Monday, May 04, 2015

by Janet Lawler
Posted May 4, 2015

Recently, I did something I thought I'd never do.

I left New York.

Yes, I broke up with the greatest city on earth.  My city.  I didn't just leave it; I left it for another state. California. That sunny, palm-tree swaying, movie crazed, West Coast state.
 I took this photo in Central Park last fall
Why leave New York? In my opinion, there is a time to come to NYC and a time to leave it.  It was a hard decision. So, how do I feel now having left it? 

Like one feels after any breakup, even the inevitable one: guilty, relieved, sad and yet excited for the new challenges and changes. 
Moving Day - after 10 years in Astoria
I'll forever be a native New Yorker. My childhood and adult roots remain in that glorious, harsh, frantic, dazzling, loud, edgy, concrete jungle. 

My most memorable moments from living in NYC?

Oh. So many. Getting married at City Hall; watching the ball drop in Times Square on New Year's Eve, Broadway shows, MSG concerts (Madonna and Fleetwood Mac), having my first play performed in the Big Apple, attending the World Series in 2001 at Yankee Stadium, just a month after 9/11. Game 5 against the AZ Diamondbacks. The Yankees won that game at home.  NYPD cops and baseball fans hugged and cried at the end of that World Series game as the song "New York, New York" bellowed at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx.

I'll especially miss all the fabulous friends I made living and working in Queens and Manhattan. From my coworkers, to my neighbors, to family and friends.  New Yorkers are a tough, loyal and witty group.  So are those I love in CT and NJ.
In March, we packed up the car and drove for 3,000 plus miles across the United States heading west.

It was a SPECTACULAR experience driving across so many states (NY, NJ, PA, OH, IN, IL, MO, OK, TX, AZ and CA) seeing how the "middle" of the country lives -- tasting new foods, meeting new people, staying in roadside hotels and cruising the interstates with truckers. We took our time and visited friends and family we hadn't seen in years.  (Sometimes Facebook or emails just don't cut it anymore. You have to make time to SEE people you care about.)
A great day in Chicago
Sunset on the Interstate. God bless all the truckers keeping America moving.

Great Texas chow
My random road observations: New York is still the charmer with its skyscrapers and Hudson River, but there is a vast, vibrant, diverse country in America.  It's not only the East and West Coasters that matter or power this great nation.  There are millions of people in between NY and LA that also make a difference. Their pace is slower .  There is lots of open land.  Gas and restaurants are much cheaper.  And, America is also a faithful country, filled with lovely small towns and back roads.
Sweet Austin, Texas

Superstition Mountains in AZ
 We loved Columbus, Ohio for it's quaint town and parks; Pennsylvania for it's Amish countryside and family-style restaurants; Indiana for its  Midwest easiness and universities; Missouri for its Gateway Arch; Texas for it's great steak, BBQ, wineries and Austin flare; Chicago for it's skyline and downtown sites; Oklahoma for its land; Arizona for it's breathtaking mountains, desert and southwestern fare.  And, finally, California, well, what can you say?  The Pacific Coast glistens. The sunshine lifts your soul.  The surfers. The fish tacos. It's a place where you can be whatever you want to be, however you want to be it, and do a little surfing too.

So, again you ask -- no seriously, why did you leave New York?

Well, life is about change.  It's about growing.  We stayed in the same apartment for over a decade (a 5 story walk up, old apartment).  The winters are getting tougher.  New York City is a costly place to live short-term and especially long-term.  You get more for your buck elsewhere (simple things like a free parking space in your driveway, washer and dryer in your unit, roomier bedrooms, kitchen and living room, stores close by and quality of life.)  Now, I wouldn't trade a second of my years in NYC, but it was time to say farewell, for now.  We may come back someday; we may not.  Who knows?

My other big reason for moving to California is because I love the movies and writing (especially screenplays). So what better place to be than in southern California?  It's a kick in the pants here.  I always wanted to move to southern California -- now I have. Dreams come true on their own timeline. 
Surfer in La Jolla, CA
So, now my dilemma is with this blog you're reading. The NY Screenwriting Life started in 2005.  That's right, over ten years ago!  It has over 30,000 hits, thanks to you!  So, should I rename it?  And if so, to what?  Or should I close up shop and start a new blog in CA.  I'd welcome any ideas or suggestions.

