Monday, December 23, 2013

I won't be home for Christmas

Have you ever had one of those "How did I get here?" moments? Like if you in the future were to come back and tell yourself it was going to happen and you totally wouldn't believe it? I had one of those a few days ago when I was sitting in a room with the other new-hires at a company I had never heard of.

It took me exactly six months to the day to find a permanent job after graduating college... I think it took me that long to practice the stupid routine over and over. To be said no to or ignored completely. To get my hopes up and learn to recover from it in an instant. To save up enough luck? To realize freelance production isn't for me. To dig deeper and figure out what to do with the hot mess that is myself.

Anyways, to recap, my immediate goal was to find regular work so that I could practice writing scripts on the side because my long-term goal is to write movies. Pretty straightforward. I know goals change, but that's where I'm at now and I believe working towards anything is better than nothing.

So after two interviews, one of which involved me trying to win over a room of about 10 Chinese engineers and entrepreneurs that were impossible to read, I was confirmed as a new hire. I later found out that they chose 10 of us out of around 300 applicants and guess what? I had one of the best interviews.

Some people do actually leave film school and land right in the thick of it, set doing exactly what they planned. I took a slightly different route.

Now I work for a company that makes remote control drones (helicopters, quadcopters, hexacoptors, and octacopters) for aerial videography and filmmaking. This is one of them:

I could have never afforded to get into the RC hobby or even go near one of these things, but I got my foot in the door with 3 years of IT Support in college. It's a normal 9-5 Mon-Fri tech support position and I couldn't be happier because it's still relevant to my industry, super interesting, and will allow me to do what I set out to do without worrying about money. The drone industry is blowing up right now and though it really wasn't on my radar, it feels like a great fit now.

I've received messages from a few readers who are in the same position I was half a year ago, poised to break into the film industry, scared of the real world after school, and really not sure what to do. All I know is what I did, which was move to LA as soon as I graduated and live off of my parent's money until I found a job. I worked on a few projects, met a lot of people, and just got lucky one day when someone on Craigslist liked my resume. Other people might get work from a friend or family member in the industry, and even more people just give up and have to go back home. I was about a month or two shy of doing that if I hadn't found anything because I couldn't have afforded to stay here. My advice is don't beat yourself up about it, keep your goals general and achievable, and be open to them changing. 

My life has totally changed now, it's still surreal. When were all standing on the roof of the office and they flew one of the bigger drones in front of us, we had to confirm with each other that this was real. We had all just landed a dream job.

This year has been insane and it's starting to show in my face and my voice. Even my parents are rubbing in how I'm getting older. It's the first time I'll be away from them and the rest of my family for the holidays. None of us were very broken up about it though considering I finally got what I was working for. Everyone's kind of moving on and doing new things, it's a bit contagious.

Cheers to a new year :)

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

From bright-eyed and bushy-tailed to zero fucks given

I'm still here... A lot has changed over the past few months.

Moved into a new apartment with some friends from school a few weeks ago. Never thought it'd take so long to get my living situation squared away down here, but I finally have a new home and it feels good.

Now combine that with:
unsuccessful job interviews
creative frustrations with my own writing
whatever other stupid existential mental cow pie minefields
aaaand I just didn't feel like e-complaining about it over the past few months

Thing is, the excitement of moving to LA and figuring out my career has totally worn off. Y'know, the whole backbone of this blog...

PROBLEM: I'm 22 years old, so I'm at that point in my life where my actual self and my ideal self are completely disparate and it's been driving me crazy. "But Ben, it can take a lifetime to achieve your ideal self and many people never do!" Shut up, I know, but it's extra shitty now. At this point I feel like I should at least have a vague idea of what my ideal self would be, but I don't. I was kind of wrong about mostly everything in some way or another. My expectations were pretty unrealistic. Going to college in paradise put me out of touch with reality in a big way and only now am I getting over it.

SOLUTION: Accept it and don't give a shit about anything. Yup.

Here's what's up. I'm ashamed to say it, but it took me a longer than I would've liked for me to realize I don't know anything about anything and I have zero skills worth paying me for. Insert liberal arts degree joke here.

