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Fun Joel's Screenwriting Blog


-- On Screenwriting and Related Topics

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Location: Los Angeles, CA

I moved from NYC to LA in October, 2003. And though I still think NYC is the greatest city in the world, I'm truly loving life here in the City of Angels. I'm a writer, reader, and occasional picture-taker.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Off the Trapeze

I once heard a metaphor about life. Imagine a person swinging from one trapeze to the next. (Or if you prefer, think of it as vines in a jungle, with Tarzan swinging from one to the next.) In order to move from one to the next, the swinger has to let go of the first one, fly momentarily through the open air, until he grabs onto the next one.

Now, the idea is that the moment of greatest danger for the swinger (he could easily plummet into the abyss) is also the necessary moment in order to progress. Otherwise, he'd just stagnate in that one spot, swinging backwards and forwards incessantly. He'd seem like he was in motion, but he wouldn't actually be moving forwards at all.

Because of that, it is those moments of transition -- those moments when you are in the most danger of falling -- that life is truly being lived to the fullest. Those moments are the essence of life, and the moments when true progress is achieved.

Why do I write this now? Well, events have conspired lately so that a few different aspects of my life are simultaneously shifting, and I find myself flying over that abyss without a firm hold on either the trapeze I've left or the one I'm aiming to grab onto. What do I mean specifically?

Firstly, the two companies for whom I currently do most of my reading work are both in major flux, and my future there is uncertain. I obviously hope to continue reading for them, but who knows what will happen? That's one big portion of my career and my income which is now in question.

Secondly, the Untitled Safari Picture. I don't want to go into many details here, but I will say that certain things have changed following a discussion I had with the producers today. Essentially, we are moving on to the next step, though we haven't fully settled everything with this step. We have also slightly modified the terms of our initial agreement, in conjunction with this. Why is this like going from one trapeze to the next? Well, all along, this process has been unfamiliar territory to me. I've learned a lot in the process, and had plenty of fun as well. But I was always experiencing things for the first time, encountering new challenges, and dealing with them as they arose.

But with these current changes to our process, I find myself in even more uncharted waters. This shift may simply be the result of the different ways in which I and the producers work. Or it could be due to other issues, and due to my inexperience in dealing with such matters, I'm not aware of it. I'm obviously hopeful that the former is more the case, and that all will be wonderful once I complete the next stage of our process. But I am certainly in a place of uncertainty.

The unknown can be a stressful place, but it can also be a wonderful one. I'm a bit nervous about all of these changes in my life, but I'm also optimistic, hopeful and looking forward to the next trapeze, stretching out my arms to grab it firmly. Should you find yourselves in similar territory with anything, feel free to fall back on this metaphor as well and use it as a means of finding comfort in the unfamiliar territory! And remember another metaphor I once heard: if nothing in life ever changed, there would never be any butterflies, just caterpillars.

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Monday, February 25, 2008

In which I post about Oscar, and probably sound bitter or cynical, even though I'm not

A few brief notes on the Oscars last night. Not directly connected to each other, and in no particular order.

Didn't think it was a particularly good show. A few good laughs, etc. But not much. Opening monologue had some real yucks, but then there were a bunch of political jokes that had nothing at all to do with movies. I don't mind a little political humor thrown in, if it is tied to the subject of the night. But this got silly, I thought.

The truth is, I didn't think this was a very good year for movies overall. Yes, there were certainly a few excellent movies, but I don't feel that most of the winners are the types that will become classics, and will be watched over and over down the road. Plus, I feel as if the number of really great movies this year was fewer than in most "good" movie years.

I'm really happy for the brothers Coen. I am a very big fan, as you probably know. But I must be honest. I simply don't get No Country for Old Men. I know a lot of people hated the ending. That's actually not what bugged me. And I also didn't hate the film or anything. I just don't really understand it. I liked some of the stuff along the way, and was interested, generally speaking. But all in all, I just felt empty, and not particularly emotionally affected. How was I supposed to feel? What were they trying to say or accomplish? I guess vaguely that it had something to do with fate, choice and responsibility for one's actions. But more than that, I don't know. Maybe I'll have to watch it again.

