Around four or five years ago, I wrote an article for a website called Devlib.org which suggested various amusing ways to survive Black Friday. The article was linked on MSNBC and now, every year, it pops up on a blog or two.
So, since it’s a holiday and I’ve already pumped you full of all kinds of blogs, I’m going to leave the week with one final one. My article, reposted from years past, on Black Friday.
I know it has nothing to do with film or being a web celebrity but, what the hell? I think it’s fun.
There’s a reason the day after Thanksgiving is called Black Friday — it isn’t because it’s the day that retailers move out of the red and into the black, and it’s not because there have actually been casualties in the rush-to-shop that overtakes normal people and changes them into sale-loving-Zombies (the worst kind of Zombies.)
The real reason — and you’re hearing this here first — is that the Friday after every Thanksgiving sees so many people hit the stores that it actually shifts the Space-Time Continuum just a little. Scientists believe that this will eventually open a black hole (see where we’re going with this?) and send the Earth into another dimension, a strange dimension, perpetually in-between Holidays — where people are always in the midst of digesting a turkey while wondering what terrible sweater to buy a loved one… thus, Black Friday.
Below is a Top 10 list of what you should know and do that fateful day. We have spent the last fifteen years carefully studying and testing each one of the suggestions below. This is, without a doubt, the most decisive Black Friday Survival Guide you will ever read.
Are you ready? Here we go…
10. Don’t Wear Anything You Wouldn’t Wear In a Mexican Mosh Pit
Sure, most of the world is going to be in the same store as you, and yes, you’re probably going to bump into at least one person from your past who you’ve at one point or another slept with. But let us put it into perspective — and we’re talking to the women right now since, for most men, dressing up means wearing the slightly darker jeans and buttoning up that shirt.
Ladies — imagine giving birth for ten hours while your husband/boyfriend/children stand at your side and say, “Can we go? Are you done yet? Seriously, are you done? Okay, I’m actually serious now, are you done? Do we need that? We don’t need that. Don’t get that. Seriously, why do you need that? Put that down. Fine, get it, but I don’t think we need it. Are you done? Can we go? Seriously. Okay, I’m waiting in the car.” Oh, you’re also doing this while thousands of people are trying to buy your doctor at 30% off.
And that’s kind of like dressing up for Black Friday.
Our advice? Wear sweat pants, wear pajamas, wear slippers if you have to, just don’t wear anything that you wouldn’t wear to a mosh pit in Mexico.
9. Keep Hydrated – Passing Out Will Not Get You 30% Off On Pants
Yes, most malls have drinks readily available, but considering the sheer amount of people that will be flooding the stores, we highly suggest either grabbing a bottle of water or wearing one of those beer hats (you may or may not fill it with beer – just not enough to projectile vomit on other customers.)
Another good reason for bringing your own water is that it ensures that you never have to leave a purchase line – and since you’ll be in those lines for quite some time, we’d suggest bringing a picnic basket and a bathroom while you’re at it.
So, bring water, bring juice, bring anything that’ll keep you awake and focused – you’ve got a slightly less expensive shirt to buy.
8. Taking Your Lover Is Like Taking A Walking Argument – Just Don’t.
Shopping and love hardly ever mix – a man can only stand looking at Victoria Secret mannequins for so long, eventually, he’ll realize they’re not real. And there’s a limit to the length of time a woman can watch a man get excited over video games/sports paraphernalia/mannequins,
If you are going with your significant other – make a battle plan. The battle plan should include two things – one, how to avoid each other, and two – how to find each other when you’ve both maxed out your credit cards. Luckily, in this world of cell phones and other gadgetry, number two is as easy as picking up the phone and moving desperately through throngs of people to try and catch a signal. Number one is a little harder – but if you each stay to your allotted stores, taking care to avoid each other like you might do in your own house – it becomes a little easier.
So, leave them at home, leave them at work, leave them in another store – just leave them when you’re shopping or you’re going to leave them altogether.
