Saturday, January 17, 2009

Halfway Through

My first semester as a teacher is coming to a close - and I haven't slit my wrist as many of my collegues have claimed I might. I bought some razors once, tied a noose one night. But, I made it so far. Actually worked in a cool lesson on my 11th graders despite the shotgun to our heads that is the SOL test.

We read "The Devil and Tom Walker" and are studying the dark Romantics - some of my favorite shit- and I introduced the short story - arguably the sweetest prose writing form there is. I personally love Carver and O'Conner, but Irving and Poe and Hawthorne are great forerunners. So, I had them write a Romantic short.

Got them in the computer lab and showed them how to format dialogue and how to build tension in their plots. It felt good. The kids loved it. They actually (most of them - not just a few like it usually is) got into it. They're not finished, but we'll be picking it back up after exams. But it really felt like teaching, like I had something to give them, roaming around the room, hearing their keyboards clipping and clapping, the silence in the room aside from that sound, their fingers stopping, their eyes gazing off into the world of their story.

Then they'd ask me to look at it.
Ask me if one detail should come before the one they had half typed, the cursor waiting for my answer.

Many of them will remember that story. Not to say any of them will be so inspired to become a writer, but I couldn't help but remember my tenth grade year, when I realized I loved to write. Shy kid, I was. You couldn't put me in front of the class for anything. But we had this journal our teacher made us write in every once in a while. It could be anything. Diary. Story. Whatever. I wrote this WWI story about this cowardly solier who tries to desert or something. I still have it. I just remember it being so descriptive, and while I wrote it I knew I wanted others to read it. In class, the teacher asked if anyone wanted to read what they wrote. Everyone, the teacher, even I was surprised to see my hand up. When I finished - they clapped. I knew I wanted that feeling. The next time she assigned the journal, I wrote knowing I would read it. I wrote the hell out of this dark piece about a guy trapped in a sewer or something. Real fucking wierd story, but again, using words like a motherfucker. The next day, the other students begged me to read. I rarely spoke in school. Kept to myself (until I met Heather), but here I was the bard of 10th grade.

I had found it. You know that it. That one thing, that one way your soul shows.
If my lesson can do that for someone all I can say is - word.

Other than that, I'm also coaching JV Baseball this year. Always dreamt of coaching baseball and teaching at the same school. God's good to me, that's for sure. Went skiing in Vermont with the other coaches and had a shit-ton of fun. Oh, I mean it was a coaches conference. That's it, that's the ticket. It just happened to be at an Indian casino. Lost a bit in blackjack, but learned a shit load I never learned about pitching. I might have actually gotten to pitch a little more in college if I knew some of the stuff they're teaching players now. But, that's that.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Finished Rewrite

I finally finished a ridiculous rewrite of a short I want to shoot this summer. I mean, this story has really changed shape. I'm not sure I've taken it in a "better" direction, but the characters have a much more realistic motivation than they did in the original.

It basically began as this southern Gothic like piece in which a little girl's imaginary friend must save her mother from an abusive father. The Gothic worked, but the characters, particulary the abusive father seemed a bit overdone and cliched to me. I couldn't tell what was making him abusive, and short of the usual alcoholic, resentful bastard shtick, I decided to rewrite him, which pointed to a rewrite of the tale. I resisted this, at first, because it was basically a true "revision" in the sense that it was almost not the same story. But I decided to go for it because my initial rewrite balooned the short into a 34 page monster far beyond my means of production. So, I killed the daughter - literally - and decided to focus on a present action - took the process to my college short story writing roots - FIND THE PRESENT ACTION.

It turned out as a story of a couple trying to move on after the loss of their daughter. The action actually begins on the day (two years after her death) that they try packing up her room. The daughter's ghost, upon hearing they intend to move on and try to restart their family, decides to haunt the mother (in a nice way) to prevent her from forgetting her. The father, however, cannot see the ghost, thinks his wife is losing it (or that he doesn't love his daughter enough to see her spirit) - and the story goes from there. Still have my doubts about about the pacing, as I might be cramming too much into 20 pages. But then again, I read it and think nothing really happens. I just don't know. My daughter likes it. Heather's listened to it, a lot. She'd tell me if she hated it. I think. But I'm setting it down for a month to write something else, something short and simple. Maybe I'll finish my Teenie Bop TV script that my daughter loves. But I want to write a short prose story, and I think I found the simple scene for it. It's a Raymond Carveresque tale that came to me this weekend.

It is a simple scene, based on a true story, of a man and woman moving in a heavy piece of furniture into their home while having a serious marital fight about a dead relative. Hope to make it five to seven pages and I may write it into a short script later. Haven't slapped much prose on paper in a while and was going through some old stuff, and man, I actually used to write all right.

Anyway...other bits...writing music recommendations - THEIVERY CORPORATION and FILLA BRAZILLA - trippy, sometimes Jazzy, sometimes hip-hoppy, always fresh world sounds...nice instrumentals, good for creating. Recommend hitting and typing either of these names in.

Also finsihed an edit (actually months ago) on a Christian hip-hop vid for an artist doing great things for people in Downtown S-Town - that's Suffolk to the outsiders. His name's PT Rolla Mane, and the song is MOG (Man of God). Ch-ch-check it.

Monday, December 22, 2008


I have put down my 12th graders' compare and contrast essays to indulge my jealousy of those on the various blog postings and their recent strides toward their dreams of writing for money. I too wish to write for money. It's supposedly bad to write that, I think, but let's face it - it would be much easier to justify sitting home in my office with the cat in my lap writing if I was actually getting paid to do it. At least my father-in-law would say so. As for me, my constant self guilt trip agrees. I am writing - a little. I'm mostly teaching others to write - or at least that's what I'm trying to do. However, I'm not sure I myself can write. Seems absurd, considering I've practiced it more than I've practiced anything in my life. Maybe that's why I'm so drawn to it. Maybe that's why while I'm driving, all I can think of is telling a story. Or when I hear a song I like, I only know I love it when I see a story under it or set to it. Maybe that's why when I don't get time to do it or do it on the level I want, I'm depressed. It's so damn hard and challenging, and to do it well is so subjective and illusive and shifting - it drives me mad.

