Screenwriting From the Road (Or The Incoherent Rambling of a Grateful Gypsy)

I’m ten days into my whirlwind gypsy tour of LA, and I’m finally riding the waves of uncertainty better than I was at the beginning. (Just in case you didn’t read this post, the short version of the story is this: my dog and I left our place for two weeks on less than 24 hours notice.)

Some moments have been a little like the really crazy days in production when acts of God prevent planes from leaving Canada, screwing up virtually every aspect of a tight shooting schedule — those days when despite your best planning, things are so f&#$*% that you and the Executive Producer have to blast Jay-Z’s “99 Problems” and dance in his office before taking a deep breath and finding 52 contingency plans based on 15 different possible scenarios.

For example…

At one point last week, I had about four different houses lined up with varying windows of availability, and a tent on “soft hold” just in case. (“Soft Hold” is an annoying production term that basically means, “I MIGHT need you, so sit tight while MY uncertainty inconveniences YOU.” And people wonder why LA is flaky….) I also had to schedule service for my car AND my physical therapy appointments, but I wanted to sort out which sides of the city I would be living on which parts of the week so I could set said appointments based on maximum fuel and time efficiency. #themindofaproducer

In the midst of this madness, I somehow managed to finish my feature screenplay. I finished it, in fact, while staying at a place where I was repeatedly molested in the middle of the night by a cat named Carter.

A side note about Carter…

He actively ignored me all day long — like HID from from me, ignored me — but became my best friend when I was asleep. He woke me up every morning around 2 by crawling into bed with me and repeatedly rubbing himself up against me while I was unconscious.

It was like living with a feline frat boy.

ANYWAY…

I finished my script even though I was exhausted from sleeping with a cat on my face, and after I sent it off to producer friends, I went to Lake Balboa to stare at birds for a few hours because there was nothing left of my brain.

Birds are everything.

Birds are everything.

I could go totally off-topic and tell you why I’m so obsessed with birds, but it would be better if I tried to stay somewhat focused.

(What WAS the point of this post?!? Even I have forgotten.)

Now while I’m waiting for feedback on my feature, I’m tackling my television pilot from my current spot in sunny Santa Monica.

See?

Albus totally pitched story ideas for a minute.

Albus totally pitched story ideas for a minute.

But then he decided TV writing was too hard.

Just let me sleep in peace, lady.

Or maybe he was upset Reagan and Pete didn’t make out on page 6.

Either way, we’re having a peaceful, wonderful time near the beach, and I feel so blessed to have a place to stay with my bubba. We’ve even done 15 loads of laundry for my friend, which saves her oodles of money on cleaning services. (Everybody wins!!!)

I should add that I am also incredibly grateful for the place I stayed last week as well, and as much as I’m joking about Booty Call Carter, my friend was super sweet to hook me up with her keys while she was in Hawaii. And to top it off, she’s taking me out for fancy sushi tonight even though I killed one of her houseplants.

(I am NOT amazing with plant life. Probably because it doesn’t try to snuggle with me in the middle of the night.)

So as I continue on this adventure, I’m repeatedly astounded by the generosity, hospitality, and all around goodness of the people in my life.

I am one grateful girl. ❤

And P.S. My pilot is actually about frat boys, so everything comes full circle….

#writewhatyouknow

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Of Pain and Pig (Or How to Make Wilted Kale with Bacon, Onions, and Apple)

My chiropractor has my number. He seriously calls me out on all of my bullshit, which I must admit I sort of appreciate even though it annoys me a little. When I go for an appointment, he realigns my spine and points out some absurdity in my life that I’m attempting to gloss over.

For example… he once overheard a conversation I was having with his receptionist about my health insurance coverage for emergency room visits and said, “The only way this one is going to the hospital is if she has a baby coming out of her.”

Gross, Dr. Greg. Graphic and gross… but probably totally true.

See, I have a tendency to bulldoze my way through things, deliberately blind to the damage if it’s inconvenient to acknowledge in the moment. This has been somewhat helpful in my career but perhaps less so in my personal life.

As a producer, I often operate on the premise that it is better to apologize than to ask for permission. When time is of the essence, you can’t wait around for fearful people to hem and haw. You just have to get the shot. When money is on the line and politics have to be considered, this can be a risky mode of operation, so it’s a delicate balance.

Also…

For better or for worse, I have a high pain threshold and this can mean not taking very good care of myself if there’s something “more important” to tend to like some actress’ meltdown or a cut that has to go out by 2 am.

Since I’m not actively producing anything right now, I’m taking a little more time to notice when I need something, and many people have played a role in this, my chiropractor included.

