Thursday, February 26, 2009

My opinion on Lent

I'm not a religious guy. A lot of that comes from the fact that while I appreciate the good the religious community does, I also recognize that it's done a lot of harm as well. Even if someone accepts that thousands of years ago God spoke to some guys and they put it in a book, you still shouldn't accept the Bible as the verbatim word of God if for no other reason than it's been translated a zillion times and it's caretakers were always just men. Wait scratch that, they weren't just men. They were men with power and influence. And we all know how those things corrupt by their nature.

So I have no problem with religious people so long as they don't try to get me to follow any strict form of dogma. If someone wants to go to church every Sunday I'm fine with it just so long as it doesn't close their mind to learning anything new.

And now Lent has begun. I know because I saw a few people with ash on their foreheads yesterday (side note: the first time I saw widespread use of this practice was when I was in college, and had no clue what the hell was going on. For all I knew it was a pledge stunt). As I understand it, people take Lent to abstain from a certain vice for forty days. I don't think that by not drinking booze for a month a person is more or less likely to get into heaven, but I can appreciate the practice as something that's just good for people to do once in a while.

I like the idea that a group of people come together and assert some willpower over themselves, even if it's just to swear off chocolate for a month and a half. If you succeed in doing that then it'll give you some confidence that you can control other aspects of your life, and that's good. People should challenge themselves, especially when we're living in a society used to spoiling itself.

Really if you think about it, it's almost like a dry run at a New Years Resolution. I'll bet a bunch of people made a resolution to stop eating chocolate and weren't able to keep it for a full year. If they try again with a support system and can make it 40 days, maybe there's hope they could do it for longer.

I'm still not going to participate in Lent. I'd be up for the challenge but to be honest I'd feel like a bit of a hypocrite joining in on the religious aspects of the holiday. I wish good luck to those who are making an effort to better themselves.

And now I'm going to go drink some coffee before I go out at lunch for some red meat and a chocolate chip cookie.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Why am I a Hollywood Assistant?

Why am I a Hollywood Assistant? This is a question I'm asked from time to time. I moved out here to become a writer/producer. My dream job for now would be to get staffed as a writer on a TV series. In order to do that, I need to write lots of spec pilots and other writing samples, and meet enough potential agents and managers in town that I'll get representation, and hopefully a staff writing gig.

So if that's what I'm trying to do, why am I working a job that takes up nearly all my writing time for very little pay? If I won the lottery tomorrow and didn't have to work, I would probably quit my job and focus on writing full time and have way more writing samples for both tv and film.

But the only reason I'd quit everything now is that I've been working in the industry for almost two and a half years. I've learned enough about how producers think and how the town works in general that I understand what would happen to the scripts I write. I may not have as many things written now as I would if I didn't have a day job, but the things I do finish tend to be tighter, with far fewer of the rookie mistakes than I would have made if I just sat in a Starbucks writing scripts all day.

So getting industry experience is the first reason I have my current job. When the time comes that I'm trying to produce my own scripts, or option a book so I can adapt it, I'll be glad of my experience here.

Another reason is that having my assistant jobs on my resume might help me on the path to get a staff writer gig. Here's how: Generally there's no "set" way to get staffed on a TV show, but one method that seems to work for a lot of people is to first be the writer's room assistant for a show. You get to have firsthand experience on what a room is like, and sometimes the assistant is allowed to write an episode, which leads to getting staffed, joining the WGA, and all that fun stuff.

Writer's room assistant jobs are very hard to get because it's common knowledge that they're the best jobs for getting hired as a TV writer. The competition is even steeper for them than it is for producer's assistant jobs, so nobody really gets those gigs unless a) they have enough desk experience, or b) their uncle is the Exec Producer on the show. So the two and a half years on producer desks also puts me on the path to get a writer's room assistant job (speaking of which, if you happen to know of anyone hiring for one of those, please think of me).

So yes, my job is a pain in the ass. The hours are long and I don't get overtime or benefits. I'm expected to devote half my weekend to reading bad novels and scripts despite the fact that I have no time for personal errands during the week (for example, there's been a dent in my trunk from a hit and run for over a year that I haven't had a chance to get fixed). But the flip side is that it is just enough to support me while I write, I get to do some creative stuff with it, and I learn how the industry works while making contacts.

It's a shitty way to get into an industry, but it's really all there is for the moment. Hopefully I won't be slaving away for much longer and I'll be able to do what I'm good at, what I enjoy, and what I moved out here to do in the first place.

