Women In Hollywood: A Shit Show

Hollywood, storytelling, women

The brilliant Danielle Henderson at Fusion asked me to participate in a comprehensive article she was writing about the shit show that is women working in Hollywood. The numbers are embarrassing if this were 1919 — oh but wait, women were doing much much better in Hollywood in 1919 than they are today in 2015.

Here is the full text of my interview.

Right now, I’m writing Robert Ludlum’s THE SIGMA PROTOCOL for Universal. It’s BOURNE meets THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR or THE CONVERSATION. But a totally separate universe from BOURNE. I couldn’t be more in love with it.

In Hollywood, it’s rare to be told directly that you can’t get a job because you’re a woman (though that does happen). Studio execs will say amongst themselves “I don’t want a woman on this” and an exec who gives it to you straight will actually let you know that that’s what the consensus is, so you don’t have to wonder what the real deal is.

I wrote that blog post you referenced after a former boss said publicly that he doesn’t like hiring women writers because they don’t write men as well as men do. The numbers of who gets hired to work in rooms make it obvious that more showrunners than just him feel that way, but he said it publicly.

However, these are dramatic examples. The common, everyday experience for a woman in Hollywood is to be subtly, silently backed away from, shut out of networking, mentoring and socializing opportunities which for men, may lead to jobs months and years down the line. Or at the very least surrounds them with a culture of belonging that puts them in the right mindset and around the right people to keep moving up in their career. I continue to feel shut out of that system — which is vital in terms of career development in Hollywood — to this day.

Or — I’ve been offered the opportunity to direct my first feature film. Everything in me wants to direct. But there’s this awful knowledge, that there are virtually zero opportunities for women to direct studio movies. If I divert time and energy toward developing my directing career, am I facing a brick wall? Can I afford to move my career in a direction that is possibly a complete dead end for me, because of my gender?

So to go back to your question — it’s not like there’s always some big scary sexist going YOU CAN’T HAVE THE JOB BECAUSE YOU’RE A WOMAN! Most often it’s invisible, and it happens way behind closed doors. Or it’s silent and implicit and understood. And you have to really look and reflect to see it even happening at all. And most people working at the highest levels of the industry do not seem to care enough to do that.

Amy Pascal freely admitted to paying Jennifer Lawrence less than her male counterparts on AMERICAN HUSTLE, saying “I run a business. People want to work for less money, I pay them less money. … Women shouldn’t be so grateful. Know what you’re worth. Walk away.”

She thinks what she’s saying is “I can get away with paying you class of people less because you’re just bad negotiators. It’s your own fault for not manning up.”

There are many research studies that pertain to this, but here are three that spring to mind: In one study, the same exact play was given to readers to evaluate, but with male names on the cover or female names. The male names were given much higher ratings. In another study, elementary children’s tests were graded anonymously, and the girls outscored the boys. When the tests had names attached, the boys outscored the girls. And in another study, rats were put in cages with arbitrary labels attached to them — “smart” and “dumb.” The rats that had been placed in the cages labeled “smart” ran the maze almost twice as fast as the rats placed in the cage labeled “dumb.” The researchers theorized that their handlers unconsciously treated the “smart” rats differently — stood closer to them, talked to them differently, had higher expectations for them, thought about them differently.

In Hollywood, there are rats called actors, writers, directors. And we are all put in cages by our agents and managers, by our producers and our studios. Some of the labels on our cages say “action franchise” or “good writer.” Other labels say “black” or “white,” “female” or “male.” If you are the rat in the cage that says “white” and “male” on it, you better believe your handlers are standing closer to you, talking to you differently, having higher expectations for you, thinking about you differently.

Negotiating any job offer is a process of trying to act on imperfect information and trying as much as possible to perfect that imperfect information. How much does the other party have and how much do they want? But in Hollywood, it’s not like there’s a totally equal movie right down the street you can “walk away” to if you don’t like their offer. You may have another offer lined up, but is it as good a movie? Is it a project you’re as in love with? If you’re a writer or director, did you just spend months or even a year(s) doing free work for this studio on this project to get to the point where you’re negotiating? Pascal’s advice to “know your worth” and “walk away” is insulting because it both puts her negotiating partners in the “lose-lose” position (i.e. “I lose if I take the shitty deal and I lose if I walk away from the offer.”) and because her advice assumes absolutely no responsibility on her part or the part of her studio for dealing fairly in these matters.

