Thursday, March 24, 2005

Some nice news

In the middle of fighting off a migraine last night, having just popped an Imitrex pill and hoping it would kick in fast, I learned that both scripts that I submitted to one particular screenwriting competition advanced to the semifinals. That's the top 70 scripts out of about 2000. Somewhere in the top 3 to 4%.

That made me feel good. But I still had to go to a dark room for a while. And drink a cup of coffee. Caffeine seems to boost the effects of most pain meds for me (I discovered this when I realized Excedrin has caffeine in it).

I love that I can drink a bowl-sized cup of coffee less than an hour or two before bed and still fall right to sleep. TerminalMFA-Wife can't drink a coke within three to four hours of bed or she'll toss and turn all night.

Of course, at least she doesn't end up getting up to go to the bathroom because she filled up her bladder right before bed...

(And no, I have no idea why I am rambling on about coffee and urination habits, except that I just had my morning coffee, and I really have to pee).

I'm starting to worry about what my Google search results are going to start looking like after posts like this.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Not the kind of cluster I like...

Had another cluster headache/migraine last night. Since last year, I've been getting them in the middle of the night. So now, instead of just the searing pain of one of these things, I get searing pain + interrupted sleep. I only have a precious few years left before I have to start getting up in the middle of the night to pee, so I'm kind of annoyed by having to get up to stumble around to find my Imitrex.

Happy days...

My morning coffee has become less of a nice way to wake up and more of a necessity if I want to function.

Wednesday: producer and I are to be interviewed by the student paper for an article. Press coverage (on an admittedly small scale) has to begin somewhere.

Thursday: visiting the set of an indie film shooting in town. Our main prospective DP for the film is DP'ing this film, and he and the director invited us to visit and watch them in action.

Student Presentations Today: went really well. I make them take a scene from a film (their choice, but I have to sign off on the selection) and basically explain all the aspects of mise-en-scene in the given scene. Sometimes, with projects such as these, I get very surface presentations... the students show the scene and talk about it for 2 to 3 minutes and sit down. But the three presentations today were incredibly detailed and well thought-out. One of them, in particular, really impressed me. Nice that these three ended up going first -- good way to set a high expectation level. Happy accident.

Edited to add: I finished textbook adoption for the fall. Well, I have one more text I might add to my directing class, but I still have to review it. So I went ahead and did the adoptions for everything else. Cross another item off the to-do-list!

Monday, March 21, 2005

Sunday Accomplishments

I actually got the new scene(s) written and changed the ending on the script for this summer's film. Woo-hoo! I like the new scene a lot... it feels a bit long-ish, but it suddenly became one of my favorite scenes in the movie. Of course, that's what I think today. We'll see if I feel the same way a week from now.

On the textbook front, I am this close to selecting all my texts for fall classes. I feel I've at least narrowed it down to a few I have to think about some more. So that feels nearly done.

Productive Sunday afternoon, while Middle Child watched The Incredibles. It's a good thing I like that movie, because I get the impression I am going to be seeing a lot of it for a while...

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Best Scripts?

Okay, all you writing and film people out there... I am trying to decide what scripts to make my screenwriting students buy as texts in the fall. I typically make them buy and read three scripts -- perferably, from the Newmarket series (these preserve the original shooting script format).

I used a three-script packaged series, featuring the scripts from The Shawshank Redemption, Adaptation, and American Beauty. While these are all good scripts, two of them are not so easily classified as having classic three-act structure. It's still there, in a way, but it's harder to teach it from those scripts. Fortunately, this semester I had some surprisingly sharp students who did some very solid analysis of those scripts in their structure assignment.

Nevertheless, I'd like to change it up and use different scripts this time.

Shawshank was pretty solid this semester, so I will likely stick with that one. I am thinking, from the Newmarket list, Truman Show might be another good one (I haven't really analyzed the structure, but I think it's pretty solid). So, any advice? Take a look at the Newmarket list and tell me what you think.

The Incredibles

Watched The Incredibles on DVD this week with the kiddies, and man -- what a great movie. I saw it in the theater and liked it. But watching it again on DVD, I caught so much more and appreciated the depth of detail and emotion in it. The scene where Mr. Incredible realizes his kids are on board the plane that Syndrome has targeted with missiles -- it really resonated with me (and yes, I realize that's in large part because I have kids)... but just seeing the pain in his face, hearing it in his voice. Very few kids movies do serious stuff like this so effectively.

Film Publicity?

One of the aspects of filmmaking I am not spectacular at is the publicity side... I am trying ot figure out how to get good PR for the film I'm shooting this summer. It's a pretty interesting situation -- we've raised a little bit of money, so we can hire some pros at key positions, and we're offering the film as a summer class, so students in the program can enroll and work on the film for credit.

