Friday, April 27, 2007


Got out an entry for the Scriptapalooza contest this week. Scriptapalooza is a writing contest that's been around for about ten years. It features a competition for feature film scripts and a separate competition for television scripts. I submitted an entry in the television script area, which accepts submissions for pilots, existing tv shows and reality shows. I entered a sitcom script in the pilot division, GET REAL, a series about a film production company that makes reality television shows. In the pilot, one of the co-owners of the production company has returned from her honeymoon in the Bahamas. More than a blushing bride, she is red in the face because her business partner and best friend hired her ex-husband to work as director for their company following another employee's death in a freak accident over at the Los Angeles Guild of Puppetry. Reality television, former spouses having to work together, and puppets. Who wouldn't want to watch that?

Monetary prizes are awarded in the Scriptapalooza contest. However, the biggest motivator for me to enter was the fact that producers, literary agents and representatives from literary management companies and production companies read the finalists' submitted work. A number of finalists have received requests for their work from a number of professionals in the television industry. Some have already won Emmy awards.

The Scriptapalooza contest is conducted twice a year, with deadlines in the Spring and Fall. For more information, go to their Web site, If you don't have special script software like Final Draft, you can get script formatting guidelines from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences at the Nicholl Fellowship page.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Kitty Carlisle, 1910 - 2007

I just learned that Kitty Carlisle died this week. Wow, what a life she had. Born into a family of German Jewish ancestry in New Orleans, her father died when she was only ten. Her mother escorted her to Europe in 1921 with the intentions of marrying her off Grace Kelly style into European royalty. When that plan didn't pan out, they stayed in Europe where Kitty received her adult education in Switzerland, London, Paris and Rome. She finally zeroed in on her acting career after being accepted into London's Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, and also went on to train at the Theatre de l'Atelier in Paris.

She and her mother eventually returned to New York in 1932 wherein she first apprenticed with the Bucks County Playhouse in New Hope, Pennsylvania. She attracted notice quite early in her career. Billed as Kitty Carlisle, she found radio work and made her first appearance on the musical stage in the title role of "Rio Rita." She went on to appear in a number of operettas, including 1933's "Champagne Sec" (as Prince Orlofsky), as well as the musical comedies "White Horse Inn" (1936) and "Three Waltzes" (1937).

Her early ingénue movie career included warbling in the musical mystery Murder at the Vanities (1934), and alongside Allan Jones amidst the zany goings-on of the Marx Brothers in the classic farce A Night at the Opera (1935). She also played a love interest to Bing Crosby's in two of his lesser known musical outings Here Is My Heart (1934) and She Loves Me Not (1934).

Films were not her strong suit, however, and she returned to her theatre roots. Appearing in her first dramatic productions "French Without Tears" and "The Night of January 16th" in 1938, she went on to grace a number of chic and stylish plays and musicals throughout the 40s, including "Walk with Music (1940), "The Merry Widow" (1943, "Design for Living (1943) and "There's Always Juliet" (1944). She subsequently performed in Benjamin Britten's 1948 American premiere of "The Rape of Lucretia." In 1946, she married Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Moss Hart and appeared in a number of his works including "The Man Who Came to Dinner" (1949) and the Broadway musical "Anniversary Waltz" (1954). She met her husband at a dinner party given by writer Lillian Hellman. The couple had two children. He died in 1961 and she never remarried, spending much of her existing time keeping his name alive to future generations.

Many of us know Kitty Carlisle from television. She was the steadfast panelist of several quiz shows in the 1950s, it was the popular game show "To Tell the Truth" (1956) that made her a game show icon. A regular panelist for some 20 years, she appeared on each and every revamped format from its 1956 inception to its 2002 syndicated version. Known for her stately presence, infectious laugh, pouffy dark Prince Valiant hairstyle, and sweeping couture gowns on the show, audiences reveled at her effortless class to these simple parlor games. She also was a substitute panelist for other popular game shows such as "What's My Line?" and "I've Got a Secret."

