29 January 2011

Group Maltin Cleanse

Here we go!  Chosen at random from Leonard Maltin’s 2011 Movie Guide
Twelve-year-old boy spending the summer in Maine with his too-busy father and stepmother forms a bond with an odd-seeming older lady who helps him unlock traumatic events in his life, and vice-versa.

This is only a prompt.  There is no wrong way to respond to it.  You may take it literally, or it may spark off some other idea.  The point is to take the first idea and pursue it over a couple of pages.

“First thought, best thought.” – Allen Ginsberg.

Be fearless, unrehearsed, and willing for whatever you write to be bad.  (It won’t be.)

For screenplays, play scripts and short stories, let’s shoot for two to five pages.

If your bag is poetry, songwriting or sermons, do what you do, but don’t feel like you have to start at the beginning or make it to the end.  This is only an exercise!  Stay loose.

Don't forget to post it somewhere and provide link below.


Here's mine, three pages long! (Alfred becomes Alfie somewhere in the middle.)


               FRED MARKS sits behind the wheel of his pristine BMW, the
               engine idling. Fred is almost as well-detailed as the car,
               in suit and tie. His son, ALFRED, 12 years-old, is opening
               and closing an ash tray.

                              Please stop that.

                              I want to go swimming.

                              Alfie, I have to go to court.

                              This is stupid! I should've just
                              stayed with mom. You won't let me
                              do anything.

               Fred impatiently checks his ridiculously expensive watch.

                              I'm sorry about this, okay? It
                              will only take me a couple of
                              hours, in and out, and I'll be
                              right back here. Do you have your
                              stepmom's number?

                              In my phone.

                              So call if you have an emergency.
                              Come on, Alfie, we'll go watch a
                              movie tonight.

               Alfie lifts the handle and kicks the door open. Fred winces.


               Alfie turns, staring daggers. Fred swallows his anger.


                              Check out Robert Heinlein. I think
                              you'll like him.

               Alfie turns and walks away. Fred reaches over and closes the
               door, and drives off. Alfie turns back to watch him go.

                              At least you're trying.

               Alfie rolls his eyes and walks into the library.

               INT. LIBRARY - DAY (CONTINUOUS)

               The library is old, high arched ceilings like a temple.
               Alfie looks up at a mural that must date from the Works
               Progress Administration: Epic, depicting boys and girls
               reading books and looking towards a bright, shining future
               full of rocket ships and skyscrapers.

               ELOISE, 60s, approaches as he's distracted.

                              My father painted that.

               Alfie turns, startled.


                              You're Fred Marks' son.

                              I'm supposed to look for Robert
                              Heinlein. How do you know my dad?

               Sadness nibbles at the edges of Eloise. She sucks it up and

                              Science Fiction. Follow me.

               Alfie follows. There's something not quite right about this
               lady, but she's pleasant enough.


               Eloise is browsing through the bookstacks, looking for

                              It's okay if I hang out? I'd
                              rather be swimming. But Dad was
                              called to court.

                              Your father is very good at what
                              he does.

                              I guess. How do you know him?

               Eloise pulls a book.

                              Eureka! "Have Spacesuit, Will

               She hands it to Alfie.


                              My son's favorite.

                              Dumb title. The picture isn't too
                              much better.

               The cover of the book is classic, pulp sci-fi. A man in a
               gleaming spacesuit is walking across a lunar landscape with
               a lemur-like alien draped over his shoulders.

                              There's a comfy couch on the other
                              side of these bookshelves. You can
                              make yourself at home. My name is
                              Eloise if you need any more help.

               Eloise turns to go.

                              Eloise? I asked you twice how you
                              knew my dad, and you ignored me
                              both times.

               She steels herself.

                              He put my son in prison.

               Maintaining her composure, Eloise leaves. Alfie looks after

                              I should have stayed with mom.

                                                                  FADE OUT.

                                                                    THE END

25 January 2011

Maltin Cleanse Update

Here's what I'm going to do for the big, group Maltin Cleanse: I'm going to post a random plot summary just before midnight, Friday night. That way we'll all have Saturday to write some pages.

Remember: It doesn't have to be "good," it just has to be done.

24 January 2011

The Maltin Cleanse 

I write a lot, but not nearly enough for what I hope to accomplish over the next five years.

I am out of shape.  Most of my writing over the past three years has been "as necessary" or "as mandated by circumstances beyond my control."  That's a bit like saying "I run only when chased."  I need to do something that will: 1) Flush out some bad writing in the short term and 2) put me back into the groove of writing everyday.

And so, I have started the Maltin Cleanse.

