Obama gives some love to Community Colleges

I was glad to see President Obama showing some recognition, and support, to community colleges this week. Community Colleges are an affordable way for workers and students to retool in a down economy and are a real treasure in the community.

Peter Nicholas (LA Times), reports that “with unemployment continuing to climb, President Obama on Tuesday unveiled a plan to pump $12 billion into the nation’s community colleges over the next 10 years to help struggling workers prepare for new careers, saying a better-educated workforce was crucial to long-term prosperity.”

“Time and again, when we have placed our bet for the future on education, we have prospered as a result — by tapping the incredible innovative and generative potential of a skilled American workforce,” Obama said.


Nicholas, Peter (July 15, 2009). Obama unveils plan to invest in community colleges. LA Times. http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-obama15-2009jul15,0,1988173,print.story

Parry, Marc and Fischer Karin (July 17, 2009). How Obama’s $12-Billion Plan Could Change 2-Year Colleges, Chronicle for Higher Education. http://chronicle.com/temp/email2.php?id=XqqjcpTwySZQJ32SMyyzfbpP2yVhVyhJ

Gordy Hoffman Workshop

Workshop: Screen writing with Gordy Hoffman
April 19, 2009 as part of the Nashville Film Festival

The following notes and exercises were taken from the workshop in the order experienced (more or less)


  1. For five minutes, describe your movie idea
  2. For two minutes, write the toughest scene
  3. Write three scenes that will be in the movie (graphic novel) for five minutes
  4. Write a Monolog from my script for two minutes


    How do you create a first draft?

    There are lots of approaches…

    • Blake Synder beat sheet. Formula for creating your screen play. It doesn’t work for ALL movies. It is based on a number of classic movies. (Beat sheet). Structured.
    • The lowest common denominator is that the movie has to move you.
    • Non linear thought process. Write whatever I want. Just let the ideas flow. Workshopping. Just write the scene. The ideas will flesh out as you write. Unstructured.
    • Character breakdowns (monologue or bios) Can write a character history. Thumbnail sketches of characters.
    • Outline (30, 60, 90 format) Break it up into sections. A first, second, and third sections of the movies.
    • Cards. Have ideas on different cards and then be able to move the cards around. (Power point). Good for complicated plots
    • Objectives
    • mind map
    • Treatment (know that the while writing the treatment you will be taken off the path. That’s OK. Your writing and uncovering the story) You can stream line the treatment later. Writing the treatment can get you started.
    • research. Find a balance. Don’t let the research take away from the story or from your personal experience.
    • Get actors involved to help you create the characters.
    • Approach it like a song writer?
    • Start with a plan. As you write you will deviate from the plan. You will go back over the draft and re-write it with a new plan.
    • 50% of your movie is the ending (the reveal)
    • Plausibility. No one is going to believe the story if it is not plausible. Other people will have to be able to relate to it. People want to know that they can get to the other side of their situation. They can see someone going through what they did and they made it to the other side of there experience. Make it authentic.
    • Make the goal tangible. A reunion with a spouse. A resolution will work better if the resolution is tangible. Abstract will help make the concrete deeper, but the goal should be clear and tangible.
    • Don’t be afraid to write about something that makes you uncomfortable. Make people think you went through the experience.
    • Make it new. Everyone listens to a song over and over until the emotion has been processed. Then you are no longer interested in the song. Deal with the characters doing something we all can relate to, but make it new. New situation, new character.
    • Make it personal. write about personal experience. It will have power and believable as a result. Write about something I have gone through. It is “a feelings business.”

    The goal of rewriting

    Take your script to production and connect with an audience.
    Why does our script change? Because we keep changing.


    Scripts are compressions of life. Dialog is not a transcription of actual dialog. It is a compression of a conversation. Practice. Sit down and write pages of dialog. Let the characters write what is on the page. “Damn this is a boring scene.” “What is this scene about?” “How am I supposed to act this scene if I don’t understand what it is about.” Write about my own emotional life.

    When dialog doesn’t work (when it takes you out of the movie)

    • Forced exposition. Information about the story to set it up.
    • “On the nose.” No subtext. (what’s really happening underneath the dialog). People say things with implied understanding. All the feelings that are not being said that are under what IS being said.
    • You can reveal exposition through dialog
    • You can reveal characters through dialog
    • Less is more
    • Screen writing is about moving pictures on a screen. Don’t tell someone something that should be shown instead. See if you can write a “silent picture”. Tell the story through pictures – not dialog.

    How does description hurt your ending?

    Compress the description. Don’t wear out your reader on insignificant details. Keep them engaged in the story. Make it clear (clarity). See just enough to visualize and get the reader through the script. Let the set designers, costume people, etc fill in the details. The script does not need that much detail. No one is going to follow the script exactly. Let the people do what they know. You sell the story, the scene. Let everyone else do their jobs.

    Read scripts (download them from the internet) how does the author describe the scene.


    • Characters should have depth. Don’t define the entire character by one act. Keep them grey; not black in white. Why? Because that is how real life is. (Frost/Nixon, Crash)
    • Give the reader the opportunity to “forgive” the antagonist. Give the audience the opportunity to exercise compassion.

    Getting feedback

    • Don’t rely on “professionals”. Get your feedback from ordinary people. Get the reaction from ordinary people. Whatever helps to get you to take another look at your script.

    Possible readers

    • Family (possibly not honest reaction because they’ll try to protect your feelings)
    • Friends
    • Fellow screen writers (personal relationships. Nashville Screenwriters Association)
    • Online screen writing communities (script pimp?)

    How do you re-write the screen play

    • Spot revision process (print out the script and make notes on the script)
    • Page one rewrite/ copy it over
    • Descriptions/elements only
    • Work on one act, or section, at a time
    • Do a group table “read”. Get actors or friends to sit around a table and read through the script aloud. The strengths and weaknesses will come out in the script
    • An outline after your first draft

    Ending thoughts

    • LA is ALWAYS looking for scripts. If the script gets rejected, it’s because it’s not ready. Period. Good place to send it BlueCat screenwriting competition.
    • A typical pitch is 10-15 minutes. Tell general story arcs. If you care about the story, you’ll be compelling.

    Moving a WordPress database

    My capstone class this semester built a client web site using WordPress. Design of the site needed to be well under way prior to the client acquisition of a hosting account. To progress with the site design and template construction we opted to create the site on a development server and then move it just before going live on the client’s hosting site. The development server was owned by one of my students and housed through goDaddy.com.

    After the site design was completed, it was time to move the site, and corresponding database, to its new location. Moving the site files was easy, simple copy and paste of template files. Since the new site had a fresh installation of WordPress, we did not need to worry about the configuration file. To copy the database, I exported it to an external text file with the intention of a simple import into the production server. The instructions on how to do this are explained at the following links on the WordPress Codex:

    Oh, if only it were that easy. Over the next several posts, I will describe what I ran into and how I overcame the obstacles. I will split the articles into the obstacles that I had to overcome.

    1. Obstacle: The SQL export text file was too big to import
    2. Obstacle: The database value pointed to the wrong site URL