In later years, she became an important society maven of New York City, an avid patron and zealous supporter of the performing arts. Appointed to various state-wide councils, she was chairman of the New York State Council of the Arts in 1976 and served in that capacity for 20 years, also serving on the boards of various New York City cultural institutions. A noted lecturer, the civic-minded Carlisle Hart was active in administrative capacities as well, notably as Chairman of Governor Rockefeller's Conference on Woman (1966) and as special consultant to the Governor on women's opportunities. At one time she wrote the column "Kitty's Calendar" for Women's Unit News.

Kitty never stopped entertaining. Making her Metropolitan debut on New Year's Eve 1966 as Prince Orlovsky in "Die Fledermaus," she joined the touring production the following year. She appeared in concert with the Philadelphia Orchestra and appeared with the Boston Opera Company at one point. She added stature to a number of summer stock plays including "Kiss Me Kate," "The Marriage-Go-Round" and her husband's "Light Up the Sky." Returning to Broadway as a replacement for Dina Merrill in the 1983 revival of "On Your Toes," she was later spotted in Woody Allen's Radio Days (1987) and Six Degrees of Separation (1993).

She penned her autobiography, Kitty, in 1984, and was awarded the American National Medal of the Arts in 1991 by the National Endowment of the Arts in Washington D.C. At the age of 95, she claimed she exercised every day, including floor exercises, the treadmill and swimming. She celebrated her 96th birthday with a gig at Michael Feinstein's New York hot spot Feinstein's at the Regency Hotel.

Her one-woman act in 2005 consisted of anecdotes about the many great men in American musical theatre history that she has known, notably George Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Kurt Weill, Cole Porter, Jerome Kern, Oscar Hammerstein, and Frederick Loewe, interspersed with a few of the songs that made each one famous.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Friday the 13th - A Lucky Day

Okay, a lot of people feel that Friday the 13th is an unlucky day. Those who fear it suffer from paraskevidekatriaphobia — a morbid, irrational fear of Friday the 13th. One of the earliest concrete taboos associated with the number 13 — a taboo still observed by some superstitious folks today, evidently — is said to have originated in the East with the Hindus, who believed, for some reason, that it is always unlucky for 13 people to gather in one place — say, at dinner.

The ancient Vikings claimed that Loki, Evil One, brought about the negative association with the number 13. The story goes that twelve gods were invited to a banquet at Valhalla. Loki, the Evil One, god of mischief, had been left off the guest list but crashed the party, bringing the total number of attendees to 13. True to character, Loki raised hell by inciting Hod, the blind god of winter, to attack Balder the Good, who was a favorite of the gods. Hod took a spear of mistletoe offered by Loki and obediently hurled it at Balder, killing him instantly. All Valhalla grieved. And although one might take the moral of this story to be "Beware of uninvited guests bearing mistletoe," the Norse themselves apparently concluded that 13 people at a dinner party is just plain bad luck.

Some say the number 13 is unlucky because there were 13 present at the Last Supper, with one of them betraying Jesus. Oh, and the Crucifixion took place on a Friday, too.

One theory, recently offered up as historical fact in the novel The Da Vinci Code, holds that the negative association with Friday the 13th came about not as the result of a convergence, but a catastrophe, a single historical event that happened nearly 700 years ago.

The catastrophe was the decimation of the Knights Templar, the legendary order of "warrior monks" formed during the Christian Crusades to combat Islam. Renowned as a fighting force for 200 years, by the 1300s the order had grown so pervasive and powerful it was perceived as a political threat by kings and popes alike and brought down by a church-state conspiracy, as recounted by Katharine Kurtz in Tales of the Knights Templar (Warner Books: 1995):

"On October 13, 1307, a day so infamous that Friday the 13th would become a synonym for ill fortune, officers of King Philip IV of France carried out mass arrests in a well-coordinated dawn raid that left several thousand Templars — knights, sergeants, priests, and serving brethren — in chains, charged with heresy, blasphemy, various obscenities, and homosexual practices. None of these charges was ever proven, even in France — and the Order was found innocent elsewhere — but in the seven years following the arrests, hundreds of Templars suffered excruciating tortures intended to force 'confessions,' and more than a hundred died under torture or were executed by burning at the stake."