So, anyway, this is all to say it was rather huge for me to realize (without anyone else’s help) that I needed to go to the doctor for my sore throat yesterday.

I’d had enough of the sensation of swallowing broken glass and capitulated to the pain. The doctor thought my disease warranted a Z-pack, so I guess it’s good I went to see him.

As I live in a rather colorful area of Hollywood, the clientele in his office was, shall we say…. interesting?

There was a woman (I think?) in a nearby room who was letting out these horrid, high-pitched, reptilian-like screams every few minutes while I waited to see the doctor.

When I was finally leaving the office, prescription in hand, she screamed again. The three nurses stationed in the hallway all looked at me as if to say, “Don’t look at me. I’m not going in there.”

“It sounds like you have a velociraptor caged in there,” I said. They looked at me rather blankly, not getting the reference.

“It’s like Jurassic Park up in here,” I clarified.

And as if on cue, the human dinosaur screamed its reptilian scream again.

They all started laughing, and as I walked away, I heard them slapping their legs and repeating, “Jurassic Park,” through hyena-like cackles.

My work there was done.

And now my work here is done, so I will leave you with a recipe for wilted kale with bacon, onion, and apples.

Why?

Because bacon and Reeses Pieces Easter eggs are the only things I can taste right now… and at least one of those things has some redeeming nutritious value.

Fruit, Veggies, and Pig!

Fruit, Veggies, Vitamins… and Pig!

Kale with Bacon, Onion, and Apples

4 Slices of Bacon
1/2 Small Onion, Sliced
1 Large Apple, Gala or Pink Lady, Sliced
6 C Kale, Chopped
2 T Apple Cider Vinegar
Salt and Pepper to taste

Cook bacon in a skillet. Remove bacon and set aside. Remove all but 2 T of bacon grease from the skillet. Add the chopped onion to bacon grease. Cook until soft, about 6-8 minutes.

Add the kale and allow to wilt, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Transfer to a bowl before adding the 2 T of apple cider vinegar. (The residual heat from the skillet will evaporate the vinegar otherwise.)

Season with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Add crumbled bacon and apple slices…

And Devour like a velociraptor.

David Lynch, Lindsey Stirling, and Cola Carnitas (Or How to Make Slow Cooker Cola Carnitas)

Guys! Exciting things are happening!

First of all, I’m almost done with season 4 of Game of Thrones, and I got HBO back yesterday — just in time for the April 12 premiere of season 5.

So this is all terribly exciting in a nerdy kind of way….

Also? I saw Blue Velvet for free at the Arclight Theater in Hollywood last night. The movie is beyond super messed up, and I wrote my honors thesis on it when I was a wee one in undergrad. (Another nerdy thing.) Seeing it again all these years later I was like, “Wow. I should not have watched that movie when I was 12. No wonder I had to write 75 pages about it in college. I was probably trying to heal my adolescent trauma through academia.”

David Lynch?

Is not for kids.

Who knew?

ANYWAY…

In other news, I finished yet another pass of my script last night before watching Dennis Hopper torment Isabella Rossellini and Kyle MacLachlan for two hours. I can’t REALLY say the fourth draft is done because I know I have messy bits that I still need to tie together, but it’s CLOSE to being a fourth draft. This makes me SMILE.

Do you know what else makes me smile?

Carnitas.

True story.

I made cola carnitas in the slow cooker for my cousin Maddie on Tuesday, and it was so delicious we almost died.

More pig. Duh.

More pig. Duh.

I did a whole taco spread with gluten free chips, corn tortillas, cotija cheese, salsa verde, and black bean dip. We talked about boys, I gave her half of the clothes in my closet, and we laughed our heads off while we stuffed our faces with piggy goodness.

It was beyond.

If you want to make some cola carnitas yourself, here’s the recipe.

Slow Cooker Cola Carnitas

4 Pound Pork Shoulder
1 Medium Onion, sliced
4 Garlic Cloves, Peeled
2, 12 oz Bottles of Mexican Coca Cola*
1 7 oz Can of Chipotle Chiles in Adobo Sauce**

Put all of the ingredients in the slow cooker on low and allow the pork shoulder to simmer all day. If you’re in a rush, you can put it on high for about 4 or 5 hours.

Once the pork is cooked thoroughly, take it out of the slow cooker, remove the fat, and shred the pork with a fork. I discard the other ingredients, but you could use the onions if you’d like. They’re really tender and sweet.

After you eat the carnitas, try not to dance like a lunatic like my family does when we have Mexican food.

