Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Adventures with the Homeless So Far

Tonight is when I go out and count the homeless for the Census. It might rain too. Should be super fun. Anyway, I've been encountering some unusual homeless people lately and I thought I would share my experiences in anticipation of tonight's madness.

A few days ago I was driving to Hollywood to visit my friend Eric and I must have looked super miserable in my car. People always assume that just because I'm not smiling at the moment, I look like I want to kill myself. Anyway, I got stopped at a stoplight, way too close for comfort to a relatively normal-looking homeless guy flipping his sign around like one of those guys who advertise Mr. Pickle's Sandwiches or Instant Tax Returns dressed like the Statue of Liberty. He saw me, dropped his sign and started pointing at the corners of his mouth, indicating that I should smile. I just looked blankly at him, praying for the light to change. Then he started dancing crazy, which did make me laugh and then he shouted through my window "You owe me a tip for that smile!" I was just like uh...sorry. And I drove off.

It reminded me of a time in Prague when I was absolutely miserable, walking back to my hostel, half-drunk at 2 in the morning, having had one of the worst nights of my life. I stopped in Wenceslas Square and sat on a bench, crying. A Czech homeless man came up to me, asking for money (I assume) but I really didn't have any. He saw that I was crying though took my hand and shook it, smiling at me as if he was trying to make me feel better. Then he walked away. It actually worked. He was so nice to a total stranger who had nothing to offer him.

I was driving again to Hollywood last night, and once more got stopped at a stoplight. A girl was standing there, wearing nice jeans and a cute Forever 21-type top. She was holding a sign that said "22 years old and homeless, please help." The person in the car next to me gave her money. I felt really bad, being 22 myself and very poor. But then I wondered if she really was homeless, or just running a scam. She seemed very nicely dressed for someone who was homeless. It got me thinking that does someone have to look like crap in order for you to really feel sorry for them? Or at least believe their situation enough to give them your hard-earned money?

I think one of the reasons I feel so uncomfortable around homeless people is because once when I was about seven, I was eating dinner with my family at a KFC in Albuquerque and a homeless man came up to us and asked us for money. We had an extra sandwich that we tried to give him, but he wouldn't take it. He just wanted money. This seemed so bizarre to me that if you were starving and to the point of asking others for charity, you would take what you could get. I know this was just one person, and is in no way representative of an entire subculture of people all with their own stories and personalities, but it really had an effect on the way I view the homeless.

Now I sound super-judgmental and harsh, but hopefully this will explain my hesitation about tonight. I'm also worried because it's supposed to rain. In Los Angeles. The one night I have to be out and about doing paperwork. But at least it's something, and so many of these people have nothing. So I'll quit whining, at least for now.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Sticky Business is Legit!

My writing team from UC Irvine has finally registered our dark comic masterpiece, "Sticky Business" with the Writers Guild of America. We kept talking about and putting it off, but Rachel, ever the leader of the group, finally got us to commit and our intellectual property is fully legal now! Unfortunately, now that it's copyrighted, we aren't really allowed to revise it. Sure this is like the fourth or fifth draft and is probably as good as it's ever going to get by semi-amateur screenwriters, but none of us has really looked at the thing in almost a year. What if it's awful? We did go a bit on the broad side with the comic Tarantino-like violence, but that's what made it so unique and fun. Hopefully someone (with money) will discover it and decide that it's worth making into a multi-million dollar feature with a stellar cast. And hopefully that cast will include some of the amazing actors who were kind enough to bring "Sticky Business" to life on stage at the UCI Screenwriting Festival where it won Best Feature Length Script. (Pats ourselves on the back). The copyright is good for five years, so we really have to get cracking on finding an agent or a producer or something to get the ball rolling here. But at least we have our momentum back! Maybe we'll have another writing session at Lee's Sandwiches followed by a trip to Yogurtland just for old time's sake.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Targeted Nonsheltered Outdoor Location Enumerator

This is my new official job title. I will be working for the 2010 Census, at least for a few days next week counting the homeless in soup kitchens, shelters, and by the freeway. It's basically a trial run to see if you qualify to be a regular Census taker. I heard back from my last interview finally and although they decided to go with someone else, they genuinely seemed to like me and wanted me to keep calling back to see if they had a position available. This gives me hope. And at least for now I'm getting paid so I'm not quite as freaked out as I would be without the Census. But when the following instructions are included in your training, one has to ask oneself if it's worth it:

1. Be sure to check under your car to see if there is someone hiding, waiting to charge your ankles.
2. Do not wear anything around your neck that could be used to strangle you.
3. If you witness any illegal activities, ie drug use, prostitution, gang activity, use a secret code you've developed with your team members and walk away.
4. Wear clothes you don't mind getting dirty and comfortable athletic shoes in case you have to run (!)
5. Assume that a "person experiencing homelessness"'s dog is not friendly.
6. Do not carry a pocketknife, or any kind of weapon even if the other guy is probably packing.