Well, that's it. I hope my cross country move inspires you to examine your own life.  Are you living where you want to live?  Working where you want to work?  If not, take a risk.  Maybe change jobs. Write that screenplay.  Make that short film, finally. Drive or fly to a state you've always wanted to visit but haven't found time to do. You'll meet some cool folks along the way.

Black Beach in La Jolla
It's a gorgeous day here in CA. Think I'll go for a walk on the beach.
Until next time.

Follow The NY Screenwriting Life on Facebook.  Janet J. Lawler is also a published author and playwright.  Her first novel From the Ground Up is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble online.

Saturday, May 02, 2015

Janet J. Lawler
Posted: May 2, 2015
San Diego, CA

It's that time of year when screenwriters across the globe enter their movie scripts in a plethora of writing contests. 

It's costly and time-consuming to fill out all the contest applications, but it's a chance to get your work read by industry big shots.

I just uploaded my script The Tenant to the Austin Film Festival, Scriptapalooza, Nicholls Fellowship, Sundance Screenwriting Lab, BlueCat, PAGE International, Big Break and the Writers Lab.
Meryl Streep funds writing lab for women over 40
The latter lab received mega publicity when it was announced that Meryl Streep funded the screenwriters lab for women writers over 40, to be run by New York Women in Film and Television and IRIS, a collective of women filmmakers.

How cool is THAT?!

You might recall Meryl Streep jumped out of her seat at this year's Oscars when Patricia Arquette mentioned women's equality during her Best Supporting Actress acceptance speech.  It struck a chord. Let's face it, Streep reads a lot of scripts.  She apparently sees a lack of women's narrative on the page (and screen) and is doing something about it.  Thanks, Meryl, from all the screenwriters (who just happen to be women) and want their voices heard down the cinema from The Avengers.

The official deadline for the Writers Lab is June 1, 2015 at 5PM EST.  So if you're a gal over 40, born on or before June 1, 1975 -- and you're a US citizen -- then you have a shot at this writers lab funded by Streep in NY.

You'll also need to have your script registered with the WGA , format your script as a PDF file and pony up the application fee ($25 for NYWIFT members and $55 for non-members). The Lab will take place September 18-20, 2015, at Wiawaka Center for Women, on Lake George. Here is the link to the Writers Lab

There are a gazillion contests out there for everyone.  So get busy and submit that killer script of yours before the final deadline, or better yet, before the early bird entry deadline.


Until next time.

Be sure to follow The NY Screenwriting Life on Facebook.  Janet J. Lawler's novel from the Ground Up is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble online.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

by Janet J. Lawler
Revised Dec. 24th, 2014

There are so many good movies coming out Christmas week, but one that hasn't received a lot of buzz, but definitely should, is BIG EYES.  It stars Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz.  It's the riveting story about a married couple, artists Margaret & Walter Keane.  Margaret paints pictures of moppets with huge, charcoal eyes.  It's her passion. She's reserved and not very self-assured about her life (recently divorced with a young daughter) and she's especially insecure about her art.  Her second husband, Walter, comes into her life and sweeps her off her feet with tales about his stay in Paris where he painted street scenes and lived the starving artist's life in Europe.  He's cocky, sociable and believes in his wife's talent.  So far so good... 

When Margaret's paintings begin to catch eyes (pardon the pun) and pull in money, Walter sees a gold mine in the making.  His own work isn't selling.  So he tells his wife that people don't buy "lady art" and he should claim to be the creator of her popular paintings.  He charms the unsuspecting public (collecting $5,000 a pop for Margaret's paintings, but signing HIS name on them).  He also sells posters and postcards of the work.  It becomes one big eyes fraud bringing them wealth and luxury.
Tim Burton directs
It takes awhile for Margaret (played superbly by Amy Adams) to stand up for herself, locked away in their new California house painting, losing friends and her identity along the way, not to mention her self-respect. But when Margaret finally finds the strength to confront her conniving, domineering husband, sparks fly and the conflict over ownership of the works land them in court.

As they say, it's not the crime, it's the cover up that does people in.

Big Eyes has one of the best courtroom scenes. Christoph Waltz is both amusing and yet a lunatic.  It's hard not to like him, until you realize what he's capable of doing to hold on to his dream of being a "famous painter".  This is a biopic  It took ten years to come to the big screen, directed by Tim Burton (every frame of this movie is captivating and a canvas of beauty from framing to lighting to costumes).  Screenwriters Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski do a wonderful job of writing a tale about marriage and compromise in a dramatic, suspenseful and comical style.  The film is also beautifully shot with the colorfulness of San Francisco during the 50s and 60s.

