Monday, September 23, 2019

Any good screenwriting books?
The Larry Edmunds Bookshop is well-known and one of the oldest bookshops around.  It's been in business for over 70 years. When you enter the place, it looks like a used book store with shelves of old and new Hollywood-themed books, movie posters on the walls and other Hollywood artifacts.  They have a great collection of movie scripts, everything from The Godfather to Forest Gump selling for $15.  We can get most now online for free, but if you're into collecting film scripts in pristine condition, this is your place.

I, of course, had to find the screenwriting shelf and they had many of the well-known screenwriting paperbacks from Syd Field and other popular writing gurus.  The store is rather small and some of it looked used more for storage.  I expected it to have a more impressive screenwriting collection/display -- but it's still a cool place to visit when on Hollywood Blvd. in L.A.

Hopefully, this old-time bookshop will stick around in the digital world.   Stop in if you're in town and pick up a book --  support the locals.  You can browse and feel like you're stepping back in time in Hollywood.
Here is some info about the place and the link to its website is below.


6644 Hollywood Boulevard Los Angeles, CA, 90028
Phone: 323)463-3273
Mon : 10:00 am – 6:00 pm
Sat: 10:00 am – 7:00 pm
Sun: 12:00 pm – 7:00 pm

If you're looking for larger bookshops with a moe current stock and a more inviting place to hang out for hours, I'd suggest The Last Bookstore in DTLA or Book Soup on Sunset Blvd.
Either way, go buy a book and read.

Until next time.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

by Janet J. Lawler 
July 23, 2019
Los Angeles, CA
Located on Santa Monica Blvd.
The newly remodeled and recently reopened Formosa Cafe is legendary in West Hollywood.  And for good reason.

In its heyday, the place served drinks to the best of old Hollywood -- Elvis, Frank Sinatra, Humphrey Bogart, and John "The Duke" Wayne.

When you bellied up to this bar, you always knew who was sitting next to you.  Movie stars. Famous singers.  They came here to hide out from the movie studio execs down the block.

Just stepping into The Formosa Cafe you feel the presence of movie history (celeb photos line the walls), the allure of fame (and its demons) tempt you as you listen to bartenders mixing and shaking drinks.  I had the popular Mai Tai that could knock your socks off... except people don't wear socks in L.A.

The 1933 Group did a great job in bringing The Formosa back to life.  They poured $2.5 million dollars into its renovation.  Thankfully they did, it's keeping the haunt going that first opened in the 1930s.

The bars (there are two) are huge, one in the front room and one in the back.  There are gorgeous, red booths where you can enjoy Asian eats.  David Kuo oversees the Chinese-American menu.  We enjoyed the pot stickers and the beef and broccoli.

You can sit in the dining room, bar area, or in the remodeled Pacific Trolley car.  It's an authentic trolley car now lined with celeb photos and newspaper clippings about the movie industry from days gone by.  Bogart and Bacall often came here.

During the recent July L.A. earthquakes, a waiter said customers eating inside the trolley got a little impromptu ride.  Fortunately, no damage or injuries, but it sure gave patrons a reason to order another drink.

I love The Formosa Cafe.  It's not a tourist trap but instead is a cool, hideaway vibe.  If you want to wow someone, meet them here for drinks and appetizers.

It's said that actor John Wayne once got so plastered at The Formosa that he passed out overnight in one of the red booths.  They found him in the morning cooking eggs in the kitchen with a hangover.  And, crooner Frank Sinatra is remembered as having a broken heart.  He'd down drinks at The Formosa while pining over Ava Garner.

Ah, Hollywood.

Speaking of, last night was the premiere of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.  Quentin Tarantino's ninth stand-alone film.  I hope to see it this week.

Until next time.

website link to The Formosa Cafe

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

by Janet J. Lawler
Los Angeles, CA
July 17, 2019
The other night I took in a very young Jane Fonda double-feature ("Cat Ballou" and "The Chase") at The New Beverly Cinema in L.A.  It's not like summertime at a classic Drive-In, but pretty close.

The New Bev is a wonderful, cozy movie haven located on Beverly Blvd.

Filmmaker Quentin Tarantino owns this establishment and selects many of the films projected.  You can tell, his fingerprints are everywhere you look from European movie posters in the lobby to the great cinema selects each month.

All prints are shown in glorious 35mm (unless noted in 16mm), no digital projectors allowed.  The famous writer/director wants you to experience movies the way they were meant to be seen.  Many of these flicks are directly from Tarantino's private collection.  I love it.

