I am Hillary Clinton’s clavicle

political chartI’m always a little dubious about online tests, which purport to give an accurate assessment of one’s intelligence and/or sluttiness in a few simple questions. But I took this political-leaning quiz anyway, and was dismayed to find out that a detailed analysis of my opinions on issues of social and economic freedom placed me squarely on Senator Hillary Clinton’s right collarbone.

I certainly have nothing against Clinton. I guess of all the famous people portrayed in the chart, there’s no one I would say is a better fit. But I guess I somehow expected my thoughtful multiply-chosen answers would land me somewhere off the grid, in a special fifth quadrant of Deep Thinkers who are above Politics.

But no.

I’m Hillary’s clavicle.

Looking back through the questions, I can’t help but think they’d be useful when trying to get inside the heads characters whose beliefs are different than my own. For example…

(9) People shouldn’t be allowed to have children they can’t provide for.

Who would mark “Strongly Agree?” To me, that’s someone who not only believes government should intervene in personal matters, but thinks there’s a clear economic standard for determining it. No real politician would stake out this turf, but it’s an interesting worldview for a scary Texas sheriff, for example.

(15) If I’m dating someone I like to know where they are and what they’re up to at all times.

If you answer “Strongly Agree,” does that make you Republican, Democrat or Stalker?

(24) It should be legal for two consenting adults to challenge each other to a duel and fight a Death Match.

And these death matches would be held in the Thunderdome.

You can see the rest of the questions here.

Being a reader

I’ve written before about being a freelance reader in Hollywood — it was my first job in the industry, as it was for many screenwriters. It’s been almost ten years since I’ve written coverage, but looking through Scott the Reader’s own explanation of his job, it seems that not much has changed.

Not even the pay: $50 a script. Adjusting for inflation, that sucks.

You can read Scott’s recap here.


Now that there are several screenwriter-oriented blogs, I thought I’d take a moment to examine the six-degrees of separation quality among them.

Or perhaps I just want to revel in the fact that I’m the Kevin Bacon of screenbloggers.

I Find Your Lack of Faith Disturbing

This is how I met Josh Friedman: When I bought my house, my agent said, “Oh, hey, Josh Friedman lives down the street. You should knock on his door or something.” Like’s it’s Mayberry. But one day while I was walking my dog, I said what the hell, and introduced myself.

As it turns out, Josh and I grew up in the same town: Boulder, Colorado. He went to the cool high school downtown, while I went to the preppy high school up on a giant hill, literally looking down on the town.

Josh and I had the same agent starting out, sort of. Mine was an actual agent. His was the young woman who answered the actual agent’s phones.

Josh lives in a bigger, fancier house than mine, covered with vines. (Like Madeline!) Actual famous people grew up in Josh’s house. Honest. Meanwhile, I sold my house to Michael Rappaport.

My moving had almost nothing to do with Josh and his monkeys.

I suspect Josh’s blogname for me will be some derivation of Ned Flanders, pesky do-gooding neighbor. Although it’s pretty egotistical to think he’ll ever write about me. (bashfully twisting foot.)

The Artful Writer

Craig Mazin and I have the same agent. One day, my agent says, “One of my other clients has some questions about your website. Is it okay if I give him your number?” I say sure.

Craig calls. He asks about how I set up my site. He really wants to know how I got the brad graphic to float over on the right-hand side. (Answer: voodoo.) It’s only after a few minutes of conversation that he mentions that he’s at the hospital, because his wife is in labor.

Now that’s dedication. Or avoidance. It’s something.

To this day, I’ve never met Craig in person.

Man Bytes Hollywood

I first encountered David Anaxagoras’s site through a comment he’d left on a post. Apparently, he was significantly influenced by my site, but his layout and such is actually quite a bit smarter.

In fact, I stole these quotation marks from him. I have not poached his progress bars, but that’s only because I haven’t thought of anything worth charting.

I ended up meeting David when I spoke at his screenwriting class. He’s a good guy.

As for the other screenbloggers, I have no juicy dirt to spill. I only know them by their URLs.

As good as the Good Book?

questionmarkRegarding Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, do you believe that the new version, the 1971 original, and the book should all be separated into different levels, free from critique of each other? They all have their uniqueness, just based on the same story.

I’ve never heard someone say “Oh yes, Passion of the Christ was great, but it wasn’t as good as the Bible.”

– Caleb Aaron Osment
Tasmania, Australia

I don’t have an answer — it’s not really a question — but I like your analogy.