In 2014, just 8% of the directors Pascal hired were women (and that number is inflated by indies her art-house divisions acquired at film festivals — without these, the number would be closer to the 4% studio average). How is a director supposed to know her worth in that climate? When she cannot get hired to begin with? And the picture isn’t much better for women screenwriters either. I’ve heard from studio execs that reps don’t even put their women clients up for jobs the execs would be willing to hire them for, or the reps don’t push them hard enough, or the reps might think their dude clients are more of a home run for tentpoles, etc ad nauseum. There are so many failure points in the process of a woman getting paid in Hollywood before the point where she is able to “walk away” from a deal.

Which brings us back to the rats in our cages. No talent (rat) is ever negotiating directly with studio heads. Our agents are talking to them, and if they’re any good they have deep relationships with these people that extend way past any one project or client. In a different kind of industry, your market value might be determined by years on the job or programming skills or whatever. But in Hollywood, what determines your market value? Yes, for actors there’s some highly dubious scoring about whether international likes them (and foreign sales agents’s and financiers’s personal opinions and biases come into this big time). And for writers and directors, there’s your quote, meaning what you made on your last movie. And there’s how your last movie performed. All that goes into the negotiation. But beyond that, it’s just how much they like and want you. And how much someone else likes and wants you. Like any market valuation. There’s no app to consult or fair practices guide. It’s all just movie magic. If your rat handlers (reps) believe enough themselves — and do a successful enough job convincing your studio bosses that you are worth more than what they are offering, you may get more. But both sides have to believe it and feel like they are winning in the deal. But there’s no logic determining who is worth what. Is that actress worth more than that actor? Shrug. Will that writer do such a better job than some other writer that they’re worth this amount more? Which brings us back to those studies with the men’s and women’s names on the scripts, or the kids tests with the names on them …. Your agent has to believe you’re worth this much more. And your studio boss has to believe it. And you have to believe it. All this before Pascal’s “know your worth, walk away” leverage point.

And here is the key to all this: once the reps come to the talent with a negotiated deal, it’s all but a done deal. Like I said, negotiating is about imperfect information. In this case, it’s about the client not being privy to all the different loyalties and conversations and other projects in the pipeline and other clients and other (possibly better) movies she might do that usually she doesn’t even know about, trade-offs, promises, and unconscious biases that might have made both the reps and the studio boss stand a little further back from you the rat, talk a little different about you the rat, lower expectations for your chances of running through the maze. A great rep will push hard to strike the very best deal they can (and I love my reps). But Hollywood deal-making is the most psychological game there is. Your reps usually present the deal to you as “this is the best we could get and this is it.” Very few women actors, writers and directors are going to navigate the months-long slalom of getting to that point and then walk away. Because who’s to say whether there’s a better deal elsewhere (your agency won’t tell you that) or whether the studio actually will pay more (is Pascal saying we’re supposed to walk to find out?)

So when I get the advice from one of the most successful women in Hollywood history — a woman who has run a major studio for the past six years and thus has had control over all this — if you “want to work for less, I’m going to pay you less” I have to say it’s devastating.

But your quote is one negotiating threshold that’s hard to argue with. It’s a number. (Although studios do sometimes try to bully you into accepting less than your quote, but that’s another story.) What drives your quote up is getting jobs. I am very happy with the job I have right now, and I am not out looking (today). But speaking for all women writers and directors — and women actors who don’t see any roles for them out there — we do know our worth. We are not walking away. We are ready to drive those quotes up. Help us do that Amy.

*

This is the amazing article Danielle Henderson originally interviewed me for, which resulted in this piece. In it, she contextualizes everything I say with recent statistics and in depth analysis. Go read it!

She’s Not Just Some Secretary

features, screenwriting, storytelling, women

She’s not just some secretary.”

 

This is what one of the producers on my movie said about the female lead, three hours before we went in to do the studio pitch. We were arguing on the phone about the fact that I wanted her to have a certain job that would give her status more equal to the hero of the film – and he thought her having that job would be unrealistic considering everything she does in the movie and that it would take the audience out of the movie. So he gave her a job demotion right before the pitch, which I argued about – leading him to say “she’s not just some secretary.”

