Great Video: “Creative Spark: Dustin Lance Black”

I apologize for not being very active on the site. It has been extremely busy at work. The writers I assist have been breaking story for the past few months — but things are calming down now.

My writing partner and I have boarded out, not one, but TWO new pilots. And now we’re starting to write the first drafts from page one. He’s going to write one, and I’ll write the other one, then we’ll switch for rewrites. We’ve never done it this way before, but it seems most economical.

Unfortunately,  writing is going slow. We both have full-time jobs and have had a lot of social obligations requiring extensive travel – which eats up our weekends — our primary time to break story and write.

I watched this video the other day and it really inspired me. I’ve plugged away researching and carding ever since. Maybe it will inspire you?

Waiting for Your Script to be Read and Pinging

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The agony.

I’ve sent my pilot out for notes, and most people got back to me within a week. I was pleasantly surprised! One guy got back to me when I had previously taken 3 months to give him feedback on his script. I will NEVER do that again after experiencing the agony of waiting.  All the feedback I received was super helpful, even if I didn’t agree with it,  and it was all much appreciated. However, there are a couple of key people who haven’t read it yet, and it’s driving me crazy! I try not to think about it. But I cannot go forward with rewrites until I have feedback from these key people. How do I go about reminding them? How long do I wait to remind them? I can’t tell if they forgot because they’re super busy, or they just haven’t had time to read it because they’re super busy.  I mean, key person has a couple of projects in development… so it’s totally rational for them to have forgotten about it.

After a week and a half I used, “Hey! No rush, sent you my script last week, just wondering if you got it!”  They replied with a, “Yes!”

“Great!” I thought, “They’ll probably read it this weekend!”

…. It’s been a few weeks since then.

I think my next course of action will be, “Hey!  In reading my pilot, would you prefer a hard copy instead of digital? Again, no rush. I put a lot of value in your notes, and I refuse to go into rewrites without knowing what you think!”

I think a lot of writers go into freak out mode when they haven’t heard back from someone in a long time… but in my experience working with high level professionals… THEY FORGET. I ran into this looking for PA work all the time.  People are super busy and you’re not high on their priority list.  A friendly reminder can go a long way in keeping yourself in the forefront of someone’s mind. Just don’t be too pushy. I like to call it “pinging”. Whether its reading a script, asking for a job, or just keeping in touch. Shoot someone a little ping every once and while to let them know you still exist.

However, if they don’t respond to your ping two times in a row… stop pinging. They’re not responding for a reason.

In writing this, I just now reminded myself of two people who wanted to go get coffee with me over the past 6 months to talk about getting jobs in LA. I’ve totally forgotten about them because they haven’t pinged me. All it would take is a little reminder they exist to set up a meeting. But now I figure they don’t need my help in life anymore. Even if they do, how would I know if THEY DONT PING ME.

Basically, what I’m saying is, don’t be afraid to annoy people. A little email every once in a while isn’t going to put them off. And if it does, you probably don’t want to work with that person anyway.

THREE YEARS. HOLY SHIT. A RECAP.

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I’ve been in LA for three years today. I don’t know what else to say. It’s been a trip. It’s still not a joy ride — living paycheck to paycheck with an uncertain future — but it’s a lot better than it was.

LA feels like home now; Tennessee a distant memory. Fuck ever living there again. Maybe I’ll change my mind someday… but when the most exciting thing to ever happen to your town in 10 years is a super Wal-Mart moving in and an occasional Tornado impaling cows on trees…  yeah, fuck that place. I’ll take a big city any day.

12ptCourier also turned 4 years old this month. It’s crazy to think about where I was when I started this blog. It was 2010, I was in Film School, had just fallen in love with screenwriting and had no idea what was in my future. It was a busy year — wrapping up school, going on an excavation in Israel, and writing a slew of horrible and half finished screenplays. But I finally graduated. Chapter 1 was complete. Now what the fuck would I do?

