Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Bad News...

My father in law passed in his sleep last night, and so we're heading to Oakland. He was truly a great man, and I'll miss him like a best friend.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

re: Hal's Class...

Yesterday, I wanted to test out an alternative opening for my script. I have an opening scene that I'm pretty sure works (1b), but I wanted to see if I made my main character really vulgar, would it work. I think I confused my poor classmates. The idea was to make my main character vulgar, a bit blase about his subject, and a little above the frey. But it didn't go over well. Oh well, that's why you try it out in a workshop. But from that convo, I knew that I had to make his antagonist this vulgar character as a direct contrast to my hero. So those lines will be heard in Act Two. I'm going to send Hal opening 1b to make sure it works. Our first acts are due next week, so I'm not going to chance it. But I'm pretty sure that this first act will work.

What I'm noticing in our workshop is that there are quite a few scripts I don't get, but it seems like most of the other students get. Not that it is bad or good either way, but I'm wondering if each workshop will be like that? We get along pretty well, but I can see that our interests are widely varied.

Anyway, back to writing. I'm going to polish up my first act over the next few days. I want it nice and shiny by Friday.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Full Metal Jacket...

I went to see Jarhead this weekend. Hated it. But it made me remember how much I LOVE Full Metal Jacket. Here's what I tell my six year old, which is paraphrased from FMJ.

"Son, all I've ever asked of you is that you obey my orders as you would the word of God."


Sunday, November 20, 2005

New Savoy Magazine Goes on "Hiatus"

Well, it looks like I'll get paid when the moon turns to


New Savoy Magazine Goes on "Hiatus"

November 14, 2005

Underfinancing Halts Black Lifestyle Monthly

The new Chicago-based incarnation of Savoy magazine, which debuted in February, is on "hiatus" and unable to pay its contributors, but plans a Web edition in December, publisher Hermene Hartman told Journal-isms.

"I was underfinanced from the get-go," said Hartman, Publisher of the Chicago weekly N'Digo. "I'm waiting on some dollars to come in." Savoy's last issue was dated June/July.

"I can't pay writers and I can't pay staff. Advertising is wonderful; reader response is wonderful," Hartman said Sunday. The lifestyles publication had an unaudited circulation of 325,000, she said.

Savoy, which aspired to be a "black Vanity Fair," was the flagship publication of Vanguarde Media, whose publications were auctioned in bankruptcy proceedings last year. Others in the Vanguarde stable were Heart & Soul, a health and fitness magazine, and Honey, which described itself as "a fashion and entertainment magazine aimed at stylish urban women."

Hartman bought Savoy for $600,000 from the Jungle Media Group, a small New York publishing house that won the magazine at auction in May 2004 for $375,000 plus the assumption of consumer liabilities. Hartman hired as editor Monroe Anderson, a Chicago-based veteran journalist who had worked at Ebony, Newsweek, the Chicago Tribune and Chicago's WBBM-TV.

Hartman said the publication ran into higher-than-expected postal expenses when it failed to qualify to mail at magazine postal rates. "We missed it by a month. We were out of publication for a full year," she explained. "We were mailing out at full postal rates, and magazine status is half of that."

Hartman's debut issue in February featured Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., and his wife, Michelle Obama. It ran 116 pages and carried 14 articles, features and columns. It planned to publish 10 times a year, with combined issues for June/July and December/January, as Target Market News reported then.

Anderson is editing the online edition of Savoy, which will be posted at, Hartman said. Writers who are owed money will be paid when "some dollars come in," and subscriptions will be honored, she said.

Of the other Vanguarde products, Honey was bought at auction in May 2004 by a company headed by Philmore Anderson, a former record company executive who has not yet relaunched the magazine, and Heart & Soul reappeared on Oct. 7. [Added Nov. 17: Anderson said he was still assembling financing for the magazine and "we'll be publishing in '06."]

The health and fitness publication had been purchased at auction by Baltimore-based Twenty-First Century Group. Publisher Edwin V. Avent told Journal-isms Sunday that "we had similar issues" as Savoy with its postal costs, but "you have to have enough capital to deal with it. It's something you have to budget."

The next Heart & Soul issue is scheduled for February/March, and after that it will publish every other month, Avent said. As reported last month, Yanick Rice Lamb has returned to the publication as editorial director.