 

I spent the next couple hours timing myself reading the highlighted portions of my beat sheet – and eating anchovies (brain food) – (a fatal mistake as I would be self-conscious about my breath all afternoon) and turning over that sentence in the back of my head like a kid’s rock-tumbler –

 

She’s not just some secretary –

 

I got to the production office a half hour before the pitch. The exec who’s been working with me this whole time sat with me with our feet up on his coffee table and kept me calm. He had tried to demote the female lead for the same reason a month or two before – at 7 pm on a Friday – and I had launched into a histrionic speech that went something like “we are trying to attract both male and female audiences with this movie. And as a female audience member, I can tell you, we know when we are being patronized. We know what kind of movie this is going to be, when it’s being promoted. We see when the female lead has a lesser job and less status than the male lead – when the filmmakers and producers making it consider her less than – and we know what they think of her and us. And if this is going to be that kind of movie then I can’t be involved.”

 

Gulp.

 

In case you don’t know, those are the words of a crazy person.

 

But those are also the words of a person who is crazily dedicated. Crazily invested. Who believes in what she is doing. Who feels it. Who is leading, not following.

 

And at the time, this exec had said “Ok. I get it. I’m in.” (For what it’s worth, that’s the worst/craziest thing I’ve said to him or any exec. And it’s a sign of just how hard we’ve worked on this movie. And – he deserves hazard pay.)

 

So we’re in the production office, before the pitch. My exec friend is keeping me calm. He looks me straight in the eye and goes “I want you to know I was on your side. We didn’t even talk about it.” And I knew what he was talking about – and in fact, I never even questioned that he was on my side on that. So I proceeded to tell him why this thing about the male lead and the female lead being equal means so much to me.

 

“It’s not, like, some abstract feminism thing for me. I was raised by a single mother who had no education and worked full time as a secretary –

 

She’s not just some secretary –

 

— and all she wanted for us girls was to go to college and never have to work a desk job like her and have better lives than she did. And not only did I go to college but I went to Princeton and my first job out of college was [the same job we’ve now given the female lead in the movie]. And despite all that, I have felt marginalized my entire fucking life — growing up in a house of all women (already marginalized as a gender in this species) — abandoned by my father who went off and left us to sink from middle-class into poverty — abandoned by a culture that couldn’t care less about what it feels like to be less than, displaced, marginalized, disempowered always. This is real for me. Visceral –” 

 

She’s not just some secretary –

 

I didn’t know you grew up in a single-parent home,” he said. “I did too. That must be why we’re so …”

 

Sympatico?” I said.

 

We drove the golf cart over to the studio where I met another exec for the first time. (The producer was already inside.) The three of us stood around nervously chit-chatting before the pitch. Making conversation about our families. They asked about my sister, and I told them about how she’s never come to visit me in LA. How she disapproves of my risky choice to become a writer and how she’s basically waiting for me to fail and move back home. How up until recently, it’s been hard to argue with her.

 

The assistant called us in to the pitch.

 

Afterward, the producer, my exec friend and I drove the golf cart back to their bungalow. We were laughing cuz I thought the producer was mad at me cuz I kept stopping the pitch to make jokes (and once to accuse the studio exec of yawning — he wasn’t) cuz I was afraid the mood was getting too dour. The producer goes “you want the mood to be dour if your movie is dour!” Through the whole pitch he kept saying “keep going!” cuz I kept detouring.

 

But as we drove across the studio lot, the producer said “you did really really well” and I appreciated that as it was my first studio pitch ever and I was nervous as hell. And as the sun set over the soundstages and the balmy breeze blew my half-shaved hair back, I took a mental snapshot and said to myself in my head – remember this moment cuz your life is about to change.

 

And it did. We sold the movie the next day. My dream project. There’s nothing else I’d rather be working on right now.

 

But with dreams answered comes responsibility too. I just spent a week with my mom (I’m writing this on the airplane back to LA), and I was telling her about one of the many complicated aspects of studio filmmaking. I was uncertain about what to do.

 

I always err on the side of being vulnerable,” she said.

 

Mom, you’ve got to remember – screenwriting is heavily male dominated. Like 85%. Everyone already thinks I can’t do the job because I’m a woman. If I go around showing my belly, I’m going to look feminine and weak and lose all respect.”

 

Well then I guess your industry is just over my head.”

 

She’s not just some secretary.

