Friday, July 30, 2004

My Mentor - Lois Auer

Cracking open any book on screenwriting, you'll find the same old first-person story on how somebody famous managed to break into Hollywood:

"...Well I moved out here from Idaho hoping I could someday make it big. I lived off top-ramen noodles and slept on my friend's couch for six months until one day my agent at CAA finally called to tell me I had a job in the next big summer blockbuster."

Eh, hey buddy, where the hell did that agent from CAA (the biggest agency on the planet) come from? Why do these people always leave out the most important part? That key to how they made it. It's as if they're embarrassed to tell you.


Yesterday morning the person who gave me my career passed away in her sleep. And as my own personal eulogy, I would like give her credit for what she has done.

Lois Auer began teaching acting in the 1930's, and continued teaching until the day before she died. It was not unusual for her first student to show up around 7am and for her last student to go home well after 10pm.

Among her more famous students were David Hasselhoff, Shannen Doherty, Barry Williams & Jodie Foster. She used to hate it when people would brag about her resume or how long she had been teaching... but I could get away with it.

I met Lois not as an acting coach but as my late Grandmother's best-friend. They had been friends for over half a century, but it was not until my Grandmother's youngest grandchild was born, yours truly, that Lois had a member of my family who was interested in whatever wisdom she could impart about Hollywood.

A little over a year after graduating from college, I began working in LA and visiting Lois on a regular basis. Although this was under the guise of "Acting Lessons" what she was really doing was telling me everything she could about the entertainment industry and giving me her opinion on what I was doing to move forward in my career.

Sometimes, during the last 20 minutes or so of our two hour meetings, she would teach me acting.

As a writer, it's a good idea to know your audience. And as a screenwriter a good chunk of your audience is going to be actors and actresses. So it would of course be in my best interest to know what would be going on inside an actor's head when they were reading my work.

Soon after I began my "lessons" with Lois, I quit the job I had moved to LA for and began work on my first real feature length screenplay. Throughout the process, Lois would listen to my various rants and ideas, while offering up her own pearls of wisdom.

A few days after finishing the script, I showed up at Lois's to give her a copy. She instead sat me down and announced I was going to read it to her. Three hours later, when I had finished, Lois of course told me it was one of the best scripts she had ever heard. She mentioned she wanted to show it to a lady who had grown up across the street from her and who now had some clout in the industry.

I thanked her and went home to begin the long arduous task of finding an agent to represent my script, or *gasp* even someone who might buy it.

A month later I got a call. It was not an agent... It was not one of the hundreds of people I had sent a query letter to. It was Lois's former neighbor. We met and she optioned my script with a very generous contract. For the past three years now, Lois's former neighbor and I have worked together developing my script and getting it underway. As of now they are in the process of signing on a director and possibly an A-List star.

Optioning that script to Lois's neighbor is what made me legitimate. Thanks to Lois I have a career that will put food on my table, send my children through college, and entertain millions.

In the end, I owe my career to a phone call made by a little, then 93 year old, lady.

Thank you Lois. No matter how big my name becomes, part of my work will always be for you, and to thank you for making it all possible.

Thank you for everything.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Stop whining... Girlie Man!

I make a conscious effort to not babble on about politics, but since a couple of you requested I comment on this, what the hay!

At a rally a few days ago, Schwarzenegger declared that when it comes to politicians who are delaying his budget, "If they don't have the guts to come up here in front of you and say, 'I don't want to represent you, I want to represent those special interests, the unions, the trial lawyers' ... if they don't have the guts, I call them girlie men."

The supporters of the people he was referring to have since leaped onto their soap box shouting that the governor's remarks were sexist and homophobic.

Oh for crying out loud.

You gotta love it when you can tell someone is actually making a conscious effort to be offended.

It's obvious he was making a joke by referring to the old "Hanz & Franz" SNL skits that used to poke fun at him.

Roger Rabbit said it best, "Without a sense of humor, you're better off dead."

Sunday, July 18, 2004

Hollywood Filters & The Screenwriter's Wingman

The quest of any beginning screenwriter is to prove they are legitmate.

Last time I checked, the Writers Guild registers about 40,000 scripts a year. Hollywood, on the other hand, last time I checked, only produces about two hundred movies a year.

Keep in mind as well that not all scripts are registered, and that along with those 40,000 new scripts there are also all the scripts still available from the previous years.

Doing the math, it's safe to figure that at any point in time literally hundreds of thousands of screenplays are floating around Hollywood looking to be sold.

Numbers like this are often thrown at newcomers to scare them off.

The numbers usually not included are that out of those hundreds of thousands of scripts floating around at least 85% of them are complete trash. We're talking material that is completely inviable for producing into a major motion picture.

That's a lot of garbage.

13% of the material on the other hand could be made viable with a bit of work.

This leaves us with, at most, 2%... two scripts out of a hundred that are really worthy of being made into a movie.

The good news, of course, is that if you honestly have talent and a GOOD script, you're already in a very small, elite group.

This is where the newcomer's quest to prove themself legitmate begins. It is the quest to prove that they are in that top fifteen if not two percent.

Because of the overwhelming amount of trash floating around, agencies, production companies, and anyone else searching for good material, has to set up filters to sift through the hundreds of scripts they receive each week.

