Saturday, December 31, 2011

THE COUNTDOWN BEGINS... TO 2012
December 31, 2011
by Janet Lawler

New Year's Eve 2011  Photo: Janet Lawler
As the clock ticks closer today to the New Year of 2012, I want to thank you for reading The NY Screenwriting Life blog throughout 2011.   Thanks for following on Kindle and Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

It's been a blast reviewing movies, TV shows and discussing writing in the arts... special thanks to writers Leslie Dixon "Limitless", Angelo Pizzo "Rudy" and Steven Pressfield "The War of Art" for their interviews here in 2011. 

Tonight, I'll be in Times Square when the ball drops.  Crazy, huh?  As a native New Yorker and member of the press, I've done it several times  -- and nothing is more thrilling than when that clock starts counting down and the ear-popping TICK, TICK, TICK reverberates throughout Times Square... your heart pounds with anticipation... the crowd cheers... the mega-sized screens countdown the numbers from 60... down to 1 at the final minute of the year.  And then...

... HAPPY NEW YEAR! CONFETTI... LIGHTS... Auld Lang Syne plays from giant speakers... and New Yorkers, tourists and cops hug -- reflecting on the year past (highs and lows) and hopeful for the new year ahead.  A clean slate.


And then, the melancholy music seques into Frank Sinatra singing New York, New York... 

... and there's barely a dry eye in the city.  If you're from New York, you're filled with pride... if you're not from New York, you're an honorary New Yorker at that very second.  

It gives me chills every time.  As one tourist said on TV the other night, Times Square on New Year's Eve is the center of the universe. We can't stop time... but that countdown is the closest we come to it.

Janet Lawler
The past few years have been a challenge for America economically, but we still have an awful lot to be thankful for as this year winds down.  We can work toward new goals, improve our lives and those of others -- even if by just being more positive in what we say each day at work, school, home -- and reaching for our dreams.  

It was a great year for me personally... I got married in NYC this past summer to my partner Carolina!... finished my new play and a screenplay... and am working in the greatest city on the planet.  I'm thankful to all my friends and family who make each day of the year joyful.

Lady Gaga performs
Happy New Year, All!  Go after what you want in 2012.  Hug someone tonight at midnight -- even a complete stranger -- and hope and strive for the very best to come.

Big online hug to you and yours.  HAPPY 2012 -- peace, good health and love.

Until next time. 

Friday, December 16, 2011

AWARDS SEASON AND HOLIDAY CHEER
The 2012 Golden Globe Awards Picks
by Janet Lawler

Hey, it's that time of year again for eggnog and Christmas cookies... and the Golden Globes and Ricky Gervais in your living room.  Yes, it's Golden Globe season!  

Damian Lewis in Homeland
It looks like an exciting year for movies and TV.  Some of my favorite picks made the list.  I'm rooting for Homeland to win best television series.  Claire Danes and Damian Lewis are up for their thrilling performances each week as the C.I.A. agent and Marine hero-possibly-turned-terrorist.  They have strong competition with Boardwalk Empire and Breaking Bad.

The Artist
The Artist will no doubt win for best musical/comedy.  It's a delightful movie (even if a tad long) but very clever and original.  It reminds us of why we love movies.  It's magical.  The leads actor and actress (Jean Dujardin and Bernice Bejo) chew the scenery on the big screen in black and white  and do a great job making a silent film so captivating in 2011.

I liked the dog too in The Artist!  He stole many scenes.  What, no nomination for Best Animal in a Supporting Role?
Kristin Wiig
I love Kristin Wiig in Bridesmaids ("Let's get ready to PART-TAYYYYY!") and would be over the moon if she wins for best actress in a comedy/musical, but then she's up against Michelle Williams in My Week with Marilyn... and Williams is truly stunning as Marilyn Monroe (she sings and dances as well as acts)  Not easy portraying an icon and bringing something fresh to it.

The best motion picture category for comedy/musical is solid with The Artist, Bridesmaids, Midnight in Paris, My Week with Marilyn and 50/50.  I think The Artist will win and rightly so.  It's got Hollywood written all over it.  But I have a sweet spot for Midnight in Paris (Woody Allen is nominated for best director and Owen Wilson for lead actor.)  Midnight is the biggest box-office success for a Woody Allen film.  Try to see it if you can.  If you're a writer, you'll swoon over it.

The Help
As for lead actress -- Meryl Streep is back with The Iron Lady.  Need I say more.  But, Viola Davis is also nominated for The Help.  Both actresses starred together a few years back in the movie Doubt.  The Help received solid nominations, especially for supporting actresses Jessica Chastain and Octavia Spencer.  The movie peaked in the summer, but let's not forget what a super cast that movie had and how it touched our hearts.

And what is a motion pictures awards show without Brad and Angie on the red carpet?  We can all breathe a sigh of relief because they will be attending the awards.  Each has a nomination of their own -- Brad Pitt for lead actor in Moneyball and Angelina Jolie directed In the Land of Blood and Honey, which received a nod for Best Foreign Language Film.  Looks like they'll need a babysitter to watch the kids.

New Girl's Zooey Deschanel
My Grab Bag PicksModern Family is my fave for Television Comedy.  I'm happy for Madeleine Stowe for her nom for Best Actress in a Television Drama for Revenge.  I'm doing cartwheels that Zooey Deschanel is nominated for Best Actress in a Television Comedy/Musical.  I love her on New Girl!  She's a riot, quirky and underrated.  So my fingers are crossed for her to win this year.

And Sophia Vergara may take home a Golden Globe for supporting actress on Modern Family.  Let's hope so.   Every week she delivers on that show.  Oh, and Mildred Pierce (HBO) received four nominations!!  I'm checking off Kate Winslet for best actress in a Television Mini Series. 

Below is the list below of all the nominations for you to peruse and make your picks.  Thank you, Hollywood Reporter for this list.   

Ricky Gervais
Enjoy your holiday fruit cake and be sure to mark your calendar to watch the 69th Annual Golden Globe Awards on Sunday, January 15th on NBC.  Ricky Gervais will be sure to deliver the laughs and insults for us all to enjoy after the warm glow of Christmas.

Merry Christmas and happy holidays to everyone reading!  Don't forget to follow The NY Screenwriting Life on Facebook and also to subscribe on Kindle in the new year!!

Until next time.