In 2011 I decided to move out to LA on a whim — and it actually worked. 2011 was a crazy fucking year — full of ass-kicking, back-breaking work. 12 to 20 hour days and nights on set — fucking brutal — but if you want to make it in this town you have to pay your dues… at least that’s what THEY say. I quickly learned that the only way to get any attention in this town is to work harder than everyone else.   Between that and dumb luck I landed enough gigs to pay my bills and eventually found a place to live on craigslist with a bunch of weird fucks. I peaced out of that joint ASAP and moved in with some people I met on one of my PA gigs — sleeping in the living room just to survive.  I learned how to work on set really fast. I also quickly learned what jobs I DIDN’T want to do — which is one of the most important parts of being an assistant. When you finally realize — “Well, I def don’t want THAT fucking job.” — you’re one step closer to finding where you belong. It was a hard year, but I was full of green energy, so I got through it.  As a writer, I was still struggling. Trying to find that perfect story… trying to find my voice. Again I wrote a slew of horrible and half finished screenplays. “There’s always next year”, I told myself…

16 hour days for 6 days a week as a Set PA picking up used condoms and dog shit off the side of the road — that sentence basically sums up the beginning of 2012. Another ass-busting shit taking year. I quickly figured out I was tired of working as a Set PA. I didn’t want to be an AD, I wanted to get closer to writers and producers. I wanted to CREATE, god damn it. So I started Office PAing. I did a few pilots and jumped onto a big budget feature in editorial. Things were looking up. Quickly after the feature I jumped on a job that was guaranteed income for a year! I took it in a heartbeat. I felt the struggle was over, but a new struggle had just begun. — Oh, and the writing? … “There’s always next year.”

In 2013 I was very frustrated. My financial situation improved. I even got promoted — TWICE. My title was actually Producer. But I wasn’t happy. I was working in daytime TV.  I was working on a TV show that specialized in gardening and cooking. What the actual fuck. Fucking kill me. Stab me in the eyes until I die. I took a step back and realized I wasn’t doing what I came out here to do. I wasn’t even writing stuff anymore — good or bad. Nothing. I had to quit this job. For my sanity. So I did. I was unemployed for over a month. My PA contacts had mostly washed up. But, finally, I scored a PA position on a pilot, the first scripted job I worked in over a year. I was so inspired, I jumped into writing hardcore on my own pilot. When that job ended I landed a job I’ve been seeking out for a long time: Assistant to a writer. A good one.

So here we are. 2014. A job I love. I finished my pilot — the first piece of writing I’ve done that I’m actually proud of. I have no idea what the rest of this year has in store. But god damn you can bet I’m going to end up telling you about it.

This industry will try its hardest to shit all over you. Power through it and keep your eye on the prize. Even if it means quitting a potentially lucrative job. Do what you want to do and never look back.

First Draft Finished – Notes and Guns

I FINISHED IT!

It’s been a long time coming, but I finally got a polished first draft of my pilot out for notes. It’s such a relief. For the first time in my life I feel like… writing a good script is actually doable.  It doesn’t seem as daunting as a task anymore. Don’t get me wrong, a shit ton of work and time went into those 60 pages, but it can actually be done. I know this now.  And it makes me relieved.

I have received a first round of notes back from friends, family, and respected colleagues, and they all have one thing in common — they really like it. I am overjoyed at this news. Because no matter how good you think your screenplay is… there is always that little voice in your head screaming, “YOU SUCK, THIS SCREENPLAY IS A PIECE OF SHIT!” Now that I know it doesn’t suck, I can just work on making it better.

This is the first time I’ve sent something out for notes, and it’s really interesting to see what different people have to say. Which notes do you seriously consider? Which notes do you blow off…  This can be were things get tricky. I’ve set a few ground rules.

Stick to Your Guns: Some people just aren’t going to like certain aspects of your script. It’s a given. So if someone doesn’t like something that you put in there on purpose — something that you think makes your script what it is — don’t change it. Ever. Stick to your guns!!! You can’t change your script a million times to please everyone. You made this for a reason. If one person doesn’t like something, I wouldn’t put too much thought into it. It’s probably just their personal taste, and there is nothing wrong with that.

Compare Notes: If more than one person has the same note… I believe that is worth some serious thought — and if 3 or more people have the same note, I think you’ve definitely got a problem to work on.  Sometimes the notes aren’t EXACTLY the same, but if one person said your main character’s voices are similar, and another person said all your characters seem unlikable, and another person asked why you had so many main characters — you know you have SOME problem with your main characters — and although 3 people expressed this problem 3 different ways, they really all mean the same thing — work on diversifying and simplifying your main characters.

RECIPROCATE: No matter how much you might hate certain notes, always thank the person who gave them to you a MILLION times over. ANYONE willing to take the time out of your day to read your script deserves thanks. If they ever hand you a script in the future, you better fucking read it and give them notes back as well.

SIDE NOTE:  Get an editor. No, you don’t have to pay someone. Have a grammar nazi friend read over your screenplay before you ever send it out. It will make your screenplay seem more professional, as well as save everyone from giving you the same grammar notes. I guarantee you know at least one person who is meticulous about grammar — if you read my blog that person is most certainly not me.   I literally just spelt grammar wrong three times in a row and had to go fix them.

