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Friday, December 17, 2010

dare to dream

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Manish Acharya R.I.P

He will be missed.He had a genuine and unique voice.A true talent

R.I.P Manish Acharya The video below is a tribute by his cast and crew members from 'Loins of Punjab'


Saturday, November 13, 2010

so utterly true

"On the 1st day of shooting, all the talking you've done becomes academic; you put it in a bag, seal it up & throw it away. But all of it is right there in your head, and it had better be in your hands as well because the director can't deal with it anymore. He has other problems."-Laszlo Kovacs, ASC

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Monday, October 25, 2010

ahem..

I find my stories or my stories find me, In either case we are both on a journey to find each other.

When we meet? Well that's for the storyteller to decide...

60 Best Blogs for Aspiring Screenwriters

60 Best Blogs for Aspiring Screenwriters

Check it out. Great Links!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

it says so in the book


"When you cross the valley of tears, and you arrive to the oasis, the reward of God is not success, it’s not money, it’s not admiration or fame, it’s not power. His reward is rest."

hmm...

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Note to self

I am on a lifelong path as a creative person.  That path has many twists and turns.  Sometimes I feel good about where I am.  Other times, not so much.  But even if I feel lost, I am still on the path.  I am always on the path.  And even if I feel like I'm slipping backward, I'm actually moving forward because I'm continually learning about my craft.  Indeed I learn as much or more from when I'm feeling lost as when I'm feeling good about my writing.  It's all part of my creative process.  And I trust the process. ~mantra for the creative soul.


Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Jack Kerouac!

He has been called "the King of the beats." His books include "The Subterraneans," "The Dharma Bums," and his most famous work "On The Road." He laid out 30 essentials to his approach to writing which is sometimes called "spontaneous prose":





  1. Scribbled secret notebooks, and wild typewritten pages, for your own joy
  2. Submissive to everything, open, listening
  3. Try never get drunk outside your own house
  4. Be in love with your life
  5. Something that you feel will find its own form
  6. Be crazy dumbsaint of the mind
  7. Blow as deep as you want to blow
  8. Write what you want bottomless from bottom of the mind
  9. The unspeakable visions of the individual
  10. No time for poetry but exactly what is
  11. Visionary tics shivering in the chest
  12. In tranced fixation dreaming upon object before you
  13. Remove literary, grammatical and syntactical inhibition
  14. Like Proust be an old teahead of time
  15. Telling the true story of the world in interior monolog
  16. The jewel center of interest is the eye within the eye
  17. Write in recollection and amazement for yrself
  18. Work from pithy middle eye out, swimming in language sea
  19. Accept loss forever
  20. Believe in the holy contour of life
  21. Struggle to sketch the flow that already exists intact in mind
  22. Don't think of words when you stop but to see picture better
  23. Keep track of every day the date emblazoned in yr morning
  24. No fear or shame in the dignity of yr experience, language & knowledge
  25. Write for the world to read and see yr exact pictures of it
  26. Bookmovie is the movie in words, the visual American form
  27. In praise of Character in the Bleak inhuman Loneliness
  28. Composing wild, undisciplined, pure, coming in from under, crazier the better
  29. You're a Genius all the time
  30. Writer-Director of Earthly movies Sponsored & Angeled in Heaven

Sunday, July 04, 2010

15 Elements of Action-Adventure Scripts


 http://static.giantbomb.com/uploads/original/0/4364/217929-indiana_jones_atlantis_1.jpg


