All posts by rmanley

Things to Do in Los Angeles When You’re Dead, or, The Radio Station Only Plays Red Hot Chili Peppers

Over the last three weeks, I have eaten Del Taco* twice, In-N-Out four times, and Pink’s Hot Dogs once. I have driven to get Jack in the Box at one in the morning and have been to Target six times. I’m not sure why that last part is important, but I wanted you to know that moving and building a homestead in the Los Angeles Basin is fattening and expensive, and that to date, I have found no traces of any gold.

Somewhere between driving through the Rockies, the Great Basin, and the Mohave Desert in one fell swoop during a late night thunderstorm, I began to rethink my decision to drive to Los Angeles. I never reconsidered moving to Los Angeles, only my choice to drive there in three days.**

Still, since I’ve arrived, I’ve never doubted my decision. For filmmakers and screenwriters, Los Angeles is Mecca. While the city is filled to the brim, if you’re worth your weight in precious metals (and I believe that because of my time at Boston University, I am), the transition will be easy. Like me, you’ll almost certainly take an internship writing coverage, but the opportunity to work alongside production executives and writers is not to be missed. The BU in Los Angeles program, too, has enabled me to meet industry professionals. The first week of classes, for example, my class sat down with one of the script reviewers for NBC’s new show “The Blacklist” in order to
further explore what script development looks like as a career.

After almost a month in Los Angeles, I feel more than prepared to call myself an expert on this smallish coastal village. Given your devoted readership, I hope to further regale you with my experiences as I continue to unlock the few-and-far-between mysteries of this charming town, including, but not limited to:
• The logic by which Del Taco has determined that chili-cheese fries are a topping for every item on their menu.
• How a city of four million people can navigate on every street using a simple textmessaging service.
• The location of–please–a Dunkin Donuts chain restaurant.
• The forbidden secrets by which a Korean BBQ can provide you with unlimited meat for the low, low cost of $19.99 (and the time it takes you to cook it.)
*Del Taco is German for “Whale Taco.”
**Assistant Dean Micha Sabovik requires me to tell you that not only are there many affordable flights between Boston and Los Angeles, but also that there are many conveniently located hotels across the country. Just, really, pick anywhere. Forty-nine of the fifty United States of America. No promises about Seward’s Folly.
(P.S. I can see the Hollywood Sign from my house’s front balcony. I just want you to know that.)

All I Really Needed to Know I Learned as your Teaching Assistant

Once a week, I lead a lecture section called Storytelling.  I consider it Screenwriting Zero, almost an introduction to the art of screenwriting. Now, the content isn’t anything new to me.  I’m not bragging, but I pulled out a B.A. in Creative Writing in Linguistics from a sub-state school, so I’m more than comfortable blowing hot air at students for two hours every Wednesday.  It’s not all fun and games.  Every once in a while, I spring a test on them, just to let them know who’s boss. But really, leading four workshops a week is actually a heck of a lot more fun than it sounds.  Really.

Rucker.  Rucker is the boss.  In case you missed that earlier.

I get really frustrated whenever somebody stops me and says, “You know, you’ll learn more from teaching than you ever will sitting in a classroom.”  Please.  The only reason I took this job is so that I could make sure to teach them all the wrong things to weed out competition in my coming days as a professional screenwriter.  However, it seems to be a trend that I’m picking up on lessons that I thought I’d learned myself.  I’m reminding them to do the things I forget to do.

Figure out what your story is.  Put your main character on the ropes.  What are you trying to say?  Take no prisoners.  By the way, who is your main character?

One of the things I really love about Boston University is this chance that I get to teach.  I bragged to my mentor before I left that I’d totally be leading a class by my second year.  I didn’t really expect to get the chance, but here I am.  There’s something really special about standing in front of those kids every week, knowing that I have the chance to share something that I really enjoy.  I even wrote “Don’t write crap.” on the board at the beginning of the semester.  I enjoy teaching about positive and negative charges and plants and payoffs, but what I really love is writing pseudo-swears on the board.

But really, that’s what teaching and writing is for me.  On the first day, I had them write a simple list of ten things that moved them.  Every response I gave was catered, but essentially the same: “Now that you’ve know what moves you, you’ll be able to move your audience.”  Sure, it was a lot harder than pounding into their heads, “Write what you love.  Write what you love.  Write what you love.”  (I still did that, but I also did this, so the bad teaching and good teaching evens out.  That’s how it works, right?)

But ever since I taught that lesson on the first day, my writing’s gotten better.  I’m thinking more about the messages I’m trying to convey, and they’re coming out clearer.  I’m remembering to put my main character on the ropes.  I’m acid testing my work, figuring out what’s essential in the story, just like I’m trying to remind Max and Navzad and Shari to do.

So, yeah.  There it is.  Learning through teaching.  I’m pretty sure that’s what that Robert Fulghum book was talking about, but I heard it was actually about his time in prison.  You didn’t hear it from me.