Turning The Santa Diaries Into a Movie Script

Laura and I are turning The Santa Diaries play into a movie script. This story was always meant to be a movie, but the opportunity to write the play showed up and we jumped on it. It got the story arc in place. For the past couple of weeks we have been working on the screenplay and the transition from play to movie script has been challenging.

A play has to be written differently because the audience can’t see facial expressions as well (no close-ups in a play). Thus more of the play’s story has to be in dialogue. More telling and less showing. For the screenplay we can “show” more and have significantly shortened some of the dialogue chunks. For example, in the play Josh was always on his phone doing business with New York and LA. On stage we couldn’t jump to LA without doing a scenery change. It would have slowed down the action.

In the movie script we can easily cut to another setting so we have added several new characters that inhabit an office on a movie lot in LA. This spices up the movie. Being in the same place all the time gets boring. Where we relied on the play’s audience to fill in some visual cues using their imagination (“…the ninja assassins have become vampires. The director wants lots of blood.”), we can now show vampires and spurting blood – in a humorous way. This is a Christmas movie, after all.

Movies can close in on faces so some scenes in the play that had something of a slapstick quality are being toned down. We don’t have to answer every question because the expressions of the actor hold the answer when the camera zooms in.

The process is feeling quite liberating.

We worked for several hours on Friday, called in a lunch order and sent my husband to pick it up. That gave us an extra half hour. Laura had to go back to her office to work at her day job and I rejoined her a couple of hours later to work some more. We should be finished in a few more days and the script will be ready for some fresh readers who will tell us what still needs work.

In What Universe Does Skin Care Have Anything to Do with Writing?

I’m one of those women who should never sit on tall stools at cosmetic counters. I try to walk past without making eye contact, but that tactic failed me a couple of weeks ago. I was with three women friends on our yearly lark to New York City. Laura wasn’t invited. She’s too young.

Golden Girls in NYC 2014

We were in Saks and just trying to get from one side of the store to the other. We made it past an ordinary scarf with a $1200 price tag. That was Warning #1. We should have run right then, but the closest way to the exit was through the fragrant counters of youth. Why not? We could make it. I think this is similar to an alcoholic saying one taste isn’t going to matter.

A very nice young lady stopped us. Before we knew it she was patting our faces with an exclusive skin care line – available only at Saks. Words like exclusive…Warning  #2. Red lights should begin blinking, sirens blaring.

Now that I think of it, there are never any nice old ladies at those counters, ladies whose faces reveal their lives…character permanently etched on foreheads and around mouths.  My friends and I all agreed our skin looked better, felt soft and dewy.

But not one of my friends sat on a stool. There were plenty available. It wasn’t like I had taken the only one. I was doomed and I knew it.When we walked away I had a small bag with new skin care products and I already felt guilty. I had exchanged flagstone for my new garden path by chasing the fountain of youth.

Vindication occurred the following Saturday at the monthly Eastern Shore Writers Association meeting. I stood to share that Laura and I had four theaters nibbling at our toes about producing The Santa Diaries. That we are thrilled is an understatement!

I also said that I had visited the Broadway offices of The Dramatist Guild and made the receptionist (possibly twelve years old) take a picture of me by the door. I still can’t quite believe that Laura and I are members.

Dramatist Guild office

This morning my friend Anny Williams, who had been at the Saturday meeting, called and told me I had looked radiant! Yes, Ponce de Leon, there is a fountain of youth and it’s at Saks. Those tiny vials are working their magic. And I hadn’t even used the wrinkle filler that I got because I bought two products instead of one. (I’ve got to stay off those stools. People like me should me required to wear ankle bands that beep when we get too close.)

But here’s the rest of the story…in the end, it’s really about the Academy Awards. Seriously! I‘ve got the taller part covered, but I have to look thinner and younger when Laura and I walk up those steps to get our Oscars for the best screenplay. On that night I will absolutely make sure I use the wrinkle filler.

Olfactory Delusions?

Laura and I were working yesterday afternoon at a table in my family room. (We are almost finished with the first draft of the Santa Diaries movie script.) At one point Laura looked up from her computer and said, “I’m really into this Christmas stuff. I just got a whiff of pine and some cinnamon, like Christmas cookies.”

I told her she was delusional and having an MSG reaction, enjoying the puzzled look on her face before I suggested she look behind her. There was the pine candle I’d lit in the kitchen after cooking shrimp for dinner. The cinnamon? I’d also baked cookies that morning for a Community Garden get together on Sunday.

cookies and candle

The notion that we could be so into writing that we could smell the setting was kind of inspirational. It also made me glad we don’t write stories with lots of blood and decomposing bodies.

Order Out of Squirrel Chaos

I’ve blogged previously about how Laura and I suffer from what we call Squirrel Syndrome. We see a new writing project and get totally distracted, just like a squirrel digging holes in my yard looking for nuts.

amblerburt Squirrel Logo

In January we had lunch with a friend of mine from Towson,Maryland. I met Margie Farmer twenty years ago when she was the choir director at the Towson Unitarian Universalist Church. I loved her enthusiasm and energy and occasionally helped her with some of her vocal productions – not singing, but helping with logistics, ticket sales, etc. Margie handles musicians. Her business is Class Acts on Tour.

When Laura and I met Margie in Annapolis it was just me wanting to reconnect with a friend and share her with Laura. Little did we know that at the end of that meeting we would have found a manager with Margie in the role of keeping us from doing our squirrel thing and rushing after one more enticing nut.

“What do you want to focus on now,” she asked? Our answer was The Santa Diaries. We have four community theaters that have expressed interest in producing the play. Interest is not a produced play, however, but at this point interest is more than thrilling for us. Margie will make follow-up calls. Maybe one of those leads will be fruitful. She’ll help us with a joint website which has all of our stuff on it. Why did that never occur to us? When AmblerBurt.com is up and running I’ll let you know.

In the meantime we’ve begun writing the screenplay for The Santa Diaries. That’s always been part of the plan, but staying focused has been the issue. Hopefully, with Margie’s guidance, the nuts we go after now will come out of cans with a Planters label.