Action-adventure scripts seem to always be in demand. They’re big business for Hollywood – making up the industries main tentpole films each year. Let’s look at some of the essential elements of the genre:
1. The “Big Idea” PremiseAction–adventure films are most often high-concept with a main storyline that involves the hero saving the world from destruction. More frequently action-adventure films have franchise/series potential.
2. The Hero is an “Average Guy” or “Larger than Life” CharacterThe Average Guy hero (John McClain in Die Hard, Neo in The Matrix) is an unwilling participant who gets himself into a predicament and is forced to take action. The “Larger than Life” hero (such as Batman) is already prepared to fight and save the day and doesn’t usually require any convincing to take action. Sometimes the Action-Adventure hero is an “anti-hero” character (such as Danny Ocean in Ocean’s 11.)
3. High StakesThe stakes for the hero are often extremely high: the destruction of earth by an asteroid (Armageddon), the death of innocent hostages held in a skyscraper (Die Hard), the annihilation of entire planets by a space-station super-weapon (Star Wars)
4. Plot-DrivenAction-adventure films are plot-driven. The events that make up the story’s plot consist of the hero’s efforts to thwart the villain’s plan.
5. Present a “Good vs. Evil” Theme
The theme of action-adventure stories is basically “good vs. evil”. This theme is often narrowed and personalized based on the hero’s emotional stakes (for instance, Lethal Weapon’s narrowed theme focuses on the importance of family.) The hero almost always reflects and upholds the current morals of society.
6. A Title that Reflects The Action and Content of the StoryA vibrant title that evokes the action, adventure, and premise of the story is a key component to the genre. (Iron Man, Terminator, Lethal Weapon, Braveheart, Die Hard, Armageddon)
7. The Villain Has a Masterful PlanThe villain’s plan provides the catalyst for the hero’s adventure. The villain’s plan sets up the hero’s goal (which is to stop the villain’s plan.)
8. The Villain Is More Powerful than the HeroCreating a villain that is more powerful than the hero forces the protagonist to transform. In action-adventure films where the protagonist is a “Larger than Life” character, the hero often has a weakness the villain can exploit (such as kryptonite against Superman.)
9. The Hero and The Villain Do Battle to the “Death”Though the obligatory scene (the final battle between the protagonist and the antagonist) does not always involve the literal “death” of the villain, the hero always triumphs in some way – even if the hero dies in the battle.
10. Contain Plenty of Action SequencesThe core of an action-adventure film is of course, action: violence, car chases, gun battles, fistfights, explosions, martial arts, and foot pursuits. The average action-adventure film contains nine action sequences that put the hero in physical jeopardy.
11. Big Set Piece(s)A set piece is a memorable scene that stands alone. In an action-adventure film the big set piece (or set pieces) is an organic extension of the action sequences, such as the train wreck in The Fugitive, the plane crash landing on the Vegas Strip in Con Air, and the famous car chase in the film Bullitt.
12. Snappy DialogueMost action-adventure films contain snappy dialogue, especially in stories where the hero has a buddy or ally or mentor to spar with. Another common dialogue element is the hero’s payback line delivered to the bad guy. (“Do you feel lucky? Well, do you punk?”)
13. A Ticking Clock ScenarioMany action-adventure films use a ticking-clock scenario, which creates urgency, heightens tension and increases suspense. Examples include the ticking bomb in Die Hard, the amount of time available to pull off the heist in Ocean’s 11, the countdown to the asteroid striking Earth inArmageddon, and the deadline for getting a prisoner on a train in 3:10 to Yuma
14. Incorporates Mythical Story StructureCampbell’s hero’s journey is often, though not always, used as the foundation for action-adventure films. Star WarsThe Matrix, and Lord of the Rings are a few examples to study.
15. Vertical, Active WritingVertical writing creates an immediate, active experience for the reader. Action expressed in few words moves faster. The action-adventure writer leaves plenty of white-space on the page by breaking long sentences or important moments of action into short phrases and presenting them as separate lines of description (instead of paragraphs.) Action scripts use tight writing full of sound elements (BOOM, CRASH, BANG) and active verbs – and avoid adjectives, which stall action.
YOUR TURN: What additional elements are essential to the action-adventure genre?
STAY-TUNED: In the next post we will examine two classic action-adventure scenes.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse


A film which virtually tested the limits of sanity and mortality of one Mr.Francis Coppola. Hearts of Darkness is a fascinating documentary on the making of Apocalypse Now and a revealing character study of the movie director.

A must watch for anyone who didn't know, that some of the bravest, insanest minds and hearts on the planet are maverick movie directors who go after something so intangible...

Isn't this the ultimate dream and purpose of every filmmaker. Chasing the Intangible.

and finding it...

I've had my mini Apocalypse experience. I think it changed me. But am waiting for more. No filmmakers life or career is complete without an experience like the Apocalypse.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0102015/

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Walkabout Walkabout.


This is a breathtakingly beautiful poetry on film.

The following verses read out at the end of the film sum up the movie perfectly.

"Into my heart an air that kills
From yon far country blows:
What are those blue remembered hills,
What spires, what farms are those?
That is the land of lost content,
I see it, shining plain,
The happy highways where I went
And cannot come again."

-A. E. Houseman

Watch the movie, the chance you get.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0067959/

THE BEST MOVIES OF ALL TIME-MAP

Friday, May 28, 2010

Conservation Cove



In one word what do a documentaries want to achieve? CHANGE. another word. SPREAD. yet another. KNOWLEDGE. and another AWARENESS.

The Cove achieves all of this and more. An absolutely stunning piece of vigilante documentarism, its sole aim to bring to light to the world the INHUMAN way in which dolphins are massacred by the japanese fishing industries for meat and recreational purposes.
Its amazing what one can achieve if you get the right kind of people in your team. The documentary follows a group of individuals who all come together to highlight this problem. It has its share of suspense, crime and thrilling moments. But more than all that, it will simply change the way you think about FISH the next time you eat it. And your respect for the beloved DOLPHIN will grow manifold.

I have so much respect for animal conservationists and environmental conservationists. Their passion for nature, the ocean and animals who cant defend themselves against human cruelty is so INSPIRING. What a life some of these characters in this documentary have lived. Every child, every adult. Every human being who has ever thought about conservation or not, must watch this documentary. Thats how important this is.

This documentary shows, how powerful a visual medium is. It brought change, across the world! WOW.

Just Mindblowing stuff. Watch!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Lovely Looking Film



Lovely Bones- Directed by Peter Jackson. The movie has the most beautiful special effects you could ever see. What can be more challenging for a vfx guy than being asked to create heaven, or in this case the middle world, filled with heaven bound spirits and dreamy imagery. The challenge for the vfx team is to create that highway to heaven that a soul needs to travel. So gorgeous to look at. Am really sad I didn't get to watch this visual spectacle on the big screen. Once again. Simply Gorgeous to look at. Only Peter Jackson's head could have come up with all that imagery. Magical.