I wish somebody would have given me that advice sooner, or maybe they did and I just didn't listen. Gotta accept that I won't be good at anything for years and years and years. Gotta stop getting hung up on the big life questions all at once. A good friend of mine told me yesterday that there's absolutely no point in being too hard on yourself, ever. He's right. I've been beating myself up for no reason and it doesn't help anything. Sure, it's great to have an idea of what I'd like to do further down the line, but right now, in this moment, it's best to start simple and get my head straight. Oh yeah, and just make some money, gawddamnit.

An interesting thing happens when I stop giving a shit about how to beef up my resume, develop my nonexistent career, beat out the other guy... I'm just happier. Really though, I'm just not worrying about it and not making a deal out of it anymore. I can still be driven and discover new things, but ever since I've moved here I've just been waaaaay too hard on myself and it ain't healthy.

It's hard to know that going in. In any big life event, not just moving to Hollywood to try and make it in entertainment. This frustration carries over to everything, but it's especially stressful in this kind of environment where literally everyone is concentrated in the same location competing for the same kind of success. Other people rub off on you down here and falling into the trap of comparing experiences and achievements is just asking for trouble (and when it comes to writers, long nights alone with a bottle.) Nopenopenope!

Bottom line, I've learned to not hold myself accountable for being young and new at everything. I've learned that it's impossible to not get my hopes up about an exciting opportunity and often I will. Doesn't matter, give it up and don't dwell.

Surrender. Accept being a young, insignificant ant. Think big for the future, but simple for the present. It's something to get used to, but some day that whole self actualization thing will come together. Don't care as much, just ride the wave.

Man, enough feels already.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Why I've been so quiet

Growing up in front of the TV as a kid, I was a sucker for hot new toy commercials. New Power Rangers Megazord? I need it! Dumb fighting robot rumble arena? Doesn't matter, this commercial rules and I have to have it! There was always rad music that got you pumped and lame special effects that were only passable to a 9 year old. Every once in awhile, when I was lucky enough to bring one of these toys home, I'd discover that it wasn't really as great as the commercial made it out to be. That kid actor was paid lots of money to look like he was having the time of his life playing with it -- and his hair was always soooo cool! Now that I owned the thing, I was jazzed for the moment, but sometimes left a little underwhelmed since the commercial hyped it up and raised my expectations. It wasn't actually what I wanted.

Okay, not the best example in the world... Point is, I'm currently running into the same problem where I started getting what I thought I wanted, and now I'm not really convinced that I want it anymore.

I came here to immerse myself in Hollywood, work on some movies, and eventually write my own. I reasoned that to mean I should get into production and be PA and work my way up to something better when the opportunity presented itself. At first, I couldn't find any paying work, so I PA'd for free on a few projects and those eventually led to my first paid PA gig. Short narrative, music video, commercial work -- I tried a little of each. Finally a little progress and a start, be it a small one. Problem: I just don't feel like it anymore.

Here's what I discovered about myself while working on the past few projects;

1. I can't really handle 13-14 hour workdays, especially when sitting down is a no-no. I don't think I have the physical stamina needed for constantly lugging around heavy equipment while always being sleep deprived. Sue me.

2. I don't like being everybody's bitch, nor do I have thick enough skin that I'm okay with being consistently blamed for things that aren't my fault. I know this comes with the territory, as it does in plenty of other types of work, but I'm still not okay with being in a "Yes, master. It won't happen again." position.

3. I diligently observed and hung out with people from each department to try and decide which one I would like to transition into. Thing is, I don't want in on any of them. No grip, lighting, art dept, camera, script supervising, no nothing. I'm just not drawn to any of them enough for me to dedicate myself to one. Some are appealing, but at the end of the day I'd rather just write something and leave the production to the other guys.

4. Although the experiences had while making this stuff are often a once in a lifetime deal, the money doesn't change anything. If I still feel like shit at the end of the day and keep having to ask myself why I'm doing it, the whole thing just doesn't work out in my head. Being a freelance PA is great for gaining on set experience and getting exposure to other professionals in their element, but if I can't imagine myself having a future in production, the low rates aren't really enough for me to stick around.

5. Working a more consistent job while writing on the side just sounds so much more appealing than anything else. Coming home each night during an extended shoot means immediately collapsing into bed for an attempt to rest before the next call, leaving me no time to even think about the story I'm working on. Deal breaker.

What's really annoying is that I've only been down here for a few months. That's nothing. I'm so young, but every gig feels like a make or break experience that will define the rest of my future. Yes, I'm aware of how stupid that sounds. I'm at a point where it's impossible for me to imagine where I'll be in just a year. I'm also at the point where if another PA gig comes up, I might need the money so badly that I'll have to do it whether I want to or not...