MOTION PICTURE 
Motion Picture, Drama
The Descendants
The Help
Hugo
The Ides of March
Moneyball
War Horse


Best Performance By An Actress In A Motion Picture  – Drama
Glenn Close, Albert Nobbs
Viola Davis, The Help
Rooney Mara, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady
Tilda Swinton, We Need To Talk About Kevin

Best Performance By An Actor In A Motion Picture – Drama
George Clooney, The Descendants
Leonardo DiCaprio, J. Edgar
Michael Fassbender, Shame
Ryan Gosling, The Ides of March
Brad Pitt, Moneyball

Best Motion Picture – Comedy Or Musical
50/50
The Artist 
Bridesmaids
Midnight in Paris
My Week With Marilyn



Best Performance By An Actress in A Motion Picture – Comedy Or Musical
Jodie Foster, Carnage
Charlize Theron, Young Adult 
Kristen Wiig, Bridesmaids
Michelle Williams, My Week With Marilyn
Kate Winslet, Carnage

Best Performance By An Actor In A Motion Picture – Comedy Or Musical
Jean Dujardin, The Artist
Brendan Gleeson, The Guard
Joseph Gordon-Levitt, 50/50
Ryan Gosling, Crazy, Stupid, Love.
Owen Wilson, Midnight in Paris

Best Animated Feature Film
The Adventures of Tintin
Arthur Christmas
Cars 2
Puss in Boots
Rango


Best Foreign Language Film
The Flowers of War (China)
In the Land of Blood and Honey (USA)
The Kid With A Bike (Belgium)
A Separation (Iran)
The Skin I Live In (Spain)

Best Performance By An Actress In A Supporting Role In A Motion Picture
Berenice Bejo, The Artist
Jessica Chastain, The Help
Janet McTeer, Albert Nobbs
Octavia Spencer, The Help 
Shailene Woodley, The Descendants 
 
Best Performance By An Actor In A Supporting Role In A Motion Picture 
Kenneth Branagh, My Week With Marilyn 
Albert Brooks, Drive
Jonah Hill, Moneyball
Viggo Mortensen, A Dangerous Method 
Christopher Plummer, Beginners

Best Director – Motion Picture
Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris
George Clooney, The Ides of March 
Michel Hazanvicius, The Artist 
Alexander Payne, The Descendants
Martin Scorsese, Hugo
Best Screenplay – Motion Picture
Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris
George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Beau Willimon, The Ides of March
Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist 
Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, Jim Rash, The Descendants
Steven Zaillian, Aaron Sorkin, Moneyball

Best Original Score – Motion Picture
Ludovic Bource, The Artist
Abel Korzeniowski, W.E.
Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Howard Shore, Hugo
John Williams, War Horse

Best Original Song – Motion Picture
“Hello Hello” — Gnomeo & Juliet
Music by: Elton John
Lyrics by: Bernie Taupin
“The Keeper” — Machine Gun Preacher
Music & Lyrics by: Chris Cornell
"Lay Your Head Down” — Albert Nobbs
Music by: Brian Byrne
Lyrics by: Glenn Close
“The Living Proof” — The Help
Music by: Mary J. Blige, Thomas Newman, Harvey Mason Jr.
Lyrics by: Mary J. Blige, Harvey Mason Jr., Damon Thomas
“Masterpiece” — W.E.
Music & Lyrics by: Madonna, Julie Frost, Jimmy Harry

Best Television Series – Drama
American Horror Story, FX
Boardwalk Empire, HBO
Boss, STARZ
Game of Thrones, HBO
Homeland, Showtime

Best Performance By An Actress In A Television Series – Drama
Claire Danes, Homeland
Mireille Enos, The Killing
Julianna Margulies, The Good Wife
Madeleine Stowe, Revenge
Callie Thorne, Necessary Roughness

Best Performance By An Actor In A Television Series – Drama
Steve Buscemi, Boardwalk Empire
Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad
Kelsey Grammer, Boss
Jeremy Irons, The Borgias
Damian Lewis, Homeland 

Best Television Series – Comedy Or Musical
Enlightened, HBO
Episodes, Showtime
Glee, FOX
Modern Family, ABC
New Girl, FOX


Best Performance By An Actress In A Television Series – Comedy Or Musical
Laura Dern, Enlightened
Zooey Deschanel, New Girl
Tina Fey, 30 Rock
Laura Linney, The Big C
Amy Poehler, Parks and Recreation

Best Performance By An Actor In A Television Series – Comedy Or Musical
Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock 
David Duchovny, Californication 
Johnny Galecki, The Big Bang Theory 
Thomas Jane, Hung
Matt LeBlanc, Episodes

Best Mini-Series Or Motion Picture Made For Television
Cinema Verite, HBO
Downton Abbey,  PBS (Masterpiece)
The Hour, BBC America
Mildred Pierce, HBO
Too Big to Fail,  HBO

Best Performance By An Actress In A Mini-Series Or Motion Picture Made For Television
Romola Garai, The Hour
Diane Lane, Cinema Verite 
Elizabeth McGovern, Downton Abbey
Emily Watson, Appropriate Adult
Kate Winslet, Mildred Pierce

Best Performance By An Actor In A Mini-Series Or Motion Picture Made For Television
Hugh Bonneville, Downton Abbey 
Idris Elba, Luther
William Hurt, To Big to Fail
Bill Nighy, Page Eight
Dominic West, The Hour

Best Performance By An Actress In A Supporting Role In A Series, Mini-Series, Or Motion Picture Made for Television 
Jessica Lange, American Horror Story
Kelly Macdonald, Boardwalk Empire
Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey
Sofia Vergara, Modern Family 
Evan Rachel Wood, Mildred Pierce 

Best Performance By An Actor in A Supporting Role in A Series, Mini-Series Or Motion Picture Made For Television 
Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones
Paul Giamatti, Too Big to Fail
Guy Pearce, Mildred Pierce 
Tim Robbins, Cinema Verite
Eric Stonestreet, Modern Family

Monday, November 28, 2011

WOODY ALLEN: The Documentary
A lesson in Being Prolific
by Janet Lawler
November 28, 2011

I grew up watching Woody Allen movies all my life.

Back as a teen, I didn't quite get Woody's intellectual wit when I was watching "Annie Hall" and "Manhattan" for the first time, but oh, how I wanted to walk around Woody's black and white New York... and sip wine with his movie characters who seemed to know so much about film, art and this magnificent city.

He presented New York City in the best light for the times.  It was far from the reality that most of us had growing up on city streets, but yet we knew there was an Upper West Side and Upper East Side that was within our reach.
I would dream about some day siting by the 59th Street Bridge with the person I loved... with New York illuminated in the foreground.  I did just that -- only sitting on a bench on Roosevelt Island -- looking back at the Manhattan skyline, which was a dream come true.

