Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Do the Work by Steven Pressfield 
by Janet Lawler

No more excuses... reach your goals... pursue that dream... but one thing you must do first -- Do the Work. 

That's the title of Steven Pressfield's new book Do the Work (I added the lazy duff part as a warning to myself).

He previously wrote The War of Art which I've read a million times.  I give copies to friends. The War of Art is a short book with a powerful punch if you're looking to overcome procrastination, fear and resistance in accomplishing what you want out of life.

You might still procrastinate after reading The War of Art, but at least you'll know why... and steps to overcome it.

Steve's new book Do the Work comes out in April.  For a short time, you can read the digital edition of this bestselling author's new book for free via the Domino Project.  Cool. We like free books!

GE is sponsoring Steve's book (which means GE's picking up the cost to get free copies out to you -- the reader). 

You can go to Amazon and pre-order your free copy for your Kindle today.  (Man, I gotta buy me a Kindle soon!) It gets auto-delivered on April 20th.  The regular version sells for $12.99 (without discounts).  http://www.amazon.com/Do-the-Work-ebook/dp/B004PGO25O/ref=tmm_kin_title_0?ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2&qid=1301000199&sr=8-1

We all need motivation and insights on how to keep moving forward with our creative work and every day goals.  Steve Pressfield has overcome his own failures to reach success in his work and life -- he wrote The Legend of Bagger Vance and many other novels -- even one solid tip from Steve could be the gem you're looking for to finally pursue your goal.  Check out Steve's website at http://www.stevenpressfield.com/

The NY Screenwriting Life will review Do the Work in the coming weeks.

Until next time.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

By Janet Lawler

Hi Alison, thanks for joining us at The NY Screenwriting Life.  In a nutshell, can you tell us what you've been up to lately?

I write for More Magazine.....two very short film reviews a month....I am a contributing critic on Roger Ebert's new show "Ebert presents at the movies on PBS where my first piece just aired www.ebertpresents.com
and I'm soon to start work reviewing for a new website/content provider called Buzz60.  In addition, I just launched my own website www.alisonbailes.com
where I blog and review as much as I can find the time for!

How many movies do you generally see a week?

Not as many as I should!!  I'm constantly feeling that I should see more.....so many new releases as well as catching up on all the stuff I've missed. But I have young kids so I try not to be out every night. Probably about 6 a week?  Although Monday I saw 4 and yesterday 3. So this week it will be 9 or 10.

Is your process as a movie critic more cerebral or visceral?  For instance, do you take notes when first watching a movie you're about to review?  Do you see it more than once before reviewing it?
I do take notes as I find I like to be reminded of dialogue or plot points that strike me as interesting when I later write. I always swear that I will turn the review around the next day....but I don't, cos I'm a procrastinator, so I'm often writing a review weeks after seeing the film. The notes come in handy, if I can read them!  The lasting memory of a film tends to be visceral. I very rarely have time to see a film more than once unfortunately.
How important is story in reviewing a movie?  Is that the first element you notice missing or evident more than the directing, acting, etc?

Bad acting is the first thing that ruins a film.  I can't get beyond it. Directing has to be pretty amateurish to ruin a good film if there's a good story compellingly told. I am a stickler for story. It has to be believable for me.....suspending disbelief is OK in very small doses. Sometimes when I find a plot hole then that casts a pall over the memory.  There is something in "Hanna" that I couldn't quite accept, so in my mind the film is tainted, even though it's a great action thriller with amazing performances and a killer soundtrack!!

What advice would you give to aspiring screenwriters who will be writing movies for the next generation of moviegoers?
Write what you know and KISS (Keep it simple, stupid).  Invaluable advice. Even Christopher Nolan who twisted our minds with "Inception" started with "Following"....a more or less simple story.

What summer flick are you most looking forward to seeing soon?

Yikes!! what is there again? I don't care about Transformers or Xmen sequels. I'm pretty much over anything with superheroes at this point. I'm equally unexcited about the Pirates repeat. However I loved the last Harry Potter, so I'm looking forward to how they wrap it all up (didn't read the books, so I don't know!).  I'm really looking forward to Steve Coogan in "The Trip", Terrence Malick's new film, and yes, "The Hangover 2".  I've seen a few of the smaller films coming soon and some good ones are "Pom presents: the greatest film ever sold" from Morgan Spurlock and "A better life" from Chris Weitz.  And because I read the book and liked it.....am interested in seeing what they did with "The Help".

Do you prefer watching a movie in a theater with an audience or at home on Pay-Per-View, Netflix or on DVD?

I rarely watch with a "real" audience.  Mostly it's with a bunch of other critics who tend to be respectful and quiet. I have been spoiled. When I do go to the movies I am appalled at the noise, smells and rudeness of fellow movie goers.  I love to be on my sofa, but it's not as conducive to paying attention 100% so I do try and make it to the screenings.  On Demand is great if you miss the press screenings.