Teaching is cool though. For my first year, I can tell it's something I will be good at. Will it make me happy? Sometimes it already does. But, sometimes it makes me so frustrated and resentful of what I perceive as wasted energy. For each student I inspire, I see nine who resent my efforts. Being face to face with the apathy that is eroding our culture is depressing. However, seeing the light turned on in that one, and being one of the people who helps throw the switch makes up for it. But, like I said, one in ten.

But, I've kept writing a bit. I'm on page 16 of a rewrite that I hope will only hit 20 pages. I've gone back to plot structure and motivation and making sure each character has opposing motives and goals. The first drafts of the short seemed gratuitous in certain ways, and I wanted more realism. So, I tried reimagining the story - reimagining it as a story with no bad guy - just somone who has a different goal than my protagonist - a worthy and understandable goal, but one that just doesn't jive with the main character's. Really need to have the draft done by New Years, so I can start picking it apart and planning to shoot it in the summer. We'll see.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

More writing

I've been on a tear lately. Writing wise. I think the quality is there (in small amounts perhaps - they are all early drafts). But the quantity is definately there.

The short I just revised is moving in the right direction. I made it longer, which is an issue if I want to shoot it with my shaky production experience. I was going for shorter, but the writer in me is always like, "fuck your shaky production skills - shoot it when you're good. Or get fucking good NOW, you prick".

The writer in me is so John Blaze and the producer in my is so Eyore sometimes. But confidence comes with experience. Like having sex for the first time. There's a lot to take in. A lot to do and play with. You're in a rush. You're done. Poor poor job, hope you get a chance to do it again. That's how my first short went. I think everyone's first time's like that...right?

So I wrote it longer. It's still got a small cast, few locations, and good story.

I have also begun a tv script. Its a child/family story called Madison Avenue - about a girl and her dog and her dreams of being the next pop diva... This is quite a stray from my tendancy towards dark shit. Surprisingly, it's coming pretty well. Having fun with it at this point.

Still haven't gotten the huevos to rewrite Redmoon, but I read the Knucklehead's notes the other day and began confronting some tough decisions. It's a thriller/horror all mixed up with this drama-pseudo history plot. Got some good advice on it. Now just need to sit down and reenvision it.

Well, done with the break.

Monday, July 28, 2008

When it Rains...

July is to me what the sixties are to American history.

Usually turbulent, filled with crisis and sometimes, hope too.

For example, the first July we were open, Java limped to the six month mark, my house was nearly in foreclosure, we were staying in a house we were trying to fix and flip (which is hard when you haven't the money even to pay your own mortgage), and to top it off, my brother and I had a blow out about the coffee shop.
I thought we'd never speak again. (we do now, but it's not the same...won't ever be.)

Every July, sales lag, bills keep coming, and I usually wonder what I'll do with my life.

Last July, we nearly closed. Sales reached an all time low. Gas, and milk and coffee and all food really took a leap - which for a restaurant is no picnic.

This July, however, refused to adhere to that ugly trend. Despite the leap in gas prices, business has been steady. I finished another short script and have sent it out for notes (plan to spend next July shooting it).


My father sighs a huge gust of relief knowing I'll be "working for the man" as he puts it. I'll be teaching high school English at a local school - so the bills will be paid. I'll be using my degree for Christ's sake! Now I don't have to laugh every time I write those student loan checks.

I've got solid help at the shop. Looking to add one more to round out the crew, but stepping away is going more smoothly at this point than I'd imagined. I'm sure it will be a constant nagging (hopefully a profitable nagging), but it'll nag nevertheless.

In addition, I've nearly completed the first episode of The Adventures of Tone Loc - a reality mockumentary filmed in downtown Suffolk.

And if all that weren't plenty - I'm working on the 48hour film project with some killer people who will no doubt leave me with much more knowledge than I had before.

To the universe,
karma, God,
or whomever,
Thanks for this July. Just don't make me pay for it with an awful august.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Humbling Perspective

Watched Gangs of New York last night / this morning for the forth time in a month. This time with the director's commentary. Holy shit! Marty's a genius. Worked on the project 30 fucking years! He read probably 100 books just to develop this one story - not counting the other brilliant films he made in the meantime. Just so damn humbling to hear a master. His script saw probably 10 drafts from countless writers from the inception of the story to the production. The Knucklehead spoke of perspective in a few previous posts. I've never throught of my stories with even a tenth of the depth and dedication that Marty (and I call him Marty because we're that tight) has. After hearing the master's lecture last night, I have two choices. Sit down with everything I've "written" and rethink each character and pour myself into them and let them pour themselves out the way they should be onto the paper......or, take up rock climbing instead. Since I'm afraid of heights....where's my steno book?

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Building a Legend

Well, that might be a slight overstatement...but who knows. Either way, this project is finally well underway. I've squared away a narrative structure ( I think), and have cut away all the dead footage. Still need to trim, work in transitions, layer audio, effects, music, sound, titles, format....yada yada yada. Basically all the fun stuff. This is the part I love most. Widdling it down this far can get mundane. Wading through the crap to get to the 90 min of stuff that's worth watching - can actually be like work. But cutting further and shaping into something you'd actaully (hopefully) want to watch, twice even, that's the shit, maine. But here's a funny little clip for dat ass.