Sunday, October 30, 2005


"Writing is a profession in which you have to keep proving your talent to people who have none."
Jules Renard

I love that quote!

I'm reading Spike Lee's new book titled "Spike Lee: That's My Story and I'm Sticking to It". It's very interesting about how he struggled as an African American filmmaker in the 70s and early 80s (he was broke, broke, broke!) and people kept telling Spike that black directors wouldn't work, nobody would pay to see black movies, and that he would never make it in Hollywood. He proved everybody wrong -- makes a movie a year now -- and although he's a rather shy guy by nature (outspoken on issues, but reserved by nature), he believed in his ability and talent to perservere and make it. Good lesson for all of us when we get discouraged!

Be a pioneer in your own world.

Well, heard from the A-list producer dude! After weeks of waiting, he sent me an email today telling me to WAIT some more... until the middle of this week for those notes I've been longing for regarding the sports drama. So, I waited weeks just to hear wait some more... hey, that's the business, folks... so I'll keep working on other projects in the meantime.

A special note of respect for Rosa Parks who died this week. Besides being a pioneer for civil rights in America, she is now the first woman to be lying in honor at the U.S. Capitol. Wow. Even in passing, this woman is a pioneer.

Write on, everybody!

Friday, October 28, 2005


I spent the week working on the new script titled DEADLY SACRAMENTS. It's about the murder of a priest. It looks like an open and shut case until the detective assigned to the case unravels more than what appears to meet the eye. I'm on page 39... and it's coming along. I wrote an earlier draft of this a few years ago, but I'm changing a great deal of it... a lot has happened in the world and in the Catholic Church since my first draft.

Anyway, the important thing is to keep writing. Talking with a writer friend of mine and we compared some tips for making our scripts better. Namely, we discussed how to make every scene more cinematic (visual). You've heard "show don't tell" in writing scripts, but it's so important to remember that for every scene. People go to the movies to see things "move", a story take action, and character is action. We aren't what we say in life, but what we do.

Also trimming dialogue. Screenplays aren't stage plays or novels. The less amount of dialogue the better -- let subtext build suspense (reading between the lines). I find over the years my scripts have gotten cleaner, leaner and read better on the page. I try to keep the eye moving along with the mind.

Still nada from the A-list producer. So, it's Friday and I took the bull by the horns and sent him an e-mail just to stay on his radar. I hope to get the notes for the sports script soon, but now I'm into this crime thriller... so either way, I'm writing.

By the way, if you ever need an experienced guy who provides great services to writers (info, published books on screenwriting, script evauations, classes) check out Skip Press. He's offered me some helpful advice the past few years. He's a published author and has SOLD scripts (which is good when consulting with someone on your own script). His website is and tell him Janet sent you. He's got an awesome screenwriters' network, too! Check it out.

Enjoy the weekend.

Saturday, October 22, 2005


I didn't get the notes from the A-list producer this past week as I had hoped. I really didn't expect to -- the word is he's swamped at WB. Expect them next week. I'm working on another script, but I really hate to start one script and then have to abandon it when the notes do arrive for the sports script which is titled "Top of the Seventh". The other script I'm tinkering with is a supernatural thriller about a detective and a dead priest.

Hey, it seems I have the same blog title as another blogger in LA. His blog was online first and he has one great blog... so check it out at My address is still the same and I changed the title to "The NY Screenwriting Life". There is an LA life and a NY life, which I think we can all benefit from in learning the difference, which hopefully our blogs will prove.

I spent Thursday at the Apple Store in SoHo. I played with every gadget they had on display (the new iPod Video is frikkin' amazing). But just when you buy something from Apple lately, they come out with something better a month later. These new iPods are like Oprah. They just keep getting thinner. It's hard to keep up with all the technologies out there (many writing programs, too.) I personally use Final Draft... only because several years ago I responded to a contest online about screenwriting and WON Final Draft version 6. It makes writing very easy (formatting scripts).

