RIP Harold Ramis

I often wonder if there was a comedy void in the 1970s and 1980s. I don’t know much about that time (I have a bit of an excuse- I wasn’t alive for a bunch of it). But I do know that, as a child, comedies seemed like they really got very good sometime in the early 80s. We had a VCR and VHS tapes were rented and bought with all sorts of funny stories to watch. Aside from old Disney cartoons, we didn’t have a frame of “children’s entertainment” in the house, either.

I remember how much I loved Ghostbusters, in particular. I often had tea parties and silly adventures with my Slimer and Stay Puft toys. Ghostbusters was not very scary and a bit sci-fi and it was really funny. It was perfect. For me, anyway

I saw Ghostbusters again really recently- I remember seeing it pop up on a hotel room TV somewhere. I was exhausted- too tired to even find the remote. So I just left it on. I thought I’d fall asleep, anyway. But I watched it all the way through. And I still loved every frame of it.

I had seen it relatively recently on the big screen as well. The awesome program TIFF ran in Toronto all throughout last summer- TOGA! The Reinvention of American Comedy– featured talks with folks like Ivan Reitman and John Landis. TIFF threw out the welcome mat to everyone, to enjoy the simple beauty and silly slapstickery of these films on the big screen. For me, I was having a lousy summer, and holding those precious admissions in my hand kept me looking forward to the next week, the next talk and screening. It made me feel a little more normal, a little more connected, than I had felt in a while.

There was Animal House and Stripes, Caddyshack and Meatballs. And my beloved Ghostbusters, which didn’t really seem to age all that much, or all that badly. I admit, maybe my big kid heart was still hanging on to it too tightly. But Ghostbusters, and all the other movies on that list, still seem tinged with timelessness to me.

And I admit, because I have to say it out loud, that my first thought when I read the headline about the sudden passing of Harold Ramis early yesterday was “That’s the end of Ghostbusters 3”. Harold Ramis, who I loved as Egon and grew to appreciate as a funny and fearlessly sharp writer and director, was just gone. No long goodbye. No Ghostbusters 3. I’m selfish and horrible for even thinking it, I know, especially because I got so much benefit from this very one-sided relationship already.

Harold Ramis made us laugh. He made me laugh, which was never an easy task. And, as selfish as I am, I don’t just miss him. I miss all the movies I wish he’d made…

Sorry, Venkman. I’m terrified beyond the capacity for rational thought.

PS: This was the illustration for last year’s TIFF TOGA! program done by my friend and brilliant artist Deena Pagliarello. Check out her Tumblr for more sketches and concepts from it as well.

 

Note To NWI Comic Con Attendees: We Want To Give You Free Stuff

This is the weekend it all begins…

If you attended the NWI comic con this weekend, chances are good you’ll get a free download of a top-secret new comic. (Of course, if you attended NWI and didn’t get the offer, get in touch and I’ll make sure to add you to the distribution list.)

Our comic is, in fact, so top secret that we’re not ready to show it off just yet. Your d/l code is good forever, though, so please check back here, on Facebook and/or on our main site (fearthesyndicate.com) and we’ll get it to you FIRST!

Toronto is up next! Oh yes it is… Details to follow.

And, as always, if there’s a con/event/big ole shindig you would like to see us at, just give us a shout. We want to be EVERYWHERE.

It begins. IT BEGINS!

The Weekend Reader – February 21ish

First and foremost, a late addition (but a welcome one). Chelsea Handler gave us all a reason to love her even more. Read No One Puts Baby in Parentheses RIGHT NOW

Once you’re done with that, don’t worry, there’s lots more to read:

BUT WHAT ABOUT LIAM NEESONS, THO?

(Have a great weekend everyone!)

Colour And Gender-Blind Casting… What’s The Real Issue?

Ladies and gentlemen, lock up your internets!

Someone made the mistake of announcing the cast of a comic book movie.*

To quote the great Ben Affleck: “NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!”**

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Reaction has been… er, mixed. (HA HA. NO PUN INTENDED.)

As an aside, I would like to take this time to come really, intensely clean on this topic. I generally don’t care who gets cast in what. Anything can happen between casting and opening weekend. The only time I have ever really been openly peeved about casting was when they announced casting for…

Captain America.***

And I was wrong about that. I was so wrong. I could literally not have been any wrong-er and survived until now. I am still sorry. Chris Evans won me over… In approximately 38 seconds.

