Thursday, September 30, 2010

Meeting a mentor tonight

My college alumni group is starting up a new mentorship program where they match established Hollywood people with those who are just starting out their careers. I was hoping to get matched with a writer, but the best they could do was a former development exec from a cable network. While it's not perfect, maybe he can help point me in the right direction for what to do when I have some finished work ready to send out.

The first meeting is tonight. They're having a meet and greet for all the mentors and mentees.

Writress is feeling better, and is now mostly concerned with needing work. Her show got its pickup for the new season, but she hasn't heard when it's starting. In the meantime I was able to find a posting for her about a similar job on a show we really like, staffed by some of our favorite writers. She has an interview with the showrunner on Monday, so fingers crossed on multiple fronts.

We're having a party this weekend to celebrate her birthday and our new apartment. It's nothing crazy, as a big party wouldn't fit in our place, but it should be fun.

It's getting to be busy enough now that I wish there was more time in the day. I have my day job, which is enough to leave me wanting to relax at the end of the day even if it wasn't too stressful. My job is also encouraging me to set more drinks meetings with other assistants. I've got two writing groups that need me to make deadlines and provide notes to other writers. New shows are starting again, and I need to stay current. There are older shows that I want to watch and study, video games I want to play, and friends I want to see. Basically, there's more than enough to keep me busy even if I didn't have a day job, and a lot of the time I just want to sleep at the end of the day.

I think the best thing for me would be to try to do one thing at a time and keep a schedule, and hopefully sooner rather than later I'll be staffed on a show in which the showrunner is the type that doesn't like keeping writers there after 6. At which point I'll find a new life goal to strive for, namely BEING a showrunner who doesn't need to keep writers past 6.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Have a new logline, and making up rules of the world

My new writing module through my alumni network has started up again. I'll be writing a new pilot rather than spending months revisiting something I wrote already.

The seeds of the idea are still growing in my mind, but so far it all seems to fit. I went over it with my other group on Sunday, and settled on the logline. No, I will not be posting it here.

It's in the fantasy genre. There is the worry that people will be prematurely dismissive about this kind of script, but I decided I don't care about that. If I write this well and make it interesting for the audience they won't care as much what genre it is. My last one hour pilot was about video gamers, and people who didn't play games still read and enjoyed that script.

These kinds of worlds get my imagination going, and you can have high stakes, and define the rules of your world. Rather than spending months researching something that already exists and trying to fit a script around that, I'm making up rules of a world as I go and based on my needs. As long as I'm consistent, I don't think that's cheating. What I hate more is when somebody knowingly changes facts about a real life situation in order to make it work for their story.

Here's an example from a show I love: The West Wing. I watched that show on DVD in college, and loved it. I listened to all the commentaries, I studied it. I'm rewatching it with Writress, and while it's still an amazing show, I think more like a writer now than I did when I was 21. [SPOIELR ALERT] In the third season finale we see a Secret Service agent stop an armed robbery, but then get shot by another gunman. The first time I saw it I was caught up in the story and the emotions of the characters. This time I knew it was coming, and I realized how ridiculous it was. This wasn't a second gunman hiding with a sniper rifle in the rafters. This was just some hoodlum standing behind an aisle in a corner grocery store. The only reason the Secret Service Agent dies is that after subduing the first gunman, he holsters his gun and makes a joke with the clerk without checking the rest of the scene. He doesn't ask if there was more than one guy. He just blindly stumbles around this crime scene with no regard for any possible threats.

I could maybe see a rookie cop make that mistake. But this was a Secret Service agent. He went through the Army, was a cop, and finally became one of the President's security detail. These guys are paid to be paranoid and check out any possible threat wherever they are, by instinct. There's no way that kind of guy would let some dumb kid get the jump on him like that.

That was a situation in which the logic of the world was broken for the sake of the plot, and so Aaron Sorkin could once more make his favorite point about how guns are evil, even for people like cops who are trained to use them.

Breaks from logic cheapen a world, and make it less real. You lose the illusion. For me the best stories are ones where you can be left believing in the back of your mind that somewhere, somehow, sometime, this could be real. Jerking your story and the rules of the world around just to make things easier for yourself is like breaking the laws of physics. It makes things just that much more impossible, and less real.

So while I create my own fantasy kingdom, I won't have to spend hours looking up the actual laws and traditions concerning coronations in 14th century Britain. I can make those up on my own. But what I do make up has to seem logical and plausible enough that for an hour a week viewers can curl of on their couch and pretend that this place of adventure is real.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Writress is still feeling sick

While we were visiting my family on Cape Cod (which could not have gone better by the way, they all loved her) Writress started getting a headache, and it started feeling like I was sleeping with a space heater. We tried to take it easy, relax, and get a lot of fluids into her, but when we got back to LA she was still feeling feverish and lousy. She went to see a doctor on Monday who said she had bronchitis and gave her a prescription.

She's been trying to take it easy all week, but it was still pretty busy because her sister came on a last minute visit to see a show at the Hollywood Bowl, and her Dad was also in town for a couple days.

One of the ways I can tell my family likes her is this. Not only have they been asking about how she's doing when I call home, this morning while I was at work I got a text from Writress reading: "Your mom just called to see how I was feeling : )". I guess my dad and sister had informed my mom that she was still sick, and she got all maternal and called our apartment to check up on her. They really see her as part of the family now.