At first, I was nervous and very uncomfortable with the thought of initiating conversation with people I'd always been taught to avoid. Yes they are human beings who have fallen through the cracks of the system and suffered countless and unfathomable hardships. But it still doesn't make one anxious to go out in the middle of the night by the freeway and ask them their name, sex, and race.

After my training sessions the past few days, however, I'm kind of looking forward to this assignment. I'm still scared, but kind of curious to see what will happen. If nothing else, it will be fascinating fodder for my writing, not to mention a much-needed paycheck. I just would prefer not to get shanked in pursuit of either though.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Clash of the Commitments

I am a commitment-phobe after burning myself out in middle and high school with far too many extra-curricular activities that involved several 16-19 hour days a week. Not to mention belonging to a church that takes up half of your free time with lessons, gatherings, and other various obligations. So for the past few years all I've wanted to do is go to work/school and come home. But I love singing and I miss being in a choir. So I finally joined one after searching for a low-cost, low-commitment, non-professional group for several months now. It's a small all-girls (: ( ) a cappella group, and it's been so challenging but much fun!

I discovered recently however that this group meets on Thursdays. Being unemployed I have very few time slots that are filled, but once a month on a Thursday, I have my ScreenplayLab Mixer networking event (see previous post Shmoozing Part 2). This is probably the one organization that could really help my career and I have to miss it because I committed to this group. We only meet for an hour and a half once a week and I don't want to be the girl who ducks out early to drive all the way to Beverly Hills just to stand around awkwardly.

It's not a big deal, it's just I wish I could do both. Hopefully I'll get a job without the help of this ridiculous tradition of networking and I won't have to feel guilty about missing my singing group. I do still have the other networking thing I go to, but that's mostly just sit around and pretend you can hear what people are saying. Ok, gotta get back to reading scripts! I've been able to take in a lot, and it's really been improving my own screenwriting skills.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


On Saint Patrick's Day, everyone with a drop of Irish blood in their veins boasts about how much cooler they are for being Irish. I don't see the point about being proud of a simple genetic fact. My ancestors came primarily from England. I'm not proud to be English, I just am. English people never seem to boast about the fact that they're English. To be English is to be a blank cultural slate. Sure there are awesome English celebrities, musicians, and literary figures. But descendants of the land of the Beatles, Monty Python, Harry Potter, and the Queen, rarely celebrate their heritage with authentic garb, cuisine, music, or art. English-Americans already speak English, wear clothes that are fairly similar to Americans, and in general aren't recognized as being different or unique. Perhaps it's because of the whole empire phenomenon that we experience Caucasian guilt for trying to take over the world and impose our (lack of) culture onto everyone. We overcompensate by not thinking in terms of nationality. Which I think is kind of sad. Why should every other culture get a holiday, or a club on campus, or their own language in which to talk about people behind their backs? Oh well. I don't even think about my national origins on a daily basis, so I really don't care that much. Maybe that's how I celebrate my heritage.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Positive Thinking vs. Lowered Expectations

Apparently there was an earthquake in Southern California this morning around 4am. Luckily, I didn't feel a thing and slept right through it even though earthquakes are my biggest phobia. However, I believe that subconsciously I was aware that I was in the middle of an earthquake and that is why I had a horrible nightmare which exposed all of my inner anxiety. I dreamed that I couldn't even get a job at a donut shop and woke up crying. This was a horrible way to start the day. I was also stressed because I've been falling behind on the one job I'm getting paid to do, reading scripts.

Fortunately all of these horrible omens canceled each other out because I got a call this morning to interview at an independent production company in North Hollywood. For someone who hasn't had an interview in over a month and my back-up plan of working for the Census is becoming more and more unlikely, this was extremely exciting.

I went to the interview at 1:30pm and automatically knew this was the place I wanted to work. It was small enough that I could get experience working with lots of different roles in film development and production, but big enough to have influence. They deal with all aspects of the entertainment industry, music, television, and film, and are growing everyday. I would be a receptionist, but eventually I could become an assistant and who knows where that could lead. The money is decent, but I wouldn't even care because it's such an incredible start to my career. And when I was about ready to give up and work at Ralph's and do some kind of unpaid (slave labor) internship, this was an even more incredible opportunity.

