Saturday, October 29, 2005


Friday, October 28, 2005

Four Pages...

We are writing the first four pages to our thirty page script, and I have never stared at four pages more than I have these past four days. I NEVER thought I'd say this, but I'm having fun cutting out useless words, lines, and anything that doesn't move the story forward. Each time I find that I can say something in three words versus a ten word sentence, I feel like a person doing a jigsaw puzzle and finding missing pieces. I know this must sound naive to established screenwriters, but this is new to me. BTW, my script is a sports comedy, but I'm not going to say the title because it's that good of a title. More later...

My Movie A Day...Continued...

I forgot to list the movies I've watched...

Sideways...about four times. I like to read the script at the same time as I watch the movies.
Foxy Brown...all hail Pam Grier

I have more, but I'm tired...

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Friends With Benefits Pub...

AP wants to do a story on Friends With Benefits, so that is going to be great pub. On another note, Savoy magazine still hasn't paid me. Now the publisher's excuse is she is waiting for the US Postal Service to give her some money. She runs two different publications, but she can't pay me. Sad.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Today's Biz...

This morning, I got up around 6:30am and called my editor. I wanted to see if there are any numbers in for Friends With Benefits. The first printing was 24,000, and 19,000 are gone from the warehouse. We don't have any sales numbers, but that's a pretty good figure. Being that I'm an unknown in fiction, normally half would still be sitting in the warehouse gathering dust. So that was good news. Plus, Friends With Benefits was featured on the first page spread of Black Expressions, Doubleday's Book Club. Black Expressions has 200,000 folks, so that is real good.

Karen is going to her Wednesday editorial meeting with my Money Shot proposal, so I should know more within the week. That's where they'll sit back and see if the story is marketable, and how much they can afford to pay me. I'll let my agent take care of that.

I've got to put FWB and Divine Nine publicity on my schedule. I've been lagging badly in both areas.

In class, things are going better. Screenplays are a completely new form for me, so I'm trying to get the fundamentals down as quickly as possible. We have some really good writers in the class and I'm pretty impressed with their attention to details. Not an excuse, but we had an exercise where we took an antedote and wrote story in prose, and then in script form. I kept my story pretty generic, trying to work on getting the basic screenwriting form down. My descriptions were not as detailed as the others, and the story was pretty linear. The comments in class reflected that I could have started either before my opening or after. Fair enough. But we're done with that. Now, we're starting our first four pages for the thirty page script we're developing. That's what we've been waiting to do, and I can't wait.

With these scripts, we start them for thirty pages, and then the next quarter we can either throw them out or continue to develop them. I'm not throwing out crap. If I spend time on it, I'm working on it. So what am I going to write about? I haven't decided yet. I have a list of twenty stories I want to develop, but I haven't decided which one I want to spend time on right now. I'm close, but not yet. I'll let you know as soon as I figure it out (tomorrow).

I wasn't able to get to the building for the Black MFA Association, but I may do that tomorrow. Everyone is very enthusiastic about the idea and I think it will be a hit. Even if we're not able to get official recognition this quarter, we can still meet unofficially and bring in speakers from the industry. My hope is that we'll create a support system for Black MFA students, and a gateway into Hollywood via mentorships and new relationships.

Sunday, October 23, 2005


Last night, I went to my first bi-monthly MFA gathering at O'Brien's in Santa Monica. Threw down a few Heinekens and met with the various writers, directors, and producers of the future. For the most part, most were pretty cool. We bitched about our various assignments, professors, and whether or not we'll make some cash from all of this. I talked a lot, but watched even more. It was kind of easy to see who probably drank every night, and who didn't. Still would like to see more MFA's of color in the program. Diversity is a good thing, ya know.

Tomorrow I'm going to see if I can start up the UCLA Black MFA Association. Technically, I missed the date for new organizations, but hell, ya gotta believe that they can waive a few rules for something like this. I heard that they tried to organize it last year, but it fell apart last year. The overall MFA program is VERY inclusive to everyone, but whether they realize it or not, there are some very special issues for black directors, writers, producers, etc. that aren't covered in the general program. I want to suppliment our education with real black folks in the industry, and that Black MFA Association will help get that done. I already have a lawyer friend at the William Morris Agency, who's agreed to talk to us. Hopefully, we can get more folks each month.

As for my assignments, things are finally rolling. My four page opening act feels pretty good, and I finished my "age" story. I'll probably work on both throughout the night, polishing them for tomorrow's class. Still a little vague on the style of writing Hal wants, but C'est La Vie.

