Quitting Time

Video

I couldn’t find out if this girl ever ended up working for Queen Latifah.

Freedom!

I quit my job. I’ve been gone for like three weeks. And it’s been great. Great because I don’t have to deal with any of the insane BS that I used to put up with. I’m still getting texts like once a week from people asking me how to do stuff, but each day the memories of the mall fade away a little more…

In place of my job, I’ve been working at my internship four days a week. It is definitely weird to be on a 9-5, 10-6 schedule. And I basically sit all day, which sucks. But I also learn things!

I’m interning for the news department of a radio station.

Things that I like:
engineering
interviewing
audio editing
photography

Things that I want to be better at:
engineering
writing
contacting people
MOS (man on the street) interviews

Also, I still like this video. Mostly because I like the song.

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Retail and Shame and Excuses and Moving on

I read this article on The Billfold the other day. It was like looking in a mirror.

Between the inconsistent hours and the lack of good sleep schedule, I didn’t always make the best decisions. I didn’t bring in a good meal from home to work because I had an hour-long commute and a 30 minute break; instead I ran around down the block or the food court to get something to gulp down. I decided to surf the internet instead of writing a decent cover letter because there wasn’t enough time between then and when the bus came. I slept in later than usual because my body let me. I spent six or eight hours on my feet, so I treated myself. These were my rationalizations when I got next to nothing done on a day I had a midday shift or when I got the bare minimum of errands done—depositing a check, doing laundry—on a day off.

I’ve been working retail for about a year and a half. Been promoted, gotten a raise. Hated it, mostly. I’ve made myself indispensable and I get a strange and powerful sense of accomplishment from showing up, solving everyone’s problems, and taking care of business.

I am also not the most responsible person when it comes to money. I don’t say “no” to  invitations and I don’t have a policy of ordering the cheapest thing on the menu.

When you work a shitty job, when you feel bad about your job (when you feel bad about yourself because you’ve always tied self worth to external evidence of success like grades/jobs/salary/title/whatever), spending is a quick pick-me-up. Working at the mall means I am surrounded by potential highs. Pop into Loft and check out the clearance section. Starbucks is practically a necessity at this point. Do I get a thirty minute break today? I’ll be in line at Panera.

I know that it is stupid and wasteful. It is a luxury that I can only afford because I still live at home and don’t pay for things like insurance.

Then The Atlantic published an article by Joseph Williams, who used to work for Politico.

I identified with his feelings of “brainwashing”:

As the learning curve flattened, however, my past life faded over the horizon and I gave up looking for an on-ramp back to journalism. Starved for approval after so much rejection, I started to take a weird, internal pride in my crappy menial job, almost against my will.

I felt a thrill when Stretch gave me a high-five for taking an online order from a customer without screwing it up. I quietly exalted when I correctly diagnosed that a customer needed stability running shoes and not the neutral ones he wanted. I congratulated myself on my work ethic when, instead of taking an unpaid sick day, I pushed through a Saturday shift despite a wicked, can’t-breathe bronchial infection.

Why do I care so much about a dumb job where I’m constantly taken advantage of? Working overtime when I’m supposed to be part-time, making wayyyy too little for how much work I put in, being scheduled my entire birthday weekend even though my boss took off for a football game (not that I’m bitter). Apparently, I’m just that much of a people-pleaser.

I’m ashamed of my job. But I’m good at my job. I shouldn’t be ashamed of my job. It is a perfectly reasonable job. A lot of people work retail. And it is a very nice feeling to walk into work and have people say, “Thank god, you’re here!” But it’s not what I set out to do. It’s not what I want to do. I’m wasting my time. It is a shame that I haven’t fought harder to get out of this. I’m ashamed of myself.

I got comfortable. Comfortable and lazy.

Shame isn’t going to fill out job applications for me. Luckily, I’m not completely lost. I’m taking a class (that isn’t that useful and may be a waste of time but will force to create pieces for my portfolio). I’m doing an unpaid internship (story of my life) in my desired field. I’m not sure what to do next…but I’m trying to figure this shit out.

Just for Laughs Montreal

My family went on vacation last week.  We went to Montreal because we wanted to out of the country, but not too far out, and we wanted to speak French, but not too much (any) French.

It’s a nice city. The metro is easy to use and if you get a hotel within a five block radius of the Place des Arts you will be able to easily walk to a lot of attractions. Food is expensive, but there are a lot of options.

Long story short: skip the Passport tickets unless you are willing to wait in line.

The Passports give you tickets to three of their “top” shows, plus a free ticket to another show every day of the festival.

