I create context. I also write blog posts:

Finding Use In A Broken Stick.

Posted: December 31st, 2010 | Author: | Tags: , , | 2 Comments »


While I was home on break, I went to a hockey game with my family. Being in the rink reminded me of a pivotal hockey memory, one that I’m going to remember for a long, long time.


I was fortunate as a kid that Amerk games were a pretty regular occurrence, thanks to an aunt and uncle who used to allow my brother and me to tag along and holler nonsensical taunts until our throats went dry (’cause when you’re four, shouting “your mother was a toaster and your father was a snowplow!” makes total sense…). They picked us up on Friday nights and, as habit dictated, we got to the rink early, dropped off our coats at our seats, and walked down to ice level to watch the warmups.

Because our seats were on the horseshoe at the end of the arena the visitors defended twice, and because the Amerks end was always crowded, we usually stood watching the visitors take shots. It was good, ’cause we already knew all the Amerks but this gave us a chance to scout the other teams and figure out who we — and the hometown team — should be on the lookout for. And I particularly enjoyed the closeup view of the goalies.

On a particular night that I can recall, we went down to watch the warmups the way we always did, as the Hershey Bears took the ice. I was probably only six or seven then and I don’t remember much of the night, but there are some things that still come to mind: the old green leather seats and the buzz from the high bay lights hanging from the rafters that were turned off during the periods, and the slick steps that became slicker when beer was spilled and slush melted from boots. And there was the billboard at the other end of the ice that reiterated what we were all thinking: “Boy could I go for a Genny now?” (well, I’m not sure I was thinking it then, but I bet everyone else was…).

The pre-game warmup is generally a pretty casual affair. Players get the blood flowing and their hearts beating, goalies get a feel for the puck, and coaches rarely involve themselves. So the show lacks any real excitement; you don’t see many big saves, you don’t see puck battles or defense being played, and I’d bet there’s never been a check thrown amongst teammates before the game starts. But you get to see players loosened up, horsing around a little and enjoying themselves. They’re focused, but not in the way they are during the game.

And so, sometimes they interact with the fans.

At some point during the shootaround, Hershey’s goalie broke his stick. Leaving players to shoot on an empty net, he skated towards us to the bench to get a new one. I watched as the equipment manager chose a replacement from a stack behind the bench. I couldn’t wait to play pro hockey so I’d have an unlimited supply of sticks to choose from (though, being only six or seven years old, I’d never actually broken one myself, so I didn’t really need a backup, let alone a closetful of them). And as the goalie was handing the broken stick over, he tapped it on the glass in front of me and said something to the equipment manager. I couldn’t hear what he said, but as soon as he skated away, the equipment manager motioned for my uncle to come to the glass then pointed at me. As soon as we understood what he meant, he lofted the stick over and gave me a thumbs up.

I don’t remember much about the game, except that it went into overtime and that I was probably the only Amerks fan rooting for the Bears to win it. I also remember the goalie’s name: Scott LaGrand.

It’s rare that the warmup is better than the game — and rightly so — but I was the envy of every kid in our section and every kid we passed on the way to the car that night. On subsequent nights in my bedroom, I pretended to defend an imaginary goal from imaginary opponents with that stick. When I began playing goal a few years later, I made sure the tape job on my sticks followed the exact pattern. I even used the same brand for a long time.

I’m still not sure who won the game that night, but who cares? I remember enough.


You Are Hereby Cordially Invited…

Posted: December 13th, 2010 | Author: | Tags: , , | 3 Comments »

Here’s another two pager that didn’t make the cut, but it’s one I really like. In fact, I think it’s going to make it into something bigger later on, when I find it. But I think it stands on its own well enough, too. So here goes:

INT. KITCHEN

A GUY and a GIRL stand at the counter. There’s a stack of envelopes and a stack of cards in front of them. GIRL picks one up.

GIRL

(reading)

You are hereby cordially invited-- No. We’re not doing this.

BOY

What?

GIRL

You can’t “cordially invite” people to a funeral.

BOY

Why not?

GIRL

Well, for starters, I don’t think people send invitations to funerals.

BOY

We’re about to.

GIRL

We’re really not. And if we did, we wouldn’t “cordially invite” people. It’s a funeral, there’s grieving and peace to be made. We’re not inviting people over for cocktails.

BOY

There won’t be cocktails, either? You’re taking the fun out of this.

GIRL

Fun? Dad died.

BOY

Right. And while he was dying, he went out of his way -- which is hard for someone who’s dying to do -- to make sure it was still fun and not at all gloomy, the way most dying people are.

