Monday, October 22, 2018

Top 10 Debates That Will Endlessly Divide Star Wars Fans

(First, a correction. A post on November 1, 2017 said that Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory had only ever been shown on CBS. It has been shown on other networks, precisely NBC from 1975-1985, ABC from 1985-1993, CBS from 1993-1995, back to ABC from 1995-2007, and NBC currently holds airing rights to the film. apologizes for the error.)

Star Wars fans have arguments with fans of Star Trek, Harry Potter, and Lord of the Rings all the time. But the most heated arguments are the ones Star Wars fans have with themselves. These arguments have been known for creating rifts between Star Wars fans and putting the franchise into its own "What color is this dress?" or "Yanny or Laurel?" moments. I've ranked the top 10 here so you can see what I'm talking about.

#10. The Porgs
A neighbor of mine jokingly said, "Bob Iger (Disney-ABC CEO) invented porgs." He meant that the porgs in The Last Jedi were just in there to sell toys, with no purpose in the story. Fans have taken a humorous attitude to the whole porg situation, creating "Duel of the Porgs" on YouTube and doctoring the cover of the tie-in reader ''Chewie and the Porgs" to say and show "Chewie Cooking Porgs".

#9. The Ewoks
Again, creatures too cute for Star Wars? Many fans found the Ewoks too cuddly and marketable. But these guys dance and sing well and at least they have a point in the story. They did have their own Saturday morning cartoon in 1985 (yes, you read that correctly) and two TV movies on ABC. But come on, guys, Ewoks are darling yet mighty, that's how they're supposed to be! (I sure took a side here.)

#8. Was Yoda Better as a Puppet or Computer Animation?
In the original trilogy (as well as in The Last Jedi), Yoda was a puppet. In the prequel trilogy, he was a puppet when he could be, but for stunts that a puppet could not perform, he was CGI. Puppet Yoda is a practical special effect and surprisingly expressive, as Puppet Yoda has Frank Oz's signature touch (literally). CGI Yoda, though, can flip around and use a lightsaber. Wait a minute. Spell Check doesn't recognize "lightsaber" as a word. Shame on Spell Check.

#7. How Many Toes Does Yoda Have?
Yes, you read that correctly. Fans heavily debate the number and placement of Yoda's toes. In The Empire Strikes Back, Yoda has four toes (three pointing forward and one pointing back). In Return of the Jedi, Yoda has four toes, but this time the fourth toe is on the side rather than in back. In The Phantom Menace, Yoda has three toes, all pointing forward. In Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, Yoda has the same toe layout as in Return of the Jedi, and in The Last Jedi, his foot matches Empire. So which Yoda foot is canon? We don't know, and we endlessly debate.

#6. The Prequels
Just the prequels. Did they have any purpose? Were they good? Did they have their share of good moments? Are they even good enough to be considered canon? Was Jar Jar Binks funny? Was he racist? The prequels have spawned many debates as to their quality, and so I'm including them as a whole place on the list. Some fans, though, have said the new Disney films have put the prequels in perspective.

#5. Should Chewbacca Have Gotten a Medal at the End of the First Movie?
The TV show South Park reinvigorated this debate. In the film's 1977 novelization and comic book adaptation, Chewbacca gets a medal - but not in the film itself. Some fans think Chewbacca deserved a medal and should have received one, while others believe Chewbacca not getting a medal and causing him to growl in displeasure at the end of the movie made for an appropriate humorous ending.

#4. George Lucas's Various Tweaks to the Original Trilogy Over the Years
Han shot first. Jabba wasn't in the first one. Spaceships weren't CGI. Mark Hamill was the Emperor hologram in Empire. These are just a few of the changes George Lucas made to the original trilogy, first for their DVD releases in 2000-2001, and then in the Blu-Ray, Amazon, Netflix, and Hulu releases in 2012. Some fans argue that "the films belong to George Lucas, he can do as he pleases with them", while others argue that "the changes ruined the films". This may bring up another debate: which are better, the unaltered prequels or the altered originals?