7. Don’t Tell Your Liberal-Fur-Is-Murder-Almost-Socialist Friends Where You’re Going, They Will Judge You
In a world where injustice has free rein and corruption rules, consumerism is often frowned upon by anyone wearing Birkenstocks. We all have a social activist friend – we all love that person dearly and wish we could be like them, its just there’s a sale and everything is almost half-off and won’t the world’s starving kids be there the next day?
They will, won’t they?
Well, the sale won’t.
So unless you want to be barraged by pictures of children starving and people dying (the key here is to not, in your enthusiasm for Black Friday, ask if the kids are on sale) – tell your friend you’re going to a Free Tibet/Malaysia/Africa/Dolphin meeting that’s invite-only and go buy yourself a cheap pair of pants.
Yes, you’ll feel guilty. Yes, you’ll feel a little bit like a consumer whore. Yes, God would probably give you that patronizing – “Is that how it is, then?” look – but come on – a computer for $400 dollars? Even God can’t pass that up.
6. The Early Bird Gets The 10% Off Worm – Wake Up Early, But Not Too Early.
There’s a careful line here – on one hand, the people surrounding the doors before the stores open are a little creepy in their zombie-like eagerness to buy things. On the other, “the early bird gets the worm” as the more wiser, well-adjusted birds tell their children – so, its really a toss-up.
Here’s our advice – get there early, but not too early. Wake up in the morning, get dressed, put on your beer hat, get some coffee and slowly make your way to the store. Don’t get there when the doors have yet to be opened because getting trampled in a primarily overweight country isn’t going to help you get that worm everyone keeps talking about.
Get there within an hour of opening – that way, the crowds have moved inside but are still deciding whether those blue pants make them look fat or not (they do) and you still have time to get some of the good stuff.
So, wake up, eat a nice breakfast, and patiently rush to the store – get there early, but not too early, walk there fast, but not too fast – save all of your extremes for the shopping.
5. The Thing That Separates Us From The Living Dead Is A Shopping List
Shopping, especially on Black Friday, is like going into a War Zone. If you don’t have a plan, you’re going to be brutally injured, left behind enemy lines, and then saved by your dedicated friends who intend to go above and beyond the call of duty to get you back.
Last year, we spent seven hours shopping for a new computer — we didn’t buy one, hell, we didn’t really need one — but a sale is a sale, and who can refuse looking at slightly cheaper prices and thinking, “Mmm, still not low enough” for hours on end?
Here’s the point – we didn’t have a plan, so we spent hours aimlessly wandering around, store to store, gripping our credit cards, foaming at the mouth – eagerly wanting to buy everything but having the same thought in our heads – “This is nice, but I bet I’ll find something nicer…” until the stores closed and we went home and slept on our salty, tear-drenched pillows, dreaming of what could have been.
So, make a list of what you want, what you need, and what you’re willing to spend – you might seem like an over-obsessed shopper taking your preoccupation with buying things on sale a little too far – but hey, you’re going shopping on Black Friday, you’re already there.
4. Kids and Shopping Go Together Like Kids and Opened Bottles Of Hydrochloric Acid – Don’t Take Them.
We know they’re cute – we know their doe-y eyes and froggy gurgles draw you in like some sort of Cobra – but like a Cobra, children will, once you get too close, strike and kill with deadly accuracy. Just don’t do it, don’t take your kids shopping on the busiest day of the year.
If they can’t talk, the realization that they’re going to be in a stuffy mall filled with people and other, hateful children will sink in at about the second hour. This is when the loud, screaming protests will start, in fact, we have been told that many people suffered their first traumatizing moments on Black Friday as children – remembering it as the first time they realized their parents were addicts and needed to be institutionalized. Kids are surprisingly aware.
So, just don’t. Get a babysitter, get an aunt, get a grandmother, get a cage – just don’t take your child on a ten-hour shopping trip with you – they’d rather be in that cage.
3. Style and Pride Can Go To Hell; Get Yourself A Fanny Pack
Yes, we realize that Black Friday doesn’t take place in an Italian train station – still, crowded places are good pickings for thieves and tiny children employed by said thieves. So, either put special attention on your wallet and/or purse, or get a fanny pack.
