Saturday, December 29, 2007

At a Theater Near You

With a few moments of time off at year end, Cath and I have been able to take in a number of films – many which we should have seen months ago.

Here are a few brief thoughts – first with those still in theatres:

I AM LEGEND: Very fun, worthy of record breaking box office. Will Smith proves his place within a handful of actors that can be the sole human on screen for extended periods of time without making the audience wonder/pray for another actor to enter.

Imperfections? Sure – mostly in a third act that is a wee bit too rushed to fully hit its impact.

I’d like to have seen more time spent with the home defenses, for example. And the relationship between the captured creature and the main antagonist seems to be a missed opportunity.

But over all? Worth the price of admission.

SWEENEY TODD: Tim Burton allays any fears that he wasn’t the right person to make this musical’s transition from the stage to the screen. The look and tone are pitch-perfect; the music a seamless blend with the action.

This production avoids all the mistakes of PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, which added to the story in hope of softening the impact of its titular villain. No, Todd is here in his full protagonist-gone-bad glory; and the warning of good turning sour is visually stunning and just as strikingly twisted fun as the original.

Depp is wonderful; Rickman rightfully makes the skin crawl no matter how tight your plastic surgeon has already pulled; and for me Bonham Carter rose to the occasion quite nicely (although my viewing partner – not Cath, this is a bloody film – couldn’t quite let go of the memory of Angela Landsbury).

Imperfections? Sure. The only one that got in my way (and preventing the film from rising to “worth any price”) is the treatment of the slitting of throats. (This being a musical about the demon barber of Fleet Street, I don’t think I’ve broken any spoiler rules here – throats will be slit galore…)

The throats are slit with close-up gore, the way any slasher movie would do it. But this isn’t just any slasher movie, and Burton should have put more artistic effort into letting the gore be more than gore.

So even with that distraction, it is still: Well worth the price of admission.

BUCKET LIST: Great actors being wasted on a schmaltzy script that does a disservice to schmaltzy movies.

This one would fit nicely as a made-for-tv movie with B-level actors, which is a shame given the presence of Morgan Freeman and Sean Hayes – each doing better work than the material warrants.

There are some really nice moments in act three, such that if the whole movie were written like act three, we’d have a winner on our hands.

Imperfections? The majority of the second act has the two leads fulfilling items that are NOT on either’s bucket list. And thus we spend most of our time wandering the world, wasting time – which by the movie’s very premise should be the one commodity we dare not waste.

Over all? Not worth the price of admission.

Just my thoughts,


Thursday, December 27, 2007

Writer of Week #9: Wilder At Heart

There are thousands of influences that go into making a person’s character: people, events, instructions and stories.

One influential story for me came early in my childhood via the television on a Saturday afternoon. I remember it was old, one of the black & white burn offs that they put up on Saturday since no one was watching television anyway.

I could never remember the name of the flick, or the stars (it was one of the big guys, you know – Peck or Grant or Douglas, or someone like one of them…)

But I remember the story, and what a sucker punch to my pre-teen brain it was.

There was a reporter, on vacation or fired or somesuch, and he happens to be near a mine when there’s a cave-in. One guy is stuck inside, and the reporter crawls in to where the guy is pinned down and starts talking to him, and they become friends.

Word gets out, and suddenly this is a national story – and here the vacationing/fired/whatever reporter has an exclusive with the story of a career. And by this point, the guy trapped in the mountain trusts the reporter and no one else, so the story stays exclusive.

Then a decision needs to be made – there are two ways to get the guy out, and he asks his reporter buddy to decide which way. Both have their drawbacks, but one way – a visually spectacular drilling operation – would take longer.

Which means the story would go on longer…

The reporter’s choice and the consequences – whew-ee. For decades, when faced with a choice that can help me but might inconvenience another, I was haunted with the image of a drill arcing in the sky, boring a hole down into the earth, piercing more than dirt…

The name of the film is ACE IN THE HOLE; after decades of coming to believe I dreamed the whole thing, it came out on DVD this year. (The reporter was Douglas, in case you were wondering.)

Which brings me to this week’s writer: Billy Wilder.

