Monday, October 26, 2015

The disadvantages of writing anything, anymore.

My director friend and I often talk about the fact that we've probably seen every kind of storyline there is. Being boomers, we go back to Buster Keaton and Laurel & Hardy and of course, Casablanca. We weren't born then, but we got to see them on TV. 

Black & white TV, that is. My parents got their first color TV in 1962.

But adding it all up, we've seen everything at least a dozen times over. I've watched The Searchers for at least fifty times.  And the Three Stooges too.

So does that mean it's all over for writers?

If it's any help, theoretical physiscist Michio Kaku says that there'll always be room for content (aka writers). And there'll always be room for new audiences.

But the only issue that I can see is this; there are supposedly 10,000 screenwriters in WGA, nobody knows the real amount but it's somewhere around there.

And there's a few thousand aspiring writers who graduate in film from college or other schools. And some of them never even wrote a screenplay. Maybe a lot of them.

So, if you're looking at the numbers, don't. It'll just make you sick. Especially when you go to wherein writers leap at any type of writing gig that producers (or supposed producers).

You can find producers looking for writers and for the most part, they want writers who have studio credits or Nichol award writers or anyone who has a script, or wants to write.

The catch is that most of these jobs are also for free.

One producer had these demands for him having interest in your project. But you have to show him your idea and your first draft and the first season's scripts and a co-partner to produce and a deal with a network and and all the arcs for the next two seasons.

My answer would be: What exactly did this producer do for anyone? And in reality he has made one movie and owns trucks for movies. 

The idea of getting writers for free was rare until hundreds of schools and colleges and universities began throwing out screenwriters at a frenzied pace. I know this because I taught UCLA extension classes for screenwriting.

I taught variations of screenwriting which began with a complete screenplay in eight weeks. Of that class, I actually got about ten screenplays from ten of them and the other five almost finished.

My next course, however, was now "the first act" and so on, in which I realized UCLA was extending classes to make more money. We had the first act course, the second act course, etc. etc.

So with all these writers coming out, and already a flood of writers who have never found a job, there are a lot of writers out there.

So where are the jobs that Michio suggests?

It's not on, nor The Black List, nor any of those useless sites.

Some of it is "code", but that's not really writing. 

The only real thing, is to find something that you really like, a story you've always wanted to write or a story you have written. You've read my blog on how I created the spec pilot and how it became real. 

And this is the hardest part. You really have to like your idea, you tell all your friends or anyone who will listen. You have to sleep with it and wake up at night to put down a note or two that you may have dreamed about. I use a little recorder that I've learned how to manipulate in complete darkness.

Your idea has to become your life even if it takes years. My screenplay Emperor of Mars was written in 1989 and has been optioned six times or so, and I still push it. BTW you can read a little of Emperor of Mars on Amazon. I think I have a link on my Stuff on the left side of the blog.

And don't let anyone say it's useless.

Because as long as I have been in the "business", someone has always told me every year for thirty-five years  that "this (fill in the year) year has been the worst there ever was."

And I'm starting a new screenplay in a week.

Monday, October 19, 2015


I didn't really give you the whole idea I was working on, just got carried away with Lost. Lost, the series doesn't really have anything similar to my idea. S.O.B. So why did I watch Lost?

First of all, the full title of my pilot is: S.O.B. - South Of The Boulevard.

And you thought it meant something else.

The term South of the boulevard comes from real estate people who sell properties in Sherman Oaks and Studio City, both are now very expensive. But the salespeople often say it's better south of the boulevard.

This refers to Ventura Boulevard (remembered in Tom Petty's song, Free Falling "All the vampires walking through the valley move west down Ventura Boulevard."

I always wanted to use that term in a story but didn't have anything I liked, except for a small private Investigator office in an alley, now gone. I had a clip the office used to advertise in the LA Times every Friday I think.

Then I reconnected with my ex-wife, Brenda after 26 years, we never really disliked each other and I just lost track of where she was. That happened when her niece found me on FB. Since then my ex and and I email and I visited her twice, all very good.

Then my writer's mind took over.

