26 October 2010

New Blog Site!

I've grown weary of Blogger, and now have a Wordpress site to hang my little tiara upon. New blog is up and running, please feel free to drop by my site! Newest blog is on the rewrite: http://wp.me/p11IP7-a

04 August 2010

Life or Something Like It - One Year Later

I've waited for today to land with more than just a modicom of trepidation and apprehension. After all, one year ago today -- nay, almost to the hour -- my life was unexpectedly turned upside down, the fallout from which I am still plundering through today.

See, today is the one year anniversary (one year? how can that be?) of the loss of my mentor, my teacher, and my dear friend. Blake died one year ago today.


It was a day much like today, that Tuesday of last year. A gorgeous August day, the sun flying high.

Jose and I started the day at Farmer's Market, sipping cups at Starbucks, and planning the launch of the Save the Cat! newsletter. Focus on Austin Cats - people like Al and Melody. Non profit focus on Austin Film Festival and some talk about our Outreach work there. Interview with the Duplass brothers? Perhaps, I've interviewed them before...

We left the meeting in high spirits and I jumped into my car to head over to Westwood to meet Deb Eckerling at CPK.

On the way, I pulled over to answer my phone. Great news! I had been accepted into a mentoring program... that Blake had recommended me to. The head of the program introduced herself, and asked a few questions about who I wanted to work with. Sweet! I'll call Blake and tell him.... then glanced at the clock. Running late. Better not - Deb and I had to reschedule this meetup a couple of times. I'll call him after the meeting... can't wait to hear what he says. 

I walk into CPK in Westwood, and there is Deb, fresh and pretty as always. We have a great lunch... and we plan ways that Save the Cat! and Write On! can work together. It's a relaxed, cheery time. We wrap it up, step outside and hug goodbye on the street. Deb heads one way, and I walk the other... towards my car, parked a block off of Westwood Blvd.


I pull out my phone. Odd. In the last ten minutes, I've had seven calls - all from BJ. Several texts as well - the most recent: "Call me".

My thumb's poised over the dial button - but my phone rings. "Annie? It's BJ. I'm at Cedars, and..."

Everything goes quiet. I listen to what BJ says, then, I ask him to repeat it. Then again. Again. And again. Perhaps if he says it enough, it won't be true... I make BJ tell me seven times that Blake is dead. Seven times. I make him repeat it over and over... and he does, his voiced choked with pain.

Poor BJ. It's killing him, this repetition of tragedy... and yet, I make him do it again, again and again. It is as if that, instead of the words making it real, maybe this time, they'll make it all go away.

But, no. That does not happen. Reality rushes in. I see my friend, in my mind's eye. Lying alone.

Everything swims. I stumble; I drop my phone. A panhandler retrieves it and asks me if I am okay. I stare at him numbly and say "I have to go home."

I begin to walk to my car... then jog... only, I can't find it. Anywhere. Nothing looks familiar. I can't remember where I parked.

Panicked, I tear up and down the side streets until I find my lot. As I crawl into my car, my phone rings. Jose. Like me, numb. In disbelief. In shock... heart breaking like fine glass... all I can do is mumble "I know. I know. I know."

Home. My husband's left work to be with me. I say little; instead, I head straight for the computer, call BJ, and we begin the unfathomable task of sharing the news. After a few calls, we realize that it is just too much for any of us, and we put a notice on the website. Facebook. We use Twitter - yes, we tweet out Blake's death. My phone rings nonstop "Hello? Yes. Yes. I'm so sorry. I know...." coupled with notes that begin "I'm so sorry to have to be the one to tell you this, but...". We do it. We are STC champs. We are strong; we spend days/weeks/months listening to the grief of others. We hug people; we hold their hands. Perhaps it is the necessity of this work being done, the day to day "must dos" of the endless minutia surrounding death, that gets us through. I don't know how I am getting up everyday - and yet, I do.

I find myself going through Kubler-Ross' legal team of Anger, Denial, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance at lightning speed. Once one stage dies down, another surfaces. And another. And another. It's endless. That's what they don't tell you - the stages never end. They just repeat themselves again and again ad nauseam; it's like you are riding an emotional version of the carousel at Mr. Dark's Traveling Carnival. It moves forward and back in time, distorting all in its path. It just spins - endlessly, the mad calliope music playing in the background...