My family is super fun.

We are mentally ill for Mexican food.

(We are also super fun.)

And because I’m into spreading fun, here’s a song I’m way into right now. It’s Lindsey Stirling, and the video has a whole M.C. Escher thing going.

❤ I LOVE Lindsey Stirling. And M.C. Escher. ❤

*Mexican Coca Cola is made with cane sugar instead of corn syrup. I’ve never tried it with traditional cola, but I’m sure it would be fine if you can’t find Mexican Coke.

**Sometimes I only use half the can if I want it less spicy.

OK, I’m done rambling now. I’m off to USC to handle some bizznass.

Salt and Straw for Warriors (Or I Reward Myself With Roasted Strawberry Ice Cream)

Yesterday I went to war… and I WON.

I crossed so many annoying items off my to-do list, my hallway is finally back to normal, and Albus is sleeping soundly now that my files are in proper order.

Please stop snapping pictures of me while I'm sleeping. It's creepy.

I do NOT care about your files. Just let me sleep, weirdo.

After my hallway battle, I went to the park, propped myself up on a picnic table, and did some work on my posterior chain.

See?

The dog is right. I am weird.

The dog is right. I am a weirdo.

I’d go into a whole, long story about how I googled ways to make my own glute-ham developer, but I don’t want to bore you. Besides, as much as I love power tools and plywood I do NOT need anything else in my house right now or I will go insane. This place is already bursting at the seems with egg poachers, ice cream makers, and golf clubs as it is.

That’s why I went to the park to work out. I figured I’d find everything I needed on a playground.

I was right.

Besides, who can argue with this view?

Also? Who can get mad about working your core while you’re looking at trees?

I blasted a little “Bootie in Your Face” because Deorro’s beats take the pain away. (They also make me drive like Danica Patrick, but that’s another story.)

I’m sure all of the nannies at the park thought I was a nut, but it’s LA… people should be used to nuts by now.

After my weird park work out, I came home and made bacon with Brussels sprouts and onions. (If you’re nice to me I’ll tell you how I did that tomorrow.)

I ended my day with two scoops of ice cream from Salt and Straw because warriors deserve roasted strawberry ice cream.

There may have been a whole pint in this cup.

True story.

Later!

XOXO

Birthday Party Playlist (Or Sorry for Partying)

A few weeks ago I was on a mission to appreciate my neighborhood. I was trying to make peace with living somewhere I wanted to escape so I started wandering the streets in search of inspiration. A few blocks from my place, I came across this carved into the sidewalk.

Hollywood sidewalk on Dogs Dishes and Decor

Today, it sort of seems fitting somehow.

See, my birthday is Saturday…. and today is the 10-year anniversary of Kristin Connor’s death.

I had only met Kristin a few months before we lost her, but time doesn’t always feel relevant in the face of loss. Kristin was our friend Angela’s best friend from high school. She he had recently relocated to LA from Michigan, and we welcomed her into our displaced Midwestern family immediately. There was just something about Kristin… I can’t really describe it. She was warm. She was real. And I liked her right away. Talking to her was easy, and it was almost as if I had known her for years.

Two days before my birthday, she was killed in a car accident.

The summer of 2003 was maybe the best and worst of my life for so many reasons. And my birthday party that year was a blowout never to be forgotten.

We were celebrating. We were mourning. And OMIGOD, we were annoying the neighbors.

That day we were coming together — and we were saying goodbye. It was my birthday party.  It was Angela’s going away party.

And maybe most of all?

It was Kristin Connor’s wake.

Partiers on Dogs Dishes and Decor

Part of the 17th Street Birthday Party Crew. Santa Monica, cira 2003.

So today as I think about the friend our family lost, I want to tell a whole bunch of Michigan kids how much they mean to me.

See, it struck me as I was perfecting the playlist for my upcoming birthday party that so many of the songs on it reminded me of members of my Michigan crew. Many of them will be at my (much more civilized) birthday this year. Many will not.

But either way?

I’m thankful for them and maybe I don’t really say it enough.

So, here it goes:

Chamillionaire’s Ridin’ is for Melissa. It reminds me of the days we were rolling through Hollywood in her dirty Volvo while painting our toenails on the dashboard. Melissa has been by my side for so many birthdays, so many movie premieres… and so many goodbyes. Together we’ve mourned her Beagle, my first Spaniel, our grandfathers, my grandmother, our mentor, my cousin, Kristin Connors, and her father. We’ve laughed through the tears and we’ve danced through the pain — sometimes at Barney’s Beanery and The Bungalow — where they don’t even have dance floors.

