Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Today I experienced a particularly cold, hard fact about the getting of wisdom within the screenwriting industry. In my previous literary studies I never, ever received constructive criticism about "primary creative matter". What I mean by this, I think, is that I was always writing essays ABOUT other writers' creative works, using their texts as the starting point for my logically crafted analyses.

I'm sounding strangely formal, I know, I think it's because I'm trying to remain very calm and objective here.


Today I had to defend my own creative "stuff" while sitting across the table from my teacher who clearly didn't think it had much potential. I tell you, dear friends, it reminded me EXACTLY of the time (years ago) when Master CB's kindie teacher told me that she thought he had violent tendencies because he had taken a soccer ball and purposely popped it with a sharp stick and then jumped on it until all the air came out. I tried to explain that he was obsessed with the properties of air, was constantly asking questions about the invisible "thing" that was always around us. As I continued to defend my son ( a gentler boy you'd be hard-pressed to find) it was clear that the teacher thought I was one of those know the one...who can't stand to hear the truth about her son and insists he's an angel. I wasn't that sort of mother, I knew I really wasn't, but just the way she looked at me made me doubt myself, and my son, and my success as a parent, and entire reason for living.

I now realise how terribly (and wonderfully) sheltered I have been within our wonderful blogging community. Generally, our comments to each other are so powerfully positive, encouraging and inspiring. In the big bad world, however, commentboxes are filled to the brim with misunderstandings, subjective reactions, superficial generalisations...but, most difficult of all, they are not GENTLE. I am used to gentle, I love gentle. I've spent decades of my life teaching my children GENTLE and striving for gentleness in my life. Today I banged my head against a harsh, impenetrable commentbox until a tiny crack was made. Through that crack I managed, with great difficulty, to post a tiny little scrap of paper and it said on it:
"Please be gentle, I'm a learner." I think the commenter may have already logged off, but you never know, do you?

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Festival of Freedom

Well, dear friends, we have come to the end of our first "intensive" at Film School (I'm reticent to go into details, but suffice to say, it went very well. Thanks again for the support!). Now we have a few week in which to:

Write the 1st 15 pages of a thriller/rom-com.
Write an outline for the entire first season of a brand-new television drama, and a detailed scene breakdown of its pilot episode.
Write an outline of a feature length screenplay.
Panic. Panic. Panic.

It's at precisely this point that I begin to think that I really would love to:

Do the laundry
Tidy my closet
Reorganise Grandpa's books
Dust Grandpa's books, individually
Begin training for a marathon
Take up a craft
Cook gourmet dinners
Run away

Sadly, I know myself only too well and will soldier on.

It is also the start of Passover tonight, and we will be having our Seder at my parent's place as usual. At times like this I realise that the family depends so very much on my mother's strength, nurture and love of homemaking. I have spent most of my adult life being a homemaker first and foremost, but BEGRUDGINGLY. I've often wondered if my general disdain for my own cooking, decorating, repairing, care-giving, nurturing within the family is a product of my genetic disposition. Perhaps it is due more to the generation into which I was born, one in which women have one foot firmly placed in the home and the other madly hopping up and down in the outer world. It's an exhausting exercise.

Perhaps this is also the reason why all of the protagonists I create for my screenplays are women who are struggling with these issues. Time to create a brand-new Superwoman for the screen, don't you think?

Passover is the festival of freedom, so perhaps I shall try to be a little less hard on myself this year. It's never too late to start.

Friday, March 26, 2010

With thanks

Thank you!!! Your commentboxes are filled with so much understanding and kindness, you really made a difference to my day. I feel a little silly now because I took such a small occurrence so very seriously, but I guess that's the reality of life - everything feels huge and all-consuming while you are in the midst of it. Suffice to say that I had an uneventful day of study today, and I have also very very diplomatically followed up on what happened, so as to ensure that I don't have to experience it again. You are all THE BEST, and I send you hugs and kisses wherever you are in this big wide world we write in.

I thought you might get a kick out of this little clip from the action thriller "The Long Kiss Goodnight."