Monday, February 23, 2009

I went 14/20 on the Oscar pool

I didn't win the Oscar pool at the party I went to. Someone else had 17 right. It's disappointing, especially since when the Oscars started I was 4/4 until Presto! didn't win Best Animated Short. It's kind of a shame really, that was a really good Pixar one they showed before WALL-E that I really enjoyed. Other ones I missed were also associated with WALL-E, like Sound Mixing, Sound Editing, Original Score, and Best Song.

The only thing WALL-E won was Best Animated Feature, which let's be honest, was theirs to lose. Otherwise the Academy kind of shat on that movie, not even nominating it for Best Picture.

I picked Mickey Rourke over Sean Penn for Best Actor, but other than that I was right in all the major categories, including the two Screenplay categories (as an aspiring writer I'd feel extra bad if I was wrong on those).

I thought Hugh Jackman did a good job hosting, although it did feel slightly anachronistic to have a "song and dance man" MCing instead of a comedian. I was kinda pissed that they did a medley for the original song nominees since that was just the Wall-e song getting sandwiched between a lot of Bollywoodtastic Slumdog dancers. No wonder Peter Gabriel refused to perform. If they had enough time to do a musical number saluting Mamma Mia and High School Musical 3, they should have been able to fit in time for all three songs, especially since the show ran short in general.

The other big critique that most people, myself included, had about the show was that there really weren't that many clips of the nominated movies themselves.

When I got to the office this morning I tallied up all our ballots from Friday and found that I beat my co-worker by 1 point, which was a nice even though no money was involved.

Now the industry will move on, with at least 4 shitty Slumdog wannabe scripts going out in pitches this week I'm sure.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Oscar Ballots

It's Academy Awards time here in Hollywood. I live right near the Kodak and can barely get in an out of my apartment with all the street closings and extra people. I'll be watching the awards, but not from the street by the theater even though I could easily get there. I'm going to a friend's Oscar party out in Venice, far far away from all the ridiculousness. Either way I'm sure it'll be a bitch for me to leave my apartment at all this weekend, and even harder to get back home when I do leave.

Everyone is filling out their Oscar ballots in the office. It's a fun thing to do, and it's always interesting to tally them up on Monday and see who got the most right. It always comes down to some bullshit over who got lucky with best live action short or best sound mixing.

This year there seems to be a lot of consensus about how things are going to turn out this year, with a lot going for Slumdog Millionaire for example, and Heath Ledger being a lock for Best Supporting for The Dark Knight.

Either way, here are my predictions:

Slumdog Millionaire

Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler

Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight

Kate Winslet, The Reader

Penelope Cruz, Vick Cristina Barcelona


The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Slumdog Millionaire

The Duchess

Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire

Werner Herzog, Encounters at the End of the World

The Witness - From the Balcony of Room 306

Slumdog Millionaire

Waltz with Bashir

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button


Peter Gabriel, "Down to Earth" from WALL-E


Spielzeugland (Toyland)



The Dark Knight

Slumdog Millionaire


I'll tally up my score Monday morning and let you know how accurate I was.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

I'm going to have a TV in my room

For the first time in my life, I'm going to have a TV in my bedroom.

I bought the 27 inch TV that until very recently had been in our living room. We got a bigger TV hand-me-down from some very nice people, which means I now have an extra TV. So the plan is to rearrange the furniture in my bedroom so I can have the TV there. Now, I don't have cable, so all I'll be able to do with it is play video games and watch movies.

I'm not going to move my xbox from the living room because everyone uses it to play DVD's and to watch netflix instant streaming. Instead, I need to either buy a cheap regular DVD player, or I'm also thinking of getting a blu-ray player, that way I'll have one if I ever get those kinds of movies in the near future.

I never had a TV in my room as a kid. I really never hung out in my bedroom much unless I was sleeping. Now I think it'll be nice to have it there if I want to have a lazy sunday or late weeknight watching something in my room. Plus I think I'll set up my Sega Genesis and/or Nintendo 64 in there. MissCrazy thought the idea of playing Sonic the Hedgehog from bed was great.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

LA Radio is really pissing me off

I just learned that 97.1 Free FM will be replaced on Friday by a top 40 station. It was only a month ago that Indie 103.1 was killed. As you can imagine, I'm pretty pissed now that LA is killing off the two stations I listen to the most.