My manager is a stickler for formatting. When she first read one of my scripts, she left me a five minute voicemail on my cell asking me why on earth did I capitalize a VERB?! Never cap a verb! she told me. I thought it looked good on paper, she didn't. I don't cap verbs anymore. She also told me my font on my title page looked "amatuerish" and asked me to change it before she proceeded in submitting the script to studios/producers. I did. I now use Times Roman 14 pt. for the title and under that my name in 12 pt. Makes for a very clean page. No "Written by" or any of that stuff. Just title and writer's name. Period. Because fortunately, when you have an agent, they put your script in a cover with the agent's name and contact info. And actually, these days Hollywood is mostly reading scripts as PDFs and online.

So glad to see screenwriter Shane Black back at work... and on the screen. For those who don't know Shane Black, he wrote "Lethal Weapon" when he was like 22. He became the hottest writer in Hollywood during the 80's. Made millions and millions, $4 million on one script! A record breaker (still is, I believe). He got rich, overwhelmed, over-rated and his movies in the 90s tanked "The Last Boy Scout" and "The Long Kiss Goodbye". Shane Black disappeared. His career was dead. Fastforward ten years... and he's back writing and now directing "Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang" starring Robert Downey, Jr. and Val Kilmer. It's getting mixed reviews, but I guarantee it will be worth seeing (if not for the chemistry of Kilmer and Downey alone). Shane Black says he wouldn't of been able to get the movie made without powerhouse producer Joel Silver (who launched "Lethal Weapon" with him). Today, nobody would take a meeting with Black, return his calls, his scripts didn't matter anymore. Execs in LA are too young to remember Shane Black's mojo at the time. He's got to prove himself all over again like every writer.

I guess if you make $4 million and write a bad movie people get jealous and resentful. Umm... what about all the actors and actresses who get paid between $12 to $20 million and make lousy movies not worth $10 at Loews?? They move on. People forget (except maybe Demi Moore's Striptease and G.I. Jane). Anyway, welcome back, Shane Black!!

Have a great weekend! And thanks for your comments, everybody!

Thursday, October 20, 2005


Heard from my agent yesterday regarding the A-list producer I'm waiting to get notes from on the sports script. He's swamped with projects for the WB, but will send notes by the end of this week. My agent said to be patient... she wasn't making excuses for him... that this is the way the business goes. The fact that he hasn't "passed" on the project is encouraging. His notes will probably make the script more marketable since he knows what the studios want... he's produced major films like "Starksy & Hutch", etc.

NYC is beautiful this time of year. It's 50 degrees today, sunny and crisp. A perfect fall day. I plan to spend most of it at the Apple Store in SoHo learning Final Cut Pro and other editing programs. I edit for a living ( a writer has to eat!) and I want to keep up with the latest technology... going to the Apple store also gives me an excuse to play with all their latest toys (IPod Nana, IPOD Video, ITunes, etc.)

I have a crime script out with a studio and hope to hear from them soon. Not overly optimistic because I did online research on the company and it seems they're inundated with cop scripts. Oh well. Worth a try.

Meanwhile, working on another script outline. My agent says to keep keepin' on... just keep writing and let her worry about the marketing of the material. I like that idea.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005


Today I'm waiting to hear from an A-list producer in Hollywood who has taken a liking to my sports drama script.

A-lister thinks it's "too Lifetime-y" at the moment, so I have to make changes. What's wrong with Lifetime? I guess only a woman would ask that question, huh? Anyway, my agent/manager says it's worth waiting for his notes. I rewrote the script in August for him (after a productive phone call from the producer). I think the script is strong as is, but I'm not an A-list producer. And since he might take the script into the studio under his arm (with name attached), I better listen... and perform.

So I wait... patiently... impatiently. My freelance editing gig is drying up soon (money), so I'm getting a little anxious about finances, especially with the holidays looming around the corner. I can't tell my family I'm broke because I'm a struggling writer... been at the game too long to use that old excuse.