"No no no, forget all that schoolteacher business. It was your cover. Your memory was gone, you got confused, you bought your own cover. It was a fantasy!"
"No, it's not a fantasy, I'm in the goddamn PTA!"
"Then quit! You're an assassin working for the US Govt. I ought to know, I trained you."

Love it!!

(Written by Shane Black, who also wrote the Lethal Weapon films)


Yesterday was a particularly difficult day, which is all the more upsetting because the day before that was so very wonderful.

My class is in the process of studying film genre and the last two days have been all about the thriller. I have been mesmerised by the arrival of a new teacher who is able to bring Plato and Aristotle into a conversation about "The Bourne Identity." I have also felt deepest gratitude as he slowly and respectfully discussed the portrayal of women in thrillers, and I felt great joy as he hypothesised about the reasons that women are generally attracted to the genre.

But that was two days ago, and yesterday we had to break up into pairs and write our own 9-page thriller scene. We were given half an hour to work separately on our concept and general storyline, and an hour to discuss our ideas with each other and come up with one scene using a combination of the best aspects of both stories.

Easier said than done.

I was paired with a young, enthusiastic young man. Unfortunately, his enthusiasm was limited to his own work and not to the collaborative process. I had a feeling it would end badly when he didn't even turn up to our arranged meeting-place. By sheer luck I had his mobile number in my information brochure, so after wasting 15 minutes searching for him throughout the campus I called him and reminded him that we had to work together. He had settled himself at a computer in one of the small study rooms and had been busily typing away, actually writing the script, before we had even begun to discuss our story and plan.


I am a mature woman. I was not particularly enamoured with my own story, but I did think it had a few interesting elements. I hate conflict. I have years of experience working lovingly with young adults. But I consider this course of study I have undertaken to be my "Me Time," my time to talk and learn with other adults, NOT my time to patiently and painstakingly teach a young person about the realities of the collaborative experience.

After ascertaining that my partner was indeed intent on writing the script himself, had no interest in my ideas, and was eager to criticise both my working method and my typing speed (I type too fast apparently), I packed my bag and threatened to leave the room. As young adults are wont to do, he cunningly went in for the final kill at that moment, attempting to soothe me by telling me that he understood my heightened emotions, after all... I have so many family pressures, being an older woman and a mother, that it's no wonder I'm irrational.

I am proud to tell you that I did not scream, cry or storm out of the room at that moment. I actually stood my ground and forced myself to slowly...calmly...explain to him my particular point of view. To his credit (he was, I admit, looking a little scared) he said "I can see that you are angry," and he did begin to show a glimmer of comprehension. That glimmer was enough for me. We decided to take the pressure off for the moment, we wandered downstairs and grabbed a couple of coffees and sat in the sunshine on a bench. After a while, we returned to our notes and painstakingly re-navigated a small section of the scene. He apologised, I apologised and we returned to the classroom and explained to the teacher that we were not able to complete the entire assignment.

As luck (or bad luck) would have it, the other groups also returned with half-written scenes, so we will now be presenting our work on Sunday afternoon. This means that my little friend and I have to continue meeting and working together for the next two days.

I will now admit to you that I sobbed in a toilet cubicle after the class, and sobbed periodically throughout that evening. I know it's trivial, I know it's ridiculous and virtually meaningless in the scheme of things, but crying makes me feel better. I realised yesterday that I have invested my new course of study with far too much meaning, and that my tendency towards perfectionism is indeed a terrible handicap. I'm also fighting a very strong urge to call in sick on Sunday.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Film School Rant

One of my teachers uses the F-word a lot and it's driving me INSANE. It's a WRITING course, he should have enough words in his vocabulary other than F. Also, I was brought up to think that it's rude, and I can't help losing all respect for a TEACHER when he uses it so casually. Why can't my teacher be like Alice's Geography professors? I bet Alice never has to put up with this sort of unprofessional foul-mouthed immaturity.