I've listened to this station ever since I moved to LA two and a half years ago. I was listening to Adam Carolla during my one hour Los Feliz-Santa Monica commute every morning. He has a similar ranting style of humor to mine in some ways, and I enjoyed it.

I knew something was up when a few weeks ago they started having their M-F lineup work on Saturdays too. I guess they weren't pulling in enough revenue.

I think there must be an inherent problem with the ratings system. I don't know anybody who would rather listen to more top 40 than to good indie rock or funny talk radio. We seriously need to fix this problem where all the best entertainment seems to get the lowest ratings and the mind-numbing crap seems to be super popular.

MissCrazy is now a fangirl

So Valentine's Day went pretty well. MissCrazy came over, I made steak, she brought pink cupcakes.

After we ate, we decided to relax and watch a DVD, and it turns out she was interested in checking out the first episode of Firefly. We watched the first couple, and she liked them. The next day she had me bring them over to her place and we watched the rest of the series. Granted there tragically aren't that many episodes, but it's still a lot to take in for one day.

Now she's all about it, and itching to see Serenity, which is great. Tonight she's coming over to watch it.

What makes it even better is that last night I had a pleasant surprise when I returned from my spec pilot group. It appears that my roommate's girlfriend (who technically doesn't live with us, but pretty much does) had a bit of good fortune. She babysits for a producer in town, and it seems that family got themselves a new TV. Since they didn't need their old one anymore, they gave it to her and my roommate. I'm not sure on the exact dimensions, and it's not HD or anything, but it's still about 1.5 times the size of our old 27 inch TV.

I'm excited by this new development.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Flower shop guy was a total dick

I decided to get MissCrazy some flowers for Valentine's day. We're not doing anything too crazy for the holiday even though it's a long weekend. In fact, we're hanging out at my place and I'm cooking steaks on the grill instead of going out to an expensive restaurant or something like that. I'm a broke assistant, and she realizes that. It's one of the cooler things about her.

But even still, I thought I should get flowers. And I wanted to be original, so I didn't just want to find the cheapest place selling roses. I called up the florist right next to my apartment, which got pretty good reviews on

Normally when I buy flowers, I set my budget and shoot for as nice an arrangement as I can get for that price. Whenever I've sent flowers for sympathy or Mother's day or something like that I've always been able to get something really nice for between $50-80.

I wanted something small, simple, and pink this time (MissCrazy is a big fan of pink). I figured I could get something small like that for around $40, so I asked the guy what I could get for $30, since I knew he'd probably bump me up.

Well the guy was a total douche to me about thinking I could get something for $30. He was all like "a good arrangement is at LEAST $100". This went on for a bit until we settled on a nice arrangement with a couple bunches of pink tulips for $40.

Here's where I wonder where this guy gets his attitude. I mean honestly, he's making a killing this week I'm sure. I'm a broke young guy who can't afford that much, and all I was asking was whether or not I could get anything for that price range, and you'd think I was asking if I could buy a Cadillac for $13 from the way he reacted.

Look buddy, you sell things that are going to look nice the first day, still smell good the second day, and by the third day already start to wilt. By day 7 you desperately need to chuck them in a trash can or else they'll rot in your house and make it smell really bad. I understand their aesthetic value, but honestly, they're just going to die in a couple days, so don't act like I'm buying a luxury item here.

I get that demand is high so they can charge competitive prices, but don't be a dick to me when I obviously don't buy flowers that often and I'm just trying to put together a nice bunch of pink things that will make a girl smile for a couple days.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Wearing red and Graphic Novels

I wear jeans pretty much every day of my life. One of the benefits of LA is that if I'm wearing jeans, a collared shirt, and a sport coat I'm almost overdressed everywhere I go. So every couple years I need to buy more jeans because my old ones have started to get holes worn into them. Yesterday was one of those days, and even though I hate shopping, I headed out.

First I tried The Grove, but the only Levi's I could find there were the $140 variety at barneys. That's not how I roll. I then went to the Macy's at the Beverly Center, and found a pair just like my worn out pair, for fairly cheap. I walk up to the register and the woman checking me out asks if I'm wearing red. I happen to have a red t-shirt on so she tells me I get an extra 20% off. I have no idea why, just that it was some thing they were doing for the weekend. I went back and bought a second pair, so I'm set for the next two years.