It bothers me to this day that I was so judgmental and harsh on a process I wasn’t privy to or involved in. I had no idea what was going to happen, and I still felt the need to complain. Loudly.

But it seems no one really admits to this wrongheadedness- before, during or after filming.

Especially the pseudo-trolls. Listen, I know enough to not read comments on the world wide web but, wow, I’ve been feeling like I can’t get away from them in the last 24 hours. The biggest online complaint?

Michael B. Jordan isn’t white.

Usually followed up with “Now, I’m not a racist, but…”

Oooookay.

The mighty Mister Jordan (from my favourite movie of 2013, Fruitvale Station) will supposedly be playing Johnny Storm, brother of Sue Storm. Sue Storm, if you believe the hype, is to be played by Kate Mara.

Most of the online chatter seems to emanate from the fact that the two don’t look closely related… But, as many others have countered, Jessica Alba and (in a strange coincidence) Chris Evans didn’t look enough alike to play siblings in the previous incarnation of the FF. Nor were the two actors even of the same ethnicity/background.

“Now, I’m not a racist, but…”

Oh, wait, I got ahead of myself. Did I mention that The Fantastic Four is A STORY ABOUT PEOPLE WHO GO TO SPACE AND COME BACK WITH SUPER POWERS?

I won’t go into detail (the backstory is on Wikipedia if you’re not familiar) but, yeah, this is the root of the story we’re talking about. Based on this, why would anyone argue about who’s not supposed to black or not supposed to be a woman?

Oh, yeah, also forgot that the main FF villain might be re-imagined as a woman. Though to some, a female Doctor Doom is still less credible than A STORY ABOUT PEOPLE WHO GO TO SPACE AND COME BACK WITH SUPER POWERS?

Wait, ladies can be DOCTORS?! When did that happen, y’all?

OK, it’s now serious time. Please listen to my plea, nerds, geeks, fans and lovers of comics and movies and everyone in between, however you may self-identify:

I am one of you. I hear you. I really do. You love these people and you love their story they way it was first told to you. You want them to be exactly the way you’ve always known them to be. You are invested in these characters and what becomes of them.

Being against change, in the context of any form of fandom, makes total sense.

But it doesn’t change the fact that what you’re ultimately advocating is really against the spirit of the characters and, honestly, the medium itself.

I’m not going to speak on behalf of Stan Lee, co-creator of The Fantastic Four. I’ll let him speak for himself:

“For just this once, I would do the type of story I myself would enjoy reading…. And the characters would be the kind of characters I could personally relate to: they’d be flesh and blood, they’d have their faults and foibles, they’d be fallible and feisty, and — most important of all — inside their colorful, costumed booties they’d still have feet of clay.” -Stan Lee (Also, ironically, a quote reused on the FF Wikipedia page.)

The characters in The Fantastic Four were created to allow readers to enjoy the adventures of people they could identify with. People can read the stories and see themselves in them. That’s what the best comics do, after all.

So, can we allow the next generation to have the same experience? Maybe even do it up a bit better? Can we expand the mirror image of characters to blacks and hispanics and women and minorities of all shapes, sizes and stripes? Why can’t Donald Glover be Spiderman? Why can’t Sam Jackson be Nick Fury? Why can’t Idris Elba be Heimdall?

Why can’t Kate Mara and Michael B. Jordan be siblings?

Why can’t we expand the characters we love to encompass other realities and make new fans feel mirrored and welcome in spaces that have always been safe for white boys? Why can’t women see real representatives of themselves in comics? Why can’t people of colour be whoever they want to be in comics? Why can’t we, when it comes to casting the films, be open enough to re-imagine the characters we love into something new?

Why can’t we be generous enough to transform art we love into a gateway for someone else to enjoy it as much as we do?

Any story, even one re-imagined with a black superhero, blended family and a female villain, shouldn’t be more foreign to any of us than A STORY ABOUT PEOPLE WHO GO TO SPACE AND COME BACK WITH SUPER POWERS.

Just a thought.

*Based on the Variety article, this doesn’t necessarily seem to be firm casting. (Offers seem to still be pending for just about everyone.) Are these notices leaked to try and scare off talent? It scared that guy off 50 Shades.

