Sunday, February 28, 2010

1.5 million people displaced after a major earthquake in Chile.

Horrible news. Over 300 dead so far.

Chile is earthquake prone so their building codes are very strong and their response teams are ready. Chile had sent several teams to Haiti to help in the recovery effort there.

One piece of good news is the treat of a major tsunami hitting Hawaii or Japan seems to be over.

Am I crazy or has there been a uptick in major earthquakes recently? Italy, Haiti and now Chile.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Flashback Friday - Bennifer edition - "Jenny From The Block"

Jennifer Lopez has left/or was dropped from Sony Music. Does this mean the days of a Ja Rule/J. Lo collaboration are over? Whatever happened to Ja Rule?

I never thought Ben Affleck was "hawt" except in this video which came out in 2003.

I went to the premiere of one his movies during the height of the "Bennifer" era and it was madness.

After this SONG was released, all my friends would refer to themselves as "....from the block." I was somehow able to work the sentence, "don't be fooled by the rocks that I got", into everyday conversation.

Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Spring is coming....some belle foto from Gina at Warm Pears

I think the worse of the raining season is over. Woot!

I'm not sure how I found Gina Gomez's photo blog. She's a very talented young American photographer who sold all her things and recently moved to Rome.

Her photos are fantastic.

This POST captures the promise of Spring.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Favorite Things: Mondi Pasticceria - (danger!)

An Italian friend of mine lives north of Ponte Milvio and we met for coffee at this incredible pastry shop.

This place is dangerous. I was almost overwhelmed by all the delicious treats.

I haven't seen Mondi mentioned in any guide books as Ponti Milvio is a very residential area.

The second time I came to Rome on vacation, I had rented an apartment in Trastevere.

My friend G. suggested we meet for lunch by Ponte Milvio. He said it would take me about about 35 minutes to walk from Trastevere.

Hello, more like 35 minutes by scooter. After walking for a while, I called him while I was standing in the Prati neighborhood and said, "Where the **** is this bridge?" He came to pick me up on his scooter. We had an excellent lunch then went to Mondi for gelato.

Mondi Pasticceria
Via Flaminia Vecchia, 468

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Congrats to Tracie P (nee B)

Tracie (writer of the blog My Life Italian) was one of the first American expats I met. I was still living in L.A. and she was in Naples and Ischia.

During one of my trips Rome I went down to Naples for the day. We spent such a long time talking over lunch, the waiter actually brought us the bill. I think we were in the restaurant for over three hours. ha

Tracie recently got married. She and her husband Jeremy were in Italy for their honeymoon.

It's so funny how life works. Tracie studied wine here in Italy. She moved back to America and meet another American, who was living in a different state, he works in the same field, speaks Italian fluently (has a PhD in Italian) and travels to Italy often.

I know I have been down with love lately but seeing the two of them together warmed my cold, cynical heart.

Tracie has posted a link on her BLOG to her wedding photos.

Auguri Tracie and Jeremy!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Roger Ebert is dying.

This article in Esquire was one of the most moving pieces I've read in a long time.

Ebert might be best known for saying "Two Thumbs Up" but he was the first film critic to receive a Pulitzer for his work.

I knew he had cancer but no idea he had lost the ability to eat or to speak. That half his jaw is gone.

That he is slowly dying and aware of it.

What would most people do? Ebert does what he loves. Watches films and writes about them.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Snow in Rome?!

For the first time in 25 years there was some serious snow in Rome. Okay our version of serious is not the same as the craziness my poor sister had to deal with in DC last week.

It snowed a little in 2005 but this time the snow stuck to the ground for a least an hour. ha.

Everyone was out taking photos and cracking up.

I haven't seen snow in years between living in L.A. for so long and going home to the Caribbean for Christmas the last few years.

I went to college in upstate New York where it snowed all the time from October sometimes until May!! That darn lake-effect snow was a pain in the butt.

I happened to be out running an errand when the snow really started to fall. Standing in the Pantheon and watching it hit the floor was pretty amazing.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Today is Valentine's Day!!!


Friday, February 12, 2010

Flashback Friday - Alexander McQeeen & Kate Moss

A truly outrageously talented man.

McQueen killed himself at age 40. I do not understand.

Many people dismiss fashion but this man was no random celeb with a "line" of clothes.

He's work influenced many in the arts, especially music. He designed covers for Bjork, among others.

R.I.P. Mr. McQueen.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

GLEE Italian Style!

Great promo for the show. I wish I was there on that day. I cut through that building's lobby all the time.

One of the funniest moments on the show had to be the Acafellas singing the Bell Biv DeVoe classic,"Poison". Hilarious.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Sade's New CD drops today!

