Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Scientifically Proven to Make Your Mind Jingle

On their November 4, 2018 episode, Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!, the NPR news quiz, reported on a study that proved Christmas music makes you crazy.

But what is crazy? And for that matter, what is Christmas music and what's not?

This got me thinking about songs that qualify as Christmas songs by the slimmest of margins, but that I have heard the local Christmas radio stations play. I've compiled a full list (not a Top 10, this one's in no particular order) of songs that qualify as Christmas songs by very small margins. Here they are:

"Jingle Bells", "Jingle Bell Rock", "Winter Wonderland", "Let it Snow", "Sleigh Ride", and "Baby, It's Cold Outside" all contain zero mention of Christmas or imagery exclusively connected to Christmas. They are all winter-themed songs that due to a phenomenon called "pop-cultural osmosis" have become heavily associated with Christmas despite never mentioning it. (And, yes, I am aware that some radio stations are refusing to play "Baby, It's Cold Outside", so don't tell me that in the comments.)

"Do You Want to Build a Snowman" and "Let it Go" don't mention Christmas at all, but the songs have loads of winter-related imagery and are from a movie that has loads of winter-related imagery. The movie is also a Sound of Music Effect movie. (See the glossary if you don't know what a Sound of Music Effect movie is.)

"Put One Foot in Front of the Other" doesn't mention Christmas, or winter, at all, and in fact is a song with a message that works year-round. However, it was written for a Christmas television special, and for many stations that's good enough.

Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker score has no words, so it can't mention Christmas - but the score is heard so often around the holidays, and going to see the ballet on stage (or watching it on TV) such a beloved and common Christmas tradition, that the instrumental music qualifies as Christmas music.

"Toyland" by Victor Herbert and Glen McDonough, which they wrote in 1903 for the "stage extravaganza" Babes in Toyland, is oft-played. The song never mentions Christmas, and neither does the stage musical (or, at least, the early versions of it; the musical has been remade so many times over the years to fit new audiences that it is hard to decipher the original work from the 30+ reimaginings I'v seen, and usually these revised takes mention Christmas), but the fact that it's themed around the concept of toys works well enough for many radio stations.

"My Favorite Things" doesn't mention Christmas ever, but a combination of three factors seems to have turned it into a Christmas song: 1) It's from a Sound of Music Effect movie, in fact, from The Sound of Music itself; 2) It contains several instances of winter-related imagery; and 3) The lyrics may evoke a wish list for some.

"When You Wish Upon a Star" doesn't play on the radio as much as others on this list, but I know that Rod Stewart and Idina Menzel both recorded it on their Christmas albums. Its likely qualification as a Christmas song is the fact that it contains the words "wish" and "star" in the title - but Pinocchio is not a Sound of Music Effect movie.

"Feed the Birds" from Mary Poppins could not be further in subject matter from a Christmas song at first glance - but if you listen closely, you'll notice that the song has a message themed around generosity and kindness (abstract concepts heavily associated with Christmas, at least in the USA). In addition, Mary Poppins is a Sound of Music Effect movie.

"Pure Imagination" from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory has been played on one local station rather often. I'm guessing it's played as a Christmas song because it is themed around the concepts of imagination and childlike wonder (again, abstract concepts heavily associated with Christmas) and because Willy Wonka is a Sound of....do I even need to say it?

"Shake Me I Rattle (Squeeze Me I Cry)", a 1962 country song, has been played frequently on several stations. The song tells the story of a young girl who spots a doll in a toy store window and seeks to buy it with the money she has, but then spies another young girl in worn clothes who doesn't have the money to purchase the doll but wants it badly, so of course the privileged girl buys the doll and gives it as a gift to the less privileged girl. The song doesn't mention Christmas and doesn't specify at what time of year the action is taking place, but the concepts of toys and generosity in the song have seemed to turn it into a Christmas song.