Friday, October 21, 2005


I am, as the British like to say, knackered. On Wednesday, I took an overnight flight to Chicago on American Airlines. Big mistake. They put a full flight on a plane just larger than the prop planes they used to shuttle folks on in the 50s. My knees took a beating. I landed in Chi-Town at 6am and our conference started at 9am. It was GREAT to see all of my friends on the panel and I think we were able to get a lot of work done informing college advisors about Black Greek Life.

After the conference, I rolled BACK to O'Hare and flew overnight again to LAX. I've been sleep since I got home in the early morn, and I have a feeling that I won't be able to really get up until this afternoon. I had an Orthopedic appointment this morning, but I'm too tired to make it. I'll reschedule.

My agent Manie has been sick, so my non-fiction proposal is still in the same place. I need some advice on how to get this thing over the hump. I have two assignments due on Monday, but I haven't started them. I've been reading and re-reading Hal's book before starting so that I can apply his principles to Act Ones correctly.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Hal's Book...

It's 2am and I'm reading my professor's book, Write Screenplays That Sell the Ackerman Way, and I've got to say that it is a great book. If any of you are trying to write a screenplay, he explains the nuts and bolts in a way that makes logical sense. Now I don't know if I'll be able to write a screenplay worth a damn, but I honestly can't put the book down. Right now, I'm about eighty pages in and I'm reading about the structure of a screenplay. More later...

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Stuck on a book proposal...

For the first time, I'm stuck while writing a book proposal. I HATE writing them in the first place, but this one is especially hard because it is an investigative book and I won't find out a lot of information until I start interviewing people. So it is on my mind. My agent is sick and probably won't be available until Friday, so that means another week goes by with it not done. I need to get it out of the way so he can shop it. It's a great topic and I really want to do it, but again, I hate book proposals.

In Hal Ackerman's class, I'm really starting to get a feel for what a good screenplay should have. We're sort of dissecting other films and looking at them from the standpoint of a writer, and it is interesting what ten different people can see when watching the same movie.

In Richard's class, I think that he's going to use a few pages from the MFA student scripts as an example of what not to do. That should be fun, watching who's going to draw the short straw.

Today is devoted to reading Hal's book and thinking about what I'm going to write for my first thirty pages (first act) in Hal's class. I have a title: The Proper Englishman, and I like my general idea for a story. Maybe I'll detail it later.

As for the Sloan, I'm going to start writing the first draft of my treatment and then find someone like my mentors Yule and Andrew to help go over it. It's a $10,000 prize and I'd like to win it. In fact, I'm going to submit scripts for every damn prize UCLA offers. LOL I'm not independently wealthy, and if prizes can subsidize my education, then that's what's going to happen.

I'm off to Chicago for a brief appearance at the NPHC National convention. It's an all day thing with a book signing, but I fly back the same day. I just don't have much time to waste as I did way back in the day (last year).

MK and I are still working on our documentary about race and sports. We have a producer so we're getting ready to get started, to get ready. Now it's about connecting the dots over the next six months.

I still need to see if Kensington has made a decision on my fiction piece, Money Shot. I'll ask my agent about that when he feels better.

I've added an anthology to the work schedule. It's something I've always wanted to do but never had the time to do. Hopefully it'll work out.

BTW, the knees are feeling a LOT better. I still can't move them side to side without MASSIVE pain. Today, I tried to swing my right leg over the bathtub rim and damn near crumbled from the pain. I'll NEVER do that again. But I can walk pretty much without pain, and only with a slight limp. The abrasion on the kneecap has almost healed. The MCLs are going to be the ones that take the most time. Hopefully it just will require rest. The patella has a fracture, but it's not tender to the touch. I'll find out more when I go to the Ortho doc on Friday. But thanks for all of the good wishes from everyone.

More tomorrow...

Sunday, October 16, 2005


Went to see Capote, the movie about Truman Capote and came away really impressed with Phillip Hoffman yet again. He's a truly great actor and probably will get an Oscar nod for this. But I also wondered why the screenwriter didn't get more pub for such a well written script. Screenwriters in Hollywood, for all of the money one can make, are treated like insignificant help, rather than the brains behind the whole joint. Guess I'll have to sneak in a year of directing so I can use a slash for my films.

I'm applying for the Alfred Sloan Foundation script prize along with about fifty other screenwriters. You have to write a script that contains science or is about a scientist. I've got my subject ready, so I feel pretty good. Yesterday, we had to go to an all day symposium, but that's hard for those of us with kids. You want to spend a bit of time with them, so I did a half day. Hope that doesn't hurt me when they make a selection about who goes in the final group.

Now it is off to Aunt Kizzy's for Sunday brunch...