#3. Who's the Other Hope?
In The Empire Strikes Back, Yoda mentions as Luke leaves Dagobah that "there is another hope". The subsequent Return of the Jedi film seems to say that this other hope is Princess Leia, who is revealed as Luke's sister in that film. So why would fans argue? It's because the book The Making of The Empire Strikes Back says that when Lawrence Kasdan wrote that line into the script, he and George Lucas had no intention of making Leia Luke's sister. The line was actually meant to suggest that Vader/Anakin was the other hope. Some fans reason that if the line referred to Vader, then it should be interpreted that way. Others refuse to let go of their own interpretation of the other being Leia - how they interpreted it when they first watched the films.

#2. Was Disney Buying Lucasfilm a Blessing or a Curse?
Many fans were excited when Disney purchased Lucasfilm and promised to make more Star Wars movies. This one really comes down to whether you liked The Force Awakens or not. Some fans were disappointed by the whole plot reference to the original 1977 Star Wars, saying that the franchise had lost creativity. Others, though, said that this was simply J.J. Abrams' way of stating that he wanted to make an original trilogy style film rather than a prequel trilogy style film. Many fans also worry that Disney is making Star Wars movies for profit, while George Lucas made them because he loved to tell stories. Which brings us to our final entry...

#1. How Many Star Wars Movies is Too Many?
First six was too many...and now what is thought will happen is, after the completion of Episode Nine, Disney will rebrand the first nine episodes as "The Skywalker Saga", and make another nine-episode saga, and another, and another, and we'll start debating which saga is the best instead of which movie. And don't forget Disney's planned anthology series of "Star Wars Stories". One of the things Star Wars fans like about being Star Wars fans is speculating. And if Disney wants to leave no room for speculation and only wants to fill their money bags, what will happen to Star Wars? That's where Imy storytelling might come in.

In closing, here is my verdict on each of these issues. Leave yours in the comments.

10. Porgs are extremely, and obviously, marketable.
9. So are Ewoks, but at least they have a point in the story.
8. Puppet. Frank Oz's puppeteer work and voice > just Frank Oz's voice.
7. Do you have anything better to do than debate Yoda's foot layout?
6. They're no worse than the originals.
5. Again, a meaningless debate!
4. The CGI'ed up versions are terrible. That's why I own the original versions of the original trilogy on VHS.
3. It's Vader, because when I first saw that scene, that's who I thought they were talking about.
2. I don't know. Ask me after Episode XXXVIII.
1. End it after Episode IX and make room for a new generation of storytellers (such as myself).

Thursday, September 27, 2018

This Image Says It All

A little girl learns that she never needs to be afraid to speak up.
Just imagine what the future holds for her.
Taken by Courtney Lavery and posted on Twitter, September 27, 2018.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Premature Script Announcements Won't Happen Again!

Forget I ever wrote my last blog post. Revisiting From Sea to Shining Sea was more like a fleeting aha moment than an enduring script idea. Like my idea to revisit A Place in the Puzzle, this attempt at reviving a past story was an obsessive feeling that grew to an enormous size, then faded away.

So I've cancelled the script idea, putting the revised From Sea to Shining Sea in a box with Target, Audi, Miracle on Tryon Street aka #JustChecking, A Place in the Puzzle, and not in a box with Shea and Sheryl and Seuss. These were characters and stories that I could endure and spend time with for my whole life if I wanted to. This story, and its characters, didn't belong in that context.

So what am I going to do next?

Well, I know for sure, I will think about the sustainability of project/screenplay ideas before I start working on them.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Blasts from the Past Setting the Future in Motion

As you might recall, in my post about Things You Didn't Know About My Scripts, I discussed ideas that I had never turned into scripts, such as Target Presents The Holiday Odyssey, Miracle on Tryon Street, and a proposed script based on this Audi commercial.

But what about ideas I had for stories even before I started writing scripts?

In addition to literal notebooks full of Star Wars fan fiction, there were others. There was a teen/slasher flick that was just ghastly in its writing and story. There was a version of the musical Annie that was supposed to run 6 hours. There was A Place in the Puzzle, a take on R.J. Palacio's novel Wonder that I wrote when I was 12. There was a story about a young man who tagged along on another family's vacation for personal gain but found himself doing impersonal things.

And then there was the story that defines one of Mr. Leo Finelli's key traits. Leo wonders occasionally, "Who is that female on my TV screen?" And if he figures out, Leo may wonder, "How do I reach her?" (Now I have to tell me who most TV commercial actors are. I say "most" because I'm still in the dark about one woman in a Special K commercial, but I'm working on that.)

