Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Michael Arndt's Words...

I really liked LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE. I thought it was a well-written script, and an enjoyable movie. And yet, when Michael Arndt accepted his Oscar and said that the director was the true author of the film, I almost heaved my Ghanaian royal stool through my television. What was he saying? Hadn't he received the memo? Screenwriters are fighting, here and in Europe, to be thought of as more than the whore who writes stuff so that the real talent can make it into a film. But Arndt just thumbed his nose at that. Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not saying screenwriters are the author of the film. It's a collaborative effort. But we are AN author of the work. We write the basic blueprint for what happens on the screen. Boy, the more I read about working screenwriters, the more I understand how screenwriters gave up the copyright to their works.

Monday, February 26, 2007

What my blog is worth...with thanks from Isaac Ho...

My blog is worth $10,161.72.
How much is your blog worth?

Writing Free Love...

I've noted before that I tend to write passive characters in my scripts. But this time, I decided to go back into my ACT I and strengthen them. I didn't want to wait until the full rewrite. So that's what I did. I'm still on page 51, and this script will go to 100 pages max. During this once over, I realized that my protag wasn't facing obstacles that were big enough to determine his action. It was more writers objective versus character objective. So I fixed that. I'm going to see if I can finish this first draft by Friday.

Writing Free Love...

I've noted before that I tend to write passive characters in my scripts. But this time, I decided to go back into my ACT I and strengthen them. I didn't want to wait until the full rewrite. So that's what I did. I'm still on page 51, and this script will go to 100 pages max. During this once over, I realized that my protag wasn't facing obstacles that were big enough to determine his action. It was more writers objective versus character objective. So I fixed that. I'm going to see if I can finish this first draft by Friday.

Saturday, February 24, 2007


So the third and final (at least for the near future) draft of SECRETS & LIVES is done. This is the one Krystal will use for her thesis, so I hope it works. After March 15th, we'll probably do about three more drafts in order to get it ready by graduation in June.

Next on the weekend agenda, for tonight, is to do my Icono observations. Tomorrow, I will complete the copyedit for the fiction manuscript. My editor at Kensington asked for it, and I feel bad, but I was pretty swamped. But once that's done, I'm left with two projects. One is Free Love in Utopia, which is due on March 9th, and the other is the non-fiction manuscript, which is due on March 15th.

Now, I've looked at March 15th as my liberation day, but it may not be. I'll probably take a week off, and then start working on the TV-One project. That's due in June also. And, if my agent can come to an agreement with Kensington, then I'll be expect to do an update of The Divine Nine. That'll be due around June too.

April is at the Oscar's, so my and the kid did the lay about thing. I had to write, so he chilled and played Nintendo all day. Then we gorged on pizza. Between that, we played a lot of rock, paper, scisssors, watched The Good, The Bad, The Ugly, which he thoroughly enjoyed, and then he was knocked out at 8pm.

Manchester United eeked out a win, but Cal got blown by USC. Another disappointing basketball season.

Next week, I'm going to start getting the judges for the annual UCLA Screenwriters Showcase.

Did anyone even notice that Will Farrell came out with Stranger than Fiction?

The undergraduate screenwriting class I teach is about to end, and I hate to see them leave. It was fun as hell, and the students are great. It would be nice to teach it next quarter.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Good day today...

Agreed to a development deal with TV-One at breakfast. That was cool.

Free Love In Utopia is coming together. When I write a script, as you know I'm a minimalist. One of the problems of writing a script in ten weeks is that at some point, you begin to lose your minimalist tendency as you race to get it done. But like when you cook a huge meal, I'm trying to clean up as I go. Think conflict. More conflict.

Still to finish:

1. Copyedit for fiction manuscript
2. Third draft for pilot ep. This is a real one, so I need to format it correctly. To date, I've just been writing it.
3. Get my observations in.
4. I have an advisory call to prep for on Monday.
5. Get ready to close Free Love in Utopia. I think I can get close to finish.
6. Prep for Greek conference

After this weekend, SECRETS & LIVES and the fiction manuscript drop off the calendar. If I can finish Free Love, I can spend a week cleaning it up versus writing it. After that, I just have my normal Icono and non-fiction manuscript. Technicially, I should be done with hard deadline writing projects on March 15th.

