Screenwriting and the Script Frenzy

Countless nights. Countless days. I forced myself not to play video games- only playing Battlefield 3 when friends wanted to play with me. Games that I have been looking for, like Mass Effect 3, were barely touched throughout this month. My brand new Playstation Vita was only picked up twice, only to download new applications for it. There wasn’t a day where I was writing a screenplay. I couldn’t stop myself. And it was wonderful. Script Frenzy, at least for me, is now over, with a total of…

Total Script Frenzy page count: 178 pages! Fuck yes!

178 pages. 178 pages of script. I didn’t think I would write so much, but once I started… I couldn’t stop myself. Hell, there were times I wanted to slack off, where I kept saying to myself “Okay, after this page, I’ll stop and watch a movie or something.” But the movie never came. I just continued to write, write, and write. That night, I finished one of my screenplays, writing until 3 am until it was done.

The words “The End” never felt so great, but I was eager to just go back and start editing it. At that point, I forced myself to go to bed. I had work that day at 10 am. But I didn’t care. I felt like I had accomplished something new during that time, or rather, feel that sense of accomplishment I hadn’t felt in years. I compiled all the pages I had written today- counting them up in one file. Right after I had counted it, I paused for a second, reviewing over the work I’ve done so far. And then I started writing again, pouring through my work. It felt fantastic.

I originally started to write in the sixth grade. I started writing some ridiculous screenplays back then. I still have them all- I pour through them from time to time to amuse myself, to see what I had come up with as a teenager with an overreactive imagination. Back then, one person was my biggest influence, my biggest motivator to continue writing screenplays. It was Taylor.

Taylor always cheered me on to write- back then, I mostly wrote silly comedies, things that I knew would make Taylor laugh. And I loved making him laugh- his face filled with glee as I read stories aloud to him. I remember riding along with him in his Black Mini- sitting in the passenger seat as I read hastily written scripts on lined paper. I would be watching for Taylor’s reaction- that sense of relief and joy I got when he cackled in joy, slamming his palm down on the steering wheel as he proclaimed his love for the screenplay. I could think of no other joy then that very moment. After his death, my motivation to write… dried up.

I would come up with ideas here and there, but my need to get it down on paper was nonexistent. I did write the last Script Frenzy in 2011, but even then, right after I finished, I would stop completely writing. It felt like an obligation back then. I feel like that’s gone now. I’m writing screenplays every day, even if its for only five or ten minutes. Maybe in the morning, as I’m reading my news headlines of the day, I’ll flip over to Celtx (the amount of love I’ve professed about this app is bordering on an endorsement deal. I seriously wish they would have paid me for the amount of times i’ve talked to people about the app) and start to write, or edit things. I’ve finished counting my pages for Script Frenzy, and I still want to write more. It’s no longer an obligation to write- I just want to keep writing and writing more. I love this feeling. During this month, I went to go to visit Taylor. I brought the iPad along, reading to him passages of my scripts to him. Passages he would have loved.

Reading to Taylor

I’m sure he loved it.

The Prop Room

This past week, I had the fortunate chance to go visit a prop room to assist my friend Primo with a photo shoot he was working on. We went to the Hand Prop Room, out in LA. While we were there just to pick up a bear trap and shackles (not going to explain it), we just got lost in their warehouse, and it was wonderful. Floor to ceiling, there were all sorts and kinds of toys, gadgets, even simple housewares. We wandered around, looking at the selection of all these kinds of things with a sense of wonder. The best part came at the back of the warehouse- a closed off room for all of their prop guns. Primo and I just peeked inside in wonderment, seeing all of the random things they had there.



As we looked in, a man working there greeted us. With our mouths agape, Primo commented, “This is amazing.” The man shrugged his shoulders as he calmly unloaded the weapon in front of him, the click of the bolt being pulled back. “Eh, you get used to it” he said in a nonchalant manner. All we could do is sit there to his reaction. So many times, we encounter amazing things in our lives, things we consider normal, but to others, it may be something out of this world. We take things for granted, even if it’s a wall of fake munitions.

