Live like Improv

Here are the rules, pulled from Tina Fey’s, Bossypants.


#1 – Start with Yes


“Freeze, I have a gun!”

“No, you don’t that’s your finger.”



“Freeze, I have a gun!”

“The gun I gave you for Christmas? You jerk!”


Now, obviously in real life you’re not always going to agree with everything everyone says.  But the Rule of Agreement reminds you to “respect what your partner has created” and to at least start from an open-minded place.  Start with a Yes and see where that takes you.

As an improviser, I always find it jarring when I meet someone in real life whose first answer is no.  “No, we can’t do that.”  “No, that’s not in the budget.”  “No, I will not hold your hand for a dollar.”


#2 – Yes, and…

Agree and then add something of your own:


“I can’t believe it’s so hot in here.”



Which puts the improv at kind of at a standstill. But, if you add something then we’re getting somewhere:


“I can’t believe it’s so hot in here.”

“What did you expect? We’re in hell.”

“Yes, this can’t be good for the wax figures.”

“I told you we shouldn’t have crawled into this dog’s mouth.”


wax figures


#3 – Make statements

This is a positive way of saying “Don’t ask questions all the time.” If we’re in a scene and I say,


Who are you?

Where are we?

What are we doing here?

What’s in that box?


I’m putting pressure on you to come up with all the answers.

This also applies to us women: speak in statements instead of apologetic questions. No one wants to go to a doctor who says (cue valley girl):


I’m going to be your surgeon?

I’m here to talk to you about your procedure?

I was first in my class at Johns Hopkins, so…?


Instead make a statement like:


“Here we are in Spain, Dracula.”



#4 – There are no mistakes

Only opportunities.

If I start a scene as what I think is very clearly a cop riding a bicycle, but you think I am a hamster in a hamster wheel, guess what?

Now, I’m a hamster in a hamster wheel.

I’m not going to stop everything to explain that it was really supposed to be a bike. Who knows? Maybe I’ll end up being a police hamster who’s been put on “hamster wheel-duty” because I’m “too much of a loose cannon” in the field.

Content pulled from: Cedar Sage Marketing, BulletProof Presentations, and PCA2.

Photos: Dracula and Tina & Brad.

How I spent my summer by Amy Senger

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us…”

~ A Tale of Two Cities (1859)

Talk about timelessness of good writing. Somehow, with pitch-perfect lucidity, Charles Dickens over a century ago eloquently described my summer.

Starting with leaving DC. In the weeks leading up to our departure, Steve and I had some of the most tempestuous showdowns I’ve ever endured, including a 5-hour fight (five f***ing hours) that ended with me trying to hit him with a tin bucket of dirt and him catching it and dumping it on my head. I can’t even write those lines without laughing, but at the time, it was intense and devoid of any humor whatsoever.

I wanted to leave and I didn’t. DC was home for me. But if you’ve ever tried to fill up on tofu or non-meat substitute when all you’re craving is a hamburger, no matter how much “toburger” you consume, it just doesn’t cut it.

I needed a solid break from everything I was trying to fill up on that wasn’t fulfilling me. So I moved 3,000 miles across the country to Southern California to pursue screenwriting and a different way of life. And I found a happiness that I haven’t felt in a long time.

I took up surfing and after at least 50 (maybe it was 100 times) falling down, I finally rode a wave. Anyone who has ever surfed knows that first wave you ride makes all the times falling down worth it.

I needed surfing. It’s been my salvation. After struggling to get off Adderall for the past two years I finally cut the cord. I needed something to replace the mental and physical “stamina” and “focus” Adderall gave me and I found that in surfing. When I’m in the water, I find that edge I’m looking for, and afterwards, I have a sense of peace and clarity of mind Adderall never gave me.

And I’ve been writing, a lot. I completed the first draft of a second screenplay and finished a 10-week Advanced Screenwriting class at UCLA, rewriting my first screenplay and learning the things you won’t find in any screenwriting book. Which has been the best part of my summer and the worst.

No matter how much I love writing, no matter how much I write, no matter how many people read what I’ve written and say they love it, I still have my moments of doubt when I ask myself, What the hell are you doing?  Which is really code for, How far are you willing to go to make this happen, to make this a career and not just an interest and indulgence?

The answer is always the same. Pretty far. This summer I came to the conclusion that this is what I want to do, this is the life I want, which is a pretty big pivot.

So if you ask me to describe my summer, instead of quoting Dickens, I’ll sum it up with one word: gnarly.

Killing It in Prime Time: An Interview With Jane Fonda

Jane Fonda as Barbarella

You can call Jane Fonda many things, but boring, she is not.

