Updates coming soon!
For the past few months I’ve been volunteering with The Scriptwriter’s Network, an association that educates and raises awareness of the realities of the entertainment business. In my time volunteering I‘ve watched them give aspiring writer’s opportunities with industry professionals; including screenwriters, executive producers, directors and more. Through a variation of discussions, industry professionals have offered advice on breaking in, making connections, relocating to L.A., and other FAQ
A perk of volunteering for the Screenwriter’s Network is that I get to sit in on their seminars and absorb the golden nuggets of wisdom the weekly guest speakers have to offer. Every speaker has a distinctive style and approach to their lectures, and this week I found Corey Mandell’s seminar nothing short of invigorating. In case you’re unfamiliar with Corey and his work, he’s an award-winning playwright and screenwriter who has written projects for Ridley Scott, Wolfgang Petersen, Harrison Ford, John Travolta, Julia Roberts, Warner Brothers, Universal, 20th Century Fox, Fox 2000, Fox Family, Working Title, Paramount, Live Planet, Beacon Films, Touchstone, Trilogy, Radiant, Kopelson Entertainment and Walt Disney Pictures. Can you tell that was straight off his website? Nobody does a copy & paste job like I can.
Corey’s vibe was similar to a development executive I once knew, with was a straight to the point and no bullshit kind of attitude. If you know me, than you know that’s the kind of guy I want to be around. The purpose of his seminar was to educate and enlighten aspiring writers on the likelihood of breaking into the industry and the common mistakes writers make. Since I’m in a cluster-fuck of a situation with my many but unfinished pilots, I’ve taken on Corey’s words to help shape my stories into something that are worth telling. I need these pilots to not just be singularly great, but I need to decide why each individual series is worth making. A spec pilot has to work as an episode, but it also has to be plausible, even brilliant, as a template for a whole show. And one thing that makes a show brilliant is if it’s got a big macro reason to exist — if it’s got a point to make.
I’m aware of the juncture I’m in as an emerging writer, and I’m conscious to the fact I need a distinctive and inimitable voice. Jane Espenson, she of Buffy fame and currently TV writer for Once Upon A Time, said that regardless of subject or place in time or space, great writers share one trait-they are true to their personalities, spirits, and characters. So unfortunately while I might think I have an “authentic” voice, I could really just have an inflated ego. What I thought was original and complex may in reality be flat and completely cliché. I guess I just need time to follow Corey’s advice so I discover a prose that is unique, expressive, and profoundly authentic.
Pardon the vacant blog, I’ve been busy fighting an impending breakdown. No, not really, I’ve just been bogged down by massive amounts of schoolwork (yee gods! Finals are approaching!) I will say that I’ve seen better days. Oh, the first class struggles I’ve endured this past week. Let me explain:
A friend referred me to a casting agency he thought I could benefit from. This agency specializes in TV and film projects, and with some work it was pretty much a sure thing I’d be getting in on a decent paycheck. Heaven knows I don’t belong anywhere in front of a camera, but it’s an avenue I never considered. Why not try it out?
So it’s the day of, and I’m fully clad in my suit and tie, eager to enter their offices. I wait for my orientation and what happens? I’m hit with a slew of compliments. One kind man pointed me out and said I had “The look,” to which I blushed and said “Thank you kind sir.”
Anyway I’m in the casting office and the job was supposedly simple; get in front of the camera, smile, let them find me bookings, and make money. It was so simple a special-needs monkey could do it! And yet, in my oh-so-Bryan way, I found a way to screw it up.
First impressions went well; I walked into the room and brought the happy. I started to even think that maybe I had something to offer this acting thing.
Is this not the complete embodiment of a sassy actor?
I’d be remiss not to consider every avenue this industry has to offer. Yes, my particular abilities will always lead me down the writer path, but if I could make some extra bucks with this then why not? There was a glimmer of something, an unexplored possibility that excited me. But that excitement soon turned into disappointment as I walked into the dreaded “camera room,” and had a mini panic attack as the cameras started to roll.
Call it performance anxiety, call it nervous, I’ll just call it a big ol’ fuck up. I’ll never really understand what happened that day, it could was daunting for me to stand in front a group of people and let them judge me. But that couldn’t make sense, cause if getting judged is what frightens me, then I might be in the business.
At 5’5” and with a less than model-esque face and figure, I never thought I had what it takes to be an acting king. It wasn’t a natural thing to be in front of the camera. Don’ get me wrong, I selfie myself to death sometimes, but this was a whole new ballpark!