"Everlasting Light". By The Black Keys. Not kidding. One station played this, and I'm positive it was because of THAT Macy's Christmas ad. I knew that ad had made many people cry (and, for me, inspired a 21-page script and a song), and I knew it had won the Emmy for Best TV Commercial, but did the radio station really think enough people would remember that commercial to accept it as a Christmas song?

Okay, maybe I am going crazy. Are these exceptions to the rules? Does only true Christmas music make you crazy? You tell me. Leave your responses in the comments below.

Nobody: The LeoFinelli.com Person of the Year 2018

Yes, nobody.

This is not a symbolism of any cultural movement or phenomenon. I'm just not naming a Person of the Year this year.

And it's not because I feel the need to do other things; it's just that naming a Person of the Year last year had a purpose. This year, it doesn't.

Last year, Time named "The Silence Breakers" (aka all the women who spoke out against sexual harassment and assault) the Person of the Year. I was genuinely angry. Feminism had dominated the year's news even before the fall of #MeToo. Wonder Woman was the #1 movie. The Handmaid's Tale was the #1 TV show. (It wasn't a "real" TV show, but that's another post.) Fearless Girl was the #1 work of public art (?) The Women's March in January (which is misnamed; an essay about its misnaming will be posted in due time) attracted millions around the world. In my opinion, Time should have named "The Woman" or "The Feminist" as their Person of the Year.

And that's why I named Fearless Girl my Person of the Year. Because she encapsulated the whole year's feminism news into a 50-inch bronze statue. I hoped to mediate my feelings about Time's choice by doing that post.

But after Time chose "The Guardians" (aka journalists who were killed, targeted, or denounced for their work) as Person of the Year, I have no such anger. I do not need to mediate disagreement by naming my own Person of the Year.

That's why LeoFinelli.com is not naming a Person of the Year in 2018.

And presumably, only when I'm unhappy with Time's choice will LeoFinelli.com name a Person of the Year - and this year, I can accept that choice.

Friday, November 30, 2018

A Helpful Glossary

The following is a glossary of terms I will occasionally use in my posts, but don't want to have to explain the meaning of every time. That's why I'm writing a glossary.

Poke in the coconut: To affectionately touch another person's head with something in between a tap and a poke. Can also mean to bother.

Family programming sweet spot: Wednesday night before Thanksgiving to the night of Christmas Day, when TV sets special time aside to cater to the family.

Supplements: Gross pills I pop every day before I eat.

And You Were There: When a story that's set mainly in two general locations (usually, but not always, reality and fantasy) has the same actors who play characters in one location also play characters in the other. Named after a line at the end of The Wizard of Oz, in which Dorothy acknowledges that all the people she met in Oz looked and acted exactly like people she knew back home in Kansas (and were played by the same actors).

Christmas Special Types: Five categories I divide Christmas specials and movies into, depending on what they present the "true meaning of Christmas" as.
  • Type One Christmas Special: presents the TMoC (True Meaning of Christmas) as the Biblical TMoC (the birth of Jesus)
  • Type Two Christmas Special: presents the TMoC as generosity, the fact that it's better to give than to receive, and that the kindhearted actions of one person can have a positive impact on the lives of another
  • Type Three Christmas Special: presents the TMoC as believing and/or always being a child at heart and/or enjoying and then later remembering your childhood
  • Type Four Christmas Special: presents the TMoC as accepting people no matter how different from you they might be
  • Type Five Christmas Special: presents the TMoC as spending and enjoying time with your family and other loved ones
And I Was There: A variation on And You Were There, in which a character hearing a story told to them imagines themselves as the main character of that story.

BHAG: Big hairy audacious goal. Coined by the 1990s business book Built to Last.

Rehash: An adaptation of a previously existing story that is not done for comedy (as a parody is) or as plagiarism, rather, it's simply meant to be a retelling with a twist (or more than one twist, occasionally).

Car crash song: A song, usually a centuries-old song, that has recently had its lyrics changed officially or unofficially for reasons tied to political correctness or a changed cultural perspective.