The Rose Parade

I’ve lived in the city of Pasadena ever since I moved here, back in 1994. Every year since then, I’ve seen every last one of the Rose Parades in person. It’s one thing to see the whole thing on television, but even today, HDTV doesn’t do justice to the pure beauty of the craftsmanship of the floats. It’s become tradition- no matter what, I’ll go see the parade, even if I had partied with friends to the wee hours of the morning the night before. I’ll be there with my family. But this year held a new challenge- with the parade being held on January 2nd instead of the 1st, my family didn’t have anyone willing to camp out for our spots on Colorado Boulevard (for example, my sister and her friends did it one year, and another year other families we share the spot with did the duty another year). My mother would have to do it alone. I couldn’t bring myself to leave an almost AARP-qualifying family member (I can totally make this joke here, because even after telling her the URL to my blog, my mom can’t be bothered to check it out. Mom, if you figured it out now, I totally had to do it. You know I had to.) out on the street overnight. I volunteered myself to spare her the pain. Sleeping out for the Rose Parade. #roseparade #newyears #socoldSo after waking up on January 1st to work at seven motherfuckingohgodthisisgoingtokillme in the morning, I proceeded to go home, nap, and drive out to the boulevard in the early evening to bundle up and sit out with my mother. There’s something to be said about the whole experience, though. The yearly tradition for those out on the street for the parade is to chuck marshmallows and tortillas covered in shaving cream at those cars brave enough to drive on the street. I sat there, in the california cold, just waiting, watching the festivities countinue ahead of me. Thankfully, I had my iPad, so I had a deluge of entertainment waiting for me. Those sitting in the reserved spot next to me threw tortilla after tortilla at cars, who retaliated with silly string (and in some cases) water balloons, which, more than once, almost hit me. I simply avoided the projectiles, and watched the videos I had loaded up in anticipation of the evening. A hidden air mattress underneath me provided comfort for me once I got ready for bed. I hid my iPad under my shirt and jacket, and slept on my stomach so no one could take it from me (my fat ass being the best source of protection for it.). I was surrounded by chairs for the next morning, a few anemities scattered across a little plot I had called my own for the rest of my family and assorted friends to join me at the next morning. I finally fell asleep around 2:30-3 am in the morning, the sounds of blaring horns and loud talking neighbors blaring in my ears even then. I woke up the next morning at seven in the morning, by my mother, who awoke me with her laughter and holding her iPhone to my face, taking pictures of me drooling in my sleep. I begrudgingly woke up for the parade (wiping the drool off), only to fall asleep multiple times throughout it, nodding off random times even as marching parades blasted music past me. At my point in the parade line is roughly about 2/3rds complete, so everyone marching already has a look of fatigue upon their faces (the spot where the television cameras are is right at the beginning, so everyone still looks cheerful there). My mother proceeds to troll them every year, screaming out “YOU STILL HAVE ELEVEN MILES TO GO!” (not really), and then proceeding to talk to someone on a horse riding on the pararde on how wonderful the movie *War Horse is (honestly, I could go into a whole book on how my mother’s madness shaped my own. It would have to be an epic that would be longer than the Lord of the Rings to explain). It’s an experience, time and time again, to see the handiwork of the hundreds of volunteers who make the floats. I reiterate-HDTV doesn’t do these floats justice at all– to see them up close and personal is some sort of magic for me still, 18 years later. Will I sleep outside again? For the experience?

Waking up on the blvd

Nnnnnnnnnope. I’m good, thank you.

Gaming Avatars

With the latest generation of video games, the ability to create virtual avatars have become commonplace. The Xbox 360 has its avatars. The Wii has its Miis. And the PS3… well, it has its Home Avatars (that’s almost a second thought behind the first two). All of these avatar creation systems have the same damn problem. Curly hair. They can’t do curly hair. Not one goddamn bit. I have natural curly hair- a byproduct of my Mexican heritage. It’s always something I’ve been proud of. I would drive my straight haired mother crazy as i would show off the locks as they naturally occur (I’ve only straightened my hair only once, and that was for my sisters amusement. I love my curls, and never want to do it again, but knowing my sister, I’ll probably have it straightened again for her joy.) My mother would curse me as I’d put heavy amounts of gel in my hair in the morning to shape said curls perfectly. This hairstyle is one thing I’m rather proud of, but unfortunately, It isn’t very well quite reflected in these virtual avatar creation systems. In fact, trying to find any curly hair style (outside of an afro) is virtually nonexistent. And god only knows how I’ve tried. Fallout 3, Fallout New Vegas, The Sims, The Sims 2 (although that might have been the exemption, I remember being quite happy with the results there), Saints Row 2… the list seems to roll on and on, finding myself frustrated with the lack of curly hair and ending up creating something completely crazy instead. Go to your favorite game with a create a character system. Go on, do it. The choices are utterly normal or crazy, with nary a curl in sight, to the dismay of myself and my curly haired compatriots. In the meantime, I’ve found a worthwhile substitute for Playstation Home and Xbox Live.

