Sunday, February 24, 2008

Behind the Scenes

The one sign that convinced me that Pink Piggy was full steam ahead was the production meeting where they talked about the police escort they’d have for the car scenes. There’s a good 10 pages of car scenes, they had gotten the permits, the tow rig, and a police escort to make sure nobody would bother them. And I’m thinking police escort?

Back in film school, my thesis film was a road movie (sure glad I got that out of my system before coming out to Los Angeles) and all we did was tow a blue Mustang convertible up and down Florida’s back highways. I think there may have been a courtesy call to the police department to tell them it was happening, but nobody came out to escort us anywhere. So I thought they’d do the same thing here, maybe drive out to San Dimas or someplace where nobody cares about filmmaking and steals the scenes that way.

Nope, they had arranged for a police escort, and they were gonna film smack dab in the middle of Los Angeles, too.

The other thing I wasn’t aware of that Pink Piggy’s production included was a behind the scenes camera crew that documented every bit of the production process. Since I have an aversion to still photographs, I was not a happy camper that they wanted to interview me ON camera. Twice. Because they didn’t get it the first time? Who knows.

It was the second day of shooting. The awesome producers had secured my neighborhood bar, the actual bar where I got the inspiration to write Pink Piggy in the first place back in 2002. I put the bar in the script never expecting we’d GET the actual location. I never though this movie would ever get made. (Striped Tiger has a few scenes set at the Santa Monica Pier, so saddle that one up for next year boys, heh heh.)
We had to wait until they closed at 1am, so we didn’t get the first shot off until 2:00am or so. And the behind the scenes camera crew is pointing their Camera O Death at me. “How does it feel to see your words being said by actors right in front of you?”

I know what they want me to say, “It’s magical, it’s joyous, it’s beyond my wildest dreams.” But I’m Amy The Writer, and I’m tragically honest, so I say, “Honestly, it’s not that big of a deal. I’ve written and produced plays here in Los Angeles, I’ve seen actors say my lines before. I wrote and directed a thesis film before, I’ve seen them say it on film before.” Don’t be a brat. Give them a sound bite. Give them something they can use, “But I had no idea when I was writing this script in 2002 at 2am in the morning that we would be here six years later, in the very bar where it all started, making a movie out of it.” There ya go, Insta-Sound Bite!

Is it really no big deal to see this stuff being filmed? See, I’m not one of those writers that writes autobiographically. Out of 105 pages of Pink Piggy only 1/2 of a page was taken from real life, and even then it had a completely different outcome. I knocked at a guy’s door, he opened it, we said a few words, and he let me in. That’s not a movie, there’s no conflict.
So watching my adorable actors in character discuss the Really Bad Idea that kicks off the movie, I don’t feel the zing of relation, I’m thinking that it feels way too dark in here, but I’m trusting the two DPs working with the big ass cameras and no tripods, and I’m trusting that no tripods is a good idea as well.

Trust. Trust. Trust.

My second time on set is at the coffeehouse location I secured. One of the stipulations from the owner was if there were going to be any actors behind the counter, she wanted it to be me, since she trusted me not to mess with any of the equipment. Figuring that I’d be far enough in the background to where nobody would recognize me, I stepped into the background role of Coffee Barista. This was my view. (I wanted to post the picture of how all the signs behind the counter were written in Korean, which made trying to figure out what the password was to the Wi Fi network hysterically impossible, but for all I know, the signs are probably saying “The combination to the safe is…” so I shall not post it.)

For six to seven hours, I stood behind that counter and pretended to work without turning on any of the equipment. Which meant I counted coffee sleeves. Over and over again. There were 108 sleeves from a local bank advertising 4% financing for something in Korean, and 83 sleeves advertising the second seasons of The Tudors on Showtime. Heh. I wrote in my journal, I caught up on my magazine reading. The still photographer has a picture of me sitting on the counter reading the Entertainment Weekly cover story on Juno, but since I wasn’t looking at the camera, I’m slightly okay with it. Except because I’m wearing my black heavy coat because it was cold in there, I look fat. Heh.

So I’m counting my coffee sleeves over and over again and I can’t really watch the scene without looking at the camera, so I’m listening to the words, yes, it sounds like they hit that beat, yes, they nailed that joke, it sounds funny, I hope it looks funny, funny in a good way.

And two characters are discussing how the main character is not feeling the proper response from a line she has asked another character to say (Yeah, I know it’s vague. Imagine if you told someone to tell you something you’ve always wanted to hear, like “Your movie’s getting made.” You’d expect to feel happy, right? And our main character is not. Sorta. Kinda. I think I’m actually confusing it more.)

So her best buddy says “Maybe it’s what you’re supposed to learn. You’re not getting the response because you’ve grown past the response.” And our main chickie says, “But what I’m learning can’t be told to me, it has to be something I feel myself.”