The three shows we picked were (1) SPANK! The Fifty Shades of Grey Parody, (2) The Nasty Show, and (3) Date Night: The Relationship Show. Another choice was The Ethnic Show (darn, it had Gary Gulman, from Last Comic Standing, the tallest, hottest Jew there ever was), but it didn’t fit in our schedule. Also, I think you could pick The Alternative Show with Andy Kindler, but that didn’t start til after we left (story of my life).

  • SPANK! was a parody musical at the Centaur Theater. The audience was 99% women and the show was 100% sex jokes. Just kidding. Like 80% sex jokes.  Dildos, flashes of underwear, a lot of simulated sex. They parodied songs from Into the Woods and Thoroughly Modern Millie and “Hero” by Enrique Iglesias.
  • The Nasty Show was hosted by Bobby Slayton, with Robert Kelly, Bridget Everett, Brad Williams, Big Jay Oakerson and special guest Jimmy Carr. Hannibal Buress (Metropolis shows only). It was at Club Soda (cute name). Tickets are general admission, so we got there about a half an hour early and sat in the balcony.
  • Super freaking dirty. Was I with my family? Yes. Did I pretend that I wasn’t, as hard as possible?  Yes. If I pretended that Harry Potter was real half as hard as I pretended I wasn’t with my parents, I would be drinking butterbeer and riding a broom right now.
  • Brad Williams gives a really impressive lap dance:
  • Date Night was like the Nasty Show but less raunchy.  The current line-up is different from the one we saw.  It was hosted by Godfrey, with Debra DiGiovanni, Robert Kelly (different set, thank god), Bob Marley, and Paul Jersey.
  • Here is Godfrey from last year:

We bought our Passports really early so they mailed us tickets for the Passports.  In Montreal, when I went to book the free tickets online, which you can only do starting at 10 am, I realized I didn’t know our Passport numbers and I would have had to book each ticket separately because we had four Passports (I was worried that tickets would sell out and I would have only redeemed tickets for three of us). The website was totally clogged (maybe because of people buying Dave Chappelle). I sat on the computer for a half an hour and then gave up.

Later I called customer service and waited for like 20 minutes.  I would have walked to a box office, but I didn’t know where to go. I spoke to someone who gave me our Passport numbers, but, because it was almost 3 pm, the box office was closing. Which box office? Great question.

The shows are at different theaters, but at the Place des Arts there is a stage and food trucks and info booths and a box office.  The next day, I waited at that office, when it opened at 2 pm, and was told I needed to go somewhere else. The next day my parents went to the other office and learned that the free tickets are only for certain shows (a few magicians, some one man shows, i think some improv groups), and not for the recognizable comedians.

Blah blah blah. We bought tickets to Maria Bamford.

I love Maria Bamford.

  • She performed at the Theatre St Catherine. It was in a sketchy area (for Canada, i guess). Sex shops and burlesque shows, some homeless people. Moshe Kasher was performing right before her and the Midnight Surprise Show (you could get free tickets to that) was right after.
  • It is a small venue so get there early.
  • Jackie Kashian opened for her:
  • Jimmy Carr and Bridget Everett were there. Omg Jimmy Carr has a distinctive laugh.
  • Maria’s Homemade Christmas Special:
  • Maria’s Ask My Mom series:

The day after we left, Todd Glass, Rory Scovel, and Kyle Kinane started performing. And the next week Tig Notaro, Trevor Noah, and Marc Maron were there. They don’t announce the dates until pretty close to the festival so that is kind of inconvenient if you need to book flights/hotels.

Tickets for individual standups are only like $20 (i don’t know about the “solo shows” which were for dave chappelle, bo burnham, and others, although they probably have cheap seats for those shows too).

Besides the festival…

We went to the Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, the Olympic Stadium and the Montreal Tower, and the Biodome.

All of these were nice, but it’s not like I was paying for them.  When I went to Italy my friend and I were much for picky about shelling out money for every attraction, but since this was a family vacay and this was what my parents wanted to see, I was totally game.  Plus, I like art museums.

Out of all of these, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts is the best. It is free, except for special exhibits ($20). The special exhibit while we were there was by Chihuly, who we had seen works by in Florida so we were psyched for that. They have four buildings connected underground. It is near Mount Royal if you want to walk up for the view.

Dale Chihuly. Sexy, huh?

The Contemporary Art Museum is good if you appreciate modern and abstract art. had a lot of installations, like a sink with water and fire coming out of the spout and a bathtub and a rubber hose that would poke out of a hole and then suck back in when you came toward it.  There was a weird Lost-like movie by Eve Sussman about an astronaut in a vaguely Eastern European country who could time travel? was being spied on by the government. The movie had no running time and no order because the clips had codes and algorithms triggered a different sequence every time.