But of course, that's not how things work. For TV-One, I need to finish a treatment, due in June. And my publisher has proposed an update of The Divine Nine. That's to be determined. That would be due in June also.

BTW, gotta thank my boy Dave for the progress bars.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Free Love...

I've found that with Free Love in Utopia, I'm writing a delightfully weird script. Since I didn't have time to plot out each and every scene, it's making a few turns that I didn't expect. I don't know if I'd recommend this as a course of action, but hey, this is the last 434 script I'll write at UCLA. I'm going to use my last quarter to rewrite two scripts: Free Love and The Bestsellers. The idea is to make sure they're tight when I send them out. I think the biggest mistake folks in film school make is send out their scripts when they're not ready. And honestly, now that I think about it, I really wish I hadn't sent out MEN OF THEIR TIMES to the folks who read about it in Variety. It wasn't ready, but you're excited when someone wants to see it. But, you live and learn, and no harm done.

Anyway, I have a breakfast meeting tomorrow morning, and I'm almost done with the second act of Free Love. The idea is to write a script between 95-100 pages. Not one page more. Last week, I gave The Yardies script a read, and realized that it came out to 112 pages. As Whitney would say, hell to the no. I could EASILY cut ten pages out without a worry. I just may do it. The chairman of our department, Richard Walter, likes to say that you must learn to love to cut stuff out. That is what I like to do. I love to cut. In fact, it's damn near orgasmic (not really, but you know, as a writer) to cut out words that makes my script tighter. Anyway, the progress meter is broken, but I'm at page 51. I'm going to finish the second act tonight and then see if I can finish the script by the end of the weekend. Also due this weekend, SECRETS & LIVES. I need to format it correctly and finish doing the third draft.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

My Birthday...

Hey all,

Today is my birthday, and I'm going to celebrate by...writing! Yes, the projects don't stop, can't stop, won't stop. I'm about two acts away from finishing my 434 script, but it got good notes in class yesterday.

So while I would love to just chill today, alas, it's not to be. So I march on. BTW, I think my word counter folks didn't pay their bill, so I have to find another progress bar. I've got to ask my boy Dave to send me the code in easy form so I can understand.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Brain didn't cooperate...

Fully intended on getting my Icono quota done today and then the copyedit, but writing sometimes doesn't work that way. My brain just couldn't get it done. So I played with Langston all day, got some Krispy Kreme donuts (not good for my training on Monday) and some wings from WingStop. I'm behind the kabash now, meaning that I have to get this done tomorrow, along with at least one other thing. The pressure is starting again, and I can feel it in the back of my head. But, what are you going to do? It doesn't go away, and it's better to have pressure to do stuff than the pressure of not having anything to do. So suck it up and get it done. I think mangos would be a good way to get the writing juices going. lol

Writing Schedule for Saturday and Sunday...

1. Write ten observation articles for Iconoculture: I want to get those out of the way first.
2. Complete the copyedit for my fiction manuscript.

I need to get those two things done on Saturday because on Sunday...

3. Take Krystal's notes and reconfigure Secrets & Lives
4. Finish promotional questionaire for non-fiction manuscript.
5. Get to the end of the first act with Free Love in Utopia

If I can get all of this done in these two days, then I can concentrate on finishing Secrets & Lives over the next couple of weeks, and the editorial notes for my non-fiction manuscript. My new D-Day for having a relaxed writing brain is March 15th.


TheYack.com: Two companies sent me proposal about working with them. Actually, three companies, but I'm still waiting on the proposal for one. I'm not gathering volunteer moderators for the site.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Dickie V: Tool for Duke...