From the moment you get in line, (best to order your tix online),  you know this experience is for movie geeks. No apologies made. If you come to The New Bev, you love cinema, pure and simple, all kinds of cinema.   But, you can enjoy the place even if you only see a movie once in a while.  But,  chances are you are obsessed with cinema just like me.  You can feed your celluloid addiction at The New Bev any day of the week, at all times of the day -- with kiddie matinees on weekends to midnight screenings.
Get your seat early at The New Bev
The theater itself was recently remodeled and is clean, with a great screen and sound system, comfy seats and cheap snacks (even vegan hot dogs).  Hey, it's L.A.  They could easily price gouge theatergoers here, but they don't.  Admission prices are reasonable as are the cheap snack prices (visit the theater's link for specifics
In the lobby, they sell T-shirts and you can see Tarantino's soon-to-be-released "Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood" movie poster on full display.  The staff is friendly, welcoming and efficient.  The place has a relaxed, cool vibe but expects reverence for all its showings (that means no texting or looking at your phone during the movie.)

Before each show, the film is introduced by a staff member offering inside tidbits about the making of the film.  The night I attended manager Charlie introduced the Jane Fonda double-feature.  (We also got to watch a grainy 70s trailer for Fonda's Academy Award-winning role in Klute).

Thanks, Quentin Tarantino, for making a personal investment in cinema, for putting your money where your mouth is.  I'm hooked and will be back.

Cinema is about great directors, writers, actors, cinemaphotographers and music scores... but it's also about the theater experience itself.  When that's done right, it's pure magic.

You can also listen to The New Bev's podcast The Pure Cinema.  It has an interview with Tarantino all about his ninth film and programming for summertime at the movie house.  It's a hoot!

Until next time.

#TheNewBev   #QuentinTarantino #OnceUponATimeinHollywood
The New Beverly website:
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Wednesday, June 26, 2019


Stay true to your voice and don't be afraid to share it with the world. 

We need to hear your story and learn about your unique worldview.

Never stop picking up the pen or pounding the keyboard.  Just keep writing!

Happy National Writing Day to all you writers out there!

Wednesday, May 22, 2019


My feature drama screenplay ABSOLUTION made the Top 25 Semifinalist in its first ever Top 25 Save the Cat! Screenplay Challenge.   So grateful!

Placing in the Save the Cat! Challenge holds special meaning for me.  

I had the pleasure of meeting Save the Cat! creator Blake Snyder in New York City many years ago.  He was teaching a writing workshop in Manhattan.  I was quick to sign up. It was a great one-day workshop focusing on various movie genres, themes and dialogue. 

Blake Snyder was a super kind, insightful and inspirational screenwriting instructor and consultant.  A class act.  I was deeply saddened when he passed away in 2009.  

But his instruction and brand continues at the Save the Cat! website , along with videos on YouTube and other media outlets.
Blake Snyder
Blake, thanks for all you taught me through your Save the Cat! series and your workshop.

My script ABSOLUTION falls into the genre of Rites of Passage and is a redemption story.  Here's to getting it into the right hands and produced for the big (or little screen).  And hey,  I'm just putting this out into the universe, but this script would be ideal for actor Chris Pine
Actor Chris Pine
Congratulations to ALL the writers who entered the Save the Cat! Screenplay Challenge... and especially to the Finalists!  

See the complete list below.  

Until next time.

Here is the complete list of Finalists and Semifinalist.

Blake Snyder's Bio

Thursday, May 09, 2019

The Margaret Herrick Library dedicated to Motion Pictures
The Margaret Herrick Library is an amazing library and non-circulating resource center for movie lovers and scholars located in Beverly Hills, CA.

Today was my first visit to the library.

Who was Margaret Florence Herrick?  She was the Executive Director of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The academy's library in 1971 was named the Margaret Herrick Library in her honor.

The outside building looks more like a church than a library.  Step inside and you're greeted by security (bring your ID).  You are then required to sign in and present a picture ID, which they will hold until you leave the library.
I browsed the lobby which has photos of famous movie actors on the walls, everyone from Al Pacino to Douglas Fairbanks to Cher.

After signing in, you can proceed upstairs to the reading room and collections/resource area.  Keep in mind that this isn't your usual public library -- here, you don't check out books or media materials to take home.  It's simply for research on their site.

While there, I read two movie scripts (The Godfather II and This Property is Condemned), both scripts written by Francis Ford Coppola.

The staff is polite and very helpful. Follow all the rules (they are posted as you enter the building and upstairs in the collection area).  Laptops are allowed (without covers), a pencil and paper are permitted (no pens) and you will be asked to store your purse, bags, etc. in a token locker.