GIRL

You don’t think he’ll mind that we’re making a mockery out of this?

BOY

Who says we’re making a mockery? And no, I don’t think he’d mind.

GIRL

Wouldn’t you mind?

BOY

No. I’d be dead.

GIRL

When I die, I hope you’ll--

BOY

He’s dead! And he spent the last thirty years in jail because he murdered someone. If we can actually care about things after we die, he’s got a lot more on his plate than some fucking funeral invitations!

He takes a breath. She tries not to cry.

BOY (CONT’D)

So I say we throw a party and we all tell stories about the fun times we had and we’ll leave the gloomy shit to the newspapers.

Now she does start crying.

GIRL

I guess you’re right.

BOY

There’s no reason this can’t be fun. He might not have showed it very well, but he cared about us and this is the way he wanted it.

GIRL

All right. I’ll call mom and tell her the invitations are ready to go out then.

BOY

Good. I’m going to buy stamps. You can cry for now, but this weekend’s about having fun.

CURTAIN.


The Christmas Movie

Posted: December 9th, 2010 | Author: | Tags: , | 3 Comments »


I’ve been writing a lot of short scripts the past few days in preparation for Writers and Books’ Two Pages/Two Voices contest this year, so I’ve been away from the blog and away from the script I’m currently wrestling with. It’s been a process to get myself in the “two page” zone, but I’ve got a few under my belt and I’m zeroing in on one or two that really work for me.

Here’s one that I like, but that I don’t think I’m going to submit.

INT. OFFICE

On the window-side of a desk piled high with unread movie scripts sits an AGENT, a cocky old bastard in his sixties. Across the desk is his timid, soft-spoken writer, with a look about him that you see in a kid visiting the principle’s office for the first time; it ain’t defiant.

AGENT

Oh, for Christ sakes, Billy. You’re not gonna give me another one of these fucking sad Christmas stories this year, are you?

WRITER

It’s not --

AGENT

Cause I’m telling you right now, I can’t keep shopping this. Nobody wants to feel bad when they’re watching a Christmas movie. They want a cute little kid with no front teeth, they want a poor family that gets rich, and they want a happy fuckin’ ending!

He picks up the script.

AGENT

Let me guess -- you’re giving this to me right now, I haven’t read it yet. I’m just guessing here: it starts in a hospital. Someone’s grandmother just had a heart attack, right? Cause last year it was a tumor and the year before that the dog died.

He opens the script.

AGENT

(reading)

Interior. Intensive Care Unit. University hospital. Three children stand around a hospital bed where their grandmother is recuperating from a heart attack. Snow flakes fall outside the window.

He puts the script down.

AGENT

Jesus Christ. The “snow flakes outside the window” is a nice touch though.

WRITER

Are you going to keep reading?

AGENT

No! It’s awful. It’s shit. It’s a hundred and twenty pages of garbage that nobody wants to see. But at least there’s no cussing on the first page. Last thing you want is to start with the cussing early on. Your audience’ll think you’re some sorta cretin.

WRITER

What would you like to see instead?

AGENT

Right now I just want to know what in your childhood was so fucking bad that you come to me every year with this “babies are crying, everbody has cancer” bullshit? I can’t sell it. You gonna tell me you had a wife or something die on Christmas so you wanta bring everyone else down too? Cause I gotta say -- and I don’t mean to sound crass here -- but I gotta say, nobody fuckin’ cares about your wife who fuckin’ died on Christmas. So what is it about you?

WRITER

I’ve never even had a wife.

AGENT

Tough break.

WRITER

I don’t know. I just think Christmas carols make for sad soundtracks.

And quietly Sinatra’s version “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” rolls in as snow flakes begin to fall outside the window and the writer hangs his head and we

FADE TO BLACK.


All I Ask Is That You Don't Suck.

Posted: December 7th, 2010 | Author: | 4 Comments »


Dear Internet Providers:

I’m going to give one of you 50 bucks a month. My standards are low, my expectations few: Just don’t suck.

But apparently it’s not going to be that easy. I’m looking for an internet provider for my second story apartment in Centereach (apparently, the “second story” part of that is important to some). I would like to call you in the next week, give you my credit card information, and have you take fifty dollars from me at the beginning of every month. Just like that! I ask very few questions, I tip the delivery guy, you’re in you’re out and we’re done. But who am I going to call?

Optimum, you’ve got access to my wallet right now. But you’re never consistent with speed — in fact, it’s dipped fairly low recently, into my “this sucks” zone — and I can’t stand you. Your service never feels like help but more often feels like I’m asking permission for something.