Banned book points: The American Library Association discerns the most censored books of each year by giving a book 1 point for an unsuccessful challenge and 3 if the challenge results in the book being removed.

Femvertisement: Any TV commercial that is, at least by intention, celebrating women and girls. Usually will hardly even mention the product.

Holamonizing: Taking songs from an existing yet forgotten or outdated musical and changing the lyrics to fit them for a new story with little or nothing to do with the one they were originally written for. Name comes from Ken Holamon, a director of children's musicals who frequently does this.

The Sound of Music Effect: When a movie that has very little or nothing to do with Christmas is aired on network television during the family programming sweet spot simply because families are looking for things to do together at that time of year and networks are looking for cash. Named for The Sound of Music (1965), the most famous example of this concept. To qualify as a Sound of Music Effect movie, a movie must:
1) Be rated G or PG.
2) Have been shown during the family programming sweet spot for at least two years in a row.
3) Have had at least half of its network TV appearances during the sweet spot.

Colbert Bump: When one event causes a burst in popularity and/or fame for a previously existing yet previously lesser-known phenomenon.

TV Redemption: When a movie that did poorly in its original theatrical release becomes better-known through network telecasts. The Wizard of Oz, It's a Wonderful Life, and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory all achieved TV Redemption.

Edie Not-Youmans: When a character (usually a child character) in one of my scripts is named after the actor I picture playing the role in first name only, but receives a new last name. The name of the term is derived from Edie Jurgens in Christmas in Charlotte, who was named for Edie Youmans, Xfinity "spokeskid" and the actor I pictured in the role.

Narrative Lost in Toyland: When a story is retold in many different ways, none of which even remotely follow the plot of the original, because the original was dated and/or mediocre. Named for the 1903 operetta Babes in Toyland, to which this has happened.

It's a Jolly Holiday with Mary Number: A rousing duet in a musical between the musical's male and female leads. Name references the number in Mary Poppins that is this.

Villain Song: A song in a musical sung by the villain about their evil ways.

Test monkey: A person being used as a test subject against their will.

Zingdak: A comical insult that I directed at a frequenter of this blog, who I will not name, back in 2012. Defined as "a monkey who cannot write poetry".

MacGuffin: An object that is not always front and center in a film, but moves the story along perhaps more than any character does.

Adaptation Via Song: When a song in a musical is heavily based on another song in another musical. For example, in Christmas in Charlotte, "Charlotte" is modeled on "Toyland" from Babes in Toyland, and "I'm So Spry" (revision 8/6/19: that song is getting cut) is modeled on "I Gotta Crow" from Peter Pan.

Charity Single: A song that donates all the money from its sales to helping a cause and has lyrics about that cause, such as "Light It Up Blue", "Do They Know It's Christmas?" or "We Are the World".

Nureyeving: Creating a fictitious person and/or situation in your head to deal with a problem in your real-world life. Named for Rudolf Nureyev, whose ballet heroes would often do this.

The Parisian Conk: Referring to an incident that happened in Paris, France, on April 2, 2018, this is  when I fall asleep in an uncomfortable place in the middle of the day.

Narrative commercial: A TV commercial that tells a story.

Very special episode: An episode of a normally lighthearted television show that deals with more serious topics.

Page count is running time: The idea that one page of a script equals one minute of screen time.

Jumanji Double: A variation on And You Were There, in which two characters who may or may not each correspond to a different location in the story are both played by the same actor for symbolic purposes. The name refers to Jumanji (1996), in which Robin Williams's character's father and the hunter that is an obstacle in the Jumanji game are played by the same actor to symbolize that he views these two characters with equal and similar fear.

Leitmotif: A theme in the musical score of a movie associated with a particular character.

Whole Plot Reference: When the entire plot of a work is deliberately meant to reference, for comic effect or not, the plot of another work that is more famous. This is a trope.

Trope: An oft-used plot device.

Writer's Block: When no new scripts appear on my site for a long time.