Personally, I feel Friday the 13th is a lucky day. Maybe I just like the number. Or maybe I refuse to let anyone else cloud my attitude and put a negative spin on the day. Perhaps I don't want to let it become an issue. I have enough things with which to concern myself. How do you feel about Friday the 13th? Do you find it lucky? Unlucky? Neutral?

For those of you paraskevidekatriaphobists out there, stay inside July 13. It falls on a Friday.

Monday, April 09, 2007

What a Character!

I include a photograph of a very young Margaret Mitchell here because the discussion is character, and Ms. Mitchell knew how to create some very memorable characters. Even for those people who have never read, "Gone with the Wind" or seen the film of the novel (hard to believe, but true -- I have a friend who has experienced neither), almost everyone has at least heard of and knows something about Scarlett O'Hara and/or Rhett Butler.

Characters are the backbone of our story. Character is plot. The goals, motivations and conflicts of our characters are what move our stories forward. Do you regularly sketch out your plot when beginning a new story, or do you instead begin by making a profile of your main characters?

I recently had an idea for a new story, but am waiting to flesh out the acts until I get to know more about my main characters. I've been greatly blessed in the past couple of years to meet more than a handful of new people that could stand alone in a story as larger-than-life characters. Normally, I combine the traits of at least five or six people I either personally know or learn about through friends, newspaper articles, etc. I currently don't have to blend so many people into the birth of the characters of my current works-in-progress.

Usually I really get into developing the hero and heroine of my story. However, I'm currently in a phase where I mostly enjoy creating some of the more minor characters of a story. Maybe I feel more of a sense of freedom in making the minor characters a little more grandiose. Maybe the real-life people that I've met seem more over-the-top than most of the other people I know, so I want to capture them somehow in a story with a menagerie of my other creations.

Do you have any special technique for developing your characters? What people have inspired you in your creations? What character has been your favorite one to develop?

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Omaha Screenwriting Workshop

For anyone into screenwriting, the Omaha screenwriting group's screenwriting workshop meets every Saturday at the Creighton University Criss Building, Room L-61 from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Creighton Public Safety has okayed parking in the Burt Street student parking lot on Saturdays or you can park along Burt Street. There will be no workshop on Easter weekend, Saturday April 7, but workshops will resume again on April 14th. The Omaha Screenwriting Workshop Web site is at:

A new offshoot of the Omaha screenwriting group, the Omaha filmmaking workshop, is planning to shoot three very short films this summer and is looking for volunteers to assist at all levels. More information will be provided at upcoming Saturday screenwriting workshops. A separate workshop will also be created for the filmmaking group. Help with filming is needed with everything from actors to props to locations. If you're interested in participating in this new group, come to a Saturday screenwriting workshop and/or inquire at:

The Scriptapalooza Feature Screenplay Contest deadline is Friday, April 13th. The Scriptapalooze TV Screenwriting Contest deadline is Monday, April 30th. Details on both contests are available at:

Lights, camera, action!

Monday, April 02, 2007

Omaha: It's Not Just Telemarketing Anymore

Omaha's not just telemarketing and a bevy of fast food restaurants anymore. The metro area stinks with culture: Literary masterpieces, performing arts, visual arts, theatre and cinema and the word has gotten out. The March 25 issue of the New York Times Magazine featured an insightful article about all of the cultural happenings in Omaha:

Also, a two-screen cinema in downtown Omaha at the corner of 14th & Webster will open this summer with a month-long repertory series curated by Omaha native, Oscar-winner, and Film Streams Board Member Alexander Payne. Along with his curatorial input, Mr. Payne will be writing program notes for the entire series and speaking about select films during special event Q&A sessions. Screenwriters come and take note as Mr. Payne's Academy Award was won for Best Adapted Screenplay. However, he's also directed some of the most successful films of the past decade: Citizen Ruth, Election, About Schmidt and Sideways.

Film Streams is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization dedicated to enhancing the cultural environment of the Omaha-Council Bluffs area through the presentation and discussion of film as an art form. Its new unnamed cinema will feature first run movies: American independents, documentaries, and foreign films making their theatrical premiere in Omaha and the surrounding region. It will also host repertory selections, including classic films, themed series, and director retrospectives, featuring an impressive cast of guest curators. For more information, including how to join the organization and receive half-price movie tickets, go to: