Wednesday, April 27, 2005

MCI Supports Child Porn?!?!?

I'm helping spread a meme I picked up from Kung Fu Monkey (damn those monkey virii!):

This website has a link to an MP3 of a telephone conversation between stand-up comic Eugene Mirman and a telemarketer for a company that sells itself as the phone company that doesn't support gays or hard-core child pornography (but cleverly begins the telemarketing by claiming just to be an oranization opposed to same-sex marriages).

In addition to being just funny in general , there's also this nice little bit toward the end where the telemarketer says that MCI sponsors hard-core child pornography. I wonder if Karl Rove trained their marketing staff? And I wonder how long it will be before MCI sues that company into the ground.

I'll leave the main info in the link (on the Jesus' General page), but I suspect this meme will spread fast and we'll start seeing bandwidth usages maxed out so maybe later I'll look around to see if there are any other hosts.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

"error in judgement" + "appearance of"

Outlining a new story means lots of time sitting around doing nothing, sort of, while trying to figure out what would work best in the third act.

This leads to webcrastination -- which led to checking out Slate --> then Poynter Online's Romenesko column --> and finally to this Wall Street Journal article on TV Experts getting payoffs.

Going into that article you know what's coming -- a whole bunch of weaselly business about "experts" going on TV and pimping products after getting, oh, my yearly teaching assistant salary, from the company whose products they're pimping.

What I was waiting for was the pseudo-apologetic "I made an error in judgement..." combined with some statement to the effect of "...that might give the appearance of..." [bias, undue influence, rampant corruption, moral turpitude -- okay, maybe those last two are me projecting].

Instead, we get an article from a point early in the Scandal-Cycle. This is that period of a scandal-cycle where the people getting fingered claim there's no wrong-doing at all. There's something almost acceptable about getting paid to endorse a product you already believe in -- assuming that these people really do believe in those products, and believe in them more than competing products that didn't pay for an endorsement, and are forthcoming about their financial arrangement....

My guess is that if this scandal has a decent shelf-life we'll finally get to the later stage of the scandal-cycle, which involves those phrases in the title of this post. I've grown so used to hearing those phrases close together that I now just wait to see how they pop out of the scandal-source's mouth.

Which led me to a question: how often are those phrases really used together? Now, it's unscientific but you can get something approaching an answer through the power of Google.

About 630 results (for some combination of those exact phrases). Frankly, far lower than I expected. And some of those hits are false leads, e.g., to potential difficulties in Japanese Sword Polishing.

However, five of the ten links on the first page are links to articles or statements using the phrases in their weasel way. Maybe I would have gotten more hits by using appear as or some other variant as the second phrase.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Screenwriting Links

I've added some screenwriting links to the right so here's a little rundown:

The Done Deal Message Board is a good thing to read through during the writing your first few screenplays. By looking at the comments there you'll get a solid sense of what rules are pretty important and what rules aren't. Also, when you finally send out some queries if you get a few responses from places you've neither heard of nor can find on the internet, you can post a question and get the lowdown.

John August does a little question and answer thing for IMDB's Ask a Filmmaker feature. He gives even more free advice at his website so check it out.

The Artful Writer has some general screenwriting advice and a bunch of writer's guild related advice on the legal angles.

Finally, John Rogers's Kung Fu Monkey is another screenwriting blog, but this guy also plays Dungeons and Dragons and the like (he even includes a link to the premiere d20 gaming site on the net) so some extra kudoes go that way.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Writing is Rewriting

Still no news from the producers, but I think the lawyers are busy...

I've been doing rewrites lately on two scripts. I'll typically work one month taking a screenplay from concept through outline and to first full draft. Subsequent rewrites then take another two months. So, before I even show it to potential purchasers two-thirds of the work was in rewriting.

I imagine for others it might be different. I go through first drafts quickly, just writing past areas that feel clunky knowing that I'll go back and toss it out in a re-write. More exacting people might take longer on first draft but need fewer rewrites.

One of my screenplays is a noirish thing and I wound up having a bunch of back story in it to prop up the plot. That was nagging at me for a while, which is one of the reasons you put things away for a bit -- so that they can nag at you enough that you actually change them. And do change them -- that nagging is your instinct giving you great advice.

In a movie you really can't afford much backstory; there's just not enough space to give it an adequate treatment. That meant I needed to dump almost all the backstory -- and that meant scrapping large, honking chunks of the text. One good thing about that is it cultivates a feeling of detachment -- you've already killed so many pages that killing some more doesn't feel so bad -- and that's good to have when you get around to working with producers and directors.

Given the breadth of the changes I started to wonder whether it would be just as easy to simply write a wholly different screenplay. Certainly my gut instinct is "no" -- but I'd like to have a richer justification than gut instinct.

There's the "not wanting to feel like a quitter" justification. You know, finish what you start; see it through to the end, and so on. But that sounds as tautological as gut instinct.

However, there is something a rewrite retains, even when you throw away every word and start writing again from the beginning. You have a picture of the overall structure -- what worked before and what didn't, what the timing should look like, and so on. Also, a bunch of the characters have been given idenitities that one can hang dialogue and motivations on, or make distinct with a few tweaks.

I think that's why the WGA gives so much priority to the first writer -- note though that there's some debate over whether the WGA gives too much priority to the first writer.