...but it helps. There's a weekend workshop scheduled, and then the week following, I was joining Blake for his seminar in NYC. Instead, I spend the Friday that we were leaving in an old church in Santa Barbara, still too stunned to say goodbye. Saturday, I fly to NYC. Alone. My family has flown out there to meet me, and, instead of going to dinner with Blake, we see "Avenue Q". I smile in the right places. I eagerly dive into my meal at Eleven Madison Park, but honestly, there's little flavor to anything. Blake would have loved this place...

Back to L.A. Now, a memorial to plan, and Save the Cat! to move forward... 


One Year Later.

It's yesterday. And it's ten years ago.

I'm stronger. I don't cry every day. I find pleasure in life. I laugh at funny movies. I see friends.

It's yesterday. And it's ten years ago.

I work. Blake introduced me to my writing/producing partner. I'm indebted to Blake, as always, for our partnership is one of ease and endless creativity. I'm so grateful.

And yet, within my heart, resides a huge hole.

I still haven't deleted Blake's phone number from my phone, nor his texts. I've spent the last day combing through the thousands of emails. I still hear his voice. I can see him in Austin, chowing down on an incredible offering of bison tartar. One of the most fun evenings of my life. Hanging out in Palm Springs after a trade show, sharing guac and *fixing* a movie we've both seen. I hear him on the phone. I miss the afternoon hour long calls... listening to Blake tell me what's next, always ready to jump on a new ride...

...and I'm talking myself into the ride not being over. Not yet. 

I miss you, friend. It's yesterday. And it's ten years ago.

Love, always.

08 June 2010

Techno challenge

Where's this for grownups?

iPhone meets book

A Fond Farewell to Mystery Man

This blog is a strange way to re-enter my castle; however, I needs must pay homage to that oh-so-mysterious scribe - Mystery Man.

His name alone conjured up late night fantasies. Who was he? What was his real name? Was he a tall, cool drink of water? Did he prefer his filet medium rare? Did he wear boxers - or briefs?

A few days ago, I was told of his passing. Not wishing to believe it, I held out hope that the rumors were in vein. MM was my dreamscribe, that dark knight in shining armor, astride his white stallion. Each Monday, he whisked me off to the land of elevated linguistics with his smart and snappy prose. That's about as sexy as it gets in Princess Scribeland.

Rather than writing my own musings, I thought I would share some of the best, written by bloggers I love.

Scott Myers pays tribute to MM.

The Story Department hosted MM on Mondays, and has much to say about their friend. Also, check out their MM archives.

William Martell adds a few words - and MM's 101 Best Of.

Save the Cat! bids MM adieu.

Ah, Mystery Man. One of the Good Guys. You kept me safe and warm. You fed my mind - and my soul. Now who will be there to help me slay my story dragons?

29 January 2010

What is our craft if there is not audience?

Another great garden of voices faces silence:


Please retweet/post/blog

15 December 2009

Write Large, Think Small

I have little else to do on this my natal day, as the time when such a passage heralded the legal opportunity to drive, vote, or consume massive quantities of alcohol (though never while driving and/or voting) has long since passed.

Therefore, let us continue the discussion on Hollywood's newest darling - the microbudget movie. Shall we?

Note - if you have not already, please read Variety's recent article on Paramount's new microbudget division.

What is a microbudget film? Generally speaking,  a "micro" budget is a feature film whose production costs run under approximately $2,000,000. Or rather, that is how a microbudget used to be defined. With today's digital technology, and the age of DIY filmmaking, today's microbudgets run much, much lower - try under $100,000 in production costs (the cap for the Paramount venture).

That amount sounds miniscule, when compared to the likes of AVATAR's mind-boggling $230,000,000 price tag, or even DISTRICT 9's modest $30,000,000 budget. That being said, yes, Virginia, you can make a feature film for $100,000. If you are British wunderkind Marc Price, you can make a feature film for $100. It might even be good.

How do you do this? There are no rules. There are, however, a few suggestions from those who walk the microbudget walk:

1) Keep it simple. Contained stories. Clean plot lines. Limited locations - a mall, a building, a car, a home - and a limited cast. Actors cost money.

