Welcome Gentle Readers

This blog tends to wander from its main purpose -- updates on my fiction. I do have updates and excerpts of my work. But I also write about my obsessions -- food, friends and pop culture and my weird life in Los Angeles. Enjoy!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Blog Delay Due to Holiday

The hits on the blog site have been down for the weekend. I realized that many folks are out and about remembering the solemn holiday and/or starting their summers. I'm also waiting on a couple of things I'm updating. Thus, I decided to postpone posting the blog. There will be another mini blog during the week with some creative projects I'm promoting for myself and some other writers, publishers and filmmakers. I hope my wonderful readers will read up on them all and find a way to share and participate.

Meanwhile, the next blog will cover such things as a four legged cougar in Santa Monica, on my becoming a cougar, the end of the Month of Fun and the many and sundry updates. I hope everyone is making the most of an extra day off.

Stay tuned!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Random Acts and Industry Connections in LA

Sometimes, people from back east wonder about what we know about the Entertainment Industry and are we connected in anyway to things they might have seen. This came up yesterday and was the perfect opportunity to show both. Also, for my filmmaking friends out here, this location can meet almost any filmmaker's needs and is worth taking a look at.

This all started when the Hubs was sent a link via a forum he frequents. It was a short film based on the video game Portal. The first thing he realized was that it was shot in a place that has long been near and dear to us -- the massive warehouse complex at 7th and Alemeda in Downtown LA. Our Jack of All Trades on set, Randy Payne discovered it while scouting for a place for us to shoot a full blown version of the Privateers.

We think this complex has been in films as far back as the original version of The Postman Always Rings Twice. The funding fell through for us, but we kept an eye on the place. And we saw it in a lot of shows like the X-files, First Person Shooter.

Almost ten years flies by. One of the best peeps we worked with on Demon Under Glass, Lucy Doty, wanted to strike out on her own and open a soundstage for medical sets and medical consulting business. She needed a heap of space that had lots of room to grow. We weren't sure if it was still available, but we recommended the location at 7th and Alemeda. It was. She founded Central City Studios there. Early on, her being there saved Jon and my bacon as she was willing and able to rent space to our employer, Internet Archive, when it's lease at UCLA ended.

We took the opportunity of being there to use the site for our Blood Oath Web Series.

This is the warehouse alley with an extension created from a slum in Mumbai.
And this is the alley with our characters, Rik and Vincent from the Soldiers books (Lance Wesley and Matty Ferraro).
This is the background plate from the Portal shoot -- and much like the alley usually looks in daylight.
And this is a character about to fall though the portal.
This is the alley in The Transformers.
And this is the alley in Men in Black 3.

Okay, I hope it's clear that Central City Studio accommodates all comers, no matter their budget! Also, this is how random acts from a decade prior can come in handy in Los Angeles.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Crazy Busy, Crazy Face Thingies and More Food Fun

I didn't realize how busy this past week was until I began to sketch out this blog. Yes, I do deliberately plan these things! Let's see, in the creative column, there was editing 60 pages of Manga, putting out some fires connected the the blog we'd just finished, drawing up an actor schedule for a film without benefit of the very helpful software (it involves converting a lot of fractions – yes, little Joey, you DO use fractions in real life – then, piling the breakdown pages by scene, then by day shoot and night shoot and then by characters), writing a clever and insightful (at least, I hope it was) 2500 word essay on public transit in Los Angeles and editing 20 minutes of messy footage into a 4 minute video with trembling hands. The tremors in my hands come when I get too little sleep and too much stress. It's a lingering side effect from the chemo I was on. There is a wide array of opinions on whether or not the tremors and the numbness in my feet will fade away completely. The tasks I accomplished on the personal side will be detailed throughout the blog.

Here is the video. I did a tutorial for ex-pats in Japan on how they can make a Philly steak sandwich with ingredients from the local market. I did it for relatives of my in-laws and some ex-pat friends. The sound editing is not as smooth as I'd like. That was from the shaky hands. I could have re-edited everything, but I was tired and ready to move on.

Month of Fun – Indulgences Galore!