The Bechtel Test: A movie passes this test if two or more women converse about something other than a male character or a relationship.(Correction

The New Dakota Principle: With no relation to any fictional U.S. state, the New Dakota Principle, named after my February 2018 endeavors in revising Fearless Girl, specifically Dakota's climactic monologue, refers to criticism over stories and media that portray girls whose interests and tastes are in traditionally masculine things as superior to and more worthy of celebration than girls whose interests and tastes are in traditionally feminine things. In other words, stories that say male = female yet still say masculinity > femininity.

Hutt Bucks: Money that my street-performing one-man band the Notable Hutts earns. I am currently out, so the Notable Hutts must get another gig.

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. LeoFinelli.com 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 ispot.tv 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.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

10 Things, In No Particular Order, That You Didn't Know About My Scripts

From tragedy to tourney, Seuss to Strongheart, I've created a world of colorful characters in just 1.5 years. I've explored many worlds, from New York to Los Angeles to Cape Cod to San Antonio to the Corporate Sector and everything in between. I've fulfilled my wishes by just writing them, brought a piece of public art to life, and freed an entire galaxy from misogyny. I've even told an entirely fictional story - but all the characters are factual figures! So here are 10 things you did not know about 8 scripts.

1. "The Wish Writer", "Fearless Girl", and "Someone to Bring Me Home", my three shortest scripts, were all written in a single day. "Wish Writer" was whipped up in two hours on December 1, 2016. "Fearless Girl" was written in one afternoon on July 26, 2017. "Someone to Bring Me Home" was finished just a few hours after Macy's released the original commercial, on November 20, 2017.

2. My early character-naming strategy. "Hannah" and "Luke" in Wish Writer were named for Hannah Zirke and Luke Roessler, who originated the roles of the then-unnamed brother and sister in the 2015 commercial. "Brooklyn" in The Sun Shines in Heaven was named for Brooklyn Silzer, a child actress I admired, as well as based the personality and mannerisms of the character on. "Dakota" in Fearless Girl was named for one of Lauren Greenfield's young test subjects during her "Like a Girl" social experiment that partially inspired the script. And although there is a young actress, aged 14, named Shea McHugh who resides in Burbank, CA, and she does have red hair, the Fearless Girl statue ("Shea") was NOT named for, modeled after, or based on Shea McHugh at all. McHugh does however "photographically enact" the statue's human form on my blog.

3. I rate my scripts' quality using the Harry Potter O.W.L. scale. This scale measures quality and has six grades, from highest to lowest: O (Outstanding), EE (Exceeds Expectations), A (Acceptable), P (Poor), D (Dreadful), and T (Troll). Here is how I rate the quality of each script I've written.
  • "The Wish Writer": P
  • "The Sun Shines in Heaven": D
  • "Fearless Girl": EE
  • "Surviving Middle School": D
  • "Someone to Bring Me Home": P
  • "Girl on Fire": A
  • "When You Think About Seuss": EE
  • "One Shining Moment": P
I think "Fearless Girl" and "When You Think About Seuss" are the ones I like the most because they are the two I can actually picture on a TV screen. As for the rest, I really can't.

4. I considered writing Fearless Girl as a children's book as well as a script, and now, the statue's sculptor is considering doing the same. On the statue's official website, FearlessGirl.us, in addition to selling mini Fearless Girl reproductions, sculptor Kristen Visbal has declared: "Next Release: Illustrated Children's Book!" I wonder what that will look like - and how much it will resemble my 2017 script. Hopefully, I'll be able to pay Kristen Visbal a visit the next time I visit my grandparents in Delaware. Visbal's studio is within driving distance of my grandparents' residence.

5. The song "Someone to Bring Me Home" is written to the tune of a jingle from a completely different commercial. A cover of "Everlasting Light" accompanied the Macy's commercial the script was based on. However, I wanted to utilize a song, so I took the instrumental from another holiday commercial, this one for Hewlett-Packard, and turned it into my song. Click here to see the HP commercial. It may help you learn the tune of the song.