The atmosphere is lovely. 

That rare quiet place these days to read.

No cell phones are allowed inside the library area.  That, too, goes in the locker.  But in all honesty, it was a delight to be detached from my phone for a few hours. 

There is parking nearby and metered parking on the street.

You can read books on every topic from directing to editing to screenwriting.  The shelves are stacked with autobiographies and biographies,  how-to guides about filmmaking and resource books. 

I spent hours perusing their materials.

This elegant, generously-supported facility is devoted to the history and development of the motion picture as an art form and an industry. Established in 1928 and now located in Beverly Hills, the library is open to the public and used year-round by students, scholars, historians and industry professionals.

I plan to return often.  This library is a must-visit if you're a movie lover.  It's a treasure especially for screenwriters.

Here is the library's website for more info:

Wednesday, May 01, 2019

IN HER WORDS:  Oscar-nominated Screenwriters Kristin Wigg and Annie Mumolo (Bridesmaid) talk about co-writing  Bridesmaids together.

Actress Kistin Wigg     photo:
Bridesmaids was a breakout hit at the box office eight years ago... and still holds up with some of the funniest moments ever on screen (it also helped launch Melissa McCarthy's movie career).  It's a great movie featuring a strong cast of women. The food poisoning scene alone is worth watching this movie again. 

Last night, Women in Entertainment and Writers Guild of America West co-presented their series In Her Words: Spotlight on Women Writers in Film & TV featuring Kristin Wigg and Annie Mumolo, the co-writers of Bridesmaids.

Q AND A with writers Kristin Wigg and Annie Mumolo
You'll recall Wigg starred in Bridesmaids and Mumolo made a cameo appearance as the terrified airline passenger sitting beside her in the movie.

Both actresses, producers and comedians discussed their writing process -- which included Wigg flying out to L.A. every weekend to work on the collaboration, while still working on Saturday Night Live in the mid-2000s. Wigg would stay at Mumolo's Burbank, CA apartment weekends where they would work on the film's outline, early drafts and improv scenes.

They wrote a pile of drafts before arriving at the one that eventually became the film.  It was their first screenplay.  One of their biggest writing disappointments was when a big chunk of the Bridesmaids script got scrapped -- it originally had an elaborate Las Vegas sequence that producer Judd Apatow cut after several other hit comedies used Vegas as their backdrop (namely, the Hangover).  Although Wigg said they were crushed to have to delete and reinvent something to replace the Vegas sequence, they brainstormed and came up with the "airplane sequence", where Wigg in an attempt to deal with her fear of flying, consumes pills and drinks scotch to disastrous (and hilarious) results -- ending with her and the other bridesmaids being taken off the plane by authorities.

Wigg and Mumolo noted they were surprised at their Oscar-nominated and box-office success since it was their first screenplay.  They knew each other prior only from sketch and improv work in L.A.

Wigg and Mumolo are currently at work on a new project together due out this summer called “Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar.”  Good news for us!

The In Her Words series celebrates female writers who have created inspiring work while also breaking through industry barriers.   #InHerWords

Monday, April 29, 2019

by Janet J. Lawler 
April 29, 2019
Los Angeles, CA
Director and Writer John Singleton
The news is heartbreaking.  Another artist who made an important impact on our lives through his creative voice has died.

Like Luke Perry earlier this year, filmmaker John Singleton has passed away after suffering a stroke in Los Angeles.  

I remember the young director when he first burst onto the filmmaking scene back with "Boyz N the Hood" in the 90s.  

He, along with director Spike Lee, made movies that had a strong voice and unique visual style.  The indie film couldn't be ignored by the masses. People took notice of its creator. 
Singleton was (and still is) the youngest director ever nominated for a Best Director Oscar for his film (which he also wrote).  He didn't win the Oscar that year for directing or for his original screenplay, but it sure put him on the map and gave him a platform to continue with his creative work for the rest of his life. 

Having listened to many podcasts where Singleton was the guest,  he always came across as humble and kind in an often selfish, harsh business.  
With "Boyz N the Hood" he showed America another side of itself, one not usually shown in Hollywood movies. He introduced us to his world through the characters of three, male teenagers growing up in South Central L.A.  It's a movie that is seared into our cinematic minds.

Rest in Peace, John Singleton, and thank you for writing and directing a film that touched so many lives.  And for being an advocate for your fellow screenwriters and directors.  You will be missed.