When we come to the story though. It starts off with a very interesting premise. A girl dies. She's murdered and raped by a neighbour. Her parents are naturally devastated with the tragedy. Her father however is driven to find answers, to help him, his daughters soul lends a hand, showing him-telling him, where the answers lie. But time is running out. For the girl and the father.

The rest of the story is about how the girl has to make a choice of getting her soul to heaven or helping her father find the killer who is lurking in their own neighbourhood. A good one hour of the film really hooks you with the story telling, but it gets a little tame towards the end, and a very  un-fulfilling climax. The screenplay could've been better I suppose. Regardless still a good watch.

There is so much to learn from the masters of the trade.sigh.

Gautama's Circle Of Red


"Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, drew a circle with a piece of red chalk and said: 'When men, even unknowingly, are to meet one day, whatever may befall each, whatever the diverging paths, on the said day, they will inevitably come together in the red circle.'"

Le Cercle Rouge- A chance meeting on the road. Two guys on the wrong side of the law. One a murderer and the other a thief. They form a team, helping each other out of their own mess while travelling between Marseille and Paris. They decide to team up for a heist together. All this while being pursued by a veteran cop whose got to proove something. The murderer having escaped from him earlier.
Whats really cool is, the film is very unhurried but never feels sluggish. This is old school story telling. A forgotten craft.
Sometimes there is so much you can learn as a character takes his time going up the steps or through his room to answer the door bell. Old school editing. Very interesting to watch. And used effectively in this film.
Very atmospheric, 70's Paris-gorgeous to look at, very minimal dialog, most of the film is all 'eyes' and directed with such craft. You don't really empathize with the characters but you still are riveted by the drama which unfolds. A climax, which takes you by surprise.

Jean Pierre Melville's classic. Unmissable.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0065531/ 

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

motivational wisdom for the soul

Here, I’ll share 20 of my favorite inspirational quotes. I won’t include any commentary because the quotes speak for themselves.
“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” – Albert Einstein
“The best years of your life are the ones in which you decide your problems are your own. You do not blame them on your mother, the ecology, or the president. You realize that you control your own destiny.” – Albert Ellis
“The trouble with not having a goal is that you can spend your life running up and down the field and never score.” – Bill Copeland
“If what you’re doing is not your passion, you have nothing to lose.”
“The person who says something is impossible should not interrupt the person who is doing it.”
“It is never too late to be what you might have been.” – George Eliot
“All our dreams can come true – if we have the courage to pursue them.” – Walt Disney
“What the mind can conceive, it can achieve.” – Napoleon Hill
“It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare; it is because we do not dare that things are difficult.” – Seneca
“Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt
“Gravitation is not responsible for people falling in love.” -Albert Einstein.
“If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.” -Milton Berle
“The sky has never been the limit. We are our own limits. It’s then about breaking our personal limits and outgrowing ourselves to live our best lives.”
“Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michaelangelo, Mother Teresea, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.” – Life’s Little Instruction Book, compiled by H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
“First they ignore you. Then they laugh at you. Then they fight you. Then you win.” – Mahatma Gandhi
“When you can’t change the direction of the wind — adjust your sails.” ~ H. Jackson Brown
“Everything you want should be yours: the type of work you want; the relationships you need; the social, mental, and aesthetic stimulation that will make you happy and fulfilled; the money you require for the lifestyle that is appropriate to you; and any requirement that you may (or may not) have for achievement or service to others. If you don’t aim for it all, you’ll never get it all. To aim for it requires that you know what you want” ~ Richard Koch
“The best years of your life are the ones in which you decide your problems are your own. You do not blame them on your mother, the ecology, or the president. You realize that you control your own destiny.” – Albert Ellis
“Confidence comes not from always being right but not fearing to be wrong”
“Your time is limited, don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living the result of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinion drowned your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition, they somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” – Steve Jobs

Monday, May 24, 2010

Lets smoke up some conscience?



Nick Naylor played by Aaron Eckhart is a lobbyist for the big tobacco firms in the United States. His job is to convince the public at large that its okay to smoke. No two ways about it. He does this with all the professionalism, integrity and passion that a soldier might bring onto the battlefield. He truly believes there's nothing wrong in doing his job and through his son we understand what lobbyists actually do and how they make a living.

Jason Reitman's first feature bristles with energy that comes with a fresh new voice. Although Juno is still my favorite, followed by Up In The Air. 'Thank you for smoking' leaves you with a great impression of the directors talent. However if one were to ask, what the point of the film was and what sorta journey did the protagonist go through. I'm not too sure about those answers. He does what he does, like he says, 'to pay the mortgage'.

Stylistic in its narration and wonderfully acted by Aaron Eckhart. Thank you for smoking is also quite funny. More like black humour. The character hangs out-best friends are fellow lobbyists from the alcohol and gun control industries. That was pure imagery I suppose.

