Saturday, September 30, 2006

Arousal Draft #2: 2 hour extension!

I tried to get the most recent draft edited by deadline, but I'm still short a couple of hours. My new deadline is 2AM (2 hours from now). Watch this space...

Oh, for a few of you, I've lost your emails, so if you want to be a feedback reader, send me an email: ross >at<

Here are the people whose emails appear to be eluding me:
* Kristen Brownell
* The Question Is Moot
* Will Entrekin

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Screenwriting Expo 2006!

A big holla! out to all my homies in Los Angeles: I registered for the Screenwriting Expo from October 19th–22nd (arriving 3ish on 10/18; leaving 3ish on 10/23), so if you want to grab some food and chill wit me for a bit before I head back north to Sacred Tomatoes, I'd love to hear from ya. Wes will probably try to get me drunk as hell every night, but I told him no booze (well, not to excess, anyway) until after the conference. This is my education, hombre, and I don't squander it.

But let's clear one thing up right now—I don't go to conferences just to say I went. In fact, I feel quite strongly about conferences now, especially pricey ones. I've spent too many hours at conferences, lectures, socials, mixers, and schmooze-fests, and most of it has yielded next to nothing. If I go to a social now, it's to spend time with a select group of people with whom I already have a lasting relationship because we've worked together on a project: blood and sweat, it seems, has a crystallizing effect. (It works the other way, too: if you want to see more of your friends, do a project together. You can thank Josh Mehler for that pearl of wisdom!)

Unlike a community of lawyers or doctors or engineers, a conference like the Screenwriting Expo has no pre-qualifications to cull out the posers. Everyone wants to write a screenplay so everyone who can afford the ticket will go. And oh, there are so many. I wonder how many seriously study the craft? How many will actually write a script entertaining enough to be produced? Most importantly, how many people think outside the box and do what nobody else does?

Still, seeing that many writers and/or filmmakers in one room is daunting. I'm reminded of what my filmmaker friend Curtis calls the "intentional blinders"—if screenwriters and filmmakers actually knew the slim odds at getting their stories filmed, they'd give up... so they intentionally ignore the odds. Call it a madness if you wish, but for us creative types, it's a survival tactic—when hope dies, all else is for naught.

Finally, all the time I spend talking to other writers and filmmakers could be time I spend working on my script, or even producing my script. So why would I talk about it when I could be doing it? Yes, it's nice to know everyone's name in this room, and maybe something will come out of all that face time, but that sound you hear? That clickity-clack typing sound? That's me... typing your screenplay.

Nevertheless, this conference is worthwhile. This year's conference has a series of lectures specifically geared towards horror scripts, so I'm sure Arousal will benefit from that.

But the crucial lectures will be from Battlestar Galactica series developer Ron D. Moore and Farscape series creator Rockne S. O'Bannon. Because I'm developing Safe Harbors, my own sci-fi project with its own challenges about world creation, I expect there is much these two amigos will say that I'll find pertinent.

Plus, I get to see my Cuban-Americana sister again, which is a total bonus track! My golden heart... it's been too long. I'm so glad we're walking the filmmaking path together!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

"I am not a number... I am a free man!"

Few TV shows really hit me where I live like the 1967 cult classic 17-episode The Prisoner with Patrick McGoohan. (About the only other worthwhile series from that time is Fawlty Towers, but I digress.) And today I read that studios are in talks with Christopher Nolan to direct a film version of The Prisoner (Nolan's most famous accolade is the superb Memento).

Never heard of The Prisoner??? For shame...

A British secret agent, trying to quit his job, wakes up in a strange place, "The Village", where he's only known as No. 6, from which there is no escape, and any attempt to escape is blocked by mysterious floating bubbles called "Rovers." As Number 6 tries to escape, his cheery superiors and neighbors try to get "information" about why he wanted to retire...

In my mind, Number 6's most famous refrain comes when his superiors continue to call him by his number, and he responds: "I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed, or numbered. My life is my own." In this age of encroaching hegemony, can't everyone relate to that statement?

I loved McGoohan in this role. It was something about the way he used his hands, his facial expressions—they always seemed to hint at his churning anger and frustration. Like Christopher Walken, you couldn't stop watching this guy because you wanted to know what he was going to do next. It's also a little bit like Alias where you had this guy trapped by government types and though he usually seemed like he'd accepted his fate, you knew he was so smart (hello... he's a spy!) that he was just keeping up appearances, that deep down you knew he was working on his next prison break. And, of course, you were always right.