Now what about Diablo's Oscar? I truly loved Juno, and I'm excited for her on her win. It is a great story anytime anyone wins an Oscar with their first film effort. And I believe I spoke about Juno before. I was extremely impressed with the script. She accomplished much in her first screenplay that I still have trouble doing, and which I see many writers still failing to accomplish even after getting a lot of scripts under their belts. At the same time, did it really deserve an Oscar? I'm not so sure. To be honest, it was the only film in that category (Original Screenplay) that I saw. So I can't compare it to the others. Maybe it was the best of those. But in truth, I think if she didn't have the colorful backstory as a PR speaking point, she might not have even come close to winning this.

That is not to say I begrudge her win at all. In fact, I love these exciting surprise underdog type stories. I've always reveled in the fact that films like Annie Hall and Silence of the Lambs won Best Picture Oscars, since they are such atypical films for that award. So this is no different in my book. And as I said, I did really love the film. (I'd also say that combining a few of my thoughts in here, an argument could certainly be made for Jason Reitman over the Coen's for Directing. He's rapidly become one of my favorite new-ish directors.) I'm just saying that her Oscar might be more the result of PR hype than actually deserving it.

And yet, I offer her my utmost congratulations, and will definitely go see her next films!

Okay, so chime in with angry comments about how stupid I am, explications of No Country, defenses of Oscar's decisions, etc. :-)

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Saturday, February 23, 2008

Finally: Africa Pictures!

I finally got back my pictures from Africa a couple of weeks ago, and have been busy, which is why I haven't posted them yet. But now I'm uploading some of the best and/or most interesting ones here. These are culled from about 500 pictures I took, and there are 2 that I didn't take (the ones with me in them). I believe you can click on them to see larger images. All rights are reserved by copyright holder for these shots, overriding the Creative Commons license below.

Some of you have asked to see them, so I figure it relates enough to my work to put them up on the blog! I hope you enjoy. (I'm not great with formatting on Blogger, so forgive me if this looks weird. And forget me trying to caption them in an easy fashion. So I'll just post them. If you're curious about any of them, just ask and try to describe which one you mean, and I'll try to respond!)

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Get Into the Groove, Boy...

As you know, I did a lot of traveling this past Fall. And though I felt extremely lucky to have had all those wonderful opportunities (though I love traveling, I have never done very much of it), it also wreaked quite a bit of havoc on my life. Every time I got back into town and started to catch up on stuff, I was out the door again and on my way to LAX, only to fall behind again.

So while I definitely got some good work done in January, the month was mostly dedicated to catching up and getting myself back into the groove of regular life. But now that we're already into the second month of 2008, I'm looking ahead and trying to make some serious progress on a number of things that I've started this past month.

One of those things will be more regular blogging (though I wasn't terrible about it this past month), through which you'll likely hear more about many of the other things.

I need to update you all on the Safari Picture, which has again shifted shape, but about which I'm pretty excited. I also may have some other writing and rewriting work to discuss. We shall see about that. But keep your eyes peeled.

Still, the most relevant to you all, at the moment, is that I hope to be launching a website very soon, and with that will be a redesign and upgrade of this blog. So, being the open-minded individual I am, I'd love to get your feedback and suggestions.

What are some of your favorite features of this blog, or others that you think I should try to incorporate more? What types of my posts do you like best or worst? Is there anything you think I'm missing out on overall?

I'm not looking to overhaul my content much (though if there is a type of post that many people like, I may try to do more of those). More an overhaul of design and functionality. So please do chime in, either in the comments, or via direct email to me.

Finally, I know my sidebar links are long overdue for a revisit. I plan to stick with my prior policy, which is that I try to be selective about which blogs I link to, instead of just linking to anyone who asks. This is not to be elitist or critical, but just that with the explosion of the Scribosphere, the signal-to-noise ratio has dropped significantly. So I want to keep that ratio within my links more in the opposite direction.

That being said, if you have a blog you think I should check out to consider linking to, let me know and I'll definitely take it under advisement! (And if you know I read your blog regularly, but aren't in my links yet, no need to remind me. It just means that you are one of those links I've been meaning to add for ages, but haven't gotten to yet. Sorry!)

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