Here is the trailer for the movie.


This North Korea/Sony Pictures hacking invasion is one of the biggest stories to come along in awhile.  It has the entire country riveted, the entertainment industry paralyzed in fear and causing Americans to wonder just how secure their privacy is at their own corporate jobs.

Should Sony have pulled The Interview from release?  Would North Korea go so far as to blow up a movie theater or kill moviegoers during Christmas week?  Some people don't think it's worth the risk to take and others think, as Americans, we don't back down to threats.  I agree with the ladder.  As a New Yorker, I lived through 9/11 firsthand and we didn't stop going to restaurants, walking down the street, shopping on Fifth Avenue or going to the World Series in New York City that horrible fall.  Hit us and we'll hit you back harder, but we never run scared.  Never have, never will.  Not in New York, not in America.  I get that Sony is afraid to have more lawsuits or problems (and public email disclosures), but if all of Hollywood and all the movie chains stood firm together, North Korea wouldn't have the upper hand.  It's not too late.

This is too serious.  We can't allow another country, a dictator, to tell us what we can see, hear or create.  This is America.  We may not all get along here, have the same political or religious views, but we do value freedom.  It's a cyber war and we've lost the first battle, but it's far from over.  Stay tuned in 2015.

UPDATE:  Sony is releasing The Interview in time for Christmas in theaters and on demand.  You can exercise your rights by watching it on YouTube, Google Play and other digital outlets starting today and Christmas Day.

Central Park in December
This is one of my favorite times of year living in New York.  The streets are full with tourists, the restaurants buzzing with company parties, couples taking horse and carriage rides through Central Park and Rockefeller Center welcoming skaters from around the world.  I'm headed to Ireland for New Year's Eve.  It's my first time traveling to Dublin and it's a dream come true to go to the land of my heritage.  I'll lift a pint and think of you all on New Year's Eve... until then, have a WONDERFUL, safe and healthy Christmas and holiday season!

See you in 2015.  It's going to be one of the best years ever!!
Happy Holidays.

Follow The NY Screenwriting Life on Facebook.  Janet J. Lawler is also a published author and playwright.  Her first novel From the Ground Up is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble online.

Friday, November 28, 2014

CHASTAIN: Like Carmella Soprano... only with a gun.
by Janet J. Lawler
Updated: Dec. 11, 2014
New York

Jessica Chastain in A Most Violent Year
The Golden Globe Awards were announced today.  Jessica Chastain is nominated as Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture for A Most Violent Year. 

Jessica Chastain, Oscar Isaac and director J.C. Chandlor
I attended a screening sponsored by the Producer's Guild at the DGA Theater on W. 57th St. for this new film A Most Violent Year.  The movie comes out Dec. 31st.  If you love crime dramas in the vein of The French Connection, The Sopranos, Serpico or even, yes, The Godfather -- this movie is for you.

It's one of the best movies I've seen in a long time. I plan to see it again when it comes out in theaters.

A Most Violent Year stars outstanding actors  Oscar Isaac (INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS) and Jessica Chastain (ZERO DARK THIRTY).  Isaac portrays an immigrant who is trying to make his mark in the oil-and-heating industry in NYC in 1981 (one of the most violent years in NY history).  He's a moral, family man with quiet manner.  He takes pride in his business, his family and his word.  Soon, he finds himself the target of unprovoked attacks against his business from competitors who beat up his truck drivers and steal his oil.  Should be arm his drivers with pistols?  Fight back with the same dirty, corrupt tactics he's confronting?  

It's a moral dilemma that keeps the audience engaged and rooting for Isaac as he takes one hit after another.   
Chastain plays his tough Staten Island wife (with a helluva Armani wardrobe!).  She's the daughter of an ex-mobster, who knows her way around guns and political and industry tricks.  Imagine Carmella Soprano with a gun.  You don't want to mess with her or her family.

Chastain's character adds a nice balance to her hard-working, big-hearted, but sometimes naive, husband.  Chastain brings weight to any role she plays and has several key scenes that had the audience stunned by her actions.

J.C. Chandlor (ALL IS LOST) is the producer, director and writer of A Most Violent Year.  Chandlor keeps the story moving at a steady clip -- making us root for the businessman with the style and manner of Michael Corleone (slow, soft spoken and immigrant proud).  Except Chandlor's character is a moral man who plans to fight back in his own way without losing his soul.

