch through the pain, the blood sweat and tears… when you look back you’ll find you’ve usually done better than you thought, and you’ve almost always come farther than you were aware of.

Getting Excited and then Cooling Down

In The Daily Drool on April 23, 2010 at 10:16 pm

Well, sometimes you look at your work (I’m referencing as a writer,  although I imagine this extends to anything self-made) and you look at it with joy “I MADE THIS!  WOWEE ZOWEE!!” and other times you look down at all the blood, sweat, and tears and think to yourself “I could have been playing golf…”

I’m currently in the process of reconstructing a treatment that’s already lived two different lives (since I’ve been working on it at least)  It’s frustrating and also one of the best writing exercises ever:  Tell (basically the same) story three different ways – oh, and try not to pull your hair out in the process.

What I’m finding is that I keep bumping up against the same sharp edges and I have to kick and scream about how great my FIRST solution was, and WHY do I have to try and come up with something else when the FIRST solution worked JUST FINE?!?!?!  Then I have a cookie and roll my eyes and…. wait… for… it… too… come.  (woof!)  It’s a lot of work.

But it’s starting to move along. Finally.  I’ve reached the end of Act 1, arguably the most challenging bit at this point since it strays the most from my previous attempts.  And although it’s painful, I’d rather squint and sweat over it now in the hopes of frontloading the pain so that when I sit down to actual pages (God, I hope soon!) I’ll have a reliable road map to follow.

Anyway, all this to say that I spent the better half of the day rewriting what I had labored over yesterday because it was CRAP.  But if I hadn’t pushed through it yesterday, I wouldn’t have had that crap to polish up today.

So, moral of the story?  Don’t discount the effort, even when the egg ain’t golden.  You can always sit on that baby till it gets shiny!

(PS- Haven’t forgotten about the promised snow pics… just haven’t had time to load ’em up yet.  Maybe tomorrow )

A Writer’s (somewhat soothed) Panic

In The Daily Drool on March 24, 2010 at 9:29 am

Well, it seems that things will be okay with Mac – apparently my batch had a problem with their logic boards- a totally covered repair. 


So I can breathe again. 

But I’ve got to say, I had grown quite accostomed to my morning routine of getting up, having my OJ and checking all my inter-goodies at hte kitchen table from my dear little laptop.  Right now I am hunched in the corner over my very reliable and friendly PC- I do appreciate it, I really do- it’s just not quite the same.  Probably because the desk my PC is housed on is covered in things that need to be sorted, filed, and put awaay.  It’s like working in a disaster zone, office style. 

Also, my fingers had grown quite accostomed to the laptop keyboard.  The regular size of my desktop keyboard is very, very confusing indeed. 

BUT, that’s the update there.  I think what yesterday’s panic showed me is that I’ve grown quite attached to that little package of metal and magic.  It’s an extension of my thoughts, my brain sort of just plugs into it and when you’re a writer, well, that kind of creative bond is pretty damn important. 

The only major drawback to the repair is that it’s going to take SEVEN days!  I mean, I’m moving on Weds. and I prob won’t get it back until Tues.  That makes me very nervous.  But at least it’s getting fixed. 

Oh, I also had just finished my essay for the Princess Grace playwriting Fellowship before it blanked out.  Yeah, now I have to completely rewrite it!  Or mayb I can go in with a hard drive and ask them to put it all on there for me… I’ve got to call and see if that’s an option.

(sigh) If it’s not one thing, it’s another.  I really, REALLY hope this is it for catastrophe’s for a while.  I thought it was just 2009, but The Year of Adversity and Change seems to have leaked onto 2010… I really hope that this move brings postitive changes and good ol’ Happy Tiffany back to the forefront.

(Tap, tap, tap) Is this thing on?

In Playwriting, The Daily Drool on March 12, 2010 at 2:38 pm

Alright kids, pull up your overalls and get ready for some soap-boxin’ – I have just come from one of those meetings that make you itchy all over with Verbage Coloriscus.  (Yes, I just made that up.  And I like how it sounds, so I ain’t deletin’.  I told you, I’m soap boxin’!)

… AHEM…(ready?)


We love to read their words, we love to watch their plays/movies/t.v. shows.  We love to revel in the visual representation of their imaginations.  We know it’s slow-going, and difficult to succeed, but somehow, through all the impossibilities that impede a writer’s life, the cream (hopefully) rises to the top of our book-stacks, Blockbuster queues, and DVR schedules.