And the department is letting me use its HD equipment (I would shoot 16mm or 35mm if we had the money, but we don't, and so many films are shooting HD now, it just doesn't bother me).

Maybe the situation isn't that unique, but it's just one angle. See -- I'm just not good at this. If anyone has any ideas on how to leverage publicity for this, I'm listening. Maybe using the internet? I don't know -- I'm so wrapped up in just getting it made that I'm worried I'm missing out on opportunities to promote it in advance.

Friday, March 18, 2005

All Good Things...

...must end, including Spring Break. Spent the week with family in town (wife's sister and her family). Had some good times, didn't relax as much as I wanted to, but glad to have some time free of intense brain effort.

Not that there wasn't work to be done. Need to select textbooks for fall. That was a prime objective for this week. And it didn't get done. I might try to do some of it tomorrow. And I need to write one more scene for the script of this summer's film. But that will likely wait until next week.

Bad news -- my migraines are back. I'm a cluster-headache sufferer (cluster headaches are a variety of migraine wherein the poor sap gets a series of migraine-like headaches all in a 'cluster' (duh) and then is headache-free for a while. Well, right before we moved, my headaches hit with a vengeance. I presumed stress was affecting the number and intensity (I was getting them every day, sometimes two or three times a day -- and these are debilitating headaches, where I have to go to bed, no light or sound, nausea, intense pain in the left lobe. You'd think I had a tumor -- it hurts that bad).

So I haven't had them since the move. Now, about seven months later, they're back. Normally, they're kind of seasonal for me. So it's not a big surprise that they're back. Disappointing, but not a surprise. And of course, I haven't found a new doctor here yet (I haven't even looked). I need to find one that knows what these things are and will prescribe Imitrex inhalers. Only thing that works for me.

The real challenge will be how these affect my classes. If I get one in the middle of the day, teaching will be, pardon the pun, a real headache. Don't know if I can do it. But I don't want to lose too many days to headaches... we'll just have to see what happens. TOo abd I can't schedule these things.

This week's NetFlix update: Just got a couple more DVDs in... Code 46, a sci-fi thing with Tim Robbins that I read about when it first came out, and Soderbergh's Schizopolos, which I somehow never got around to seeing. Just sent back to NetFlix: The Specials, a low budget superhero comedy about 'the sixth or seventh best superhero team in the world.' Short review: it was sort of funny, but a lot of the jokes fell flat because of timing and telegraphing the punchlines. Honestly, the low budget hurt it, because even though these heroes had stupid powers, you really wanted to see them use those powers (actually, now that I write it, I realize that we want to see them in action because the powers are silly). And you just never see anything. It might as well be a comedy about a dysfunctional family. Which I suppose it is. It just wasn't that funny. But not a total loss. And it was only about 80 minutes long, which counts as a plus when the movie isn't exactly humming along and when you want to watch it while the baby is napping.

Speaking of babies, The Littlest TerminalMFA Child (Littlest from now on) turned one. Much rejoicing. Especially since she spent several weeks in the NICU when she was born due to a fairly rare oxygen-related problem. Did some thinking back on those days, when my brain was fogged with grief, worry, and tears... can't believe it was a year ago. And she is in excellent health now, with no ill effects, which is in itself a bit of a miracle.

That's it for now.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Leave a comment (or two)

Okay, I debated a while back on the blog (can't find where) about why I am keeping this blog (for my own purposes, or specifically for an audience).

I think I've decided it's for the audience, because I get bummed when I don't get comments. I know some of you are out there reading... because people are linking to me (thank you!) and because Sitemeter tells me so (daily affirmations, with Sitemeter)...

So, if you're so inclined, leave a comment or two. I enjoy the conversation.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Movie Updates

Finally had some time to myself today, so I watched Saved! and I'm watching Beyond Sunset right now (don't mistake my blogging while watching for disappointment with the latter film. I'm really enjoying it, but felt like blogging about Saved!, which I just finished with about 40 minutes ago).

Hmmm.... so how do I feel about Saved!? In the interest of being open, I'll admit to being a Christian. Not a lapsed or former Christian. I still believe. But I've changed a lot since my childhood -- I guess the biggest change is just not worrying so much about everyone else's problems, and believing primarily that the purpose of Christianity is to love other people the way God loves them... in other words, it's not our jobs to point out everyone's sins to them. That's the biggest problem I have with the church these days -- so many people are so obsessed with everyone else's sins that the whole focus of the Christian religion has been placed on stopping everyone else from doing what they want to do.