According to the PBS documentary Woody Allen: The Documentary, Woody had to put a bench by the 59th Street Bridge for that stunning scene in "Manhattan".  There were no benches there.  And although he knew it was a great shot, he never imagined it would become so iconic.

I found this two-part documentary absolutely fascinating.  PBS gets a donation just for this program alone.  It's filled with gems for the creative person or movie lover.

We think of Woody Allen as closed-off, reclusive, and aloof.  He is shy, but in this documentary, he opens up freely, especially about his creative process.  He is a writer.  It's his roots.  Directing came much later.
He takes us into his apartment in New York... to where he writes... He writes all his screenplays at a simple desk in the corner of the room.  He writes them on a manual Olympia typewriter.  It's the same typewriter he has used since his teens when he wrote jokes for other comedians back in the 50s and 60s.  No computers.

Woody Allen has a work ethic like you can't believe which is why he comes out with a new movie practically every year, including movies such as:  Take the Money and Run, Bananas, Sleeper, and Love and Death; Annie Hall, Manhattan, Zelig, Broadway Danny Rose, Purple Rose of Cairo, Crimes and Misdemeanors, Husbands & Wives, Bullets Over Broadway, and Mighty Aphrodite; and his recent globetrotting phase with Match Point, Vicky Christina Barcelona, and this year’s box office smash Midnight in Paris.

His writing gets better and better.   So do his movies.


When he finishes one script and the movie, he starts another script the very next day.  There is no down time.  He works year round -- either writing, shooting, editing or thinking.  He shows us a box of "ideas" in his room... with napkins, scribbled papers... containing possible new movie ideas.  Each time he gets ready to start a new project... he rummages through his idea box... and thinks if the idea is worth pursuing as a movie.

As passionate as Woody Allen is about writing and directing (movies in general), he also loves music.  He plays the Clarinette. He plays in New York every Monday night.  When the Academy Awards used to be held on Monday nights, he always missed attending because his band played New Orleans Jazz at Manhattan's Carlyle on Mondays.  (He also adds that he isn't thrilled with awards -- unless it's for track -- where there is a clear winner.  Otherwise, there is no clear winner for the Oscars.)

Seriously?  Miss the Oscars to play your clarinette on a Monday night?  Yes, if you're Woody Allen -- being disciplined at the writer's desk or in his band are the same.

I find Woody's recent movies some of my favorites.  I loved Midnight in Paris with its whimsy and Paris charm.  I also was riveted watching Match Point when a husband decides to kill his wife and take his chances at getting caught.  Woody Allen hits and misses sometimes on the big screen, but at least he aims -- and works year in and year out to bring us something unique.

I have a long list of New York directors that I admire... Martin Scorsese, Spike Lee, Sidney Lumet, Sydney Pollack, Edward Burns... but Woody Allen somehow captures New York (and now Europe) in a glow that no others do. 

I still want to grow up and live in a Woody Allen New York movie and on occasion I do.  One time walking home from work around 10PM on Central Park South, I saw a movie crew.  I almost fainted when I realized it was a Woody Allen movie being shot... right outside the Essex Hotel... there was Woody Allen on the street directing.  And in this scene, Melanie Griffith drives up to the hotel and runs inside.  Action... cut.  It's one of my favorite all-time New York moments.  And this year, during the Hurricane Irene storm, my job put me up in a hotel for the night... at the Essex Hotel.  Dreams come true on their own timeline.  Now, if only I could sit on a park bench in Paris and write a great novel and...

... Woody Allen movies makes all those dreams possible on screen.

You can watch the complete two-part documentary at PBS website American Masters.  Here is the link:  http://watch.thirteen.org/program/american-masters

Until next time. 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

HIDDEN BATTLES - see the documentary in New York

Screening:  Monday, Nov. 7th, 2011 7:30PM in NYC
I've seen this documentary and it's extremely powerful.  Director Victoria Mills gives us a rare look inside the heart and mind of a soldier.  We all think we know about war and its impact on lives -- but do we really know how it changes those who actually fight these battles?  

Supporting the troops means more than lip service -- it means listening when soldiers speak from the heart, when they describe their experiences in combat and when they reach out for healing upon returning home.  I highly recommend Hidden Battles.  In honor of Veteran's Day, attend the screening if you can in New York City on Monday, Nov. 7th at 7:30PM.  More details below.  Congratulations, Victoria, for this great work and to your Hidden Battles team (a special shout out to Carolina Correa-Lawler, an associate producer on the film.... and my better half!)


Screening of Hidden Battles with Director Victoria Mills
”Hidden Battles” is a 65 minute documentary which follows a female Sandinista rebel, an Israeli officer, a Palestinian freedom fighter and two American soldiers as they come to terms with their combat experiences. The film offers unique insight and hope into the internal conflicts that human beings around the world continue to face long after they have left the battlefield. www.hiddenbattles.com 

Slideshow of
Soldiers’ Stories from Iraq and Afghanistan with Artist Jennifer Karady:
Jennifer Karady is an artist whom has worked with American veterans returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for the past four years to create staged narrative photographs that depict their individual stories and address their difficulties in adjusting to civilian life.
www.jenniferkarady.com/

Reading from Sand Queen with author Helen Benedict:
Helen Benedict's novel, Sand Queen, is culled from real life stories of female soldiers and Iraqis, offering a story of love, courage and struggle from the rare perspective of two young women on opposite sides of a war. www.helenbenedict.com/ 

Discussion with Scott Thompson, director of Veteran-Civilian Dialogue Project:
Scott Thompson is the Director of Social Dialogue and Training Initiatives for Intersections International. He oversees Intersections’ Veteran-Civilian Dialogue project, a community building effort for returning soldiers to provide meaningful tools of reconciliation and healing. www.intersectionsinternational.org/


Event Details:
When: Monday, November 7th, 7:30 pm
Where:  DCTV- 87 Lafayette Street, NYC
Purchase tickets at: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/206462

$6-DCTV Members, DocuClub Members and Veterans
$8- Shooting People, NYWIFT, IFP Members and Students with ID
$10-General Admission

For more information about this event, visit: http://www.dctvny.org/events/outsiders-looking


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Author: Barbara Forte Abate
An Interview with a Debut Novelist About Social Media and Words
by Janet Lawler
October 10, 2011

Okay, full disclosure here, Barbara Forte Abate is my longest and dearest friend on this planet.