So much of the struggle in taking this route is separating what I think I want from what I need. If anything, I've learned what I don't want to do, which is somewhat useful, right? Don't get me wrong, this isn't a post saying I'm done and packing up. I just have this idea floating around somewhere inside me that says production might not be my thing and that's okay, try something new. So I will.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Is the story fresh or rancid?

Getting the ball rolling on my next script has been close to impossible since my big move. I had it my head that I'd cruise down here, eventually find some work, and continue writing diligently in my spare time. No such luck.

So far I've been able to land some PA gigs working for free, which is good experience and nice for meeting people, but, well, lets save the job rant for another time... *screams internally*

It's funny how motivating a screenwriting professor is when they threaten to fail you if you don't crank out a stack of pages each week. Now that those days have come and gone I'm watching my self-discipline melt away. Yeah, part of the blame goes to video games, movies, and procrastination. I'll admit that. A huge part of it is also getting frustrated that most of my ideas have gone nowhere.

Around the same time Pacific Rim was in post-production I was developing my own treatment for a giant mech extravaganza. It'll be fine, I thought. Just a coincidence and mine doesn't have aliens or any of the other junk they packed in. I should just keep going with it because it's what I want to write. Then a few months fly by and as I'm sifting through production listings I see Robotech is in fucking preproduction with Toby Maguire and possibly DiCaprio... I wasn't necessarily writing Robotech, but the whole franchise and the 80s anime milieu just made me feel like whatever spin I would have put on my similar mech story at this point would be shadowed in some way by those films. It just felt less and less original as more of the same was stirred into the pot. I could say who cares, if it's good it's good and will be recognized as such, but it just feels really lame to be writing something a lot like whatever trend is popping up at the time. I had to give it some breathing room.

I also keep stumbling into this weird thing where I start writing a movie that already exists without realizing it. My next stab at an idea turned out to be a Metropolis rehash and then the following week it was that weird Spielberg android Pinocchio A.I. thing. I haven't even seen A.I., but I started writing that exact kind of story. You might say movies are never wholly original and can always be described by a mixture of two movies that have come before them. I'm not disagreeing with that, but I just can't get excited about something if it feels like it's already been done. So if it doesn't get me excited, well then I'm just not going to write it. And that's basically what's happened with all of my story ideas so far. I was just hesitant to write anything because for one reason or another I wasn't excited about them and kept shutting myself down with excuses.

So now I'm not only learning to bounce my ideas off people to make sure I haven't accidentally rewritten a movie, but also I'm figuring out how to filter the stories I absorb everyday and take aspects I like to make them my own without totally ripping them off. There's a fine balance between borrowing elements from stories and ignoring other work to just write what comes naturally.

Today I think I nailed down a new story idea that I'm genuinely exited about. Now the challenge is to prevent it from spoiling. How can I make it mine and keep it mine? The only answer I can think of is to just say fuck it and write no matter what. Nothing's perfect right away, so the most productive thing to do is develop something that feels fresh and hope it improves. Either way it's a learning experience. It's easy to throw bad ideas out, but to be able to differentiate the great ones from the rest is a skill I'm still getting the hang of.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Mediating your inner noob

Studying film in college was one of the best decisions I ever made. I have no regrets. However, reality sets in after graduation and now that I'm looking for work in the film biz, nobody gives a shit what I studied. The real question is: can I do the job? Sure, having the background of working on student films, knowing the in-depth history of the industry, and doing critical analysis of hundreds of films down to the shot are all worthwhile in themselves, but frankly, it's all completely irrelevant to becoming a set P.A.

I'm used to small student crews where everybody does everything. Hey, can you move that light over here? Somebody help me with this makeup and then set out the lunch. Now I've entered the land of don't you fucking dare touch that c-stand and I ain't paid to do your job. Okay, not everybody's that much of a dick, but it still takes a little getting used to.

This past weekend I attended a crash course in being a production assistant at P.A. Bootcamp. If you've never heard of it, it's basically a two-day seminar that prepares you for your first day on the job so you know what and what not to do as a P.A. on a professional crew. If you have heard of it before, it might have something to do with the controversy surrounding whether it's worth the money and the time, as apposed to just learning everything on your first day of work. I certainly am not going to feed the fire. I can understand both sides of the argument and I am only presenting my own personal experience.