And it hits me, my hands full of Korean bank coffee sleeves. That’s my whole struggle with Christianity right there. Not that I don’t believe Jesus is the son of God, because obviously I do. But my main struggle is that I can’t feel God, any progress I make is from an academic standpoint, which seems to be…not right.

But what I’m learning can’t be told to me, it has to be something I feel myself.

My spiritual struggle was nowhere around when I wrote that line back in 2002. What those characters are discussing has nothing to do with God. And yet it fits perfectly just the same.

The last question the behind the scenes camera crew asked me was “Any advice for any would-be writers?” my first response was, “Like I know what I’m doing!?” give them something they can use, give them something they can use, give them something they can use, “Um….nobody ever got anywhere by giving up.”

That probably works for God too.

Monday, February 18, 2008

And Then This Happened

“Take this as it's meant .. Did you hit a cat :)” – an email from my sister Agatha.

Thank you everyone, for your patience.

I have made it a priority to keep certain things to myself, such as my last name. “The Writer” serves as a very applicable last name for me, as it’s true, and “Amy The Writer” has a pretty snazzy ring to it, I think.

But why the secrecy? Dunno, I’ve just never felt the urge to unmask myself to the internet. Those of you who need to know it, know it, and that’s enough for me. When you google my real name, the return paints a very strange picture (like, for example, I’m not gay), and I get tired of explaining things over and over again (I don’t have to be gay to write gay themed material.)

Plenty of people find this site by googling other phrases (“Pink Puppy Paw Pads” is a popular one) and I like my privacy, which is why you get pictures of parts of me instead of the whole enchilada (and the fact that the camera flat out doesn’t like me.)

My Paranoid Red Button prevents me from talking about the projects I’m working on (someone will see my logline and write their own version and sell it faster than me because they’re better connected and have no imagination! GACK!) , so if I talk about them on the site, I give them code names, like Purple Monkey.

So I introduce you now to the fabulous duo of Pink Piggy and Striped Tiger.

Pink Piggy is a script I wrote in 2002. I wrote it after a series of merry misadventures in Boy Trouble that left me convinced I was never going to find true love, I was hideous in appearance, and I was never going to learn the lessons of How Not To Be Stupid Around Guys (lessons I’m still not convinced I’ve learned.) I wrote the script for me in a desperate attempt to exorcise the self-hatred demons, since at the time, it sure seemed like guys would rather set their tongue on fire and douse it with lemon juice than go on a date with me.

To be as vague and specific as possible, the plot deals with a girl who discovers her boyfriend is cheating on her birthday, goes to a bar to get drunk with her friends, and hits upon the idea to look up every single guy she’s ever had sex with in the past to get closure from them. Her method of closure is whacked and warped and precisely what prevented me from ever doing anything with the script once I finished it. I couldn’t spec it out, I couldn’t get an agent with it, it’s impossible to come up with a logline for it that wouldn’t make the other person go, “She does WHAT!? WHY!?” I liked the script a lot, but for me, writing it was enough, I didn’t need to do anything more, other than work it through random Writer Groups when I didn’t have any other material to present, and show it to a few other friends of mine. The response was normally positive.

What I was trying to sell during this period was Striped Tiger. Striped Tiger was written before Pink Piggy, (in fact, Pink Piggy was written as an intended thematic sequel to Striped Tiger, with Striped Tiger characters making cameos in Pink Piggy and so on.) Striped Tiger’s plot was based on my first full length play, which featured things like Lady MacBeth’s monologue, phone sex, fun with ice cubes, rules on journal privacy, and boyfriends that you think are beautifully misunderstood but your friends think are cold blooded killers. My friend Humphry saw the play twice, and was convinced that he had to make it as his first feature film. My response was, sure, of course! Take that ball and run with it as far as you can.

Humphry ran that ball for four years, from 2002 – 2006, a roller coaster ride where the money MIGHT be there, the money’s not there. Talent IS attached, talent is not. I got paid option money, but the thing never came together and finally fizzled out in 2006. So when Humphry called me last year and said he had found a new investor for Striped Tiger, I said cool, you run that ball as far as you can. Again and went back to working on Purple Monkey. New Investor had a couple of notes (they always have notes), I suggested a new take on Striped Tiger that everyone seemed to love (The Tiger’s not Striped! It’s Spotted!), and Humphry sent New Investor many writing samples of mine to give New Investor things to read while I worked on a new outline. And at the meeting where New Investor was supposed to greenlight the Striped Tiger outline so I could start writing the script, he told Humphry that he wanted to make Pink Piggy instead. Pink Piggy was a finished script, had fewer characters, fewer locations, and could be done for less money.