I had lived with another woman,Carole, and we split up also. And we kept in touch and still do.

Then I wondered what would happen if both women met? Would it be friendly, or quiet or a dozen different things neither of us would even think of.

Then I upped the relationship with some imagination. From here, it's all made up.

What if the husband divorced his first wife, both of them in their 50's. And he remarried a mellennial aged 22. 

Now we have conflict. Right?

But what happens when the husband dies in a hit and run accident?

And then both women are called to read his will. Naturally they don't like each other and the age thing doesn't help. 

But they learn that the husband left his private detective office to them. Would they want it?

What if he had some wacky kind of insurance policy?

The kind that offers $1 million to the two women if they stay with the office for a full year?

There. That's how I created the story,  it all began with that little notice in the LA Times and reconnecting with my first ex. Only took me 20 years. Well, only the P.I. ad. The plot and story took me about 4 months. 

What about Lost?

I watched the episodes, but was more interested in how the writers kept moving it forward although it felt a little desperate. What I got out of it, was how to move a story forward, not that I didn't know it already, but a refresher was due.

And living "off Ventura" gives me all the information I can get, it's all around me.

Now all I have to do is sell it. That might take 20 years.
Or not.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Lost among ideas

While I was writing my spec pilot over the last month I looked for similar TV shows that might give me an idea or two. The key word is "idea" not "copy".

So I decided on watching Lost, I didn't see it when it was on the network for an amazing 6 seasons. I'm not sure why I didn't watch it,  just didn't want to.

So what's similar to my pilot about two women who were married to the same man (not at the same time) and who inherited the husband's broken-down private investigation business?

Well, probably nothing but I knew that Lost had a mythical thing going for it and I am considering the same, sort of. 

Well, I had read a piece from one of the writers, Javier Grillo-Marxuach. He worked on the first two seasons and gives his own take on how it was written, who wrote it and a lot of neat information.

So how do I get ideas from a TV show very unlike mine?

This is where magic happens. Sometimes.

Whenever I look around for new ideas by watching movies or TV, a funny thing happens. I see something that interests me but rather than copy it, something snaps in my mind that is similar, sort of. And by the end, it's completely different than the idea I thought I was stealing from.

A director friend had a story, he saw Kubrick's Lolita and wanted to shoot his movie to look and feel his movie like Kubrick. But when he made it, it didn't look at all like Lolita. Yet, he was happy that he made his movie like Kubrick. Still says it today.

The idea here, is that just because you watch a movie and say you're going to copy it, you don't necessarily copy it. No two people can make the same movie whether it's a feature or a youtube, nobody makes the same movie.

Back to Lost.

I began to binge watch and really liked the characters, would watch 3 or 4 each night. Maybe that's not real binge watch, but plenty for me.

I made it to the 2nd season and began to wind down, to my thinking, the writers were beginning to wander into any kind of crazy idea that they could possibly find. After all they're on an island with nowhere to go. 

There's a lot of "cheats" in Lost, meaning things like the Black Smoke that attacks people now and then, apparently not anxious to work too hard. There is a lot of smoke and mirrors in Lost, things that occur that don't occur again, or maybe in Seasons 5 & 6.

And the ideas began to become ridiculous after the 2nd season, they catch the bad guy, the bad guy escapes, the bad guy catches some of them, etc, etc. And I never knew why Kate and Sawyer were breaking rocks with other people.

Nobody ever explained that.

But the audience stayed with it.

So my take doesn't mean anything. Then they really pulled out all the stops.


When in doubt, do flashbacks. Or flashforwards (they finally did this in the 4th season). It wasn't long before I began to zip thru the flashbacks for one reason.

It was boring. 

Then something occured to me.

Breaking Bad was a lot better. 


Because Breaking Bad had well developed characters. We were watching entirely new characters, a science teacher has cancer and finds himself becoming a meth lord. You never knew what would happen.

Ironically, when the writers started a new spin-off of Breaking Bad, it didn't work as well. Lightning in the bottle, as they say in Hollywood. Breaking Bad could only be made once and Just Call Sal just didn't work. Same writers.