Now, taking into account that I studied film for four years, worked (one could say played) on my fair share of student film sets, and had a short runner gig for the Golf Channel, I still felt nervous about working on a pro crew as a noobie P.A. Why? Because, simply put, I didn't want to fuck up on my first day and be conspicuously absent from the next call sheet i.e. fired. If the AD finds out I don't know what I'm doing, they're going to hire somebody who does. The last thing an assistant director needs is to take time out of their own day to train me. I know you can already smell an argument here, especially something like if you're too stupid to learn how to P.A., you should probably stick to flippin' burgers.

Nobody's saying the set lingo or radio etiquette is rocket science, I'm just the type of person who wants to know what I'm in for given the chance. See, not only did I learn everything I needed to know about how to be a successful P.A. before day one, I gained confidence in myself to step into a job I'd never done and not stick out like a sore thumb. I won't go into it much more than that. All I'm saying is that my time and money were well spent and I met some wonderful people. Sometimes you just have to ignore what other people say and experience something first hand to understand it.

I certainly gained a better understanding of how the business end of production works, namely who to call to ask for work. Before I was calling front desks and didn't even really have a term for what I wanted to do besides "entry level position." Office minion? Sure. Slave on nobudget shoot? Sure. Now I've retrofitted my resume and my attitude. I'm calling every show in the LA area that's in production and looking to be a dayplayer set P.A.

Granted, the 2nd AD or whoever happens to be doing the hiring is already calling the P.A.s they've worked with for years and their friends of friends all before they get to my dinky resume at the bottom of the pile -- and oh yeah, a fat majority of features are now produced out-of-state for tax incentives, but hey, baby steps.

I've got my surveillance mic, my little utility pouch, some comfy shoes, and at least a few days of training... I really just need to dive in at this point. Question is: Now that my savings are running out, how long will I have the phone glued to my ear calling for work before something magically appears? Before Mommy and Daddy refuse to pay next months rent? No clue. Dayplaying seems totally impractical, and yet I know it can be done. What the fuck am I doing?

I just want to make movies...

Thursday, July 11, 2013

A thick skin is a must. Go fuck yourself. You're hired!

I've been in LA for an entire week now! Everything is a bit overwhelming. Memorizing new street names, figuring out where to get food and do laundry. Took me a few days just to get some basics down, but I made it! I said I would come here and I did :)

I just wrapped up my internship at Spec Scout. Got a solid three months of doing script coverage, which I hope will benefit me in my search for a job.

Speaking of jobs... Looking for one is a full time job in itself. I mean, yeah, no more college translates into more downtime than I'm used to, but I basically live on the internet now when I'm not exploring the city. I've been using that downtime to scour job listings, fine-tune my resume, and RESEARCH RESEARCH RESEARCH.

It kind of sucks that a lot of the assistant jobs I'm applying to want at least a year's worth of desk experience, but seriously, how hard can it be? Candidates must know how to work a phone and a computer and be able to schedule somebody else's life. Whoa. Must be detail-oriented, resourceful, and have excellent organizational skills. Gimme a break... This shouldn't be that difficult. 

I know a few of my readers are also film students, so I thought I might at least share some of the online resources I've been using so far.

The Anonymous Production Assistant (God bless 'em) posts the UTA Joblist every time it's released, about every week or so. It lists a variety of current jobs from  internships to executive positions.

Mandy is a huge database of jobs in the entertainment industry, as is the aptly named I've been frequenting them both pretty often.

LA 411 is a beast of a site that will become useful when I begin my cold walk-ins. It lists all kinds of production companies and also specific people who are available for work in whatever position you can think of. Later this week I'll be combing the site for agencies, offices, and production companies so I can go to them in person. I think showing my face might have a little more resonance than a mere email response to an online job post, but we'll see. LA 411 also has a jobs board beta, which is run by Media Match.

Now, I'm still up in the air when it comes to Media Match because it's one of those sites like Linkedin where you have to use their service whether you like it or not. Basically, instead of just uploading my resume in PDF format, I have to fill out a profile with all my information and they construct a pseudo-resume for me and send it with my application and the rest of my profile to whoever I'm applying to. Granted, I found at least 9 or 10 jobs there just today, and they keep emailing me more  whenever a new relavent job is posted, but I had to pay about $10 for a month of their service before I was even allowed to apply for any of the positions. Worth it? I'm skeptical to say the least. 