I have two teachers who teach us side-by-side for most of the time, but I don't think they're well-matched. They often seem to misunderstand each other, they argue about trivialities while we sit and listen, and there's a lot of ego involved. There's so much ego in the room when they teach that it's physically painful, I can see their low self-esteems and wounded children battling each other as they discuss the Act Two turning point of Jaws, and it's ugly.

It is much harder than I had expected to tolerate a 22 year old man's view on the world when you are forced to sit beside him from 9am to 5pm for 4 days in a row. I didn't say a WORD, I swear, when he presented "Point Break" to the class and explained why it was "heaps good". But when I had to be involved in a group discussion of "Dirty Dancing" and he said that it was a failure of a movie because the stakes weren't high enough (stop to take a breath) because "no father would really freak out that much if his daughter told him she had sex for the first time, I mean....she's like 17's not like she's 14" (another deep breath). Well. I couldn't hold back then and I spoke up. So there.

The guy whose ambition it is to be the youngest ever super-successful television writer? Well, he's now voicing concerns about how he might be setting himself up for a fall because people may assume that he's peaked early and not expect him to have a long-lasting career. Right.

I find myself sitting in that class and PINING, truly PINING for my blogging community. I sit there and I think of each and every one of you, every blogger and every commentbox I have ever read, and I wish that you were there beside me. I miss the meeting of like minds, the creativity, the humour, the respect, the love of life, the truthfulness of my little blogland. This transition into the real world has hit me hard I'm afraid.

Yes, it is 2am, yes, I am going to have some chamomile tea and then return to bed. Thanks for listening.

E xxxx

Friday, March 19, 2010

Film School requirements

Sorry I've been absent for a while. The teachers are really strict about the required attendance at all Handsome Men's Club meetings, and they meet daily.

Should you so desire, an entire meeting is available for viewing on Youtube. Don't worry, at least YOU won't have to write a paper on it.

Saturday, March 13, 2010


I've been thinking today about the television programmes which I loved when I was young, and they all seem to have one thing in common - families. They also have musical themes which instantly come back to me even after several decades.

The Brady Bunch, of course, but then also The Waltons, Eight Is Enough and...Bewitched too. I quickly googled them and I found myself physically reacting to the photos, I sighed out loud and laughed and clapped my hands. I even surprised myself by remembering the names of most of the kids from Eight is Enough, and by feeling as if I had actually known them, in real life, in my childhood.

I'm trying to come up with a logline for a television series, it's simply a group exercise my class will be doing next week, nothing huge. Yet, Eleanor being Eleanor (ugh, she does annoy me sometimes), she must insist on taking the task far too seriously. She must begin to wonder if any idea she comes up with can ever be high art enough for the discerning television viewer. She must worry that her fellow student writers will roll their eyes as she nervously mumbles through her pitch, stumbling over the words, blushing.

So thank goodness for my happy childhood and my wonderful memories of the television worlds I lived in.

Also, thank goodness for my real family which gathers around me at times like these and teases me and makes me laugh at the unhealthy and impossible standards I so often set myself.

I'm going to have some fun with this instead. I just have to tell Eleanor about it first. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


The last photo in this Journeymama post necessitated the writing of a poem. So here it is:
(For Journeymama’s Solo, with love)

In fairytales
The kings and queens
Rule kingdoms
Far and wide,
With land long owned
And silver stowed
And knights who do
And die.

In battles long
The kingdom won
In castle
Made of stone,
The royal couple
Side by side
Are served a feast

Beyond the walls,
Beyond the moat
Of water deep
And dark,
And further down
The tree-lined path
Which leads to woods
And grass,
Keep walking now
And there you’ll see
The subjects
One and all,
They wake and bake
And clean and make.
They’ll never
Rule the world.

Someone is king
And someone not,
All this you know
I’m sure.
Yet I’ll tell you
A different rule,
Which is not taught
At school.

A king’s true throne
And golden crown
Are never in
Full view,
They hide in letters,
Pictured poems,
They hide in psalms
And you.