Being a native New Yorker,  I know firsthand the time period (1981) this movie portrays with its spray-painted subway cars, crime on the streets and city corruption.  It was a bleak time for New York City. This movie captures that sense of fear, paranoia and desperation.

It reminds me of the iconic movies I grew up on and loved by acclaimed NY director Sidney Lumet (DOG DAY AFTERNOON, NETWORK, SERPICO, PRINCE OF THE CITY).

If you too miss those grimy, suspenseful crime-drama movies set in New York from a time gone by, don't miss seeing A MOST VIOLENT YEAR.

Watch the movie trailer here:

Follow The NY Screenwriting Life on Facebook.  Janet J. Lawler is also a published author and playwright.  Her first novel From the Ground Up is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble online.   

Monday, August 11, 2014

by Janet J. Lawler
New York

New film released by Magnolia Picture
I'm interested in watching all things from Ireland since we just booked a flight there for next New Year's Eve.  It's a new film by Lance Daly.  Life's a Breeze gave us a fun taste of the land of saints and scholars.

It's a enjoyable tale about a family facing hard times in Ireland.  When the matriarch of the family seems stuck in a rut in her cluttered home, her family decide to surprise her by cleaning out her house top to bottom and renovating it (adding handles in the tub and shower, new toaster in the kitchen, throwing out old magazines and newspapers under the bed).

They decide to buy their mom a new mattress from Ikea and toss out her old lumpy one.  It comes as more of a surprise to her adult kids that the mattress contained her entire life's savings.  She tells them the mattress was stuffed "with close to a million euros".  The kids ask why not put the money in the bank and she replies "Have you been watching the news lately?" 

The family go on the hunt to get the mattress back which leads to several amusing scenes and exchanges between a solid cast of actors including: Kelly Thornton, Fionnula Flannagan, Pat Shortt, and Eva Birthistle.  The entire town and country try to find the mattress in hopes of getting rich.

The film gently shines a light on the stereotypes we heap on the elderly and how their voices are often drowned out by their well-meaning, but intrusive adult children.  

Will the family find the lost fortune?  And if so, will it bring them closer together in love and be the answer to their troubles, or does money only bring out the worst in people?

Life's a Breeze opens September 19th on VOD and in limited release in New York at The Quad Cinema, and Los Angeles at the Laemmle Music Hall.  This is a Magnolia Pictures release.

Follow The NY Screenwriting Life at Facebook.  Janet J. Lawler is a published author and playwright.  Her first novel From the Ground Up is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble online.   Or visit the author's website at

Thursday, July 10, 2014

by Janet J. Lawler
New York
July 10, 2014

And the Emmy goes to...

So many wonderful picks this year.  I'm finding The Emmys as exciting, if not more, than The Oscars.  That says a lot about television these days.  Who can stop watching all these incredible series and performances?

The HBO movie The Normal Heart received major nominations for best supporting actress Julia Roberts, best actor Mark Ruffalo, Outstanding TV Movie and many supporting nominations for that powerful film about the AIDS crisis in America during the 1980s.
Julia Roberts gets an Emmy nomination for The Normal Heart
 The Best Actor nominations for Drama are amazing.  Check it out.

Best Actor - Drama
Bryan Cranston - "Breaking Bad"
Jeff Daniels - "The Newsroom"
Jon Hamm - "Mad Men"
Woody Harrelson - "True Detective"
Matthew McConaughey - "True Detective"
Kevin Spacey - "House of Cards"

Every actor named above is deserving of an Emmy.  That's a hard pick.  I love Kevin Spacey on House of Cards... but then Matthew McConaughey's haunting performance in True Detective is hard to ignore. 
True Detective
Best Actress for Drama is just as mindblowing when it comes to talent and terrific performances.

Best Actress - Drama
Lizzy Caplan - "Masters of Sex"
Claire Danes - "Homeland"
Michelle Dockery - "Downton Abbey"
Julianna Marguilles - "The Good Wife"
Kerry Washington - "Scandal"
Robin Wright - "House of Cards"

I'll go with either Robin Wright or Julianna Marguilles.
Robin Wright in House of Cards
Orange is the New Black got a nom for Best Comedy.  This may be their year to bring home the Emmy. Taylor Schilling is nominated as Piper. I'm rooting for her, but she's got stiff competition. See below.