Here’s the thing with fanny packs – they’re terrifyingly ugly. Really, anything that has the word “fanny” in it immediately loses all respect from its potential wearers. But it is in our opinion that if you’re good-looking enough, you can make a fanny pack stylish, and if you aren’t – then you’ve got other things to worry about.
Besides, the beer hat and sweat pants aren’t exactly going to make you look like nobility, so just suck it up and go all the way with it – buy a neon pink fanny pack, look the world in the eye and tell them there’s a new style in town – and it’s got the word fanny in it.
2. Bring a Carefully Selected Like-Minded Friend Less Pretty Than You
As we mentioned earlier, bringing a lover just doesn’t work unless you’re eerily like-minded, which only happens in the first few months of a relationship anyway, so just don’t bother testing one another. Still, it’s tough shopping by yourself without having a second opinion, and as this is payday for most store employees – they’re not exactly going to give you an unbiased opinion.
The solution? Think of it as one of those Desert Island games – only in reverse. Who would you spend the whole day with in an overcrowded, over-heated, sensory-overloaded jail of a place without strangling them with a surprisingly cheap scarf? Have someone in mind? Okay, now make sure they’re less pretty than you are.
Think about it — the chances of running into someone attractive on Black Friday is likely – old crushes, new crushes, ex-crushes – they’re all there, waiting, watching, looking surprisingly attractive wearing their fanny packs. So, obviously, you want your friend to provide a good contrast for them.
Let their ugly extenuate your pretty, let their Birkenstocks extenuate your beautiful, golden slippers, let their troll-like face put emphasis on the fact that you not only look nothing like a troll, but are a good person for taking your troll friend to a place where people might congregate and stare.
After all, it’s Black Friday — anything goes.
1. And Finally… Stay Home, Get Naked and Buy Online
Now hear us out. We realize that it’s a little silly to create a top ten list giving Black Friday advice and then finish off by telling you to scrap the whole thing altogether – its confusing to us too. But it’s because we care and know a better way.
It’s called the Internet. “What the hell is the Internet?!” you might be wondering.
Okay, so – you can actually buy most of the things you want online for roughly the same price as they would be when they’re on sale. Hell, you can even buy these things at the stores that you would have gone too if you had gone to the mall that day.
We know, its like we make it our job to blow your minds.
Shopping on the Internet assures you that, for one, you won’t have thousands of people trying desperately to buy your keyboard. Secondly, you don’t need to wear that fanny pack.
And finally – you can shop naked. That’s right – get naked, buy a cigar (even if you don’t smoke, just by the damn cigar), and browse until your eyes are slowly tumbling down the sides of your face with joy and a certain amount of weariness.
Why? Because it’s the future, and in the future that’s how we roll.
I feel like the more social networks there are, the more the world becomes like one gigantic, awful family. The main reason I think that is because on Thanksgiving, instead of being confined to the thankfulness of my family, I am instead exposed to the very important thankfulness of everyone I have ever met, talked to, or accidentally added on Facebook.
However, I feel like, for me, it’s not enough to be thankful for one thing at roughly 140 characters. So, I’ve compiled a list of the 20 top things I am thankful for. So that everyone I have ever met, talked to, or begged to add me on their Facebook because their profile picture was pretty/vaguely familiar/vaguely whorish will know how I feel about life and everything.
So, without further ado, my thankful list:
1. I am thankful for never appearing on the front page of CNN.com because I ate another human being.
2. I am thankful for having never seen two inside out lovers slow dance to Hopelessly Devoted by Olivia Newton John.
3. I am thankful that I am not allergic to pie.
4. I am also thankful that I am not allergic to air or women.
5. I am thankful that I am white and have a smaller chance of being charged for a crime.
6. I am thankful that I am Jewish and due to past persecutions, can safely make racial jokes.
7. I am thankful that Asians are good at math and eating rice at wild speeds.
8. I am thankful that I have never had to eat my way out of a cage made out of pork.
9. I am thankful for being a foreigner, because when America does something stupid I can shrug helplessly and say, “Hey, it’s your country.” But when they accidentally do something right I can proudly nod my head and say, “Hey, that’s my country.”
