New Year’s Dissolutions

I’m always resolving to do things, and I think it’s time to make a change.

The sheer volume of life goals I set, and often expect myself to achieve, is intimidating. Or inspiring, depending on my mood.

So this January let’s try paring down the list. Not the list of what I resolve to do – no way, that would be admitting defeat which I never, almost ever do while all the blood remains in my body. Instead, let’s cut out some of the superfluous stuff I actually do, which I suspect keeps me distracted from the bigger, cooler, more interesting things I really want. You know?

I DISSOLVE: Watching TV shows I don’t care about
With the availability of Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, and DVDs from the library, it’s easy to watch an entire five seasons of Breaking Bad without realizing it. You just one-after-another it whether you really want to or not.

My new philosophy is to disoblige myself from finishing a series just because I started it. Drop Dead Diva? I gave you six episodes, and that’s all I’d really like to pursue. Downton Abbey? You lost me. I’m giving myself permission to stop watching you so I can watch something else. I mean, write more.

Writing Everywhere

Writing Everywhere… it is possible

I DISSOLVE: Staying indoors
Being a writer and living in southern California comes with certain advantages. Why do I feel chained to my desk when I can write literally anywhere? All I need is a notebook! And probably a pen. Potentially a laptop. All of which are magnificently portable.

No more will I insist on sitting and staring at a screen to achieve verbal accumulation. To the streets, to the outdoors, to the beach!

I DISSOLVE: Driving everywhere
While LA is not the most pedestrian-friendly city in America, it is reasonably so. I have coffee, a library, several restaurants, public transportation and an ATM within 1 mile of my apartment. I have a grocery store down the street. And a clock repairman around the corner. Why jeopardize a perfectly good parking spot when I can walk to so many of life’s essential places?

I DISSOLVE: Working all day
This week I tried an experiment: knocking out my workday between the hours of 7am and noon. I won’t say it went perfectly, but I was amazed at how much I could accomplish in five hours. Since I tend to focus so intensely, I think short bursts of activity suit me much better than forcing a full day of lackluster performance. I certainly feel much more interested in writing my script!

I bet you have your own secret list of dissolutions for this year. Embrace it! Clear out the clutter! Let’s all let go of the stuff we don’t need, but we have it just because we’ve always had it, and make way for the new exciting stuff.

Want to?

Pitching Your Screenplay

Dear Inktip Pitch Summit,

Your distinguished event is coming up in just over a week, and I’m beginning to sweat. What will happen if I stumble over my words and give a poor presentation? Will I be eaten alive and disgraced forever after?

Sweaty in Palm Beach

Dear Sweaty,

Please don’t fret about your pitch. Some nerves are to be expected, but remember the producers and agents in attendance are regular people just like you, and they just want to hear a good story. 

So simply tell your story and let them react to it. You may find that the simple act of telling it over and over will give you new insights into your characters and make you even more excited to see it brought to the big screen.

Just imagine your star on Hollywood Boulevard… It all begins somewhere!


Dear Inktip,

I’m packing for my trip to Burbank, and am concerned about the dress code. Someone told me people dress up as their characters for the pitch meetings. Should I do that? And where am I ever going to get my hands on a mermaid costume at this late hour?

Finless in Wyoming

Dear Finless,

We don’t know who may have told you to dress like a mermaid, but we highly encourage you to abandon that effort. Simple business casual is preferred.

Of course a pair of seashells is never frowned upon should you wish to save them for the pool.


Captain Jack pitches his script ideas. If a producer doesn’t like it, he’s marooned.

Dear Inktip,

What if I pitch my script and a producer requests to read it? Will I become an overnight success, famous, and rich beyond my wildest dreams?

Dreaming in South Poughkeepsie

Dear Dreaming,



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Producing for Screenwriters

I’m a screenwriter. I love movies and words and popcorn.

But let’s say, just hypothetically, that producers have yet to bang down my door begging for screenplays. Do I just keep on writing and hope that someday those words will get moving?

I think you know the answer to that.