We met in Study Hall when we were both only 13. Barbara asked to borrow a movie magazine that I was reading (hey, isn't that what Study Hall is for??) and we became instant buddies. She was a country girl and I was a city girl.  We both loved books, movies, TV Shows, celebrities and writing! From an early age, we each shared a passion for writing -- I for screenwriting/playwriting and Barbara for literature.

For over 35 years now (yeah, I know, we're old), we've shared rejection letters, ups and downs in life, family moments and just being there for each other when the other gets discouraged. Barbara was recently Best Gal at my wedding this summer. Her first born, Laurel, is my godchild. So, now you see just how important Barbara is in my life. She's truly my sister-friend.

We often note that writing kept us out of trouble in high school. While our peers were listening to Stairway to Heaven and partying in someone's garage, Barbara would come over my house and help me type up my latest script before I sent it to Hollywood. This was way before computers, folks, I'm talking typewriter and carbon paper.  Damn, we are old.  We were total writer geeks... and remain so to this very day.

Recently, Barbara published her debut novel The Secret of Lies. It's available on Amazon and in e-book format. I couldn't be happier for Barbara's success and for seeing one of her dreams come true. I know how hard she's worked. Writing isn't easy. She's also happily married and raised four wonderful children. She's not only my BFF, but she's an amazing woman and gifted writer. I thought her journey into publishing and social media might be helpful to other writers. Let's jump right into the Q and A.

Barbara, congratulations on your book.  How long did it take you to write The Secret of Lies?

Writing this book was pretty much a twenty year learning experience—give or take a few days! I didn’t know it when I started out, but I had a lot to learn. Trial, error, piles of rejection letters, weeping and gnashing of teeth, and yet all essential for a girl who mostly daydreamed through English class. The end result is a book I’m not ashamed to have my name on or to see on my mother’s coffee table.

I have a signed copy on my book shelf at home too!  What is your writing process like on an average writing day?

In my dream world I imagine how productive I would be if I were living in a cabin in the woods with no communication to the outside world. In real life, my days are a never-ending road race so I grab what I can at any hour of the day or night that offers some promise of quiet. I am one of those unfortunate writers who can only think in near absolute quiet, and I don’t have to tell you that the world is rarely set on mute. On top of that I’m a slow writer. It’s not unusual for me to spend hours perfecting a paragraph only to find it’s still lousy when I look at it again a day later.

 
You're so plugged into social networking, blogging and digital marketing for The Secret of Lies. Can you talk about how you immersed yourself in this new world for most writers? How time consuming is it, posting to your web site, blogging, doing podcasts?  

That’s a quandary I’m still trying to work out in a way that feels balanced and right. It’s wild to think that social networking is still so new to many of us. There are so many offerings it’s almost too much. I was and am something of a media ignoramus/techno dinosaur so finding a starting point involved my not so brilliant idea of just jumping into the deep end and seeing what happened. What happened, and quickly, was that I nearly drowned. Not only is social networking a very intricate network under the covers, it’s intimidating, time consuming, constantly changing, and insatiably hungry. And then of course wonderful once you get yourself settled in. One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned is that “Just because it’s there, doesn’t mean you should be.” Not all media offerings are a good fit, but I haven’t always recognized that until I’ve taken a test drive and seen for myself. There’s a lot of advice circulating about the importance of “Building your Tribe” and “Branding Yourself,” all of which translates as putting in the time and effort to get it right. Putting yourself out there, yes, but not promoting to the point of obnoxiousness. It’s about growing relationships not annoying everyone across cyberspace. On the other hand, unless you happen to be Stephen King or JK Rowling, you HAVE to promote. I think promotion can be a very tricky and fickle beast for anyone, let alone someone like me who loathes the idea of pushing My Book, My Book, My Book, at every click of the mouse. As a debut, non-brand name author, I do understand that no one other than friends and relatives are likely to find my book without promotion, yet I’ve been on the receiving end of those authors who promote with every breath and it’s largely obnoxious. It’s my experience that social networking, promotion, and the like require both patience and sincerity. Things rarely happen overnight and relationships take time to develop. That’s why it’s so important to carve out networking time every single day—now until the end of time—since that’s’ how long your book should be available. I admit that I tend to treat social networking as something of a buffet, trying a little of this and that to determine what most appeals before piling it onto my plate. I make it a habit to visit new blogs and check out interesting links on twitter and fb. There’s just so much great content out there. So much in fact, it can be a dangerous temptation, especially on those days when you’re staring at your own blank screen because your thoughts are hiding behind the clouds and your writing is trickling rather than flowing. You wander off to Twitter or FB and before you know it you’ve left a string of posts from here to eternity, but done no actual writing on your lonely work-in-progress.

What advice can you give a writer about to launch a book online or through independent publishing?

For starters I wish I’d known how important it is to start building buzz for your book as far in advance as possible. I’ve heard 2-3 years is ideal. Can you imagine? I certainly didn’t! Putting together a website with sample chapters, sharing your experience on your blog, maybe a book trailer to let readers know what’s coming. And definitely, absolutely, visit other blogs and websites and leave comments. (Caution—this doesn’t mean promoting yourself or your book. That’s what your blog and website are for.). When you’re consistent in sharing your thoughts and offering suggestions, opinions, or information, you’re also introducing yourself to the world at large and that’s a good thing for when your book comes out. If you have an ARC or PDF copy of your book available it’s also an excellent plan to approach reviewers. There are loads of reviewer blogs, podcasts, and websites devoted to book reviews. A word about reviews, they are invaluable, and not only important in the early life of your book, but something you should pursue for the entire life of your book. (Nee, forever!) It’s essential to remember that there are a bajillion books being published every year and if you hope to keep yours from taking a nosedive into the horror of obscurity you need to keep breathing life into it. Reviews can help do that.

Are you selling books more off the shelf or digitally?

Although my book is available on the shelf locally, (Alas, Borders in particular was very supportive), it’s online sales that have brought home the bacon. And absolutely, the eBook version of The Secret of Lies has kicked sales up a few notches. No question we’re all loving our digital books like crazy.

What inspires you to write?

Words words, beautiful words. Honestly, but I have wild love for the power of words. Things of life inspire me enormously—people, emotions, strength of the human spirit, a certain expression, a beautiful phrase—so often it’s the tiniest seed that becomes a story spanning hundreds of pages. I’m very partial to hands. They say so much about a person and an interesting set—hardworking, lived-in, honest—can start an entire plot ticking in my mind.