Verizon, I’ve never had your internet service, but you were my cellphone provider for a while there and you weren’t all that impressive. I’ve heard only great things about Fios, though, so I’m hopeful. But if it’s so great, why do you need me to sign a one year contract? Shouldn’t you be confident that your amazing download speeds and friendly customer service will keep me happy?

Aol: the field is bleak. Do you think you have the non-suckitude to give it one last go?

Yes, I’m desperate enough to invite Aol* to the dance. And if Compuserve or Prodigy are still out there, well, I could be talked into giving them a listen, too.

Whatever happens, I just hope one of you steps forward and doesn’t suck. That’s it. Here I am, my money’s sitting here on the table. Who wants it?

Sincerely,

Pete

* = Note it’s no longer all capitalized… Rebranding, yeah!


Kelsey thinks I’m pathetic.

Posted: November 29th, 2010 | Author: | No Comments »

In her face... She loves me anyways!


I think I’m showing signs of maturity. Here’s why:

I was just getting ready to go to Starbucks to do some work. I was packing my computer up and I was all ready to leave and I decided I didn’t want to have to leave the house in order to get work done. I’m comfortable here, I don’t want to put on a jacket, I don’t want to warm the car up, and I don’t want to pay four bucks for a cup of coffee. Also, I have a Saranac Winter 12 pack in my fridge, and I’d like to have one of them now, thank you.

I thought about it, and I thought, “Why do I have to go to Starbucks just to get work done? I have a fantastic writing desk (that’s covered with junk at the moment but I can dig out a hole big enough for a notebook), I’ve got two — count ‘em, two! — monitors on my computer, and I’ve got The Board looking down on me in my comfy computer chair.”

None of that matters, though. I go to Starbucks and I buy a four dollar cup of coffee because I can focus there. I turn off Twitter (usually) and bury myself in my notebook and get work done. Changing locations means changing my mindset and changing my goals. “All right, I’m here to work, let’s get some work done.” Way more effective to tell myself when I’ve actually physically transported myself somewhere than when I just pull up a chair at the same place where I surf online and watch movies.

So I just set up a new account on my computer, and when I’m logged in to this account, I’m blocked from Facebook and Twitter. That’s the part where Kelsey thinks I’m pathetic. “You need to do all that [it actually took a bit of work to create the account and share the folders and get everything up and running in a new environment] just to avoid going to a few websites?”

Well… yes. It’s become such a part of my routine that I instinctively check them when I sit down at a computer (or pull my iphone out of my pocket or get bored with a conversation or any number of other situations). I’m not proud, but hey, oh well. I’m trying to do something about it.

I think that’s a sign of maturity.


A Guy And His Dog.

Posted: November 26th, 2010 | Author: | 1 Comment »

It’s been a little while since I’ve posted but I’m getting warmed up for 2 Pages/2 Voices, so here goes…
 

EXT. PARK

A GUY in his mid-thirties is sitting on a bench with a DOG at his feet.

He’s in no rush to go nowhere, but the dog wants to be running.

GUY

Dog. Whadda you know about the world?

The dog stares at him stupidly.

GUY

You don’t know about mortgages or health insurance or car payments or college loans or speeding tickets.

The expression doesn’t change.

GUY

But I guess you don’t know about girls and music and baseball and air-o-planes either. You’re just a dog, they never teach you that stuff. They don’t teach you about potential and dreams and job interviews. You just sleep and walk and eat and pee.

The dog scratches behind it’s ear with a hind leg.

GUY

I wish I could be a dog sometimes. But no one never told you about clouds and buildings and other dogs. They didn’t teach you about getting older and about death and about living.

(beat)

What’s a birthday to you ‘cept another chew toy? But birthdays come and go and we rip pages off the calendar ‘til it’s time to buy new ones. That’s it... “Made it through another year? Tear the sheet and buy a new one!” Congratulations! Start over, make new resolutions, set new goals.

The guy thinks a second.

GUY

But you don’t make resolutions or set goals. You sleep and walk and eat and pee. It doesn’t occur to you that a day’s gone by, none’less a month, a year. It doesn’t occur to you that you’re in the same spot you were last year, same spot as the year before and the year before that.

The dog patiently sits, not understanding a word the man is saying but listening nonetheless.

GUY

You don’t know what it’s like to sit still, to waste time. Me? I do. I know what it’s like to keep checkin’ your watch as you mark the days and months, wishing that second hand would stop movin’ jus for a little bit.

The dog looks at a bird in the distance, overcomes the instinct to chase it.

GUY

You don’t know that you need to keep movin’ to feel alive, to feel like you’ve accomplished something. I know that.