Billy was a Jewish writer trying to make a career for himself in Berlin when Hitler came to power, which suddenly made the United States look attractive. (His mother and several other relatives ended their days in Auschwitz.)

Once here, he pretended to know enough English to get a job in Hollywood, a pretense that became true enough as he eventually garnered twelve Oscar nominations for screenwriting. For a nice piece of irony, check out BALL OF FIRE, a screwball comedy about a group of Professors perfecting an English encyclopedia.

The ever versatile Wilder not only mastered screwball, but is credited with creating the first true Noir film – DOUBLE INDEMNITY – which set the standard for all to follow.

Of course I should mention that he didn’t stop at writing, becoming a director and producer as well. One of four people to win an Oscar for writing, directing and producing on the same film.

Two of his movies consistently make my personal top twenty movies of all time – and I’m not even referring to SOME LIKE IT HOT or SUNSET BOULEVARD.

The benchmark for beauty in a Hollywood starlet for me was set in SABRINA; if she can’t make my heart go pitter-pat like Audrey Hepburn up in that tree, ever on the outside of the party, well then the girl just ain’t worth the effort.

And the bitter-sweet APARTMENT – the nice guy coming in last, just like in real life. And realizing that maybe last isn’t the worse place to be, just like in real life.

Those two movies alone would secure Billy Wilder my sincere adulation; add that to the score of other great films he is responsible for, and dag-nab it, the guy is just too good to be true.

Well, nobody’s perfect.

Just my thoughts,


Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Rose Bambi Rewrites

Things are slow at work. The agencies are closed; most execs are off on holiday; and the only real work is cleaning up the year about to be past and setting up for the year about to be present.

A few things have made my day merrier.

My sister sent a short video of my nephews opening (and enjoying – whew!) the Christmas present Cath and I sent them. What a great way to say thank you!

Now I am waiting for brother Mark to send the video of him opening the macramé fruit-cake I combo knit/baked for him. I bet he was surprised!

And while here at work, I got a chuckle archiving a recent project.

Once a movie is in production, the rewrites are labeled by color – and actually printed on paper matching that color – to avoid confusion on set. You know you are looking at the wrong script if you are holding white pages and everyone else is holding pink pages.

The colors cycle through a standard order: white, blue, pink, yellow, etc.

The folks on this particular project got a little more creative, and broke from tradition with more colorful colors.

Some of my favorites:

Pumpkin Martini. Midori Sour. Purple Chicken.

And, of course, Bailey’s Irish Cream.

Now that was a good day for rewrites!

Just my thoughts,


Monday, December 24, 2007

Linus and Lucy - CB Part Six

For this next section, I need a dance break. Play the dance music from A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS, choose a character, and dance like them.

Go ahead. I’ll wait.

Wasn’t that fun?

That iconic music it is the most recognized song in all of Peanuts history. Many people call it the Charlie Brown theme.

Actually, the song is called “Linus and Lucy.” There is no “Charlie Brown Theme” in this show.

Which brings me to the sixth and final reason why A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS is the best holiday special ever:

It’s not about Charlie Brown.

By that I mean it’s not about you.

Or, more to the point, it’s not about me.

“I am learning that the church is at its best when it gives itself away… God doesn’t choose people just so they’ll feel good about themselves or secure in their standing with God or whatever else. God chooses people to be used to bless other people. Elected, predestined, chosen – whatever words people use for this reality, the point is never the person elected or chosen or predestined. The point is that person serving others, making their lives better.” - Rob Bell, Velvet Elvis

Charlie Brown is a vessel – and the real heart of the show isn’t about how Mr. Brown is changed or helped; it is about what he does for his community.

To understand the full impact of this, I must ask you to follow the blanket.

Did you know the term “security blanket” comes from the Peanuts? That’s the blanket we need to follow.

In the special, Linus’ blanket is featured in five scenes:

In the opening ice skating sequence, Snoopy tries to steal the blanket. Linus will not let go, and they end up wrapping up Charlie Brown and sending him skidding into a tree.

In the snowball scene, Lucy says that Linus will have to let go of the blanket someday – when he becomes an adult. Linus explains he will simply make a suit of the blanket.

When the parts are handed out, Lucy threatens her brother, saying he has to let go of the blanket to be a shepherd. He instead makes a costume of it.