What's next on your plate? Any new projects in the works?

I’m hoping to get through the final edit (Ha,final? As if!) of my novel in progress in the next couple of months. But I use the word hope loosely. Having a book out on the shelf, while thrilling, does change the dynamic of writing habits I’ve cultivated over the past twenty years, for the fact that marketing doesn’t ever end. And selling books and writing books, on most days, feels something like a horse trying to run in two separate directions at the same time.

Thanks, Barbara! I know your inside tips will help many writers out there.  Good luck with your new book. See you and the family soon for Halloween!!

Note to Bloggers, you can order Barbara's book through Amazon.com or visit her website at:
http://barbaraforteabate.com/Buy_the_Book.html
Barbara is also on Facebook.  

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Emilio Estevez Works As Quietly... As His Younger Brother Charlie Sheen Lives Loud
by Janet Lawler
October 1, 2011

Emilio Estevez and Charlie Sheen

We all know Charlie Sheen. We know Charlie for his tiger blood, winning days and losing ones of late. Charlie made Wall Street and Platoon. He also made the hit TV show Two and a Half Men and was paid more than any working actor on TV... until he imploded in the media.

Emilio Estevez, his big brother, and the eldest child of actor Martin Sheen, has also had success in movies. Emilio starred in Outsiders, The Breakfast Club, St. Elmo's Fire, Young Guns and The Mighty Ducks. He's written and directed movies as well -- like Bobby -- and don't forget he was part of the Brat Pack and dated Demi Moore, long before Ashton came along. (Wow, the Sheen family must really love this guy for always picking up where they leave off.)

Emilio, writer and director The Way (2011)

Nowadays, Emilio seems to have found his passion on the page and behind the camera. His days are busy writing and directing movies. On October 7th, his new movie The Way opens nationwide. His dad stars in it. Martin Sheen plays Tom, an American doctor who comes to St. Jean Pied de Port, France to collect the remains of his adult son (played by Emilio Estevez), killed in the Pyrenees in a storm while walking the Camino de Santiago, also known as The Way of Saint James. Rather than return home, Tom decides to embark on the historical pilgrimage to honor his son's desire to finish the journey.


Maybe you've heard about this new movie -- but, chances are you haven't. Emilio doesn't make splashy headlines like his brother. He's not big on the metaphors and soundbites. He doesn't seem to be on the same wild guy journey as Charlie, but he still wants to reach an audience. His audience. Emilio's ways are lower key.

Martin Sheen in The Way

I'll go The Way when it comes out next week. It looks like a beautiful movie about a father reconnecting with his dead son, filmed in France and Spain. I love Martin Sheen. He's not only a great actor, but a good Catholic always championing for the poor, an activist, an Irish lad (and Spanish), and has made some helluva movies Apocalypse Now and the TV show West Wing.

Brothers Emilio and Charlie with dad Martin

This is a talented family with lots to say, on camera and off. Emilio's voice, however, is not his brother's nor his father's. It's his own. He's got his own style and journey to share on screen. Sometimes it's the quiet ones in the family who have the most to say.
Until next time.

Monday, September 19, 2011

TV Just Keeps Getting Better
by Janet Lawler

How fun were The Emmys on Sunday night?  Jane Lynch did a great job.  I loved it when she said she was on "finger shooting terms" with Jon Hamm from Mad Men (gosh, that man gets better looking every year!) and Jane's nod to director Martin Scorsese in the audience.   Lucky Jane.

One very funny family
Modern Family won for best comedy series.  Every cast member delivers on that show.  Julie Bowen and Ty Burrel are terrific together.  Hats off to the writers for creating such amazing characters living out ordinary, yet hysterical, situations on Modern Family.

Mildred Pierce
Kate Winslet won for Mildred Pierce.  Yay!  I loved the original starring Joan Crawford and worried when HBO was producing this remake of Mildred and Veda, until learning Kate Winslet would play Mildred.  She's brilliant.

The Miniseries
I streamed the entire The Kennedys miniseries on Netflix and found it well done, even besides the bad press and Kennedy family giving it a thumbs down.  (I'm a Kennedy geek.  Anything Kennedy and I'm hooked. I can't wait to read Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy.)  Barry Pepper won an Emmy for his portrayal of Bobby Kennedy in The Kennedys.  He doesn't resemble RFK in looks at all, but he steals the miniseries with his multidimensional performance as the brash yet sensitive attorney general. 

TV comedies and dramas just keep pulling us in and keeping us home.  Television writing is sharp and as top notch, actually better, than any you'll find in a feature films.  Movies lack the character depth and dialogue found on television today -- shows like Mad Men, The Good Wife, Breaking Bad, Friday Night Lights don't disappoint.

Cheers to Julianna Margulies who won for The Good Wife and Kyle Chandler for Friday Night Lights. 

I'm off to set the DVR in anticipation of the new fall season.  I love this time of year.

Here is a recap of winners at Sunday's 63rd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards presented by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences:

— Drama Series: "Mad Men," AMC.
— Actress, Drama Series: Julianna Margulies, "The Good Wife," CBS.
— Actor, Drama Series: Kyle Chandler, "Friday Night Lights," DirecTV/NBC.
— Supporting Actor, Drama Series: Peter Dinklage, "Game of Thrones," HBO.
— Supporting Actress, Drama Series: Margo Martindale, "Justified," FX.
— Writing, Drama Series: Jason Katims, "Friday Night Lights," NBC.
— Directing, Drama Series: Martin Scorsese, "Boardwalk Empire," HBO.
— Comedy Series: "Modern Family," ABC.
— Actor, Comedy Series: Jim Parsons, "The Big Bang Theory," CBS.
— Actress, Comedy Series: Melissa McCarthy, "Mike & Molly," CBS.
— Supporting Actress, Comedy Series: Julie Bowen, "Modern Family," ABC.
— Supporting Actor, Comedy Series: Ty Burrell, "Modern Family," ABC.
— Writing, Comedy Series: Steven Levitan and Jeffrey Richman, "Modern Family," ABC.
— Directing, Comedy Series: Michael Spiller, "Modern Family," ABC.
— Miniseries or Movie: "Downton Abbey (Masterpiece)," PBS.
— Actress, Miniseries or Movie: Kate Winslet, "Mildred Pierce," HBO.
— Actor, Miniseries or Movie: Barry Pepper, "The Kennedys," ReelzChannel.
— Supporting Actress, Miniseries or Movie: Maggie Smith, "Downton Abbey (Masterpiece)," PBS.
— Supporting Actor, Miniseries or Movie: Guy Pearce, "Mildred Pierce," HBO.
— Directing, Miniseries, Movie or Dramatic Special: Brian Percival, "Downton Abbey (Masterpiece)," PBS.
— Writing, Miniseries, Movie or Dramatic Special: Julian Fellowes, "Downton Abbey (Masterpiece)," PBS.
— Reality-Competition Program: "The Amazing Race," CBS.
— Variety, Music or Comedy Series: "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart," Comedy Central.
— Directing, Variety, Music or Comedy Series: Don Roy King, "Saturday Night Live," NBC.
— Writing, Variety, Music or Comedy Series: "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart," Comedy Central.