And they should. I think they can tell how serious I am about her. It's been a bit quiet at work this week and I've even started browsing around on a website called which is a guy's answer to what they call "wedding porn" like TheKnot. Honestly, it's really just down to me figuring out the engagement ring stuff and figuring out when to propose. This girl has been unable to do anything all week but lay there feverish, and I still want to spend all my free time with her.

Right now her plan for the weekend is to fly out tomorrow morning to see her parents and grandparents for a couple days, but I'm trying to convince her to stay put if she still doesn't feel well. Here's hoping we get to just relax together for a couple days. Otherwise it'll be my first two days alone in the apartment, which will be weird.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

An annoyance

Life is pretty good for me now. Things are great living with Writress. She met my whole family back east and everyone got along great. Now that I'm paying less rent I'm starting to save some more money.

But there was one thing that happened in the past week that I found to be somewhat ridiculous. I was flipping through things that had been posted on various twitter feeds while I was gone, including one for my college classmates. I don't follow most individuals on the list, but I look at the full list from time to time to get a sense of where everyone is. One of the things I saw was that my CollegeEx had posted something about being happy she'd done a friend purge on facebook because for the first time in a while there was nothing in her newsfeed that pissed her off. I checked, and sure enough she'd de-friended me. Again.

The first time she did it was a few months after we graduated, which was about 8 or 9 months after we'd broken up. It was a bit immature of her, but we had dated for three and a half years and she took the breakup badly so I can understand why she'd want to do that. Then two years ago, we got back in touch and re-friended. We weren't best buddies or anything, but it was nice that we could be cordial and stay in touch. I think part of why she felt secure enough to do that was that unbeknownst to me she was in a serious relationship with another of our friends from school. As I posted on this blog previously, I found out that they were dating when they posted pictures of the night they got engaged.

We've exchanged messages at random times and birthdays, and when they got married earlier this summer I mailed them a card saying congratulations. I didn't expect an invite, but I was hoping that over the years we could continue to be friendly.

And now, she's defriended me. One of our mutual friends told me that he didn't think it was anything personal about me or what I was posting, but I don't buy it. There may have been something else that prompted it, but she still did it to me. One of the people that's still on her list is one of my best friends that I know for a fact she hasn't spoken with since we dated, so I know it's not just one of those "haven't talked to this person in months" kind of purges. It was a targeted effort to remove things that upset her from her facebook newsfeed.

I looked at what I had been posting a few days prior to this purging, and there were a lot of pictures of Writress and I. Some were of us moving into the new apartment, others were of all of us during the visit to see my family. And there was also a series of pictures from when I gave Writress a tour of my old college hangouts.

It's been a long time since I spoke with CollegeEx in person or over the phone, but I still know her as a person well enough to picture what happened. She probably got stressed out, initially due to something work related. She was always very susceptible to getting stressed out to a point that it hindered her ability to get things done. Something prompts her to start a purging, and pictures of me living happily with someone else were enough to get her angry with me.

So four and a half years after our college relationship ended, she's still acting like a middle school girl about it. She held on just long enough for me to see evidence of her getting married to one of our friends in a room full of the rest of our friends. I wasn't upset or angry, rather I genuinely wished her well. And once that was over with she was unable to remain friendly and cordial with me.

Maybe she didn't intend for me to even realize I'd been de-friended. Or maybe she did want to hurt me in some juvenile way. I'm not hurt though. I'm annoyed that things seemed to have reverted to middle school drama when I was hoping to remain friends, but I'm not hurt. Really this childish behavior just reinforces the fact that I'm incredibly happy that I broke up with her rather than latch myself onto her for the rest of my life. I had a lot of great experiences with all sorts of women after we broke up. Enough things have happened in my life that I can say with confidence and without regret that Writress is the right person for me.

I'll continue to email CollegeEx on her birthday as I always have, but not try and initiate anything other than that. If I end up going to my 5 year reunion and see her, great. If not, I don't care. All that's left is a curiosity to see how she'll react when I eventually propose to Writress. Will she ignore me or act petty in some way? Or will she do what I did and wish me well? I guess only time will tell but it'll be interesting to find out.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Thinking of a new question to answer

My writing group is starting back up again next week, which means it's time for me to write a new pilot.

I have no idea what I'm going to write.

But rather than approach something by saying "I want this element" or "wouldn't it be fun if..." I'm trying to think of an overall question or theme to address with the story.

The last one hour pilot I wrote addressed the theme of identity in an online anonymous world. It was about self-discovery. The reason the fun story elements worked is that they were built from that foundation.

So now I'm trying to think of a question or theme that I really want to address. I'm pondering the things I rant about all the time, and trying to evaluate what's really important to me.

For example, one idea that I've been kicking around has to do with the nature of freedom. By following rules and expectations we don't have the ability to make any real choices on our own, so in a way the only way to be free is to do something completely unexpected and reckless. For me that was moving to LA. I don't want to write a pilot about that though. Rather, I might want to turn that question towards something else that relates to the theme but also makes good TV. I also don't want to get bogged down with research. I much prefer being able to make everything up, so that's why I don't want to write a show right now set in some real environment, i.e. an ad agency in the 1960's or a school in Texas or the NSA. I could set it in a fantasy type kingdom, that way there's a world that is understandable and accessible but I still have license to do whatever I want with it.

It's still all up in the air though. I'll update once I know more.