And for over ten years, I have asked this question about many different people. They have mostly, but not all been, female. In the early days, when I didn't know these names, I would make up names. On January 1, 2008, I was flipping channels on TV when I found myself attracted to a 40-year-old woman with bouncy, curly hair. This was children's music legend (and now children's musical composer) Laurie Berkner. But I didn't know this. I called her "Rhonda Shaw" for a while in my head, until I realized her real name and invited her, to no avail, to my 7th birthday party. The same TV show that Laurie had featured on also brought me nine-year-old Jamia Nash (of August Rush fame). This was the first time I became truly obsessed with a child who I'd seen on TV - to the point that I even started writing a script about it.

From Sea to Shining Sea concerns a normal boy who becomes obsessed with a young female TV commercial and children's television veteran and meets her in Los Angeles. It was to feature this song, performed by the normal boy and the TV-star girl, embracing the fact that they're both fun-loving kids at heart, and this song, which in the link provided is performed by somebody who is trying to channel his inner Paul Simon, but in the script was performed by the TV-star girl on the playground with a bunch of other kids.

I don't remember that much else about From Sea to Shining Sea, except that there was something in the script, a plot point, maybe, about the endangered California condor. I do remember, though, that the second song I've linked to, as well as the children's book it was adapted from, was a MASSIVE factor in transforming me into a proponet of social justice. It was just such a good song, a song that the world needs to hear more than ever in the Trump Era.

So, could From Sea to Shining Sea, or a revised version of it with a different title, be my next project, or better yet, break TV ground? Rarely are TV musicals based on original stories. It hasn't been since the 1970s that a written-for-TV musical was based on an original story. (I believe the most recent example is a Rankin-Bass Christmas special entitled Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July in 1979.) All the most recent made-for-TV musicals have been adaptations of existing musicals or musicalized versions of previously existing stories.

I was all ready to work on L8-L9, a story about a robot torn between loyalties to his master and a young child who is clearly in need, but this story is being delayed due to requiring the name of the Special K commercial actress, who L8-L9's leading lady was to be named after. Since I am still working on securing that data, there is a holdup on L8-L9. Therefore, I need something different to work on.

This post is not a formal announcement of a new version of my 2009 story idea From Sea to Shining Sea as my next story. It is, however, likely that my next story will be a musical that either is about an incident that happened in my past or is based on a story I first came up with the idea for in the past.

And as for the 6-hour version of Annie I mentioned earlier, I hope I never have to make that, or sit through it. 

Thursday, July 26, 2018

The Year of Living Fearlessly

One year.

It has been one year since Fearless Girl was released to this blog. The work is almost surely my calling card and was also distinguished as without this script, I would never have created Sheryl Strongheart or Rennie Rochester. As in, writing it was what made me start identifying as a feminist (and writing additional girl-power scripts.)

Fearless Girl, the statue, was something I knew about vaguely, but was first presented with in image form for me on a Video Daily Double on the July 18, 2017 episode of the popular game show Jeopardy! One look at this elegant sculpture, uneasy at nothing, with her hands on her hips, asking society to throw at her whatever its gender-biased nature could. The SECOND the statue came onto the screen of our TV, I immediately wondered, "What would she look like as a human girl?" Followed, of course, by the question, "What would it take for her to become a human girl?"

The story expanded over the next hour, and a few days later, it was all realized. Fearless Girl would need to be a source of inspiration, and her message resonate with, a young girl, who in the rough draft was named Madeleine (as opposed to Dakota). A kindhearted middle school boy (named Ari from the start) would help them. This is how the story looked on my 16th birthday (July 23, 2017).

However, I still felt something was missing. I wanted to tackle a specific genre of girl power, a very specific feminist message that could propel starts to talks in the household about misogyny. Then a blast from the past came - a certain Super Bowl commercial from 2015 that had moved me to tears with its message, as created by Serial's Sarah Koenig.