The writers out there already know this, but three is the magic number, the number of completion.

If you want to make a point in a story, you show it once.

If you want to reinforce the point, you show it twice.

If you want to establish the point as Gospel Truth, you show it three times.

Here is Schulz’ message: under no circumstances will Linus give up his blanket.

This is critical; if we don’t get that, we cannot understand A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS.

So let me repeat: under no circumstances will Linus give up his blanket.

And then he does.

First, when reciting the Christmas story. For a moment, and just a moment, Linus forgets about the blanket.

More exactly, on the words “Fear not,” he lets go of his other security; retrieving the blanket as soon as the recitation is over.

And then at the end, Linus gives up his blanket completely to wrap around the base of the tree.

“I never thought it was such a bad little tree. It’s not bad at all, really. Maybe it just needs a little love.” -Linus, A Charlie Brown Christmas

A little sacrificial love.

Linus tells Charlie Brown earlier that he knows what Christmas means; then he shows that meaning in action.

Sacrificial love.

Linus is changed by Charlie Brown’s search for meaning; the whole community (which joins in decorating the tree) is changed; even Lucy – who admits that the blockhead did get a good tree after all -- is changed.

Why is A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS the best holiday show ever?

“Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing: thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness.” - Psalm 30:11

Merry Christmas.

Just my thoughts,


Friday, December 21, 2007

Hark! - CB Part Five

Okay, for the writers out there: let’s admit it. A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS has a rather odd structure. It’s almost as if it were a bunch of newspaper strips strung together…

Oh, wait. That’s right.

Even though its construction may not be tight, or traditional, when Mr. Schulz strung together those strips, he did use a structure.

Earlier, I pointed out that Charlie Brown begins the show making his complaint known. “I just don’t understand Christmas, I guess… I always end up feeling depressed.” (And I showed this as appropriate behavior by comparing it to the opening of a Psalm.)

For the rest of the show, Charlie explores that complaint, and at the end comes to the conclusion that G-d is greater than his worries. The special even concludes with a hymn of praise to G-d.

“Hark, the herald angels sing, glory to the newborn king! Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinner reconciled!”

Which brings me to reason #5 for why A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS is the best holiday special ever:

The show is a Psalm.

That is the format of many of the Psalms – from complaint through exploration to praise.

Notice that Charlie Brown’s circumstances haven’t changed – everything that depresses him is still there.

“But the lament psalms never show us an external improvement in the situation. We know such improvement can happen through prayer, and the Bible attests to it, but not in these psalms. They attest to another reality: the change that takes place in the psalmist in the act of praying.” -Ellen Davis, Getting Involve With God

Charlie Brown’s circumstances haven’t changed, but, Charlie Brown has changed.

But more importantly… (to be continued)

Just my thoughts,


Thursday, December 20, 2007

What Child is This? CB Part Four

My fourth (out of six, for those counting) reason that I think A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS is the best holiday special ever:

I love the non-answer answer.

When Chuck hits the end of his rope, and demands if anyone knows what Christmas is all about, Linus steps forward and gives his famous little speech.

“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shown around about them. And they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you tidings of great joy which will be to all people.”
And that is what it is about. Tidings of hope. Glory. And, in a word: Jesus.

There is no pablum here about we all need to feel good, or Christmas is about giving, or Christmas is about all humanity learning to get along.
It’s about divine hope in the mystery of a divine child.

“One of the great ‘theologians’ of our time, Sean Penn, put it this way: “When everything gets answered, it’s fake. The mystery is the truth.” -Rob Bell, Velvet Elvis

Linus’ words are not a logical argument.

They are not a direct answer.

Linus doesn’t say, “Charlie Brown, you are struggling in this area because G-d is building such and such a character trait in you.”

Really, it just points in the direction of an answer.

But it is an answer that works – not just for Charlie, but for the audience. We are satisfied that the question has been answered.

It is just a little bit of light, but: “It is as if the smallest amount of light is infinitely more powerful than massive amounts of dark.” -Rob Bell, Velvet Elvis
Linus gives just a little bit of light.

And it is enough.