Lyke Li’s Little Bit is for Nicole. She put it on one of the many amazing mixes she has made me over the years. It’s for all the dinner parties we’ve thrown together. For breaking into my apartment to do my dishes after I sliced my thumb instead of an eggplant. For knowing how to make me feel so special on my birthday. For her generous heart — and her kind spirit.

Juvenile’s Back that Azz Up is for my panda, Sarah. It reminds me of our last summer in Ann Arbor. We used to open the sunroof of her Explorer and absolutely blast the song while driving past civilized restaurants on Main Street during dinner hour. This song is for standing by my side at my grandfather’s funeral. For asking me to be in her wedding. For helping me out of a pair of capris with a broken zipper in a TJ Maxx dressing room. For giving me perspective on what really matters. And for years of love, laughter, and loyalty.

Kesha’s Tik Tok is for Kelley. We put it on our Camarillo Road Trip Playlist and listened to it A LOT while we were stuck in gridlock and she was carsick beyond belief. It’s for the endless talk that first night we met in the Pi Phi basement — the talk that led to so many more. It’s for being my senior spring break travel partner. For skipping chapter to watch Monty Python with me. For asking me to be her only Michigan bridesmaid. And For standing by my side for 16 years… no matter what.

Lee Brice’s Friends We Won’t Forget is for Anna. It’s for sharing her story and really, really listening to mine. It’s for pushing me to do a few more push ups. For making me change my make up, my clothes, and my hair. For our dinner parties. For reminding me how much I love country music. And for just knowing when I need a hug.

Britney’s Toxic is for Ryan. It’s for all the good talks we had about our grandpas — and for taking care of me the day after I lost mine. For teaching me about birdies, eagles, and albatrosses. For legal services rendered. And for knowing I needed to hear a little Britney on a bad day at the office.

Westside Connection’s Lights Out  is for Josh. It brings me back to the days of our endless wandering through the aisles of Amoeba Records. The days when he’d drive across LA at midnight just to watch Diggstown with me. The days of batting cages and Brett Ratner’s driver incessantly interrupting our Indian dinners. It’s for always stepping up — even when it was risky.

Huey Lewis and the News’ Do You Believe in Love is for Michael and Jody. It’s for all the support, advice, and sous chef work over the years. It’s for making me believe everything works out for the best. For showing me what it’s like to be a really great team. For including me in the Cycle for Survival in memory of Jody’s mom. And for making me a part of their family every Christmas. I’m proud to share a birthday with their son Connor who will turn one on Saturday.

JT’s SexyBack is for Katy who also celebrates a birthday this Saturday and loves her a little JT. It’s for getting me out of my house while I was helplessly waiting for my grandpa to die. It’s for finding a new home for my dog. For making our birthday special every year. For listening. And for pushing me to do the tough stuff.

Yolanda Be Cool versus DCup’s We No Speak No Americano is for Manning who played it in the car after my birthday in the ‘bu — and before he really became my friend. It’s for introducing me to Anna… and making sure we hung out. It’s for making me like lamb, calling me out on the mayonnaise to yolk ratio in my deviled eggs, and for making me laugh while we were covered in gum. It’s for always showing up when and where he said he would. And it’s for making the tough talks somehow seem easy.

Soulja Boy’s Kiss Me Through the Phone is for Angela who lost the most on August 1. The song will forever remind me of her husband singing it to her in the streets of Hollywood. It’s for the great talks we’ve had about life, death, and design. It’s for being one of the few people on the planet who understands why I come so unraveled over college football. And it’s for introducing me to Kristin.

David Guetta’s Memories is for Kristin Connors herself. It just seems fitting.

And The Victors is for everyone.

Oh, and by the way, I’m not sorry for partying. I am a little sorry about all that Lil’ Jon we played, but I will never apologize for cutting loose with some of the best people I know. I can’t wait to do it again soon.

Crimes Against Architecture (Or Someone Needs to Renovate Now)

I wanted to be an architect when I was young. I’m not saying the world would be a better place if I had followed that dream, but two film degrees later, I still can’t shake my obsession with structures. I can’t look at a building without envisioning ways to improve it.

Whether it’s just a facelift to improve the curb appeal, a sketch for an addition, or full on fantasies about jackhammers, crowbars, and drywall, my mind never stops working — particularly as I’m walking my dogs around the neighborhood.

Maybe it’s because there are so many buildings in Hollywood that are in need of my enthusiasm and my arsenal of power tools. Or Maybe it’s just an unsatisfied dream. I’m not sure, but either way, I can’t stop dreaming about making Hollywood a prettier place, one dump at a time.