Whereas Lost lost it's characters and, like most TV dramas, went for the easy way. What's that? Rather than become Breaking Bad or The Sopranos, it went for Young & The Restless.

Soap Opera.

And I don't mean it in a bad way. Just a disappointing way. Just watch a soap opera, their issues are basically the same, someone falls for someone, then unfalls with someone, etc. etc. By the 2nd season, it was a soap.

And the best actor in "Y & R" was Eric Braeden. I even met him once. For us boomers he
was better known as a German captain in the 60's TV series Rat Patrol, about combat in the African battles in WW11. His name then was Hans Gudegast, the German in the photo on the left.

But I still am watching Lost, although having zipped through the flashbacks and forwards and even whole episodes. I did get a few ideas and I'm now at the end of Season Four. Maybe I'll get a great idea but getting dizzy by who lies to whom and who changes sides, etc. etc.

But I did like Sawyer and the Iraqi guy. They sure got beat up a lot and sometimes I think beat each other up. Everybody got beat-up.

By the way, here's the link to the Lost writer's stories about writing the series. You can find it at the top of the page under Stuff. It's a good read.

If it's not under STUFF, here's the link:

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Don't be lonely

I've noticed that my blog has 48 readers but you shouldn't feel particularly lonely. Actually there's more than two hundred readers who don't sign up. And as I've mentioned before they come from a lot of countries.

This week we have in order top to bottom:

U.S. ( biggest)
United Kingdom

Browsers top to bottom:

Internet Explorer
Bing Preview
Mobile Safari

Total views:


So you 48 followers don't need to feel lonely, here's me a hundred years ago. My first big deal.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Catching up

As of today, I have finished my spec and registered it with WGA. It's temp title is South of the Boulevard, which is a common expression for real estate people in the San Fernando Valley, over the hill from Hollywood.

Basically, it's about a guy who dies and leaves his detective agency to his very young wife and his older ex-wife with the catch that if they both work the agency then they'll each get $1 million each from a suspicious insurance policy in his will. Naturally the wives aren't close as friends at all.

My next stage is to create the "bible", which for those of you don't know what it is, it's a presentation of what the show is about. It includes the lead actors, the writers and gives a pretty good presentation of what the show will be about.

Bibles, as they're called are varied, some are a page or two, others are a hundred pages, it all depends on the creator's methods. I finished a 1-page version of the series for now to be able to show it to a few managers and get their take on it.

My bible will probably be around 5 pages at most, unless a manager suggests that it could be longer or less. They are the ones who show the material so I let them figure it out.

At the same time, I'm beginning more work on my travel book, entitled "How Not To Get BeatUp In A Small-Town Bar. 

Long title, huh.

I've written about this book some time ago, it's basically a collection of stories that I encountered on a lot of traveling in the U.S. and Canadian west. There's about twenty stories, all of which are quite different, encountering a lot of interesting people.

My next stage is to work on setting up the book project on Indiegogo, which is a competitor to Kickstarter. These are two of many 'crowd-funding" financing entities. Put simply, I will create a page about my book and open it to anyone who wants to put some money into the project.

This is basically what crowd-funding it. A crowd funds a project. Projects can be books, movies, inventions, almost anything. It works like this; people go to my website (or any website on Indiegogo and they see the page with a video and information how one can put money into the project.

In exchange for $10, for example, a person can get a copy of a print or something else, with the biggest donation would be a copy of the book itself.

That's basically all it takes, quite simple. The money is raised as "donations", and the rewards are photographs, t-shirts, books and a few other things. It's very well constructed and there are a lot of rules.

So that's that.

I'm now also starting a new book, actually a screenplay that some friends suggested I write as a book. That's one advantage for writers, if a screenplay doesn't sell, you can always turn it into a book. That's what I did for Emperor of Mars, which, by the way, had gotten some new interest as a movie once again. You can see the book under Materials.

So that's where I am for now. Anything can change but for now, the crowd-funding project is primarily in the limelight as they say... I'll post some of the sketch work sometime soon.

But anything can change.