I’ll probably be working on a 2nd draft soon to send back out for quick notes.  And then I’ll face something I’ve never faced before –

Next time on 12pt  “I HAVE A PILOT FINISHED, NOW WHAT?”

cause seriously… I have no idea.

HELLO FEBRUARY

Forgive this momentary lack of pessimism that so fittingly has glazed this blog all these years. Happiness just happens to be bubbling out of me right now. It’s disgusting. I know. I’m a disgusting person right now. You have no idea. It’s horrible.

Where to start?  This year has been fucking amazing.

THE BOOKS:  I am supposed to read 15 books this year. So far I’ve read 1. I’m kind of behind already. I need to get on that. I have to finish one by the end of this month. It’s going to be hard. But I can do it. I believe in me. Maybe I’ll finally finish book 4 of Game of Thrones.

THE MOVE: I’m moving into a new place downtown. This has me excited. Also kind of nervous. There are crazy people downtown, and the streets smell like ass piss. BUT there are also amazing things about downtown, like not having to drive anywhere. And EVERYTHING delivers. Seriously… we can have a bottle of wine delivered to our door if we want. Restaurants and bars a few blocks from my house. We’re getting Amazon Fresh so that we can get groceries delivered.  I can’t wait. We’re in a loft. And it’s beautiful. I’m sure I’ll still have a lot to complain about. Like noisy neighbors and homeless people shitting on my doorstep. Also we don’t get internet hooked up for a week because FUCKING LA CABLE COMPANIES SUCK DONKEY DICKS ALL DAY — so I’ll have plenty of time to hit my February reading quota.

THE JOB: Has been going great. Learning a lot. I am really enjoying it here and actually look forward to going to work every day. My employers are all amazing people. It’s been a good thing. It takes me an hour in bumper to bumper traffic on the 10 to get to work every morning… and I still look forward to Monday’s. I’m insane.

THE MONEY: I think I’m saving? Either that or I have grand illusions of saving money. I’m not actually getting into the saving saving part yet… I’m still in the slowly pay off my debts phase. Also this move is taking a lot of my money. But… i will work harder on not spending a dime I don’t need to.  I haven’t bought any shoes this year… so that’s saving… right?

THE GIRL: Miss Orlando came to LA for a 5 day visit and it was absolute perfection. She’s moving here to go to school in a few months and this is probably the real root of all my disgusting happiness. We are so gross. Like… if I saw us walking down the street I would be like… eww. That’s how happy we are. It’s seriously disgusting.

THE WRITING: Writing has gone really slow the past few weeks because GIRL and MOVE… but I am so ready to buckle down. I’m halfway through the 2nd round of rewrites and the script is shaping up beautifully. I think after this there will be just one quick touch-up and then I can send it off for notes! So exciting.

ALSO — some places I’ve eaten recently in LA.

Sugarfish - Some fucking fantastic sushi. It was like butter. Just melted on my tongue. It was so fucking good. You have to go. They have a few locations around LA. We got the NOZAWA TRUST ME for only $35. You get like… 9 different items brought to your table one by one. I would do it again in a heartbeat. Casual atmosphere with fancy food.

Westside Tavern – This has been one of my favorite places for a long time. They have great drinks. I recommend the Old Fashionable. They also have a killer Mac and Cheese, a fantastic Calamari, and right now one of their specials is a tuna Poke that is absolutely to die for. They used to have a braised short rib that was orgasmic, I don’t think it’s on their Feb menu. Their flat breads are always amazing. They have a chicken liver mousse — which if you’re daring is so fucking delicious. The humus is so good. Basically everything you have here is so good. The atmosphere is great. Try and grab a table by the window for some people watching. Good for a group, work meeting, or a date.

Laurel Tavern – This place is heaven to me. I used to live near it and it’s been my favorite pub ever since.  A gastropub with an amazing drink selection and even better food. The Pork Belly Skewers literally melt into cream in your mouth. The Steamed Pei Mussels are buttery — dip the toast into the broth and die. The fries are so good. And if you really want to just throw up utter satisfaction all over the place — grab an order of chorizo sliders. Fucking Killer. Wash it all down with a great beer and you won’t be able to get out of your chair.  They also have great burgers. And if you’re not that hungry get their pretzel. So soft — a great snack with a beer.  They recently revamped their whole menu so there are a lot of new items I haven’t tried yet.

