Thursday, May 30, 2013

When it works and when not

Fell a little behind this week, got an excellent start on my heart screenplay last week and plowed through 40 pages this week, that is until today --

-- Nothing today. I'm staring at the screen and nothing's coming to me. Maybe it was because I got up too early, due to someone playing music at 1:30am somewhere. One little thing like that can upset the day for a writer, as simple as it sounds.

But I've learned that it will come back, maybe later after a nap, or even tomorrow. 

And still waiting for the screenwriter's books that I'll pass around to some of the local bookstores as well as to some online sites that hopefully will read it and say it's not bad. 

Also scanned Amazon Studios, which have already started work on a few TV series and movies. Amazing how that happened so quickly...  maybe a blog on this, maybe tomorrow. It's all about content.

It's gonna be mid 90's today and not a good day to ride a bike but director friend Paul Lynch is coming by for lunch so hopefully after that I can get working on the heart script.

Guess you could call this a "writer's block", just goes to prove it happens to everyone of us.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Week-ender - a short history of where I live...

I happen to live in Sherman Oaks, which is in the "valley" as they say.  That refers to the San Fernando Valley, which has several of these little cities within it's boundaries. It's on the other side of the Santa Monica Mountains and tends to be hotter than the Los Angeles basin, which is where Santa Monica is, and Hollywood. North Hollywood is across the mountains and is very different than Hollywood.

As you know "Hollywood" is a hundred or more small towns that eventually got swallowed by the city of Los Angeles and are now part of L.A. County. There are oddities as well; Hollywood proper has LA police and fire while Glendale and Pasadena have their own police and fire depts. Santa Monica has it's own police and fire but Brentwood is part of L.A. Beverly Hills also has it's own police.

Area codes are the big thing here, 310 is the most desireable as it's in the west side of L.A. where life is pretty good, 818 where I live is not bad, but not as cool as 310. 323 is mostly Los Angeles itself and is tied with 818.  Anything else doesn't matter except there are 1o more area codes in LA county.

These area codes are judged; 310's look down at 818's who look down on 323 and so on. 310 is alleged to have more movie stars and executives but the studios are pretty much spread out over 818 and 310. Desirable places depend on how much money you have. The really rich are in 310 although West Hollywood has a huge gay population. 818 has some rich but mostly a mix of illegal Hispanics and people who don't like the Hollywood side of the mountains.

Then there's Sherman Oaks.

It's a small city of 52,000 and a mix of homes and apartment buildings and most importantly is --- s.o.b.

Now before you think it's a bad thing it's not; s.o.b. refers to an expression in Sherman Oaks used by those who live there -- it stands for South of The Boulevard

The boulevard in question is the famous and infamous Ventura Boulevard which crosses the San Fernando valley. Sherman Oaks sits almost in the middle with it's back against those same Santa Monica mountains. And Beverly Hills is on the other side so a little bit of it stretches over to Sherman Oaks.

The term s.o.b. refers to the fact that south of Ventura, the homes are a little nicer, there's mountains and hills and narrow curved streets. James Dean lived two blocks from where I live now and other actors live and hang around here and nearby Studio City. I always describe it as exactly as it sounds. And it is.

Sherman Oaks is really a neighborhood place, every kind of store or restaurant or cafe or movie theater that you'd ever need. And most of it is within a few blocks. People are friendly and crime is low.  Once someone robbed a donut shop and at least 6 police cars showed up within minutes. You don't see that in Compton.

The strangest thing though, is how I came to choose it when I moved here. I had friends who lived in "the Oaks" . I found a great place and have never moved. But then I read a magazine article about where actors, writers, directors and producers lived.

It turned out that writers lived in Sherman Oaks, Santa Monica and Beverly Hills. They tended to drive old Mustangs or SUV's, dress in levi's or khaki's and a whole bunch of other things.

So much for individuality?

But at least it's not 323.


Monday, May 20, 2013

Before I write...

A lot of people think writers just start writing their story and probably some of them do. However, for me, it can take weeks or months or even years before I finally get to any particular story. Sometimes maybe less than a week.

Last week I started on a new screenplay, a political thriller. I had part of the idea way back in 2005 but didn't have the story right. Then last fall, I was watching a TV show and something came up in the story that hit me like the proverbial brick.

I had the second half of the story.

And because of the complexity of the story involving politics, heart transplants, action and other elements, it required a lot of research. As I was finalizing my book on screenwriting, I began looking for stories or events that would fit into my screenplay. 

But the book began to have problems, primarily with the createspace people who work for Amazon. They said we had flaws in our book file and we said they had the problem. This began to take all my time, calling them, showing them files. As of now it seems all has been solved, but I won't believe it until I see the proof copy on Wednesday. 

I finally had some time and realized I could also began the new screenplay and I began research with the intention of starting the story immediately. The research included watching political movies, West Wing episodes and anything revolving heart transplants. 

I called ULCA Cardiology and asked to meet some of their transplant people and they agreed to let me meet and talk with them. This was invaluable as I could ask almost any question I could think of. The three people were friendly and helpful. 