10. I am thankful that the only affordable healthcare for me is the kind that the healthcare administrative person described as, “If something really horrible happens to you”-healthcare — because I like to live dangerously and hate freedom.
11. I am thankful that, because of the Internet, our lexicon has expanded to cover words that sound like something a baby would name a blue dragon but are, in fact, names for dotcoms.
12. I am thankful that the American Indians are the only group of people who get a whole holiday dedicated to their kindness and inevitable slaughter.
13. I am thankful that, while the future looks bleak, we’ll always have John Cusack to the guide the way.
14. I am thankful for people on TV, because without them, I wouldn’t know what to believe in.
15. I am thankful for our education system, because it did really good stuff for me; [sometimes]?
16. I am thankful for art, because it’s the thing that makes the world go round.
17. I am thankful for love, because it’s the thing that makes art go round.
18. I am thankful for family, because it’s what taught me what goes round.
19. I am thankful for you, for reading this blog.
20. I am thankful to minorities for not beating me up about that white comment earlier. I was joking. I’d be so much cooler if I was black.
A little while ago I wrote about my college drama teacher, Carla Zilbersmith — a brilliant, hilarious and outrageously talented actor, musician and ne’er-do-well who was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gherig’s Disease) and who has less than a year to live.
Carla’s talents and sense of humor attracted Academy Award-winning director John Zaritsky to make a film about her called, LEAVE THEM LAUGHING.
I had the privilege to see the early screening on Friday and — it’s fantastic. The film is… touching, hilarious, and inspiring. I wish I could think of better buzzwords but those buzz the loudest and are just plain true.
Here’s a description of the film:
Once a nationally-known performer of ballads, skits and self-parody, now fated by Lou Gehrig’s Disease to perish within months, the remarkable Carla Zilbersmith was diagnosed in 2007 and given less than four years to live. She will leave a teen-aged son, a few fans and students who adore her, and this 90-minute pre-mortem retrospective of a life lived fully, but far too fast.
The sad fact is that the production still needs $150,000 to finish the film. They’ve submitted it to major film festivals (you can do that) and now they’re desperately trying to get the rest of the funding.
Which is where I, and coincidentally all of you you, come in. I’ve told the Producer, Montana Berg, that I’d see if there was anything I could do to help her raise the money. I’ll tell you why I said that — because I thought of the community in which I live, work, and sometimes blog-spar with and I thought — if these brilliant, technologically-forward, artistically-minded geniuses can’t help me raise a meager $150,000 for a film that’s not only incredibly important, uplifting and life-altering, but for a woman who is a fellow artist, musician and creator — then no one can (look at that run-on sentence! See how inspired I am?!).
So, here’s what I ask you, online community that sometimes reads my blog, how can Leave Them Laughing not only raise $150,000, but raise it fast? I need your brains.
Oh, and if you’re an investor or want to donate — please let me know that too.
I’ve decided to do a series of posts that will cover the entire span of making a web series. A lot of this advice will go a long way in helping you create an independent film as well, so, enjoy and hopefully it’s helpful!
Today’s topic: The Script.
The web series, much like a film or TV show, starts with a story idea.
The story idea has to be many things. It has to be interesting, it has to be sellable and it should be easily said in one sentence.
Interesting: Always ask yourself — okay, but why would someone watch that? Not would you personally watch it (though that’s important too) — but would others? Would your target audience like it (again, think of the target audience as someone other than you)?
For example: a story idea about a guy who’s in love with a girl and then he like, can’t get her, so then he like, sends her letters and tries and then stuff happens. Okay. But why do we care? Because (this is a freebie, you can all take this one), the girl is an alien and holds inside her the key to the universe (her ovaries). See? Easy. I also find that adding minorities helps.
Sellable: Internet video is like a wildly disorganized pile of 3rd grade arts and crafts projects. Somewhere in the stack, a few creepy genius kids have created brilliance — but you’ve really got to sort through the other work. And there’s a lot of other work. And it’s just so, so bad. How do you make yours stand out? Look at what you’re trying to do and find professional high-caliber shows. What do they do? How do they stand apart? Think like an agency or a marketing team. It’s really, really hard to market a show about someone who kills puppies with hammers unless you’ve got Will Smith starring, and even then, it’s risky. What makes your fruit shinier than the others?