I then looked back at the commercial and found out that the voice behind it hadn't been Sarah Koenig at all - the site I had looked at the day after the game contained errors. The real mastermind had been Lauren Greenfield (who you can visit the Twitter of here, it's mostly stuff about her new documentary, which I assume has been consuming all her time), a documentary filmmaker born in 1966. The minute I discovered who really was responsible for that ad, I totally fanboyed out for Lauren. Her commercial, which proposed a new, stronger meaning for the classic "you run like a girl" playground insult, was the missing piece I needed.

The commercial also changed a key aspect of the story. "Madeleine" became Dakota, whose name and appearance were based on Dakota Booker, who was ten when she showed Lauren how a pre-pubescent girl who has not yet been taught by society that being female is inferior throws a ball. Booker was the poster girl for the Always "Like a Girl" campaign. (I've discovered her Instagram, which you can visit here. Dakota Booker is a healthy, proactive, strong, fun-loving 15-year-old now.)

The script was completed in one day - July 26, 2017. However, I revisited it many times. In February 2018, Dakota's climactic monologue was heavily edited to change the "better meaning" of "running like a girl" from "running like someone who is good at running" to "running like yourself, even if you're not good at it." I didn't want to put down girls who were bad at sports and/or didn't want to break stereotypes, which some accused the commercial of doing. Around that same time, I drew a picture, in character as Ari, of the boy with Dakota and the now-human statue putting their arms around him. This picture, drawn in colored pencil, now proudly hangs on the wall of my bedroom.

I am still fanboying over Lauren Greenfield - but NOWHERE NEAR how obsessed I was with her in July and August of 2017. Lauren may be a documentarian, but there is not a single other person on the face of the earth that I would give the job of director for this fictional story to. I sent a letter off to Lauren's production company, Chelsea Pictures L.A., in August, and I did get something back, saying "we love all the girl power in your writing," "for someone so young, you present as wise beyond your years," "though you were writing specifically to Lauren, we are all truly touched by your kind words about Like a Girl," - but they couldn't pass mail to Lauren directly. They did however wish me "all the positive vibes in my imminently bright future".

As a recluse of sorts, I enjoy writing my scripts. I am extremely lucky to love my work more than anything else. Ari finds real friends in my script the way my scripts are my friends.

I'm going to close with a poll for my readers. Leave your response in the comments. The question is: In Fearless Girl, which is the most important "self-discovery" made between the three main characters? (I'm willing to let you go on your own criteria of what makes this discovery "important".)

A. Ari's discovery of true friends, his achievement of self-worth, and the feeling of being loved that             friendship offers
B. Dakota's discovery of the courage and self-confidence that was in her all along, and the secret to not       losing it
C. Shea's discovery of the human world, and her realization that as a human girl, she must leave her           new world a different place than when she stepped into it

So, in your opinion, which is the most important? Let me know!

It's been one year, and I haven't really been the same as I was before I turned that statue into that story.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Poll: You Can Help Me Write My Latest Script!

Yes, you, my readers, are going to help me with an important aspect of my next script!

No, not Babes in Toyland, or the one set in northern California. I'm postponing those.

We're talking about a story I wrote as a novella before I even wrote a single script. A story I wrote at this time of year in 2014. This is A Place in the Puzzle. 

A semi-autobiographical take on R.J. Palacio's bestseller Wonder, this is the story of 10-year-old Ryan Fitch, who is growing up in Louisville in 2003 (at least in the previous version). After being diagnosed with high functioning autism and befriending two supportive young girls his age, Ryan still struggles to make his way through the fifth grade (and the world). Meanwhile, his perseverance and good heart inspire a celebrated rising music star, as well as his older sister, to create artistic wonders. After a heated confrontation with a deceitful adult troublemaker on the night of May 31, the former boaster, though now more worthy than bragging rights than ever before, displays newfound humility that his peers admire.

I am revisiting this story to turn it into a feature script, but I am making several changes. The first and foremost one, though...should the main character remain a boy or be gender-flipped in the new version to being a girl?

If the main character is a boy, it will break the stereotype that girls are more thoughtful and inward-looking than boys. If the main character is a girl, it will break the stereotype that autism is only a boy thing. So the question is really, which stereotype is more important to break?

Is this story about a boy or a girl? You analyze. You tell me.
Leave your verdict in the comments below.

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Top 10 Debates That Will Endlessly Divide Star Wars Fans

(First, a correction. A post on November 1, 2017 said that Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory had only ever been shown on CBS. It has b...

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