And we love them for it.

So it makes sense that, after a life spent rejoicing in the fruits of a writer’s labors, the occasional citizen (okay, many, many citizens) feel inspired to tackle the process themselves.  They think “I can do that!  I have a GREAT idea!” and, fighting plenty an obstacle to dissuade them, they set to work harvesting minutes from whatever it is they usually do, in order to indulge the passion that has swept over them.

And it is fun!  It’s exciting!  They have discovered a challenge of great personal reward!  They rejoice in the creation and birth of their idea-baby.  And I applaud mightily those that sweat their way to “The End” or “Fade out” because between having an idea, and seeing it to fruition, lies a trecherous path paved with self-doubt, the skepticism of family, friends, and bosses, irritating day-jobs, and various other personal challenges- some as revelatory as realizing “This isn’t as much fun as I thought it would be!”  And so, with that final, blessed period, the average citizen has just done something even seasoned writers can struggle with- they’ve created a First Draft.

And it is awesome.

All those words!  All those thoughts!  A pile of pages where before there were none.  A world of ideas painted by you!

You stand up from your desk and allow the internal dance of happiness and accomplishment to wash over you.

It is awesome.

It is also terrifying.

Because now you must actually hand this precious egg over to those who would evaluate it.  You must deliver it to the hands of (gasp) The Reader.  And The Reader, who may be your mother, your cousin, a teacher, or a professional acquaintance… They will look your baby over and deliver judgement.  They might be kind, scalding, indifferent… you have no way of knowing what an audience will think/see/feel/or even (God love ’em!) say.

Your dance of happiness and accomplishment tries to ignore the reality of this forthcoming “sharing”, and keeps dancing; you’ve come this far, surely the next part will be easier…

But your responding action to The Reader’s, well, response, is where a number of new writers stumble, throw in the towel and grumble.  The dance of joy becomes a tantrum of panic.  “You mean I’m not done?!  But… but… ARG!!! ”  It is yet another hurdle to hop.  It is the crossroads at which those who are content to have just done the thing go back to their day-jobs, and those truly believe (perhaps insanely so) in their work, in their idea, and in themselves, pick up the thing (now battered and bloody) roll up their (tired) sleeves, and set out to make it better.

And so the process goes; With each idea – new challenges and lessons.  With each lesson learned – new skills and stronger understanding of the craft.   With a stronger understanding of the craft – new and better work.

This is the life of the writer, it is one of constant evolution.

And anyone who tells you otherwise is full of shit.

Because we don’t live to be still and we certainly don’t write to be stagnant.  We create to revolutionize – to stir thought and consciousness -whether to laughter, to tears, or to change – it is all born of “I have something to say that will move you.”

Which is why, if you have an idea, you must yourself be ready to move – to take action – to evolve.

Some people don’t see this.  They fail to open themselves up to the transformation that must occur, the metamorphosis that becoming (or accepting your path as) a writer requires.  They stand still and unbending, their “idea” wrapped around them like a steel case, cast and forged of machine, and they are unable to grow – unable to see the sun when it shines, disputing the rain when its drops fall, and forever peering up at the mighty trees around them wondering “Why can I not see what they see?  If I were only as tall as them, why, I bet I could see for miles and miles!”

The Sapling, so eager to protect itself, grows not an inch.  The Idea, born of so much passion and enthusiasm, sees not the light of day from its steel case of Ego.

And to these people, I can only say “I am sorry.”

For it is not enough to look up at me as I grow and ask me why you do not; you must also be willing to listen when I  answer.

You must be willing to try the tools that I hand you.

You must be willing to part ways with old thoughts, if you are to have any hope of absorbing the new.

And I have neither the time, nor the inclination, to pass my hard-won lessons along to those with deaf ears, blind eyes, and few roots.  I cannot describe to you the view from where I stand if you insist on staring at (and complaining about) only your own rocky ground.

Because I am moving.

Because it has taken me my whole life to get Here.

And I will continue to evolve as Here becomes There.

And until you respect and understand that writing a thing and becoming a writer are two very different things, all the words in the world will not be enough to make sense of that to you.

3-Page Challenge

In Playwriting, The Daily Drool on March 6, 2010 at 6:28 pm

Here’s the deal – I tend to be a “Write by the seat of my pants” kind of girl – very little discipline and a whole lotta prayers.  I write when I’m feeling ‘moved’ or when I have a deadline, but I also  spend a lot of time allowing myself to watch T.V. or play solitaire.  Not good habits to have.