**No disrespect to Ben Affleck.

***No disrespect to Chris Evans. I owe that man a beer. Or a case. Or, honestly, a brewery. (Or a Wahlburgers franchise? I’m open to negotiations on this.)

The Up And Downsides Of Women Writers And Step One Of How To Be The Change

The upsides?  The Black Board and Go Into The Story have been keeping the issue of diversity in screenwriting top of mind. This is a great thing. If you don’t regularly read/post to those, they are great screenwriting resources.

In fact, Go Into The Story recently had a post about female screenwriters and for names of female screenwriters to further the discussion. Feel free to go over there and add to the list. A few off the top of my head:

  • Aline Brosh McKenna
  • Tina Fey
  • Katie Dippold
  • Annie Mumlo
  • Terri Edda Miller
  • Shonda Rhimes
  • Jane Espenson
  • Dana Fox
  • Vanessa Taylor
  • Greta Gerwig
  • Amy Jump
  • Melissa Stack
  • Melisa Wallack
  • Maggie Carrey
  • Nia Vardalos
  • Lake Bell
  • Dee Rees
  • Emma Thompson
  • Julie Delpy
  • Nicole Holofcenre
  • Rashida Jones
  • Jennifer Lee
  • Jennifer Westfeldt
  • Everyone who made The Athena List this year

(By the way, if you start typing in female screenwriters into Google, you’ll get “female serial killers” as a recommend first. Nooooice.)

There are more screenwriters than these. Lots more. And the best way I can think of for any writer to get attention is genuine old-school hype. Anyone can be a hype machine for female writers. I think women are lacking in hype. So, that’s an easy fix.

For outlets like Go Into The Story who talk to filmmakers , whenever you interview a female writer, ask her about other writers she loves. I imagine that should lead to more writers who deserving of the attention. And so on. Writers are talking about this in all kinds of forums, including Done Deal Pro. That’s a great thing.

Every little bit helps.

The not-as-far-upside? I’ve noticed an… interesting trend. I get the hype emails from The Black List (not the weekly pro versions but the general hype ones for all members that are published biweekly… I think?) There haven’t been many of them as of yet, and I do think the email is an awesome idea… but haven’t all the hyped scripts been written by men?

I am a big fan of The Black List and this doesn’t feel like anything deliberately structured to exclude women, but it’s still tough to understand. Is the quantity (or quality) just not there? I feel like the deals and the folks who’ve gotten attention from the (let’s call it non-industry) BL have generally been men. Feel free to correct any of this- I don’t have any stats in front of me…

I feel like this is a good time to expand on where I’m coming from a little bit, and a couple of reasons why I’m hyper-aware about any/all of this. I don’t like to talk about my personal experiences much. I’ve lived a life that I’ve really enjoyed, though it’s probably woefully boring to many. But you need to understand a tiny bit about me at this point. So, here goes.

First, a crazy fact: When each of my grandmothers was born, continuing even past the time they were old enough to marry, they were not people. The law didn’t recognize them as human beings. Think about that, just for one second. My parents’s mothers couldn’t vote, drive, choose a vocation or living arrangements. A short century ago, women like me (and any woman reading this right now) existed only as property.

Kaboom.

Honestly, I can’t even fathom this. This is not even a thought that registers in my brain. I was always told I could do anything if I worked hard enough. I believed that. I don’t even think I grasped gender inequality as a concept for a very long time.

I admit, I was extremely lucky- I certainly didn’t experience any kind of treatment that registered as institutional gender inequality until I was in my 20s.

But, when it happened, it washed a tint over my whole understanding of life. It became the horror you cannot unsee.

It started off innocently enough. An upper-level manager at a part-time job made a comment to my manager that I didn’t smile enough. Weird, right? I did a good job- I was helpful, efficient and polite. Lots of customers and those I’d worked with had communicated to management how happy they were with me. I was further confused because the men who worked there were far more dour than I. They hardly smiled, but they got better shifts. They got more and better hours, and promotions to management. And I was still being berated at every turn for things no one could ever properly explain, as were many of the other women who worked there.

Being oblivious as I was then, I set up a meeting with the manager in question to ask how he thought I could improve. The issues he was raising about me were getting worse, though no one else noticed these things. His advice? Go out and get another job, get more experience, and come back and work in another department. That was his advice. Not joking.