I guess the point of the film was, to make us look a little inwards about all the choices we make, a be honest about why we make them. That's it. That's what I got from it.

Interesting film, from a very important director.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0427944/

Notes on a poet.


The most modest of homes for a giant of man.

I sat on a chair waiting for him.

I see his household, where time stood still.

A cup of hot coffee, as I glance at my boss. Wondering whats in store.

A small temple, agarbattis and potraits, a sign of his devotion.

Saraswati is in the air.

We're called into his room.

Sitting up on his bed, he smiles. I notice his feet, they must've walked many a mile.

His voice grainy but solid. His eyes all knowing. I know he is frail and ailing. I also know he is very strong.

What does a young man know about what time tells. He must surely think looking at me. I look down in reverence.

Conversations ensue, as I sit mutely. Watching a poet at work, my first oppurtunity.

A ball point pen and note pad. Enough for him to turn them to gold. He's written some and wants to recite.

I hear, but dont understand much. My boss thinks it over. Its probably divine.

Conversations flit past the song and into experiences and verses. I listen. Not knowing much. But enough to know its a moment in time.
Several such meetings, not one word spoken. Just mute observations of a man at work.

I understand his legacy and his work. I respect it to be mute in his presence. There is nothing I can add or discuss with a such a giant.

All I can do is keep an eager ear and listen to verses I am lucky to hear.

I wonder why he lives, such a simple life. I am told of his past and nod with awe.

What is his due, the world simply cannot pay. What is his worth, other poets must write.
I know this much. While I may not have grown up with him, I did grow when I was with him.

Legends dont die. Such men must only be celebrated. For he has served his creator well. For he has made us richer, more than we'll ever know.

Long Live, The Poet.

'Look into your heart'...I see Millers Crossing.



Millers Crossing-A Coen brothers classic. The tale revolves around two warring gangsters in the prohibition era. Tom Regan played by Gabriel Byrne is a second in command to a lead gangster Leo (Albert Finney). Double crosses, an affair with the boss's girl, being beaten up every second day, all comes in a days work for Tom Regan, a true noir ani hero. His loyalties suspect, he moves to the other side, working with rival gangster Casper. What are the angles in the story? What is the play? Makes for an intruiging piece of cinema. With a music score that seems to go against the grain of the film, it builds on you hauntingly over time. Beautifully shot by Barry Sonnenfield. Wonderful black humour and violence that comes from nowhere, really gut wrenching stuff.

This movie a True Classic Coen brothers film. Terrific craft, story telling and acting.

Watch! You will doff your hat off to it. This a film made my masters of the cinema.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0100150/

Beam me up!


JJ Abrams does a great job in ressurecting Start Trek. An 'enterprise' which didnt seem like it had any future in cinema. The revisionist version is derived from what must've been a fabulous screenplay. Action, Adventure, Discovery, Comedy, Romance-Love, Redemption and Sacrifice all put together is a fun roller coaster ride of a film. Not to mention great TIME WARPS, BLACK HOLE THEORIES AND DESOLATE PLANETS!
The CGI is great, but JJ keeps in mind the original costumes and the main control room in this version. Not to mention the Start Ship Enterprise. Whats missing though is the original score of Star Trek, I missed it. They must have done a newer version of it, however I didnt seem to get it. Was entirely missing.

The story revolves around a younger Mr.Spock and the rebellious new recruit James Kirk, before they got to be great friends. With Mr.Spock being the reason for everything thats happening in the movie. Mr.Spocks ability to shock people by pressing down on their neck (most of us would remember doing this in school to each other) and The Enterprises ability of beaming people from one place to another always in the nick of time is great fun to watch.

I missed watching this on IMAX, it would have been great. But for people who might have been wary of catching Star Trek, I highly recommend that you do. Its a superb watch. The best CGI films are ones that have a STORY which is CUTTING EDGE and a thrill RIDE. That Star Trek, surely is...

JJ Abrams is a real whiz kid.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Roger Ebert on Udaan

Although India has the world's second most active film industry, "Udaan,"by Vikramaditya Motwane, is its first competition entry in seven years. It's well made, involving, but (to my eyes at least) not particularly Indian. This story could have been set anywhere; it doesn't depend on location, but on personalities.
The hero, Rohan (Rajat Barmecha), is the son of a manufacturer, sent into storage for eight years at one of Indian's best boarding schools. He and his high-spirited friends get caught after hours in a cinema, he's expelled and sent home, and discovers only at that point that his father remarried, the marriage "didn't work out," and he has a young half-brother.

The father is a tyrant with no gift for parenthood. The son is determined to be a writer. The father won't hear of this. I hear the same thing over and again from Korean, Chinese, Japanese and Indian friends: If you want to do something artistic with your life instead of being a doctor or scientist, etc., you risk being disowned.
The story is told with force and conviction, and the Indian TV actor Ronit Roy is scary and effective as the father. The character isn't a sadist and martinet because he enjoys it, he conveys, but because he considers it his duty. Apparently he was shaped that way in childhood, and his son is lucky that boarding school spared him the same fate.
Perhaps when I say the film isn't especially "Indian" I am expecting something more exotic. But India has one of the world's largest middle classes, and its members spend very little time riding around on elephants. They are, I suppose, something like those we see here, with problems we can identify with.
note:
I cant comprehend Eberts ideas of exotic India, but am happy the film is receiving a positive buzz.