It's been ten long years since her last one.

The woman is 51 and schooling folks. It's nice to hear some real music with real emotions.

Sorry, I'm not feeling Ke$ha or her damn auto-tune. Basta.

The title track is fantastic and I'm liking this track as well.

Interesting article about Sade in the New York Times

Sunday, February 07, 2010

My screenwriting process (most of the time)

My friend Sara suggested I write a post about my process.

I also receive a lot of questions regarding the difference between writing screenplays vs. books, articles, etc.

The biggest difference is film (unlike TV) is a director's medium not a writer's medium. When you write a feature script what ends up on screen could be very different. When you write a novel or a play that's it. You will of course get notes from your editor or if it's a play, the producers and/or talent, but no one rewrites you. You're not fired from your book and other authors are "put on" the project.

Every writer has their own process but for most screenwriters an original script goes like this:

Once I have an idea I do a

I spend a lot of time on this. Most of the backstory is never mentioned in the actual script but by the time I start writing I have a very good idea of who my characters are. There will be surprises of course. Sometimes the character will "dictate" to you what they want to do. It's best to get out of their way and let them do it.

Some writers use index cards. Some even have a different colored card for each character. I use a Word document. Not sure why I stopped doing the index card thing. I don't have the room? Basically this is page (or index cards) of 50 scenes/beats. I keep it short just a line or two per scene/beat. I add to this while working on my characters. I also do any research during this stage.

Screenplays have to be structured. Someone asked me if that's why so many Hollywood movies are unoriginal. No, just how we all have skeletons but are unique individuals, that's what a script is. The skeleton of the film. Without structure, it breaks down.

Are there films that follow a different structure than the three-act one? Yes, Pulp Fiction but you have to know the rules before you can break them.

Notice when you go to a movie and you start to get restless, nothing seems to drive the movie forward? That's a pacing problem and no matter how great the dialogue, interesting the characters, if the structure is broken it's a mess.

The outline is not set in stone. Writing is rewriting. Some writers don't outline or spend a lot of time on theirs. But trust, they still have structured scripts.

For me I like have a solid outline because when I sit down the write my first draft I want it to flow. I do not edit my work until after that first draft is done. When I'm writing that draft, I write 5 - 15 pages a day. I try to iron out story, structure and character problems before I start writing. I want to focus on dialogue when I write the script and that's hard to do if everything else is wrong.

By the time I start the first draft, I have lived with the movie for a while and I think about it all the time. Snippets of dialogue come to me at random times and I write them down. If I didn't have the outline I could easily get stuck, especially during the long ass second act. The second act is where movies can get bogged down and where there are the most story problems.

After the first, rough, draft, I put the script aside focusing on another project for a week or so, then start rewriting. This is the meat of the matter...when the screenplay really takes shape. It might come together in four drafts or maybe fourteen.

If you are interested in writing scripts, read them. Most of them are online. Read books, magazines, newspapers, etc. Watch a TON of movies, current and the classics. In different genres.

Don't think because you can write in another medium, poof, screenwriting must be easy because there are so many bad films. You have no idea what the original script looked like and yes, it's hard to write bad scripts as well.

Listen to the DVD commentary. This is a gift from heaven, especially if you cannot go to film school. You can learn a lot from listening to the writers and directors talk about the movie.

Check out John August's blog, it's excellent. If you don't know who John August is and you want to write scripts...start doing research on the A-list writers. Google their interviews on Youtube. Most of them talk about their process and how they broke into the business.

One page of a screenplay in general equals a minute of screen time. Screenplays range between 105-120 pages. Comedies closer to 105.

When I was an exec and would get a comedy script clocking in at 140 pages from a new writer, immediately I knew the screenwriter didn't do his or her homework.

Execs have stacks of scripts to read every week and are looking for every excuse in the book not to read yours. Don't make it easy. I know plenty of execs who will stop reading a script after 15 pages. People are not overestimating the importance of those first few pages. No one is going to keep reading to see if things get better in the second act.

While the first part of my process (especially the outline) may seem tedious, going through my iTunes library for my script's playlist is fun. Any procrastination issues tend to happen during my research/outlining stage. Once I write FADE IN I'm good to go and music helps a lot.

I write in the morning. During the colder months it's the first thing I do since it's too cold to work out outside. During warmer weather I work out first, then write.

This applies to original material (a spec script). When you have a writing assignment, in general you have eight weeks once commenced to turn in a draft to the studios. That's not a lot of time to do all the prep work and a few drafts of the script. Usually you will give the draft to the producers who may give you notes before you hand in the draft to the studio.