 

No mom I think you understand it just fine.

 

 

Stay Open

screenwriting, storytelling

I like looking through bins of old photos at garage sales and flea markets. I buy pictures that make me feel something.

This morning I was idly flipping through pictures — searching for feeling, meaning — and from somewhere Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” started playing —

— and suddenly I was 16 years old, camping out down by the river behind my parents’ log cabin in the North Georgia mountains (where they still live) with the boy I had a huge crush on beside a crackling campfire, listening to Bob Dylan for the first time and letting him teach me to smoke pot for the first time ever —

— and my eyes filled with tears — not because I’m sad, but because I’m human —

— because this town is constantly trying to push us toward feeling less, toward being less connected, less human, trying to thicken our skins and build our callouses and make us more cynical and more skeptical and more cruel and less trusting — like we’re naked gladiators in the arena ripping each other’s throats out with our teeth and scything each others’ breasts off and tearing arms out of the sockets till the blood gushes rivers in the sand and they’re lounging in their boxes, turning around to complain about why the figs aren’t riper —

And our jobs are not to fucking let them.

Our jobs are to lay down the swords. Stop fighting. Stop wounding each other. Most of all, stop wounding ourselves.

Stay open.

Stay open.

Stay open.

And what’s most ironic is — that’s what they want from us. The best ones know it too. They know they are simultaneously brutalizing us and then begging us to stay open. Stay soft. Stay connected.

That is the job.

I’ve tried to make my new movie as personal as possible. I’ve infused it with my own memories, hopes, desires, fears — and those of the executive I’m working with — which I’ve been extracting and infusing into this movie. Or maybe he’s been infusing his guts into it — as aware as I am of how important it is to make this movie real and vital and personal, about the shit we’re really dwelling on. It’s a big movie about extraordinary people in dramatic circumstances — which we are obviously not — but at its heart it’s about people kinda similar to us, who maybe have big, stressful stuff going on in their lives — who feel like they’re doing battle on a daily basis — and then suddenly something happens and they’re instantly by that campfire behind my parents’ log cabin when I was 16 —

I feel like part of what filmmaking is is an internal process of what I was doing at the flea market this morning — flipping through the old photos of your life — constantly scanning for what makes you feel something — then putting that in.

That’s what this executive and I have been doing for months. The more personal the better, I say. Even for a big budget action thriller. Stay open. Stay connected. Stay soft. That’s the job.

 

Future Predictions

storytelling

My life has changed a lot since the last time I posted here.

Then — I was in the middle of writing an impossibly difficult movie. I was crying a lot. I was under a tremendous amount of pressure, which I’ll write about another time. I felt very alone, and I was very alone. Cooped up in my apartment, trying to rein in my focus and race against the clock to write a movie that would be ambitious for a screenwriter at any experience level, much less a first-time screenwriter.

Now — I have agents, managers, a lawyer. I spend my days talking to executives, or emailing with executives. I regret that I’m not marinating in ideas as much as I used to. But at least I’m not alone as fucking much.

So an executive mentioned that he looked up my twitter for some future predictions — cuz that’s my schtick. I tell everyone — I’m really good at predicting the future. I was the first screenwriter to pitch WIKILEAKS, before it was a big story. Most of my ideas become big studio movies or TV projects eventually. I know what’s coming. Instead of future predictions he just found a bunch of tweets about how crazy my life has been lately. So I wrote him some future predictions, and I thought I may as well share them here:

FUTURE PREDICTIONS

— neural networks (multi-layered computer networks that mimic the behavior of the human brain) will grow more sophisticated

–math-based currencies (i.e. Bitcoin etc) will grow more stable and widely used

— nanotechnology (and its risks) will continue to expand
–transhumanism (bionic adjustments to improve performance and health) will be available to more and more regular people
–the majority of crime will be cybercrime in some way
–drones will take over every area of everyday life
–manufacturing will take place in the cloud
–the internet of things (i.e. your toaster and your fridge will be networked the way my blog and twitter are connected)
–molar caps that conduct sound (instead of earbuds)
–3D printers will be in every home
–you will interact with your screens without using your hands
–as even the poor have tablets, the rich will have hand-built, custom-designed, artisanal technology
–Rapid Growth Markets like Colombia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Turkey are where the action’s at
Watch this space for more future predictions ….