The Food We Eat Is The Person We Are.....

Do we really ever take the time to sit back and think about what we eat. Food Inc is a very insightful documentary on the American food industry and how it has manipulated our food habits over the past 50 years. Why should farm grown vegetables be more expensive than a can of soda or a hamburger. How many calories and ...transfat is actually in all the fast food our young generation is consuming. We all need to have a second look at everything we eat. Our forefathers 50 years ago, definetely lived longer and healthier. Where are we going wrong? I think its more relevant for us in India, now that there has been a deluge of American products. Have we sat down to think about all those poultry farms and meat farms in the outskirts of our city, how are they treating the animals, what sorts of hormones they feed them gets into our system. Very very interesting and informative stuff.We in India also need to take an initiative. Lets try and support the
local farmer/butcher/poultry guy. Lets make the move to true organic
food grown locally. Makes you want to make that effort to eat healthy and more importantly make sure the generation after you is healthier. I feel strongly about this. Take the time to watch this fantastic documentary.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1286537/

Thursday, May 20, 2010

A Steven Spielberg 'Joke' I Found On The Net.

Steven Spielberg dies and goes to heaven, and St. Peter says, "Oh, Mr Spielberg, we're so happy you're here. God has a very important assignment for you; we need you to make a movie. You can have your choice of anyone you want. Shakespeare can write the script; Michelangelo can paint the set; Mozart can write the music." Spielberg says, "What would be my compensation?" St. Peter says, "You can meet anyone you want.” Spielberg says, "I want to meet Stanley Kubrick. I was such a big fan, I never got to meet him, and I made A.I. because of my admiration for his work." St. Peter says, "Unfortunately, no one gets to meet Stanley Kubrick." As he says that, in the distance, Stanley Kubrick rides past on a bicycle. Steven says, "Whadya mean? That's Stanley right there! On the bike!" St. Peter says, "No, that's God pretending to be Stanley Kubrick."


True, so true. Sigh. I kneel before you sir.

WTF just happened?


Directed by Barry Levinson. WJH is a movie closer home for me. I identify with De Niro's hyper on the edge film producer that he plays, while juggling with chaos on movie sets and his real life. While never nearly as dramatic as events in WJH, it mirrors a few years of my experiences in the industry. So I smile watching it, understanding everything that he is going through. It might work for anyone who loves and understands the crazy roller coaster world of the cinema business. A good onetime viewing.

factotum

You watch a film, rooting for its character, as he stumbles, wanders, wallows and generally drops and fails to pick himself up. Writing for Hank Chinaski was his only hope of reaching out to a world which perhaps was beyond his grasp. For a such a sad, melancholic film, I was hoping for a better ending for Hank. But then I guess his life took its course. Interesting film. Watchable because of the under-rated Matt Dillons riveting performance. And for anyone interested in a writers brooding mind-scape... At the end of the film, you'd wish he'd sorted himself out.. leaving it untidy was a brave choice by the director..

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Julie & Julie & Me

I like writing about a movie as the credits roll. Sometimes. Just like talking about a great meal as you finish your dessert. Such is the experience of watching this delightful, heart-warming, funny, endearing, life affirming film called Julie & Julia. So beautifully shot, just like a gourmet filled movie must, exquisite production design- capturing two era's beautifully. Wonderfully directed by Nora Ephron- one of her best. And most importantly Meryl Streep shows us once more, what an EXTRA-ORDINARY ACTRESS she is- performing the role of Julia with the kind of arresting MAGNETISM very few can. Visit, devour and delight in this wonderful film. 


Bon Appetit!



http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1135503/

A Great Article, from johnaugust.com. Reflects my life story to an extent. Geography reversed.

So you’re moving to Hollywood

Because this site is largely aimed at aspiring screenwriters, I like to include their first-person perspective on those early steps, beginning with the move to Los Angeles. Over the last few years, we’ve had guest blog posts from Adam DavisKris GaluskaJerome Schwartz and Jonny Summers — all of whom are due for an update.
George Sloan is a writers’ assistant on “How I Met Your Mother.” He graciously agreed to write up a primer for recent college grads considering making the move to Hollywood.

first personHi. I’m George. You probably don’t know me. But that’s okay. We’re friends now.
Below is some information I’ve compiled over the last four-and-a-half years, based on my experience as a PA in the industry, as well as questions I’ve been asked by people considering the move to Los Angeles. Keep in mind, this is an unofficial and relatively shitty guide to working in Hollywood.