And finally, Alison, do you ever text during a movie? ;)

WHO would answer yes to this question?  I would never text. I don't even look at my phone. But funnily enough, my babysitter had an emergency on Monday and  called me right before a film. I did then check my phone to make sure things were OK.  I felt TERRIBLE about it....and did it under my seat with my hand over the screenlight.  There were only two other people in the screening room but that's no excuse. People who let their phones light up, or tap away at them shouldn't be in the movie. If you can't give the film your attention, then you shouldn't bother to watch it in the first place. No one can multi-task that well.  Everyone can have the occasional emergency. But people who email thru the whole film should know better. 

Thanks, Alison, for taking time out to participate with The NY Screenwriting Life.  

Check out Alison Bailes on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ALISONBAILES
and don't text at the movies!

Until next time.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

by Janet Lawler

Have you ever wanted to write about your own life?  Come on, you know you have! Maybe turn it into a movie or book?  We all have a story to tell, right?  It takes courage to tell the truth... the raw truth... but we can do it honestly and yet fictionalize it to reach an audience.

I just finished reading Jen Grisanti's new book Story Line: Finding Gold in Your Life Story.  If you're considering putting your life down on paper, read Grisanti's book first.  It guides a writer through creating a "log line for your life" just like a movie log line, drawing from your truth without shame or fear, writing about universal themes and moments that will hook your audience emotionally.

Isn't that what makes us want to read a new book or go see a movie?  We want to feel something... learn something... feel connected to others... to know we're not alone.

Being able to write about a real incident is terrifying.  How factual must we be?  Will we hurt someone's feelings?  Do we have to write it exactly as it happened?  Will we wind up on Oprah's show defending our truth, sentence by sentence?

Relax.  Grisanti's book frees up the writer to pull from that gritty reality but disguise it in fiction within a solid story foundation (structure).

Jen Grisanti has a track record in the TV industry.  She worked for Spelling Television as a creative executive during its "Beverly Hills, 90210" and "Melrose Place" days.  Spelling was her mentor and boss.  She went on to become VP of Current Programs at CBS/Paramount.  In 2008, she left that post (when her contract wasn't renewed, which she writes about with candor) and decided to start her own consultancy business Jen Grisanti Consultancy (during the start of the Great Recession).  Now that takes courage!

Grisanti's brand is "Developing from Within".  She explains how scripts, plays, novels can be more meaningful to an audience, and to us as the creator, by digging deep into our past and having the strength to reveal what we've survived.  Universal moments -- divorce, a parent dying, losing a job, battling illness -- are dilemmas most of us can relate to on some level.  Through that loss and pain, we can help others.

Many people find a great Act 3 after a devastating Act 2.

I recently ran into a woman I hadn't seen in about four years.  She looked freakin' FANTASTIC!  New hairstyle and color, stylish outfit and she had dropped 50 pounds... I kept telling her how amazing she looked... what was her secret?  She laughed and said she got divorced. "I like my independence," she beamed.  Well, does she ever... she found a new love and an entire new outlook about herself and life.  The back story was: her husband cheated on her, she took him back (they had two young sons); he cheated again and she finally threw the bum out! This woman needs to write her life story, pronto!  Talk about The Good Wife.

Gristanti's book Story Line touches on stories like above -- in movies and real life.   We've all had our "all is lost" moments.  So how do we go on?  How do we pick up the pieces?  Set new goals?  Often renewal and transformation comes after we hit that brick wall... when we're forced to change direction to survive.

And, we can also write about it.  Purge it on paper.  Truth can elevate fiction, Grisanti notes.  I'm currently writing a play about my sister.  She died at 37 after battling drug abuse since her teenage years.  It's excruciating... it's painful... it's an all up hill battle for me... but I know my sister's story deserves to be told... maybe it will save one young girl from turning to drugs. 

Grisanti's book is a worthy read for my project.  I'm floored by her raw honestly in every chapter.  She never holds back about her own "all is lost" moments... her husband's infidelity, her divorce, her climb up the corporate ladder in Hollywood, what that career cost her, losing her job in her 40s, being single again and having to reinvent herself by starting her own business from scratch.  Wow.  The good news -- she's in a better place for having traveled that path.  It's all there on the page.  She writes without trying to sugar coat events or protect her "corporate image".  Most people would need a glass of wine or two to open up this way.  Grisanti's story and experiences touched me deeply as a reader and writer... the whole point of the book.

I've long followed Grisanti through her podcast Story Wise which is available for free on iTunes http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/jen-grisanti-consultancy/id315874121.  On her podcast she interviews top Hollywood writers and producers.  I really like Grisanti's style -- warm, insightful, fun and yet structured.  She pulls gems out of these writer/producers weekly for her audience to learn from.  An hour with Story Wise is time well invested.

So the next time life kicks your butt, start taking notes.  When the stakes are high, when you're facing insurmountable odds, breathe, and remember that setbacks force us into new directions, for a reason.

Attention to my NYC Bloggers... mark those calendars... Jen Grisanti will be at the Drama Book Shop (one of my favorite places!) on April 15th from 5-6:30 PM for a book signing.  Also she'll be giving a Screenwriting Conference for Movie Maker Magazine June 11 &12th.  Check her out!

Happy St. Patrick's Week!