Tuesday, July 31, 2012

This Was Your Life

You guys!  You’re not gonna believe this!  I showed up to do slides on Sunday morning at my church, and THIS was on the desk!

Oh my GOSH!  They’re on to me!  The Yellow Sign people must’ve heard about last week’s blog entry and convince the small black and white tract people to oh-so-“accidentally” leave this on the desk for me because they knew I was coming in to do slides!  They’re watching me!  They’re watching me RIGHT NOW!

Actually, no.  Apparently, this tract, “This Was Your Life” from the well-meaning folks at Chick Publications, was thrown back through the gates of the church on Hollwyood Blvd.  Since our church is located on Hollywood Blvd., right at the intersection of Crazy and Cuckoo, what most likely happened is the Chick Publications people were probably handing these out on Saturday night, and someone probably took it to be polite, or to make an awkward encounter end quicker, and then threw it through the gates of a church, because you know, it’s all the same thing.  It’s a pamphlet, that’s a church, it must belong THERE. 

And when the staff and volunteers on Sunday morning opened the gates of church and found the pamphlet, they got a giggle out of it, and passed it around, and then left it on the desk because they had to go do other stuff.  So it’s not personal at all.

But it sure is coincidental!  Wheeeeeeeeee!  Well, let’s just crack this puppy open and see what THESE tracts have to say!

And actually, you can read the whole thing over on Chick’s website :

Much like the yellow sign people, the narrative is mostly driven by Bible verses, though there’s cartoon people saying things in cartoon balloons.  I still maintain that it could be viewed as a coloring book for ants.  Artistic ants.  Ants that slather their antenna and ant feet with color and carefully swab between the lines of this well meaning man who gets tapped on the shoulder by the Grim Reaper, and gets whisked by an angel up to heaven, where he faces God, who rolls a “This Was Your Life’ filmstrip, detailing all the things this Well Mannered Guy Did or Didn’t Do, then WMG finds out his name isn’t written in the Book Of Life, all because he didn’t believe in Jesus, not even when he was sitting in church, which really begs the question WHY did he go to church if he didn’t believe in Jesus.

Can I tell you guys that when I was first flipping through this book, I saw this panel and thought that the lovely lass exiting the alley had given our WMG a bj, and THAT’S why he’s leering at her from the alley?  Turns out nothing happened, he’s just lusting after her.  So my brain is cracked, and it’s definitely a good thing I believe in Jesus, because I’d be cast into the lake o’ black n’ white fire as well.

Anyhow, while you could argue that the Yellow Signs’ “Jesus Christ: The Real Story” was failing to make their case because they were boring the potential readers to death (who then might take this qusai-afterlife trip that “This Was Your Life” draws out), I think the problem that this Chick tract has is that it’s trying to scare the potential reader into believing in Jesus. 

This is a classic way to preach Ye Olde Gospel – Scare The Bejesus Out Of Your Listener/Reader, So They’ll Immediately Confess Jesus Is Lord Because They Don’t Wanna Go To Hell When They Die.  Whenever That Is. 

Yet I have to think that if Jesus was here on earth, he wouldn’t want followers who were following him because they were scared of the murky alternative.  He’d want followers who believed in him because they had personal experience.  Nothing like proof to bolster your case, y’know?

There's a billion other ways I could dissect This Was Your Life tract to death, to make fun of it, of the Chick corporation and blah blah blah.  But I won't.  Because it really just comes down to this:

Jesus doesn't want you to follow him because you're scared of death and are so slobberingly grateful that you didn't get thrown into a cartoon lake of fire.  He wants you to follow him because you LOVE him.  Because you believe in him, and everything he said and did, and you want to make him happy because you love him so much.  Yes,  God forgives your sins.  but that's a side benefit.  He wants a personal relationship with you.  A personal back and forth.  Where you talk, and He listens, and you study, and ask questions and wrestle with stuff and see what He says in response (bearing in mind it's not going to be a booming voice from heaven, but probably something way more subtle.)

Don't scare them into believing.  Because then it doesn't really count, and it probably won't last.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Yellow Signs

So the other thing about Comic-Con 2012 was the yellow signs.  I've seen the yellow signs before (last time was in Burbank near the AMC movie theater), you've probably seen the yellow signs before.  