Dog looks back up at him. The bird’s gone now.

GUY

I just don’t know how ta do it sometimes.

He throws the stick away. The dog flinches, thinks about going after it, but stays anchored in his spot.

GUY

Why’m I even talkin’ to you like this? Yer jus a dog.

He sits back on the bench. The dog patiently waits by his side.

Curtain.


The Board.

Posted: November 3rd, 2010 | Author: | Tags: | 1 Comment »

For the last couple of days, I’ve been working out a brief but wicked important outline of the entire script, and painstakingly writing the bullet points down on index cards. It’s the first time I’ve done this, but it’s a pretty helpful visual organization of what needs to happen and in what order. If I hit a bump in the road, I’m just gonna look up and there it is, all laid out for me like a road map. “Here’s where you were going next…

Now, obviously, it’s not set in stone. There are some cards that’ll come down and some cards that’ll be changed, and probably some cards that’ll be added, but that’s about it. That’s my script: twenty-four notecards.

The yellow sheet in the middle is the centerpiece of writing, it’s the best advice I’ve ever gotten. It comes from John August, and it reads: “What can burn, and why haven’t I lit it on fire yet?”

(There are three postings on the bottom that aren’t notecards: the paper on the left is a one sentence summary of each of the main characters’ stories, the middle is Kurt Vonnegut’s eight rules for writing a short story, and the yellow legal paper is a scene that I wrote that will someday make it into something I write; just, not this one. The blurred stuff in the bottom right corner are checks that I need to deposit — the board doesn’t just help me write! Above that are some other notes, including my reminder of Dubin’s Fuck First Rule — which, you’ll remember, says: “Start it with a fuck scene!” — and another piece of advice from John August, “the protagonist is the character that suffers the most,” and finally, a Far Side comic.)

Onward.

[This post also showed up on Paper Dailies, my almost-daily screenwriting log.]

[BTW, does bolding help at all? Or is it just annoying on the eyes?]


So um…

Posted: October 30th, 2010 | Author: | No Comments »

Yeah, I, uh, haven’t posted over here in a while. That’s mostly because I’m hip deep in the script I’m writing and it’s hockey season.

So don’t expect anything sober or coherent here for a little while.

But if you really need your fix, I’m keeping a journal-kind-of-thing on my writing process for the new script over on tumblr. It’s called Paper Dailies, and I’m trying to check in every day or nearly every day with an update. Check it out!

So yeah.


Fuck It Dude, Let's Go Bowling

Posted: October 15th, 2010 | Author: | 1 Comment »

This one might read like an inside joke for a lot of people on the outside.

Oh well.

CHARACTER A

(Shouting)

Hey, what the fuck are you doing up there?

CHARACTER B

Bowling.

CHARACTER A

No, I mean... what are you doing up there? Why aren’t you down here?

CHARACTER B

Why am I...? Because this is where I was assigned.

CHARACTER A

You what?

CHARACTER B

I was assigned. We got nametags and stuff, you’ll get one eventually. I gotta go though, I’m up on my lane.

CHARACTER A

Well, wait. What... What’s the... How do we get assigned?

CHARACTER B

I’m not on that committee, but from what I can tell, everybody gets a number. When they call yours, you find our where you go.

CHARACTER A

It’s cool up there?

CHARACTER B

Dude, it’s Tuesday night and we’re out bowling. I bet it beats the hell outta whatever you’re doing tonight. But like I said, I gotta run.

CHARACTER A

Wait wait wait! Tell me more!

CHARACTER B

(he looks around)

Well...

(another long pause)

There are no gutter balls up here. And it’s not bumpers either! The ball just goes where you want it to.

CHARACTER A

(he thinks for a second)

Well then, everything’s working out. I’m a little pissed, everyone’s a little pissed, but as long as...

(he trails off)

CHARACTER B

You think I’m not pissed? I want to visit, but hey, this is where I’m assigned.

(he fingers his nametag, hanging off a lanyard like an office security badge)

Number 4H297Q. Lanes 9 and 10 of the Bowling Alley. We’re actually based on the same system as those old Geocities addresses.

CHARACTER A

Well, as long as you’re happy. Y’ever get bored of bowling?

CHARACTER B

Would you?

CHARACTER A

I suppose I wouldn’t.

CHARACTER B

Right. I do sometimes, but... Anyways, I gotta go. I’m holding up the lane.

I fuckin’ miss you, man.


Ta da!

Posted: October 13th, 2010 | Author: | Tags: | No Comments »

Looks like I called it, and I’m gonna take a minute to pat myself on the back:

Read the rest here.

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