Just my thoughts,


Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Writer of Week #8 - As Time Goes By

I have the script for ARSENIC AND OLD LACE sitting on my desk.

I never grow tired of that movie, or of Cary Grant’s double, then triple, then bazillaliple takes on discovering that his kindly aunts have a body in the window seat.

Which brings me to this week’s writer – writing team, actually. Julius and twin Philip Epstein, screen adaptors of ARSENIC, and forever planted in movie history for one film that had lines like:

“We’ll always have Paris.”

“Round up the usual suspects.”

“I think this is the start of a beautiful friendship.”

And the line that they never wrote, that doesn’t appear in the film, but enough people think it does to give it mention:

“Play it again, Sam.”

(I believe the actual line is more akin to: “You played it for her, you can play it for me. Play it!” Did I get that right?)

Those lines came about because the brothers Epstein were on contract at a studio, and were assigned as part of their daily duties the adaptation of an un-produced play: EVERYBODY COMES TO RICK’S.

We of course know the result as CASABLANCA.

The Epsteins wrote quite a few money makers for their studio, but the relationship was more akin to family than business – and by that I mean love/hate yet can’t quite stay away.

Julius often criticized his own work there, including CASABLANCA, calling it full of corn.

And the brothers apparently were irascible practical jokers, often incurring the wrath of the studio heads.

Perhaps the relationship is best summed up by Julius himself. When asked in a House of UnAmerican Activities questionnaire if he belonged to a subversive organization, he responded:

“Yes. Warner Bros.”

So Julius and Philip, here’s looking at you, kids.

Just my thoughts,


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Skating - CB Part Three

So good old blockhead Charlie Brown has admitted his depression, and is on the search through it to the other side.

Which brings up reason #3 as to why A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS is the best holiday special ever.

Charlie does some good exploration.

He could choose to just sit and moan (or “share the truth in love” – thanks Omar) and feel sorry for himself – but instead he seeks help.

Now Lucy may not be the wisest choice, but really, where can a five year old go to get psychiatric help for only a nickel?

(I see Lucy as being akin Job’s friends – trying to be helpful, but keep getting in their own way.)

And while Charles Schulz has some fun with the easy answers, he lets Lucy stumble upon a really good one:

Seek community.

“The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone.” -GENESIS 2:18

Sure, there are times when you need a little space, or even a bit of “alone with G-d” time. Heck, the kid who’s birthday we close banks for sought a little alone time every morning.

But it isn’t good to be in life alone.

Seek community. Yeah, Lucy, maybe I could do with a little involvement.

Just my thoughts,


Monday, December 17, 2007

Christmas Puppy - CB Part Two

My niece has discovered A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS. She has a different title for it. She calls it:

“Christmas puppy I want.”

Me too.

Here is the second part of my argument for why A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS is the best holiday special ever.

I left off last time stating that declaring one’s unhappiness (especially in the season of joy) goes against social expectations for churched Americans – we have Jesus, how could we possibly feel incomplete?

However, it is Biblical to grouse about our lousy state of mind.

Especially to G-d.

“Hear my prayer, O Lord, let my cry for help come to you. For my days vanish like smoke; my bones burn like glowing embers. My heart is blighted and withered like grass; I forget to eat my food. Because of my loud groaning, I am reduced to skin and bones.” -PSALM 102: 1, 3 & 4

I’m planning on packaging those verses as the California Biblical Whining Diet. I’ll make a fortune.

The Bible is chock full of people talking about feeling depressed, or unfulfilled or disappointed. Claiming that they just don’t understand Christmas – well, don’t understand G-d anyway.

And these are the prophets and saints – from Moses to David to Peter to Paul – all questioning G-d.

Now before you go off whining and making everyone around you miserable – all while saying, “Sean made me do it,” -- I have to warn you that not all complaining is Good Book approved.

In fact, there are scores of complainers in the Bible that are struck down from above for their bellyaching.

There are two tricks to the G-dly questioner: one, is being willing to admit you don’t have the answers. Which requires turning over control:

“Questions, no matter how shocking or blasphemous or arrogant or ignorant or raw, are rooted in humility. A humility that understands that I am not God. And there is more to know.” Rob Bell, VELVET ELVIS

Charlie Brown is definitely in a position of humility.