Oh yeah, and there's also Craigslist... Ol' faithful. Hey, don't knock it. It's served me well in the past and got me an internship, I'm just covering all my bases here.

Aside from scouring the internet and physically going to places, nothing beats networking with a friend or that one guy you used to know from freshman year. Not always the easiest route if you're like me and don't have a rad posse of LA filmies to get your back. So, I'll take this opportunity to give a shout out to anyone who has any leads. Hey you! Got a job for me? 

*chirp chirp, chirp chirp*

If I'm missing something, please let me know.

Adult talk aside, I hit up the Old Pasadena Film Festival last weekend and it was awesome! I caught Annie Hall and Chicago FO FREE, one projected on a huge building in a shopping center and the other on a weird inflatable screen in a park. Free movies all month long can't be beat, especially when they're good ones. I could get used to this...

Ben, how come you haven't complained about how shitty the traffic is and the ridiculous heat? Okay, yes, it's been hot. But this traffic thing is actually fun. I don't even get mad, it's like everyone wants to race and it's just entertaining for me to observe how insane people drive and then imagine what kind of despicable human is sitting in that car in front of me that just cut me off to get ten feet ahead for no reason. I start making up stories for their lives and then before I know it I'm where I need to be. Go figure.

One thing that is starting to worry me, is that my writing seems to have slowed down a little bit. I'm at the point where I'm just taking notes here and there when ideas pop up, but I should really be making more outlines and developing the notes into bigger works. Part of me thinks HEY this is crazy, you just moved to a new city and need to get settled, but the other smarter more productive part of me thinks HEY don't ever slow down, get started on that second script, bitch! Who do you think I should listen to?

Sunday, June 16, 2013

I have a good excuse, I swear!

Been awhile since my last post. I'm still here! Here's a hint at what I've been up to:

Yup. That happened. BA in Film and Digital Media.

Siiiiiiiick.... Haha

But seriously, I feel SO good right now! 4 years... UCSC is truly a wonderful school. I met some beautiful people and formed lifelong friendships. I learned more about myself and the world than I ever thought possible. I made work that I'm proud of. I looooooooooove Santa Cruz and part of me will always be here.

What more can be said?

Oh, wait. I know.


Woo! You guessed right. No callbacks, no interviews... BUT I found a place to live in East Hollywood for a few months. Baby steps.

I'm moving to the city with no job. What? Okay.
If I don't try, I fail. It's that simple. I fail if I don't try. I just need to find something, that's all there is.

We're getting to the meat and potatoes of what I made this blog for in the first place. Isn't it exciting?! Nod your head yes.

And, YES, I would love to hear your advice for living in Los Angeles! Thanks for asking. Especially delicious cheap food. I'm all ears. I lived in Westwood a few summers ago when I took a film class at UCLA, and visited a few times since, but I really don't know my way around too well.

Oh, and also, I don't know that many people who live down there, so don't be a stranger 8)

It's weird being able to feel a change coming on. The anxious anticipation of an unknown experience. Fear. The day will come when I won't think it was that scary and I'll laugh at myself, but until then, fingers crossed.

Moving on!

It can be argued that a screenplay is never finished. It can always be made better, but at a certain point the writer has to make it as good as they can and move on. I've come to this point with my first script. Granted, I learned a lot by writing it and got a better understanding of the process, but now I'm ready to create a new story and see where it takes me. I'm done, onto the next. But first...

I don't think I'm the type of person who cares to keep amateur work hidden away.
Here's the whole thing, my script called Stuck in Neutral.

I understand if you're not down with 90something pages, but if you are so inclined, I would love any feedback or constructive criticism you have. I'm new at this and want to get better.

Until next time...

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Job Hunting

With about six weeks left of college, it's fair to say I've moved into a land of both desperation and fear, of debt and unemployment. I've just crossed over into... The Panic Zone!

Where do I begin? In between working on projects for school, film club shorts, and covering 2 scripts a week for Spec Scout, any free time I do actually have is now spent probing the internet for a real job in Hollywood.

This article over at The Script Lab has been a big help along with the UTA job listings posted by The Anonymous Production Assistant. Inevitably, my search through the barrage of different titles and positions has forced me to do some uncomfortable self-evaluation (Do I even have a chance?), but also decide on what exactly to apply for.