The Big Move

Every year, thousands of 20-something guys and girls pack up their cars, leave their beloved suburban towns and head west to Los Angeles. And with good reason. LA is the international capital of television and motion pictures. Argue all you want about other places — Ne w York, New Orleans, Vancouver and Eastern Europe — but when all is said and done, LA is where you need to be. Granted, that may change over the next ten years, but as of 2010, LA is still the place.
Leaving home and saying goodbye to my family and friends, though incredibly difficult, was a necessity. But before I packed my ’98 Accord to the roof, I asked myself a question. It’s the same question that I pose to anyone considering the move to LA. “Aside from film and television, is there anything else you can see yourself doing with your life?” If the answer is no, pack your stuff and get out here.
George Sloan

The Drive

Recruit a friend to drive with you, if possible. I drove alone, however, and loved every minute of it. Those five days in the car, thinking and listening to music, allowed me to prepare myself mentally for the enormous change I was about to experience.

Saving Up

I moved to Los Angeles with $1,200 in savings. Dumb idea. I would suggest moving with no less than $5,000 in savings. LA is one of the more expensive cities in the country and you probably won’t have a job for the first few weeks. You’ll need enough to cover gas (about 50 cents more per gallon in LA than on the east coast), food, monthly bills (student loans, car loans, etc.), as well as your first/last month of rent and security deposit. You’ll also need money for furniture if you didn’t come out here with any. I moved in with a few guys I met on Craigslist who already had a fully-furnished house. That worked out well, but if you want to live alone, prepare to drop some cash at Ikea.

The First Job

Finding a job in LA is not that hard. Finding a good-paying job that you enjoy is very hard. I did freelance PA (production assistant) work for my first year out here (additionally, I had worked as a PA back in Boston for over a year), working on some embarrassing low-budget feature films, as well as some embarrassing big-budget reality shows. The hours were impossibly long and the pay was hilariously low. The tasks I was asked to complete were menial and beneath anybody with a high school diploma. My friends like to refer to some of the jobs I had as “pride-swallowing.” I prefer the term “soul-crushing.”

The Long and Winding Road

After a year or so, I got a job as an office PA on big-budget studio feature. It was thrilling, but eight months later, I felt like I wasn’t learning anything new and decided to leave. I scored an internship at a well-respected production company, eventually transitioning into a full-time job as an executive assistant. But after a year, I again grew restless. I thought about why I moved to LA in the first place: to pursue my dream of writing and directing. My two years in LA had certainly not been a waste (I had fun, I learned a lot and I made some great connections), but I didn’t feel any closer to my dream of writing and directing. So I set what I considered to be a realistic goal for myself: I would become a writers’ assistant on a TV show. I had heard there was a “ladder” to climb in television writing (start as an office PA, get promoted to writers’ PA, then get promoted to writers’ assistant), and was growing increasingly frustrated by the fact that no such ladder exists in the feature world.
Luckily, around this time, I received a call from a former employer who said “How I Met Your Mother” was looking for a new office PA. It seemed destined, so I started there over the summer, and busted my ass. When shooting began in the fall, a writers’ assistant position opened up and I made it clear that I was interested and prepared to do the job. I got the promotion. It took me two and a half years to find a job that I didn’t consider “soul-crushing,” but it finally happened. I still consider myself “just starting out” in the industry, but I now feel more confident in my future.

A Necessary Evil

The best advice I can give to anyone starting out in Hollywood is to find a job as a production assistant. It sucks hard, but it’s a necessary evil. Working as a PA is thankless. Truly. But it’s the nature of the beast. You must pay your dues. You’ll make shitty money, work long hours and be forced to swallow every ounce of pride that you have, but you’ll learn more in one day than you would in a lifetime of sitting in a classroom. You’ll also learn what you do and don’t want to do.
As a new PA on “How I Met Your Mother,” I was responsible for buying groceries and keeping the refrigerator stocked. Although it sounds silly, I took this job very seriously. Within a few days, the writers were telling me I was doing way better than the last guy and were offering to read any scripts I might be working on. Even the little things count. People notice.

The Giant Whirlpool

I think of Hollywood as a giant, freezing-cold, bacteria-ridden whirlpool. On the outside of the whirlpool, closest to the shore (and financial security), are the executives, the studio heads, the big-name actors, writers and directors. As you move towards the center, you come upon the lower-level employees. And moving further inwards still, you come to the PA’s. There’s thousands of them, all clamoring and clawing, trying desperately not to get sucked into the deep, dark hole of anonymity and sadness.
I’ve found, however, that if I focus on one particular point on the shore and swim hard enough, I begin to make some headway, inching further away from the center. At times I’ve felt very unmotivated. Those were the times that I lost focus and found myself swimming in a circle, passing the same people, also stuck, frustrated and sad.
Learn to swim.

Positioning Yourself

Once you get your first PA job, move as quickly as possible into the field that you want to end up in. For example, if you want to write for television, try to get a PA gig on a scripted TV show. If you want to produce reality shows, try to get into reality. If you want to be a cinematographer on feature films, get a job as an office PA, befriend the camera department PA and make it known where your interest lies. On the next show, people may offer you the position you’re looking for.