For waking, baking,
Cleaning, making
Need not be done
Just take your time
To look straight down
And notice
Golden curls,
And tiny hands
And dimpled elbows
Chubby, sunkissed
Which firmly stand
Upon the throne
Which helps him
Reach the treats.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Oscars

I could go on and on about the Oscars, but my eyes are killing me and I'm tired, so I'll give you a quick list:

How cool is it that Kathryn Bigelow is the star of the day? How cool is it that a small film about the Iraq war should be so loved and so respected? Very. That's how.

Go read bb for a red carpet snark.

Go read this for a film industry insider snark too.

I LOVE Precious and Blind Side, but I really didn't think they'd be appreciated by the Academy. I was wrong! Woot!!!

I'm crushed that Best Costume didn't go to the Aussie who worked on Bright Star. Totally unfair.

I have a new favourite film. I only went to see it yesterday, and only because I had a feeling Jeff Bridges would win the Oscar and I wanted to be in the know. I was surprised people!!! AMAZED!!!! "Crazy Heart" is my new favourite film of the year!!!!!

And this is my new favourite jogging song:

Friday, March 5, 2010


Miss CB got her Ps today, which means she can now drive a car all by herself, alone.

I spent the morning watching "Alien" and compiling a beat sheet, which means that I wrote down every major change in plot as it occurred.

I have had blepharitis for many years and it has been under control until this past week. Major flare-up is sending me back to the ophthalmologist. It's a problem. May be connected to stress and watching endless hours of TV and film.

Anybody watching "The Good Wife"? I'm surprised at how compelling it is, I think I'm hooked.

I am completely and utterly addicted to "In Treatment". Five 20 minute episodes (which were apparently shown on cable Monday through Friday) following a psychologist and 4 different patients' sessions, with the 5th being his own session with a psychologist. Then they continue with those same patients for the entire season! Gabriel Byrne, I heart you (although Mr. CB is still my one and only true love. Ahem.).

I also have to do a beat sheet for "Finding Nemo." It's so beautifully structured.

A guy in one of my classes once said "I dare any one of you tell your friends that you're doing a beat sheet for Basic Instinct." Most paused film moment ever?! You know...Sharon Stone...OK...change of topic....

There's a guy in my class who's ambition is to be the youngest person to write a TV series, ever, in the world. I found that to be really sweet and funny.

I found the nanny next door sitting in her car and having a tiny little cry the other day. Both her charges have started going to preschool twice a week and she was missing them terribly. The nanny next door is a very special woman.

It is raining on my laundry. I can't be bothered reacting.

If you ever watch "The Queen" and see the screen saver on the menu think of my dog Blue....Helen Mirren is shown staring straight ahead with a very stern look in her eyes, and Blue totally freaked out and started whining and cowering. I swear he really did!

I'm attending a seminar with Jane Campion tomorrow morning and I'm trying to pretend that it's perfectly normal when inside I'm jumping up and down and running around like a maniac and whooping with excitement.


Ever since my screenwriting course started I've been in a rush, and I keep sitting down at my desk and starting a post only to find myself suddenly doing something quite different in a completely different location.

So I have decided this Friday morning to write a post in a rush, without reading through it and pondering anything whatsoever. Stream of consciousness. Sort of.

My course is great, but I'm completely out of my comfort zone because it's been quite a while since I spent so much time with people, talking. Sure, I have my part-time work, but a lot of it involves reading and writing by myself. If I have the choice between writing an essay or meeting someone in person for a chat I will always lean towards writing.

So there I was, spending three full days with 4 women, 5 men and our 2 teachers discussing the theory and practice of screenwriting. To cut a long story short (hehe, no pun intended) our first assignment is writing a tv pilot to a brief. After spending the last 10 years trying to eradicate the evil time-sucking, life-sucking television from my family life I am now embracing it with a passion.

My favourite show so far is Mad Men, especially the 1st season. Anybody else here love it? How about In Treatment? My guilty pleasure is actually Medium, anybody else out there like it?

I'm the oldest in the class, and the youngest members of the group (in their 20s) had a bit of a bet on how old I was! Their final guess was 32, SCORE!!!!!!!!!! (I'm 41).