The goal of these filters is to let the legitmate and talented writers through, while keeping the talentless wannabes out. Do the filters work? Well, nothing's full-proof, but they try.

Filters can include:
Are you a member of the Writer's Guild?
Do you have an agent?
Has any of your other work been produced?

Answering no to any question like one of these will likely get you a swift kick out the door.

You might also notice that these filters are designed to form catch-22's.

With little exception, agents won't talk to you unless you're produced. But you can't be produced without an agent.

And with little exception, you can't get be produced unless you've been produced before. So how can you be produced that very first time?

The solution? You have to be part of that "little exeption". You have to be that guy or girl who managed to break the rules.

Yeah it's a pain, and it's supposed to be. The whole system was designed to scare off the vast majority of wannabes who would be just as happy, if not better off doing something else. It separates the men from the boys, the talented from the untalented, the hacks from the real-deal.

If you're talented and want it bad enough, you'll make it. Otherwise, figure it's for the better on your trip back home.

To be continued...

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Thank you, Mr. Cellphone...

I've had the same cellphone for four years. The thing's like another limb. I've grown so used to it, I could make a call blind folded while being pushed from a plane in a clown suit.

Two weeks ago, however I discovered my phone was inexplicably warm. I convinced myself it was nothing, and didn't think much of it.

But the seed was there... Somewhere in the back of my mind I knew. My phone was dyeing. It was only a matter of time before it went. And while I could think of several opportune times where it might be cool to have flames burst from my pants I knew I needed a new phone.

Yesterday I made the trip to the phone store, and now here I am: old reliable put to rest in my closet, while this new gadget lies on my desk, staring at me like an optimistic puppy wanting to be loved.

I won't bore you with setting it up, but I will mention this:

I used to misplace my old phone so much that my ringtone became the Can-Can, because it was such great theme music for when I was desperately scrambling around my home trying to find my phone before I missed a call.

These days I keep my phone closer, but I'm also a lot busier. Which is why my phone now plays the Overworld Theme to The Legend of Zelda, a tune embedded in my youth to remind me of just how much I rule.

It's as if the phone were saying, "I'm sorry to interrupt, sir, but you have a phone call. Oh, and just to remind you, you rule."

Thank you, Mr. Cellphone. I see we're going to get along just fine.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

The Unifying Theory of Schwarzenegger

Countless movies have been made since the invention of motion picture film, and there is but one aspect, one theory that binds them all...

The Unifying Theory of Schwarzenegger.

This theory simply states that any film, no matter how bad, would be better with Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Yes, Schwarzenegger has made some bad films.... but just imagine how bad they would be without him.

Imagine "Batman & Robin" without Schwarzenegger.
Even "The Rundown" was made slightly better by Schwarzenegger's cameo.

Still don't believe me? Take any film you don't like and replace one of the characters, any one of the characters, with Schwarzenegger.

Presto. Better movie.

Sunday, July 11, 2004


I saw a movie a few days ago. And as often happens there was a guy near me who wouldn't stop making noise. It took the people around him moving away, me asking him to be quiet, an Usher speaking with him, and finally me yelling at him to get him to cram it.

Personally I don't like yelling at them, since for all I know they could be some nutcase with a penchant for firearms. (But hey, it was Spiderman 2.)

Anyways, I wasn't aware of this, but apparently I'm the one being rude for telling these people to be quiet.

When did this happen?

Only a couple years ago when you told someone to be quiet they'd pipe down. Now when you say something they act as though you're denying them a basic human right. And you can't blame any one particular generation or group since I've found myself facing everything from self-important senior citizens, to belligerent Russian tourists.

It's not as if being quiet in movie theaters has become an outdated rule that no longer applies. It's a movie. You pay money to watch and listen to it. If you bought your ticket thinking it'd be a great opportunity to chat with your friends then you're an idiot. Shaddup.

Friday, July 09, 2004

Buon Giorno....

I'm writing this blog for one reason:

Never underestimate a woman's scorn, or a writer's will to procrastinate.

As I type this, there is a screenplay patiently waiting beside me like a dominatrix calmly wielding her horse crop and giving me that sort of smile people give only when they know they're inevitably going to have their way.

I've heard of writers who enjoy writing. Personally I think they're in the same league as minotaurs and leprechauns. (Although, I do work in a dark cavern, myself, and have a habit of wearing green.) -We've all seen the image of the writer, sitting in the sunshine, dishing out page after page as an animated bird flies in and lands on his or her finger. Personally, if an animated bird flew in the window at me, I'd probably scream and embarrass myself.

So yes, I'm a professional screenwriter. You'll notice I have to say professional, since when you only say screenwriter these days, it means you have lots of "really good ideas" and sometimes even jot them partially down on napkins when you know someone's looking.

For those of you wondering... Yes, I am the Cocles from and author of its infamous NewbieFAQ.

For those of you who weren't wondering... well, just pretend you didn't see that last statement.

Will this blog only be about screenwriting?

Wow, I hope not.

Do I have a list of ideas to post about?

If writing one out will help me procrastinate, then you bet I do!

For now though I must flee, as I just heard a whip crack and the daylight hours draw near.

auf Wiedersehen,

Thursday, July 08, 2004


This is a test of the emergency broadcast network. If this were not a test this blog would have already been incinerated and we would not be having this discussion in the first place.