I'm applying for some jobs... reluctantly... because if I get a full-time job, the writing goes on a side burner. I've been almost unemployed for a year and one thing I've come to see is that writing for the movies involves lots of waiting. Waiting for the phone to ring, waiting to hear from your agent, waiting for the producer/director/actor to read the script, waiting for notes, waiting to MAKE A DAMN LIVING!!

Okay. Rant done. Plan to walk around Manhattan today (beautiful fall day), see a movie or two, and then come home and check my emails and phone messages.

Waiting in NY.

Sunday, October 16, 2005


So, in January '99, Anne Heche was still attached to star in my original screenplay "BRUTAL PATTERN". Mike Farrell and Marvin Minoff to produce. Now they were seeking a male co-star. Anne Heche told me on the phone she was getting the script to Robert DeNiro (they had just made "Wag the Dog" together). I found out he passed. The reason? I was told he felt the male role wasn't as strong as the female role and it wasn't for him. The producers moved on to Jeff Bridges and Treat Williams (both passed). Do those guys work a lot? They passed just the same.

Meanwhile, Anne Heche and Ellen DeGenneres were on all the magazine covers talking about their relationship and how Hollywood was punishing them for "coming out". So they would punish Hollywood and turn their backs on it. WHAT?!

The producers said Anne Heche told them "I didn't mean you". "Brutal Pattern" was still a go project. But still no co-star, no director... Anne Heche's agents were getting anxious... is this project getting off the ground or not? Months go by... still no male co-star attached, no director. Anne Heche changes talent agents. I extend the option agreement with the producers. I wait.

My mother becomes very ill. She has ovarian cancer. It's Stage 4 when it's discovered. There is no Stage 5. My entire world crumbles. Nothing else matters to me but her. She undergoes chemotherapy and surgery. She fights with all her strength to battle this horrible disease and stay alive. By November 1999, my mother passed away. She was 68. I'm lost. Do you know what the world is like without your mother? God, I hope not. It's awful.

I soon find out Anne Heche is no longer attached to "Brutal Pattern". The project isn't getting made. They might try Jennifer Lopez. Her manager hasn't gotten back yet. The option will lapse soon. Anne Heche and Ellen DeGenneres break up. Apparently, they want no part of each other, but they want back into the good graces of Hollywood. Mike Farrell keeps busy working in TV starring in "Providence". Marvin Minoff, his producing partner, tells me they hope to work with me again in the future. I concentrate on writing more scripts and working as an editor in cable news. Life goes on...

A new millennium is upon us... (FLASH FORWARD!) Ellen "EL" becomes a huge, popular TV talk show host, Anne Heche gets married, has a kid, and works primarily on TV and Broadway these days, Mike Farrell and Marvin Minoff are still producing, "Providence" was cancelled by NBC , my entertainment lawyer Egon Dumler passed away, I signed with a new management company in LA and still write spec scripts, and Jennifer Lopez... well, she did star in a cop movie (just not mine), something about "Angel Eyes". It didn't do too well at the B.O. She should've done mine. Don't you think??

It's funny... if you check one of Anne Heche's bio's online it lists "Brutal Pattern" as one of her movies. Goes to show you... you can't believe anything on the Internet.

Write On.

Friday, October 14, 2005


I promised to tell you about how my first screenplay "BRUTAL PATTERN" was optioned by actor/producer Mike Farrell (M*A*S*H).

It was 1998. I had written a gritty cop drama about two detectives (male/female) who are (straight/gay). They're hunting a serial rapist in New York City. I submiited it to Mike Farrell's producing partner Marvin Minoff and he liked it. After he gave it to Mike Farrell to read, they contacted me. They suggested a few changes. At the time I was living in Phoenix, Arizona. I'm a native New Yorker (born and raised in the Bronx, yes, like Jennifer Lopez). I attended high school and college in upstate New York. In the mid-90s, I picked up and moved to Arizona to try the southwestern life and get into broadcast news (which I did at a small family-owned station KTVK -- a great experience, great friends!).