Thursday, October 13, 2005


I have to see Capote for class, so I'm going to do that tomorrow. Also, I'm trying to see the Green Street Hooligans before it leaves the theaters. On Tivo (or the crappy Adelphia cable version of Tivo), I'm watching High Fidelity (Nick Hornby's joint. I really didn't care about this movie, but I LOVED Hornby's book, Fever Pitch. I'm not even commenting on the movie versions of the book.) and Judgement at Nuremburg. The movie a night thing is cool, but you really see how many crappy movies are being produced when you scroll through the listing. Ninety percent of these movies I'd never watch if you paid me.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

My Movie A Day...

Now that I'm in film school, I've decided that I should actually start watching some films. So I'm watching at least one film per day. Some are classics. Others are obscure. Some I've watched, but now I'm rewatching in order to observe the screenwriting. And they are different as could be. Today, I watched 12 Angry Men and Goodfellas.

The Question of Race...

Have you ever noticed that when a black person is beat senseless by white folks, that the news anchors always ask the victim whether they think the incident was a racial incident. I always thought this curious. Everyday, reporters draw conclusions about everything under the sun. Whether Karl Rove will be indicted. Whether Bush knew there weren't any weapons of mass destruction. Whether or not the avian flu is going to kill us all. But when it comes to race, the reporter always wants the victim to make the decision. And if the black victim knows they are in a no win situation. If they say it is racial, then they will be accused of playing the "race card" (an illegitimate principle anyway). If they don't say it is racial, then it's like the anchor can breath a sigh of relief. White folks are off the hook! But why can't the anchor draw their own conclusions? Why can't someone say that we rarely find tapes of random whites people being beat down by black folks? Or that to the untrained or trained eye, it appears that a black man was being kicked, maimed, dragged, etc. by white people? Because a whole lot of commentators sure as hell declared black folks criminals from the looping of the looting during Katrina. I don't remember any of them asking those folks whether or not it was stealing. They just declared it so.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

MRI results...

Here are the results for the MRI on my right knee: (1) no meniscal tear (2) severe injury to medial collateral ligament (no tear) and (3) small, nondisplaced fracture of patella. I have an appointmentt with the ortho specialist tomorrow, so I'll know what I have to do for rehab. I really would like to know what's going on with my left knee too.

Today's Class...

Today, we had our class with Hal. The assignment had been to write short story based on one regret we'd had in our life. It could be funny, serious, or anything in between. It didn't have to be true, but interesting. So I wrote my piece and as soon as I started reading it, I knew I'd made a mistake.

Hal called it scaffolding and I call it fluff. My piece had too much descriptive fluff used to intro elemets of the story. I made the mistake of writing this piece as though I was in the MFA program for creative writing versus screenwriting. My words needed to move the story forward in a spare manner, with sights and sounds described as it moved forward, rather than paragraphs of words that kept the story stuck in one place.

If I had to set up my own screenwriting rule, it would be called the Tuco rule. In my favorite movie, The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly, Tuco (the Ugly) shoots a man in the right arm in the opening scene. About an hour later, the one armed man confronts Tuco with a gun in his left arm. Tuco appears to be helpless, as he's soaking in a bath. The one arm man gives a long soliloquy about how he'd been tracking Tuco down. Tuco says nothing. Finally, before the one armed man can shoot him, Tuco blasts him with a gun he's hidden underneath the soap bubbles. As Tuco looks down at the dead would be killer, he says simply.

"When you have to shoot, shoot, don't talk."

And that is the same with screenwriting. Screw the long descriptions and move the story forward.

Now I'm rewriting it so that it follows my Tuco rule.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Where I'm At...

All right. Let's get going and recap where I'm at and where I'm going. Besides struggling to limp around the UCLA with two busted knees (which has made another UCLA MFAer named Dave a hero in my eyes. Dave walks with crutches and I am forever in awe. My temporary ass immobility will get better and I'll go back to not noticing the thousands of unnecessary steps at each building, or how far the ATM machines are from each other. Being permanently disable is a bitch and this world, despite ramps and auto door openers, ain't built for folks without full mobility. I'm getting a small taste of it now.)

From now on, I'm going to divide the blog into my two different lives: UCLA film school and my books. Both will be active over the next two years and it will seem like I'm doing a lot of stuff, but it's all about compartmentalizing. I did get burned out while on the Friends With Benefits tour, but that was mainly because I hate to do book tours, and I'm starting to detest travel of any sort. But knock on wood, I haven't even come close to getting burned out on writing. It's the pleasurable thing about this whole biz.