My Gaming Avatars

Óle!

The Last of LaFonda

So I got attached to my car.

Who wouldn’t, after all the weird adventures I’ve had with it?

LaFonda was a 1992 Chrystler LeBaron- or as I liked to call it, “The Pimpmobile past it’s prime”. With it’s roomy red velvet interior, it looked like it tried to capture the same style of those giant boats of yesteryear. Either that, or I was driving a Russian tank with the turret removed. (I can’t take credit for that joke- I got it with some inspiration to a Simpsons episode where Homer’s pink sedan was described as being built out of old Russian tanks. With the way my car handled, it may have been true in my case.).

And I had so many memories with said car. I recall driving down the 101 freeway with five other friends, bobbing our heads up and down in unison to Haddaway’s “What is love”– so much so that the suspension jumped up and down roughly, making me swerve slightly to compensate for the abuse I put on the live axel suspension. It was a ridiculous thing to do, but as it was the first time i had people in the car, and as such, it became my first big memory with the car.

And of course, who could forget my incident with the Joystiq crew. It was my choice story to tell others what had happened with the car. Every E3 since then, I’ve told the events time and time again to members of the industry- most of which still don’t believe me (this past year, I’ve told the story about five separate times, each person still looking incredulous as I describe the events. Best thing is- only a select few still know who it was who had thrown up in the car).

LaFonda was always a choice car to be pulled over- with the peeling paint and well- overall shadiness- I have been pulled over more than once in the car in some more, quiet, suburban neighborhoods. In one occasion, I made it a point to ask the police officer if, well- my car looked shady. All he could do was to smirk nervously before wishing me a good rest of my evening.

But the good times had come to an end. The car had blown its gasket (literally). With a failing transmission, I was quoted at roughly $2.5k to fix everything. And even then, it was an old car. Parts were hard to come by. I couldn’t even look my mechanic directly when I asked him if it was worth it. And when I could, all he could do was to shrug his shoulders. It was a clear enough message.

I donated the car to charity- it was my only choice at that time, donating it to to the Convalescent Aid Society, a nonprofit that had supported my grandma by lending her a wheelchair when she first broke her hip (it’s a fantastic organization and honestly, it’s the least I can do for helping her). By the way, if you think of getting rid of an old car, donate it to charity- I found a nonprofit by the name of Cars4Causes that made the process as simple as it can really be.

When the tow truck slowly pulled away from the mechanic’s shop, all I could do was to record video of the last time I would see her.

Call me nostalgic. Call me a fool. But being attached to a car that treated me right- gave me so many memories- who wouldn’t be that… despondent?

Day of the Dead.

Today is (well, earlier today) was the celebration of Day of the Dead.I wrote about Day of the Dead before- about the celebration and the lack therof in my life. I wanted to honor those who had passed away to connect to my own lost roots as a Mexican-American- or at least, to my own heritage as a Mexican. I hadn’t celebrated last year. To be honest, I totally forgot about the celebration, the festivities. I had nothing to celebrate, or really- no one to celebrate. This year, I had someone to celebrate about. Taylor. Ofrenda 2010On Halloween, I set up the ofrenda– or altar to the dead. my sister bought some virgin Mary candles from the supermarket, and I set them up along the tabletop, along with other smaller items traditional to the national holiday: A picture of Taylor (along with some relatives and other people). Some skulls and festive skeletons to celebrate the occasion. An offering- Taylor’s favorite beer, Natural Light. I’m oddly proud of this makeshift ofrenda. Maybe next year, I’ll have to get a couple of those sugar skulls to make it truly authentic. Or perhaps I’ll have to put a little more effort into it- who knows. Teresa and I both went to Taylor’s grave to lay down the flowers early this morning, laying down the (again, traditional) marigolds upon the graves. Even then, early in the morning, we drove by past rows and rows of graves, some littered with the same marigolds. Just goes to show the tradition is still strong in the US.