The stoic handlers, the yellow signs trumpeting things like "The Blood Of Jesus Cleanses Sin" and "Humble Yourself Before God" "You Must be Born Again" "Receive Salvation Through Jesus" "God Is Rich In Mercy" "Repent and believe in Jesus." "Salvation Is A Gift From God."  "Sin Brings God's Wrath" "The Kingdom Of Heaven Is Near" "God Is Rich In Mercy" "Jesus Bore Our Sins" "Only Jesus Can Save" "Get Right With God"

It should be pointed out that these yellow signs and their handlers were NOT affiliated with the group with the loudspeakers across the train tracks.  Those idiots were the ones trumpeting how we were all going to hell.  The yellow sign people didn't say any such thing, and their signs didn't say any such thing.

But people that were blogging about them on the web lumped in the Yellow Sign people in with the Loudspeaker people, and the snarky signs popped up next to the yellow signs.  "Jesus Was A Zombie." (which is technically only half true.  Yep, Jesus came back from the dead.  But Jesus never tried to eat people after he rose from the dead, so that doesn't make him a full fledged zombie.) and "Yellow Signs Make God Angry, You Wouldn’t Like Him If He Was Angry."  A Hulk joke!  Nice.

I’m sure these people know that God doesn't really give a flying frack what color your signs are, He cares what's ON the signs.   God doesn't have a problem with the signs saying "Get Right With God"  "Salvation Is A Gift From God," etc.  But he might take issue with you speaking for him and saying that yellow signs make him angry.  You think the Yellow Sign People are wrong, well, you kinda are, too.  But that's okay, because God still loves wrong people.  He loves wrong people, He loves right people.   He even loves the Hulk, and he loves a joke, and la la la.  He loves us all.  That's what He does.

I dunno why people get it wrong.  Why the mere presence of these signs infuriated them.  Why they immediately lumped them into the Loudspeaker People, and said the yellow signs said we're all going to hell.  Not one of those signs said that.  It's right there, in yellow and black.

And the Yellow Sign Holders weren't the ones with the Loudspeakers.  They were just holding their signs.  Maybe one or two of them had portable microphones, but they weren’t saying anything like how we were going to hell.  I'm sure they took it as martyrdom for every cardboard sign that popped up next to them.  They LIKE being persecuted, for every blogger online that mistakenly lumped them in with the Loudspeaker People, it guarantees them a new electric appliance in heaven or something.  You're just giving them what they want, Comic Con attendees.

The people I was with refused to let me interact with the Yellow Sign People, and since they had the hotel room key, I didn't wanna go rogue on them.  But I did manage to grab one of their tracts, which happened to be blue.  Blue and yellow!  So I snuck one off the stack as we were walking past, nobody handed one to me, or said anything to me. 

And when I got back to L.A., I was thumbing through the thing.  Wondering if I was the average Joe who didn’t believe in God and happened to stumble upon one of these and decided to thumb through it, what would I think?

Well, I would be pretty bored.  I’m Amy The Writer and I absolutely believe in God and Jesus and that, and I was bored on page 1.  That's page one >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Zzzzz…. Hmmm?  What?  Huh?  I’m sorry, I dozed off.

I’m sure the Bible Distribution Club of Cerritos, California had the very best of intentions when putting together this little 55 page booklet with the tiny pictures that kinda look like mini coloring books for ants.

But, as they clearly state in the preface, “the entire contents of this book are excerpts from the Bible.”  If I was a non-believer, using Bible quotes to make a case for why I should believe in the Bible, God and Jesus is not going to convince me.  It would be like Snoopyologists trying to make me believe in Woodstock using the self-help books that Woodstock wrote.  You can’t use the books of a religion to prove that you should believe in that religion.  I mean, you CAN, but you’re not going to be very successful.  I’ve read The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz books and love them dearly, but that won’t convince me that Oz exists.

The preface also notes, “The astounding message of the Bible is that the Creator of the universe became a man, a man like us, because He loved us and wanted to save us from the awful results of our sin.”  If I was an average Joe who didn’t believe in God, I would read this sentence and think, “WHAT awful results of my sin?  I haven’t done anything!”  And then I would close the book and go down to the hotel pool with the Jacuzzi and the drink menu on tiny wooden surfboards that you could surf over to your friends.

The Bible Distribution Club means well, I’m sure they do.  But this book, “Jesus Christ, The Real Story,” isn’t going to convince anyone to believe in anything.

Basically, I think the Yellow Sign People and their book are the equivalent of studying really hard for a science or history test, regurgitating the answers for the test, and promptly forgetting everything they learned as soon as they turn the test in.  Meaning, somewhere inside them, they might be thinking my job is to do this.  I’m doing this.  I’m holding this sign.  I’ve got this stack of books next to me.  I’m enduring the cardboard signs, the taunts, all the horrible things that reinforce my secret desire to be a martyr.  I did this.  It’s over.  My job is done.  It’s up to them to take the book, to read the book, to make the choice to believe.  All I had to do was provide the book for them to pick up, and the Yellow Sign to attract attention.