So for the next two to three years, I will be serving two masters, and this is probably the best time ever to read this blog. My wife knows that I'm going to be selfish with my writing over these next few years and so does my son (who is hilarious by the way. I did a lecture at UC Santa Barbara and he was silently doing his pencil drawings close by when he pipes up and says to the audience "You're a funny man.") So, if you're interested in writing books, this is the blog for you. If you're interested in going to film school, this is the blog for you. If you're interested in writing screenplays, this is the blog for you. If you're interested in how documentaries are made, this is the blog for you. If you're interested in black writers in Hollywood, then this is the blog for you. So here we go:


I'm excited, really excited. I have three classes this quarter and two are led by the co-chairman of the MFA screenwriters program. Richard Walter teaches 130A, which is a mixed course of undergrads and graduate students. Hal Ackerman teaches 431, which is a sort of intro to screenwriting course for grads only. It is much more intimate with about ten students per class. My last class meets on Wednesday evening and is a marketing course taught by Terry Press, who is the head of theater marketing at Dreamworks.

What I like about UCLA to date is the atmosphere. Per being a California institution, the professors and students in the program all seem casual and determined that the best way to get the best out of you is for you to focus on your work, give it your all, but still keep some perspective on life at the same time. Richard Walter is an example of that. Honestly, after having gone to his first class, I'm not too sure what we're going to be learning. Scratch that. I know that we're going to be learning about the craft of screenwriting, but Richard talks about screenwriting in a very eclectic style. One minute he's talking about communism, Aristotle, writing a personal story, George Lucas, and the right wing nut job David Horowitz. I figure that it'll clear up soon enough. He has a great sense of humor and knows what he's talking about.

Hal's class is more my flavor though. Small set of writers who each have their own life experiences that they bring to their writing. I like that. I don't want to only hear about my stories. I thirst for other people's stories. In our first class, we did a sort of "My Name is Earl" exercise, where we listed our regrets. Some were funny, others were poignant, but as you wrote them, it became very apparent that you could be a little bit vulnerable. And if you are, you damn well better trust the people in the room. I think that even though everyone in the room is somewhat nervous as to how they stack up against each other as writers, we still trust each other because we obviously had enough talent to make it this far. As we continue to write, that trust will help us write the best screenplays possible. At the end of Hal's class, we're to write a thirty page first act. It's going to be fun.

My last class is a marketing class and when I sat down in that class, it felt like was stealing from UCLA. I LOVE marketing. For three hours, we talked about how bad "The Island" was, why it is hard to get older men to get off the couch and go to the movies, etc. Then we watched trailers. I was in bliss. I have an Art and Commerce philosophy about writing and my writing career, and since I want to write a lot of scripts that put black folks in international situations, i want to learn how a studio will or more importantly, won't marketing it.

MK and I are working on our documentary. More info later...

So that's UCLA. On to my bread and butter.

My agent wants my non-fiction book proposal soon and I'm determined to get it done by this weekend. When it gets sold, I'll say what it is.

Money Shot, my next fiction piece, is still being read by Karen Thomas at Kensington. I expect to have an answer by the end of the month.

I am about to do a telephone interview tour Friends With Benefits and The Divine Nine.

That's about it. More tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

The Verdict...

Small fracture on the left knee cap. I have an immobilizer on it right now and an MRI is getting scheduled tomorrow. My other knee just hurts. I have crutches, but since i can't really put a lot of weight on my right leg, they're a bit useless. But life moves on. Hopefully, there's no ligament damage when the MRI comes out. I see an orthopedic doctor next week for an evaluation.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Almost Killed Yesterday...

Yesterday, I was almost killed. First day of film school and I decided to ride the motorcycle. Put the bike into first gear and it jumped out under me, leading me into an SUV. My knees are fucked and the bike is totaled. But I still made it to school. Right now, the pain is unbearable and I need to get them checked out this morning. I already know that there's some ligament damage. Updates later...

Sunday, October 02, 2005

The Little Things...

There was once a book called "It's the Little Things" and it detailed how the little things between blacks and whites make us distrustful of each other. They are little slights. One little slight is that I tend to believe that the humanity of African Americans is only grudgingly acknowledged by American society. Examples: Hurricane Katrina and the lack of a timely federal response. Former Secretary of Education Bill Bennett using African Americans as a hypothetical example of how abortion could cure the crime rate. Etc. But one little thing still bugs me. It is an honor delivered to different people in two different ways.

Ronald Reagan National Airport
John F. Kennedy International Airport
LaGuardia Airport

Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport

Notice the difference? About six months ago, the state of Maryland fought about how to honor the late Thurgood Marshall, and they finally came up with a plan to rename the BWI airport after the Supreme Court justice. But notice that they decided to basically keep the old name and tack on Marshall's name as an afterthought. Now is this something that will change the world? No. But in some parts of the black community, this is another thing to point to when we look at whether we are second class citizens in this country. It's the little things.