There was an exhibit of music videos such as:

The Olympic Stadium. It is an empty indoor stadium.  Jeez guys, make an exhibit or show me some tv clips from the 1976 Olympics.

The Tower. Boring. But we could see our hotel.

The Biodome. Expensive and small. The insectarium and planetarium were not included in the ticket. In the Biodome (you fight to live!) there are three habitats: the rainforest, a polar environment, and a regular North American forest. The habitats are small, it takes about fifteen minutes to walk through each one. It seemed geared toward younger kids. I felt bad for the animals.

Final thoughts:

  • What a nice family vacation! No one got lost or cried or committed international crimes!
  • Bonjour! Hi! Everything is in deux languages! People look like thin Americans!
  • I wish I had eaten poutine but it didn’t happen. Now I have an excuse to return!
  • You go through customs in Canada, before you leave. And you don’t get a stamp in your passport. The airport people are nice!

Screenwriting Exercises Part 2

Advice from Paul Haggis, screenwriter of Million Dollar Baby and co-screenwriter of Crash.

Need a cure for writer’s block? Try one of these exercises!

If none of these suits your fancy, try Screenwriting Exercises Part 1.

ALLISON BURNETT – Fame (reboot)

  • Subtext! Study scenes to see the difference between what the scene is about on the surface and what it is really about.
  • Here is the scenario: A boy and a girl linger on the stoop.  The boy asks her out, she says “Yes.” He leaves.
  • Perspective 1: Boy has been in love with girl since grade school.  He is certain he will be rejected.
  • Perspective 2: Boy never noticed girl until he heard through the grapevine that she had a crush on him.
  • Perspective 3: Boy and girl have been friends since childhood, but only at school. Boy has just realized his feelings.

LINDA COWGILL – Heads the Screenwriting Dept at LA Film School

  • Conflict between what a character wants and what they need.
  • 1. What does my character want?
  • 2. Why?
  • 3. How do they get it?
  • 4. What do they need?

AMY HOLDEN JAMES – Mystic Pizza, Indecent Proposal, Beethoven

  • Subtext! In real life, people often don’t say what they mean.
  • Write a scene about nothing at all (ex: Hi, How are you, Good, I like your hair, Oh thanks, What have you been up to, Nothing…)
  • Imagine this scene in different contexts
  • Perspective 1: Father and daughter who haven’t seen each other in years, since the father stole the daughter’s savings to support his drug habit
  • Perspective 2: A former soldier and a citizen who lived through their country’s invasion
  • Perspective 3: Husband and wife waiting for their lawyers to arrive to their divorce proceedings

DAVID FREEMAN – Author of Creating Emotion in Games

  • Pick an emotion for a character to experience (ex: sad, anxious, depressed, apathetic)
  • Write a short scene where the character is expressing false emotion (ex: sarcasm, bored, cheerful)
  • The pretense should be good enough that, at the beginning of the scene, the character’s false emotion seems real to the audience.
  • Sprinkle in slip ups that give the audience the feeling that the character’s emotion is false
  • Have someone read the scene
  • Ask them to identify the false and real emotions
  • You’ve done a good job even if they aren’t 100% sure of the real emotion

JUDY KELLEM – Partner in hollywoodscript.com

  • Build subtext in narrative descriptions and stage directions.
  • Wife (anxious) “I love you”
  • She stares across the table, hoping her husband will notice her since she is dressed to the nine’s. He shuffles the mail, opening a letter. Without looking up,
  • Husband (without feeling) “I love you, too.”

CHARLES DEEMER – Author of Practical Screenwriting

  • Use short, simple sentences
  • Don’t be afraid of sentence fragments
  • Write generically: Only use detail that is essential to the story
  • Write vertically!
  • Horizontal writing is bad:
  • They walk down a snow-covered path in silence.  Jack reaches Alice’s gloved hand.  Their breathe is visible in the cool air. A small brown dog bounds up to them, delighting Alice. She kneels to pet him.
  • Vertical writing is good:
  • A snowy path.
  • Jack and Alice stroll hand-in-hand.
  • A dog bounds over to Alice.
  • She kneels to pet him.

BILLY FROLICK – MADAGASCAR

  • Don’t use fragments. Use effective prose.
  • Don’t be redundant (ex: Does a rundown gas station require any more description?)
  • Watch a movie and pick a scene.  Watch it several times.
  • Write the scene.  Rewrite it until you think it reaches a professional level.
  • Compare your version to the published script.