 

What If You Can’t Save The Person Who Saved You

storytelling

“Do you know what it’s like to be 57 and starting over?”

My stepdad lost his job. But it’s more complicated than that – he lost his job, then fought really hard to get a new appointment. When he didn’t get the appointment, for various political reasons – it was devastating for all of us. It was like losing his job all over again.

And he is such a good man. Such a loving, kind, honest, humble, decent human.

When I was home for Christmas this year, we stopped by Wal-mart one night. A 14-year-old girl approached him in the parking lot and gave him a huge hug and told him how much his involvement in her life had meant to her (before he lost his job). She had been a participant in the drug court he had started on his own time working on weekends, fighting impossible bureaucratic and financial battles, inspiring his team to spend their own money to travel to attend training … I could go on. There are so many stories of my stepdad tirelessly, quietly working on behalf of his community.

Once at a fundraiser, he was parking cars. One person asked him if he did anything else besides park cars: “Yeah. I’m a judge.”

He was continuously finding solutions to keep families together, keep kids out of jail.

He loved his job, and he was good at it.

Worst of all – the batshit crazy guy who cost him his job was himself removed from office soon afterwards for pulling out a gun in the courtroom.

It’s hard for me to make sense of this. It hits me in a place in my gut that’s raw – where injustice lives.

I feel like everything I write comes from this place.

It’s full of rage.

And fear –

And sadness –

And helplessness –

I feel like the people who get ahead are the ones who cheat. Who connive. Who manipulate. And my stepdad is just not that guy. He’s just an honest, straight-shooter – a real salt of the earth person – probably too honest for some – with a salty wit that sometimes rubs people the wrong way, especially in rural Georgia where some people have real sticks up their asses but the vast majority don’t and are about the coolest, funniest, most wonderful people you’ll ever meet –

And I love him so much it hurts. Like, it’s painful to love someone this much. Because what if I lose him? I have way too many eggs in this one basket. I’ve got it all riding on black 21.

My stepdad saved my life when I was a child. While my real father was manipulative and cruel, distant, empty and selfish, my stepdad was nurturing, loving and attached. He has always believed in and supported my artistic ambitions.

There was a moment when I was at home at my parents’ log cabin in rural Georgia and I had just seen a novelist I went to college with on the Today Show. And it was upsetting for me. I walked out onto the front porch, where my stepdad was having a cigarette with the dogs looking out over the foggy morning woods. I told him what happened and how it made me feel and I started crying. I said “why do you keep believing in me?”

He said “Are you kidding? I’m just doing this for my Ferarri.” And that made me laugh and love him so much. And I hugged him.

And now hearing him sound so down – his voice sound so on edge – I wish I could do the same for him. But I don’t know how I can. It makes me feel so trapped that I can’t.

I sat in my car just now – parked in my carport – tears streaming down my cheeks –  hearing him say the words above – and said – “I wish I could rescue you.”

 

 

Cults, Community, and The Heidi & Frank Show

advice, storytelling

The roar of my neighbor’s un-mufflered pick-up greeted me in the carport. She got out and told me she was going to a live broadcast of her favorite pirated internet radio show – The Heidi & Frank Show – at the Hooter’s in North Hollywood. She strongly encouraged me to come.

As appealing as that sounded, I had to regretfully decline. However, I was struck by her zeal in proselytizing on behalf of Heidi and/or Frank. I’m from the rural South, so I’ve been on the receiving end of my share of well-meaning invitations to church suppers, youth groups, baptismal founts and lock-ins.

It wasn’t till a while later when her truck roared up – backwards (she always backs in) – when I noticed a giant “Heidi & Frank Show” banner covering the entire back of her truck gate – that I realized the full extent of her Heidi & Frank conversion.

“Where’d you get that banner?” I asked.

“I had it made,” she said. “To support the show.”

This was like lightning striking me dumb, the idea that anyone could care so much about Heidi & Frank – who, from what I’ve gathered online appear to be a couple of profane idiot-whisperers (“Topics discussed on today’s After Hours: tweets out of context, downs, swollen lady bits, fly hair quests, and lit hickeys… it’s radio worth watching!”) who specialize in the kind of community-building first espoused by the Hitler Youth.

I was blown away by my neighbor’s banner – by the idea that anyone could care so much about a show, feel so identified with and invested in a *money-making corporate enterprise* as to spend her own money to help advertise for them – till she drove up a while later with her new Heidi & Frank mudflaps.