For awhile I've simply wanted to work as a production assistant on feature films. Problem is, as far as I know, that kind of thing is a day-player position and not at all consistent. Not the best option for a guy like myself who needs a regular income for the first few months of getting settled into LA life. I'm jonesing to work on a legit production crew, but I have my doubts about it being practical for long enough to pay rent.

My other choice would be to work in development and get my hands dirty with some script work. From what I've gathered in the articles and from my bosses at Spec Scout, paid reader positions don't really exist anymore. I've been told that if I want to continue writing/reading screenplays and have a chance at a more consistent employment, I should get a job as an assistant. To who? Good question, but I suppose anyone doing relevant work in the industry would be a decent start. Most of the UTA listings are for these positions, so I'll take a crack at them first. Granted, gluing a phone to my head and managing some goof's calendar doesn't sound like my idea of a great time, but at this point I'm willing to swallow my pride and then some.

It feels shitty to not be qualified for much more than script coverage or running errands. I know I could write for something or work on a crew, but for now I'm just trying to get past the initiation -- what everyone calls "paying your dues". There's a little comfort in knowing that everyone has to start at the bottom. Everyone was in my position at some point and in that way I know I just have to work with what I've got and stifle the panic. Fingers crossed.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Short love letter

Dear Craigslist,
I love you and am indebted to your indispensable services. I've bought and sold over three cars, found an awesome apartment with great roommates, and now have secured an internship as a result of simply checking up on new postings everyday and responding on a whim -- for free. All thanks to you! Although there are a few serial killers and scams floating around out there, I can attest that success can be had with enough persistence. Thank you for existing, you have improved my life tremendously :)
Forever yours,

Writing up coverage on a few scripts a week for three months is exactly what I need and it couldn't have happened at a better time. That first connection, even if it is an unpaid reading position, can sometimes be a crucial stepping stone to something more substantial afterwards. It's a great way to get your foot in the door for anyone just starting out just like myself.

John August (Go, Big Fish, Frankenweenie) has a fantastic podcast called Scriptnotes where he talks about doing exactly the same thing when he was just a beginner. His advice is totally on point with where I'm at. He and Craig Mazin (Scary Movie 4, Hangover 3, Identity Thief) offer an interesting perspective as Hollywood screenwriters along with plenty of useful tips. Needless to say I'm an avid listener and note taker... Check it out!

This is the home stretch. My final 10 weeks of college. I've miraculously managed to secure an internship and now I am prepping my own script for the Goldwyn screenwriting competition at the same time. Who knows if anything will turn out. I often wonder if I'm any good or at least competent, but just like everything else in life the only thing to do is to try my best and hope one day at least a funny story will come out of it :)

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The silent treatment

I was riding on the bus yesterday when one of my classmates took up the seat next to me. I don't know him too well personally, but we made small talk about our screenwriting course and then out of the blue he triggered a memory I had almost let slip away.

So you got any film internships goin' on or anything?

It's not a weird thing to be asked by any means, but in that moment I realized my brain had suppressed the only experience I had with that evil word.

Last summer I applied for the whole enchilada. Disney, Warner Bros, Viacom, Paramount, Universal, any production internship that I qualified for. After no word for a few months, I was blown away when my phone read "Burbank, CA" and it turned out to be the internship coordinator for MTV. Salvation! She liked my resume, gave me a quick phone interview, and left me with a promise that the production department I applied to would give me a call with all the details in a week or two. Congrats.

Guess what? No phone call. If there ever were a time in my life where I had really gotten my hopes up, this was it. I gave a nudge phone call here, a nudge email there. ANOTHER nudge phone call. Nothing.

I suppose, in a way, I'm thankful to have learned this lesson quick and dirty, just to get it over with. That's the big fat "NO" stamp in Hollywood and it sucks. I still get lectured about it now in my seminar. Unless someone hands you a check for your script, you've got nothing but a pat on the back. They'll never tell you no, but they will kill you with encouragement.

My classmate on the bus thought it was worth something to get a call in the first place, and I have to agree. Even their acknowledgment felt like an affirmation that I must be doing something right. The experience bummed me out at the time, but I learned to just be cool. Let it go. It's the first and surely not the last time I'll be given the silent treatment.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Dinner with parents

I turned 22 last week *shivers*

So my parents roll into town and take me out to a classy dinner and, just like every birthday of my college career, they assault me with the barrage of questions I always hate to be asked.