The indulgences during the Month of Fun aren't just about having fun. It's also about taking the time to do things for oneself that it is often hard to make time for. I don't mean eating right or exercising. I consider that part of what Jon calls my primary job of getting back to what passes for normal. I mean finding time for girly things. I haven't had a manicure or pedicure for a couple of years. I can't remember when I last had a facial. I'm not ready to go have these things at a spa. Since my immune system was compromised, I have to avoid places where there is a chance for infection. Yes, that is on the list. So are salad bars and buffets. Think about that. For now and the foreseeable future, I am doing home beauty treatments. That means a lot of research on places like google and youtube. I was aghast at how many videos and web pages are dedicated to these procedures. Since I haven't done these in a long, long while, I am slow. Everything is an ordeal and seems to require a great many substances and all kinds of equipment.

But of course, I find humor in all of this. There was an intriguing recipe for a very inexpensive and easy facial that promised to remove whiteheads and blackheads and leave skin very soft. It involved egg whites and strips of toilet paper. The idea was to mimic products like Biore facial strips. I gave it a whirl after doing my involved, deep cleansing regimen. The most difficult stage was trying to smooth all the paper strips on my problem areas before the egg whites dried too much. Somehow, that stage was accomplished and I looked like a Hammer studios mummy wearing a tee shirt and Capri pants. I sat in the living room next to Jon, who was on his computer, for a half an hour waiting for the strips to dry and harden. He never noticed. I'll take a photo next time. The facial worked! My skin looks and felt great.

Once I had my face, nails and hair in order, I turned my attention to cosmetics. I haven't worn those much in the last few years. And from what I'm finding on youtube, I am very much behind the times. When did false eyelashes come back??!! And what's with the sparkly eyeshadow? The regimens I found on line involved primers (like in paint?) and bases and primary coats and contouring and highlighting and blending. I didn't know I had a lash line and a water line around my eyes. And I thought eyeshadow beneath the lower lashes was considered a mistake. I live in a climate where most make-up melts off. That's a constant problem on any of my sets. How am I going to wear all of these layers without a make-up artist following me with a blotter. If I use a spray to set my make-up, will it ever come off? I spent a long time staring at things in confusion at the local drug store. According to the videos, I man eight brushes (at a cost of $120) shy of what I need to correctly apply makeup. And I don't have nearly enough products. Do I really need a palette of 120 eye shadows? How many different shades of brown does a gal need, for goodness sake? I updated some products that had dried up or clumped and called it a day.

I used my new make up and updated application skills to make myself presentable for a very special lunch. Marie honored me with a special double treat. One was lunch at the very trendy and popular Bottega Louie's. The other was sharing her time with her wonderful Mom. She is an accomplished cook whose brain I'd wanted to pick for years. She is also very witty with a wicked sense of humor. I see where Marie gets those wonderful traits. The food was incredible. I had a small plate of perfectly cooked diver scallops (I can never get them quite right). That kind of beautifully prepared seafood makes me want to dance in my seat. And it was so rich and dense that between that and the panzanella salad, I had no room for the decadent desserts. We wisely took them home. I had such a blast. Still, I missed farmer's market Tuesday and martinis with Marie. We will be sure to do that this week.

The last big fun for the week was a trip to Surfas restaurant supply in Culver City. It is a fantasy land for cooks. I had a very modest list of items that turned out to be in one small section of the store. We managed to explore all of it as I always do. This time, I was after vanilla mean paste, a substance that is far cheaper than the beans but has the same intense flavor and lasts forever on the pantry shelf. I also got some new pastry brushes, and another dough scraper. However, I made a list of many, many more items that I would love to have, including a chef's coat! Hinting for Christmas!

No updates from last week. Haven't I been busy enough?! I have production meetings of all sorts this week.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Birthday Fun, Secret Plans and Dark Shadows

I must get this out of the way as it is part of my yearly rant during the Month of Fun. I am fully enjoying each day as it comes. I always do. However, the fun is much funner in the south of France and, of course, Paris. There is just something magical about sitting outside a bistro on an ancient, stone covered street on a hill overlooking a sparkling bay filled with million dollar yachts while drinking champagne. And best of all, the champagne was a happy hour special! We were lucky enough to spend two separate Months of Fun in Paris and Cannes. We didn't spend a lot of money each day, but each day was amazing. It's been far too many years since my last trip. At least, I'm not angry about not annoyed about not being there. It's a wistful feeling – and a determined one. It's time to make something to take to the next film market! Luckily, I have a few ideas on how to get that done. Cue evil laughter!

