Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Foot Fist Way

In the one-and-a-half weeks that I've spent in LA, one question has been asked more than any other. Not "How's the weather?" or, "When is your internship actually going to start" or even "How are you going to pay your rent?" No, what seems to be on everyone's minds is "Met any celebrities yet?"

Which is good, because unlike the other questions, I actually have an answer for this one. The answer is "yes, but you probably wouldn't be impressed".

My definition of "celebrity" may not match most people's. I watch a lot of TV, and a lot of movies, and furthermore spend hours trolling on IMDB. I think I'd be able to recognize more C-list celebrites than the run of the mill boy hot off the bus from Virginia. Specifically Keith Powell (aka Toofer from "30 Rock"), and Sam Witwer ("The Mist", Crashdown from BSG), whom I saw trolling the cheese aisle at Pavilions and chatting up a lady friend at the midnight showing of Indy at the Arclight, respectively.

But neither of these should really count. The question was "met any celebrities yet?" not, "casually passed by any celebrities yet?".

Well, yesterday, I attended my first-ever Creative Screenwriting Q&A, for the Foot Fist Way, featuring the cast/screenwriters of the film. The film was hilarious, and shot for about $70,000 on Super 16. It goes to show that movies do NOT need to be multi-billion dollar adventures to be entertaining. This was Super-cheap, and super-funny. And the guys who made it were really funny as well, both in the film and the post-film Q&A. Turns out they all met at school (and lived next door to David Gordon Green), and none of them had any interest in acting, but just put each other in their films because the film kids and the theater kids at their school didn't really get along. Imagine that.

Afterwards, Brian and I went up front and talked to them about the film, about David Gordon Green (who apparently made it through college by cutting hair), and about moving out to LA and getting shit P.A. jobs (Jody Hill described it as the most depressing part of their lives). We then got a picture with them.

To be honest, it was actually more exciting to me that I was actually at a Creative Screenwriting Q&A than that I got to meet the cast. Not to diss those guys at all, they were awesome, but me and my friends have been listening to the podcast since our freshman year of college. And as my friend Brian likes to say, we learned more about film from the podcast than we did in school.

In other words, I was more excited about this picture than the last one.

I am such a tool.

Friday, May 23, 2008

My 6 word (non-spoiler) Indy review

I feel eight years old again.

EDIT: And anyone who disagrees, I direct you to The Rule of Cool

Monday, May 19, 2008

Raiders of the Lost Childhood

The exciting one-day-a-week internship didn't work out (it was with Peter Berg's company, if you care), but it looks like I'll have an internship on the Sony lot three days a week. That is, provided that I pass the background check. I just hope that they don't find out about that one time that I blew up the orphanage full of blind amputees. Or that my dad works for Pat Robertson.

So I've got that, I'm moving into my apartment tomorrow, I've got to find a part-time job so that I don't starve when the summer's over, and I've got to straighten out tuition at messiah, so they don't think I have to pay $6,000 more than I do.

And yet, all I can think about is 12:31 at the Arclight on Sunset.

There's something in my brain that just cannot process the fact that there is a NEW INDIANA JONES MOVIE. Much less that I'm SEEING it Wednesday night. See, the Indy movies are the movies that I associate the most with my childhood, more than Star Wars Back to the Future, and the Muppet Movie combined (although all of those would probably be up there as well). I feel like seeing a new installment will literally make me feel 8 years old again, watching the old VHS copy of The Last Crusade that my Dad taped off of television.

And it seems that at least Roger Ebert agrees with me.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

I'm here

Right now, I'm sitting in my Uncle's living room in Thousand Oaks. My cross-country trip is now essentially over, but I'm far from finished.

Looks like I will be getting a room in Santa Monica for the summer, at about half what I really should be paying. I have an internship in Culver City that's all but official, and a really exciting one-day-a-week internship that may also end up happening.

Wow. Real life. This is what it's like.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Writing what you know

I was starting to write a comment on Amanda’s site, and it turned into a blog post. Amanda’s post was about “writing what you know”, and how that may or may not be a great idea.

But I do think that writing what you know can be a good place to start. The whole reason I started writing a pilot about a college radio station is that for my last TV writing class in college I wrote a pilot about law interns - basically Grey's Anatomy, but law. And I still think it's a good idea...but I quickly realized that I'm not David E Kelley, and I know nothing about law. It became a tortuous semester of research and the discovery that law interns do not have the same juicy involvement in cases the way medical interns do. So my structure of serial personal relationship dramas set against episodic cases did not work. I ended up writing 60 pages of well-developed characters doing very little.

For my Senior project I was writing a TV pilot, this supernatural/Sci-Fi thriller, that eventually just proved to be too much. There was too much mythology, too much plot, too much intensity for my little brain to handle. So I ditched it halfway through the semester and wrote what I knew: a pilot about homeschoolers. Sorta. I was homeschooled through high school, and I attended a program two days a week that taught classes like Spanish, choir, speech & debate, etc. I knew the situation, I knew the characters (I went to school with them), I knew the conflicts. Or so I thought.

When I got to the end of it, it all seemed to fall flat for me. There was no tension, nothing at stake for the characters, and like Amanda said it was really just a lot of people sitting around doing nothing. Turns out there isn’t much conflict in a conservative Christian homeschool program, and so what made me think that there could possibly be a pilot in there…much less 5 seasons of stories?

I think that's why we have so many shows about Lawyers, Doctors, and Police: their jobs have built-in stakes. They deal with life and death, with crime and justice. And if they have relational strife on the side, it’s just icing on the cake. A show like Friday Night Lights can work only in a small Texas town, where high school football is the most important thing. The West Wing was tense and engaging because the protagonist was the leader of the free world, but Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip failed because the protagonist was a showrunner, and most people (i.e. people who aren’t me) don’t care about the lives of television writers.