Another twist in the tale is The Prisoner came a year after a series called Danger Man (also known as Secret Agent Man), which also starred McGoohan as a secret agent doing secret agent things. So if you'd been a fan of Danger Man, then seeing him play the previous secret agent role in a different series, as a kind of a quasi-sequel, would be surreal at a bare minimum.

There have been talks to film The Prisoner as a feature for almost as long as the show went off the air, but choosing Christopher Nolan to direct will cinch it this time. The original series was unapologetically enigmatic, a non-stop mindgame of a storyline, so choosing someone like Nolan is the best fit for this kind of story. They might even revive the series, which—if done properly, like the short-lived Mission: Impossible TV remake in the 80s—could be killer.

Finally, I know the film is going to get made this time, and it's going to be good, for one other terribly relevant reason: this news was posted was August 21st... my birthday! That's kind of weird when you think that this series is as old as I am.

Be seeing you!

Monday, September 25, 2006

One Dumb Dog (And Some Funny Cats)

These videos always always make me laugh. But here's a puzzler, Batman: my wife has a notoriously low-key sense of humor (if she laughs twice and slaps her knee three times, she's really enjoying herself), and zero sense of humor when it comes to slapstick comedy. Why, then, does slapstick comedy by animals other than humans make her laugh so hard that she cries? If anyone can tell me, I can finally stop going to that support group on Wednesday nights and resume my LAN party gaming.

I love dogs. But this dog is extremely dumb and/or insane. I guess that's part of the reason why I love dogs. And what is it with dogs protecting bones? As a joke one Christmas, I gave my family's puny Yorkshire Terrier a foot long bone and almost knocked over the tree trying to pry it back out of her mouth. You haven't lived until you've seen a dog only somewhat successfully drag a bone equal to their own body weight.

There are a few in here which get me every time: the black kitten jumping onto the table (0:42) because the payoff is so unexpected; the white kitten walking on the dresser (0:50) because you couldn't pay an actor to do comedy that funny; the black cat jumping on the wall (1:11)... I just picture his surprised face as he slides down the wall; and then my all-time favorite: the white cat jumping on the kitchen bar (1:15)—cats don't usually see the slippery surfaces and grasping a heavy toaster on the way down probably doesn't help matters. This is like one of those Road Runner moments where the anvil magically positions itself over the falling cayote.

These aren't as good as the previous clips, but they're still amusing.

Okay, seriously—what's up with the kitty high fiving? And check out the kitty at 0:44... he had to have been hungry!

These clips aren't funny as much as they are about cats being cats. Which is still funny.

This reminds me of the Lylebird, which can mimick any sound. The Lylebird isn't as funny, though. Oh Long Johnson. Why I eyes ya...

I can't tell if I'm amused or disturbed.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Keeping Up Appearances

This article caught my eye today because I've always thought how great it would be to do a webcam chat without ever worrying about what I'm wearing:

Fake half-suit for videoconferencing

Slobs who work at home can look their best for videoconferences with the Businessbib, a pullover half-suit that has a built in shirt and tie.

Businessbibs are hand-made from recycled materials and are supposed to be sturdy and stylish. Priced between $135-150, they can be ordered online.

This fake business suit is especially amusing if you know that the necktie—while essentially designed as a bib to keep one's shirt from getting dirty over a particularly messy dining experience—is now used only a decorative item, and as such, we now sell a necktie protector as a bib for our bib. Madness!

One has to wonder who would ever be courageous enough to wear a Businessbib... I mean, copping to wearing this idiotic thing would be worse than telling your mom that you enjoy watching porn. Furthermore, if I were a CEO doing a webcam chat, I'd intermittently insist everyone on the call get up for some silly reason just to watch their face blanche as they realized their Businessbib (and anything not covered by the Businessbib) might show up on the webcam. Who says the corporate world isn't entertaining?

I wait patiently to see the day when a video conferencing business type has a conference over dinner and uses a necktie protector for his fake half suit. Then I know we'll have completely lost our minds.

And for the academically inclined, here's what Wiki says about neckties:
A cravat is the neckband that was the forerunner of the modern tailored necktie. From the end of the 16th century, the term "band" applied to any long strip of cloth worn round the neck that was not a "ruff". The ruff itself had started its career in the earlier 16th century as a starched and pleated strip of white linen that could be freshly changed to keep the neck of a doublet from getting increasingly grimy, or for use as a bib or napkin. A "band" could indicate a plain, attached shirt collar or a detached "falling band" that draped over the doublet collar.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Great Escape!