But your methods are flawed.  Your book won’t convince anyone.  Your book needs a rewrite, it needs to come out of the Bible, and into stories and examples that would make sense and resonate with people.  You need to get personal.  Which nobody would want to do, seeing all the mockery you attracted just by saying nothing and holding a sign.

Basically, you need to figure out something else.  Talk about something from your own life that you can share.  You could… I dunno… start a blog.  Talk about your struggles.  Hell, that’s what I do here.  If I can do it, anyone can do it.  It’s not so hard.

Just try to be real.  Please.  Real goes such a long long way.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

I was at Comic Con and the biggest thing I geeked out over...

Was the blood drive the Red Cross was hosting across from the convention center.

YOU GUYS!  I haven't passed the Red Hemoglobin Machine O Death in, like, at least a year!  And I passed this time!  Wasn't taking iron pills, wasn't loading up on my broccoli, and I passed by one tenth of a point!  I let out a huge WHOOP WHOOP, and the nurses thought I was weird, and whatEVER.

Then over to the chair to fill up the bag.  When they got the needle in, and things started going, the nurse looks at it and says, "Mmmm, probably 15 minutes or so,"  thinking that's how long it was going to take based on the rate of how fast I was filling it up.  "Oh, ho ho,"  I say, "I'll tell the veins to get a move on,"

And more squeezing of the squeezy blood drop thing they gave me and BAM!  I filled up the bag in 4 minutes and 57 seconds!  HELL YEAH!  WHEN I TELL MY BODY TO BLEED, IT GETS A MOVE ON, IT DOES!

Man, I am SUCH a nerd.

Ha ha ha.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Violet/Indigo Giraffe

So!  Where should I start!  When was I last posting on a regular basis?  Two months ago?  And yet not talking about life in anything but a series of metaphors, because I was afraid I’d jinx something?  So, like, what, April or something?

It’s a little wonky, because I can talk, but only about half of what I WANT to talk about.  And it’s all intertwined and co-mingled and difficult to convey just how WEIRD the past few months has been.

But let’s talk about a giraffe.  Let’s talk about a Violet Giraffe. 

In the Fake Animal Names menagerie of my writing projects (I never use the script’s real names, just like most people and most dogs on here don’t go by their real name, unless otherwise stated) Violet Giraffe was written around the same time as Pink Piggy and Striped Tiger.  It was written totally as a goof, much like Pink Piggy was.  I was tragically single, and spent many a weekend hunched over my computer, writing characters and dialogue and situations to make me laugh, since reality was grim. 

Much like Pink Piggy, Violet Giraffe was written without an outline, without a care in the world.  Much like Pink Piggy, I didn’t write it for a writing sample, or as something to get other people to buy it, or to rep me as a writer.  It wasn’t much more than a premise – six friends play a special game on New Year’s Game.  I knew what the game was, I knew who the characters were, I knew the secrets that were gonna be spilled.  And I knew there was going to be a song about a monkey in it.

(Pink Piggy also had a song in it.  This isn’t a hallmark of mine, to write songs into my scripts.  More an indicator that these scripts were written around the same time and without any concern for comparison.)

So I wrote it, I don’t even remember how long it took.  Probably not long, I’d guess two or so months, while I was working as an assistant for not one but two Batshit Crazy Bosses in a row.  I workshopped it through my writer’s group.  I put up a staged reading of it in Mella’s living room to an audience of about 25, including a guy one of the actresses had brought along, who I subsequently went on one date to the Farmer’s Market with, that ended in a pssssssfffftttt of unbearable mediocrity (which is why I found writing so much more satisfying.)

Violet Giraffe was fun.  It made people laugh.  The actors liked being in it.  And I moved on to write other things that I thought would be more commercial, that still haven’t sold.  YET.  We always have to say Yet.

Violet Giraffe went into the proverbial drawer, which isn’t really a drawer at all, but a folder on my computer’s hard drive.  Sometimes I’d pull it out to see if it could still make me laugh, and it did.  (much like Pink Piggy, Violet Giraffe has a ton of swearing in it, and I’m perversely proud that I got to use “Ratfuck!” So much more satisfying than your regular usage of the F word.)

And life went on, and I wrote other scripts, worked other jobs, went on other mediocre dates, always returned to my faithful laptop.

Every now and then, someone would ask me if I had a feature script that could be done for cheap.  I’d give them Violet Giraffe, which takes place in one location – a house – over the course of one night.