But then there’s a lot of other reasons Studio 60 failed.

In the end, I think that's the problem with "writing what you know". For a lot of people, living a comfortable, middle-class life in suburban America, what they know is boring. If you work in politics, a hospital, or a courtroom, maybe not. But if you grew up playing video games and watching television, maybe you’re better off doing research on something else. Or just write Sci-fi.

Saturday, May 10, 2008


So I suppose that the pilot to my L.A. spinoff just aired. Or maybe I’m in the “promotional” webisode series that only exists to fill in the gaps between where interesting things happen. Or maybe I’m just in hiatus right now, waiting for the new series to premiere. Or maybe I should just stop modifying this metaphor before it ceases to make any sense.

All I really meant to say was that I’m currently in a hotel room in Cookeville, TN, blogging while my dad watches the World Poker Tour on the Travel channel. And I must say, even after thinking about it non-stop for the past few months, it feels incredibly weird to actually be on this journey from one side of the country to another. My family wasn’t one that really moved around much: I can only remember living in three houses, all of which were within a 1-mile radius. Even college was only a few hours away, close enough to drive back the same day.

But now I’m on a week-long, one-way, cross-continental roadtrip. I packed my life into the back of my station wagon, and within a week, I’ll be LA. I’ve spent the past couple of weeks saying goodbye to my old life, and all that it entailed: friends, parents, siblings, Yeungling. And now I’m at the point where I’m ready to say hello to whatever it is that comes next.

I still don’t know where I’m going to live. I know some people who may know some people that need a roommate, but I don’t know anything for sure. I’m a little more certain about the internship, but still: nothing final. There’s so much that’s up in the air right now, so much that isn’t certain, that I really should be freaked out of my mind. I’m not the kind of person who likes uncertainty, normally this sort of stuff scares me to death.

But for some reason I feel like it’ll all be okay. Maybe because of God. Maybe because I’m just dumb.

Probably a little bit of both.

I'm also very tired right now, and I'd like to write more, but I simply do not have the energy. I know all four of you who read this blog will be sorely disappointed that I'm not explaining my adventures in more detail, but fear not: I'll sleep, and blog more tomorrow. Promise.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

My series finale

I just got back from Messiah, where I was saying goodbye to all my friends. It was a really strange feeling, saying "see you later" to these people when I knew in my mind that I would never see again. Some I will, some are even moving to LA with me, but the vast majority of them will never come into contact with me again. Yeah, a little wierd, and it honestly became much more emotional for me than I thought it would be.

The most interesting part though, was how everything in the past couple days felt like the last episode of a television show. Not the kind where everything's been building to one final climactic battle or (if it's NOT science fiction) conflict to be resolved. The stuff that happens AFTER that. You know what I'm talking about, the Dominion's already been defeated, the A plot is resolved, now we just want to see Worf go off to Quo'nos, O'Brien go back to teach at the Academy, and Bashir to stay with Dax on Deep Space Nine. It's the part where everyone gets sappy and sentimental, there might be a montage, some things get closure, some things are left open and ambiguous, everyone goes off in different directions, hopefully there's some thematic ties to the beginning of the series, and all of this happens while simultaneously reminding us why we loved the show to begin with.

The last night at Messiah, I saw Iron Man with almost all of my geek guys accounted for: Chad, Dan, and Andrew as well as Brian and Joel (who apparently is not cool enough to have a blog). Then we went to the union and had one final scholarly debate about superheroes (it was kind of a draw: Marvel has better ongoing storylines, whereas DC is better at standalones). It was the absolute perfect way to end my stay, because geeking out with those guys is probably what I liked most about college. In five years, I doubt I'll remember that great paper I wrote for New European Cinema, but I'm sure that I'll remember the plans Dan and I made for the impending Zombie infestation. I can only hope that I'll find something to replace the hour-long dinner conversations about Expanded Universe Star Wars novels, the constant Galaxy Quest quote contests, and of course the heated discussions over the havoc that toast wrecks on our American society (allegedly, that is. I still hold firm on my belief that every American has the right to toast their bread to their desired level of crispyness).

Also cool was having lunch with my friend Laura on Friday, who was actually the first person I met at Messiah. Senior year of high school, we were both visiting for our interviews. We talked about C.S. Lewis. And now, Senior year of college, we had breakfast, and talked about Exes and what the hell real life means. I felt like it gave such a great symmetry to my stay at Messiah, because she also turned out to be the very LAST person I saw at Messiah as well. Literally, all my stuff was packed in my car, and as soon as we were done, I drove away, never to return.

Even now, it feels incredibly weird talking about college in the past tense. I was JUST THERE. And saying all of those goodbyes, I realize now how much it all really meant to me. I think I've become somewhat callous over the past few months at home--mostly because that made it easier to deal with certain things I've been going through. But if there was anything that could bring me out of that, it was being back at school, with my best friends in the entire world.

That and Season 4 of Battlestar Galactica.

And now I'm home. In a week, I'll be moving to LA, which is still freaking me the frak out. I don't have a confirmed place to live, nor a confirmed internship at which to work. I'm still moving out, staying with my Uncle for a few days, and interviewing with the companies that have replied to my emails. But after that, after the first week, I have no idea what I'll be doing. It's hard for me to trade such security for such uncertainty, but I know it needs to be done. So I just grit my teeth and deal with the uncertainty.

Besides, LA is the spinoff. It probably needs a couple episodes to find its own feet. Hopefully it's just a few episodes, though. We don't want another Voyager, please.