Month of Fun – The Birthday Week

I had a lot of deadlines to meet this past week. That meant that I wasn't gallivanting as much as I planned. I almost didn't make it out for the Farmer's Market on Tuesday, because we were doing last minute adjustments on the latest manga, Wild Boyfriend. Up until this gig, I never had Skype nor wanted it. Now, I spend hour and hours on it with the letterer in our localizing group. Funny thing though, neither of us use the camera function. I'm usually a mess and I don't like how I look under the lighting in the living room. I have lived with a director for a long time! The few times I have used my webcam, you should see the lighting I have set up in the room. No one could easily walk around it! Anyway, I spent a lot of time this week on Skype with Henae finishing the manga then making corrections that Digital Manga required. I was also finishing an essay on public transit for Marie Lecrivain's Alternate Lanes, a literary zine about how to get around LA on anything but a car. And then, there were a series of 'can you do this ASAP' things that happen sometimes. And finally, there is a pilot script that I need to get out ASAP. I had to put off the exploring I wanted to do until next week. But when I think about it, I've always wanted to work as a writer. This week was sure filled with writing. I can't say it wasn't fun.

I'm lucky that my birthday falls near Mother's Day. That means that things like champagne and lobster are deeply discounted. I'm happy to have a nice glass of bubbly on the day itself and indulge in my favorite things. I do love to cook, but I didn't want to exhaust myself making lobster rolls, and I really didn't feel like baking my own cake. I always enjoyed the cakes the various jobs I've had out here would get from Vons/Pavillions for birthdays and departures. Since that was where the bubbly and the lobster were, it was easy to get a beautifully decorated, fudgy and decadent cake. I know it's a disappointment to those who thought I had a hedonistic day filled with oil covered, muscular attending my every whim. Fear not, I still have about 18 days! And there have been some prospects.

Dark Shadows and Why You Are Wrong

The big treat this week, or at least I hoped it would be, was going to the first movie since Tangled was released two years ago! Now, there's been a lot of angry buzzing about Dark Shadows on the interwebs before the film was released. 'Dark Shadows was not a comedy' was the gist of the arguments against Tim Burton's take on the film. I would argue that it wasn't a deliberate comedy, but it was frequently pretty danmed funny. I was the series as a kid as did Depp and Burton. I hold very fond memories of it in my heart. But let's face it, people. Dark Shadows was a soap opera with vampires, ghosts and werewolves. Mainstream soap operas can't help but drift into the weird and dopey. Anyone remember the Cassadines and their Weather Machine and the plot to freeze the world in General Hospital? Or have you forgotten the Lost City of Eterna on One Life to Live. When you have 1200 shows to write, plots are bound to drift toward the silly. I think it was brilliant for Burton and Depp to embrace the wonky things about the series and spin them to the advantage of the film.

Warning! Mild spoilers to follow.
For the record, Dark Shadows is not a comedy. The film has a very strong and twisted sense of humor. The humor was the easiest thing to focus on in the trailers. And it's the most logical thing to showcase as a few generations have cropped up since it was a series, and movie mogul types like to have as broad an audience as possible for a film that expensive to make. Dark Shadows is scary and gruesome at times. The tension at the climatic scene was intense. I was terrified for the Collins, because I had grown attached to that highly dysfunctional family and there was a real possibility that none of them would survive. I was particularly impressed with Michelle Pfieffer's performance. She managed to hold her own as a straight man against Johnny Depp. Her character rang true in a group a bigger than life characters. Elizabeth Collins was the main reason I thought the whole family had earned the right to survive. That said, Johnny Depp has redeemed vampires in my eyes. He is romantic, articulate and engaging but never sparkles. The soundtrack was awesome! It made me want to jump out of my seat! So, forget preconceived notions and go enjoy the romp!

I'm having lunch with some really cool people this week. I will also be having meetings about the upcoming projects! Great food and fun and excitement await!

Stay tuned!

