Saturday, March 29, 2014

by Janet J. Lawler
New York

Did you hear the great news?  Movie theaters want you back.  You're staying home way too much.  Or playing on your tablets.  Put down that phone.  Is that really the problem?

Are we just distracted?  Too hooked into our tablets to go see a movie this weekend?

If the theaters cut the price for one day a week, as they're proposing, will that make me go to the movies more often?

Hmm... probably not.  I'll tell you why.

It's not the price of a good movie that keeps me away -- it's that there are fewer good movies.

I'm a movie junkie.  I fell in love with the movies as a kid.  My mother took me often.  My father took us on summer nights to the Drive In.  Going to the movies was an experience.

I still get excited on Fridays... because that's when all the new movies come into theaters.

But guess what?  I'm not so thrilled these days by new releases.  As a colleague of mine always asks, "Is it WORTH seeing in the theater?  Or should I wait for NetFlix?"  The only movie I told him that was worth going to see last year on the big screen was GRAVITY.  I'm sure there were others worth seeing like ALL IS LOST... CAPTAIN PHILLIPS... THE HUNGER GAME movies, etc.  But now we can see those on our big home entertainment centers.

At my house, we splurged for one of those Smart TVs last year and now we hardly go out to the movies, unless invited to a free "screener".  I work in media, so sometimes that's a perk.  Sign me up!  But I wouldn't have seen half the movies I saw last year if I had to open my wallet.

Hey, Hollywood executives and movie theater owners -- HEAR THIS -- it's not the price of a movie ticket these days that bothers us (although they are high) but its the content.  Why are movies getting longer rather than shorter?  3 hour movies?  Is that necessary?  When half of the movie is repetitive... like THE WOLF OF WALL STREET.

Also, staying home in my pjs is a lot more appealing than being in a theater with someone texting next to me, or kicking my seat, or munching popcorn in my ear.  I have to say that most New Yorkers are well-behaved movie-goers... you'll get shushed in a NY minute if you're not... but every once in awhile... I get that one person who grates on my nerves. 

I remember seeing a movie with my mother years ago.  The theater was half-empty.  This tall guy sat in front of us... he LEANED WAY back in his seat... his head practically in her lap.  She looked over at me as only my mom could and said, "I could wash his hair." Oh, I loved going to the movies with my mother.  Never a dull moment.

Speaking about movie seats, my friends rave about the "recliner" seats in theaters.  I have to check those out.  Some theaters even let you order an entree and someone brings it to your seat.  Wow.
"Yes, I'll have the Sea Bass, please.  Wine?  Sure, I prefer red.  Australian grape perhaps, a Shiraz.  Thank you."

How about you, fellow Movie Lover?  What will you have?

Does this new movie theater experience beat staying parked at home on your sofa with someone you love (maybe just your dog or cat), snuggled, watching a movie you can't wait to see? There is a new release on Amazon Prime or NetFlix.

Oh yeah.

I love the communal experience of seeing a movie with an audience.  The first movie I saw with a packed audience was JAWS.  It was like taking a ride at a theme park.  The audience kept SCREAMING.  Our hearts thumping along with the theme music.

Or ROCKY when Balboa floored Apollo Creed early in the match.

Or seeing SILENCE OF THE LAMBS on a dreary, rainy matinee day with a bunch of seniors citizens and housewives... we were all TERRIFIED in the dark theater.... JUMPING and shouting for Clarice to "get out of that house!  The girl is down a well in the basement!"

I will NEVER stop going to the movies. Want to charge me $50 dollars someday for a ticket and make me take a small loan for popcorn and a soda combo?  Fine.  I don't need all the gimmicks.  I don't need to lie down and get a mini massage to enjoy the movie...

All I need, Movie Owner, is one thing only.

A good movie.

And then, you'll see me every Friday night.


Don't forget to Follow The NY Screenwriting Life on Facebook.  Janet J. Lawler recently published her debut novel FROM THE GROUND UP available online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.   Or visit

Saturday, March 01, 2014


It's finally here... Oscar weekend!