"I can take any empty space and call it a bare stage. A man walks across this empty space whilst someone else is watching him, and this is all I need for an act of theatre to be engaged." - Peter Brook, The Empty Space.

When you write for micro, you don't have the luxury to rely upon boffo lighting and sound, SFX and costume. Therefore you are served well to write as few characters as possible - andt write them well. Give them conflict, make them complex, and let them Show Don't Tell to a fare-thee-well. Read OPEN WATER ($130,000 USD). Note how much is jam-packed into the first five minutes: marriage in trouble, he's irresponsible, she's addicted to work, they have money troubles ... all expressed through brief bits of dialogue, through moments of impatience, the sound of a cell phone that seems to never stop ringing. Perfectly set up and executed in minutes.

2) Be prepared to wear more than one hat. There are exceptions always, but it is doubtful that you will sell a micro script as nothing more than scribe; instead, you have to sell the whole package - and that means that you will be producing this little ditty. Enroll in a production boot camp, such as those offered by Dov Siemens or Reel Grok's Norman C. Berns. Learn how a film is made from start to finish (every screenwriter should know this anyway). Are you an actor/actress? If so, you might find yourself in the cast. Do you direct? You can join the likes of triple threat Ed Burns and his breakthrough film, THE BROTHERS MCMULLEN ($23,800 USD), Darren Aronofksy's double threat of writer/director in PI ($60,000 USD) and of course, the King himself, Robert Rodriquez and his dazzling writing/directing debut EL MARIACHI   which roared onto the screen at $7,000 USD plus post.

3) Microbudget filmmaking is the ultimate Team Sport. Enlist family, friends, employers and anyone else in your circle to help bring your project to completion. Look at Alex Holdridge's IN SEARCH OF A MIDNIGHT KISS ($25,000 USD), Christopher Nolan's gem FOLLOWING ($6,000 USD) and countless films by John Waters. What do these films have in common? Friends. Friends have houses and businesses that can be used for locations. Your mother might cater a meal. Your neighbor might be an assistant/wrangler (for an associate producer credit, natch). Your police lieutenant brother-in-law might act as security. Scratch their backs...and ask them to scratch yours.

4) Take inventory. In keeping with number three, ask yourself "What are my assets? What do I have at my disposal - and at no or low costs?"before you begin your Beat Sheet. Do you work in a restaurant? Check out MY DINNER WITH ANDRE (precise budget unavailable).  Do you own a purple La-Z-Boy? THE PUFFY CHAIR ($15,000 USD). An office? CLERKS ($27,000 USD plus post). A slightly altered look at the world and those who people it? ERASERHEAD ($10,000 USD). Competition is fierce; you might have to secure financing yourself. If you've done the work as described, you can provide a potential investor with an opportunity to be part of a creative process...and possibly show a nice profit as well.

5) Think outside the box. This applies to each and every facet of the process. It's easy to scare people with razor tipped hands, or starlets being stabbed in the breasts; it's not so easy to scare people with next to nothing - but it is not impossible. Think of new twists on old standards.

Outside box thinking also applies to distribution. Do you want to feed your ego, or do you want to feed your family? If your answer is the former, good luck to you on getting that big marquee and a nationwide opening. If, however, you are a forward thinker, look to downloads, to on-demand and other inexpensive ways of delivering media - and chuckle your way to the bank.

Microbudget isn't for everyone. You have to hone your skills as a writer. You must be able to evangelize your project - and yourself. You have to be fearless but not feckless; determined yet flexible, and above all, very, very organized. If attention to minutiae is not in your skill-set, time to look at the small picture. This frontier requires courage and commitment. Those lacking in focus and ambition need not apply.

~ HRH, The Princess Scribe

11 December 2009

Darwinism in Tinseltown - Part Three

Lords and Ladies of the Court ~

Sometimes, it is the little creature that can affect us most.

If you were not paying attention to the previous blogs on this subject, will you now?

New Paramount division will think small -- latimes.com

Posted using ShareThis

Flex those fingers ... write Large and think Small.

~ HRH, The Princess Scribe