After the Quake

I’m not sure why I wrote about being half-Japanese when I posted my blog about contradictions on March 4, but after the sirens sounded here in Hawaii the night of March 10, I sensed something terrible was happening across the ocean in the country where I was born. Earlier, my wife thought the TV news bulletin of an earthquake in Japan was on a DVR playback from the week before when a quake triggered a tsunami alert. I told her, no, this is live. And this one was much, much bigger.

We live on the Windward side of Oahu, near a canal that connects to Kailua Bay about a mile down the street from our house. I felt fairly safe though, despite the later siren blasts and the news that the first tsunami waves were expected to hit our island around 3 am. People on our street who lived closed to the beach were evacuated. Fortunately, we were spared. Other parts of Oahu and the Big Island weren’t so lucky, but no lives were lost.

Anyone who’s ever been to Hawaii knows how closely we’re tied to Japan. Over 20 percent of the local population has some Japanese in them. You see the influences in the food, customs, aesthetics. Our economy depends a lot on Japanese visitors too. In Japan, hula is extremely popular and there are many “halaus” or schools that teach hula. (There’s a charming Japanese movie called HULA GIRLS, which is based on a true story about how Japanese women decide to put on a hula show to save a town when the mining company decides to shut down operations. You can rent it on Netflix.)

So people in Hawaii were deeply affected by the devastation in Japan. There have been all kinds of fund-raising efforts going on with a local angle. One that you might be interested in supporting is buying $20 “Aloha” shirts that have a red circle in place of the letter “o” that kind of says it all. All profits from sales are going directly to Japan, and I’ve already received the shirts I ordered just a week ago. You can go here to order them online from Butigroove.com, and here’s a link to another blog with more donation options.

It’s strange watching mainland TV news coverage of the events and fears of a nuclear meltdown. For a few days it dominated the airwaves… then it just sort of became old news as Libya took center stage. It sickens me that Charlie Sheen continues to get as much coverage as he has. I stop in to lurk at some screenwriting message boards, and the continual sniping and snarkiness that goes on between amateurs and professional writers makes me wonder what world these people are living in. Have we really become that ego-centric where all we care about is our personal success?

I guess so. Aside from buying some t-shirts, giving money and sharing my thoughts about the disaster in Japan, there isn’t much I can do either. Life goes on, Charlie Sheen is unstoppable (until he crashes) and the grass needs cutting. I still want to tell you my “Opposites Attract” story about writing a bizarre punk rock musical script that was optioned by ROBOCOP co-writer Michael Miner, but will save that for a rainy day.

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Random updates: After cracking the first Amazon Studios Top 50 semifinals list with LEGENDS OF THE MENEHUNE, have not had any luck in the two subsequent monthly script contests. So I added two new projects: STUNT GUYS, big budget action/comedy, and SNALLYGASTER, an Amish horror story… yep, I said AMISH horror. You can check both of them out by going to this link and downloading the pdf files, which are much easier to read than the horrid rtf versions they were making us post before.

Or you can go to these individual script page links:

SNALLYGASTER

STUNT GUYS: THE SULTANS OF S.W.A.T.

Thus far, I haven’t heard of any actual movie deals coming out of the Amazon Studios contest, but the fact that they’ve changed their policies about “open” collaborations (you can opt out now) and are finally allowing writers to upload pdf versions of their scripts tells me they are listening to suggestions. The question though is, are any legit producers or agents taking this contest seriously?

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BTW, remember my post on “Idea Theft or Coincidence?” Well, apparently TV writers aren’t the only ones who say they’ve pitched ideas to producers who then used those ideas without crediting the writers or paying them. On Nikki Finke’s Deadline Hollywood site, she had an article about WGA contract negotiations, which resulted a long thread of comments — many of them pro screenwriters, who say they are being ripped off through “sweepstake pitching” practices…

According to anonymous commenters, it works like this: studio producers meet with repped pro writers to hear pitches for open assignments. Assistants take notes. Producers then sift through ideas they like, and turn them over to the A-lister they hire, without giving any credit or compensation to the ones who pitched those ideas. Sometimes the idea or set piece winds up in a completely different film, says one writer. As a result, some writers are passing on those meetings… but with fewer films being made, how many can afford to “just say no” to sweepstakes pitching?

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