From her role as sci-fi sex goddess, Barbarella (which I’ve never seen, but only know about through photos) in the 1960s, to the controversial Vietnam political advocate in the 1970s, to the queen of workout video in the 80s (my mom had these – as a little kid, I loved dressing up in the leotards, sweatbands and leg-warmers and dancing along) to the consummate companion of Ted Turner in the 90s – her life has been one of constant evolution.

Now as author and spokesperson for people living out the “third acts” of their lives (which she calls “Prime Time“), it was inspiring to watch her recently on Charlie Rose, talking about life as a stair-cased ascension, instead of a curved archway that peaks at middle-age, then declines. In our youth-obsessed culture, she is an example that life doesn’t end at 40. In fact, she says she really didn’t start to ‘get life’ until she hit 59 (she’s 73), which for her has meant battling depression, becoming present in her children’s lives, and creating an intimate relationship with a man (which she never achieved in her previous 3 marriages), to name a few.

Her ability to find closure in areas of her life that have plagued her seems especially key to the constant elevation and improvement she describes. When discussing her relationship with her father, she articulated what so many people fear:

“Watching him die taught me that I wasn’t afraid of death. What I’m really scared of is getting to the end of life with a lot of regrets when it’s too late to do anything about it.”

And it reminded me of the Dylan Thomas poem that is a call to arms for individuals of any age:

Do not go gentle into that good night,

Old age should burn and rave at close of day;

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,

Because their words had forked no lightning they

Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright

Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,

And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,

Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight

Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay, 

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,

Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.

Do not go gentle into that good night.

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Irreverent and scary: the other comic con movies

Total Recall

Set to come out in 2012 with Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, and Jessica Biel. From Rotten Tomatoes:

“Director Len Wiseman (Underworld) jumps into the remake game with this retooling of Philip K. Dick’s short story We Can Remember It for You Wholesale, originally brought to the big screen by Paul Verhoeven in the 1990 sci-fi action eye-popper starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. Colin Farrell stars as a blue-collar worker whose grip on his own identity breaks down after realizing…”

Star Wars

The Complete Saga – 9 discs on Blu-ray – I know what you’re thinking and I too already own too 7 sets of Star Wars movies. But, you have to watch these trailers, I mean you have to. They are that good.

2011 Comic Con sneak peekofficial trailer

Available September 16

Charlie’s Angels

An upcoming ABC series, Thurs 8pm – Three beautiful women, a former Miami police officer, a mysterious street racer, and a well-to-do thief, are given a chance at redemption when they are recruited by an anonymous millionaire named Charlie Townsend to solve crimes while struggling with their own personal problems, love lives and each others’ friendship.

The Raven

Starring John Cusack, to come out in 2012. From IMDB –  IMDB: “A fictionalized account of the last days of Edgar Allan Poe’s life, in which the poet is in pursuit of a serial killer whose murders mirror those in the writer’s stories.”

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
`’Tis some visitor,’ I muttered, `tapping at my chamber door –
Only this, and nothing more.’

the full poem

Pacific Rim

Guillermo Del Toro is a legend in the sci-fi, horror, and monster genres and it’s easy see why. Here is his proclamation’s at the 2011 Comic Con, from The Hollywood Reporter:

Del Toro is working on the robot-monster film Pacific Rim and said of Legendary’s involvement in the project, “It’s a miracle finding a company that has the energy, the ambition, the balls to make movies the way we want to make them.”

The director lived up to the wild cheers that had greeted him in the hall (in Spanish and English alike) by making a promise to his fans: “It is my duty to commit to film the finest f—ing monsters ever committed to film. And secondly – I make the pledge to create the greatest f—ing robots ever committed to film.”

Not much out about the movie, except this one sentence plot and the military insignia picture: “When an alien attack threatens the Earth’s existence,giant robots piloted by humans are deployed to fight off the menace.”


It’s an old character being reinvented through animation. Not many probably know of this small time hero, unless you live in France, Belgium, or Germany where he is huge. Perhaps this is solely an international play?

The film does have two names big enough to get me to see it: Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson. Tintin comes out this December.

Geeks on a train

If you ever have a chance to geek-out, don’t hesitate to take it. There is nothing greater, no more pure joy than that.

Ok, maybe there is romance and you’re child being born, but we are talking about geeks here.

Andrew Garfield in his own Spider-Man costume (w/ fanny pack) at the 2011 Comic Con in San Diego

I revel in these moments and seek them out, like the recent Harry Potter opening night, yeah it was so wizard.

  • The upcoming iPhone 5 release…already making plans to camp-out at Apple.
  • Obsessing over the upcoming Hobbit movie.
  • Even, waking up at 7 am with the dawn patrol to watch the early heats at the US Open of Surfing.

I am the king of geek moments. You will rarely find me in the VIP line or at the trendy spot but every geek moment I own.

