Thursday, October 27, 2011

Networking with Rafiki

Am I writing as much as I need to? No. But I'm progressing. And I have new goals and resolve. Same old story. Looking to affix a new ending. You know how it goes.

Here are some thoughts on networking.

They (yes, "they") say that it's not what you know, it's who you know. I've learned long since that it is very much both. You could be really well-connected and know squat about filmmaking, and you're not going to make a movie. You've got to know something. And you've got to have some talent and be willing to work hard. Only then will "who you know" matter at all.

So what about this idea of networking? It's always been a bit of an intimidating concept for me. I get overwhelmed. I think I've got to somehow meet everyone, know everything about them, and make them love me.

This is not true.

It's been my experience that if you proactively meet people and search for those who might share some of your passions, you'll find them. And as you find people with whom you seem readily compatible, you'll remember them, because they interest you. Then all you've got to do is stay in touch. Keep the relationship alive. Make sure that the both of you remember that you want to work together. Then, as opportunities to benefit from these people arise, you'll take advantage of them. And then you'll return the favor.

It's actually pretty simple. The hardest part is being the kind of person other people will want to know and work with, and then being outgoing enough to prove it to them--not obnoxiously, but confidently.

I met this guy named Chad. He's pretty stellar. It didn't take long to figure out that our senses of humor were similarly bizarre, so I sold him on Quiet Dignity, and now we're actively working toward turning out the first Quiet Dignity video from Boston. Here's the script I just wrote (as in, minutes ago):


GARY and JOHN pour out bags of candy onto a table. 


Gary and John are eating the candy, busily preoccupied with their binging.

Gary holds a Kit-Kat, and notices its chocolate melt between his fingers. 

He pinches his fingers together a few times, still chewing. 

He looks up at John, who is still pre-occupied with his own candy. 

Squinting in concentration, Gary reaches up slowly, and John looks up just in time to see Gary’s chocolate covered thumb land on his forehead. 


Gary slides his thumb down the bridge of John’s nose, still chewing, candy stuck to his teeth.


Gary takes his finger away and stares at John contemplatively.

John wipes his face roughly.

What the crap, man.

Gary resumes unwrapping candy.

I been watching a lot of Lion King lately. 

Oh OK.



We're hoping to shoot it this weekend. You'll get to see pretty soon whether and how it turns out. Wish us luck.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Le Mime (a teaser)

As of several minutes ago, I completed the first draft of the first script I'm writing for my MFA. There will be many, many more (drafts AND scripts), but I figured I should celebrate this as a significant milestone anyway. To that end, here is a single scene... (Please forgive the sloppy formatting--Final Draft doesn't copy and paste well, I found out.)


A FAT GUARD sits in a chair outside the door of the station. He’s reading a magazine and chewing on something.

He notices a Mime approaching and watches him suspiciously. He watches everyone suspiciously.

The Mime appraises the guard and rubs his stomach thoughtfully, taking the stance of a fat man.

Hey get outta here.

The Mime holds up his finger, high, like he just had an idea.

He pushes up his sleeves, ties on an invisible apron, and goes to work “cooking an omelette.”

The guard wrinkles his nose at the Mime, but sits up a little straighter to watch.

Whataya doin?

The Mime pauses, looks at the guard, holds up his finger, and then goes back to work.

You makin somethin?

The Mime nods and smiles at him as he moves the invisible frying pan back and forth across the invisible burner.

Whatcha makin?

The Mime flips the omelette a couple of times and then brings the pan over to the Guard.

He makes a little bow as he offers the invisible omelette to the man and waits for him to take it.

Heh. No thanks. I’m not hungry.

The Mime stands up straight, shrugs, and tips the "pan" to drop the "omelette" into his own hand.

He smiles at the guard as he takes a bite and chews with a “you don’t know what you’re missing” expression.

Well look at you, gettin all

The Guard smiles as he watches the Mime finish the invisible food.

Alright, I get it, yum yum yum. Now
get outta here.

The Mime licks his fingers and then promptly brings the invisible pan up and conks the Guard over the head.


The Guard clutches his head in surprised pain and looks at the Mime in disbelief.

What in the--

With a worried frown, the Mime bashes the Guard’s head again.