So Duke is out of the Top 25, on a four game losing streak, and in jeopardy of not making the NCAA tourney. So I decide to hear what good old Dick "Dickie V" Vitale has to say. Now if you're not familiar, Dickie V love a few people. "Coach K", the "General" etc. So the ACC is expected to get about seven teams into the tourney, with Duke missing it. But no, not according to Dick. Nope, he thinks that the ACC will get eight in. And who is the eighth team? Duke. If Duke loses five straight, then he'll probably say that the ACC will get nine in. If they lose six or seven straight, then the ACC will probably get ten in. No matter what, Dick V is as good a lobbyist for Duke that money can buy.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


So my kid gets a three day suspension for getting into a kicking competition with another kid. I was pretty pissed, because I told Langston to cut out all hitting, and so he's paying the piper. After a meeting at the woodshed, he's been also electronically stripped. Now, it's back to good ole fashioned reading and drawing to keep one entertained. He's sad as a result.

I'm playing hardball. I told him that getting suspended is a failure, and we don't have failures in this family. I want him to remember this suspension as being the worst idea ever. And of course, as a young black boy, he should be much more afraid of what my reaction will be to bad behavior than anyone outside my house. If you don't, then you will have issues later.

Now, on to my writing. Working through my fiction copyedit, and hopefully I'll be done by tomorrow. I meet with my 434 teacher from last quarter about The Bestsellers. Met with my current 434 teacher Richard yesterday. That was really sad because he lost his mother yesterday. Richard is really one of those people who genuinely cares about his students, and wears his heart on his sleeve. So I felt really bad for him at this time.

Graduation is on June 15th. I think I'll have a party then and get drunk.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

The State of the Black Union...

This weekend, Tavis Smiley held his annual State of the Black Union program. For about five years, it's been running on C-Span, and has been sort of a national dialogue between the African American intelligencia and black America. And for many years, it was great. I loved how you could hear from an African American professor like Cornell West and Minister Louis Farrakan, and some young kid doing something. It was must see tv at least once a year. But not this year.

I watched the program and basically yawned. In someways, the Black Union program reminds me of Sundance. Used to be there for indie filmmakers, and now Paris Hilton throws parties there. Same with the State of the Black Union.

Last year, Tavis and others came out with a book called the Covenant, which is supposed to be a blueprint for African America. It reached #1 on the New York Times bestsellers list, and I think something changed in Tavis, the conference, and the participants. This year, there was a LOT of shilling of stuff. A new book, the old book, everybody else's book. Hey, no one can shill a book like me, but it was getting over the top. Speaking of over the top, there were a lot of corporations sponsoring the State of the Black Union, which leads one to wonder if the State of the Black Union is for sale? If so, who is profiting?

Lastly, it was the same old people, saying the same old things, on the same old stage. Nothing new. Just a bunch of rhetoric, sound effects designed to create crowd pleasing applause, but substance no deeper than the nutrional value of cotton candy. There is a point where you can talk too much, and god knows I've been there. But if the State of the Black Union is to be something substantial, it's going to have to morph into something beyond a "Hallelujah fest" that sells books. Because right now, the State of the Black Union is pretty sad, and its participants should take a closer look at whether or not they are part of the solution or problem.

The Quota for this week...

1. Non-fiction manuscript: Finish about 1/3 of what my editor wants me to do. Sorry for being so vague, but can't really go into it.
2. Fiction manuscript: Finish and FedEx the copyedit back to editor by February 15
3. Free Love in Utopia: Get to the middle of Act II, around page 45.

Second Draft of the USC Script Turned In...

So that is done. The final draft is due February 23, so we'll see what notes Krystal has for it. Now, it's correcting the copyedit for the fiction manuscript (which is due on Feb. 15) and Iconoculture observations.

What I'm watching:

1. Watched Squid and the Whale yesterday. I was mildly entertained, but not wildly enthused. A lot of people at UCLA really liked it, but for me, some of the story was a bit plodding. But hey, that's me.
2. My favorite show: EXTRAS. Much better this season versus the first. And Stephen Merchant is hilarious as the agent. Sad to see the season end (and maybe series end?)
3. Manchester United is still in first. The Lakers play later tonight trying to get a split on the road trip.
4. 30Rock is on TiVO and while the last episode was weak (the one with Paul Ruebens), I still look forward to it.
5. Gordon Ramsey's F Word should be taping tonight.
6. April's working The Grammys tonight, so I'll watch that.