Below is the NY Times obit about John Singleton's personal and creative life.

#JohnSingleton #BoyzNtheHood

Sunday, April 28, 2019

NETWORK ON BROADWAY: Bryan Cranston stars as Howard Beale
Actor Bryan Cranston
Talk about powerhouse performances on the Broadway stage.
Cast takes a bow after show

Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad, Malcolm in the Middle) stars as the raving mad journalist Howard Beale, based on Paddy Chayefsky's classic  1976 film NETWORK.  Cranston delivers an intense, explosive, deeply philosophical performance that is timely (even though the play is set in the 1970s).  Howard Beale wants you to get mad, to turn off your TVs (maybe your phones if it were today) and shout "I'm mad as hell and not going to take this anymore!".   Fake news!  Dirty politics!  Americans who tune into the TV tube to get all their information!  No wonder Howard's pissed off!!

I am too!
Actor Tony Goldwyn
NETWORK also has a terrific supporting cast with Tony Goldwyn (Scandal, Orange is the New Black) playing Max Shumacher and Tatiana Maslany (Orphan Black) playing the sensational producer Diana Christenson (Faye Dunaway played the role in the movie).  The character would sell her soul for hire TV ratings.

Actress Tatiana Maslany
After the show, the actors came outside to sign Playbills, take photos with fans and Bryan Cranston even FaceTimed someone's family member.  These actors couldn't have been more patient and lovely with the New York theater goers.  Trust me, not all actors are this accommodating with their fans.
Cranston greets his fans after the show
Bryan Cranston didn't disappoint on stage or off.   Great guy!  He sets the tone for the cast.
Theater-goers and fans wait to meet the actors
If you're in NYC, check out NETWORK on Broadway, but hurry.  It closes June 8th, 2019. #NetworkBway  #BryanCranston   See the link for the show

Wednesday, April 03, 2019

with Season 3 already renewed by BBC America/AMC
By Janet J. Lawler
April 2, 2019
Los Angeles, CA
Sandra Oh and Jodi Comer KILLING EVE
I attended an early screening of the upcoming BBC America series KILLING EVE Season Two premiere episode tonight at the TV Academy in North Hollywood.

Don't worry.  No spoilers here.  If you liked the first season of KILLING EVE, you won't be disappointed with the second season.  The show continues its intense killer pace with twists, turns, cringe-worthy violence, and dark, snarky humor.  Isn't that why all tune in?  And who does snark better than Sandra Oh?

After the screening, KILLING EVE stars Sandra Oh and Jodi Comer, as well as Executive Producer Sally Underwood Gentle,  took part in a panel discussion before a packed audience of television industry professionals.
Co-stars Oh and Comer touched on their on-air chemistry and overall professional synergy in making the hit show.  Comer noting that Sandra Oh is "so zen" on set and brings dedication and focus to scenes, helping the young actress to raise her game in the process.  Oh noted how much she "trusts" working with Jodie Comer.  They said shooting the show on locations in various countries is also fun.

KILLING EVE is thrilling to watch as we root for the spy to catch the assassin or the assassin to torment the spy.  It's a delight watching these two strong, clever actors raise the bar for dramatic, action-based television.

Watch KILLING EVE season two on April 7th on AMC.

Post Update 4/8/2019:  British writer Suzanne Heathcote takes over for Emerald Fennell as the Phoebe Waller-Bridge drama is renewed for Season 3 by BBC America/AMC.

Until next time.

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Sunday, March 17, 2019

March 17th, 2019
Los Angeles, CA

Happy St. Patrick's Day!  🍀  May the road rise up to meet ya today and always.

I attended the AFF in LA all-day session this weekend.  This is the fourth year for this popular writers gathering.  Even in the middle of Los Angeles, the AFF shines with Texas charm.
The day's focus was Guiding Your Writing Journey.
Writer Chuck Hayward answers industry questions
In the morning, writers gathered at roundtables with industry pros Karen Kirkland, Adam Kolbrenner, Chuck Hayward, Jayme Lemons, Eric Tovell and Gesumino Rulli.

These intimate roundtables are always high in demand and fill up fast, so if you decide to attend AFF in LA next year -- sign up early!  Some other folks chose to only attend the afternoon session (panel talks).  Trust me, the roundtables are worth your time and extra $.