DEVORAH CUTLER-RUBENSTEIN – Author of “What’s the Big Idea?” Writing Shorts

  • A button is the “aha” moment that creates a sense of completion to a scene
  • Bringing it full circle, a callback, a punchline

GLEN MAZZARA – Show runner of Hawthorne, writing Hancock 2

  • Remember to write a hero that a lead actor will want to play
  • Hero must drive action, not be passive
  • Hero can’t be in a scene for two lines saying “Hi,” and “No, thanks.”

James Adomian

James Adomain is a NY comic, who performs with UCB, and who was on Last Comic Standing.

This video has his bit about gay villains.  Or villains that aren’t out but are suggested to be gay.

I know I read an article about this but I can’t find it. Anyway, the point is that often times, television and movies make the villain gay or make the gay person the villain. Maybe they are trying to meet a quota? Diversity?

“We need one black, gay, female villain!”

Than the rest of the cast can be straight white men and a few beautiful background girls for them to have sex with.

Off the top of my head:

  • The Simpsons – Mr. Burns
  • Downton Abbey – Thomas
  • The 300 – King Xerxes
  • Glee – Karofsky
  • The Lion King – Scar
  • True Blood – Queen Sophie-Anne
  • Law & Order: Criminal Intent – Nicole Wallace
  • Desperate Housewives – Andrew Van De Kamp
  • Sons of Anarchy – Agent June Stahl

Screenwriting Exercises Part 1

NOW WRITE! Screenwriting

Edited by Sherry Ellis and Laurie Lamson

One of the best ways to improve your writing is to write a lot.  Produce a volume of work and, over time, that way that you write and the way that you wish that you wrote will get closer together. Ira says it better:

NOW WRITE! includes 95 exercises, divided into the following categories:

  1. Choosing Your Story
  2. Get Writing
  3. Structure
  4. Theme
  5. Crafting Scenes
  6. Character Development
  7. Verbal/Nonverbal Communication
  8. Revision
  9. Now What?

Below I noted writing exercises, questions to ask yourself, and things to think about that seemed useful or unusual.

I have another post of more exercises coming up next week.

The book gives a little autobiography of each contributor; I included their most notable accomplishment.

PART 1

MARDIK MARTIN – The Last Waltz, Raging Bull

  • People don’t identify with characters, they identify with conflict
  • Write about conflict that you experience or observe
  • Antagonist is the conflict-giver, key to starting point

HAL ACKERMAN – UCLA Faculty

  • Write about your most cringe worthy memories

ALAN WATT – Author of Diamond Dogs

  • List your fears
  • Being conscious of our fears prevents them from ruling us
  • Connect the root of your fear to your hero
  • Ex: I’m afraid my script will suck = Fear of failure

BRAD RIDDELL – Teaches at USC and Spalding U

  • Separate 15 notes cards in to 3 piles of 5
  • Actors
  • Genre
  • Location
  • Pick one from each pile and develop a treatment

CHRIS SOTH – Firestorm

  • Good movies have dramatic tension
  • A good film has a satisfying resolution
  • Tension = Hope versus Fear

DAVID TROTTER – Author of The Screenwriter’s Bible

  • Make a grid so you have an overview of your characters’ actions/arc
  • Helps with pacing/plot
  • For each scene, list the characters involved and their actions

MICHAEL HAUGE – Author of Writing Screenplays That Sell

  • What is your hero’s wound? Think about how you will reveal this wound to the audience.
  • What is the unconscious belief created by the wounding experience?
  • As a result of that belief, what is my hero’s deepest emotional fear?
  • The hero’s disguise their wound by adopting a protective persona.
  • Think about the hero’s true identity, the one that they shield.  Who are they really or who do they have the potential to become?
  • What actions will the hero take to shed their false persona?
  • The love interest is the one person who can see beyond the hero’s protective identity and love them for who they are.
  • Your lovers are in conflict when the hero/both of them retreats into protective identity; they connect when act as their true selves.

KARL IGLESIAS – Author of The 101 Habits of Highly Successful Screenwriters

  • Think about the emotions that you want the audience to experience
  • Ex: anticipation, tension, suspense, amusement, fear, worry, relief, empathy, enmity
  • Look at your plot points in term of emotional response.
  • Ex: Princess Leia is captured by Darth Vader – Audience feelings awe, empathy for Leia, enmity for Vader, worry

The 8 Characters of Comedy

The Eight Characters of Comedy: A Guide to SitCom Acting & Writing

By Scott Sedita

If you are looking for a breakdown of the formulas of comedy, I recommend this book.