Lemon Poppy Kitchen – Some of the most fantastic breakfast food you will ever have. They have curried breakfast potatoes with two eggs on top. It’s … I’m getting too excited. I can’t take it. Everything at the place is amazing. It’s in the middle of nowhere in a ghetto shopping center and it’s seriously the best. It’s always packed and you’ll have to wait for seating most of the time. But it’s worth it. So worth it. Really good for a weekend brunch. I really want the owners to revamp the place. It’s too small and shitty for such good food.

800 Degrees Pizza – Really Great Pizza. Hated the atmosphere. There is no assigned seating and you walk past the make line to order. It’s like an upscale Subway for Pizza. But this causes a ton of crazy people to start fighting over seating. And if you read this blog, you know I pretty much hate people.  Way too chaotic for me. But the pizza was really good — so at least they have that going for them. Don’t know if I’ll return.

Duck Dive Gastropub – This is a little cool spot in Malibu. Nothing fancy near the beach… it’s in a little shopping center. They open right before lunch, so you can go to the coffee shop next door and get a latte and then browse a little bookstore nearby (which contains some epically old and rare books) and then head over to Duck Dive for a nice lunch. They have a really good mac and cheese and their fries are amazing. We got the taco’s which were okay… nothing to write home about. I’ve had their lentil burger before. It was tasty as far as lentil burgers go. I would go again just to try out more of their menu. Not ready to fall in love with it — but a good casual lunch spot if you’re in Malibu.  Their bartenders and wait staff were very nice people. Great service.

There you go! Try out some new places to eat! And if there is somewhere you would like me to try in LA — PLEASE TELL ME. I fucking love eating.

Why I Love LA #1: The Food

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LA gets a lot of shit for a lot of different reasons. Some people love it. Some people hate it. Some people love to hate it but really love it.

I’m sure some of the first things that come to mind when someone says “LA” is traffic and crime. Well, first off, according to this article, LA has dropped in crime for the 10th year in a row. I’m not going to heavily research the facts in that article, but I’m trusting it has some validity. So there you have it… LA’s not that dangerous. As for the traffic… yeah, it’s fucking horrible — don’t let it get you down.

This place only started to grow on me in the last 6 months. For a long time I felt this town was trying its hardest to shit on me. Coming from a small town my whole life — LA was intimidating to say the least. I moved here with basically nothing. Survival mode. But I feel I’m settling in. And I really don’t see myself living anywhere else. I’m starting to love it. It’s beginning to feel like home.

One reason I love LA is because of the food. Some of the best food I’ve ever had in my life comes from this town. I’m not going to go touting that LA is the best place in the world to eat — because I haven’t lived in that many places — but this guy says it pretty well.

The Hungry Metropolis

Yeah, that post was written 4 years ago. But it still holds up.  Or take this post written this past year, highlighting our very own Chef Roi Choi.

Why Los Angeles Is the Best Food Town in America

Did I read both of those articles all the way through? Hell no. But I have eaten in this town. And coming from living somewhere with nothing but chain restaurants… I love eating in LA.

You like burgers? LA has some amazing ones – Including The Office Burger — which finds itself on many lists of the best burgers in America. Just don’t ask for ketchup. They will not give it to you. I promise.

You like Tacos? In this slideshow of the 35 best taco’s in America, at least 6 of them are in Los Angeles. Including their #1 : Ricky’s Fish Tacos.

How about Sushi? I’ve had sushi at 3 or 4 places in LA and they were all amazing. This article puts the top 2 hottest sushi restaurants in America right here in LA. I haven’t been to either — but you better bet I’m going to Sugarfish sometime in the next month.

Who says you can’t get a good pizza in LA? According to this article you can. Yeah… it’s not walk out of your apartment and grab an amazing New York Slice — I mean, it’s LA, of course we’re not going to compete with NY Pizza — no one can. But Pizzeria Mozza is making top 10 lists… so I say we’re doing okay.

Have you heard of Food Trucks? LA is the OG of the food truck scene. Some cities might have caught the trend with style — but we did it first. And LA still has a HOST of food trucks that will cook you up whatever you can think of.

No matter what food you like, you will find somewhere in LA that serves it — and they’ll probably serve it well. We may not top all the charts when it comes to dining, but it’s still a great city for a foodie. Four years ago Esquire put us at #5. Who knows where we are now.  In Esquire’s 21 best new restaurants of 2013 – LA has 3 of them (Marina Del Ray is still LA).

So there you have it. Come to LA and eat a lot of food.

An aspiring screenwriter's blog about life and the pursuit of industry jobs. Currently a Writer/Producer's Assistant

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