So I’m issuing a 3-page a day personal challenge.


Some of you may be wondering “Tiffany, why Yowza?  3 pages isn’t a very impressive number…”  Well, Some of You, 3 pages a day might not sound that hard, but trust me, it is.

A lot happens in three pages!  And making a three page a day quota is pretty serious stuff…  If I do this, really do it, I’ll have 66 pages at the end of the month!  That’s a lot (and I’m allowing one day off a week, although I may not take it)

Since I’m already 22 pages into my current egg, that means I could have the darn thing finished (in rough draft, at least) by the end of the month.

What about you?  Anybody want to join me?  Or do you already follow a page-quota routine?

Sunday “Morning” Hobnobbery

In The Daily Drool on February 28, 2010 at 12:30 pm

Yes, I know it’s past noon, but I’m still in my pajamas and just wrapping up breakfast, so…

~Cats do not need expensive toys.  Nowhere is this more obvious to me than in Midnite’s favorite toy; a dirty old twist-tie (the extra long kind) that she has been carrying around with her for the past SIX years.  Yes, I even packed it up and brought it over with us when we moved.  And I will be bringing it with us to AZ.  This morning I peeled the plastic ring off the milk jug and threw it at Daredevil’s feet to see what he thought?  Instant love.  They’ve been batting it around ALL MORNING.  Lesson?  Celebrate the little things.  I believe this translates to little kids as well.  My parents love to tell me how much I enjoyed playing witht he pots and pans and with cardboard boxes when I was a wee lass… Really, until kids can talk and compare notes with other kids, you could get away with a lot of savings!

– Sometimes I think I have ADD, or ADHD, or, just a really bad multi-tasking obsession.  So far this morning I’ve been bouncing back and forth between returning emails, writing this, eating oatmeal, and playing with the cats and their new toy :  spoonful to mouth, tap the keys, sip of juice, cats, one more sentence, bite of oatmeal, sip of tea, read the news, sip of juice, cats… etc.

– My table looks like a pit.  The desk turned into a pit and I started working at my table more and more – strangely enough this was precipitated by my new found love-affair with my Mac.  The ‘ol PC is not getting the affection it once had, and I feel bad about that.  But it’s like, buried under a mountain of debris! A mountain that has spread over the table near my Mac… perhaps computers breed debris?  Mayhaps they poop it out at night, long after the people are asleep and it’s been working all day, just “Pfffft” – clutter.

-Time for another bite… sip of juice… CATS!

– Sat down to write out a new story idea – a drama – and wrote a pitch for said story idea as a dark comedy.  It just sounds ridiculous and silly every way I write it… perhaps the Muse is on to something here… Oftentimes we sit down with expectations only to find that the truth of the matter is something else entirely.  I don’t quite see the humor in it yet, but the sequence of events does sound funny when put together…  Oh, Muse, I’m listening!

– Finally done with the oatmeal.  And the tea was shlurped up.  And the OJ is gone.  (sigh) I think it’s time to separate myself from the computer for a spell and get myself cleaned up for the day.

Can someone please introduce me to Robert Duvall?

In The Daily Drool on January 27, 2010 at 9:37 am

I went to a screening of Crazy Heart tonight at the WGA  (Thank you Sara, again)  This time the writer/director was there for a little talk-back after the movie and aside from being a mere 38 years old, nominated for oodles of rewards, being offered movie projects by all the big-wigs and managing a mighty handsome face, Mr. Scott Cooper also seems to have been blessed by an angel named Robert Duvall.

The movie is really remarkable, so you should all see it.  It’s no wonder everyone is screaming “Jeff Bridges” everytime awards are mentioned.  He gives such a nuanced performance that you can practically smell him.

But we’re sitting in the theatre and Mr. Scott Cooper throws his hands up in the air with genuine appreciation to his benefactor, mentor, and friend Robert Duvall – a man who, after working with Cooper on Gods and Generals, invited him to dinner and then into his life.  It seems, if you want to get a movie made, write a kick ass draft of it and get it to Robert Duvall.

Not only did he believe in Cooper so much as to sign on to act in it, he also produced the damn thing.

Try NOT getting a movie made with that kind of Hollywood Royalty attached.

Listening to this young man speak on his terrific success was like eating white truffles; delicious and rich, but you know there’s no way in hell you’re getting a second helping anytime soon because unlike the gentleman before you, you don’t know Robert Duvall.


So anyone want to introduce me?