Congratulations to all! 

Monday, September 12, 2011

Oprah-isms to Lift My Weary NY Spirits
by Janet Lawler
New York 
September 12, 2011 
Oprah Winfrey
It's been a crazy few months here in New York.  We survived an earthquake, a hurricane, floods, a terrorist threat and the 10th Anniversary of 9/11.

I don't know about you, but I'm exhausted.  Emotionally and physically.

We need to lighten things up around here.   So I'm turning to some O.  No, not O for optimism this time.  O for Oprah.

That's right.  I admit it.  I really miss Oprah.  Have you noticed since her show went off the air the world has gone to hell?  I miss O being a part of my day (on DVR).  The good news is her new nightly show Oprah's Life Class (yes, I am enrolled) begins on 10/10 on the OWN network.

But why wait until October?  That's like pumpkin season.

I need some life lessons now.  Pronto. 

It's like Oprah heard me.  She appeared on Facebook's new web TV show last week.  Facebook's chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg interviewed Oprah for an hour.  It was just the fix that I needed to lift me out of my NY funk.  During the chat, Oprah revealed tips about her own success and life's journey.  (Hey, you know the word journey has to come up when talkin' Oprah.)


Watch live streaming video from facebookguests at livestream.com

So.  What journey are you on these days? 

Do you have a plan or are you just winging it for the rest of your life? 

Well, one thing I've learned is that success leaves clues. So I took notes when Oprah appeared on Facebook.  Here's what I came away with from Professor Winfrey.  I'm paraphrasing, but you'll get the point.  Feel free to apply these to your own life.

Keep standing and keep moving forward.

Be your authentic self.  

Don't imitate others work. 

Be the highest expression of yourself.

Ask yourself, why am I here?  What is my purpose and intention for doing this job?

Always think about your audience.  What do you want the audience to get from this work? 

Don't produce something that gives energy to darkness (i.e., hatred, violence, etc.)

Move toward the light.  Enlighten your audience.

Elevate using your own unique platform, whether you're a writer, teacher, secretary, reporter, or an actor.  

Inspire.  Educate.  Inform.

Before doing something important, be still.

Don't do something simply for ratings or approval. 

Surround yourself with people who are "all in" with you.  If someone doesn't want you, YOU DON'T WANT THEM.  

Move on.

Compete only with yourself.  

Raise the bar every day.

Whatever it is you do, do it with service and honor.  How can you serve others in your work?

Use your talent as a service for your family, community, country and industry.

Let go of the past.  

You will become what you believe.

Oprah wrapped up the interview on Facebook by suggesting we think about our legacy before we leave the planet.

What will your legacy be?  O says it will be your "heart print" on others.  You don't need a TV show to do it.  Or a TV network.  Or even a book club, for that matter. 

Create your legacy starting now.  Today -- right where you are. 

Once you find your voice -- your truth -- go deeper and expand your reach.  Oh, and enjoy the "journey", where ever it may lead you today. 

Class dismissed. 

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Filmmaker Rashaad Ernesto Green

A Chat with the Writer/Director of the New Indie Film GUN HILL ROAD
by Janet Lawler

The title of this movie caught my eye before knowing anything else about it. I was born in the Bronx and grew up near Gun Hill Road. I always thought Gun Hill Road would make for a great movie title. Apparently, I'm not alone.

GUN HILL ROAD is a new indie movie by a writer/director Rashaad Ernesto Green. Keep an eye out for it at your local art house or soon on Netflix. Keep a closer eye on Green as a new director to watch. Gun Hill Road is Green's first feature film. The NYU graduate and Bronx native's film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January to rave reviews and became a finalist in the 2011 Jury Award.

The film is also a recipient of the Spike Lee Fellowship.

Gun Hill Road starring Esai Morales, Judy Reyes, and the breakout star Harmony Santana tells the story of a family in transition. It focuses on a young man exploring his sexuality in an intolerant and judgmental world and his exploration's impact on his relationship with his parents and himself.  Here is the movie's trailer http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O0EMxEK2CN8

The NY Screenwriting Life recently asked Rashaad Ernesto Green about his new work and his creative process on Gun Hill Road:

How long did it take you to write the screenplay for Gun Hill Road?
From conception until final draft, it took me about a year and a half to write GUN HILL ROAD.

What is your daily writing process like? Do you write daily or binge write? Prefer to write during the day or at night?
I'm more of a binge writer unfortunately, and bit unorthodox I'd say. I come from an acting background and always left the writing up to someone else. Now that I write for myself, I usually burn the midnight oil before deadlines.

Filmmaker Ed Burns often says he considers himself a writer first. Do you consider yourself more a director or a writer? Which is your primary passion?
I usually enjoy the process of writing once I force myself to do it, but as far as passions are concerned, I'd say it's probably the last on my list. Acting is first, then directing, and finally writing. The trouble is... I have a lot to say, and the only way I have found that I can fully express it is by putting it on paper first.

You directed/edited/wrote several short films before Gun Hill Road. Do you recommend aspiring writers/directors begin with short films before taking on their first feature?
100%. Absolutely. A feature film is a beast. The best way to develop your craft and hone your writing/directing skills is by starting small and making short films.

What was the Sundance Film Festival experience like for you? How has it helped the film along the way?
Sundance has been wonderful. I had a short film at Sundance in January of 2009 when I began writing GUN HILL ROAD. Once you're in the family, they really look after you. I was really happy to return two years later with my first feature.

In this digital age, how can audience see Gun Hill Road if they can't see it at their local theater?
Eventually, the plan will be to release it on DVD and VOD. However, if they want their local theater to play it, they can go online to request the film at www.gunhillroad.com

When will Gun Hill Road be available on Netflix?
Not exactly sure. I'm guessing a couple months after the end of its theatrical run.

