Friday, April 29, 2011

Rivne Museum

We stumbled upon a museum in Rivne by chance-- Краэзнавчий Музей. For about $1, we got to wander around rooms and rooms of intriguing and quite random stuff having to do with the city of Rivne. There was incredible amounts of historical stuff-- from traditional tools and dress of the peasants hundreds of years ago to more recent WWII memorabilia, such as military uniforms and an entire wall of handwritten letters written by and to soldiers. There were rooms dedicated to geology and wildlife of the area, complete with stuffed animals and skeletons. 

The museum was not very polished, professional, and crowded like big, famous museums... but rather a little dusty, mystical, and random. Ukraine has been one of my favorite places to visit museums for this reason.

It's incredible to me that a small, pretty insignificant city in Ukraine can have so much history. Rivne was first mentioned as an inhabited city in 1283. You can't find a city in the US with history past the 1600s. 

I could travel the world if only to learn history and nothing else. It is so fulfilling to know more about the world and the people of the past who made it what it is today.

- Julia

Thursday, April 28, 2011

What to do when you can't write

One of the questions I often get asked, almost as much as "so, who's in your movie?" is this: "What happens when you get writer's block?"

My usual answer is "I don't have the luxury of writer's block."

In other words, a professional writer like myself doesn't worry about that, we just keep going. And I believe this with all my heart and soul. 

Except yesterday - Wednesday.

I woke up angry, had coffee angry, watched the local and international news as I read the LA Times and listened to Bill Handel on KFI yelling at people who don't believe Obama is a U.S. citizen. 

While multi-tasking like that sounds impossible, especially for an aging baby boomer, I really can do that. It comes from working in TV news where you are editing one story while listening to another. Also working in episodic TV, where you are often working on several different scripts at the same time.

You don't get all the words, just the key words that give you all you really need. A radio news director once told me all anyone needs to tell a story is 15 seconds, all the rest is adjectives. Try it. It works.

But, back to my anger. After I did all of the above, and it was barely 8am, I blurted out a bad word. You can take your pick, they all mean the same.

I can't start my Christmas script.

I can't figure out what it's about. I know it's about a girl juvenile delinquent who has to stay with a woman for Christmas week-end rather than go to jail. Neither wants to be with the other.

This was a script I should have finished two months ago. What stopped me from writing it was basically the same thing as now; I didn't have the damn story. So instead I focused on Ghostkeeper 2 as well as dealing with the re-release of Ghostkeeper 1.

I finished that  2 weeks ago and since then managed to outline a very thin plot on two pages. Then I found a bunch of Christmas moves, mostly old ones from the 1980's and mostly TV movies mixed in with some 40's movies. This would give me inspiration or as my director friend calls it a "homage" to the original.

It's also a great way to stall.

Last week I watched 3 Christmas movies. They gave me some ideas but not enough. This week I watched 3 more, one was so depressing I couldn't take it and fast-forwarded it.

I sat there like a little boy, sullen, waiting for someone to even dare say a word. Of course, nobody else was there, so that didn't account to much. I realized what was wrong.

I had Writer's Block.

And admitting it made me even angrier. There is nothing so frustrating as not being able to put a story together and, in my case, under pressure. Two companies are interested in my new Christmas script based on The Town That Christmas Forgot, which ran last Christmas on Hallmark.

Except my new script hasn't even started.

I know this; a writer needs an inspirational beginning, you know "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times", or "Call me Ishmael". One of the best lines I wrote to start a script was "The first time I met her she was dead." I really liked that one.

But nothing for my hot new Christmas script.

But I know that it will pass, and that something will suddenly light up in my mind, something from long ago or maybe from the day before yesterday. Because that's how a writer's mind works. I hope.

So I wrote off the day, giving it to cleaning the kitchen, that always makes me feel better, and going for a bike ride, and trying to avoid any serious thinking about story and plot. And making sure to avoid contact with anyone who might even suggest that "it'll come to you."

GDSOB as my dad used to say, two separate words squeezed into one that my brother and I still use in emails and when we're in the same town.

But today is a new day and I already added 2 projects to the big whiteboard, a novelization of Emperor of Mars which I wrote a few years ago and another novelization of another screenplay that could make a good book.

Oh yes, and the Christmas script. I will begin that right after I finish this blog. Maybe vacuum first, then write.