One Sentence Description: If you can’t describe it in one sentence, it’s probably too complicated. “A boy goes back in time to save his friend.” Good. “A boy goes back in time to save his friend because his friend just invented a time machine but then gets shot and so now the boy has to use the time machine to help his friend but it accidentally sends him further back than he intended and he has to figure out a way to return. It’s really really good, please watch it.” Bad.
My brother and I tend to structure a season like we’d structure a film script — into three acts. In fact, the three act structure can and should be applied to everything: a scene, an act (three acts in an act, baby!), a full episode, a full season.
Using Break a Leg as an example, we originally intended it to be 22 episodes (hiiigh hopes, we had, hiiiigh hopes). Episodes 1-7 were going to be Act I: where David Penn attempts to make his show despite a thousand setbacks. Episodes 8-16 were going to be Act II: David Penn making his sitcom and dealing with fame. Episodes 17-22 were Act III: The plot introduced in Episode 1 — with David Penn going to die — is brought back, with the last few episodes dealing with all the things related to his death.
We never did Act II and III — but Act I is basically Break a Leg, Season 1.
Aside from structuring your season, get to know your characters. Write out a description of your leads, figure out where their lives start in Episode 1 and where they end up in the finale. Remember, every character (like every episode and every season) should have an arc. They should not be the same from Point A to Point B unless they’re boring or their stagnation is on purpose.
I’ll try to keep this short.
A three-act structure works like this:
The Central Question: You have a central question that asks a yes or no answer — this is the entire idea of your show/screenplay/whatever. Will the boy be able to come back from the past (Back to the Future)? Will Will Smith & Co. stop the alien invasion (Independence Day)? Will sporty Asian people successfully drift (Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift)?
The central question is key to your script. Everything in your script should be about solving that question, or leading us closer to the answer. It’s what your show/film is about and it should be something you should always keep in mind as you write.
The Beginning: In a screenplay, it’s the first 10-pages. In a 30-minute show, it’s the first 3-5, in a 5 minute webshow? I don’t know. The first 30 seconds. The beginning of a script needs to do a few things: set-up the world, introduce the characters and immediately hook us into the show. Often, the first frame of a film will be an iconic image, other times it’ll be starting right in the action. Whatever it is, your first frame is a little microcosm of your entire film.
Act I: In a film script, Act I is usually page 1-35 or 45 (depending on how long your screenplay is — brevity, however, is the soul of wit. So, you know. Be witty.) In a TV script, it varies (some TV scripts are only two-acts, some are three), in a web series.. I guess the first 2 pages? (If you think about it in percentages, Act I is 30%, Act II is 50%, Act III is 20%, as far as length goes).
Act I has to set up your characters, set up your world further, set up the scenario and end with a turning point.
Act I Turning Point: The Act I turning point happens at the end of Act I and does a few things: reiterates the problem in the central question, changes the action in a different direction, raises the stakes for the character.
Act II: Now that Act I is over and has raised your delicious stakes, Act II is the journey. It’s the development of the main problem, it’s the journey to Mordor, the getting back to the future, the main part of your story. This is also why it’s the longest act.
Act II ends with…
Act II Turning Point: The Act II turning point usually comes in two beats. First, the complete failure of your heroes quest. It’s the moment when all seems lost until… until… the second beat. The last ditch effort. Maybe this will work… It also does the same thing as the Act I turning point — raises the stakes, reminds us of the central question, changes the action into a different direction and sends us flying into Act III.
Act III: The big showdown. The climax. Our heroes going to Mordor and then fighting off the evil flaming eye to finally throw the ring into the lava pit (oh why, oh why didn’t the giant bird just fly them there in the beginning?!) The third act is big, it’s punchy and it’s where you can easily win or lose your audience.
Conclusion: Unless you’re writing Lord of the Rings or AI, you only have one conclusion — the last few pages. Where you tie it all together and leave your characters either happy, sad, or dead.