Internships

Internships are a great way to make connections and learn what you’re interested in. If you can afford to work for free (some internships do pay), get as many internships as possible. Most internships are two or three days a week and usually you can work with the internship coordinator at the company to work around whatever paying job you might have.
Some places will only hire you as an intern if you’re getting school credit. There are, however, ways around this. If you’ve already graduated from college, you can sign up for an independent study or a UCLA extension class. The company I wanted to intern with turned out to be laidback about the school credit thing, so I never had to enroll in a college class.
If you’ve already done an internship, for the love of all that is holy, use it to your advantage. Stay in touch with your supervisors. If the internship was done on the east coast, ask the people there if they know anyone in LA. If the internship was here in LA, ask them if they’re hiring. Put together a bad-ass resume and ask your supervisors if you can use them as references. Then write a bad-ass cover letter, buy the Hollywood Creative Directory (amazon.com or any LA library should have a copy) and send your info out to every office in town. Be professional and follow the guidelines of a normal cover letter, but make sure your unique personality comes across.

Film School

Film school is a tricky subject that everyone has an opinion about. You can ask ten people if they recommend going to film school and you’re likely to get ten different answers. My opinion is that film school is not necessary. I went to Quinnipiac University, a small school in Connecticut, and majored in film and television production. I’m doing just fine out here. I’ve worked with people that went to the best film schools in the country — USC and UCLA and NYU and Columbia — and we’re all at the same level. The only difference is they have some awesome looking short films and a solid alumni network. Film school is certainly a great way to meet passionate people who want to do the same thing as you, but that simply isn’t enough to convince me that film school is vital. More schooling means more money and more time, when you could just jump right into the industry. But again, opinions about going to school for film vary widely.

Connections

Connections are huge in Hollywood. Everyone has them, everyone wants them. Your best friend might know an actor from “Twilight.” Your father might know the creator of “Lost.” Your cousin might know the key make-up artist on “Avatar.” But until you are actually working in Hollywood, in a production office or on a set, none of these connections matter.
I made a list of 25 people that I knew in Los Angeles before I moved out here. When I arrived, not a single one of those people was able to help me find a job. It’s not that they didn’t want to, it’s that they weren’t able to. But I continue to check in with them periodically. A month before you move, email everyone you know in California. Send them your resume, tell them what you want to do, tell them you’ll work for free. Anything to get a foot in the door. Spread the word that you’re moving and that you’ll need a job in a few weeks. Post it on Facebook, MySpace (if it still exists) and Twitter. Text people. Send telegrams. In the unlikely chance that your big Hollywood connectiondoes get you a job, be ready, because once that door is open, you’re gonna have to work fast to prove that you’re the best.

Tracking Boards / Job Lists

Tracking boards are online forums that many assistants in Hollywood use to track upcoming film projects. In this manner, all participants can stay current on which companies are producing which films, which scripts have “heat,” which stars are signing which contracts, etc. These boards are also used to alert other members of new job openings. Often, you have to be invited to join a tracking board. For example, Boston University has a tracking board started by some of its alumni. If someone on the board hears about a job opening, they’ll email the group and hopefully secure the job for one of their friends. It’s a form of nepotism, but get used to it. There are also dozens of job lists circulating around Hollywood. The most popular is called the UTA Job List. UTA is one of the big talent agencies in town and every week they publish a comprehensive list of open assistant positions around Los Angeles. It’s very difficult to even get an interview based on this list because it’s so competitive, but usually the best jobs will be posted here.

The Mailroom

Many people working in Hollywood insist that the best way to break into the industry is by getting a job in the mailroom at one of the major agencies (CAA, UTA, WME, ICM) or, if need be, one of the smaller agencies (Gersch, Paradigm, ATA). I have absolutely no agency experience, so I can’t speak with authority on the subject, but be aware that it’s an option. From what I’m told, you work in the mailroom and sort mail for a while, become a “floater,” where you fill in and answer calls for various agents, and eventually get promoted to a more permanent assistant position. From there, you can decide if you’ve had enough, or if you want to continue on that path and become an agent.

LA: The Pros and Cons

I’ve only been in LA for four-and-a-half years, but I can tell you it really is the best place in the world for film. Every major studio is based here, every major filmmaker is based here. Every coffee shop you go to is full of people writing screenplays on their laptops and every movie theater is packed with like-minded people, all trying to carve a place for themselves in the industry. If you want to write, direct or produce feature films or television shows, this is the place you need to be. You’ll eventually want an agent, a manager, or a lawyer, all of whom will be based in LA.
Like any major city, LA is far from perfect and will take some getting used to. Here are a few drawbacks of the city, in no particular order: traffic, smog, lack of public transportation (in some areas), superficiality, obsession with celebrity culture, earthquakes, high sales tax.
And here are a few nice things about the city: consistently beautiful weather, proximity to beaches and mountains (often possible within a few hours), free movie screenings, world-renowned museums, a burgeoning theater scene, great Mexican food, Tom Hanks.