That’s when I realized – isn’t this a goal of anyone who makes stuff, who tells stories for a living and depends on the enthusiasm and support of others to help spread those stories around? Don’t we all want our listeners, our blog readers, our T.V. show watchers or movie watchers or novel readers to feel so invested in and identified with our stories they create their own mudflaps on their trucks, to extend those myths those mud-encrusted-rubber couple inches further into the world?

I guess we can all learn a think or two from Heidi & Frank, and not just about swollen lady bits.

*

I’ve spent all of 60 seconds studying this Heidi & Frank, but seems like they’re following the cult leader’s handbook:

  1. People are put in physical or emotionally distressing situations [Hooter’s in North Hollywood]
  2. Their problems are reduced to one simple explanation, which is repeatedly emphasized [I’m listening to Heidi & Frank.]
  3. They receive what seems to be unconditional love, acceptance, and attention from a charismatic leader or group [this is the logline of any radio show]
  4. They get a new identity based on the group [my neighbor feels so identified with the show she used her own money to make a banner for her truck to advertise for them]
  5. They are subject to entrapment (isolation from friends, relatives and the mainstream culture) and their access to information is severely controlled. [the more they listen to Heidi & Frank, the less contact they have with the outside world]

 

*

I’m reading

 

Co-Sign

storytelling

Hollywood Hills © by djjewelz

I hadn’t talked to my dad in a few months because I was buried in script-mode. So I almost forgot just how crazy he is.

The point of the call was just to catch up – as I drove to a doctor’s appointment across town. But since all I’ve been doing for months is writing, I don’t have a lot to catch people up on. So I told him what I’m excited about – which is that I’m thinking about buying a house.

I asked him if he would consider co-signing a mortgage with me, since I don’t exactly have two years of stable job history. (One of the many perks of being a writer.)

I don’t even feel like trying to put down here all the crazy things he said. Like when he kept bringing up his divorce from my mother – and how we and all the lawyers keep going after him for everything he’s got. (If that were true, how did he end up on the sailboat, and we ended up with our lights cut off?)

In the midst of sobbing and trying to make sense of this craziness – I forgot I was actually on my way somewhere.

I think I’m posting this because I want to remind myself some day – in case I forget again – that I can’t keep treating him like a normal father. Because he just doesn’t want to be that for me. He refuses. He’d rather pathologically lie – claiming his credit is too poor to co-sign for me (p.s. he owns a Ferrari), claiming he was hit so hard by the recession he’s had to dip into his retirement (p.s. he “retired” a few years ago – isn’t “retirement” when you “dip into your retirement”?), he’d rather go on meaningless angry rants about how he doesn’t cheat people and walk away from mortgages the way all these other scumbags do –

I remember I had an appointment but I forget where.

I kept trying to pin him down as to why this innocuous (to me) request made him so upset. The way I see it – if co-signing the mortgage isn’t something he feels like he can do or wants to do, all he has to do is give me a normal reason (or not), be nice about it and move on. I don’t see the need to get vicious, cruel, and mean about it. To rip apart and belittle every part of what I’m doing (including the city I’ve chosen (Los Angeles), my chosen career, my idea to get a roommate to help off-set the costs of home-ownership (“you don’t think that would look ridiculous and weird?” any weirder than my own father refusing to co-sign with me?), and everything I know about the real estate process.) Oh and he managed to compare me to my sister (who has owned a house with her husband for a few years in a vastly cheaper market) – making the implication both about my being single compared to her, and their joint income being more, and their joint job history being stable – and I just wanted to scream at him –

I am single because you have mistreated me my entire life.

I didn’t say that – but I did say variations of –

Don’t you get – the way your father treated you – that’s how you’re treating me. 

And –

You want to know why I don’t call you or visit you ever? This is why. Because this is what awaits me on the other end. Would you call you? 

I keep driving and driving – maybe if I just keep moving I’ll see it when I pass.

He wanted to know why I didn’t ask my “mother and father” (stepfather) to co-sign. I was like “you’re the one with the mansion and the yacht out back – seems obvious that you would be the one with the great credit.” He said something like “you treat me like shit. The only reason you ever call is because you want something from me.”

I pull off to the side of the road. I give up.