The Rose Parade

Perfect Rose Parade
Ever since coming here from Mexico City in 1994, I’ve been to every single Rose Parade. I drag myself up at 6, 7 in the morning to a (usually) cold morning to see friends and relatives that only come together this day to celebrate a bunch of Volvos with dead flowers pasted upon them (I can’t take credit for that one- heard it on a local radio station). To stand the crowds of hung over (and still drunk) people waiting for the onslaught of sights and sounds that would cause any degree of hangover to worsen. (seriously- with the right hangover, after three marching bands, I would have murdered anyone who would have tried to mess with me). Friends ask me time and time again why I put myself through it, through the security checkpoints and the traffic to spend hours watching the Rose Parade- to wait in between gaps as floats break down. To put up with my mother as she yells out things to the crowd. It’s seeing such an event up close, to be able to have a level of interaction to which you would never be able to see on television is what makes it worthwhile. One of my favorite memories of the parade had an element of this interaction- back in 2003, beloved children’s entertainer Mr. Rogers was one of many of the Grand Marshalls that year. I looked forward to seeing him as anyone else that grew up with his fantastic television show. Upon his approach, his car had come to a halt, waiting for the float before him to start up again. In the time waiting, a small child ran up to his car- or at least attempted to, before she was accosted by his bodyguards. Mr Rogers spoke a few words to the guards, and motioned for her to come closer. The little girl ran up, full of glee, and handed him a rose. He reached down and hugged her. Everyone within eyesight cheered and clapped wildly as the girl hugged him. You would have never seen that on the telecast of the Parade. It’s moments like these that makes the whole experience worth it.

little big planet and my childhood.

The title above can not be any more succinct- i love little big planet for bringing back my childhood. Sounds completely mundane out of the amounts of praise to which the Playstation 3 exclusive game has been receiving (or lack therof, in certain places), but it’s certain levels in the midpart of the story mode of the game that have me flabbergasted, thinking about my childhood in Mexico. I was born in Mexico, and I grew up there until I was seven years of age. My mother, a white woman born in southern California, fell in love with my father, a man from Mexico city. I grew up in Mexico for a number of years, until about the summer of 1994, when my mother took me to the United States. My memories of that time are very jolted together, and it’s hard for me to remember everything in that time I grew up the bustling metropolis. I’ve been on a stint as of late to try and remember my time there, but as most of my memories go, they’re mostly visual, mis-mashed together in ways I can’t begin to decipher. My friends in Mexico. My extended family. The private school my mother had to work at so my sister and i could afford going there and receiving a decent education. The small pushcart/go-cart I used to drive in the parking lot of my apartment complex, swerving about moving cars. It’s all tucked away in my brain- I just don’t remember half of them. There will be times when I see something and it just… clicks. I remembered the first game system I played it was the NES, at a friend’s house. I remember the wall surrounding the apartment complex i lived at- the concrete walls with the tops of the walls covered in broken glass as a safety measure. These memories are all locked away in my brain, and it’s hard for me to remember everything. My past life in Mexico is slowly unlocked by visual cues- I remembered the glass on the tops of the walls after seeing a similar wall in South Cenrtal LA. Tublerizer2- CroppedPlaying Little Big Planet, however, brought me back to my memories of my childhood roots, unlocking them. It was The Wedding levels that hit me the hardest. The design of the levels have a distinct Mexican style to it, especially that of the Day of the Dead celebrations held every year around November 1st. The distinctive design of the calaberas adorning the entire levels, the flowers given to the graves of the dead as to honor their heritage. I looked at the screen, the bobblehead eyes of the calaberas staring at my ryu-adored sackboy as it remained frozen for a second, as i sat my controller down and began staring at the screen, at the stage before me. It reminded me of the ofrenda my mother made every October, a small shrine of sorts in the home where you leave offerings to relatives and friends who have passed on. I distinctly remember my mother setting down a can of budweiser beer (a rare thing in mexico those days, if my mind serves me correctly) as an offering to my great uncle Joe, who worked for the Budweiser company as a delivery man. I sat back and tried to remember the last time my family even did an ofrenda. It was probably middle school. I felt guilty I haven’t set down that Budweiser can in such a long time at the ofrenda in offerings to my Uncle. The song playing in the background of the level (youtube link) reminded me of the cassete tapes of Mana my mother had. (to this day, she hasn’t bought any of the tapes in digital form, the only mana album she still owns is the unplugged album that has had an insane amount of play in our stereo). The memories just flooded back to me, and I remembered visiting the grave where my grandmother was buried- the amount of vendors parked outside of the graveyard selling flowers, candles, and other sorts of offerings as the hustle and bustle of the graveyard as families tended to their respective graves. I had forgotten about it entirely. I had to stop playing the game. It reminded me too much of a heritage i had forgotten for some time. I spent some time outside, finding my mother taking care of her plants. I asked her about the ofrenda, and she had to pause to think about it. “Can we do one next november?” I asked meekly. I didn’t explain why until later, but she smiled and nodded. Playing a video game made me think of my identity- one of being of two worlds, of being white and being mexican at the same time, and i just felt… completely lost about both. Since playing Little Big Planet, I’ve taken upon myself to go and try to relearn spanish (got an B in spanish 1, going to take spanish 2 in the fall) and I may take a mexican history class I saw in the class listing earlier this week. Who knows. I would never had been spurred on to do this if it wasn’t that goddamn adorable game.