Are you ready to watch The Oscars on Sunday night on ABC?  Are you staying home in your jammies to watch the show?  Going to a glamorous party?

Most people I know stay home.  The Academy Awards should be fun with Ellen DeGeneres hosting this year.  She's witty and classy -- Ellen won't make anyone squirm on the most anxious night in Hollywood.  She plans to go into the audience and have fun with the stars... and that will be exciting.  That's why we watch... to see the celebs up close on the industry's biggest night.

Ellen will Tweet during the show to make it more a social media event around the world.  So watch with your tablet on your lap.

It's a hard night... filled with anticipation... and expectations... and hopes and dreams at the start of the show when everyone looks glam and hopeful.  The red carpet is all about potential winners.  And as the show slowly ticks by, half the room soon fills with losers and a disappointed energy... until the big final awards.  I'm always a little sad when the show wraps.  It's like seeing Times Square hours after the ball falls on New Year's Eve.  When the parties are over.  Did the night live up to the hype? 

I'm rooting for Matthew McConaughey for Best Actor.  Kate Blanchett for Best Actress (with Amy Adams a close second).  Best Picture?  I've only seen 6 out of 10... I'll pick Gravity.  It was a cinematic experience. 

No matter where you plan to watch, have fun!  Join that office Oscar pool, order in your favorite food, or buy snacks... and for one night... dream big.  It's a night about glamor, possibilities and dreams coming true.  After the show, you can give your Oscar speech in your bathroom mirror... don't forget to thank your mother. 

Here is the list of nominees for the 86th Academy Awards on ABC:

Want to know who is showing up at The Oscars?  Here is the official list of presenters:

Amy Adams
Kristen Bell
Jessica Biel
Jim Carrey
Glenn Close
Bradley Cooper
Penélope Cruz
Benedict Cumberbatch
Viola Davis
Daniel Day-Lewis
Robert De Niro
Zac Efron
Sally Field
Harrison Ford
Jamie Foxx
Andrew Garfield
Jennifer Garner
Whoopi Goldberg
Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Anne Hathaway
Goldie Hawn
Chris Hemsworth
Kate Hudson
Samuel L. Jackson
Angelina Jolie
Michael B. Jordan
Anna Kendrick
Jennifer Lawrence
Matthew McConaughey
Ewan McGregor
Bill Murray
Kim Novak
Tyler Perry
Brad Pitt
Sidney Poitier
Gabourey Sidibe
Will Smith
Kevin Spacey
Jason Sudeikis
Channing Tatum
Charlize Theron
John Travolta
Christoph Waltz
Kerry Washington
Emma Watson
Naomi Watts

And the Oscar goes to....

while you're at it, check out my new writing website at  And Like us on Facebook at The NY Screenwriting Life.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

White Out
Ok, Winter, we get it.  You're here to stay.  As I write this, we're getting clobbered again with snow in New York.  More is expected this weekend -- a lot more.  I have to say, when I'm home, I love it.  When I have to go to work in it and step into knee-high dirty, slushy puddles in Manhattan, not so much.

But the snow is pretty... while it stays new and white and fluffy.

We just took a two week vacation to California last month.  Good thing, I loaded up on sunshine and vitamin D to last through this long winter.  California is so beautiful.  They have their weather issues too -- like no water -- a drought that is turning everything desert brown with a threat to their drinking water supply.  Wish we could send them some of this NY snow.  Mother Nature, take pity.

While in L.A., I stopped by the Writer's Store in Burbank.  I've bought things from them online for years, so it was great to finally visit the store.  They have every screenwriting book, software, seminar and supplies you can dream of -- I went crazy.  I bought Jen Grisanti's new book "Change Your Story, Change Your Life" which I highly recommend.  It's awesome.  You can apply this book to your writing, but more importantly, to your life. 
Jen Grisanti's new book
Are you living your life through ego or spirit?  Think about it.  Is it your soul or your pride that makes your life choices?  Jen's book is worth picking up.  I'm almost done with it.  I started reading it on the flight back from L.A. to N.Y. -- doesn't that sound so Hollywood? 