I also saw a new way of heart transplant transportation, rather than placing the donor heart on ice, which lasted for 6-8 hours, this new unit actually makes the heart beat, you can see it beating in a metal case about the size of a suitcase. It's really neat.

Then I watched more movies, of which some helped me, others didn't do a thing. That's the problem, you never know what can help. I also found screenplays of doctor shows and movies on the internet and printed up some of them.

Then I did a "beat sheet"which is a collection of "moments" in the screenplay and eventually, in the movie. I could write "he's reluctant to help" or "she knows a secret entrance", things like that. I wrote  seven pages of beats and rewrote, changing some, adding new ones and taking old beats away.

This took a week in itself.

But finally, on last Thursday I sat down and wrote five pages and they looked good. On Friday I wrote five more and they looked good. I don't usually write on week-ends so I focused more on the WW11 documentary I'm working on with my 89-year old former pilot and his stories of flying in the Pacific war back in 1944.

So now, today, I'm hoping to write another five pages. That's how it goes for me, no writer writes the same as another, some write a page a day, some write all night, others write two pages, there's no real rule.

So now, I am back to writing after a long absence, not including the TV pilot I wrote a few weeks ago. And I'm coming up with the same excuses starting; I should do the dishes, maybe water the plants, check email.... 

It's never easy even when it's easy...

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Featured on SMP Living

We're so excited to share our Iceland photos on Style Me Pretty Living today! We also share suggestions for what to do around the island and in the city of Reykjavik, so head on over there, especially if you're taking a trip anytime soon. 

We will be sharing our Iceland trip more in depth here on the blog starting next week. 

Trinidad, Cuba IV - Last Post

We never had to worry about money as much as we did in Cuba, not even during our 6 month trip abroad. Our American credit cards don't work in Cuba, so we had to bring all our spending money in cash as we entered the country. We didn't expect things to be as expensive as they were, and the last few days we counted our dollars after every meal and seriously debated whether to get mojitos or not (hard decision to make when they're so good and fresh). Our last dollar paid for the cab ride to the airport, where we slept the last night (it was an early morning flight). After a few hours of restless sleep, I was desperate for a cup of coffee and couldn't scrounge up enough coins. So typical to want what you can't have, isn't it? I was so happy when I found free hot water at a cafe and realized I had tea bags with me (always a good idea when traveling). I enjoyed that tea immensely and couldn't wait to get out of Cuba. The country felt so foreign and disconnected from the world, and I was tired of worrying about whether we'd run out of cash. The fact that we couldn't withdraw any more money and had no internet in Cuba (not just to communicate with friends, but to look up information... we are constantly googling stuff when traveling) were both new to us while traveling. It's a valuable experience for any traveler.

Overall our impression of Cuba was a pleasant one. The crumbling pastel buildings, the warm sea, and the slow lifestyle where almost every front door is wide open and people sit around on the sidewalk chatting the day away, are all things I will never forget. We felt so fortunate to see the country before the US embrago ends and things start changing. It was refreshing not to see any McDonalds or Hiltons or other large chains, and instead visit small Cuban restaurants and stay with local families. We loved the lack of modern advertisement and enjoyed the hand painted signs and propaganda. We liked being disconnected from our phones and the internet and the modern world, though maybe not at the time. We took some of our very favorite photos in Cuba and are so thankful for the kind people there that welcomed us into their lives and allowed us to take images of them home with us.

Down below we share a crazy story about our last taxi ride and a sea of crabs. Scroll down to read.

This marks our last post from Cuba. Next we will share photos from our recent trip to Iceland!

- Julia

A couple parting photos from our last apartment in Trinidad.
Almost every door and window in Cuba has metal bars covering it, though it's hard to believe they're really needed for protection.
We rented bikes and rode down to the beach one day. The water was warm, the bottom perfectly sandy, and the crowds nonexistent. Note the blue skies and see how quickly the weather changes below.
As we saw black clouds rolling in, we left the beach and hurried home on our bikes. 
Then I got a flat tire and it started raining.
A truck full of workers took pity on us, loaded our bikes, and gave us a ride into town. What a relief! As soon as we got in the truck, the heavens let loose and the rain just poured down.
Looking out the back of the truck, we watched giant puddles and rivers flow down the streets.
So thankful for these guys! We could say little more than "thank you" to them in Spanish.
After the rain, many people seized the opportunity to sweep their porches and clean the dirt and dust that had gathered in the hot weather.
We hired a driver to take us from Trinidad to the airport in Havana. We left close to sunset and didn't know what was in store. Turns out we had to drive through a sea of crabs to get out of Trinidad. We learned that for a couple weeks every spring, millions of female crabs migrate from their forest home to the coastline to lay eggs in the Caribbean Sea. Unfortunately, they have to cross the highway in order to get there, and after they hatch, the baby crabs must then cross the highway to get to the forest. The crabs have an instinctive ability to trace the changing tidal patterns of the sea, and will reproduce no matter what obstacles they need to cross. Sadly, hundreds of crabs get crushed on the road beneath traffic. If you drive slow and try to dodge them, the crabs pinch and pop the car tires. You can see an incredible video of what we experienced here. We were driving pretty fast so good photos were hard to get.