Here are my nominations for places in need of a little love. And Imagination.

I mean, these places represent some serious crimes against architecture presently.

Never mind that this place looks like a frat house. It has potential!

Obviously, it needs a new roof and new paint, among other improvements, but there is a lot to love here.

Just a few houses down, is another structure in need.

The things I could do to this place….

Forget about the plywood in the windows for a second and the peeling paint and just look at the potential.

Do you fantasize about renovating things or is it just me?

Birthday Girl Betsey Johnson Shows Me Up (Or It’s Time to Do the Splits)

I’m not exactly sure when it started, but there’s been this running thing for years where my friends judge whether or not we’re old by my ability to do a back bend at my birthday party. For those of you not acquainted with this kind of idiocy, here’s a mental picture: from a standing position I lean back and touch my hand to the floor while making a bridge with my body. Some years I touch both hands to the ground, achieving a full Urdhva Dhanurasana.

Other years, I just put one hand down and keep the other arm stretched toward the sky. Either version counts as long as both feet are on the ground and I get into this contortion from a standing position. I think maybe it’s cheating now that I’m all certified to teach yoga and whatnot because backbends are a pretty common practice for yogis. Doing such things in heels, though, is not a common yoga practice, so I guess maybe it’s still an acceptable test.

This pose? Was not meant to be done in heels. Photo Courtesy of Kathlynn Diary

This year I was feeling all proud of myself because I managed a rather epic backbend in a bikini. Well, that is until I saw fellow birthday girl Betsey Johnson (who turned 70 the week after my birthday), do the splits in the middle of the shoe section at Nordstrom.

I dare you to do the splits in the mall like Betsey.

See, Betsey was at The Grove (a Disney Land-like mall, complete with a trolley and hoards of irritating tourists) to unveil a new shoe commemorating the 10-year anniversary of the mall’s opening.

This is the Anniversary Shoe Situation from Betsey Johnson.

I absolutely adore her, so when I read that she was going to be at The Grove, I got all dressed up in a vintage Betsey ensemble, broke my rule about avoiding the place on a weekend, and braved the tourists for a chance to see her.

I mean I have been wearing her designs since high school! Her dresses line my closet, her bras, bikinis, and jammies fill my drawers. And her shoes? Let’s just say I have a lot of those as well. Oh, and don’t get me started on my Betsey jewelry collection. It’s a little obscene. And it involves bejeweled deer heads. For real.

So anyway, now I feel like it’s time to really step up my game. She’s 70. And she can do the splits. Challenge accepted. (Yes, I’m actually that competitive. Besides, I used to be able to do the splits, so it’s high time I get back to business on that.)

Anyway, I didn’t get super fabulous shots of her, but I did have a good excuse to break out one of my favorite ensembles and wear it to the mall, so there was that.

Here’s Betsey talking telephone bags and meeting her fans. I’m really glad I got the boom mic in the shot. #PhotoFail

Here I am in Betsey at the Eclipse Premiere. See? Photographic evidence she’s my girl.

I mean who doesn’t want to walk around the mall in 4″ heels and browse Sur la Table with a bejeweled tea set hanging from her wrist?

I bought this bracelet for Carlton Cuse’s birthday party back in the day. It’s in heavy rotation on my person. Because every girl needs a pink tea set hanging from her wrist.

And now I’m working on the splits. I need to stretch out my hip flexors anyway. They’re super tight from hiking and sitting in traffic. To ease my way into the splits, I’m going to add a lot of King Arthur, Natarajasana, and Supta virasana to my (somewhat half assed) home practice because they all stretch your hip flexors. (Flexibility with my hamstrings isn’t keeping me from doing the splits, but I should probably give them a little love too.)

Oh, and BTW, don’t take this as actual advice from a real yogi or anything because I do backbends while dancing. In heels. I may have completed 500 hours of teacher training, but I’m still kind of an idiot driven by adrenaline and hubris, and I’m known to do many ill-advised things when dared to do so. If you’re new to yoga, you should totally find a studio with smart, safe sequencing and don’t be dumb like me. (I recommend YogaWorks for a solid foundation.)

You know what else I’m working on – other than the splits? Cupcake decorating. You can check out my sharks here and my owls here.

And now, I’m going to crank up David Guetta and Kelly Rowland’s Commander and start making dinner. I’m trying to master the pollo con rajas burrito I adore from Las Fuentes. (It makes magic in my mouth.) When I do, I’ll hook you up with the recipe.