We were in L.A. when the Oscars were announced.  I expected it to be buzzing with excitement and industry noise... but I didn't notice too much activity.  I saw some screenwriters working on their scripts in coffee cafes and a few actors, but nobody was saying "Did you hear who got nominated?  Or didn't get nominated?"  Could it be that the Oscars are a bigger deal to us on the East Coast?  Or maybe it's because when in NY, I'm usually working in a newsroom... so when the Oscar nominations come out, it's NEWS... it's BUZZ... it's the Academy Awards!
Ellen returns
Glad Ellen is hosting The Oscars again for the second time.  She'll do a fun job.  The only possible host better right now would be Bruno Mars.  He'd keep the night moving.  To think Bruno almost quit on his career a few years back.  He couldn't get anyone to take him seriously while working in Hawaii -- music execs told him he didn't have what it takes to succeed on the mainland -- um, goes to show what can happen if you believe in yourself and keep creating your own voice.  Go, Bruno!
Now that's a Half-Time Show
I'm outlining my new screenplay today as the snow falls.  It's called The Tenant.  It's a very New York story.  Not a thriller, but suspenseful.  It's not even a first draft yet -- so today, I'll write up index cards to build scenes, jot down bits of dialogue, key images, etc.  Then once that's done, I will start writing the first draft in the weeks and months ahead.  I  just have to get it all down on paper.  Easy, right?

Maybe I'll just go outside and play in the snow.

Janet's novel From the Ground Up by Janet J. Lawler is now available on Barnes & Noble and on Amazon online.  Also like it on Facebook.   This blog is also on Facebook. 

Tuesday, January 07, 2014


Is there anything like a new computer to motivate a writer?

I get bored easily.  When I was a teen, I'd move my bedroom furniture around every few months so it would make me feel like I was somewhere new when I'd wake up. 

This Christmas I received my new Mac laptop from Santa Carolina.  I love it!  It's lighter, shinier, with all the latest programs.  I just upgraded to Final Draft 9.  I was using 7 before this and it was just fine.  I don't really use all the tools and options on Final Draft -- I'm a mix of new school and old -- but it's cool to have the latest anything I suppose.  Maybe I'll try some of the whistles and bells with this version.  Probably not, since that's just an easy way to procrastinate from writing.

We're going to California soon for vacation.  I'm psyched beyond belief.  It's freezing here in New York City.  It was five degrees this morning.  So a warm, sunny trip to California will be good for me mentally, physically and spiritually.  I'm so ready and eager.  Two weeks near L.A. and Hollywood and San Francisco is just what I need to recharge the creative batteries for 2014.

I'm outlining my new screenplay.  Too early to share with you what it's about -- but I have the title -- it's called THE TENANT.  And I see Robert DeNiro starring in it.  Dream big, why not?

I'm excited to write it.  I see it all in my head.  I outlined some scenes and dialogue on paper.  Now I'm about to do index cards to outline scenes.  I only do index cards for the very first draft.  I find it helpful and easier to work with the cards -- shuffle scenes -- delete ones that bog down the story.

Then, after vacation, I will begin writing.  I have my shiny, new toy (laptop) to play with when I return.  I'm going to try to use this laptop only for work and not so much for social media or entertainment.  We have a TV, Kindle and other things for all that. 

This laptop will mostly be used for emails, blogging and screenwriting. 

That's my resolution.  More work, less horsing around online.

I wish you a wonderful New Year!  Make 2014 everything you want it to be. 

Side note:   I published my first novel recently.  It's called From the Ground Up by Janet J. Lawler.  If you'd like to check it out, go to Amazon.  The paperback version will be out before March 2014.  Thanks for all the support!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

by Janet J. Lawler
New York
Oct. 15, 2013
Robert Redford in All is Lost
All is Lost.  Gravity.  Two awesome new movies.  Both dealing with catastrophe and survival.  So why are these movies coming out now and receiving strong responses from audiences?

Are we feeling a little more lost these days?  Losing hope in our government, leaders, careers and world?  What are these popular movies teaching us?