The previous paragraph implies that I believe that some things are, in fact, sinful. I do believe that. There are things I think are wrong -- things God prefers us not to do. But I'm not going to go into specifics here because I don't want to derail the whole post... suffice it to say that I think there ARE moral absolutes. I truly don't believe there's anything wrong with holding to those absolutes -- and believing that it is right for others to do so. What I really struggle with is the way many churches push the rightness and wrongness issue -- the moral absolutes -- as the primary mission of faith -- to stop people from doing 'bad stuff.'

So -- on to the movie. I didn't attend a high school like the one in the movie, but I did attend a small Christian liberal-arts college. So I don't have a specific experience of that environment. I do have the whole "church youth group" experience, which is not dissimilar. The movie's approach is satirical, so it's necessarily over-the-top... I guess I just didn't know people who were as bad as the so-called Christians in the movie. But I'm sure that they (we?) ostracized people in subtle ways. My recollection was that people were ostracized not for sins but for just not being cool enough, good looking enough, etc. Not that this is any better, of course.

The reality is, I see a lot of flaws in the way Christians try to communicate faith to their children. We're so focused on memorizing scriptures and pointing out what NOT to do, that I think we forget to teach them how to treat people, how to love. Honestly, I think the story of Christianity is all about love -- God's love for His people. That's what it boils down to for me. The greatest of these is love... If you have not love...

So, the characters in the movie... there ARE people like that, and I -- as a Christian -- loathe them as much as anyone. I loathe them because they're wrong and because they turn people away from God. But I don't think they represent Christianity any more than terrorists represent the Muslim faith (not to liken them specifically to terrorists; just trying to make a point). The so-called radical Christian Right is not the totality of Christianity. It's possible to repudiate those people and still have faith and believe in God. It's possible to look at the hypocrisy in the church and believe that hypocrisy is a human foible but doesn't diminish the truth of Christianity.

And that's pretty much where I stand. Yes, there are hypocrites in the church. Many. Yes, there are people who simply don't get it. Many of them are spokespeople, the ones who get on the news. That's not the way I believe. But I still do believe.

My problem with Saved! is not that it points out these hypocrisies. It's that, in the end, it seems to be saying that moral absolutes in and of themselves are part of the problem. I say "seems" because ultimately I'm really not sure. It's hard to watch a movie and determine what actions mean. Did Clint Eastwood attempt to 'glorify' euthanasia in Million Dollar Baby? (I haven't seen it, so I have no idea). Just because he depicted it?

So the filmmakers behind Saved!, do they want us to think that nothing is wrong with anything (by the sunny-happy ending where all the outcasts come together and form their own family)? Or are they just saying that tolerance, when these things do happen, is the right thing? I agree with that. But I'm not sure what they're trying to say.

Hard movie to watch if you're a Christian. Not that they're wrong. It holds up a mirror to people of faith, and they can either look and see what's all around them (even if it doesn't represent the individual who's watching), or they can turn away and say it's someone's sour grapes, that 'the media' hates Christians.

There's probably a little bit of truth in all of those options.

Beyond Sunset is a much more relaxing film. I enjoyed the first film, Beyond Sunrise, and this one is amazingly bittersweet. The notion that these two could have spent their lives together but for a missed meeting, a grandmother who died on the wrong date, nine years passing, an ill-advised marriage. Very few filmmakers could make a movie where two people talk in real time for 80 to 90 minutes and it still captivates. Good writing, good acting, very natural connection between Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. I really want these two to be together, in spite of all that separates them, and it's weird to see the drama of this relationship to have matured along with me. Nine or ten years ago, these characters were the same age as me, traveling across Europe, lives still beginning, so much hope for the future. Now, the characters are matured, one of them has kids, they've begun to experience disappointment and minor and major tragedies in their lives, and they've begin to get set in their ways, to establish patterns in romantic relationships that they struggle to break out of... I feel like the characters have matured as I have. Just the good fortune to have been nearly the same ages as these characters when the films first came out.

It's a very engrossing film, very real, and very sad.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Spring Break Has Sprung

I'm unofficially on spring break -- I say unofficially because it's not like it's a national holiday. But hey, no classes, no need to be in the office, right.

So what did I do with my first day of freedom? I mowed the lawn. Only mid-March and the grass and weeds were already getting out of control.

Let me say -- I love having a house, and I'm really not a 'city' person who wants to live in an old brownstone. I like the idea of it, but not the reality. I like having a house that's out of the way, with a big backyard for the kids, etc.

But I hate mowing the lawn. I don't even know why; I just do. It's drudgery, and it reminds me how lousy I am at it, how much I really need to do for the lawn and the garden-y areas...

So at least I got it out of the way...