Some key takeaways from industry pros to writers:

-Have"stand out" writing.
-Have a unique voice.
-How does your life inform your writing?  Personal insights will add authenticity to your work.
-Stick to your themes and brand yourself as a writer.
-Be social and get out there to meet people, other writers (this AFF event, for example.)  Don't stay isolated writing in Starbucks with headphones on forever.  Get out there!
-Less is more.  Be cognizant of your page count.  Don't overwrite.  Revise.
-Build a community of writers (writer's groups, online connection, meets ups.)
-Be massively ACTIVE and never quit.
-Write consistently and not just when you feel like it.  Consider it like a job.
-Write fast.  Get drafts done.  Set deadlines for yourself and KEEP them.
-Write with emotion on the page and tap into universal themes.

The afternoon panels were excellent.  Topics: Finding The Time (To Write) and Overcoming Obstacles.  
Moderator Karol Hoeffner and writers Carly Wray and Wendy Calhoun
Panelist/writer Wendy Calhoun (writer for TV shows EMPIRE, JUSTIFIED and NASHVILLE) advised TV writers to be problem-solvers, have manners in the writer's room, be kind and friendly to EVERYONE in the room (don't be a brown-noser), know why YOU are at the writer's table.

Writer Carly Wray (Co-EP of the upcoming adaptation of WATCHMEN, formerly of Mad Men and Westworld) suggested writers never shoot down another writer's pitch without having something strong to replace it with and to remain collaborative.  Be positive in offering your opinions to other writers and constructive.  Calhoun added, "be the glue in the room".  In other words, be a team player and be known as a fixer, not a disruptor.

Oscar at Linwood Dunn Theater
Finally, there was a Networking Reception (writers love a good mixer!)  Thanks to the Academy Education Program and Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting for the complimentary drinks and Mexican food.  We networked and ate/drank in the lobby of the Linwood Dunn Theater, with Oscar literally towering over us.  If that doesn't inspire you to finish your script, nothing will.

Until next time...

The AFF Screenwriting Competition deadlines are coming up:
Early - March 29th
Regular - April 19th
Late - May 15th

Academy Nicholl Fellowships Competition Deadlines
Early - March 7th
Regular - April 10th
Late - May 1st

Sunday, March 03, 2019

 February 2019
Blake J. Harris and Joseph Chen
I love attending local events at my library here in Burbank, CA.  The Buena Vista Library Branch often invites top authors and filmmakers to discuss their latest creative projects, sell and sign books, and meet with the community.  Young students attended with their parents, getting school credit and meeting authors face to face. 
Blake J. Harris' new book
Recently Blake J. Harris stopped by to promote his new book The History of the Future: Oculus, Facebook, and the Revolution that Swept Virtual Reality.  He chatted with Joe Chen, one of the first employees at Oculus VR about the early days of that company.  Chen worked on the hardware development as Product Lead and led non-gaming developer relations. Chen brought along early prototypes of the VR hardware to show the audience.

The History of the Future book delves into the real-life story of a  teenager named Palmer Luckey, living and working in a camper trailer parked in his parents’ driveway, and how he created a device that could deliver a high quality immersive and affordable virtual reality experience to fellow gamers.  Luckey’s revolutionary device, the Oculus Rift went on to enormous success. 

Within two years, Facebook bought Luckey's company for over $2 billion dollars.

I was sure to get my signed copy of The History of the Future.  It was great to chat with Harris after.  He lives in my old neighborhood in New York City (Astoria).  Small world.

For more about Blake J. Harris, check out his website at

Q & A
Joe Chen one-on-one
While you're at it, check out your library's monthly calendar of events and support these talks with writers, filmmakers and other storytellers.

It's a win/win.

Until next time...

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Friday, February 15, 2019

The NY/LA Screenwriting Life
February 15, 2019

Calling all movie geeks and movie lovers!

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences® official pop-up shop at Hollywood & Highland is now open and thriving the week before the 91st Academy Awards.

You can load up on unique Oscars merchandise (Oscars hoodies, T-shirts, mugs, candles and really nice Oscar Thank You Note Cards (that say "I'd like to thank....").  It's a terrific place to buy gifts for someone who loves movies.
 You can also take fun pictures with a Panasonic movie camera and Oscar statue signs.

Panasonic Movie Camera on Display
The Oscars Pop-Up Shop is located near the Dolby TheatreOpen now for a limited time.

Meanwhile, outside, Hollywood preps for the Oscars in the rain.  We can't complain in Los Angeles -- we need the rain.  Let's hope the sunshine returns in time for the red carpet event.

Hollywood and Highland
Viewing Area for Oscars
The Dolby Theatre
Here is the link for more info about the Oscars Pop-Up store:

Enjoy the show on Sunday, Feb. 24th on ABC! 

Until next time.