Monday, April 25, 2011


One of the blog readers, Linh Mai, sent me an email that he's started a crowdfunding project. What's crowdfunding, some of you may ask? 

Basically, it's a way to raise money. Legally. Sort of.

How much money? A band from England raised $90,000 to cover costs of a US tour. I've seen some crowdfunding requests for $1200. Linh is looking for $25,000 for his project.

What kind of project? Almost anything. Movies, music, charities, surgeries, theater, you name it, anything that needs money to happen. I have thought of doing one as well for Casualties of Love, for maybe $50,000.

Okay so what is crowdfunding? Wikipedia describes it as this: "The collective cooperation, attention and trust by people who network and pool their money and other resources together, usually via the Internet, to support efforts initiated by other people or organizations. " 

Easier description: You ask the public for enough money to do something. It doesn't have to be a movie, it can be $10,000 to write a screenplay; or $10,000 to make a movie. Or, as Linh is doing, $25,000 so that he can do a demo reel of a movie project called The Last Cause that would then help to raise money for the real thing.

The idea is that anyone who comes across your website decides to put in money into the project because they have faith in it's potential. You can put in $1, or $100, or any amount as the project people are asking for. And in return you might not get anything. But losing $1 isn't that big of a deal anyways.

Think of it as being a "patron of the arts", like those rich Europeans who paid Van Gogh to paint them and at the same time, gave him money to eat and get paints.

But is this legal? What about the Securities Commissions, they have strict rules about investing in something.

The answer is simple; it is totally illegal.

It violates the Security Act of 1933, which was passed after the stockmarket crash of 1929. For the most part, at least so far, it's overlooked. And mostly because the majority of the projects seeking Crowdfunding are individuals doing simple, basic projects that are spelled out in a minimum of words. In other words, you're dealing with a guy or girl who needs some start-up money for a project. Or maybe the project itself. We're not talking millions of dollars.

Well, with the exception of President Obama, whose helpers did this during the election and look how much they got.

My first encounter with a version of Crowdfunding was way back in the 60's, when, as a kid, I watched Soupy Sales on Channell 7 in Detroit. Soupy was a kid's best friend, and once he asked his kid audience to go to their parent's wallets and mail all the pictures of presidents to him.

It was a joke. But it turned out to be no joke when kids did send him money and the FCC was not pleased.

How do you do it? Right now there are a few websites like devoted to film, music and other arts and they will, for a percentage, give you a web page of your own where you can post information, photos, video and music clips, or anything that you think would persuade those people who view your website to toss a few bucks in.

The website holds the money until the amount needed is raised. If it isn't raised, some let you use what you have or cancel everything and the money is returned. Linh's is on Kickstarter and there's also and you can look at his and the other people, all of whom are hoping to raise money.

It's something that doesn't really cost the artist anything, and if the project is good, word-of-mouth will spread and pretty soon, the artist has the money they need. There's no real idea of how many actually get what they're asking for, but the odds are far better than trying to get it out of Hollywood.

And finally, David Lynch himself is using Crowdfunding to help fund a documentary he wants to make. In return for a $50 investment, Lynch sends each and every Crowdfunder a self-portrait he drew.

Maybe I should consider this... hmmnn... 

Friday, April 22, 2011

Rivne, Ukraine II

Thanks for the nice comments about our first Rivne post.  Obviously I have much pride in the place since it's where I was born. I am especially thrilled when people comment saying they're adding Ukraine to their list of travel destinations. It certainly isn't a common country for tourism. 

Here are some more images of our short time in the city. 

- Julia

P.S. Since people have been asking why we immigrated to the United States, I'm putting together an interview for my mom-- I think she would know better. I am probably more excited to hear the answers than anyone.

WWII War memorials and Ukrainian heros at a cemetery. 
Rivne Opera House- not quite as fancy as the others we've seen.
This man was very unhappy about this photo. He yelled after me and I walked faster.
The following images are at the bazaar in the center of town. These women thought we were hilarious for photographing them and their goods. They don't understand. I didn't mind being laughed at to get these shots though.
Canned at home, sold on the street.
These don't look like the carrots I buy at the grocery store. 
Sour cabbage... smelly stuff. 
Smoked fish. Yum.
I wanted to take this entire box home. Beautiful pine cone tree ornaments.