 

 

*

I went to my first Overeaters Anonymous meeting last week. I don’t know yet if it’s right for me – though my experiences clearly resonate with those of OA. However, I started listening to this podcast of OA speakers. And I am ob-sessed. I listened to Martha O. (12/17/11) tonight – who described getting cancer while bulimic, and looking forward to how thin she’d be. There’s something about how honest and raw these people are – how much I relate to what they’re saying – I just can’t stop listening to them.

See Your Own Trouble Reflected

advice, storytelling

lynda barry card w/ purple paint spatters © by xinem

… [Lynda Barry] told a story about the neuroscientist V. S. Ramachandran, who helps patients experiencing phantom-limb pain. Barry discussed one patient who felt that his missing left hand was clenched in a fist and could never shake the discomfort — could never “unclench” it.

So Ramachandran used a mirror box — a compartment into which the patient could insert his right hand and see it reflected at the end of his left arm. “And Ramachandran said, ‘Open your hands.’ And the patient saw this” — Barry opened two clenched fists in unison. “That’s what I think images do.

“I think that in the course of human life,” she continued softly, “we have events that cause” — she clenched her fist and held it up, inspecting it from all angles. “Losing your parents might cause it. Or a war. Or things going bad in a family.”

The only way to open that fist, she said, is to see your own trouble reflected in an image, as the patient saw his hand reflected in a mirror. It might be a story you write, or a book you read, or a song that means the world to you. “And then?” She opened her hand and waved.

I read this article about Lynda Barry – who became a writing and creativity teacher when the market for her comic strips dried up.

I was pretty troubled in college – and whenever people (people like the other girls in my eating disorders recovery group, for instance) would suggest to me that writing was therapeutic for me – I thought this idea was bullshit at best.

However, I do think writing has a cathartic quality – not in a confessional, I’m-making-my-audience-my-therapists! way. Rather, in the way Barry describes above.

If something has caused you to close, cave in, get smaller – writing about it, creating around it, reflecting it in the world again and again – gets you bigger again.

via Cartoonist Lynda Barry Will Make You Believe In Yourself – NYTimes.com.

Provoke Anxiety

storytelling

I don't know what nationality this werewolf perched in London is, but I have to think he's American.

If I were to make blog t-shirts, the first would say PROVOKE ANXIETY.

This feels like a founding principle to me – of the way I write, the way I live, the way I encounter the world.

If I’m doing something that doesn’t make me anxious – that doesn’t make me delay, worry, perseverate, talk about it endlessly – it doesn’t feel worth doing.

I don’t want to waste my time feeling safe and comfortable.

I provoke anxiety – in myself, in others – because that’s where art lives.

Art is anxious. Not safe.

 

In an effort to take you behind the scenes here on the blog, I bring you a picture of this blog post being written -- in the lobby of The Hoxton, London.

 

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I’m listening to Julie Klausner’s amazing podcast “How Was Your Week.” She really loves the things she loves (1970’s stars, animals reading her book, musical theatre, reality T.V.) — and helps you love them too.

 

 

Story By vs. Written By

advice, screenwriting, storytelling, T.V. writing

Questioned Proposal © by Eleaf

 

Someone asked me to answer this question on Quora, so I thought I may as well throw it up here:

Question:

What is the difference between story writing and screenplay writing for movies?

My answer:

There is no difference.

People who don’t know what they’re doing or are not particularly confident in their screenwriting will go on and on about structure and formulas and hitting this goalpost at that mark and blah blah but the fact remains –

A screenplay is a story told visually (and with some dialogue). There is absolutely no other difference. It’s just a different style of telling a story (through pictures, sounds and spoken words rather than written words).

The more you focus on telling a story (rather than hitting all the goalposts the books talk about) – the better off you will be.

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I would also like to recommend this answer to the same question by Mark Hughes. He gets more into the nitty-gritty of the “story by” vs. “written by” credits.

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Today’s “What I’m Reading” is a “What I’m Listening To” –

I really love podcasts. There’s a handful that I listen to every episode they do. I’ll try to post about all of my favorites, but today’s favorite is “Extra Hot Great” – a podcast by three true lovers of T.V. and movies and all things pop culture. (They are Tara Ariano, David T. Cole and Joe Reid). They’re funny, insightful, and best of all they infect you with their love and sense of ownership over wonderful (and some terrible) things to watch.