Posting of material below was delayed until Nov. 16:

Savoy...Still No Pay...

Ah, it's been months after I was supposed to be paid by Savoy magazine, and still nothing. About two months ago, I began calling the editor, the one Hermene Hartman, who also publishes a weekly Chicago rag called N'digo. Now, my dealings with Ms. Hartman have been comical to a certain extent. The first time I talked with her, she said that I would be paid by the end of the week. Two ends of the week passed and I decided to give her another call. She couldn't remember having said that. Okay, common mistake. So I gave her another month and then decided to find out when I would receive my check. She then gave me a long explanation about how she had been paying high postal rates and now she was hoping to get a rebate and THEN pay me. I said, okay.

Two months go by, and not a peep. So, I decide to call again. Now this time I think she mistook my name, she called me Mr. Harris a few times. Mr. Harris must be an important person because she was extremely apologetic, which was a change. Normally, she was extremely abrupt and acted like I was really taking a lot of her valuable time from her. But when I corrected her on my name, she went back to her abrupt self. Again, I received the postal excuse.

I got off the phone the last time and became curious. One of the photographers for the Savoy issue is pretty much world famous. I sent him an email and he said that he hadn't been paid and didn't think we'd see a dime from Savoy.

Now this is the point where most folk would say, hey, chalk it up to experience and don't think about it. Write it off as a tax loss and move on. And since I'm a daily advocate of black business (I've kept a weekly journal since I was 15, detailing when and where I spent my money, and how much went to a black business), I would normally do that. But here's the thing. Freelance writers get JACKED all of the time, and we're constantly told to just lump it. I don't think I'm going to do that this time.

As I noted before, Ms. Hartman also runs a weekly. I may send every last one of her advertisers a letter about how financially unstable her publication is. I'm also going to send a letter of protest to the National Association of Black Journalists, which I'm a member. I may also talk to the Chicago Sun-Times and Tribune about this situation. Lastly, I may take her to small claims court and then immediately go to her offices and enforce the judgement.

In plain terms, what Ms. Hartman is doing is stealing. She is promising to pay for work, and once the work was done and used, she is refusing to pay. That's sad. What do y'all think?

Friday, November 18, 2005

My New Website...

Hey all,

I've finally put up a website. Check it out at and let me know what you think.


Thursday, November 17, 2005

Kid in a Candy Store...

One of the great things about film school is that I get to listen to experts outside of writing. I love the business side of things, and one place I get to learn the biz is in a producer's class. Terry Press, Director of Marketing at Dreamworks, is a funny, gruff, and highly intelligent teacher of marketing, and she's been showing us the ropes of what it takes to market a movie. The woman can literally tell you how much any given movie is going to make before it comes out. She KNOWS her shit, and I like people who KNOW their shit. Today, she brought in Laurence Mark, producer of movies such as Jerry Maguire and As Good As It Gets. This is why I went to film school. He was great. He explained how African American movies are marketed and his movies in general, from the best to the worst. He's on my list of people to call once I have scripts ready.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Hal's Class Today...

We didn't have anything due today for my screenwriting class, but we watched the first acts of three movies: The Professional, Tootsie, and A Walk on the Moon (which was written in Hal's class). It was very informative as we watched how writer's wrote off the nose dialogue and how conflict was the center of every line, scene and the act itself. Again, it makes you very cognizant that you need to know your characters REALLY well. Right now, I'm doing a character sketch for my characters, and it's really making them come to life. Last week, I rewrote my story and started two scenes from Act One. But over the next couple of days, I'll first flesh out the characters, and then start writing better scenes.

Called Karen at Kensington to see if they were going to buy Money Shot. I sent an email to my agent, but I haven't heard back. Turned in my story idea for the Sloan Foundation ($10,000 prize) and I really like it.

Tomorrow begins my workout schedule. My knees are at 85% and I can walk straight without pain. Cutting, like a football player, is out of the question. But Lifecycle, here I come.

Friday, November 11, 2005

That's Better...

Sent my newly revised story to my professor and we both agree that it works much better. Still has some problems, but not huge. It's more writing this weekend, unless I go up to the Cal vs USC game.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Paul Haggis and Crash...