Something is definitely in the Zeitgeist.  And it's not only the whiff of movie popcorn.

Gravity brings us to the vastness of space and All is Lost to the isolation of the sea.  Both worlds of mystery and wonder to human life.  Male (Robert Redford) and female (Sandra Bullock) heroes.  They're character are smart, top at what they do, yet find themselves unable to control their environments.   They find themselves spinning out of control.  No way out.

They're alone.  

They must fight to make it back.  And besides the elements and situation pulling them deeper into the abyss -- they must confront something even worse:  their own demons. 

Without spoiling either movie, All is Lost and Gravity teach us about perseverance, tenacity, intelligence, spirit and soul.  They show us what it is like to face our deepest fears, our long buried grief, our insecurities, the mysteries of the world and not quit. 

Life, and movies, don't always turn out as we hope. 

It sounds corny to say it's the journey and not the destination.  When we're in danger -- lose hope like Redford and Bullock on screen -- we just want stability again and to return to our normal lives.  But sometimes, the story (script) or our own life trials have other obstacles we must first overcome. 

We can crumble or face those challenges like Redford and Bullock do as their characters on screen.

These movies seem to teach us that the human spirit at its best never quits.  It falters, it hits its knees in pain, sorrow, loneliness, but then it's get back up.  Figure it out.  Try something else.  Obstacles are what make great movies.  We relate to them because we face our own every day.

Find a way, anyway, to keep going.
Go with the flow
That is the motto of champion swimmer Diana Nyad.  She's the 64 years old woman who recently swam from Cuba to Florida.  The first person to do it without a protective cage.  She talked to Oprah on Super Soul Sunday and said if you have a problem, no matter what it is, or how challenging it is, or you can't reach your goal and you've tried and tried... and maybe you have failed once, twice, three times... don't EVER give up.  Find a way to be a champion.  Nyad failed for decades at her dream of swimming from Cuba to Florida.  People doubted her.  They made fun of her.  She put her head in the water, focused, moved through the pain and accomplished her DREAM.   She got the last laugh.
This is what Diana Nyad recently told CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta:
"It's all authentic. It's a great story. You have a dream 35 years ago -- doesn't come to fruition, but you move on with life. But it's somewhere back there. Then you turn 60, and your mom just dies, and you're looking for something. And the dream comes waking out of your imagination." 

America loves a comeback story.  We respect and root for those who get knocked down but return to the ring better than ever.  Think of Sandra Bullock and Robert Redford again.  Two mega stars who have had their share of highs and lows, career ups and downs, personal challenges, hit movies and flops... but they continued to move forward... to work through difficult times... and now each is at the top of their game, in life and in Hollywood.  Life is funny.

Somehow they found their way.

Janet J. Lawler is a screenwriter, playwright and published author.  Her debut novel From the Ground Up is now available on Kindle and

Here are the trailers for Gravity and All is Lost

Saturday, September 28, 2013


Do you have the ability to do something that nobody else can do? 

Think about that. 

Do you do something unique? 

Sure you do.  Maybe you don't know what it is yet.  The new book The Authentic Swing by Steven Pressfield is a little gem to help you discover your swing/gift/voice. 

Like a golfer, everyone has an authentic swing.  Maybe it's the way you cook, garden, write screenplays, raise your kids, sing songs or play a sport? You're on this planet for a reason.    

To share.  To give back.  To discover.  To teach.

Steven is a successful novelist (The Gates of Fire, The Legend of Bagger Vance).  He also writes wonderful non-fiction (The War of Art and Turning Pro).  I have a shelf of his books at home.  He inspires me to write, to trust my Muse and to treat my creativity like a pro.  He's my inspiration. 

This weekend Steven will appear on the OWN network to sit down with Oprah Winfrey on her show Super Soul Sunday.  Set your DVR.  This hour interview you won't want to miss, especially if you are seeking to find your purpose or a way to stay on course with your passion in life.