The second trick is to keep it real.

By that I mean keep it from just being griping – moaning for moaning sakes or just to whine isn’t a Biblical notion – that’s desert moaning. That’s “hey, let’s incur the wrath of the Almighty” moaning.

This other, goodly kind of complaining is a searching – looking to move through the mood.

“This book of Job hints at a strange truth that is never explained, and probably cannot be explained: the full admission of pain opens the door to hope.” -Ellen Davis, GETTING INVOLVED WITH GOD
Heading towards hope is a good kind of melancholy. And that goes to who we make the admission.

In the Psalms – it is always directed to G-d; in the desert, it is always a means to an end – gossip to make the speaker feel better for having spread his/her misery.

Just my thoughts,


Friday, December 14, 2007

Christmas Time is Here - CB Part One

My job here is simple: I am going to explain to you why A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS is the best holiday special.

I have six reasons (well, seven, but reason 5.5 is more personal than universal). So let’s get started.

“I think there must be something wrong with me, Linus. Christmas is coming, but I’m not happy. I don’t feel the way I’m supposed to feel. I just don’t understand Christmas, I guess… I always end up feeling depressed.” - Charlie Brown, A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS

Reason #1: The show speaks the Truth.

In the midst of Season of Joy, it is rather unfashionable to be depressed. A somber aspect will bring on cries of, “Come on, get in the holiday spirit!”

As for me, I always get melancholy this time of year. It’s as traditional as caroling, decorating the tree, and sneaking downstairs at 5 am Christmas morning to swap the butterscotch pudding from my stocking with the chocolate pudding in Mark’s stocking.

A lot of people get yuletide depression; more than we know, as so many of us are putting on merry Christmas masks. And the reasons are abundant in this season-

Family blues – from those who can’t be with their loved ones for the holidays.

Or those who are forced to put up with their loved ones for the holidays.

The pressure of expectations – I’ve got to find that perfect gift for our neighbors, Gladys Kravitz, or she’ll send her dog over to my yard to do his business!

Failed expectations – I bought Gladys an i-phone, but she still sends her dog over to my yard!

And this season isn’t just for religiously commercial holidays – coming in December, it is a reminder that we’ve wasted another whole year.


Charlie Brown was boy enough to admit he was feeling blue. In fact, he kinda made it okay to say it. A little hip, even.

In the seasonal dumps? Just say:

“I’m feeling a little Charlie Brownish”

People will understand.

I realize that this borders on complaining, which goes against the American Christian work ethic of grin and bear it, but…

We’ll save that but for reason #2.

Just my thoughts,


Thursday, December 13, 2007

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Hiro Nakamura walked by my office window today.

Of course he was in disguise as actor Masi Oka.

I felt all safe and warm, knowing he was around to protect us.

Just my thoughts,


Monday, December 10, 2007

Writer of Week #6 – Vacation to Mordor

Got a much needed laugh on the way to work this morning, listening to the Loh Life, as Sandra Tsing Loh talks about her vacation to Mordor.

Yep, that Mordor.

Check out the podcast.

Which brings me to the featured writer of the week: The team of Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh.

This writing duo, in fellowship with Philippa Boyens, are responsible for one of the best adaptations from literature to screen around: THE LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy.

Not an easy task, as the lifeless animation project from years gone by can attest.

One aspect of this writing duo (now trio?) that makes them worthy of special mention is their diversity.

Peter and Fran first made a name for themselves (okay, the “name” goes to Peter since he was also the director, and writers rarely get “named”) with comedic horror, including a pre-Fran BAD TASTE about aliens running a human-as-food farm, and MEET THE FEEBLES, a muppet based gross out comedy.

Not quite the Oscar contending pedigree you would expect; neither did anyone else as the pair tackled a sensitive adaptation from reality, HEAVENLY CREATURES, which did indeed attract an Oscar nomination for writing.

My introduction to their work was the Michael J. Fox ghost comedy, THE FRIGHTENERS. I remember laughing a lot, wondering at the mish-mash of genre, and unsure of why the critics seemed to dislike it so much.