I think the interview went really well. Everyone always says to think positively. But I'm afraid to let myself really want this and get attached to the fantasy of not only getting paid at a steady job, but a job that will take me where I want to go. I've been burned before by expecting too much. I'm trying to send good, hopeful vibes out into the universe since there's nothing I can do now to alter their decision. But I feel like I should just forget about the whole thing and keep applying elsewhere. If they call, then great. But I should prepare for the worst. I hate to be negative but I hate being disappointed even more.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Celebrity Divorce

I was very saddened today to hear that Kate Winslet and her husband Sam Mendes are getting a divorce. It's certainly never a surprise when celebrity marriages break-up, but in this case, I really feel bad for them. Kate Winslet is one of my favorite actresses, so talented, beautiful, and classy. And Sam Mendes is one of my favorite directors, very astute and interesting. They've been together for seven years, which is a lifetime in Hollywood. Now they're going their separate ways. I know that it in no way affects me, nor is it important to anyone besides themselves. Still though, when you see a marriage fail that you really thought would succeed, it tends to make you believe in the whole institution even less.

Ok, enough stalling by pontificating about more interesting peoples' lives. I have to focus on reading these scripts, but finding it difficult with all the ghetto noise (loud neighbor's music, car alarms, police sirens, ice cream trucks, "Tamales Tamales" guy, helicopters, booming sub-woofers of passing cars playing Michael Jackson). It's a wonder I get anything done at all.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Spontaneous Move-Busting

Did you ever hear a song that you've always liked but never really noticed in a big way? Then all of a sudden you hear it again and it's like the most mind-blowing thing ever? You have to listen to it a minimum of ten times in a row just to fully appreciate its awesomeness. You may even find yourself spontaneously busting a move in your living/bedroom, the kind that you wouldn't be caught dead dancing in front of anyone else. It feels soooo good though!

The song in question is a silly little pop rock song called "Ultraviolet" by the Stiff Dylans (although I'm not sure if that's their real name). It's from the Angus, Thongs, and Perfect Snogging soundtrack, and is such a joyful, happy song that it's undeniable despite its seemingly superficial pop melody. I had a sudden craving to listen to it while reading the previously discussed Bridget Jones book since Angus, Thongs, etc. is essentially Bridget Jones for the middle school sect. For the moment, I am completely obsessed with this song, and am belting the lyrics at the top of my lungs :D

Chick Lit Chain Letter

I have been taking the day off so far, as it is Saturday and I have been working ever so hard on job applications, networking, writing, and script-covering. To celebrate, I have just finished for the second time the novel Bridget Jones' Diary, which is vapid, shallow, and so very entertaining. I'm now starting the sequel, Bridget Jones: the Edge of Reason, which I have owned for at least three years and already read once. However, upon cracking the cover for the second time, I noticed a message scrawled in pen on the first page.

"Kind Reader: This book is registered with www.bookcrossing.com. In order to follow book, see who reads it, visit above site. Book # is 488-394378. Make quick journal entry then pass book along. Book can be tracked to see how many lives it touches. Thank you."

I have never heard of this chain letter phenomenon with books. It seems like a really cool project. I just checked up on the books status and apparently it originally came from Perkasie, Pennsylvania in 2002. It was given to me in 2007 (?) by a friend in Irvine, California who got it from her boss's wife in Newport Beach. I don't plan on giving it up since I tend to read books over and over, but I just thought I'd share this website. I've always preferred used books because they have a mysterious history you usually never get to discover. Maybe I'll send some other books out into the world and see where they end up.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Shmoozing Part 2

So I worked up my courage to venture forth without my trusty wingwoman, Carli, and went to the Screenplay Lab mixer at the Regent Beverly Wilshire. I was pretty late, having gotten caught up finishing the coverage on an impossible to read cockney heist film, but eventually made it out the door looking fabulous. I've driven by the Reg. Bev. Wil. several times but never actually been inside. It is gorgeous! Oh the doormen and the marble-floored lobby, it's to die for.

Anyway, the event was a lot smaller than last night and the music wasn't quite as loud. I got myself a nice glass of wine. This place was so fancy there was actually a list to choose from instead of just red or white. I tried to look like I actually knew what I was looking for but pretty much just chose the cheapest one. Bless the bartender's heart, she went through the motions of letting me taste it before pouring the whole glass. I'm sure she knew I was poor and ignorant. But I swished and sniffed and pretended I knew what I was doing. God I felt like a fraud. But I bet everyone feels that way in this town.