Mike Farrell and Marvin Minoff called me with revisions and I happily made them. Soon after, I returned to New York (for a job in television in NYC). While in NY, Mike and Marvin called and said they really liked the script and would see what they could do with it (as a feature film). I was beyond excited.

At the same time, the actress Anne Heche was red hot popular in Hollywood. She had done "Wag the Dog" and "Return to Paradise" with Vince Vaughn and other "in" movies and was the new best thing. While at work one day, I was watching ABC's show "The View" and Anne Heche was a guest. She casually mentioned something about "wanting to do an action movie" or a cop-like movie. I called Marvin Minoff and told him what Anne Heche said on TV. He said "Let me see if I can get the script to her people."

I'm in NY thinking "Yeah right" like that's gonna happen! This is Anne Heche. She just made a movie with Harrison Ford "Six Days, Six Nights". She's dating Ellen DeGeneres! Like she's going to take time to read my script... some unknown writer in NY???!!

Well, Marvin calls several weeks later and says "Anne's attached". I almost faint. They sent her agent the script (he was on vacation) and a junior agent read it, loved it and told Anne to read it. She asked what it was about. He said something like "two cops and a rapist in NYC". She didn't want to read anything about a rapist. He convinced her to read it. She did. She loved it and called the producers to discuss it. They set up a lunch date. They had lunch and discussed it. Anne Heche tells them "I want to talk to the writer." What? Who cares about the writer? The director is usually the next key player. THE WRITER?!

Marvin calls and tells me they want to option my script. Get a lawyer. I ask my colleagues in TV "Who knows a good entertainment lawyer?" I got several suggestions. I picked one guy Egon Dumler in NY. A seasoned, older man who once represented Judy Garland (he tells me in his office when we meet). He's a kind, no-nonsense, a New York Jewish lawyer and I immediately love him. He will protect me, I sense. He draws up the legal papers, I sign and get my check. It won't make me rich (the option fee) but $2500. isn't bad. Except for writing and selling one-liners to Joan Rivers and Rodney Dangerfield (another post to come detailing that!), it's the most money I've made on writing.

Marvin calls and tells me to stay home that Anne Heche will call this evening. Again, to myself, I'm like "Yeah sure, I'll sit by the phone". I did! My mother (whom was ill and has since passed away, who I miss beyond words) sat with me. The phone rings! A familiar female voice (a movie star voice!) says "Hi, this is Anne Heche." And we're off into a forty-five minute conversation about the script, her life, her childhood, both of our fathers dying when we were only 13, her volunteerism within the LA homeless community, gay life, her reaction to the script and how she didn't think she'd want to do it initially, how I'm a good writer and write with such "humanity". Okay, is this for real?! Do I hear Ellen (whom Anne calls El") doing dishes or something in the background? Anne tells me "El read it and liked it a lot" but had one suggestion for a line change. Okay. El was right. The line really didn't work. We chat a little more. Anne says "I can't wait for the table reading" and we say goodbye, but not before I say "Tell Ellen I'm a big fan of her work". She says she wil...l and we hang up.

My mother can't believe I was just having a long conversation with Anne Heche! I can't believe it either! We jump around! We're excited, elated, thrilled. Marvin sends me an article from Variety. Our movie is mentioned (and me as writer) in the Jan. 13, 1999 edition of Army Archerd's daily column. It's official. The movie will be made! It's in Variety for pete's sake!

To be continued on next post...

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Welcome to my screenwriting blog. What are my qualifications for this endeavor? Well, anyone can write a blog these days, but one subject I know a lot about is screenwriting. I've been writing for many years and it's a constant struggle. Every time I think I'm ready to hang it up, throw in the towel, donate my office supplies to Good Will... I get a letter, e-mail, or phone call that is "the sign" to hang on and keep writing.