I've heard this sort of thing recommended before, but I couldn't point to where I've heard it.  Here's how it works:

I have a copy of Leonard Maltin's 2011 Movie Guide.  There are over 17,000 capsule reviews in this hefty paperback.  These capsule reviews include plot summaries for everything from Casablanca to Troll 2*.  It's pretty exhaustive.

Armed with this cinematic tome and a Scripped Pro account, I chose a title each day and write a two-to-five page script -- screenplay or stage play -- inspired by the plot summary.  I'm going alphabetical through the book.  At a rate of one per day, I would be done with this project in forty-seven years.  So the point is not to write a script for each entry, but rather to loosen up the chops and have a little fun.

How about this:  Next week, I will post one of those plot summaries here, and ask that YOU play along.  Write your own script based on the plot summary, post it somewhere, and either link to it in the comments or shoot me an email with the link.  I'll post my version as well.  Let's do the Maltin cleanse together!  What say you?

*(Upon further review, Troll 2 is not in the book!  Battlefield Earth is, though.)

A couple of additional points: This isn't about crafting a beginning, middle and end, it's about writing the first thing that comes to mind. It doesn't even have to be a script. It could just as easily be a short story or poem.

Also, although I'm going alphabetically, I may be skipping the endless "Abbott and Costello meet ..." movies.

03 January 2011

My Top Ten Entertainment Experiences of 2010

For the past few years, I've published a list of my top entertainment experiences of the year.  Rather than indulge in a pseudo-objective list of top songs or movies or whatever, I decided to go completely subjective.


It's not enough for a source of entertainment to be "best."  This list is about the whole enchilada.  It's about the atmosphere, the company, the je ne se quoi that propels the reading of a book, the watching of a movie or play, etc. into the heights of something more.

In no particular (other than roughly chronological) order:

Burlesque Day at Disneyland

Burlesqueland is becoming the de facto Los Angeles burlesque festival, just as surely as the Los Angeles burlesque community has become my showbiz family.  Spending the day in the park after two days of kick ass burlesque shows -- easily the biggest, most attended burlesque event in Los Angeles -- and spending that day with such a talented and diverse group of people is like Christmas in March.

What does it look like when a bunch of burlesquers take over Disneyland?  Something like this.

John Mayer in Concert at Staples Center

Photo by Quinn Dombrowski

Pamela's eighth concert, my sixth and one of the three John Mayer concerts we went to in 2010.  We've gone to so many of these damn things, what set this one apart?  A couple of things.

First, Michael Franti and Spearhead opened.  Michael Franti blew me away.  He owned Staples Center, leaping from the stage and dancing through the crowd, bringing people onstage, leading mass sing-alongs.  You don't see rock stars doing that sort of thing.  Franti held the audience in the palm of his hand the entire time, and was incredibly gracious.

Second, I made a fellow concert-goer very happy.  This guy was walking down to his seats, beer in hand.  Some jerkwad managed to trip him.  They exchanged a few words, and the jerkwad refused to buy the guy a new beer.  Look, if you cause someone to spill their drink, you offer to buy them a new one.  That's just good manners.  I sat in my perch, this guy talking to his date, obviously distressed.  It distressed me and Pamela to see him distressed.  Unwilling to see a fellow human being (and beer lover) in distress, I bought the guy a new beer.  Bonus:  When I told the vendor what I was doing, he shook my hand and gave me a free beer.

The relief on that guys face when I handed him the beer; the instant dissolution of the bad vibes he was drowning in made the concert something more.

Theatre of One

I read about it in Stage Happenings: 
In the center of the New York City Theater District, acclaimed Broadway set designer Christine Jones will debut "Theatre for One," a four foot by nine foot portable theatre with one performer playing to one audience member. The uniquely intimate theatrical experience will be available to anyone on a first-come, first-served basis between May 14–23, 2010 in Times Square.
The dates coincided with a business trip, so I went!  I wrote about the experience on Mad Theatrics:

I got to the queue just in time to be shut out, but managed to talk my way into the final performance of the day. A poetry reading, I must confess I missed the first half of the performer's words. I was so struck by the intimacy and immediacy of the experience, I think I forgot how to breathe.

I may not remember the details of the poem, but I cannot forget the performer's eyes.
Fuxedos and Fish Circus at Hollywood Fringe

I reviewed it for LA Theatre Review (read the review here.)