Later that night my book club met, which was a pleasant way to drink some wine and eat some cheese. We picked THE WATCHMEN for our book for the coming month, which I thought was pretty cool of us to mix things up a bit since I really didn't want to read some book about Victorian ladies again. It's a graphic novel, but I think it still counts as a worthy book for our book club since it was one of Time's top novels of the century.

Friday, February 6, 2009

I am a huge nerd

I realized that Fanboys was opening tonight, and that it's playing at the theater right around the corner from my apartment. Of course, I'm totally there. That alone makes me kind of a nerd.

Right after making these plans (inviting a bunch of other geek culture types) I learned that tickets for The Watchmen are now on sale at the Arclight. Even though it doesn't open for another month, I bought my tickets for opening night in the Cinerama Dome, and was lucky to get decent seats.

The combination of these things makes me very excited.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Paper, Rock, Scissors a.k.a. Rochambeau

My brother and all of his Vermont Ultimate Frisbee friends like to settle any and all disputes by "roshaming" or playing "rochambeau" which is more commonly referred to by it's more official name, "Paper, Rock Scissors." If you aren't familiar with this game, stop reading now, open a door, put your head in the door jamb, and slam the door really hard.

Once when I was pondering why it was also called roshambo, so I looked it up. I'm not sure if this story is true, but if it is, that would be awesome.

The story goes that after George Washington defeated Cornwallis at the Battle of Yorktown they went into Cornwallis's tent to negotiate the terms of the surrender. Washington was joined by Comte de Rochambeau, a French General fighting on the side of the Continental Army. After they were done negotiating the terms, the had to decide in what order they would leave the tent. Apparantly leaving the tent last after such a situation was a great honor. The three of them played Paper, Rock, Scissors to decide, and Rochambeau won. Since then the game has been known as Rochambeau, sometimes spelled as Roshambo.

Personally I'm a big fan of the game, because while it has the illusion of being a game of chance like a coin toss, if you know what you're doing you'll win most of the time. It's really a game of psychological warfare. It's all about knowing your opponent. Is he the kind of dude who hasn't changed his strategy since 3rd grade and always opens with Rock? Is he the anti-3rd grade strategy guy who always throws paper? Or does he say, "fuck you, I'm bringing scissors."

It gets especially interesting when you play best two out of three (really the way God intended). If your opponent just lost with two rocks in a row, does he really have the balls to throw rock one more time? Usually the case is no.

The point is, there's an art to playing Paper, Rock, Scissors. It's a fun game, and unlike a coin toss, you can feel like you've accomplished a little something when you win. And when you play against someone who doesn't realize it's not just chance, you'll probably win. Just don't tempt fate by getting cocky and roshaming for your car or something. That would be bad.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Real life stole my fake idea

It should be no surprise to you that I'm not a fan of reality television. There are instances in which real social experiments and reality would be interesting, but that's never what happens. Instead they just poorly script contrived situations in order to bring out the worst in the contestants, as well as the worst in the audience. People watch American Idol not for the singing, but for a mean British guy who makes children cry. I have less of a problem with shows like "The Biggest Loser" (even though people watch that to look down on fat people) because at least they're trying to do something positive.

So it bugs me when I catch myself thinking up good reality show ideas. Really, they're not that hard to do, so I stumble into them sometimes. When I do remember them, I either try to forget them or I keep the idea to use as a fictional reality show when I'm writing scripts.

One idea that I had a few years ago was called "Arranged Marriage," in which reality producers take two strangers and marry them, and film the results. I liked it for fiction because it was good at demonstrating what was wrong with reality tv. It was extreme enough that I didn't actually think anyone would (or should) ever do it in real life.

I was wrong.

This morning I was driving to work and the guys on the radio started talking about a new reality show at CBS called "Arranged Marriage." It's pretty much exactly the idea I had. You can imagine I was a little pissed. I wasn't mad that they "stole my idea" because it's not that original and I'm sure they could have thought it up on their own. I was mad because society has really reached the point where we'll take two strangers, marry them, and film their relationship for the amusement of others.

And what's especially ridiculous is that all those Pro-prop 8 assholes said they were doing it to "defend the sanctity of marriage." According to them people who've been in love for decades would destroy the institution of marriage, but a reality show that strips it of all it's intimacy and uses it to get ratings during sweeps won't cause any problems.

Monday, February 2, 2009

The Groundhog saw his shadow

The Groundhog saw his shadow this morning, which means six more weeks of winter.

Take THAT Global Warming!

But really, this means absolutely nothing except I might break out my DVD of Groundhog Day tonight and watch it.