6. It says in the actual script PDF that "When You Think About Seuss" was based on the Broadway musical Seussical. However, there is no character in Seussical, or any of Dr. Seuss's works, named Lord Zashel von Mashel. In the musical, the Kangaroo is the biggest villain there is. Thinking it unfit that the musical's two main protagonists were male and the main antagonist was female, I created my own male antagonist, who truly was evil, to counteract the male protagonist of Horton.

7. Also, the young Seuss (Ted Geisel) himself does not figure as a character in the musical. He essentially replaces Jo Jo, a young Who boy (or girl) who also has a repressed imagination that people learn to see the value of.

8. I considered rewriting two scripts majorly after attending the March For Our Lives. "The Sun Shines in Heaven" seemed to imply that thoughts and prayers were enough in response to a mass shooting and that a charity single was the best that could be done. If it had been written today, Brooklyn would rally against gun violence and fight for gun eradication. Also, "One Shining Moment" very nearly had a mass rewrite because I worried that it did not talk enough about the gun control movement - far and away the biggest news story of March 2018. I went back on this, not being one for retcons, a word which here means "rewriting past work to be in line with current work."

9. There are some ideas I never really got around to writing, such as:
  • Father-daughter story inspired by 2017 Audi "Daughter" commercial: Abandoned because experimental test versions of the story's father-daughter scenes too closely resembled the father-daughter scenes in previous script Girl on Fire. 
  • Miracle on Tryon Street (bogus/working title Just Checking): Abandoned because attempts to write down a treatment were not going anywhere.
  • Target Presents The Holiday Odyssey: Abandoned first because I worried that I could not balance pro-commercialism and anti-commercialism messages, then work on this script resumed, then abandoned again because the story utilized too many common tropes.
  • Fearless Girl 2: In which a sexual misconduct case at the NYSE brings the bull statue to life. Longing to finally wreak vengeance on Shea, the bull scours the city for her. Abandoned because I realized I just wanted to write a good Shea-versus-bull fight scene (ending with Shea drowning the bull in the Hudson River), so you can see why I didn't want to write it. 
10. In my more recent scripts, even if characters weren't named for these actors, I still had certain actors in mind to play them. The main roles in Girl on Fire were written for the young stars of Sean Baker's 2017 film "The Florida Project", though I knew these actors would likely not actually play the roles - Brooklynn Prince (not Silzer) as Sheryl Strongheart, Valeria Cotto as Arianna Aspire, and Christopher Rivera as Riley Resister. I also wrote the role of space pirate Erin Energizer for #MeToo initiator Alyssa Milano. 

Christopher, Brooklynn, and Valeria...or, in an ideal world, Riley, Sheryl, and Arianna. Aren't they adorable?

And in closing, one final note...I'm working on two FULL BLOWN musicals, with all original songs, a written-for-TV adaptation of the 1903 operetta Babes in Toyland, an adaptation which will be more pleasantly sentimental (in the mold of the 1961 Disney film and 1987 Drew Barrymore made for TV movie) than the original and infamously dark operetta, as well as a written-for-TV and yet-to-be-titled fantasy set in and around the redwood and sequoia forests of upper California. These scripts will likely be in the 115-125 page/minute range, making them my lengthiest endeavors yet.

But I'm ready. 

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Some Family Feud Answers That Worked Too Well, Not Well Enough, or Were Just Off the Wall...(Clean Answers Only)

Yet again, I am doing a post on game shows - this time Family Feud, which has been airing since 1976 and I've accounted for some of the most bizarre answers in show history. So let's cut to the chase, here they are (share these with your friends):

Name a yellow fruit. "Orange."

Name a part of the telephone. "The bottom part."

Name something Russia is famous for. "Russians."

Name an animal with three letters in its name. "Alligator."

In what month of a woman's pregnancy does she begin to look pregnant? "September."

Name a type of bear. "Papa."