With my team at the screening of our 48 hour film, Dead End Job.

With my team at the screening of our 48 hour film, Dead End Job.

Producing is no easy job, but if we’re eager to spin our ideas into a living, breathing experience, I say go for it. Short films and web series can be done in our spare time with a limited budget, and it gets us in the mode of making stuff.

We are no longer dreamers and wishers. We are filmmakers.

Filmmakers are allowed to say things like, “I have multiple projects in various stages of development,” which works even if you are still trying to corral friends and family members into helping you shoot your first video.

Of course, filmmakers have a lot more responsibility than screenwriters. And chances are, there’s a reason we’ve been so focused on writing all this time… because writing is fun and producing might… not be? Or maybe we don’t know where to begin.

If you happen to be best friends with award-winning actors and a hidden gem of a director, I would suggest you give them a call. If not, it’s still highly possible to put together a team of really good people who can help you tell your story. Asking friends for recommendations, posting in craigslist, contacting the communications department at your local university, can all generate leads for your budding production team.

This approach always works for me, and it’s so much easier to work with a few folks who are pretty good at what they do, then to try and do everything yourself. It can be done, but why?


If you could use a little kick in the pants to get started, go to and sign up for the project in your city. Between now and the start date, make it your goal to recruit as many people as you can for your team. Then you all get to write, shoot, and edit your entire 4-7 minute film in 2 days.

And it will be finished, whether you like it or not.

Take a look at the trailer for the Dark Comedy I just produced and co-wrote. Go get ’em.

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Death and Comedy

A popular saying among writers is, “Dying is easy. Comedy is hard.” Chicken soup for the would-be comedy writer’s soul.

I know comedy is hard. When I think about things that genuinely, truly make me laugh, they are few. And even fewer are intentional – most of the comedy I experience is the day-to-day variety of non sequiturs and slapstick that is all part of the funny world in which we live.

We’re at the rough draft stage in my screenwriting class (yes, that’s still going on), and so far I’m reading what I have and I’m thinking, Yes. This is funny. Only time will tell if the people who live outside my crinkly little brain will agree.

But in keeping with the Philosophy of Screenwriting tips I learned back in November (ie: Brain Training), I recognize the importance of learning and growing in all aspects of writing. So let’s look at three entertainers that are never not funny. Will we spot a theme?

The “good parts” version, from William Goldman

1. The Princess Bride (the movie and the book)
A family favorite from early childhood. I don’t even remember not loving this movie. Flip to any page in the screenplay, it’s funny.

Check out this conversation between The Man in Black and Fezzik. The Man is in pursuit of his hijacked honey, who has been secreted away by a super smart guy that left his goons to deal with their pursuer – one of whom is Fezzik, played by Andre the Giant.

THE MAN IN BLACK is racing up the mountain trail. 
Ahead is a bend in the trail. He sees it, slows. 
Then he stops, listening.

Satisfied by the silence, he starts forward again and as he
rounds the bend -- a rock flies INTO FRAME, shattering on a
boulder inches in front of him.

                                            CUT TO:


He moves into the mountain path. He has picked up another
rock and holds it lightly.

             I did that on purpose. I don't
             have to miss.

                         MAN IN BLACK
             I believe you -- So what happens

             We face each other as God intended.
             Sportsmanlike. No tricks, no
             weapons, skill against skill alone.

                         MAN IN BLACK
             You mean, you'll put down your
             rock and I'll put down my sword,
             and we'll try to kill each other
             like civilized people?

             I could kill you now.

He gets set to throw, but the Man In Black shakes his head,
takes off his sword and scabbard, begins the approach toward
the Giant.

                         MAN IN BLACK
             Frankly, I think the odds are
             slightly in your favor at hand

             It's not my fault being the
             biggest and the strongest. I
             don't even exercise.

What’s funny?

The situation, the dialogue, and the characters. First, you have this huge fellow with hands as big as the boulders he’s throwing, reasoning with a comparatively tiny hero. I love Fezzik’s character – gentle giant, not too bright, but he gets to say some really funny lines. “I don’t even exercise.” I die.

