Happy New Year!
First day back in the Leverage offices. Spent the day a.) on the phone not hiring writers and b.) staring at the highly improbably Season 3 writing schedule created by our Script Coordinator. "#301 outline done by Jan 14th"? Madness, that.
This is year five of Kung Fu Monkey. The blog began as a research-link dump, but now it's my connection to a community of strangers who never cease delighting me, informing me, and occasionally just pissing me off. Over the years it's slowly evolved a specific purpose (often independent of my intentions).
If there's any theme to this blog other than me succumbing to the bad idea: "Hmm, that's too clever to keep to myself" at three am, it's that I like to watch people share useful things.
In that spirit, I'll try to lay bare my writing process a bit more this year. I actually have a notebook titled "workflow". I've been doing this 13 years now (christ ...) and there's still always room to, well, suck less. Or, suck less ... more. You know what I mean. Unlike the film school folks I backed into this career, and lately the old physicist in me has gotten cranky about my lack of, ahhh -- "creative protocol". As I've mentioned before, its all about building the toolbox. This year I'm going to try to hang a few of the blasted things on the pegboard. I'm currently checking into the putting some Leverage scripts out as pdf's for educational purposes, so keep an eye out for that.
This is also the year we finally pretty the blog up a bit. Not outrageously so, but I wouldn't mind getting a proper Kung Fu Monkey logo image. One of the inspirations for the blog title was the great Dial M for Monkey character from Dexter's Laboratory, btw. It may be time for an artist's contest ...
Mike Nelson's Guitar Fridays are back, starting with reruns this Friday, leading into new material and other writing by him. I'm a thorn in all my friends' sides about self-branding, and Mike Nelson's the worst. He's done my favorite supernatural crime comic with Hexed, his novel Dingo was one of my favorite first novels( he's now adapting it into a graphic novel), he's writing 28 Days Later for BOOM! ... all that talent and no proper sense of self-promotion. "Come on, man," I bellowed at him over lunch, "I've five spent years building a temple to my narcissism. Come skim off the ego space!"
Now, so this post isn't ALL just blog-business:
STUFF I USE
I admit I was a bit stumped for this first post of the year -- I didn't want to do a Top 10 list of 2009.
2009 was a bitch of a year. Some years you send off, waving fondly. The year 2009 ... I've got the image of myself and four friends, bloody knuckles and splintered shovels, standing over a shallow grave at a crossroads at midnight. "We will never speak of this again," says Old Pete, and we drink to it.
Instead, I think I'd like to pass on some tools for moving forward into 2010. Things I bought or found that've become everyday tools. "Tools for what job, exactly?" Err, the job of being a geek, I'd say. In no particular order:
This. Changes. Everything. A synched folder is installed on all your computers. Drop a file in, it appears everywhere else within seconds. I save my script files to it, we passed around pdf submissions, I dump all my downloaded game materials on it, so I can access the pdfs oneither my iMac or laptop.
Last season I was in Portland, finished a rewrite, dumped the file into Dropbox, my Script Coordinator re-formatted it, dropped it back in, and then I continued to make changes, generating Blues and A pages. She then printed them out as I saved each revision. Seriously, even if you're not backing up everything off-site like you should, you should at least have a single place where your data is off your computer and accessible from any web-connected computer? You can find a gazillion hacks for it online, too. Get it here. Free version will do for 99% of you.
2.) Red Oxx
Yes, this services my One Bag fetish. But mock as you will, I pulled off multiple nine-day trips to the set doing nothing but carry-on. The Sky Train is bottomless if you learn to fold properly (I actually prefer the dry-cleaning flat fold to the rolled style or bundle suggested at most travel sites). I've packed a full day of clothes plus my laptop in my briefcase, and even the little shoulder bag Gator fits an Airbook. The Mac Airbook (or standard netbook, for those not of the Jobs Cult) packed in the Gator, with all the power cords, hard drives & bullshit plus notebooks and pens (oh, we'll get to the pens) was my default briefcase for most of Season One and Two. It's made of parachute rigging. Trust me, yours will last forever.