I sort of walked around a little before running into a very cool guy named Travis, also a screenwriter. We talked for nearly two hours about screenwriting, the Oscars, French New Wave, crockpots, the us'. I probably should have tried to circulate and meet lots of different people, but I figured, hey this guy is cool. What are the chances of finding someone else just as cool? So I decree that this night was a success. Even though at one point I felt so dizzy I almost fainted right on the marble floor. Bad combination of not wearing heels often enough and only having a spoonful of peanut butter for dinner. Overall a big improvement from last night. I think they do these mixers every month, so we'll see how it goes next time.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


So I went to a shmooze-fest tonight, otherwise known as a networking mixer. Luckily my friend was there to introduce me to some of her friends. If I had gone sans wingwoman, I probably would have wanted to shoot myself in the head. Picture a dark, overcrowded, obnoxiously trendy bar in Beverly Hills with the bad music cranked up so loud you can barely carry on a conversation. Why do people think this is fun? I only go so I can potentially meet people to help me with my career or god willing people that don't totally suck to hang out with. Too bad I'm not as outgoing as I once was. And too bad I'm too poor to afford social lubricant juice (ie vodka tonics or classy red wine). I'm going to another mixer tomorrow night, one specific to the film industry. Hopefully it will be more productive than trying to shout small talk at people I barely know who are totally in my personal bubble space and pretend that I can hear their most likely insipid responses.

Wow, this sounded super bitter and anti-social. I apologize. I like people. I just would rather be able to converse with them instead of stare awkwardly at my fingernails after we run out of things to shout about in the first five minutes. Oh well, we'll see what tomorrow's shmoozing at the Reg. Bev. Wil. (Pretty Woman reference!!) will bring.

Monday, March 8, 2010

First Paid Writing Gig

I'm finally getting paid to write! Sure, it's a pittance that will barely cover the cost of my fix-it ticket (ugh, that's a whole other nightmare). And sure it's temporary, under the table, and under someone else's name. But the point is, I'm finally getting paid to write! I'm reading scripts and writing coverage for a screenwriting competition. It's exciting because it's something I used to do for free! It's even more exciting when the only income I've been able to muster in the past 3-4 months has been from cleaning my mom's kitchen cabinets. Any writing is good practice for me, and I'm especially happy to be doing writing for the film industry in any capacity.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Vagina Pride!!

Some thoughts on the just wrapped up Oscars. I have never actually watched the Academy Awards all the way through. I also don't have a television. But I found a way to watch the entire thing online (even though towards the climax the link died and I had to watch the best parts dubbed in Spanish and my ears are still ringing). I guess I don't really deserve an opinion because I've only seen like five of the movies nominated out of every single movie mentioned. (Up in the Air which was gypped but I understand why, Up, eh overrated and I hate computer animation, and Inglorious Basterds, which I enjoyed despite my usual hatred of Tarantino, and that actually may be it.)

But it was a proud moment to see that a film helmed by a woman, especially a war film, finally earned so much respect. It was always a dream in the back of my mind to be the first, but if it had to be another woman, I'm glad it was Kathryn Bigelow. She seems so classy and gracious and I just wanted to give her a hug. It was sooo tacky though to have "I am woman, hear me roar" playing in the background, but even so, HELL YES!!! I do have to agree that this was largely political, but even so, she has the chops to back it up. I'm assuming. Like I said, I haven't seen the movie because I'm broke and I kind of hate war movies.

As well-earned as the Best Director award was, I do feel that Avatar was robbed for best picture. Haven't seen it. But based on the impact it has had on popular culture, and the impact it has made in the filmmaking world, I do feel like it deserved to win. I was watching the show via a British broadcast and their point was that this was clearly the more memorable film. I would also relate it somewhat to 1984 when Chariots of Fire (blech) won over Raiders of the Lost Ark. Who even remembers Chariots of Fire?

Anyway, yes it's all political. But in this case, it's political for the greater good. Kathryn Bigelow, you make me proud to be a woman in an industry that is still dominated by men. :D

Friday, March 5, 2010

How to sneak into Fox Studios

1. Know someone who works there (even if it's just temporary).
2. Have them get you a visitor pass. Ok, so it's not sneaking in technically.
3. Be seen eating lunch with them/walking around.
4. Make sure you look fabulous in pointy shoes and sunglasses (so they can't see your shifty eyes).
5. Start walking. But when you walk, walk fast and make it look like you know where you're going.
6. Don't ever pull out your map or look at the posted signs.
7. Don't dawdle, or look too interested in any one thing.
8. Pretend to be an extra and cross the fake New York street when they shout "Background Action!"
9. Don't freak out when you see someone famous (in my case, I only saw John Francis Daley of Bones, which they were filming, Freaks and Geeks, and Waiting). Ain't no big thang.
10. Don't get in anyone's way, introduce yourself to anyone, hit anyone up for a job no matter how much you want to.
11. Resist the urge to Maeby Funke your way into an executive position.
12. If you need a minute, pretend to text someone on your phone, but don't actually call someone.
13. Leave, still acting like you own the place. Even if you can't find your car in the parking garage for a good ten minutes.
14. Stay cool at all times even though you really are freaking out inside. EEEEEEEEEKKKK!