What's your plan? Where are you gonna live? Do you have a job lined up?

FUCK. They're on to me... You mean I can't continue to just live off of your own dwindling savings and sweep my $120,000 student loans under the rug? Rats.

It's such an awful situation. What do I say when I have no real answers? I simply told them the truth, but I told it in a way that sounded like I might have thought about this once or twice. Anything to combat their doubt and salvage their morale.

Yeah, um, I want to move to LA. I want to get any job that will feed and house me so I can write screenplays... I'd like to land a production assistant job, but it'll be close to impossible and everyone else will be doing the same thing. I don't really know what's going to happen.

Imagine! You're a parent who will be in debt until you kick the bucket. Your kid is graduating with an arts degree and is condemned to wait tables for all eternity. This is exactly what you want to hear, right?

Not surprisingly, the spirit of our dinner declined severely when I hinted at the realities of the situation. There is no job or internship and, although I'm scouring the earth, I doubt there will be one when I graduate. I will need A LOT more money from them no matter what. Even if something miraculously pops up, nothing happens overnight and getting set up in a new city will be anything but cheap.

Honestly, I'm working my ass off trying to figure things out. I'm desperate, and have been since day one. Once June comes around it won't come down to effort, it'll be luck.

I think it's time for some dessert, you guys look like you need it.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Life isn't a movie, but it's not far off

I started writing this post as a big grumpy list of complaints, dreaded tasks and reasons for why I haven't come up with anything new to blog about lately. After reading it over however, something changed. My shitty mood flipped, I deleted the entire thing, and then thought about how stupid I was for considering such a lame attempt at communicating with the outside world.

On the one hand, yes, I am stressed. I am burnt out. I am in deep water, just like everybody else around me. This isn't anything new and nobody wants to hear it.
On the other hand, one thought keeps me afloat. One idea keeps me from breaking down, giving up, and spiraling into the gutter.

I'm not exactly where I want to be, but in my eyes, I'm doing what I need to get there.

I feel lucky to be so busy right now -- to have my plate so full that I can't even begin to hope for an end. I read so many blogs posted by miserable people with a career I'd kill for, but not much else to say besides "poor me..."

See, a funny thing happened when I started to study storytelling in film. For lack of a better word, it's almost become a religion for me; something to live my life by. I honestly feel like an absolute moron for not understanding this up until now, but the films I've watched, the games I've played, the books I've read, they're not about people sitting on their asses talking about whatever floats through their little heads. Stories are about people who do things. THEY ACT.

This is rule numero uno. It's drilled into my head every week by my professor. Screenwriting is built upon characters who do things. You can't see them think on screen. That's where books come in. We aren't entertained by heaps of dialogue. That's where plays come in. I study film and all I care about is what people do!

Naturally, my new interest has rubbed off on me more that I had ever expected. I think about this so much that, like I said before, it's transformed into a religious belief. A lifestyle. It has transformed me into a proactive human being.

If you want one take away, one thing to know about who I am now, know this: I don't just talk about things, I go out in the world and I do them.

Telling stories in film is how I learned to live this way. For my entire life I've watched people do things on screen and for the most part saw it as mere entertainment. Now, just into my twenties, I get that it's way more than that. By writing about characters who must work extremely hard to get what they desperately want, even when faced with every imaginable obstacle, I get inspired to do the same.

If I don't set to work hard for what I want, no one will care, nothing will be gained, and it won't mean anything at all. Since I apparently missed the boat on Sartre's nutty brainchild back in the day (freshman year seems so far away...), I'm grateful for only just now grasping the importance of creating and doing. I'm totally there. A person is defined by their actions.

It's weird how I started thinking about this post as an excuse to complain about being overworked and how I'm starting to get nagged by school about applying for graduation and commencement, and how I have to finish my screenplay in five weeks. Oh, and finishing all the books I'm assigned or forcing myself to read. Look I even took a picture of the stack. There's more but it would have fallen over...
Poor me... Boo hoo

Yet here I am, realizing how great it feels to be up to my neck in work. To be a human producing something, anything. I am busy pursuing a goal, trying a hell of a lot of new things, and making sure that if I die tomorrow, my story will be about a guy who did exactly what he wanted.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Today's Secret Word is Rewrite

Pee-wee: You all remember what to do whenever anybody says the secret word right? 
All: Scream! 
Pee-wee: That's right. For the rest of the day, whenever anybody says the secret word, scream real loud. Ready? Let's try it. 