2. Jim Gaffigan
Always. Always funny. One of the few comedians who is – maybe I’m just picky. What am I saying, I’m horribly picky. I feel an apology to the entire population of humorists is in order. But that just serves to underscore how truly excellent Jim is.

Probably best known for his hot pockets bit, this man could draw belly laughs from Mister Spock. If I could summon a genie to reassure me that some day I’d be half as funny as Jim, I’d be so excited.

What’s funny?

Too much to mention. The voices (“Sincerely, Water Chestnut the Third”), the profound explorations of a topic we universally love… even vegetarians. Yes, vegetarians love bacon. Perhaps that’s part of the irony that makes bacon funny. Thanks to modern health studies, we’re all convinced bacon is so bad for us and yet we love it so completely.

3. Hyperbole and a Half
Leave it to Allie to make anything funny. Literally anything, even extremely unfunny things – like Depression. I didn’t think it was possible, but I was shaking with repressed giggles by the end of this read. I’ll just give an excerpt:

It’s weird for people who still have feelings to be around depressed people. They try to help you have feelings again so things can go back to normal, and it’s frustrating for them when that doesn’t happen. From their perspective, it seems like there has got to be some untapped source of happiness within you that you’ve simply lost track of, and if you could just see how beautiful things are…

But people want to help. So they try harder to make you feel hopeful and positive about the situation. You explain it again, hoping they’ll try a less hope-centric approach, but re-explaining your total inability to experience joy inevitably sounds kind of negative; like maybe you WANT to be depressed. The positivity starts coming out in a spray — a giant, desperate happiness sprinkler pointed directly at your face. And it keeps going like that until you’re having this weird argument where you’re trying to convince the person that you are far too hopeless for hope just so they’ll give up on their optimism crusade and let you go back to feeling bored and lonely by yourself.

And that’s the most frustrating thing about depression. It isn’t always something you can fight back against with hope. It isn’t even something — it’s nothing. And you can’t combat nothing. You can’t fill it up. You can’t cover it. It’s just there, pulling the meaning out of everything. That being the case, all the hopeful, proactive solutions start to sound completely insane in contrast to the scope of the problem.

It would be like having a bunch of dead fish, but no one around you will acknowledge that the fish are dead. Instead, they offer to help you look for the fish or try to help you figure out why they disappeared.

The problem might not even have a solution. But you aren’t necessarily looking for solutions. You’re maybe just looking for someone to say “sorry about how dead your fish are” or “wow, those are super dead. I still like you, though.”

What’s funny?

It takes guts to talk about your life and put all the dark parts out there, but also make fun of it at the same time. And it resonates with us, because we all wonder about ourselves and we all need to be given permission to laugh about it.  It’s like a communal, “Wow, life really sucks sometimes but maybe it will get better.”

Plus those cartoons, enchantingly drawn in possibly the crummiest computer art program ever designed are classic.

So now looking at my three funny things, I am noticing a pattern.

1. People (or rather characterizations of people)
The face made, the voice, the accent, the quirky turn of a phrase. So many characteristics that will tap those funny bones. Case in point: I hate puns. Despise them. Find them Unfunny. But when my DAD drops a pun on an otherwise perfect afternoon, I can’t help laughing. Because my dad is funny, even if his jokes aren’t.

2. A fresh take on a common problem
We’re all in this together. It’s fun to explore the crazy situations we find ourselves in and invent new responses we all wish we had the guts to give. You all have friends and family that who make you laugh in spite of your best efforts to resist. Every family has a punster or inappropriate potty humorist. Maybe it’s you.

3. Silly
When it comes right down to it, I can’t help being drawn to the ridiculous. The random and unexpected observations of people in books, movies, and real life are often the funniest. I even like potty humor, mostly because I know I shouldn’t.

So I’ve been working on this post for precisely 70 minutes, which I’m pretty sure is not enough time to explore this topic in depth. Feel free to respond below with funny stuff. It’s good to laugh.

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