If you've never seen The Great Escape with Steve McQueen, the commercial below won't hit home with you... but that just means you need to see The Great Escape! (While we're on the topic, it would be wrong not to remark what astonishing lengths Allied P.O.W.'s went to in order to escape from their Nazi captors. While the film captures a feel for this, the book really drives the point home. One can't read the book without feeling a sense of awe of how resourceful, and how courageous, these men were to pull of an escape of such scope.)

Here's the commercial; make sure you watch all the way to the end:

Saturday, September 16, 2006


The best, and the funniest, commercials are often the most simple, but scaled to a ridiculous proportion.

Friday, September 15, 2006

My Harebrained Road Map

I finally uploaded the Table of Contents for Harebrained Pipe Dreams, my new blog for anyone who wants to start an online business for almost nothing. Hopefully the TOC should give readers a clear idea of why they might want to keep coming back.

When it comes to stuff like Pay Per Click campaigns and podcasting, I couldn't possible say I know much, if anything, so I'll have to go trolling for advice to report something worthwhile. Still, though, just telling people how to set up a decent web site for under $30/year has got to be helpful to somebody out there.


Wednesday, September 13, 2006

iTV will rule

I've said before that the future of entertainment is goin online: the cleanest crispest versions of downloadable media will be kept in a central location. If your house burns down, you don't have to repurchase DVDs, you just sign back into your Apple iTunes account and re-download all your movies.

The question for me has been, when? Half a year ago, Warner Brothers was trying out a business model where you could buy the rights to download an advance version of King Kong soon followed by the DVD upon its release. Well, that's interesting, but does it mean we'll always have access to that downloadable version? Warner Brothers isn't in business to provide online entertainment.

But iTunes is.

It's not at all surprising that iTunes is now offering movies for download, but what is surprising is that studios have allowed iTunes to do it. But Apple has worked hard in scaling the Digital Rights issues with music, then TV, so movies are the next peak to ascend.

The only obstacle in their path is how to make a customer's purchased entertainment viewable on TVs. So Apple rolls out iTV:

Jobs also offered a sneak peek at the company's plan to use a sleek silver box to wirelessly connect the PC to the living room TV. The box, temporarily called "iTV," will cost $299, and will be available before April 2007, Jobs said.

I stopped reading this article when I read that paragraph... Apple has found the skeleton key that will convert their company in the entertainment giant of the next 20 years. No more wasteful DVD duplication for studios, no more wasted money upgrading from VHS to DVD to HD to whatever... all that will slough off into the margin as Apple provides the purchase rights to any type of online entertainment. Apple's market share will explode once the market sees the trend go that way.

Hey, I could be wrong, but look how far Apple has come with music in only five years. In five more years, everyone will be using iTunes and iTV. Hell, PC users are already using Quicktime and iTunes—once quintessentially Apple-only products—so the debate is no longer about which computer platform users have chosen.

Here's the entire article:

Warning to Jobs: Taming Hollywood not easy
The king of digital music surprised no one with its new movie download strategy. Now comes the hard part.

By Jon Fortt, Business 2.0 senior editor
September 13 2006: 9:23 AM EDT

SAN FRANCISCO (Business 2.0) -- Plenty of the usual "oohs" and "aahs" to go around when Apple Computer took the wraps off its movie download strategy Tuesday, but the iPod maker might have a harder time dominating digital movies than it has had ruling digital music.

The reason: the movie industry, while in turmoil, is in a far stronger position today than the music industry was when Jobs came to the rescue a few years ago when record companies were reeling from the onset of Internet piracy.

But that isn't keeping CEO Steve Jobs out of Hollywood. In a presentation that opened with a new lineup of iPods for the holidays, Jobs unveiled Apple's (Charts) iTunes movie download service. Movies will cost $12.99 in the first week after their release, and $14.99 starting in the second week. Older movies will cost $9.99.

Jobs also offered a sneak peek at the company's plan to use a sleek silver box to wirelessly connect the PC to the living room TV. The box, temporarily called "iTV," will cost $299, and will be available before April 2007, Jobs said. But the company did not detail how iTV will work. (More on Apple's announcement).

Apple, of course, isn't the only technology company looking to partner with movie studios. (Charts), for instance, announced last week its Amazon Unbox service, which allows users to download movies for viewing on PCs and Windows Media devices. Sprint Nextel (Charts) also announced a pay-per-view service last week. And startups including CinemaNow, Guba and MovieLink are also competing in the market.

Flawless execution is key
Michael Gartenberg, an analyst with Jupiter Research, said Apple's iTV is impressive, but warned that the company has little room for error. The technology has to work seamlessly in the home from the get-go.