Steven Pressfield visits Oprah on Super Soul Sunday
Steven wrote for 30 years and went unpublished.  He never quit.  He worked successfully in Hollywood for awhile, had an agent and wrote movie scripts.  But then he realized he wanted to write a book.  He bailed on Hollywood and his agent (or the agent bailed on him) and he sat down and wrote The Legend of Bagger Vance.  It changed his life.  That novel about golf became a hit and eventually was turned into the movie starring Matt Damon and Will Smith.

Steven's new book The Authentic Swing gives tips to writers (but you can apply it to whatever your  goal is) that will guide us to finish a book or novel.  His advice to "cover the canvas" means to begin.  Just start your project.  Throw it all up on the canvas.  Don't hold back.  Don't judge.  Just get it out of your head or soul or heart.  Be free.  Get it down on paper as fast as you can.

Then, like a golfer, you can focus on your game -- refine it -- develop it -- your God-given talent and acquired skills.  You can focus on your concentration, techniques, keeping your head in the game, overcoming the sense to choke and quit under pressure or to take your eye off the ball.    

Who are you without your labels or self-judgements?  Who are you, Pressfield asks, when you're not a wife, husband, mother, father, boyfriend, girlfriend, employer, son, daughter -- insert any label.  Who are you deep down inside when you strip away all of that?

Who are YOU?

That is where your authentic swing comes from.  Your voice, talent comes from places none of us can fully explain.  Is it in our DNA?  God-given gifts?  Luck?  The most important thing is to let it be free -- not to confine it, or judge it, or abandon it when times are tough.   Just believe and get busy.

Swing.  Swing big.  Find your authentic swing and let the world be awed.

Until next time,

Janet J. Lawler is a screenwriter, playwright and published author.  Her debut novel From the Ground Up is now available on Kindle and

Thursday, September 26, 2013


I published my first novel From the Ground Up this month on Amazon.

Most people ask me "How did you find time to write a whole book?"  They looked amazed.  They know I work full-time and have a busy life. Answer: It wasn't easy.  It was hard writing a 298 page novel and it took over three years to complete.

Are you a writer?  Do you want to write a book?  A blog?  A poem? 

Don't limit yourself to one medium -- try them all.  But first, you have to start with one -- and aim to finish your project.

I found some tricks that helped me.   Maybe they'll help you.

I kept a journal (a day planner actually).  When I first started writing my novel From the Ground Up, I was between full-time jobs.  Perfect.  I had time.  What does every writer say?  "If I only had more time, I'd finish that script... book... song." 

No more excuses.  You have to make the time.  It's like going to the gym.  The hardest part is going -- once in the zone, you're fine and excited.  Same with writing.  You have to start.  So keeping a journal was a good idea because I could mark off how much I wrote that day: 2 hours, 3 hours, 30 minutes.  At the end of the week, I could flip the pages and see what I'd accomplished in black and white.

Another trick -- I told friends I was writing a book.  Why?  Accountability.  If you put it out there, you better back it up.  There will be that one friend who asks months later, "So how's that book you were writing?"  You'll feel wonderful if you can say "I'm half way done.  Or, it's finished."

Every artist faces resistance.  One of my favorite writers is Steven Pressfield (The War of Art).  He's written tons of novels, but also short non fiction books about writing.  He says resistance shadows every artist.  The muse is strong, but the shadow of resistance is stronger some days -- she'll tempt you by saying, "Who do you think you are to write a book?  Who's gonna read that?  You're wasting your time?"

Sound familiar?  Ignore the resistance.  Hear it and keep working anyway.  Don't let any judgments discourage you from the work ahead.

Be professional in tackling your project.  Block out time for it.  Put it on your calendar.  Prepare your place to create.  Just do it.  Sit down and work.  You'll see the pages piling up in time.  Paragraphs turn into chapters.  Chapters turn into a book.

Nobody said writing would be a breeze.  That's why most people quit.  They have unfinished novels, scripts and poems on their desktops or tucked away in drawers.
Be brave.  Take small steps and you'll be publishing your first book in no time.

From the Ground Up is available for sale on  Order your copy here.