Danny Shorago is an unbridled maniac onstage; an intense portrait of an artist making shit happen for himself offstage.  I admire Shorago in a way that borders on "man crush" but I really hate that idiom.  He's backed up by an incredible raft of musicians -- "Robot Vampire Wombat" is one of my favorite afternoon heading home from the day job jams.  Any opportunity to take in their non-sequitor musical nuttiness is reason enough to take in their show, but at Hollywood Fringe they sweetened the deal with Fish Circus.

Check out the bands and their music.  Catch them live, buy a cd, support what they're doing, etc.

What elevated this awesome concert to this list?  An exchange I had with one of the band members from Fish Circus when I bought their CD.  I don't remember how much it was, but it was an odd amount.  Let's just say it was $5, and all I had was a $10 bill.  I handed it to the band member, who looked down at the bill and back to me saying,  "I'll have to mail you the change." 

I kind of laughed.  "Don't worry about the change.  It's worth it."

"Thanks, dude!"  It made my night.   

Forbidden Zone: Live! From the Sixth Dimension

Marz Richards as Satan.
The review is here.  Not included in the review:  This was my Solsbury Hill. 

I resigned from Theatre Unleashed, the company I helped found, three months after watching this show.  In truth, I composed my letter of resignation that night.  It remained as an unsent draft until one argument too many finally pushed me off the fence.  At Sacred Fools I saw onstage everything I hoped to accomplish in theatre, and was sobered by the fact that the trajectory my company was on placed us far afield of ever hitting those goals.

It was a reality adjustment that I needed.  I didn't respond to it right away; I made a pitch to move my company back on track, but to no avail.  The life lesson to take away from my experience:  When you go into something with collaborators, make sure you want the same final product.  In the end, I discovered that I had honest-to-God "creative differences" with my fellow administrators, and so we diverged.  No harm, no foul, as they say.

If I ordered these lists from most important experience to least, this would be number one.  Forbidden Zone: Live! In the Sixth Dimension changed my life.

Little Big Planet and the PS3

I just wanted to play a neat looking video game.  I had no idea how thoroughly it would change my viewing habits.

How many DVDs have we watched since picking this baby up?  Any guesses?  Somewhere in the neighborhood of eight or nine.  How many movies and tv shows have we watched via NetFlix Instant?  I couldn't possibly say for sure.  It's an embarrassingly high number, whatever it is.

Sure, we watched stuff on Instant via our desktop computer before we got the PS3, but now it's like having cable on-demand.  Plus there is the actual on-demand service Sony offers through the Playstation Store.  That's how we watched Walking Dead, and how we're going to watch Dexter and Treme.

As for that neat little video game, Pamela and I have had countless hours of fun with our little sackpeople, playing through imaginative scenarios in both the standard game and levels created by other users.  It's like a carnival; endless possibilities and unknown adventures abound.

Police Halloween Carnival

Speaking of carnivals. 

Blinking incandescents, cheesy haunted houses and creaky rides, fried food and midway games galore -- all of it just a few blocks from our front door.  We went to this carnival twice; two cold, rainy October nights.  There is something visceral and immediate about a street carnival, something appetizing and satisfying about the sights and sounds, something warm to be found in the dark.  And walking hand-in-hand with your girl through such atmosphere?  Heaven.

Burlesque (the movie)

(Up front, let me say:  Yes, it is burlesque.)

Pamela and I joined a healthy contingent of the Los Angeles burlesque scene at LA Live to take in Steve Antin's ode to nightclubs, Burlesque.  This was after spending the early part of the day with many of the same people at Hobo Thanksgiving, a lunchtime potluck we through at Griffith Park, and was a perfect capper to the day.

Peepshow Menagerie: A Burlesque Christmas Carol

This is kind of a cheat, seeing as how I was in it.  But curiosity drove me to take a seat in the audience after my part at the beginning of the first act was through.  And by God, Chris Beyond and Patrick the Bank Robber really did it.  They wrote a burlesque play.  The striptease acts weaved into the storytelling, becoming an integral part of the story.  Usually an audience gets testy when there's too much talky-talky and not enough stripping, but the audience went along for the ride.

Chris and Scarlett Letter have been pushing the show in this direction from the beginning.  Most of the shows are scripted.  The potential for this sort of evening has been there all along.  I'm not ashamed to say it:  I got a bit misty seeing the potential play out onstage at Bordello. 

Have Tassels, Will Travel

Satan's Angel is a treasure.  Her one-woman show outlines her history as a burlesque performer, and is as frank and honest as she is in person.  She holds no punches, even against herself!  What made this even sweeter was being part of an audience composed of largely burlesque performers.

Okay, that's it.  Another year, another bunch of awesome experiences!  And as usual, I can't wait to see what the new year has in store.