And that — in a longer blog post — is how you write a script.
Feel free to ask me any questions about this. I was a screenplay reader for 2 years and this was generally my job. If I amass a few questions, I’ll write a blog post answering them, so, comment and ask away! And happy writing!
So, I swear, I’ll have a post that isn’t a video or a non-sensical rant really, really soon. I’m working on a few but we’ve been busy with some actual paid gigs and I’ve been running around trying to get everything done.
Not that I put you, my dear readers, last on my list of priorities, it’s just that I put you, my dear readers, last on my list of priorities. I joke, I joke — I mostly love each and every one of you. I just don’t have any time, never any time!
That aside — Temp Life, the show I wrote along with Wilson Cleveland, has released the first two episodes of its latest season run.
So, without further ado, here it is:
There’s a line in one of the videos (I won’t tell you what) — that’s almost directly from Break a Leg. Who can find it?
Last month I mentioned that I was writing a script for the show Temp Life. Temp Life was created very early on in the history of the web series and was also one of the very first shows to actually be sponsored and make money. That wasn’t only something new and different then, it’s kind of something new and different now.
The latest episode (or series of episodes, or really, miniseries) of Temp Life is the bridge to their next season, which, if all goes well and Mr. Wilson Cleveland wishes it so, I will be writing (along with him) as well. The miniseries is shot by the guys who did the Hayley Project and features numerous guest stars (even Mr. Thom Woodley, creator of The Burg — which means you can now play 7 degrees of web show separation when you and your friends are really, really, really, really bored.)
So, without further ado, the trailer for the miniseries of Temp Life:
I haven’t had much time updating the website lately as we’ve been swamped with a variety of things that I will, more or less vaguely, share with you, along with some tips/lessons learned while doing them.
1. We’re going to release the press release about our Break a Leg network deal ideally next week.
Lesson: I don’t have one here yet… something about PRwire.com. I guess the real lesson here is get a network deal. Come on already.
2. We’re in casual talks with a comic book company to potentially create a Break a Leg graphic novel in exchange for us shooting a pilot of one of their popular web comics. While all involved are very excited to be involved, we’re still chatting and plotting and talking and hoping that it’ll all happen — but, as with all things in this business, it can always fall through. I’ll keep you all updated.
Lesson: The Natives were big on bartering — it’s a pretty important tool in filmmaking too. It’s how we’ve gotten locations, it’s how we’ve gotten favors, it’s how we may get this comic book made. Just remember, contrary to what everyone says about show business, being a douchebag is not a good thing. Be good, be smart, hold to your word, and scratch people’s backs as vigorously as they scratch yours.
3. We’ve been pitching things to companies as well as shooting promos, etc. for other companies. We recently received our first check as an official business — Happy Little Guillotine Films, LLC — and oh, did it feel good. I do not at all mind shooting commercials, etc. on the side while pursuing more creative ventures. It beats the hell out of filing.
Lesson: No matter what you’re doing, do it well, do it fast, and treat it as seriously as you would your own passion project. It’s not always easy but it’ll often pay off in the form of more jobs — people can tell when you’re committed.
4. We’re writing the script to a new show. I know some of you were expecting Lurker — right now it’s shelved for a new project. It won’t be a web series the way you know web series to be and if all goes well, it’ll change the genre completely (hiiiigh hopes, we’ve got, hiiigh hopes). We’re also pitching the idea to various places for financial support, celebrity guest stars and so on and so forth. So if you’re any of those, you know, let me know.
Lesson: Don’t listen to anyone who says, “It’s not the way things are done.” As an artist, it’s your job to ignore those people and do things your way — it’ll fail a lot but it sure is worth it when it pays off.
5. We’re talking to a DVD company about releasing a Break a Leg DVD — but we’re still shopping around for someone to really help us with distribution. If you or anyone you know does anything related to DVD-distribution, let me know!
Lesson: Buy Blockbuster.
That’s all for now! More updates soon — and Thomas Koch, you gave me an idea for a series of blogs with behind-the-scenes pictures of our various shoots. So, I’ll be starting that up as soon as my very busy and very tired editors get me those things.