Monday, April 26, 2010


The Tribeca Talks: Pen to Paper "Authors at the Helm" event took place this morning. The talk was hosted by Barnes and Noble in Union Square in NYC.  Panelists included Nice Guy Johnny writer/director Edward Burns, Snap writer/director and playwright Carmel Winters, and comedian/novelist/screenwriter David Baddiel.  The author Susan Orlean moderated.

The discussion was about the artist's process of writing, directing one's own work and distributing it in today's world of indies and 3-D blockbusters.  All three of the panelists advised writers in the audience to write with a sense of discipline (every day if possible), to push through when you're stuck on the page (Burns suggested "write a bullshit scene just to keep going and then come back to it later and fix it, just don't stop.") and to write with your movie budget in mind.  Burns noted that for his first film he wrote five scenes to take place in Central Park because he could shoot there without a film permit.  That saved him money on his budget.  He suggested using what you have and locations you can use for free.  

After the talk, the panelists were gracious enough to stick around and give one-on-one advice . Burns was particularly generous with his time -- signing autographs, answering questions and giving tips on what screenwriting books to read (he likes Story by Robert McKee, Save the Cat by Blake Snyder; and books by John Truby).

There was a minor crisis when Burns misplaced his iPhone at the event, but it was quickly found.  (The audio-visual guy had removed it off the stage while cleaning up.)  Imagine if that phone wasn't returned?  Some poser would be speed dialing Christy Turlington or leaving Bob De Niro a text by now.  Burns is a down-to-earth, nice guy from Long Island who hasn't forgotten what it's like to be an artist looking for a break.  His new film Nice Guy Johnny is playing now at the Tribeca Film Festival.

(Photos by Janet Lawler)

Thanks to Ed Burns, the Tribeca Talks series and Barnes & Noble.  Great day.  Here is a clip of Ed giving advice about getting your indie film made. 

Until next time,
Janet J. Lawler

Saturday, April 24, 2010


I've been a big fan of New York filmmaker Edward Burns going way back to his "The Brothers McMullen" and "She's the One".  I've always liked his style of writing and directing (making small, personal films with complicated characters).  Today I went to see a press screening for his new movie "Nice Guy Johnny".  It's one of his better movies... it's about a young man who is about to turn 25 and gets an ultimatum from his fiance' -- either he get a real job with at least a $50,000 income or she might call off the wedding.  Johnny Rizzo, the main character, is a sports DJ who hosts his own radio show on the overnight shift in Oakland, California... he makes very little money at it, but loves his work.  The film asks the question: when is it the right time to give up on your dream or should you ever?

If you're reading this blog, chances are you have an artistic side.  Do you write screenplays, books, or make movies?  Maybe you're an aspiring actor or producer or director or...?  You get my point.  In this world, we're told we're not "making it" unless we're bringing in a big income and being validated for our efforts.  It's cool to play in a band when you're 21... not so cool when you're 39 with little prospects for that hit song or income to help mortgage a house.  "Nice Guy Johnny" shows us a young man who has to make a choice -- please his fiance' or please himself.  Which would you choose?

Right after the screening, I attended the red carpet event for Burns' wife's new documentary "No Woman, No Cry" (it's also playing at the Tribeca Film Festival.  Of course, Christy Turlington Burns was there to promote the film with the New York media... but the nice surprise was her hubby Edward Burns also showed up.  He escorted her to the red carpet, took a few pictures for the media and then stepped aside to let her shine.  She did. 

He looked proud of his wife and took a picture of her with his iPhone.  Cool guy (and very good-looking in person).  He says of all he's done -- writing, directing and acting -- he considers himself a writer first.  Love him.

And to top off the day -- if all the above wasn't enough for me on a gorgeous Saturday in Manhattan -- Bono and The Edge from U2 came to show their support for Ms. Turlington.  It was like an Irish love fest -- below are some pictures that I took.  Hope you enjoy them!

Until next time.

Janet Lawler

Friday, April 23, 2010

A review by Janet Lawler

This is a new movie starring Robert Duvall, Sisssy Spacek, Bill Murray and Lucas Black.  It's a folk tale set in the 1930s in a Southern town.  Felix Bush (Duvall) is a backwoods hermit whose only  companion is his shotgun.  Kids throw rocks through his cabin window to taunt him and others dread his appearances in the small town.  Neighbors say he's done "unspeakable things" like kill people... that he's got evil powers... or just simply off his rocker.