I also caught FORGOTTEN SILVER, a fake documentary where Jackson (in reality) convinced much of New Zealand that he found early reels of innovative movies by the esteemed Ziwi director, Colin MacKenzie.

So convincing was the documentary, that several Universities added the material into their film studies classes.

Before realizing that there was never a person called Colin MacKenzie.

So we got splatter-horror comedies, quiet drama, adult muppet behavior (pre-dating AVENUE Q), a failed Hollywood flick, and a television released mockumentary.

Sounds like perfect training for a big budget Hollywood ten-hour epic.

Just my thoughts,


Friday, December 07, 2007

Life Behind His Eyes

My brother Mark has reminded me that being cynical is distracting me from Life.

And by that, I mean LIFE, the NBC show on Wednesday nights, and one of the best premieres of the season. The show has procedural action; it has great character depth and interesting character conflicts; it has a mystery per show AND a great mystery arcing over the season.
But most of all it has an incredibly well-written and well-acted lead.

I realize that I am speaking to a generation that isn’t familiar with Steve McQueen, folks that never experienced his brand of slow cool. Well, here’s your chance.

When you watch Steve in character, you know he is always thinking – maybe about what he is saying, maybe about something completely different – but there is a vivid life going on behind his eyes.

And Steve was always so cool, that he wouldn’t rush that thinking – slow, steady, and dangerously provocative.
Whether MAGNIFICENT SEVEN, TOWERING INFERNO or THE GREAT ESCAPE, whether a bright character or a dimmer bulb (face it, for all his exciting action, Cooler King Hiltz wasn’t the quickest on the uptake), his characters were always coolly thinking.

Damian Lewis’ Charlie in LIFE is channeling Steve McQueen.

A few weeks back, I watched a clip from THE GREAT ESCAPE in prep for a spiritual retreat (hey, you spiritual retreat your way, I’ll spiritual retreat mine); shortly after that I watched an episode of LIFE – and I got shivers, the acting style was so uncannily close to McQueen.

And this isn’t just a theory.
Recently I had the opportunity to sit next to an AD from LIFE (at a WGA informational event, but let’s not think about that). I shared with him my feelings about Steve McQueen, he smiled, said he would pass that on because…

It ain’t a coincidence. Apparently Damian read the part of the revenge seeking Zen detective, and it so reminded him of McQueen that he intentionally approaches the role that way.

Check out the design as well -- from the cars he drives to the camera angles to hints in the fashion…

The King of Cool is back.

Just my thoughts,


Thursday, December 06, 2007

Where Ideas Come From

I just did another e-mail interview -- this time about creativity. (I didn't have to talk about the strike -- woohoo!)

This was from a college student who directed a production of my play, FOOLISH WISEMAN, at her school. As part of the process, she wrote a paper that included answering some questions about the author.

I thought y'all might want a brief insight to the creative process, so here are two of her questions and my answers:

What inspired you to write "Foolish Wiseman?"

While I was working for Taproot Theatre in Seattle, we needed a Christmas themed play to tour to Japan. The one we were planning on touring had fallen through, so we had a matter of days to come up with a replacement before rehearsals began.

The limits were stiff – small cast, set and costumes that could travel on a Japanese subway, lots of physicality (as it would be performed for people learning English), etc.

I’ve always been drawn to stories about the “other” guy, the one we never heard about, such as Tom Stoppard’s “Rosencrantz and Guilderstern Are Dead” (what were they doing behind the scenes while Hamlet was soliloquizing)?

So that got me to thinking about the friends of the magi – did they support their pals’ odd behavior? And that led me to Ogion – the friend who wished he went at first time around, and now has to catch up.

I guess there is a part of me that identifies deeply with just that – regretting taking so long to get on board, and racing to catch up.

I love VeggieTales! How did you come to write for them?

I wrote my first VeggieTales script on a dare, and never thought it would actually become a video.

Back when Bob and Larry were still fairly new, I was arguing with a friend. His position was that they were great and all, but so very limited, because there are so many Bible stories that can’t be told for children.

I dared him to name one, and he did: David and Bathesheba.

So I wrote “King David and the Bath Ducky” just to prove him wrong.