I have amazing memories of growing up in the 70s in The Bronx. How did growing up in The Bronx influence you as a filmmaker?
My earliest memories and images of the Bronx are so vivid and bright. The Bronx that I knew has never been portrayed in films, which is why as an artist, I have attempted to offer a different perspective on a section of New York that often goes overlooked.

What advice would you give to an aspiring writer/director now since making your first feature film?
Tell the stories in you heart that need to be told. We need them like we need water and air. Never give up, and always work with people you love.

What's next on your plate?
I always have a couple of pots in the fire. I'm working on my next script as well as reading many scripts to see if my voice vibes with someone else's.

Thanks, Rashaad, for taking some time out with us here at The NY Screenwriting Life.
Thank you, Janet! You can keep up with us on Facebook and Twitter at http://www.facebook.com/greenbrotherfilms
***

Cheers for Gun Hill Road and let's support indie films as we head into fall 2011. It will open in many cities like Chicago and Miami on September 16th. Check the film's website for details. www.gunhillroad.com

Hope you all had a wonderful, productive summer!
Until next time.

PS -- Don't forget to follow The NY Screenwriting Life Blog on Facebook. Also available on Amazon.com for all you Kindle lovers.

Monday, August 15, 2011




Emma Stone plays a writer in The Help
Why Do We Love Movies About Writers?
by Janet Lawler

There are certain professions that movie audiences seem fascinated by. We are obsessed with detectives, doctors and medical examiners. We love to see how they do their jobs, interact with colleagues and overcome obstacles.

We're also drawn to movies about writers.

I know I am.

The new movie The Help is about an aspiring writer. Emma Stone plays Skeeter who is trying to get her big break (submitting articles to New York) while writing for her local weekly newspaper. I liked this movie a lot -- for its genuine heart and focus on Civil Rights in the 60s -- and it didn't hurt that the lead character is a writer.




As anyone who has labored over an article, poem, play, novel or screenplays knows... writing is darn hard work. It takes commitment, discipline and a thick shell to withstand rejection. It also takes courage to tell a story and especially to tell the truth.

Think of the many movies we've loved at the box-office that focus on writers: All the President's Men, Wonder Boys, Hannah and Her Sisters, Finding Forrester, The Hours, Adaptation, Leaving Las Vegas and recently Midnight in Paris.

Remember Sophie's Choice? It was one of the most horrifying, powerful films I ever watched. Sophie's pain of surviving a Nazi concentration camp is told to her new downstairs neighbor -- Stingo, a writer -- played by Peter MacNicol.

How about The Great Gatsby (1974)? We witness Jay Gatsby's lavish and tragic life through his new friend -- writer Nick Carraway -- played by Sam Waterson.

Or Little Women (1994) starring Winona Ryder? She played "Jo", a writer who tells the story of life with her three sisters in a small town.

One of my favorite movies The Way We Were (1973) starring Robert Redford and Barbra Streisand is remembered as a love story. Hubbel Gardiner (Redford) and Katie Morosky (Streisand) start out the movie as aspiring authors in college. Scenes show Streisand laboring over her short story to submit in writing class -- a montage of her at the library, rewriting while working at the malt shop, and racing to class in hopes of her story being read aloud in class. Instead, her professor chooses Hubbell's story (Redford's) and shatters Katie's dream of being a writer.

For me, The Way We Were is as much about Redford selling out as a screenwriter in Hollywood as about McCarthyism and a failed romance. There is a great scene where Katie gives Hubbel a typewriter for Rosh Hashanah. It's her way of pushing him to write. I love that scene -- but of course, everyone only remembers the ending of the movie with the couple outside the Plaza Hotel.

Another movie which I can watch over and over again is Sunset Boulevard (1950). William Holden plays a down and out Hollywood screenwriter who has bill collectors on his tail. He sells his soul to the devil -- or in this case, to Norma Desmond -- and pays with his life. As the movie opens, he's found dead in a Hollywood swimming pool. This is where Joe Gillis' story begins and ends -- a washed up screenwriter shot in the back for choosing to love a woman for the wrong reasons. It's a classic movie with classic lines and it's all about writing. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dDSRhwSA6f4

Writers may not be as exciting to watch in movies as cops and coroners -- but they sure give us something to talk about when the lights go down or when we open that new book. They give us our voices.

Until next time.

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Monday, August 08, 2011

The Woman and Writer Behind Lucy
by Janet Lawler

August 8, 2011
New York

Unless you spent last weekend under a rock, you know that it would have been Lucille Ball's 100th birthday. Tributes flooded the Internet and airwaves.

Lucille Ball was an original -- a true American icon and legend.

We still love Lucy Ricardo. Thankfully, Lucy lives on forever on TV and through our laughter.

But have you ever wondered who wrote all those hysterical skits and lines for Lucy, Ricky, Ethel and Fred? Think about it. Those shows were hilarious from start to finish, line to line.

The classic comedy ran for six years on CBS. It never won an Emmy for comedy writing. Imagine that? One of its writers was a remarkable "girl writer" (that's what they called women on writing staffs in TV then) named Madelyn Pugh.

Years later, she became Madelyn Pugh Davis.

In the 1980s, I had the pleasure of corresponding with Ms. Davis through snail mail. I still have the letters saved. She was one of my idols in the television writing world. She wrote I Love Lucy for heaven's sakes. At the time of being pen pals, she was writing and producing for the CBS TV Show "ALICE" starring Linda Lavin. Ms. Davis knew of my passion for writing. She sent me Alice scripts to read and study with a note to "let me know your progress."

She was a sweet, refined lady on paper and in interviews. Her letters came typed, professional in tone, but yet closing with warm words of advice and support.

Ms. Davis, along with her longtime writing partner, Bob Carroll, Jr., wrote for every one of the 179 episodes of I Love Lucy. They also went on to write for all of Lucille Ball's TV Specials and shows.

Before TV, Ms. Davis started writing for Lucy on the radio... caught the actresses' attention and was plucked to help with writing I Love Lucy.

It was a match made in heaven -- not just for Lucy and Ricky, but for Lucille and Madelyn. According to articles, the female pair weren't best of pals -- Lucille Ball wasn't Lucy Ricardo off-camera -- but Lucille Ball respected solid, funny writing. She was smart to keep Madelyn close by and she always gave credit to her writers.

Ms. Davis noted in interviews that before putting Lucy through the famous skits, she would run through the scenes herself with her writing partner -- making cigars, flipping pizzas, milking a cow, swimming in the shower, working in a chocolate factory, getting tipsy filming a vitamin commercial, stomping grapes... and much, much more.