I love writing scripts, creating plots and characters. What would I do if I didn't write movie scripts? I could write plays or books, but I'm a TV/Movie brat. It's ironic that TV these days is better than the movies. Television dramas are much better written than screenplays of late. TV ratings are going up, while movie box office revenues are sinking. Where are all the great scripts? Are they being written? Are they being passed on by knucklehead execs?

Let me give you a little background about my trials and tribulations as a struggling screenwriter. For some reason, I have always written spec screenplays. Six to date. I wish I was more inclined to write TV spec scripts because maybe it would get me noticed and land me a gig in LA as a staff writer... but that's not really what I want. I don't want to sit in a room with other writers, throwing ideas around and jokes or lines... I like the solitary life of being a writer. I like coming up with the original idea, executing it and sending it out with only my name on the cover (to blame).

So. In November of 2004, I quit my successful TV news job in NYC. I'm a video editor. That's my day job... or was. I've worked in the TV news biz now for ten years; 8 as a staff editor for a highly (okay, the most successful) cable news channel on your dial. I made decent money and had benefits and a 401K. I was content, liked my co-workers and, most days, my job. I worked covering big stories like the presidential elections, two wars, 9/11, anthrax terror, hurricanes and too many summers of missing kids and murdered wives. The news is damn depressing. You know... you watch it. Well, try working in it. It can be exciting some days. It can inspire and inform Americans. It can make folks get off their butts and take action. It can create fear. It can get ratings. It's a business like any other.

Anyway, I hit a wall professionally. I wanted to devote a year to my writing. And I have. This November 12th will be my one year anniversary of writing. Did I accomplish anything staying home and writing in the seclusion of my NY apartment? Giving up my good job and benefits? Well, let me say, I have worked at the same company two days a week... weekends... I have to eat... and I've juggled bills and dropped a few balls... cut back on expenses (no more fancy Manhattan restaurants, Broadway shows or buying clothes at the Gap)... but I'm surviving... and YES, I have seen some progress.

I got a manager this year. Not an agent, a manager! Do I need a manager? I thought only people like Britney Spears and Elvis and the New York Yankees needed managers, but a manager wanted me and so I agreed to be "managed". What's the difference between a manager and an agent you ask? A manager gets 15% of your script sale as opposed to an agent's 10%. Also, managers don't have to be licensed, agents do. A manager can also produce your work -- an agent can't.

My manager (still getting used to saying that) is great. She's no-nonsense, smart, a go-getter and has had my scripts circulating in Hollywood. We got two "passes" this week on my crime thriller. A TV exec said with all the "Law & Orders" and procedural shows ("The Shield", CSI, etc.) my script is well-written but needs more to stick out. In case you don't know, a "pass" is a "no". A rejection. I have loads of those. Binders and binders of them.

So besides getting a manager in LA this year (which was a goal when I quit my day job), I had a script optioned (another goal reached). A young producer-wannabe (and soon willbe) optioned my animation script WAR BIRDS for $500. Not bad. Downside? I co-wrote it, so I only got $250. which I had to use to pay my monthly Cobra benefits! A writer needs health insurance. In case I get another rejection letter, faint, fall of my writer's chair and crack my skull.

That option just expired. It won't be renewed because although the producer dude still likes it -- and it got great coverage -- Disney came out with "Valiant" which was very similar to "War Birds" and that movie tanked. The producer dude said two similar movies have been produced before, but usually the first movie does well (like "Finding Nemo" and then "Shark Tale"). "Valient" nose-dived at the box office. So "War Birds" got its wings clipped... momentarily.

I have so much to tell you about this crazy business and my background as a struggling writer. More to follow on this blog. In my next post I'll tell you about when Mike Farrell (of M*A*S*H fame) optioned my script a few years ago and how I came thisclose to getting a movie made. As my mother used to say to me, never get excited until the check clears the bank.

Until then... I pound the keys in NYC. Another rainy day... good day to write, huh?