Imaginary solutions to Imaginary problems

I’ve been working heavily on writing a new series as of late, a revamped concept on a script I had thought up of while I was still in high school, carefully writing out the characters, rethinking major plot points, and trying to find some sort of reasoning behind the motivations for each and every one of the characters in the film. Unfortunately, it involves one of my biggest fears.

Zombies. Yeah, the living undead. I’m fucking SCARED of them. It doesn’t help that some of my best friends are absolutely fascinated with the subject. More often than not, regular conversation turns to the survival of the living during an outbreak. An oddly bleak subject, naturally, but it’s given me quite an amount of fodder to write with. Writing these series has proven to be the most stressful, crazy thing i’ve written in quite some time, and gives me nightmares. Most the nightmares involve the characters I wrote myself (with some scenarios I later incorporated into the series, thank you), but a lot of the times, I would find myself scared of the dark. I’ve started to stay up late to the wee hours of the morning, something I had never even considered on doing until about a year and a half ago. The relative calm that comes over my neighborhood (and family members sleeping) can be rather soothing, if you can block out the squaking parrots and the ghettobirds patrolling for the latest felon to wander only blocks from where i live. This opportunity has a large caveat- that same lull also brings forth the fear in the imaginary within myself. I fear sometimes for the imaginary things I had created in my mind- the zombies that once attacked a character in a script now has a slight chance to exist in reality, waiting for me on the other side of my door. It was a silly fear, but enough to give me certain amounts of stress when writing, and that stress would in turn affect said writing, to the point that it would be… unnerving. BB Gun.Talking to Primo’s brother, Andrew, I relayed to him my fears in such a case. He smiled, and gave me a solution- “come up with an imaginary weapon”. I was puzzled, but he explained it rather well- if you fear the imaginary, come with an imaginary weapon to fight it. As such, I’ve been carrying around a cheap little BB gun pistol, a PP9 replica that’s probably 1/2 (or even less!) scale replica of the actual gun. I know it isn’t real- i left the orange tip on there for safety, but it’s there to fight off the imaginary, to reinforce my own mind that I am the one in control. Oddly enough, it works. When I walk around my house, I’ll carry the gun in the pocket of my robe or my jeans, or if I have a particularly heavy scare, I’ll walk around the house toting the small pistol in my hand. The zombie nightmares have gone down to a minimum, thanks to this cheap gun i bought off of amazon.com (it was .99 cents, if i recall correctly. It was something I bought off of the site that was a simple joke). An odd way to explore the power of the mind and imagination, but there you go.

Keeping…

Keeping myself busy. That’s what I’ve been doing. I’ve been working on my portfolio, realizing I don’t have enough pieces for it, so it’s simply pre-production galore. Trying to secure locations, gather a list of possible actors, figuring out possible shooting dates, the list goes on and on. After New Years, my life has finally quieted down a bit so that I can finally get back down to work. The work has doubled for me as I’ve moved to HD, or at least not full HD (I’m working at 1080i). My new camera, while being small, is a beast in nature, and now, I’m having some hardships with the format. My computer can barely keep up with the large file sizes, so I have to have lots of patience as files render. I’m also forcing myself away from using Final Cut Pro as my main offline editor, locking down my sound and cuts on FCP, then moving to After Effects for color correction and special effects, lacking down cuts using that program, and it doesn’t help that effects is being a two timing whore. But hey, the camera pumps out an image that’s been goddamn gorgeous, if my photoblog has anything to say other than looking mighty purdy. I’m really excited about youtube’s new widescreen look- for the work I’m thinking about doing, it’s probably the best so I don’t feel like I’m having to shortchange ideas for short films because “they don’t work on youtube” (that whole thing was a rubbish idea in my mind anyways, disregard it entirely. ) Oh hay, here’s another screengrab. This is footage FROM the Rose Parade, or at least the pregame stuff. I’ll be uploading small clips I won’t be using in a short film up on my own personal account on Youtube. Or Vimeo. Haven’t decided which one yet.
Rose Parade Intervew There’s a batch of new scripts I’ve been able to finally accomplish, and everything seems to fall into place. I’m going to launch my own personal site soon, and get ready to announce the main projects I’ve been quietly working on for my own since I left Cornstalker. There’s whole batches of ideas that I wanted to try beforehand that i can now successfully attempt to accomplish.