As hard and fast as Ms. Davis clanked on her typewriter, the bigger the belly laughs came for Lucy and Ricky.

And for us watching at home.

So this week we celebrate Lucille Ball, but hats off to Madelyn Pugh Davis too -- a great woman, writer and producer. She died in April. She was 90. She lived a life filled with love, success and laughter.  Who could ask for more?  She was the woman behind Lucy... and that's saying a lot.

After all, I'm certain Lucille Ball wouldn't want us to forget the "girl writer" behind all the classic belly laughs.

(Here is one of the longest live TV studio laughs in television history:  Lucy Learns to Tango.  Episode 172.  Aired in March 1957.)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ixkijZYcPE8&feature=related

Until next time.

Saturday, July 30, 2011


WORKING AND WRITING... CREATING A BALANCE

How often have you said "Oh, if only I didn't have to work full-time, I could write my novel... my screenplay... my play... my magazine article... my blog" and so on?

How many of you have taken time off from working full-time to do just that?

I have.

I have worked full-time most of my adult life and vented that if only I had more time to write. Well, from 2009-2011 I took two years to work part-time and write, write, write. I managed to finish a first draft on my novel From the Ground Up and write two plays Extreme Green and NetFits that were produced in NYC. I've polished up a couple of screenplays and started a new animation one.

But when you're writing (which is usually on "spec" which means for no paycheck), you spend a great deal of time worrying about making money (or not making money) instead of creating. The first year I was fine working only part-time and writing, but by the second year, I was writing less and worrying more. New York City living is not cheap, people.

I'm too young to retire. Darn it.

Now I may hit the lottery, but won't count on that.

So guess what -- I'm back to work full-time. Back to the grind. 5-6 days a week.

It's a new, crazy, stressful job in TV News in New York. NY is the number one news market in the nation. For this job, baby, you bring your A-game. I'm working with seasoned pros and the stakes are high (and the pay is nice!)... so writing goes on the back burner for now.

That's why I haven't blogged for two months. I apologize. I love writing this blog! If you notice I've posted lot until I went back to work full-time. Bummer, in the summer no less. But, I have to say it's nice to get a weekly paycheck, go to Broadway shows, out to fine restaurants and shop again online.

So I'm making time for writing where I can. TV News is my profession, but writing is my passion. Pay or no pay. Without writing in my life, I could make a million dollars a year in TV and it wouldn't matter -- I'd feel empty inside -- a void.

Life is about balance. Writing and working take balance too -- a juggling act. I'm trying to keep all the balls in the air. I drop one now and then. I'm sure you're doing the same in your life. But we try again...

Have a wonderful summer. Let's try to write between the BBQs and beach days.

Until next time.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Super 8 is Great Summer Fun
by Janet Lawler

This movie will make you feel like a kid again.

Super 8, the latest movie from director/producer/writer J.J. Abrams is terrific. It literally had us jumping out of our seats. Here is the trailer.



The story is about a young boy (Joel Courtney) who is dealing with the recent death of his mother. He's now cared for by his aloof father, played by Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights), who is the town deputy. The boy spends his free time hanging out with a group of neighborhood boys who are making a short film. While shooting a scene at night, they witness a massive train crash and find themselves up to their ears in trouble.

It's a thrilling movie. J.J. Abrams script is tightly written and pays off throughout. The action scenes are amazing. It's paced nicely with scenes between father and son dealing with their fears and grief.

The actors all give solid performances, especially lead actor Joel Courtney and Elle Fanning (Dakota Fanning's younger sister), as well as the cast of young boys.

The adolescent humor is true without being overly crass or gross like in most movies today. It will transport you back to the days when you rode your bike with friends, had your first crush and pondered how to break out of an ordinary small town life. These kids find the way -- and there is no turning back.

Steven Spielberg produced Super 8 and his presence is felt -- in many shots of the film I was reminded of Jaws (the town cop fighting authority and a monster) and ET, kids riding bikes and understanding more about love and yearning than the adults. It's moviemaking at its best.

I saw Super 8 at a screening for the Producer's Guild of America at the DGA (Director's Guild Theater on W. 57th St in NYC). The audience laughed and screamed throughout and applauded at the end (twice!). That doesn't happen often at screenings by "industry types" -- they can be a tough room to please.

They loved Super 8.

So did I.

If you want to see a really fun, suspenseful, heartwarming movie this summer -- check out Super 8.. It's rated PG13. You can bring your kids without worrying much (unless they frighten easily!).

And stay in your seats for the closing credits!! It's then that the audience sees the finished short film the kids were making in the movie. It's sweet and funny.

On a side note, this blog is now available for subscription through the Kindle Store on Amazon.com -- thanks for your support!

Until next time.

Thursday, June 02, 2011


THE MYSTERY BOX

J.J. Abrams gave a talk at the TED Conferences a few years ago that is worth revisiting today.

Abrams, the Hollywood writer/director/producer, talks about how as a child his grandfather took him to a magic store in New York City. He purchased a "mystery magic box" for $15 but it promised $50 worth of magic inside. J.J. Abrams never opened the box to this day. He keeps it in his office in Hollywood as a reminder of his beloved grandfather, who bought him his first Super 8 movie camera, and to always remember to chase the mystery in story.

Abrams points out that in many of the best movies what works are not the explosions and the special effects, but the mystery inside the characters or villains.

What we remember about Rocky is not the fight scenes, but the heart of Rocky Balboa not wanting to end up a bum in life... or Die Hard not just the thrilling aspects of a cop battling terrorists in a skyscraper, but of John McClane trying to win back his wife as she contemplates divorcing him.

Quentin Tarantino used the mystery box in Pulp Fiction. When John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson open the trunk of their car and something mysteriously glows in their faces. What was that thing in the brief case?

Or Jaws, when we hardly see the shark in the water but we know it's there... looming... stalking its next victim in the ocean. That mystery hooks us as moviegoers, as readers of a script or story, and pull us in. It hooks our emotions.

Think of movies that you love and there is probably some mystery involved.

Check out J.J. Abrams TED talk... it's a treat. Who knew he was so funny too?



And remember when writing -- to keep the mystery in every scene, every act and on every page of your next story.

Side note, The NY Screenwriting Life is on Facebook. And also available on Kindle as a monthly subscription for .99 cents!! We're like the Lady Gaga of blogs!! .99 cents... check us out.

Until next time.