Real or fictional, name a famous Willy. "Willy the Pooh."

Name a part of your body that begins with the letter N. "Name."

Name something a doctor might pull out of a person during a surgical procedure. "A gerbil."

Name a word that rhymes with "dinky". "Dwinky."

Fill in the blank: Purple ______. "Nurple."

Fill in the blank: Pie in the ______. "Horse."

Name another way people say "mother". "Grandpa."

Name a man's name that begins with the letter H. "Jose."

Fill in the blank: Pork _______. "Cupine."

Name a man's name that begins with the letter K. "Kentucky Fried Chicken."

Name something you would find in a birdcage other than a bird. "Hamster."

Name something that comes with a summer storm. "Snow."

Aside from your house or your car, what's the most expensive thing you own? "Car."

Name a reason you might stay indoors on a sunny day. "Because it's raining."

Name something that comes in sevens. ''Fingers''.

Name a fruit that comes in more than one color. "Jell-O."

Name a popular Halloween costume. "Santa Claus."

Name a noisy bird. "Chipmunk."

Name a state that begins with the letter M. "Mexico."

Name a country in South America. "Africa."

Name a state with the word "New" in it. "New Braska."

Name an occupation in which helicopters are used. "Tuna fishing."

Give me another word for "zero". "Infinity."

Name a landmark in New York City. "The Eiffel Tower."

Name an occupation that begins with the letter J. "Jackhammerer."

Name a sport that isn't played with a ball. "Bowling."

Tell me one thing you know about Barack Obama. "He's a Republican."

Tell me a bird that begins with the letter P. "Flamingo."

Name a famous rabbit. "Barney."

Name something that inevitably has to happen but you don't want it to. "The end of this post."

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Meet My New Best Friends: Farah, Natalie, Hannah, and Katie

Today I attended the #MarchForOurLives in Uptown Charlotte. It was so enjoyable to be around 10,000 people who all were marching for (about) the same reason - to enforce stricter gun laws and save lives in America (or in my case, to abolish guns and their use altogether.)

But perhaps most importantly, at the end, it was where I first felt connection outside my own inner circle. As the march dispersed, the 10,000 was reduced to 7 - me, my parents, and four girls.

These four girls are fighters like I have written about and heard about...but never really met. Their names are Farah, Natalie, Hannah, and Katie. They are leaders in our community. They are fighting the good fight. And now, I fight alongside them as a friend.

As the chants became quieter and the people all started to leave the city square, there I was, alone, a few yards away from Mom and Dad, alone, with four girls who said they were dance students. Unfortunately, they were not ballet students. Fortunately...they "got" me. They wouldn't have cared if I had 21 heads. They wanted to be my friends and thought I was "smart" and "funny". They were good people with good hearts.

Natalie was the leader of the group, and though she looked young, claimed she was dance teacher to Farah, Hannah, and Katie. All four were energetic, beautiful, caring, and though I disagreed with them on certain parts of the issue, I was able to show I was strong and unwilling to let differences of opinion go against friendship.

And they're probably reading my blog as I write it, as I whipped up a makeshift business card and handed it to them.

Farah, Natalie, Hannah, and Katie are proponents of peace, diversity, and inclusion. They wish life was like a Coke commercial. (Coke commercials are famous for their positive messages...think back to their iconic 1982 spot for Super Bowl XVI, "Buy the World a Coke".) A Coke commercial, minus all the drinking of unhealthy carbonated beverages.

Dear Farah, Natalie, Hannah, and Katie - if you're reading this...I'll be thinking of you when I go on my little excursion in Europe with my family in a few days. I'll be keeping you four posted, and the rest of my readers posted on my relationship with them.

P.S. I feel very confident about America's future leaders. (EMMA GONZALEZ 4 PRESIDENT!!!)