That was by far one of the coolest things I have ever done! I can't believe no one even questioned why I was walking around (looking like I had someplace to go). I had several cover stories ready just in case I got stopped by a security guard. I was Joss Whedon's niece. I got lost on the way to casting. I was a background player. I was visiting a friend. Anyway, it was magical. It felt like a college campus, only with nicer cars and rich people eating lunch in fake New York. The highlight, besides watching Bones being filmed and seeing the adorable John Francis Daley, was spotting Joss Whedon's parking place. His car wasn't there, but still. If it was, that's where it would be. Triiippy.

Fox-y Ladies

Today I am going to "do lunch" at Fox. As in 20th Century Fox. I've always hated the phrase "do lunch," but right now I am completely embracing any and all Hollywood phoniness. And I'm suuuper excited in a completely lame, star-struck way. A friend of mine is temping there in the casting department and has already seen quite a few celebrities meandering through the halls. (One well-known TV star even asked my friend where she could breast pump, ka-razy!).

I'm hoping that after our sophisticated and glamorous lunch, I'll be able to wander around the lot, dodging security guards behind bungalows and fake New York brownstones. I'm not going to lie. A little part of me is hoping that once I'm actually there in the Promised Land (ie a genuine film studio), a big producer or even actor will approach me and either offer me a fabulous job, and/or perhaps their hand in marriage. I'll probably turn down any marriage offers I receive today, but you bet your ass I'm going to jump at the chance to work for Fox.

Clearly I'm aware that I'll be lucky if I even catch a glimpse of someone marginally famous, much less someone who is ready to hand me my dream on a silver platter. Still, it's nice to know that it's not completely and utterly inconceivable. Hey, it's more likely to happen on the Fox lot than if I were to stick to my normal routine of lounging in bed in my PJs, watching silly sitcoms on the computer.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


I can be a pretty competitive person, especially when it comes to middle school dodgeball, trivia-based board games, and chugging contests of any kind. But right now, I'm feeling the strain of competing against thousands upon thousands of others in the Los Angeles job market right now. Someone must be getting these jobs that I keep applying to. Someone who is more intelligent, more creative, more outgoing, and more experienced than me. Even jobs classified as 'entry-level' are being filled by people with ten years or more in that specific field. It's incredibly frustrating.

I found a television writing fellowship for ABC that sounds absolutely ideal for my situation. The opportunity to learn from real writers and potentially be hired by one of the biggest networks in America is absolutely incredible. The salary is outrageously good too. It doesn't start until next year and I wouldn't even find out until November if I got in. The deadline is July 1st, and already I'm starting to panic. I have plenty of time, and I know I could probably knock out a decent spec script of a sitcom by then. But knowing that there are only eight spots and who knows how many hundreds of applicants is making my head explode.

My confidence isn't too high after being turned down by a different ABC internship last Spring, and not even receiving a big fat "NO" from an NBC writing program in the Fall. I'm really hoping that in both cases it was because I screwed up on some logistical detail, forgetting to sign something, misreading directions, that sort of thing. But of course there's that voice in the back of my mind that says "You're just not good enough." It also tells me to set fire to things, but that's a whole separate batch of neuroses.

Hopefully I've gotten better over the past year. I've been collaborating on a feature script with a friend, in addition to writing random things on my own. Nothing really worth mentioning, but the practice has been beneficial. I hope. Anyway, I feel exactly like I did when I attempted to apply to the USC screenwriting program and had a nervous breakdown before I could even finish the application. The competition is fierce and brutal and painful and all manner of unpleasant synonyms for bad. Especially when what you're being judged on is creativity, which is completely subjective to begin with. It's like giving birth to a baby you think is beautiful, then sending it off to be ripped apart by pageant judges who blame you for producing such a piece of crap child. (Too much?)

I think I'm a decent writer. But I don't think I'm good enough to beat out hundreds of others who have dedicated their lives to writing and have a greater natural skill to boot. I'm not looking for sympathy or ego-boosters. I'm just saying that it's overwhelming to have a way to attain your dream dangling right in front of your face, and to know there's only the most infinitesimal chance it could be yours. All I can do is write the best script I can and hope to god everyone else applying comes down with mono. Or leprosy. Leprosy would be better. They can't type if their fingers fall off...