Remember, A) just because you use the archetypes that Sedita identifies, it doesn’t mean your show/character will be hackneyed and B) just because a character is primarily of these 8 doesn’t mean that they don’t explore other sides of their personality.

Who are the 8 Characters?

  1. The Logical Smart One – responsible, stable
  2. The Lovable Loser – sarcastic, optimistic, needy, impulsive
  3. The Neurotic – awkward, nervous, controlling, worried
  4. The Dumb One – friendly, naïve, gullible, no ulterior motive
  5. The Bitch/Bastard – mean, insensitive, insecure, doesn’t apologize
  6. The Womanizer/Manizer (AKA “Slutty Spice”) – charming, seductive, horny, superficial
  7. The Materialistic One – judgmental, entitled, spoiled
  8. In Their Own Universe (AKA “Spacy Spice”) – odd, eccentric, uses illogical logic

I tried to find these characters in sitcoms that I watched. There is definitely room for interpretation and, for a long-lasting series, like Friends, characters will probably take a turn in each of these archetypes.

Post a list for your favorite show or let me know if you disagree with my lists.

Arrested Development

  1. The Logical Smart One – Michael, George Sr., George Michael (sometimes Maeby)
  2. The Lovable Loser – George Michael, Tobias
  3. The Neurotic – Tobias, George Michael
  4. The Dumb One – Gob, Maeby
  5. The Bitch/Bastard – Lucille
  6. The Womanizer/Manizer – Gob/Lindsay
  7. The Materialistic One – Lindsay
  8. In Their Own Universe – Buster

Friends

  1. The Logical Smart One – Monica (occasionally Chandler, Ross, Monica, Phoebe)
  2. The Lovable Loser – Ross, Chandler (I think all of them have moments here)
  3. The Neurotic – Monica, Chandler, Ross (same here)
  4. The Dumb One – Joey
  5. The Bitch/Bastard – None, they are Friends!
  6. The Womanizer/Manizer – Joey
  7. The Materialistic One – Rachel (this kind of faded away overtime)
  8. In Their Own Universe – Phoebe

Will & Grace

  1. The Logical Smart One – Will
  2. The Lovable Loser – Will, Grace
  3. The Neurotic – Will, Grace
  4. The Dumb One – Jack
  5. The Bitch/Bastard – Jack, Karen
  6. The Womanizer/Manizer – Jack? (I think all of them spend time here)
  7.  The Materialistic One – Jack, Grace
  8.  In Their Own Universe – Jack, Karen

Scrubs

  1. The Logical Smart One – Carla, Turk
  2. The Lovable Loser – JD
  3. The Neurotic – Eliot
  4. The Dumb One – Todd
  5. The Bitch/Bastard – Perry, Kelso,
  6. The Womanizer/Manizer -Todd
  7. The Materialistic One – Eliot
  8. In Their Own Universe (AKA “The Spacy One”) – Janitor

Community

  1. The Logical Smart One – Shirley, Troy
  2. The Lovable Loser – Britta
  3. The Neurotic – Annie
  4. The Dumb One – Pierce
  5. The Bitch/Bastard – Jeff, Pierce
  6. The Womanizer/Manizer – Jeff?
  7. The Materialistic One – Jeff
  8. In Their Own Universe (AKA “The Spacy One”) – Abed, Chang, Dean

Sedita lays out some comedy guidelines. Obligatory Note: All rules are meant to be broken.

Rules of Comedy:

  1. Chose a specific character with specific personality traits
  2. Be committed to the character
  3. Good comedy comes from pain and conflict
  4. Follow the script and punctuation (for delivery, know your lines and make to pause for commas and periods)
  5. Be Louder!
  6. Be Faster!
  7. Be Funnier!
  8. Hold for laughs (if in front of a crowd or live-audience)
  9. Don’t mug for a laugh/ Don’t distract from verbal humor with physical movement
  10. Have fun!

Sedita, who teaches acting classes, promotes a simple and easy-to-remember method of character analysis.

Analyze the Script (WOFAIM):

  • Want – What does the character want?
  • Obstacle – What obstacles are standing in the way?
  • Feeling – What feelings will you explore in the scene?
  • As If – What is your personal substitution? What can you draw from in your own life to relate to your character?
  • Intentions – What will your character do to get what they want? What actions will they take?
  • Moment Before – What was happening before this scene? Physically and emotionally, where is your character coming from?

I’mwriting screenplay, a comedy, with my friend and, since I don’t have experience with writing fiction, I found this to be helpful. The point of Sedita’s book isn’t to put your characters in a box or provide a rote method of acting or writing, but to open your eyes to commonly used character types that allow for conflict (which will lead to funny situations).