There’s definitely a newfound respect in me for actors that are able to become vulnerable in front of the camera. Cheers to them! Even though I bombed this opportunity, I still feel motivated to continue down my own journey toward self-acceptance and despite this failure, I got a huge, and completely unexpected boost. I don’t think I can explain the type of creative re-invigoration I’m experiencing right now. Here’s to finishing a few more of my pilots and marketing the Bajeezus out of them!
PS. I really truly miss my blog.
This wasn’t the best month in many respects. I’ve had this regret that I let my family down, and let myself down. Delusion will take you very far, and being in this town- working in this town, I thought I was making progress. I was wrong; I was only a successful part of the machine. I only just now realized how much I compromised my integrity. Lately I’ve been living each day putting up a front and keeping myself going, digging myself into this hole of delusion. People in your life change, money can make things so complicated and success and people only end up betraying you.
I grew up watching movies, and watched as my favorite writers grew. I didn’t know of the corporate world they had to endure in order to succeed. I especially don’t know where these words are coming from, I just sort of decided that I owe it to my work to be an open book.
When things become complicated, you ask yourself if you even want to write anymore on a commercial level, I’ll just write on my own. I’d still be happy. I don’t need all of this if it means negativity, if it means giving up my compassion, if it means people grabbing at you. Ultimately, I just feel like I’m part of a factory.
At the end of the day I know this is just writing and it’s not brain surgery, but this is something that’s important to me. I refuse to compromise and allow my talents to be monetized to the point I don’t even want to be here anymore. If I can’t be myself in this moment, then the journey to Los Angeles would have been a total lie.
There’s a creative spirit that’s been keeping me going for the longest time, and it was only recently that it started to wane. There’s only so long that you can keep going before you have moments of weakness. I’m feeling raw, but I’m in the prime of my life. This feeling, not sadness or depression, but this tendency to pretend, is something I’ve only recently realized I needed to experience completely. I miss the comfort of my mother, my brother, and the way of their world and words.
I know I’m not the only one feeling this, earlier this week a friend of mine was struggling too. I tried o offer whatever words of wisdom I had at my disposal. I came up with:
Mark, you are one of the smartest, most capable people I know. Unfortunately, that’s not always a prerequisite for success in the industry we’ve chosen. There’s talent, persistence, and luck involved and to think we can achieve a high level of success in the few months we’ve been here can only leave us in a sad state of mind. This existential feeling is typical for people who’ve been here as long as we have, but something will find its way to you. Invest in something else to pre-occupy you, but don’t give up on a dream that you’re more than capable of achieving. I’m rooting for you.
I’ve shared on this blog how people have left me this past year over my decision to move, but while people can leave, my talent will never leave me. I love my passion, I love it more than anything else. There was a moment I forgot that, and I was sad because I stifled myself.
I’m very hard on myself, but I don’t think that’s bad. I’m critical and innately damaged and self critical, but those have been strengths in my life.
Love is at the core of who I am. Love in my family, my friends, my work, and every aspect of my life. For awhile I was bogged down by business. I think I just need to be careful what type of business I’m selling, if I’m selling anything other than talent, and anything other than honest writing, I’m in the wrong business. I don’t want to give anybody the ability to change me, and to let their feelings dictate my ability to say no. My talent matters more to me than the money does. I would go back home tomorrow if it meant I had to sell my soul to this business. I’m not selling out. I’m not making a deal with the devil.
I guess from now on I’m going to have to go about things my own way. I’ve always liked shaking things up, and I guess how I enter this industry is going to be a testament to that. It’s about time I get a movement started.
During a talk at the SXSW Film Festival, Lena Dunham spoke about the level of sexism in Hollywood and how her “Girls” co-star Adam Driver has had more opportunities in the industry than any of her other co-stars.
“There isn’t a place right now for me in studio-funded movies,” said Dunham, Variety reported.
Despite Dunham’s words, recent franchises and Oscar winners seem to tell a different tale of Hollywood.
Hollywood has always seen a lack of complex female roles and has often relegated women to playing femme fatale or innocent girl cliches. However, a recent trend shows that Hollywood is making more room for women to take on more nuanced roles.
Last year proved a successful year for Jessica Chastain as she dominated the first weeks of the year with her Oscar-nominated film “Zero Dark Thirty” and “Mama.” Both films ended up becoming huge hits and proved Chastain was a viable draw. This year she will star in “A Most Violent Year,” which could define her box office potential.