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Directing Debut, Naughty Firemen and Adapting Genius

May arrived in such a lovely way. The weather at this end of town has been truly wonderful. It's pleasantly warms with a crisp cool breeze and the colors of the flowers and trees are vibrant and brilliant. The jacaranda trees are beginning to bloom. Even the most mundane errands are a pleasure as it is deeply pleasing just to be out of doors. Of course, all of my work keeps me in my small, often dark apartment looking at glowing screens. I suppose I could take the writing and manga script editing outside. But we have a concrete courtyard with a pool that's too big for the area. There is almost no where to sit where I wouldn't be in someone's way. How I miss the days in Playa del Rey. We had a balcony there where there were pretty trees to look at along with the daily death match between a psychotic squirrel and a chubby gray tabby. I kept a high powered water canon on hand to defend the cat. The tabby's owner was a very attractive fireman who firmly believed pants and under shorts and blinds were optional inside his apartment. Come to think of it, I never got much done on that balcony. Never-mind. Where was I?

Stand Aside Avengers

Not hardly, as we said back in the day. My little production is just over five minutes sans special FX or Thor's hammer. Without further ado, here it is! It was the first time I used this serious film editing program. And I've never manually synced dialog or corrected color. This sounds strange for all the fussing I did about how much work post on this video was, but I got a lot of other work done at the same time. Practical issues like the PC slowing down as the RAM got clogged forced me to walk away while the machine rebooted. Other times, I had to walk away, so I wouldn't throw the PC out the door and into the pool. I kept up the pace of my various writing projects and the manga editing. Despite the flaws that remained (and I can see and hear them all), there came a point where I had to move on and apply the lessons learned to the next effort. Boy, were there ever a lot of lessons to be learned. The great thing is that I am not discouraged in the least. I'm probably delusional. But then again, I have yet to meet a filmmaker who isn't.

Month of Fun

MIB in the alley next to Central City Studios
The Month of fun is going well despite how much I'm chained to a PC. The trip to the Farmer's Market was again corrupted by a detour to the Culver Hotel Bar. I really do love those Dirty Harry Martinis (made with vodka, olive brine and extra olives)! I also discovered that I like couscous and roasted green olives. I know, it's weird that I have never tried couscous. The odds were fairly good that I would like it. After all, I love hominy grits and polenta. I'm just not brave enough to buy and make something I've never tasted. One, I wouldn't know if I'd made it right. And I may waste the purchase if I don't like it. That was why I was so frustrated about zucchini flowers. I'd never had them and didn't want to risk buying them for myself. The only way that stalemate was broken was how ridiculously cheap they are in season. At this Happy Hour were Marie and one of her long time buds that I've never met. She was every bit of a hoot that Marie described. I chuckled about that conversation for the rest of the week. I also had a treat that helped me get through a very difficult day. I very rarely eat at fast food joints anymore. My reasons are much the same as everyone else's. But there is one item that I can't quite get right making it from scratch. It's the sausage biscuit with egg. Every once in a while, I crave one. And on Friday, I had a three hour commute to pick up something that took all of three minutes to get. Instead of getting back on the bus for the long slog back, I popped into Mickey D's to indulge. One treat that anyone not in the Entertainment Industry would find odd was visiting the updated sets at Central City Studio. It had changed so much that I worried about losing my way in the labyrinth of groovy sets. Check out who's been filming there in the photo above! Of course, I managed not to make it down to meet them. Ah, well. It was a fun visit. Trips to sound stages always fill me with ideas of what to shoot. And it was fun to see the other half of Dragoncor/Earthdraggon productions. For my birthday week, much is afoot! I'm planning all manner of girly things (facial, mani/pedi, etc.). I may even buy shoes! I really hate shopping for shoes, but it's time to embrace pretty things again. I'll also be setting up some firm lunch dates for the rest of the month. And be warned, elusive lunch dates – I now know how to text!


I seem to be doing a lot of script adaptations of late. The degree of difficulty and success varies wildly depending on the project. It's been frustrating trying to dance in another person's shoes. They are such beautiful shoes that I am thrilled to wear. What is with me and shoes today? I'm nearing the end of one phase of one of these adaptations. I've come to the point that I did with the video. There is a point where I have to send it on, so it can go to the next level. I really hope I've done it justice. We're about to put another manga to bed. We already have a four volume series to replace it. And I think I'll be working with another translator soon. I am anything but bored. There are a whole bunch of pretty boys to focus on in the next couple of weeks.

Stay tuned.