Similar to journalism, there's not such thing as writer's block when you have a writing assignment. Nobody wants to hear it. If the studio is paying for a script and you want to have a career in Hollywood, you need to be reliable.

I've heard many executives, agents and managers say while talent and luck are very important, being a disciplined writer is just as, if not more, important.

Friday, February 05, 2010

French Nutella Toast in Celebration of World Nutella Day

Yes the wonderful is back.

World Nutella Day is back.

Declared as such by my friends Sara from Ms. Adventures in Italy and Michelle from Bleeding Espresso (and Shelley from At Home in Rome, in spirit) as a day to celebrate, to get creative with, and most importantly, to EAT Nutella.

Last year I walked around the Historic Center of Rome with a jar of Nutella looking crazy. This I made something super easy.


dash of cinnamon
bread (day or two old) I used French bread.

Lightly beat the eggs, milk and cinnamon.

Put a layer of Nutella between two pieces of bread.

Coat the bread in the egg mix.

Fry in some butter over medium heat until lightly browned.

Sprinkle with powered sugar.

Eat with syrup or without.

NOTE: Don't use fresh bread as it will soak up too much of the egg mixture and will be soggy.

You can also add bananas or jam.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Lo Shopping: France is the bomb!

Last week I decided to order some books from Amazon France's website.

Not sure if this is always the case but my order arrived very quickly and I didn't have to pay any wackadoo customs fees.

I have heard horror stories of expats here ordering from Amazon USA and having to pay fees that are more than the value of the books. Plus with the dollar so weak I would get killed with the exchange rate. At least now it's a Euro to Euro transaction.

So despite my shaky French skills, I will continue to buy my English language books from France instead of the U.S. Not sure if all the English language books on my Wishlist are available but at least several are.

I'm so excited.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Angèlique Kidjo at Parco della Musica, with a special guest appearance from Carmen Consoli

I was not in good mood last week after receiving some bad news about my work (will explain another time).

I went to the show with three Italian friends. I have never seen Kidjo in concert but have a few of her CDs.

At first everyone was sitting down, into the music but no dancing or anything. This space is similar to New York's Carnegie Hall or Lincoln Center.

Kidjo said, "I can't believe this is Rome. What's going on here? Don't be shy." During the next song a group of people went up front, started dancing and that was it.

The rest of the night we did not sit down. Kidjo stepped off the stage and went into the audience with her mike. Later she invited Carmen Consoli (an Italian singer) who was in the audience, up to sing Aretha Franklin's "Baby, I Love You" with her.

For the last couple of songs, she asked audience members to come up on stage. It was great to see so many children. They were having a ball. She held one girl's hand who seemed a little nervous and the two of them danced.

One of her drummers came out to the center of the stage. A few people, Africans and Italians, busted out with African dance moves. The energy in the auditorium was unreal. It was like we are at a very cool, fun house party.

Her band is tight, her vocals amazing. Her new albums drops this week and she is touring internationally. If Kidjo comes to your city, I highly recommend checking out her concert.

My friends said they had so much fun at the show. We talked about it for the rest of the night. I saw one friend at Capoeira class the next day and he was still talking about it.

Kidgo spoke about the 2010 World Cup and how she was so proud it's going to be on her continent. She said Africa is more than just famine, war, corruption. Kidjo was born in Benin and raised there and in Paris. She sings in English, French and Yoruba.

Before the concert I was thinking what the heck am I doing with my life regarding writing? Why am I writing? Who am I writing for? How do I reconciled what I like to write vs. what sells in Hollywood? How do I make a living in an industry that is not a meritocracy? How do I survive in an industry that is ageist, racist and sexist?

Then two things happened, the concert and Kathryn Bigelow winning the DGA award for Best Director. This is the first time a woman has ever won. And the DGA is the most male-dominated guild in a very male-dominated industry.

Bigelow keeps doing her thing. It wasn't easy for her to find get the money to finance THE HURT LOCKER. The movie made NO money but here it is, still in the Oscar mix, because it's a good film.

Kidjo grew up listening to all types of music thanks to her parents. You hear the influence in her work. When she sings you feel her emotion, energy, spirit. She's not some talentless auto-tune brand.

These two women create what they want to create. It's authentic.

I'm still trying to figure out how to approach my work. I have to find the middle ground between writing the stories I want to tell and making them commercial. In the meantime I need to refocus, recharge and rewrite. I refuse to believe that as an female agent said to her client, a black female writer/director friend of mine, "black women have no value." Yes she was talking about the Hollywood marketplace but I understand why my friend got so upset. Who wants to hear you have no value?