I reacted to this the way I have been conditioned to. This SO isn’t happening. Four years on a Striped Tiger Roller Coaster will do that. So when we had casting sessions, when we sent out the all call for location favors, when I was told I needed to come up with a 150 word synopsis ASAP to send to bands for hopefully free music placement, I went along with the ride (wrangled my non-union actor friends into the auditions, found a coffeehouse as a location, sent in my synopsis with suggestions of L.A. bands that haven’t been signed to a label yet), but still metaphorically stuck my fingers in my ears and went not happening, not happening, nyah nyah nyah so it wouldn’t hurt so much when the film fell apart at the last minute, because that’s what happens, right? We lose a location, New Investor loses interest, something goes wrong, because something always goes wrong.

But nothing went wrong. We wrapped shooting on Pink Piggy Saturday morning at 7am, following a grueling 2 week, mostly nights shoot. I was on set for three days, and every time, right around 4 or 5am, I KNOW that crew would’ve been happy to throttle me for writing a story that took place between 10 pm and 2am. Which I will never do again, ha ha ha. I also will never write a script where a character pukes, because that takes YEARS to set up, and I don’t care if it’s oatmeal and applesauce, it’s disgusting to look at.

From the second New Investor said let’s make Pink Piggy five months ago, I have been trying to sort out what God thinks about all this. I’m working off the assumption that since we all live in a Legoland that God built, nothing really happens without Him knowing about it, so there’s no way that Pink Piggy got ushered in through a side door while God was working on the Darfur crisis.

So okay, God knows Pink Piggy and its misbegotten puking scene is being made into a movie. The next question is, is it that He’s WANTING it to happen, because it all figures into His Plan For Amy that is way stranger and cooler than I ever would’ve given Him credit for, or is He ALLOWING to happen because He knows the experience is really a test or temptation leading me down a road in which Really Bad Things happen. Like, this movie gets made, it jump starts my career, I sell more scripts, I hang out with the wrong people and suddenly I’m dead from a heroin overdose. Which wouldn’t have happened if Pink Piggy hadn’t been made.

Yes, people, this is unfortunately the way I think. But let’s try to be positive.

Two of my friends have had screenings of their documentaries in recent weeks, and I went to support them. The docs are very admirable and worthy of praise, and are about laudable things like surviving the death of a loved one by dedicating a life to Fair Trade practices, or exploring the debate and controversy surrounding gay marriage. If God had led me down a path where my purpose was to tell those kinds of stories, it would make sense. If God had led me down a path where my purpose was to write for Veggietales, that would make sense.

But we have gone and made a movie where a drunk girl and her friends stumble through the L.A. landscape to learn the lesson of Don’t Do Stupid Things When It Comes To Boys. Sure, I can dress it up in fancypants religious language and say it’s the journey of a young woman learning to forgive herself, but at the end of the day, it’s Don’t Keep Old Boyfriend’s Numbers In Your Cell Phone Because You Will Drunk Dial Them And Get Yourself In Trouble.

Oh, I hear Counselor Gladys now. It’s not an Either/Or. It’s a Both/And. Both/And will be the name of a script I write someday.

The real question is do I trust God enough to let Him work in ways that aren't overt in the way that one would think God works in (angels, The Sistine Chapel, Hallmark sappy movies.)

I was always going to write the things I write. Do I trust God that Pink Piggy and Striped Tiger and Purple Monkey were all part of His plan too? His plan to Prosper Me, Not Harm Me? Or am I a huge honking misguided Justifer?

When I met with Miss Eunice over Christmas break, I asked her whether God is intimately involved in every single detail in our lives, from primo parking spaces to free food at work, and if we don’t get an empty airplane seat next to us on the four hour flight back to Los Angeles, does that mean we did something to piss God off. Miss Eunice did her nifty sidestepping the issue thing and said it’s best to look at it like this: Good Thing Happens. Don’t Obsess About Why. Just Say “Thanks, God.”

So here ya go. Thanks, God, for Pink Piggy being made into my first feature film. Amen, amen, amen.

Monday, February 11, 2008

I Have A Very Good Reason For Not Posting Today

But you have to check back next Monday to find out why.

It's a doozy, I promise you.


Friday, February 01, 2008

It's The Puppy Bowl, People!

The Puppy Bowl! The Puppy Bowl! Yay Yay the Puppy Bowl! I'm not even bothering watching the real thing, since the Puppy Bowl is more much more entertaining, and you can always get the recaps on which Super Bowl commercial was the most popular on Youtube the next day.

Go here:

And here's the starting lineup

I wouldn't count out Dixie, as those Golden Retriever can be huge players if they want to.

Jackson looks like a little stinker

And I can't wait to see what a mix of a King Charles Cavalier Spaniel and a Bichon Frise does.

But how do you not cheer for a dog named Mrs. Roper? Seriously!

Catch ya at the tailgate party!