"That's going to be (Apple's) challenge," said Gartenberg. "This thing better work out of the box. This is the kind of thing that needs to work the first time."

What's more, if Apple hopes to make it big in movies, it's got to play by Hollywood's rules.

Apple's movie launch differs in key respects from its original iTunes Music Store launch more than three years ago. When Apple unveiled its paid music downloads, it bet that millions of Internet users would pay 99 cents a song to legally download music - an idea many considered far-fetched, since savvy Web surfers had grown accustomed to grabbing free downloads from services like Napster and Kazaa.

The skeptics were wrong, and Apple's gamble paid off big.

Its head start in paid downloads has allowed it to dominate the market, with a huge lead over rivals like Microsoft (Charts), and mostly dictate its terms to the music industry.

And though music titans have openly pushed Apple to let them charge more for hit songs, Jobs has resisted, saying it's imperative that Apple keep the digital download system simple. And since Apple's iTunes commands three quarters of the download market, according to estimates by industry analysts, Jobs gets his way.

Hollywood's pricing power
This time around, Apple's video offerings join an already crowded field of Internet video services, and Hollywood is determined to keep Jobs from wielding as much influence over video downloads as he does over music.

Case in point: iTunes movies will have variable pricing. It seems that strategy was important to Disney (Charts), the first Hollywood player to allow TV shows and movies on iTunes.

Walt Disney Studios Chairman Dick Cook, who was at the Apple presentation, said variable pricing makes a lot of sense in movies - first-run flicks should cost more, while "You take an older title like 'Old Yeller' - something like this gives it new life," even at $9.99. It's the same argument the record labels made, but to no avail.

Cook also offered this: It's important, he said, that the digital download business be "revenue neutral" for Disney, meaning that Disney plans to make as much money from downloads as it does from DVDs after packaging and other costs are factored in.

The biggest threat Applewood faces?
The main competitor for all of the online services could be a company with an entirely different strategy for shaking up the movie business: Netflix.

Just as Apple changed the game in music downloads, Netflix has changed the playing field for movie rentals. The company booked more than $463 million in revenue in the first half of 2006 thanks to a wildly successful model that lets subscribers pay as little as $5.99 a month for unlimited DVDs.

Why isn't Apple pursuing a digital version of the Netflix subscription model? With music, Jobs has said, people are accustomed to owning their favorite tunes and listening to them over and over again.

But it would seem that movies are a different story. Consumers buy DVDs -- but they're more likely to rent a movie on a whim, watch it once, and send it back. Some services, like Guba and CinemaNow, are pursuing the digital rental business.

It remains to be seen whether Apple will offer its own subscription option, and whether its movie efforts will prove as popular as its music store. Either way, Apple might not be the only star on the red carpet.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

A new blog: "Harebrained Pipe Dreams"

I started a new blog today dedicated to starting low-cost online businesses. It is called Harebrained Pipe Dreams and its mission is to catalogue my experiences in starting up businesses with almost no money and no time.

It will differ from this blog in several ways:

* it will have advertsing (AdSense)
* it will be family-friendly—no expletives or lewd behavior
* it will have contributors
* posts will be partially duplicated on Myspace

Please visit it frequently if you care to. I'll let you know if a regular schedule of posts is established. Any comments are very welcome!

Friday, September 08, 2006

Should I do a new blog?

I never thought I'd go to you all for advice, but so many of you are techno-geeks like me, so I thought I'd take a crack at it.

I'm getting ready to build a small internet business from the ground up, just something small in my spare time that could, over time, turn into something much larger. I had thought about blogging about each step in the process, which might be very informative to those attempting to do something similar, but I already post so much stuff on this blog that I don't want to oversaturate it with more gunk.

Because my internet business topic is so specialized, I also thought a dedicated blog about it might make for an interesting book after the business is running well (or not). A further reason to splinter this blog into its own site is that its topic is ideally suited for advertising. I've shied away from advertising on my personal blog, because... well, it's my personal blog. The only thing I might ever sell on my own blog are T-shirts saying "I support my local blogger." But a topic-centered blog about starting a business? I see no reason why I can't turn a profit through advertising.

Gabrito, I need your sage advice. And for all my readers, I'd really like to hear your take on it. Obviously, anyone else out there who professionally blogs, or runs their own internet business... I would love to hear your feedback!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Arousal, Draft #1: COMPLETE!