It's raining cats and dogs today, so I think we'll stay in. I wanted to go play basketball with Langstno, but that ain't gonna happen. Maybe a few games of Sorry!

Saturday, February 10, 2007

I'm With Obama!

Now that Barack Obama has decided to put his hat in the ring, I'm with him. But beyond this, I think this is going to be the death knell for the Civil Rights leaders who have ably led our community for so long. For many of them, they are now at a crossroads. Do they allow jealousy over Obama's ascendency to put them on the wrong side of history, or do they get on board? There's going to be a lot of pressure from the Hillary Clinton camp to be loyal to the ex-president, but there comes a time when you have to support one of your sons. Unfortunately, I think a lot of black Civil Rights leaders will actively (and in some cases subtly) work against Obama in order to limit his support. And they will probably guarantee their demise. African American Gen Xer's are having their moment, and if the black Civil Rights boomers don't understand it or work with it, they'll be left behind.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Act Breaks...

The problem was that I was writing a five act drama for television, and we don't write five act dramas for television at UCLA. We don't write television drama scripts at UCLA, period. So I had to, like a mechanic used to working on V8 engines and suddenly presented with a Ferrari V12, use my smarts, example scripts from current show, advice from working television writers, and hunches to figure it all out.

Now, I had the first draft as a template, but it had inherent issues. I tend to write very passive characters with passive actions in my first drafts. I don't know why, but I think it's my brain sort of getting to know the people in the script. Like when you come to a party where you only know the host, but everyone else knows each other. You get a drink, sit by the wall, and sort of survey the scene versus getting into a conversation with people you don't know.

After I met with Krystal, we went over some ways to make the second draft better. She made great points, but we did something that stymied me for a long while. There's an event in the first draft that is big, sort of an inciting incident. She wanted to put it almost first, within the first five pages, and as I kept trying to hammer out this draft, it didn't work. It then dawned on me that this event was an act break rather than an event simply within ACT I.

Well, after that, the script began to make sense. I'm still working on it, but the rest of the act breaks are harder, more satisfying, and propel the story forward (as all good scenes should). I also realized that my main character needed a defining moment for herself in those first five pages, and that gives us a sense of who she is. So I write on. Hopefully, the full second draft will be done by the end of tomorrow.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Back from Mississippi...

I'm back from Mississippi, and although I tend to have a love/hate feeling with being in the state,because of all of the bloody history, there's one thing I can never dispute: The people of Mississippi I've met are the nicest anywhere. Seriously. Just plain nice. I spoke at the University of Southern Mississippi last night, and it was the second time I'd been there. I spoke there about seven years ago, and had a great time then too. But I've been up since 4:30am, so I'm bushed.

Got home, and picked up the kiddo. He did his poem beautifully, and received two awards-one for citizenship and the honor roll. The Citizenship one was curious since Langston decked that kid for bad use of sarcasm, but it's Catholic school, so it must have been forgiven.

Both April and Langston have a cold now. April is really f*ed up with a head cold, and Langston is beginning. Didn't mean to spread my sickness, but for once, I wasn't the last to get it.

The USC script is FINALLY clicking! Here was the problem. I tend to write a very passive first draft. My characters are passive, the action is passive, etc. I know this going in. What I always have to do is look at it again, and then figure out how to rearrange the puzzle pieces so that things are more active. It takes time, and so I asked Krystal for a bit more time until Saturday. Now, my main character is there, where she was sort of an observer, which makes her very boring. So this second draft will be much better than the first one.

For now, that's what I'm going to work on. I'll slip her the draft on Saturday, and then try to knock out my fiction manuscript copyedit by the end of the weekend. Two birds with one stone. After that, finish the non-fiction manuscript and get Free Love to the second act by the end of next week.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007


Did I mention that my little first grader has learned Invictus in only five days? He will be saying it during Poetry Day tomorrow. I'm proud.