Sandra Bullock recently starred in “Gravity,” which became the sixth-highest grossing film of the year. The movie made $271 million domestically and $712 million worldwide. The movie also garnered 10 Oscar nominations and won seven. It was one of the biggest surprises.
Jennifer Lawrence has also shown her strength in attracting moviegoers and is increasingly becoming one of the most popular celebrities. She has carried the first two “Hunger Games” movies to make over $800 million domestically and has also starred in “American Hustle” and “Silver Linings Playbook,” two extremely well received films, which were also big hits at the box office. Lawrence has two more “Hunger Games” films on the way, which should continue the franchise’s success. Additionally, the actress has already been offered a number of important leading roles including “East of Eden” and “Burial Rites.”
Cate Blanchett proved that women could still sell tickets even if it is with a smaller independent film. “Blue Jasmine” may not have been the highest-grossing Woody Allen film, however, it still managed to make a staggering $31 million. She also won an Oscar for her role.
Other films led by women last year included “Philomena,” “Saving Mr. Banks,” “August: Osage County” and “Blue is the Warmest Color.”
Disney has also realized the power of women in film. Angelina Jolie is headlining their latest blockbuster “Maleficent.” The film is expected to sell as well as “Alice in Wonderland” did in 2010; that film also included a number of major female roles.
Lionsgate recognized the attraction to the “Hunger Games” and decided to produce Veronica Roth’s “Divergent,” which could become the next big franchise and could also reassure Hollywood that woman can sell big movies. Shailene Woodley is on the verge of a major career as estimates have already tracked a potential $65 million opening.
After a successful 2013, this year could see the potential of leading women rising. Mia Wasikowska lead the new film “Tracks,” while Charlotte Gainsbourg takes on a challenging role in Lar Von Triers’ “Nymphomaniac.” Amy Adams will tackle the role of Margaret Keane in “Big Eyes,” while Marion Cotillard will appear in “The Immigrant,” her most vivid American role to date.
Carey Mulligan takes the leading role in Thomas Vinterberg’s “Far From a Madding Crowd,” while Quvenzhane Wallis could also become a box office draw in “Annie.” Natalie Portman will also get a title role in a female-oriented western, “Jane Got a Gun.”
Nicole Kidman will grace the Cannes Film Festival for the third straight year, this time headlining the opening of the festival in “Grace of Monaco.”
While woman still do not get as much attention as men in Hollywood, the trend is clearly changing.
Lena Dunham started her keynote speech at SXSW by going over her journey to this point — thanking the festival for giving her the opportunity to be featured there in multiple years — but she closed out with a bang, calling on the entertainment industry to change in regard to the way it sees women. In a spirited and quick-flowing final flourish, Dunham sped through a statement of purpose that’s listed in full below:
“It’s a rough scene,” Dunham said about the current state of women in entertainment. “It’s hard to always offer comforting words on that topic. I think about this in relation to the cast on my show, which consists of three very talented women and also some very talented guys. Our male lead, Adam Driver, has had a bang-up year in movies which could not be more deserved because he’s a ferocious genius with an incredible work ethic, and I’ve learned so much from him. But the girls are still waiting patiently for parts that are going to honor their intelligence and their ability.
The world is ready to see Adam as a million different men — playing good guys and bad guys and sweet guys and scary guys. The world is ready to see Adam do all that. It’s not ready to see Allison Williams, Zosia Mamet or Jemima Kirke stretch their legs in the same variety of diverse roles. Allison is relegated to All-American sweetheart. Zosia is asked to play more flighty nood-nicks. Even though both are capable of so much, they’re not asked to do it. And this is not a knock on Adam’s talent, which is utterly boundless and he’s exactly the actor who should be doing all this. It’s a knock on a world where women are typecast and men can play villains, Lotharios and nerds in one calendar year and something has to change and I’m trying.”
Though the final minutes were an impassioned call to action, Dunham started the speech she wrote “last night high on the quaaludes known as cheeseburgers” by chronicling her road to SXSW 2014. She reviewed her lengthy experience with the festival in the past, including her first experience at the festival and her growing desire to return. When she did with “Tiny Furniture,” she won the narrative film prize and still calls it “the most thrilling and least complicated moment of her career.”
Afterward Dunham said she moved to Los Angeles and went on a “water bottle” tour of Hollywood where she thought all her meetings went well because the network executives she met gave her water during the meetings. About this time, Dunham made what wasn’t her first self-deprecating remark, saying, “I realize there’s a bunch of unmitigated brags in here and I apologize.” She then briefly touched on her relationship with HBO and learning process through writing a professional television show, including adjusting the writer’s room. Dunham said she’s more comfortable writing on her own and needed to adjust to writing with a group to construct narrative arcs. “You’re not allowed to say to HBO, ‘I’m going to figure it out in private, guys. Just trust me. I’m 25. I’m wearing ill-advised shorts. And I’ve got it.”