I went to see a screening of CRASH as presented by Creative Screenwriting magazine, and the writer Paul Haggis was in attendance. It was cool listening to someone rather than being on the stage myself. Anyway, each time I see CRASH, the more the impact lessens, but then again, that may simply be the nature of the movie. The plot twists, the emotional moments, the coincidences, are all known, so the surprise is gone. But still, I'm not sure that it's going to hold up over the long term. But I could be wrong. It wouldn't be the first time.

I have done a third revision of my Hal's class Project X and I like it. I threw away a LOT and I think I have a better, more logical story. I'm really getting into this throwing shit away. I'm not wedded to anything in my scripts, so I feel nothing if something doesn't work. Keep trying.

I also did a sketch of ACT ONE, and tomorrow, I will do a finish our assignment, which is to tell the story in the first person from our characters perspective. That'll help me understand my characters and their motivations for what they do.

One of the fortunate things about having paid for high school is that your fellow alums are extremely generous with their time and are willing to listen to you. Two of my high school alums are agents in this town and they've graciously agreed to meet with me once I have a script done. Remember, I want to learn the fundamentals, write a good solid first script, get representation, sell a script, and then begin to experiment while in film school. So this first script may not have many Charile Kaufaman moment, I'll save those for 434 advance screenwriting, but it will be solid, even if I have to re-write it over and over.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005


Had Hal's class today and we had to present a synopsis of our script. My synopsis showed flaws, such as folks were unclear as to where the story was going. Not too good. But that's what this is for. I look at each session as molding my clay project. So I'm going back over and throwing some stuff out, changing the direction in other ways, and then coming up with a better reason for telling the story in the first place. One thing though. I'm loathe to criticize the work of others unless I truly believe what I have to say helps. So, although I didn't say it today, I feel like some of the work read was a bit literary, when I am trying to move in the opposite direction. When I say literary, I mean a lot of description that could be action. I see some of the works as novels, but I'm going to be interested in seeing how they translate it to a script. My strategy is to take each and every description I write in a script and see if it can best be done as an action instead. So my descriptions aren't as long or flowery. Three words are my goals. Describe characters in three words. But make them good words.

More movies watched:

Mystic River
Catch Me if you Can

Projects to finish:
1. Revised synopsis and then continue working on Act One of Hal's Project X.
2. Work on the treatment for the Sloan Foundation: Due November 18th

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Backed Up...

I'm a bit backed up due to travel, so right now I'm doing my Hal assignments. We have to create a synopsis of our thirty page script, and we have to show how we'd adapt a story. Normally, I literally stare at the computer for a few days, relaxing while thinking about the assignment, and the tackle it. But Clemson set me back a bit. But neither of the assignments are difficult, so I should get them done by tomorrow night.

On the Friend With Benefits front, Black Expressions (the Doubleday book club) has listed my book as a hot read on their website. Let's hope for nice sales from that.

I haven't talked to the agent in a week, and I need to do that. I decided to scrap my old book proposal for the NEVER ENDING NON FICTION BOOK PROJECT and start again. I found my favorite book proposal book and I'm going to take a week and re-read it. Hopefully, I can crank out something worth selling.

I've got to see if Karen wants to buy Money Shot. If so, that's a few extra dollars in the coffers.

Went to the Ortho pedic doctors today, where they twisted and turned my knees. I now need an MRI on the right knee, because it still hurts. They want to see if there are any miniscus (sp?) tears there.

Tuesday, I'm going to start working out again. I need to get in shape because my diet is terrible and I feel like a blog. The Wooden Center sit there on campus with all of the state of the art exercise machines (and only $50 annual membership for the wife. Go UCLA!) and I need to get off my ass for an hour and work out. Bad knees or no, there's no excuse.

Tomorrow, the wife is out for her sorority meeting, and I take the now front toothless munchkin to his morning art class. After that, it's finishing my stories and football all day. I'm out!

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Last Night...

Right now, I'm typing from a hotel in Clemson, South Carolina. I spoke last night for the Greek community, but better than anything, I had the best Shrimp and Grits in the South at their restaurant. I spoke here four years ago and had them, and since then, I DREAMT about them. I just wish that I could have taken a doggie bag of them back with me to the hotel.

I'm about to get on the road and drive three hours to Atlanta, get on the plane, and then go to class this evening. Tomorrow, I'm going to talk to my agent about my troubles with my book proposal.