This time, the Guard lurches forward in an attempt to tackle the Mime, but the Mime gets in one more blow before he reaches him.

The Guard lies motionless on the ground. The Mime, pan at the ready, peers warily at the body.

Satisfied, the Mime gives a quick nod, tosses the invisible pan, which clatters loudly as it hits the ground, and steps up to the station door.

The Mime looks around, then disappears into the station.


What do you think? 

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Bad Writer, Bad Writing

I had two choices:
  1. Continue to avoid writing a new post because I technically don't have a new scene to share this week.
  2. Admit my failure and post anyway, favoring consistency over humiliation (and cowardice).
I am now hiding behind door #2. 

It's not that I haven't been writing at all, but what little time I have spent writing I've sunk into the short, for which I'm supposed to be turning in the first draft this coming week.

Wow, what a sentence. I can actually feel myself getting worse at putting words together. It's becoming a neurosis. You are witnessing a slow, excruciating collapse of a once-creative mind. What's it like, from your perpective? This is what it's like for me: sinking into a pit of loose, soft sand. I'm panicking, of course, but what can I do? It seems like the more I struggle, the deeper I sink, and plus there's all this sand, which, even if I get out, is going to be all up in everywhere ok I think this analogy is breaking down.

And now here's some venting:

I frequently (and unfairly) blame my failure to stake out more time to write on my job as a TA. Specifically, of late, grading papers. Like I said, it's unfair, because if I was more dedicated, I'd get my &#!+ together and quit whining. I'd have plenty of time if I'd stop wasting so much of it.

But that's not what I want to vent about. I want to say that the level to which we, as a nation, have allowed our standard, public education to sink is unforgivable. I don't blame the freshmen coming into a prestigious college for their utter inability to write coherently (I'm one to talk)--I blame the system that so recently regurgitated their ill-served brains. The sad fact is this: public high schools are failing utterly to teach the vast majority of their students to write at even the modest levels of competency. 

This is the pen I use to grade. I know, right?
Is writing really that important? 

Have you ever heard Lewis Black scream the word "YES" in an explosively incredulous rage? Well, that's my answer. 

Not only is an inability to write clearly and effectively an indication of a poor education, and a terrible handicap in the professional world, it is also, alas, directly related to stunted critical thinking. Writing is thinking, and vice versa. The two are inseparable. Learning to write well facilitates much better thinking. Without the one, the other stagnates. 

And so most of us are coming out of high school barely functional. It's not an age thing, it's a systemic failure thing. If our eighteen-year-olds are well-meaning idiots, it's not because they haven't seen two decades, it's because they have seen one decade of "no child left behind." 

I'm going to stop now, or I never will. 

This blog is supposed to be a place to talk about being a film student/maker/person. So I've typed out my passionate plea for better writing with fear and fury, and now I want to ask you, am I overstating it? Am I alone in my anguish? Are there other perspectives outside of mine? I tend to assume there aren't, which, I recognize, is a problem. Help me fix it.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

A Scene

I really like Blogger's new format. It feels less like an unfortunate collection of misplaced html. I approve of Google's new branding and design efforts. I know, Google, it was a long time coming, but I'm finally giving you the validation you were so craving. Now stop blubbering and get back to work.

I'm not very good at writing consistently. I know, this isn't news. So here's a development: I'm getting better! Further, the rate at which I am improving will ensure that I finish the first draft of my next feature sometime in 2018. Of course, I'll have to pick a story first, but that's a small detail in light of such unmitigated triumph.

But seriously. I had this idea. I will write a random scene every day. I will never spend more than one hour on this scene, and it does not have to relate to any particular project. It'll be sort of like writerly jamming. See what I come up with, remove the neurosis that typically accompanies, well, all of my efforts.

To nail this commitment into place, I now promise to post one scene here, right here, on this blog, here, every week. In keeping with the loose, calm atmosphere I'm trying to implement, the only guideline I'll make for myself is that I won't post anything I didn't write within the preceding week. Keep it fresh...Jeff. (I just made that up.)

To start: "Two-Man Job"

(HINT Click on the link to see the scene.)

Also, in the time since I last posted, those quietly dignified rock stars back in Provo graced the YouTubes with another video. It's funny. And short. In fact, very funny, and very short.


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