Dunham touched on a number of issues, including her recent appearance on “SNL,” what she does and doesn’t care about, and advice for young creatives. Here are the highlights:
– Dunham said she absolutely does not care about ratings (though she knows HBO wishes she did), Republicans (“I’m sure there are some good ones. I just haven’t met them yet.”), Deadline Hollywood and wrinkles (“I’m psyched about those”).
– “It’s so hard, so terrifying,” Dunham said about her hosting duties on “SNL.” “I worked a 23-hour day on Friday, and that’s not legal, [but] it was a pleasure and joy.”
– “The best advice I can muster after exactly four years in this business [is]… don’t wait around for someone else to tell your story. Do it yourself by whatever means necessary.”
– Dunham had more advice, too: “Tell the story you know…Stand up for your work and voice… Saying no is an amazing, amazing tool, but it’s also important to say yes.”
– Dunham also told an amusing tale of how she and her co-workers on “Tiny Furniture” found out they won their award at SXSW before the ceremony. They became concerned the group would take the award away if they confessed, and thus decided to act surprised when they won. When they heard their names, though, it was still a surprise and the joy they felt was just as real as if they didn’t know.
MINDY KALING FIRES BACK AT DIVERSITY COMPLAINTS
When the question came, you could feel the room get just a little tense. The mood thus far had been jovial at “Running the Show: TV’s New Queen of Comedy,” a Marie Claire-sponsored panel discussion of The Mindy Project, spotlighting the show’s creator/runner/star Mindy Kaling, and the topics were fairly innocuous (her writing process, her next book, the recent Mindy/Danny cliffhanger). But when the time came to field questions from the mostly female audience, one woman posed this query: “You guys have a great, diverse set of characters, but was it a conscious decision for Mindy to be the only female doctor, and the only doctor color of show?” There were a couple of minutes of pleasant response, with co-panelists and Mindy co-stars Ike Barinholtz and Adam Pally earnestly praising their female cast members. But by then, Kaling had lost patience: “I look at shows on TV, and this is going to just seem defensive, but I’m just gonna say it: I’m a fucking Indian woman who has her own fucking network television show, OK?”
The audience applauded, but Kaling was just getting started. “I have four series regulars that are women on my show, and no one asks any of the shows I adore — and I won’t name them because they’re my friends — why no leads on their shows are women or of color, and I’m the one that gets lobbied about these things. And I’ll answer them, I will. But I know what’s going on here.” Some laughter (some of it nervous) echoed through the ballroom. “It is a little insulting because, I’m like, God, what can I — oh, I’m sitting in it. I have 75 percent of the lines on the show.”
“And I’m like, oh wait, it’s not like I’m running a country, I’m not a political figure,” she continued. “I’m someone who’s writing a show and I want to use funny people. And it feels like it diminishes the incredibly funny women who do come on my show… I don’t know, it’s a little frustrating.” And at this point, Pally piped up: “Well, we took two different tacks in the answer.”
You have to sympathize with Kaling, who has found herself in the position, throughout her show’s run, of doing much but being criticized (as in, say, the frequent criticism that her character only dates white men) for not doing more. It’s easy to grind an artist down with that kind of a barrage, and her argument that she just wants “to use funny people,” along with a later insistence that “my full-time job is not the casting director for The Mindy Project,” can sound like some kind of an (admittedly distant) cousin to Jerry Seinfeld’s recent comments about caring only about funny, to the detriment of diversity.
Does Kaling get off the hook because of the giant strides in television she herself represents? Sure thing. But the pressures of having to be all things to all people can take their toll — most obviously in the extensive retoolings and cast overhauls that have occurred throughout her show’s two-season run. Asked about her personal strategy for creating real change, Kaling certainly doesn’t come up short on ambition: “I feel that I can just be successful, hire people that I think are cool, and try to live my life in a way that doesn’t cause embarrassment or shame to people. And try to be, at this point, a role model, and be on good behavior… And try to do a show that doesn’t offend people too much and isn’t irresponsible.”
The sheer magnitude of that laundry lists prompted some chuckles from the SXSW audience; they were realizing, the more she added to it, that The Mindy Project might be a more accurate title than they’d previously thought.