During the break, I really need to pick texts for two fall classes (I'm almost two weeks past the deadline already and just haven't had a free moment to do some reading)... and can I just ask why we need to pick fall texts in March? March?! I don't get that.

And I also need to work on finalizing the script for the film this summer. I have a few things I want to tweak and some scenes I've been wanting to add. I think I'm avoiding it because I'm not sure my new scenes will measure up to the existing ones.

I did finally get to watch I Heart Huckabees. I really enjoyed it -- it was all over the place and very unstructured, but it completely kept me involved with great characters and dialogue. I haven't been able to really process my thoughts on it since I watched it last week... it just left a very positive impression on me.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

What is Productivity?

Can I be considered productive if I did nothing significant this weekend? I did no work. I wrote nothing. The only time I worked on my laptop was to check my e-mail.

I did, however, start painting the kids' room. Pink. What can I say -- I have daughters. Hate painting. Actually, it's not the painting I hate. It's the taping of moldings and baseboards and the moving of furniture. The painting itself has a certain immediate gratification to it. Provided you've taped the moldings and baseboards properly and moved all the furniture. And now I'm thinking I should've listened to my wife and painted these rooms while we were waiting three days for all of our household goods to arrive on the delinquent moving truck.

So, DISH Network had this free preview weekend for the Showtime/The Movie Channel premium channels... okay, I stumbled on one of the channels on Friday night and wondered if it was a mistake for which I was being billed. So on Saturday morning, I called just to check (my wife thinks I am anal -- my thinking is, it's a lot easier to correct a mistake now than to get them to give me my money back later).

Anyway, turns out it WAS a free preview weekend. Which got me to thinking: what's the use of a free preview weekend if you don't, ya know, tell the subscribers that they have a free preview?

Anyway, the nice thing was that this suite of channels include the Sundance Channel, which I really want but which I don't want to pay for right now. Got to watch several of Sundance's "Anatomy of a Scene" episodes, which delves deeper into production choices in one scene of various films... great teaching tool, but it doesn't seem that they've released the series on DVD. If anyone knows otherwise, let me know.

I also got to watch Pieces of April, which I think of as the indie version of every movie ever made about Thanksgiving. In that genre, it's always about difficult family relationships and how hard Thanksgiving is for everyone. (What is it about Thanksgiving that lends itself to difficult famly relationships?)

So in the 'indie' version of this genre, it's not just a protagonist who has been away from home and estranged from her family. It's a goth-type chick who lives in a 4th floor walkup in NYC with her boyfriend, and her family hates her because she always came home with new piercings, drug problems, drug dealer boyfriends... and the mother is dying of breast cancer...

So, a lot like the traditional movies of the genre -- but indie... i.e., gritty. Shot handheld and digital. Which didn't make the movie actually any grittier, but did make it seem not as polished. Which is, I guess, what they were going for, but it struck me as a pale imitation of much better movies. My real problems -- the script was pedestrian (at best) -- just boring, with no real problems (the girl's oven breaks, so her plans for the 'perfect Thanksgiving' with her estranged family will be ruined if she can't get her turkey cooked in the various ovens of the kooky people who live in the same building)... and the performances defined 'average.' The timing was off, no one had any chemistry, lines that were supposed to be punchlines fell completely flat. The movie really wanted to have its cake and eat it too. It wanted to be gritty and 'street' and also heartwarming and precious. And it couldn't pull it off.

At least it was only about 90 minutes. Because if I'm going to watch a so-so movie like this, I don't want to be watching it all night.

Currently playing on one of the Showtime networks: Against the Ropes, a flaccid boxing tale starring Meg Ryan as a streetwise boxing promoter (he said before loudly guffawing). Meg Ryan's awful attempt at some kind of streetwise NY accent (at least, I think it's NY -- I'm not watching close enough to really say for sure, and I just don't care)...

I did, however, enjoy The Simpsons and Arrested Development tonight. Someone from one of those shows (I won't say who) is going to taking a cameo role in the movie I am shooting this summer. Which is nice, and provides some 'cred' with my students.

That's it for my weekend rambling... I didn't get a chance to watch any of my NetFlix DVDs yet... but hey, Spring Break is less than a week away!

Friday, March 04, 2005


I am beginning to realize that I only seem to blog on weekends (I'm counting Fridays as weekends because I don't have any classes or office hours on Fridays). I guess I just get bogged down with work during the week and really don't have energy to process things.

Sometimes, I'm just wasting time, though.

Not much to say today anyway. Short day in the office -- just getting in to get a few things done. Heading home before lunch (there, I get nothing done).

I have three NetFlix movies waiting on me: Before Sunrise, I Heart Huckabee's, and Saved!... trying to decide which one I will try to watch today when the kids go down for afternoon naps. Probably Huckabee's.