Well, the beast is finally slayed. So I guess it's no surprise that what comes to mind is this stanza from Lewis Carroll's Jabberwocky:

One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

Screenplays are a 100 meter dash compared to the marathon of writing a novel, but they can still leave you winded at the finish line. I wrote Arousal's first draft in about 10 days of actual writing (spread out over 35 days), but spent over two months plotting out Arousal's storyline... and came up with its concept over a year ago, come to think of it. If you count the endless hours of daydreaming I expended, I really spent more like 5 to 6 months "writing" this sucker.

But it's done. And during this morning's celebratory chat session at Infusion Cafe, mere seconds after I had typed the final "FADE TO BLACK", I had my first IM chat with the inimitable "Bookstar" Myspace addict, Will Entrekin. Will's most notorious character trait is how prolific he is. Come on, bro—save some words for the rest of us, will ya? You even put Kristen to shame. Anyway, good peeps. Sharp guy. His blog is somehow always interesting. Since I have a laptop now, I can finally participate in his annaul Academy Award commentary. Scha-weet!

Out of the frying pan, as they say... For all the time it takes to write a first draft, there is a definitive end to it. Rewriting? It's like that philosophy question they used to ask us in college: if you run half the distance to a finish line, then half the remaining distance, and then half THAT remaining distance, and so on, will you ever actually reach the finish line?

Great God, let's hope so. My vorpal blade gets thirsty for blood!

Arousal IM Chat Wednesday 9AM-12PM

This is a shout out to anyone interested in a joining my Webcam conference chat this Wednesday morning!

I'll be chilling for three hours at Infusion Cafe in my über-cool whisper dome (subject to availability) as I finish off the first draft of Arousal. The hardest work is over for this script, so I can take a few distractions from friends and fellow writers as I finish off and proof the first draft. I'll be happy to answer any questions about Arousal and any upcoming film projects. My lawyers have told me no more lewd conduct, so nothing but G-rated behavior tomorrow. Sorry! (But hey, you might get lucky if you ask.)

When: Wednesday September 6th, 9AM-12PM (PST)
Yahoo ID: rosspruden

You'll have to use Yahoo Messenger to see the Webcam feed, but you should be able to use any IM application to join the chat. If you're using Yahoo Messenger, you must first add my ID ("rosspruden") as a "contact". This is kind of last minute so I'm not expecting a lot of people to be there, but if you can make it, it'd be great to chat with ya!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Arousal, Draft 1: 83% Complete

Argh... does Tarantino write such crappy first drafts? Still, 91 pages ain't bad. Quantity, not quality. Quanity, not quality.

I read somewhere that Shane Black, the writer behind The Long Kiss Goodnight and Lethal Weapon, said that the trick behind writing good action is definiing a plausible Good News/Bad News ping pong game:

GOOD NEWS—you've escaped the enemy is his private jet...
BAD NEWS—there's a henchman on board!

GOOD NEWS—you throw the henchman out of the plane...
BAD NEWS—you instantly realize he's vented all the fuel and had the last parachute!

GOOD NEWS—you jump out of the plane and knock him unconscious in mid-air...
BAD NEWS—you can't untach him from his parachute!

GOOD NEWS—you tie yourself in with his parachute and can pull the rip cord...
BAD NEWS—the rip cord is broken!

...and so on until you reach the ground.

Writing a climax scene with so much action is challenging, but also fun in that it's designing a game of breakneck ping pong with shocking twists and turns. But with words.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Arousal, Draft #1: 77% complete

Finally, I'm getting to the good stuff for my feature script Arousal—the climax and denoument of the main storyline (two of the three sub-plots have been resolved by this time). I'm at page 86 and closing in on the final act... Now more than ever, I have to keep reminding myself that this is only a first draft and that 60-85% of it is likely to change, maybe more.

As with every writer, I'd like to think that I crap gold turds on every try, but first drafts are deceptive... sometimes it takes a few weeks (or months) to peel off the rosy-colored glasses and handle a red pen with the scrutiny needed to tell a worthwhile story.

If I've structured this right, and chosen the right kind of ending, hopefully this will be the only way this story can end. So I'm excited to show it to you all so you can tell me what you think.

Which brings me to...

Please be patient with my artistic whimsy—my initial drafts aren't usually released for feedback because I expect so much of it will change after my own read-through. But fear not—your time shall come! If you want to be a feedback reader, I do want to hear from you, but under one condition: you must be totally honest. If you don't like the script—even if you hate it—I really want to know that. If 1 person out of 10 hates it, that's different from 9 people out of 10 hating it... and both are valuable kinds of feedback. Oh... and did I forget? Exceptional feedback readers will get a Story Consultant credit when this film gets produced.

And let's be honest—haven't you always wanted your own entry on the IMDB?