The film is currently showing at the Tribeca Film Festival and will be released nationally on July 30th.  It's produced by Sony. Duvall gives a first-rate performance as the recluse who decides to pay for a funeral -- his own -- and invite everyone to come tell their stories about him.  He wants to know what lies they believe (if they have the guts to do so) and if they show up for this bash they get a lottery chance at winning his vast land.

Bill Murray plays the funeral home owner down on his luck and eager to arrange this unconventional party/funeral.  He's looking to make a fast buck off the crazy hermit, but a few twists prevent him from doing so as easily as he intends.  Things get a little complicated.

It's great to see Sissy Spacek up on the big screen again.  She plays a widow, Maddie, a former love of Felix's.  She seems to still hold a sweet spot for him until she discovers his reason for being so tormented -- it hits too close to home.

The movie is by first-time director Aaron Schneider.  The well-crafted script is by Chris Provenzano and C. Gaby Mitchell.  It's a sharply told narrative with some humor thrown in (the scenes between Duvall and Murray are entertaining.)  Lucas Black plays Bill Murray's straight-laced, do-gooder funeral assistant and adds a nice touch to the film.

If you like old-fashioned, solid storytelling with beautiful cinematography, be sure to see Get Low.  The movie hits a few predictable notes but overall it delivers.  The closing confessional scene alone by Robert Duvall is worth seeing.  His anguish is palpable as he tries to find the words to release 40 years of heartache and regret.

Here is the trailer for the movie

Until next time.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


The Tribeca Film Festival kicks off next week here in New York City.

This festival always has a cool, festive vibe come springtime in lower Manhattan.  The hipster directors, producers and actors stroll the streets while promoting their latest movie projects in the city.

Some cynical folks imagined this festival, founded by Robert De Niro, Jane Rosenthal and Craig Hatkoff, might have puttered out by now after its 2002 launch (in tribute to the World Trade Center and to help revitalize the TriBeCa neighborhood), but TFF just keeps getting better.  It's a whole new decade with lots of new films for us to see.  2010 marks the festival's ninth year in presenting top talent and unique films from around the world.

This year TFF promises to be even bigger than ever -- with expert panels, independent features, documentaries, short films, a family festival, a Drive In and movies on-demand. Not everyone can afford to visit Manhattan and attend the festival, but don't fret -- Tribeca Film is making some 15 films available to the public on-demand.  Check out the TFF website for more information.

I will be attending the festival and plan to cover some of the events.  So keep checking back here to see exclusive red carpet photos, videos, reviews and features.  Hats off to Mr. De Niro and his Tribeca colleagues for all their hard work year round to pull this off.  They've gone above and beyond the call of duty to booster this great city's spirit and local economy. 

The festival runs from April 21st-May2nd.  Tune in or come downtown and visit.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010


I'm about to tackle writing a new screenplay and need to figure out where I plan to do it.

This is no easy decision -- the script will take months and months to finish.  Don't even mention the rewriting stage.  So, where will I be most inspired to write it?

The weather is gorgeous now in New York City (with tulips out and birds singing) and, honestly, I don't want to be cooped up in my apartment when I have the greatest city in the world right outside my door.  Sometimes my work desk feels like a ball and chain.

Do I need to be tied down to it this summer or should I try writing in public? I've tried that before and usually find it too distracting.  It's so easy to freak watch, or consume too many lattes or eavesdrop on the couple fighting at the next table in the coffee shop.  I've tried writing at NY libraries (not bad) and at Starbucks (no thanks).

Where do you write?  Are you the traditional sit-at-the-desk writer or a laptop-totting freebird?  I'm a little of both, which is the problem here.  My usual writing space is my desk right in the living.  (I've posted a picture of it above.)  It's a sunny, usually quiet spot.

Last summer I wrote my first novel at the kitchen table.  I wrote 36 chapters on my Mac laptop.  It was hard work, but I got it done.  Our kitchen is wonderfully sunny with not much of view except for neighbors' fire escapes.  While writing my book, I found gazing at our windowsill plants inspiring and a breath of fresh air.  We're currently growing beans and basil in that window.

These days I'm working on the third draft of the book and have returned to rewriting at my old desk.  (It was too drafty in the kitchen during the frigid winter months.) 

Okay, so, my new project is soon underway --  I guess the location isn't as important as getting my page count in and showing up to write every day.  

Happy April, everyone!

Until next time.