In Atlanta on my way to Mississippi

Right now, I'm sitting in Atlanta Hartsfield airport, waiting for a flight to Jackson, Mississippi, so that I can drive 100 miles to the University of Southern Mississippi. I left LAX at 11pm after having been flisked so thoroughly that I should have received a dozen red roses from my frisker.

What's cool about this trip however, is that I can do a little Icono research. It just so happens that I have a call on Friday with a client based in the Gulf Coast. So I'm going to do a bit of field research while in Hattiesburg.

My USC script will be ready this Saturday. Funny, but my projects (which are overwhelming at this point) are "knock on wood" falling one by one. I'm getting sleep so the brain is working more efficiently. Let me tell you: NEVER get in the habit of doing all nighters. It will wreck your health and your writing. Just go to sleep and start again in the morning.

My girl Donna's going to be out at least another ten days, so I have that added weight at Icono, but so far, it hasn't been too bad. We'll see as the ten days continue.

So I creep along to my March 15th D-Day. By that date, everything on my table should be done. And I do mean everything.

I was going to my 434 class two days ago (by the way, I'm fighting a massive head cold that I conveniently gave to April) and I realized that two years at UCLA flew by. I've had a ball, and while I'll be sad to not have the day to day interaction with my fellow students, it's time to finish up and fly. I came to UCLA to get the tools, and while I'm not anywhere near creating anything except a first draft, I feel I can use the tools to ultimately craft a script that sells.

Alright, I'm looking for more plugs so that my battery won't die. Check y'all later.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Worked out...

Worked out with the trainer yesterday, a cool white kid from Northern California. We did the circuit and my muscles feel sore as hell now. One hour of workout, and I could feel every ounce of every bad thing I'd eaten over the past week, try to squeeze out of my body. But I had to get off my ass and get moving. I'm starting to get big. Not just a little bit big, but belly jiggling big. So on Monday, I do the whole body fat thing.

On top of my other work, my fiction manuscript is on its way for copyediting. So like Al Pacino, just when I thought I was out, they bring me back in. I have a ton of work to do for the next 45 days. But this time, I'm doing things differently. No more 24 hour awake nights. I'm going to schedule out my days better. I don't mind getting up at 5am, and I'll need to do that in order to get things done. After these 45 days, I should be free until I graduate in June.

You'll also note the change in the 434 script. I may have mentioned it before, but my comedy script didnd't seem right for what I want to say in my scripts. So the new script is called FREE LOVE IN UTOPIA. About an Iraqi vet. Much more relevant. I decided to workshop the first four pages for the class I teach, as an example of how to do dialogue, format, etc. And I also wanted them to get used to hearing criticism. I have to say that they gave WONDERFUL critiques that were spot on.

At Icono, I'm a bit worried about my girl Donna. I haven't heard back from her, and I'm hoping she's just taking some time to relax versus being hurt. But it's not like her to not call. One of the weird things about being a remote company, where nearly everyone communicates via email or telephone, you tend to panic if you don't hear from someone for a few days. You find out that your lifelines are a note here and a phone call there, and if you don't hear that familiar voice, you really start thinking about it. Anyway, I hope she's okay.

My Super Bowl pick? The Colts. 34-17 Rex Grossman is terrible.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Back in LA...

All right, I'm back from Minneapolis, where the beer is cold and the black folks are absolutely freezing.

This weekend is not only the Super Bowl, but my son's birthday. We're taking him and his friends to a go-kart racing place, so that should be fun.

Now, let's get to the writing changes.

1. Icono: Gotta trend and five obs to do.
2.Okay, I was going to do a comedy spoof script, when it suddenly dawned on me that I didn't want to write it. Not that it wasn't good, but in light of what is happening in society, it seemed a bit frivilous. So I'm writing a new script called Free Love in Utopia, which is about an Iraqi veteran. So that's going well.
3. Need to finish second draft of Secrets & Lives USC script by Monday.
4. Got the edit notes from Thunder's Mouth about the book. Great notes, but still a lot of work to finish. I have until March 15th. Also, they want to know about my next book proposal. I'll finish that one after I finish what I'm working on now.

That's what I'm focusing on for the near future.