3.) The Uniball Vision RT pen
Some people like @bergopolis would argue for the Pilot G-2 07 (she favors the 10's). Hey, I have a fistful of those, don't get me wrong. But this is the Uniball Vision, people, and what's more it's got a little nub in the clip that automatically retracts the point when you clip it to your pocket. Very, very geek friendly. Get a three-pack Leatherman 830850 Skeletool CX Multitoolhere. If you don't get why this is important, just ... trust us.
I write the Leverage development notes in a Moleskine 8 1/4" by 5" softback, generally with this Cross pen. The Moleskine's absolutely unnecessary, but that size softback is big enough to feel substantial (less likely to be lost) but small enough to be crammed into a bag side-pocket. Something about the softback makes it feel very pulp 30's adventurer journal.
The scripts themselves, at least for me, are written through a multi-stage process involving colored uniball pens (the thicker points), fine-point Sharpies, three-hole punch paper and a three-ring binder. We'll probably talk our way though one of those at some point. Speaking of which ...
4.) Movie Magic Screenwriter
We get about three emails a week asking what software we use. Movie Magic has formats for screenplays, both popular forms of comic book scripts, sitcoms, novels, but two things recommend it. a.) rock solid production stability and b.) the outlining function. It was Mrs. Glenn who discovered you could take a Word doc outline, cut and paste it into the outlining pane of the software, and create a scene-breakdown rough document just through that. Again, if you don't know whay that's important, trust us. Also, it has the least finicky pdf export of all the programs I've seen.
Arguably you can use one of the free alternatives or Word templates out on the web if you're just speccing. But end of day you will rewrite that spec, and with the revision tracking, formatting, exporting ... if you're serious, this is the program you get. Screenplays exist in a particular physical form, and anything that allows you to work within that form seamlessly helps keep you in your creative space.
Oh, and don't fuck around with the fonts. Courier New. Seriously, somebody sent me a movie sample in, I don't know, Garibaldi Sans Serif or something last month, and it made me want to punch his agent. This may seem petty and trivial compared with the hurricane force of your ideas. It's not.
5.) John Scalzi's "Big Idea" Blog Posts
Yes, Scalzi's main blog is thoroughly enjoyable, and he's a great scifi writer. But this series of blog posts, where he interviews authors about what inspired them to create their novel -- what was the single crystalline seed of each book? -- has allowed me to discover more fine new fiction in a year than all the online reviews I've plowed through in the five previous.
6.) Leatherman 830850 Skeletool CX Multitool
Light, with a built-in clip. One rides on the steel strap-ring on my briefcase, one on my pants belt-loop. It's light enough you forget it's there. So you get the geek comfort of a multitool without the clunky horror of the belt-clip. Hey, I know it's particular. But I use mine every single day. Get it at: Leatherman 830850 Skeletool CX Multitool
Streaming media from your computer to Where The Television Is. Many people favor Connect 360, but having played with both I find Rivet's interface a little cleaner and the program itself easier to use. If you're using Handbrake or VLC to rip your personal DVD's, then you can dump them pretty much anywhere on your network and Rivet will make sure your console sees them.
I just started using this. As far as I'm concerned, the only missing feature in this program is the option for me to have sex with it. I've e-mailed the devs, and they promise to tackle that in 2010. Grab the free version here. Careful, the latest iPhone iteration looks like it may be buggy.
9.)Belkin Mini Surge 3OUT Wall Mount 75K 918J with USB Charger
Just ... just look at it. It is very small. Smaller than you'd think.
If you plug shit in for a living -- and often do so at strange locations -- you must have this. This will make you the most popular person at Starbucks, or on a TV location, or ... like I said, this is the Stuff I Use. And I use this every day.
10.) Netflix Instant Streaming.
Seriously, I don't know what more I can do to talk you into this. Get movies and TV on your computer, your Xbox, your PS3, your ... whatever. Hell, pretty soon you'll be able to use this on your iSlate. This is the future of broadcasting, whether we like it or not. Look, learn, adapt.
Right, off to bed. I have a day job again. In the Comments, toss in the Stuff You Use. And not just for the Writing/Creative life. Whatever that THING is you keep foisting off on your friends, toss it in.