In Conclusion

In the end, it’s all in your hands. You need to be willing to work hard every single day. If you have any doubt that working in Hollywood is what you want to do with your life, then I would say don’t do it. As a PA, you’re replaceable. If you give up, there’s a hundred guys and girls waiting to take your job. You need to make yourself a vital component of the team. You need to observe what everyone does and ask lots of questions. You need to make friends with everybody. And most importantly, you need to want it more than everybody else. A lot of people in LA want to do nothing with their lives except work in film and television. They grew up thinking that and they’ll die thinking that. Those are the people you’re competing with.
There is also one tiny piece of information that people tend to forget. Moving to Los Angeles isn’t permanent. Nothing in life is. You might move out here and decide it’s not for you. A few of my friends have made that decision. There’s no shame in moving back home. More likely though, you’ll move out and jump right in. Just don’t get worried if it takes you a little while to figure out what you want to do and to find a job that you’re happy in. You’ll get where you want as long as you work hard, stay open-minded and remain passionate, even in the face of seemingly impossible odds.
And, of course, feel free to contact me with any questions along the way. I can be reached at geosloan@yahoo.com. Good luck!
Below is some additional information for future production assistants.

Things to remember:

  • Keep your cell phone on you at all times. Keep it charged. Silence it off while on set.
  • Have a car. Maintain it. Invest in a navigation system.
  • Write down any instructions from your boss so you don’t forget them.
  • Take a small notepad with you everywhere.
  • Ask questions if you’re unsure of something. Ask more questions if you’re still unsure.
  • Keep track of your mileage.
  • Learn proper walkie etiquette.
  • Talk to everyone.
  • Other PAs are your friends.
  • Be nice to everyone. You never know who might be your boss someday.
  • Be especially nice to security guards.
  • Check, double check, and triple check lunch orders.
  • Bridges burn easily.
  • Set two alarm clocks.
  • Don’t go to work hung over.
  • Wash your hands often. Use soap.
  • Read the script.
  • Read the call sheet.
  • Work on your own films/scripts at night and on the weekends.
  • Drink lots of water.
  • Never ask if it’s time to go home. Your boss will tell you when it’s time.
  • Avoid craft services unless you have a gym membership.
  • Don’t lie. Ever.
  • Know the difference between grip and electric.
  • Don’t loiter in video village.
  • If you’re going to be late, call your boss.
  • Seriously, if you’re going to be late, call your boss.

Movies to Rent:

Documentaries:
  • Project Greenlight (The Complete Series)
  • Overnight
  • The Hamster Effect
  • Lost in La Mancha
  • Hearts of Darkness
Narrative:
  • State and Main
  • An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn
  • The Player
  • Day for Night
DVD Production Diaries to Watch:
  • Blow
  • Matchstick Men
  • Magnolia
  • Lost in Translation

Books To Read:

Writing:
  • Screenplay – Syd Field
  • Story – Robert McKee
  • The Complete Guide to Standard Script Formats – Cole/Haag
  • The Screenwriter’s Bible – David Trottier
  • The Elements of Style – William Strunk & E.B. White
  • Becoming a Writer – Dorothea Brande
  • On Writing Well – William Zinsser
  • The Comedy Bible – Judy Carter
  • The Eight Characters of Comedy – Scott Sedita
  • How NOT to Write a Screenplay – Denny Martin Flinn
  • The Third Act – Drew Yanno
  • Save the Cat – Blake Snyder
  • On Writing – Stephen King
  • Aristotle’s Poetics for Screenwriters – Michael Tierno Hyperion
  • Creating Unforgettable Characters – Linda Seger
  • Hello, Lied the Agent – Ian Gurvitz
  • Making a Good Script Great – Linda Seger Samuel
  • Successful Sitcom Writing – Jurgen Wolff
  • The Art of Dramatic Writing – Lajos Egri
  • The One-Hour Drama Series: Producing Episodic Television – Robert Del Valle
  • The Power of Myth – Joseph Campbell
  • The Script is Finished, Now What Do I Do? – K. Callen
  • The Sitcom Career Book – Mary Lou Belli & Phil Ramuno
  • The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers – Christopher Vogler
  • Wake Me When It’s Funny – Garry Marshall
  • Writing Down the Bones – Natalie Goldberg
  • You’re Lucky You’re Funny – Phil Rosenthal
  • Sit Ubu Sit – Gary David Goldberg
Directing:
  • Rebel Without a Crew – Robert Rodriguez
  • Getting Away With It – Steven Soderbergh
  • Thinking in Pictures – John Sayles
  • Making Movies – Sidney Lumet
  • I’ll Be in My Trailer – John Badham
  • My First Movie – Stephen Lowenstein
  • Directing Actors – Judith Weston
  • Setting Up Your Shots – Jeremy Vineyard
  • The Visual Story – Bruce Block
Acting:
  • Audition – Michael Shurtleff
  • Respect for Acting – Uta Hagen
Producing:
  • Hello, He Lied – Lynda Obst
Cinematography:
  • The Five C’s of Cinematography – Joseph Mascelli Silman
  • Notes on the Cinematographer – Robert Bresson
Editing:
  • In the Blink of an Eye (2nd Edition) – Walter Murch
Agenting/Managing:
  • The Mailroom – David Rensin
General:
  • Hollywood 101 – Frederick Levy