Best Actress - Comedy
Lena Dunham - "Girls"
Edie Falco - "Nurse Jackie"
Julie Louis-Dreyfus - "Veep"
Melissa McCarthy - "Mike and Molly"
Amy Poehler - "Parks and Recreation"
Taylor Schilling - "Orange is the New Black"
Don't mess with Red (Kate Mullgrew)
Piper's prison cellmate Red (the fab Kate Mullgrew) also received a nomination for Best Supporting Actress Comedy.

Best Supporting Actress - Comedy
Mayim Bialik - "The Big Bang Theory"
Julie Bowen - "Modern Family"
Allison Janney - "Mom"
Kate Mulgrew - "Orange is the New Black"
Kate McKinnon - "Saturday Night Live"
Anna Chlumsky - "Veep"

And if trying to pick a winner out of all these tremendous performances, we also have to look at the shows themselves.  Take a glance at the Outstanding Drama Series.

Outstanding Drama Series
"Breaking Bad"
"Downton Abbey"
"Game of Thrones"
"House of Cards"
"Mad Men"
"True Detective"

Is it any wonder people are calling the last few years of TV the NEW Golden Age for Television?
Move over, Oscar.  TV actors and actresses deserve to shine this year.

Tune in for the Primetime Emmys on August 25th on NBC.

Follow The NY Screenwriting Life at Facebook.  Janet J. Lawler is a published author and playwright.  Her first novel From the Ground Up is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble online.   Or visit

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

by Janet J. Lawler
New York
June 24, 2014

Cast of Orange is the New Black
 I just finished binging on Season 2 of Orange is the New Black.  All I can say is, Wow!

It's like doing time in the best sense of the word. 

Who new going to prison could be this much fun? What can I say, except the characters on Orange is the New Black are some of the most riveting, deranged, hilarious people you'll ever see on TV/online.

Who can beat Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling) at her calm, shrewd demeanor? Her nickname may be Dandelion, but she's no blushing flower. 
What about Crazy Eyes' antics and threats?

Red's Russian revenge?

Vee's vindictiveness?

Pennsatucky's  raunchy putdowns and preachy rants?  

How about Nicky's sexcapades and constant craving for heroin? 

Who can forget Morello's stalker tendencies and tender heart?  The scene when her stalkee comes to the prison to confront her is one of the best scenes I've seen on TV -- when her delusional love fantasy is shattered, not only for herself, but in front of her prison mate/friend Nicky (Natasha Lyonne).

And the actors who play the correction officers?  Pornstache?  Caputo? Healy and his support group? Each so convincing, scary and compassionate on some level.  Each trying to find a place to belong, even if it's inside a drab prison.

The writing is sharp, clever and witty.  Some lines make you wince and stick with you long after the episode dissolves to orange.  This isn't your mother's prison movie.  It ain't Charlie's Angels going to jail for one episode.  This show is as down and dirty as it can be... with lots of nudity and sex... and in your face reality...  it both repulses and captivates us to keep watching. 

What caused these women to be locked up?  Season 2 gives us snippets of their back stories and what landed them behind bars.  We disover Morello (Yael Stone) isn't engaged to "Christifer"... but that she tormented the poor guy after only one date and got locked up for it. We find out that Vee (Lorraine Touissaint) had one of her own "kids" shot down for double crossing her on drug runs.  We learn that Red (Kate Mulgrew) will do anything to protect her family, inside the prison and out. She can run a kitchen and a greenhouse like no other mother.

There are too many wonderful characters to all mention here. 
Alex Returns
If you haven't watched the show on NetFlix, get busy and start watching.  Season 1 lays the groundwork for a kick-ass Season 2.  NetFlix pulls out all the stops recruiting top acting, writing and directing.  You'll notice a few famous names behind the scenes  (Jodie Foster directs).

Season 3 can't come fast enough for me.  What will happen when Alex (Laura Prepon) returns to prison and is reunited with ex-love Piper?  Will Red learn her lesson from her beat-down and hospital stay? Will Daya have her baby? Will her C.O. boyfriend pay a price for being the baby daddy? What happens now that Caputo is the new assistant warden?

Season 3 will let us know.

Until then, we're all on furlough.  Enjoy your time away from Litchfield.

Follow The NY Screenwriting Life at Facebook.  Janet J. Lawler is a published author and playwright.  Her first novel From the Ground Up is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble online.   Or visit