Monday, March 19, 2018

Leo Finelli's 10 Best Fictional Characters

In a little over a year, I have created a world of characters, from New York to Los Angeles, the cliffs of New England to the sports of San Antonio. So here, I am finally counting down the top 10 best characters I have created in 8 scripts. Not all of my scripts are represented, though. Here's the list.

#10: Ari Bellum
"Fearless Girl" (2017)
Ari is a supporting character, not in the sense that he's not a lead role, but in the sense that his main job in the story is to support and mentor other characters. He helps not one, but two girls (one made of bronze) achieve their dreams and goes from the butt of everyone's jokes and an ordinary New York kid to a boy everyone wants to be friends with and truly proud to be a (male) feminist.

#9: Owen Saunders
"One Shining Moment" (2018)
Although I have no idea what the real Owen Saunders is like, in my story he's a persistent little boy who loves to milk his musical talents. He also looks out for his friends, engaging in risky pursuits to help people understand what he does, and he can see beyond the surface of his autistic friend Diane, looking into her heart and seeing that she's no different than he is.

#8: Brooklyn Silverman
"The Sun Shines in Heaven" (2017)
This little California girl is all about this quote: "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." That's what she teaches to her friends, and as a bonus, she also has a great singing voice that she uses to remedy hearts rocked by tragedy. I'll bet she is now one of the leaders in the Students' March movement.

#7: Hannah
"The Wish Writer" (2016)
She may not have a last name, but this is an all-around good kid that knows what to do when she encounters a magical pencil that can grant any wish: do good deeds for others. She's also filled with wonder and seems poised to never let her childhood die. She's also not afraid to give up her pencil, which she does to her little brother, who learns kindness from her. She is the sibling role model I strive to be.

#6: The Fearless Girl Statue ("Shea")
"Fearless Girl" (2017)
What would you want if for nearly two months you'd been standing on Wall Street facing a colossal bull that looked like it was going to trample you (but you didn't care) and hearing opening and closing bells at the Stock Exchange? Probably to get up and walk, which is the dream our little statue seizes and throttles. Shea is resilient in the pursuit of her dream, and can tolerate getting help from very unexpected sources.

#5: Arianna Aspire
"Girl On Fire" (2018)
Arianna: the ULTIMATE best friend. She senses her best friend's pain when her friend's parents die, she tags along to help another person achieve their dream, she is supportive all around......and as a bonus, she winds up being quite the star pilot! Any child - or adult - should want a best friend like Arianna.

#4: Sheryl Strongheart
"Girl On Fire" (2018)
Here we have a little girl, only eight years old, who takes matters into her own hands and goes, knowing her life is in danger, to fight for a cause she believes in. She knows right from wrong, and longs for freedom in her world, and when she gets it, she modestly avoids giving herself the same amount of power she toppled...all with the help of good friends.

#3: Max
"Someone to Bring Me Home" (2017)
"I'm standing here...watching your light, hoping that things are all right." Max is me in the sense that his desires to make contact with whatever is out there - and he knows there is someone out there - are unbelievably strong, as well as his belief that he belongs both with his family and "out there", which he finds a way to balance.

#2: Patrick Chalmers
"The Sun Shines in Heaven" (2017)
He may think he is tolerant and accepting, but he is initially neither to those who are not as tolerant and accepting as he is. Patrick grows from a man who crudely insults Republicans/Christians as "monkeys" to a man who, if he were president, would put them in his cabinet. He also relates to me in that he's lonely and misunderstood, and grows to learn that he needs someone younger to see the best in him.

#1: Renegade "Rennie" Rochester
"One Shining Moment" (2018)
Rennie has everything in her head that I have in my head. She is a dreamer who dreams of meeting fascinating people, making famous friends (although that's not exactly me, my siblings beg to differ). She is a strong feminist. She also has that desire to make contact that is ever-present in all my characters, and a supportive family. And most of all...she is an expert tactician that can create a master plan to help display her message (well, her take on someone else's message).

The end. And if you don't understand anything I just wrote, why don't you mosey on over to the Scripts page? It's a few degrees warmer there.

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