Comic Con is definitely one of those moments with so much to enjoy like reading Jon Favreau’s movie premiere diaries, Snow White battles, and the release of new Spider-Man/Batman flicks.

So, if you’re just dying to attend you have to do this: Geeks on a train.

“Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner makes the 128-mile journey from Los Angeles to San Diego in two hours and 45 minutes…Fifty-one weeks a year, the train takes vacationers south to Sea World or north to Universal Studios. For one weekend in July, though, boarding the Pacific Surfliner is as close as you can come to climbing into the Hogwarts Express at Kings Cross Platform 9¾.”

Then you get on the train…

“This is the first moment you know you’re among your people. What’s bulging in that duffel bag over there? An elvish sword? A Klingon bat’leth? Look at the reading material: comics, manga, graphic novels, a stolen superhero movie screenplay” – click to keep reading the full story by Big Bang Theory’s co-creator.

It sounds like geek dream heaven to me. If things work out next year I will be on this train and I hope to see you there.

Snow White: the reboot

Of all the strange things we saw at the 2011 Comic Con, the one I was not prepared for was Snow White — in armor.

From Disney cartoon to dark war story?

It’s true, and there are two Snow White movies coming out. The first, starring Kristen Stewart (Twilight fame) involves the damsel in distress turning into an armed warrior (movie site).

The second involves Lily Collins (daughter of Phil Collins) in a Brothers Grimm dark twist, possibly to tell the story in its original grim form.

It’s still a bit early for more details but both are slated for a mid-2012 release. Probably somewhere around the release of the Batman and Spider-Man movies.

The story at Comic Con was one of competition between the Snow Whites, which one will win?

Just Released: New Batman, New Spider-Man Trailers

I’m locked into Comic Con right now. With so much material and glam I just can’t get enough.

Starting with some top Hollywood talent in 2011 discussing their favorite moments (Jon Favreau).

And, now the studios fighting each other to get out the best trailer. Check out these two and let me know which one wets your pants..

The Dark Knight Rises

The Amazing Spider-Man

Movie Posters

You know me, I love to reward those who hit the bottom of the page. Check out these just released movie posters!

Comic-Con Turns Geeks into Hollywood Kingmakers

“Everything I learned about the movie business I learned at Comic-Con.”

Jon Favreau

Walking around San Diego for the 2011 Comic Con is an experience like no other. It combines the crowds and energy of SXSW with the geekiness of opening night at Harry Potter.

There are costumes galore with (my favorite) girls as sexy evil villains, stormtroopers, ghostbusters, goths, and geeks — and it’s, in a word, awesome.

You can buy comic book art, comic books, legendary toys, video games, and mingle like it’s nerd cocktail hour.

The big deal, though, is Hollywood. The industry has taken over the event. Every celebrity actor, director, agent, and writer shows up. This year Steven Speilberg and Peter Jackson wowed a Con audience with a dual-appearance. They spend millions on everything from sneak peek trailers, to gigantic booths and exclusive parties.

And, we love it.

If you’re at all intrigued you must read the article below.

It’s a personal account from Jon Favreau, the actor (Swingers, PCU) and writer/director (Elf, Iron Man, Cowboys & Aliens), on his experiences of both bombing and killing it.

He gives some insight into how movies have intersected with this Con and turned the geeks into king-makers.

“The energy hit me in the sternum like a wrecking ball. The feeling in that room created a flood of endorphins that took hours to dissipate from my brainpan. After showing the clip a second time, I ran off the stage, and a year before that movie ever made it into theaters, Iron Man was a hit. Any misgivings about the new studio, the director or the casting of Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark seemed to evaporate in those few, precious moments. By the time Downey took the stage on Saturday during the Marvel panel, he was welcomed as one of their own.”

read the full article at The Hollywood Reporter

Weta: servicing the world’s creative industries

I’m a movie geek and can’t get enough movie magic especially when it comes to Special FX.

I buy DVD’s just for the special features. The Lord of the Rings set, which is 16 or so discs, is amazing with it’s 26+ hours of behind the scenes features on special FX.

Which is where I first heard of the Weta Workshop, based in New Zealand, with the motto: servicing the world’s creative industries.

In addition to LOTR, the company has worked on District 9, The Chronicles of Narnia, Avatar, Fantastic Four, Master and Commander, and more. An impressive line-up.

Weta works on weapons, creatures, armour, vehicles, miniatures, make-up, and props. Awesomeness.

Their latest film, currently in production, is The Hobbit with Peter Jackson, and just released is a 12-minute behind the scenes featurette. All about these 13 dwarves…short, bearded, and armoured.

The video, which gets really good once the weird Peter Jackson intro is done.

If you can’t get enough of that here are some awesome photos of Weta’s work:

13 dwarves photo by James Fisher – All other photos from Weta