Another friend, artist Bryan Ballinger, was interviewing with Big Idea, and passed off my script as he negotiated his fee. They liked it enough to offer to buy it -- even though it took a year to figure out how to market it. Seeing the same problem as posed earlier, they wondered how to handle parents of the kids that looked up the original story and then asked questions about adultery and the like.

It took over a year and a massive rewrite by Phil Vischer, as well as a change in era, location and title – but I was now in the Big Idea house.

Just my thoughts,


Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Before Fade Out

I just answered some question via e-mail regarding the strike (a college student interview).

Mostly repeated what I've already said here -- how the writer's deserve more money, how neither side is acting like nice children, etc.

Here's a question I haven't answered for y'all, so here goes:

3. What do you feel will be the final outcome of the strike?

Here’s my prediction: Both sides will announce how they totally humiliated the other side and got a deal so sweet that their a. guild members or b. stockholders should lift them on their shoulders and parade them around town as heroes.

Then in three months, it will be back to claiming that our side (whichever side you want, as both will say this) got totally hosed in the deal, and just wait until next time when we really show them!

Just my thoughts,


Monday, December 03, 2007

Depends on what the definition of "is" is...

The strike isn’t looking to end any time soon.

After Thursday, the WGA asked for a lift on the news blackout, so they could talk to their members about the negotiations. But before chatting with their members, they released a statement blasting the studios.

Just like that, we’re back to mud slinging.

I suppose reading my blog, one would either assume I am anti-WGA, or wonder where I fall in this issue. So let me restate for the record:

I think the Guild is right that the writers deserve a bigger piece of the pie than they are currently getting – especially in the area of new media.

So, ironically, I get even more hot and bothered when they aren’t upright in how they are trying to get that piece of the pie.

Such as this weekend, as they are outright lying in reporting that the studio is asking for rollbacks.

I’m not saying that the Studios is saying that they are lying – as far as I’ve heard, the Studios haven’t responded at all to the WGA attacks.

No, it is the WGA that says that the WGA is lying.

The dictionary defines a rollback as a reduction to a prior level. In terms of contracts, this would be if the workers are currently being paid ten dollars an hour, and the bosses say they want to move it to nine dollars an hour.

Prior to the strike, the WGA claimed (correctly so) that the writers were being paid zero dollars for many of the uses of their material on the internet.

The writers now are saying that the Studios have offered to pay a mere couple of thousand dollars for something written for the web.

From zero to a couple of thousand.

And the WGA is claiming this is a rollback – in other words, in the math of the WGA, 2,000 is literally less than zero.

Here’s an old joke: A college student pushes his overflowing cart into the “Ten items or less” checkout aisle in Boston. The checker glances at the cart, then at the “Ten items or less” sign, and quips, “So, are you from MIT and can’t read, or from Harvard and can’t add?”

I’m thinking that the representatives of the Writer’s guild know what the term “rollback” means, being wordsmiths and all.

Here’s the deal folks: if the dollar amount is accurate (and who knows with the level of honesty being shown here), then it is a small amount. A half hour of prime time television nets over $20,000 for a writer. For prime time television.

And if the Studios were suggesting a cut in that amount, it would indeed be a rollback. But this isn’t a rollback, just a paltry offer – from zero to two thousand.

So why doesn’t the WGA come out and say, “Hey, the studios made an offer, but the amount is a joke?” Why lie instead and call it a rollback?

It’s not as if writers are too stupid to know that a pittance is only a pittance; it’s not as if the writers will fold if they aren’t lied to.

Then why?

Because the point isn’t to report a lack of progress, the point is to make the strikers angry. And if the Studios are perceived as trying to take back money already given, then the strikers will get Hulk angry.

Angry strikers make good, long strikers.

A goal apparently worthy of the lie.

Just my thoughts,


Saturday, December 01, 2007

A Little Direction, Please

There’s a lot of hullabaloo surrounding THE GOLDEN COMPASS.

I’m not going to comment a whole lot on it, except to direct you to sources I trust.

Here’s Jeffrey Overstreet’s words of wisdom.

Jeff Berryman’s odyssey through the books – entry one and two.

And an Atlantic article that more than fairly covers the film and book.

Enjoy or ignore as you wish.

Just my thoughts,