I spent the majority of last week cranking out a hefty stack of pages for the new script I'm working on. Loglines, premises, in-depth character bios, and a lengthy treatment. These are all things we're taught to do before the screenplay itself is even started, with the idea being that once you figure out the plot, what you're personal stance is on the topic, and who the characters are, writing the screenplay is just a matter of letting these carefully planned out ideas come together in the most interesting and entertaining way possible.

 I'm proud to say that I went to town on these bad boys. I was expecting it to be a chore, but was pleasantly surprised that in some mysterious way not only had I met the weekly page requirement, I had doubled it.

Working deep into the night all week was totally satisfying. I honestly didn't mind finally tucking into bed at 4:30am because I had just brain vomited out a long first draft of my treatment. It might not have been good, but the mere act of getting it done felt like much needed mental therapy.

I know, I should have expected it. It was almost too easy. It was a lesson I had already learned, but was the farthest thing from my mind after running the gauntlet... Ben, these characters are fantastic and totally work, but this treatment is no good -- throw it out. Rewrite.


I'm not mad, really. This word of the day, whether I like it or not, will prove to be the word of my life. It's a lesson I am thankful to be reminded of over and over because it is simply an undeniable truth. I really love those...

To rewrite (AHHHHHH!) is to improve. I used to take it personally and get pissed when I first started out doing this and the professor would tell me that something wasn't working, try again. Even if I don't like to admit it, this took a while to sink in. You don't just sit down, flip the on switch, and let pure gold flow from your fingertips.

I know that now. This time around it's no longer a hard pill to swallow. I have no beef with throwing out a stack of pages. In fact I'm confident they will soon be joined by even more work that I poured my heart into and lost sleep over. It's nothing personal and doing it will make me better.

It's okay. The earth still spins, and even twenty, thirty years from now, I will still rewrite.


Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Better late than never

I now talk out loud to myself more than I ever have in my entire life. Am I going crazy? Am I simply beginning to like the sound of my own voice? Why has this only now started happening as I bid farewell to my 21st year?

Well, yes Ben, you just might be a little crazy, but go with it. It's a good market. As for the sound of your voice... Naaah, you kind of missed the mark on that one.

I remember being consistently frustrated as a kid in school when confronted with a writing assignment. Even now in college I hear teachers chanting the same advice we've all been told for years. "You must develop your own voice," they say. Oh yeah, let me just do that! I never understood where I could get one of those, or if there was some instruction manual that I could go pick up. I guess I just didn't care much to find out then. "It will come with time" is the only guidance we were given for this. Maybe I wasn't listening hard enough, or more likely I didn't want to accept the truth.

The truth.

It's no secret that the key is simply writing more and more -- forever. There's only one rule and that's it. An obvious concept, but my laziness kept prodding me away from it.

Well, here I am. The hesitancy and perhaps repulsion towards writing that I have maintained in all of my glorious years as a generic white kid in the suburbs of Napa California is slowly dissolving out of my brain. I don't know why it took so long, but I feel it beginning to happen. I feel a desire to have an opinion, personal taste, to participate in a dialogue, and to fucking argue like my life depends on it. I guess that's what they try to condition you to do in college, but only now is it really starting to stick and sink in. Better late than never.

A piece of wisdom that is becoming more self-evident as the days pass: nothing comes out, unless something goes in.

About 20 minutes ago I finished Breakfast of Champions and it kind of just rocked my world in a good way. I desperately needed it. Vonnegut's writing style applies directly to the type of dramatic thinking I am trying to do myself. It really does go hand in hand with developing a screenplay and I learned a lot from him. Thank you kind sir.

And with that, I hope each new book or screenplay or movie that I slip into my noggin will somehow make something click. With more stuff going in, something has to come out, right? It's quite sad really, I don't actually accomplish much unless I physically write it down as a task to be checked off on a certain day. I've literally scheduled myself two screenplays to read every week to make sure enough is going in without making excuses of being too busy or well, lazy.

I think I'm crazy, but I also want to be good. Maybe these two truths have more in common than I suspected. I'll have to talk it over with... myself.