Curse of the Pop-In

flandersJosh Friedman, whose purported screenwriting blog is actually just an excuse to make up pseudonyms for our mutual acquaintances, recently wrote about almost bailing on an assignment because he didn’t want to drive to Santa Monica.

While that may sound ridiculous to most readers, I can relate. I increasingly share his Life’s Too Short principle, particularly when it comes to dealing with westside traffic.

His attempted solution is smart, but runs into a vexing problem:

Agent’s Assistant calls Producer Friend’s Assistant and says I want to convert Santa Monica meeting to a lunch. The assistant explains that this is not possible as Producer Friend’s Fancy Boss wants to “pop his head in the meeting.”

As far as I know, “pop-ins” are strictly a Hollywood phenomenon. Basically, the powerful boss who is too busy and important to have a sit-down meeting with you has several goals with this maneuver:

  1. Confirm that you are an actual person who appears sane.
  2. Establish dominance over the junior executive.
  3. Be able to say, “I met with Josh Friedman last week…”

Just this morning, I survived a pop-in. They’re not always bad.

But what can be very frustrating is the Pop-In That Never Comes. Here’s how it happens.

The meeting starts. You talk about the weekend’s movies. Executive says, “Fancy Boss will be popping in at some point.” You say, “Great.” You talk about the project. You make decisions. Someone takes notes. Everything is going well.

And at just the moment the meeting should be over, Executive realizes that Fancy Boss has never popped in. She goes to check on Fancy Boss, to see if he’s going to be able to stop in. Yes? No? Two minutes? How soon will he get here?

(You hear this conversation while you’re sitting in the Executive’s office, wondering why every single person in Hollywood has that big fat CENTURY book on her shelf.)

Executive comes back and apologizes, saying “Fancy Boss is running late, but he really wanted to meet you.” At this point, you’re officially screwed. You could demur and say that you have to get back to feed the baby (note: babies are handy excuses), but there’s no question that all the positive mojo has now been lost in a sea of awkwardness.

What usually happens is that just as you come up with your excuse, Fancy Boss swoops in, shakes your hand and then hurries away. The total encounter takes less than 30 seconds. And then you get a call later from your agent saying, “Fancy Boss said he really liked you…”


Why is Charlie so passive?

questionmarkIn Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, why is Charlie so passive in the movie?

As the main character I would think he would do something during the big adventure in the factory but he does nothing. He faces no challenges. He is not tested in any way. He doesn’t even have the opportunity to make a single mistake.

He is simply the blandest and most uninteresting character in the entire group. He doesn’t even merit a song. I just don’t get it.


Congratulations, Gilbert. You are now a studio executive.

The one consistent note Tim and I got from Warner Bros. about the script was, “Shouldn’t Charlie be trying harder?” To which we answered, “No.” And because Tim Burton is Tim Burton, they eventually stopped asking.

The world is full of movies where scrappy young heroes succeed by trying really hard, by being clever and saying witty things. But that’s not Roald Dahl’s Charlie Bucket at all. We didn’t want a classic Disney protagonist, so we left Charlie the way he was: a good kid.

Here’s what I wrote a few weeks ago about this issue:

However, Charlie is not a classic Protagonist. Charlie doesn’t grow or change over the course of the story. He doesn’t need to. He starts out a really nice kid, and ends up a really nice kid.

In terms of Classical Dramatic Structure, that leaves us one Protagonist short, which leads to the biggest change in the screenplay versus the book (or the 1971 film). In our movie, Willy Wonka is the protagonist. He grows and changes. We see his rise and fall, along with his nervous breakdown during the tour. Charlie’s the one who’s always asking – ever so politely, in the Freddie Highmore Whisperâ„¢ – the questions that lead to Wonka’s flashbacks upon his rotten childhood. (In Classic Dramatic terms, that makes Charlie an Antagonist. Not to be confused with a Villain. Are you sure you don’t want to read about some squirrels?)

As I pitched it to Tim: Charlie gets a factory, and Willy Wonka gets a family. It’s the whole want-versus-need thing. Charlie doesn’t need a factory. Wonka really needs a family. Otherwise, he’s going to die a giggling misanthropic weirdo.

Charlie “wins” because he’s genuinely good, in a quiet, unassuming way. He doesn’t get a song because the Oompa-Loompas only sing about rotten children.

I’m sorry that doesn’t float your boat, Gilbert, but I think the real issue may be how much you’re preconditioned by all the movies you’ve seen with plucky kids who outthink the adults. If you hurry, you can probably catch one at the multiplex.

Deciding which parents get to visit the factory