I’d like to give a BIG THANKS to people who have been requesting Script Coverage! Apparently I have a talent for consulting people on their scripts. Is it something I’d do professionally? Not so much. That whole shtick has left me tired and soulless, but I’m more than happy to do it for friends. I’m thankful and touched I’m considered the go-to guy for this type of thing!
2013 was an exciting year. Made the big move to Los Angeles, had an opportunity to read the Nichol, Page, & Scriptapalooza Finalists, and was even a decent year writing wise. Go team ME!
My top goals for 2013 were:
- Make the move to Los Angeles.
- Write at least 2 new pilot scripts.
- Write a feature script.
How many of those did I accomplish? Two! Two and three quarters! I can offer a variety of excuses, but a failure is a failure and I never finished my feature. I was a growing boy in 2013, with a lot of things to learn on the craft.
Now, look at the top goals for 2014:
- Finish up HEY JUDE; my bro-comedy pilot and accompanying series bible
- Finish up BAD GYNO; my comedy pilot and one pager, which will probably extend into a series bible
- Finish up ROCK BOTTOM; my comedy pilot and a one pager
- Finish up SECRET WORLD OF KID SORCERERS, my children’s pilot
- Finish up A VIRGIN STATE OF MIND, my teen angst one hour pilot
- Finish up KING, my coming of age feature
- Finish up KID CADETS, my comic book venture
- Finish up DEAD MANS PARTY, my horror feature
Notice the difference?
My efforts have solely been placed on “spec” work, or “written on speculation,” in hopes that some spectator will take the risk in investing in unproven commercial ventures. A few of these scripts have placed in competitions, so I know my hope of striking it rich isn’t too far off. Yeah, writing a spec screenplay is a risky venture, in the sense you could spend so much effort on creating something that no one is willing to purchase when it’s done.
My goal was always to be a working writer, but it’s more of a vague aspiration and not a tangible goal. There are steps to make this into a reality, because it’s not something that’s completely in my control. Sure my specs are written without a request or obligation or any guarantee of sale, but they’ll prove to be useful in other areas. For example, fellowships and Contests. The big ones: Nichol, Page, Austin.
I’m sharing these goals because I want to hold myself accountable for finishing these projects. If I fail, I’m failing publicly. Yeah, I put way too much pressure on myself sometimes, but I’m learning to write with an element of fun.
When Frozen topped the billion-dollar mark at the global box office last weekend, the significance wasn’t just that Disney execs are going to be snapping up the world’s stock of private islands when Christmas bonus time rolls around this year. Nope. Frozen is now the first film to make a billion dollars… that was also directed by a woman.
To be precise, Frozen was actually co-directed by a woman, Jennifer Lee, who worked alongside veteran animator Chris Buck. The two of them have been added to a list of names that includes Cameron, Jackson, Nolan, Bay, Lucas… dudes, every one. At least until now. Frozen, incidentally, makes up a whopping 50% of the number of 2013’s biggest 100 films to have been directed by a woman.
Frozen is only the second animated film in history to crest the billion-dollar milestone. Toy Story 3 is the other. Though that particular stat loses some of its meaning when you consider issues like inflation, rising ticket prices, and the box-office boost that is 3D surcharges (what would The Lion King, currently sitting at $987.5 million, have made with an extra $5 tacked onto half the tickets sold when it first came out?), the fact remains that Frozen is a huge financial success. And it hasn’t even premiere in Japan yet!
Regular readers may have heard me soapbox on this particular issue a time or two, but it’s close to my heart: Female directors get screwed over by Hollywood. It’s there. It’s undeniable. The majority of female directors working today, with a few exceptions like Kathryn Bigelow, work primarily in the indie sphere, which is fabulous and wonderful in large part because of the wealth of different outlooks it provides. You see studios snapping up directors of successful indies all the time to helm their big summer tentpoles. Jurassic World, Godzilla, and Guardians of the Galaxy, just to name a few, all have as directors men who’ve done buzzed-about indies but have never been behind the wheel of a huge studio blockbuster before.
But female directors… it just doesn’t happen. The same opportunities aren’t there.
I know that, while a lot of our readers like Frozen, a lot of you don’t. And Disney’s record with behind-the-scenes gender equality (or, for that matter, on-screen gender representation) is far from perfect. But let’s take a minute to appreciate the fact that, in this particular instance, Disney didn’t see a first-time director with only one writing credit—Wreck-It Ralph—under her belt and shut her out. They saw Jennifer Lee’s talent. They gave her a shot.