And they’d have notes, because people always have notes, and they’d be really excited and I’d smile and nod my head and say the equivalent of “You run that football as far as you can.  I’m not gonna stop you.”

And then they’d fade back into the woodwork, because they couldn’t get the money, or the location, or the actors (but usually it was the money.)

This had happened at least twice before, in 2007 and 2009.  So when Claudette, an acquaintance I had been working with on a TV version of Striped Tiger, called me at the beginning of this year, asking me if I had any small scripts that could be done for cheap, because she had access to a source of funding and wanted to make her feature film directing debut, I shrugged and passed along Violet Giraffe. 

And Claudette got excited.  And had notes.  And said she was going to make this.  And I smiled.  And nodded my head, and said the equivalent of “You run that football as far as you can.  I’m not gonna stop you.”

I didn’t pay much attention to it, because other things started to pop and sizzle, things that I still can’t talk about yet, though hopefully I can in a few more weeks.

But Claudette was different.  Because she came through.  We wrapped production on Indigo Giraffe (she insisted on a name change) last week.  An eleven day shoot with seven actors you’ve never heard of and maybe 12 crew members in a vacation rental home in the Cahuenga Pass.  I’d drive past it on my way to work every day.

I should be excited.  I should be thrilled.  I should be overjoyed.  And instead, I am… calm.  I am… stable.  I am… the equivalent of a gentleman in a rocking chair in the 1940s, puffing on a pipe of some sort, listening to big band music on an oversized radio and nodding my head, “Yes… yes… that sounds quite exciting.  Quite.”

I’ve been here before.  I’ve been here with Pink Piggy.  Thinking finally, FINALLY, this is the fuse that sets off the rocket that launches my career into the bluer skies of Making My Living From My Writing.

And that Pink Piggy rocket fizzled out and went nowhere (though you can download it on iTunes!  Wheeeee!)

So even though this is movie #2 being made from a script I wrote, I am… cautious.  Reticent.  Guarded.  Observing and acknowledging.
In the Pink Piggy days, I was so agog that it was happening, and spent a lot of time trying to rationalize why God wanted (or allowed) this to happen.

With Indigo Giraffe, I didn’t bother.  Partly because of the other sizzling things on the Writing Grill and I simply didn’t have the headspace.

But maybe it’s because there is no good answer.  This is not a Christian-themed script, unless you want to look at it through the slightly overreaching lens of Truth Is A Good Thing. 

And I’m tired of trying to squash and compress things into a God Wanted This To Happen And It Is GOOD box.  I tried like hell to do that with Pink Piggy and absolutely bupkiss came from it (I feel like I can say that now, since Pink Piggy was filmed back in 2008, and released on DVD in 2010.)  Nothing came from Pink Piggy.  Nothing good, nothing bad.  Just a lot of mental effort and blog entries that added up to nothing. 

I can’t point to Pink Piggy and say God Wanted This To Happen so THIS Could Happen.  God Is Good!  All The Time!   Instead, I could more honestly say Sometimes Things Happen And Nothing Comes From It!  God Watched It All And Said “Yeah, That Happened.  So What Now?”

So for the second time, Amy The Writer wrote a not Christian-themed microbudget movie where they still all swear like drunken sailors and it got made.

Most likely, nothing will happen with Indigo Giraffe.  This is not me being pessimistic, Indigo Giraffe has 1/10 of the budget that Pink Piggy did.  If Pink Piggy had ten times more money and sunk without a trace in the murky waters of Independent Film, how could Indigo Giraffe do better?  It would take a miracle…

And no.  No, nope, I refuse to believe that.  I refuse to believe that because of my lack of faith in Indigo Giraffe, because I’m pretty much proclaiming seven ways to Sunday that Indigo Giraffe will go nowhere, I’ve somehow jinxed it into becoming a film festival darling.  Nope.  Nope.  Not gonna happen.  I’m not even saying that secretly hoping it’ll work.  It won’t.   Thank God I have nothing emotionally invested into this one.

My friends are thrilled for me.  Even you, Casual Reader, might be slapping your foreheads, thinking, “C’MON AMY!  HOW COOL IS IT THAT YOU HAVE ANOTHER MOVIE BEING MADE FROM YOUR WRITING!?  CAN’T YOU BE EXCITED ABOUT THAT!?”

And I am.  I am the calm pipe puffing gentleman in the 1940s rocking chair, listening to big band music, “Yes… yes… that sounds quite exciting.  Quite.”

I don’t know why I came up with that image.  It’s the best I got for right now.