I was already the most experienced worker there by far, but it took that meeting for me to finally understand- I was never going to be treated equally. The men were treated well across the board. The women were not. That’s how it was and everyone knew it. Still, I fought against it, and it took a ton of discriminatory action against me before I finally walked away from that toxicity.

That is certainly turn-of-the-century behaviour but, you’d hope, not turn of the 21st century. Keep in mind, this happened in the 2000s. Still, I thought to myself that’s got to be an aberration. That’s one person in one place.

But moving into a string of big-deal corporate jobs did not help that viewpoint, unfortunately. I think back to two different corporate-type female managers I’d had during that time, and I better understand their poor-management paranoia now. Their incompetencies were constantly magnified through the lens of their gender, and they may have wondered privately (as often as those around them openly did) if they were promoted into their position because they were legacy hires, or diversity hires, or because they were easily manipulated yes-people who were sleeping their way to the middle. Their gender never had anything to do with their paucity of management ability, but their own fear of how they arrived at their position might have done them in.

Though, in the ironic twist to end all ironic twists, it was none of these things that started me down the road that begins and ends here at The Twelve Percent. It was my last 9-5 (as of this writing, at least), that was fronted with the look of progress but was grotesquely sexist under the surface. That was my last step before this one.

It was a place where plenty of women worked, but all the managers were men. The vendors were all men. The leaders and innovators were all men. I was told I was intimidating, but it wasn’t my fault, because “some cultures just don’t respect women”. I lost count of how many times I ran into a woman either crying or raging in a semi-private space at that job, upset that they were not being treated fairly.

My memory is probably faulty on the timing, but I recall it as if it all hit me at once- Why on earth is a 21st century corporation run entirely by men? Why are women still so expectantly ghettoed into talking about spas and nail polish so frequently? Why is someone treating me, a dependable and hard worker with nearly twenty years of editorial experience, like I’m the group secretary because I’m the only woman in this department?

What on earth is going on?

After telling you all this, I’m not going to lie now- it was this job that finally shattered my heart. I thought I had found the place I would spend a massive chunk of the height of my editorial career. Instead, it was the place where my 9-5 life ended. I threw myself into writing screenplays and comics, and I put my house up for sale. I got used to being (very) broke and that some of my so-called friends were suddenly nowhere to be found. I decided that if I was going to be treated like a failure, I would at least give myself a job that would allow me to fail fairly. On my own terms.

So, being totally honest, even if screenwriting ends up being the most sexist, vile, worst of the worst place to be… Well, it won’t be. I’ve seen things go wrong, and it hasn’t killed me just yet. I’ll keep looking for the upsides and finding ways to be the change.

I don’t think we need to wait for two more generations to pass until we realize how far we still need to go. It doesn’t matter if it; a hill or a mountain, you can still make progress with every single step.

Hillary Crosley Says What We Are All Thinking (AKA WE ARE NOT IDIOTS)

Forgive me if this sounds a bit all over the place, but I’m still recovering from reading this:

Hollywood Promises Female Director forExpendaBelles, Hires Man

And, admittedly, that is not shocking. Not even a little. Happens all the time. I’m still working my way to the WTF??!!!!!??? part.

Oh. Here it is! A Synopsis:

When America’s Navy SEALs are wiped out trying to penetrate the island lair of a deadly despot who has captured one of the world’s top nuclear scientists, it becomes clear that there is no such thing as the right man for the job and that this is a mission so impossible that only women can handle it. The only way in: some of the world’s deadliest female operatives must pose as high-class call-girls shipped in by private plane to satisfy a dictator–and instead save the scientist and the day.

Oh. Wow.

The plot of the ExpendaBelles (which is a classy enough title alone, let’s face it) has the kick-ass heroes posing AS HIGH-CLASS CALL GIRLS. Folks, the shitty run-on sentence in the middle of that shit idea DOES NOT HELP IT. AT ALL.

WE CAN STILL SEE WHAT YOU’RE DOING. WE ARE NOT IDIOTS.

Ask yourself- has a hero male in an action flick EVER posed as a prostitute? LITERALLY, EVER!? DID I MISS SOMETHING?!

You wanna know what’s wrong with women in movies. THIS. THIS IS IT. We can do better. We have to. We are half the population. We cannot seriously be spoon feeding this shit to our daughters, our sisters, our mothers. No more. Tired of it. Done.

Listen to @MysteryExec already. It’s time. Be The fucking Change.

The Weekend Reader February 14! HAPPY LOVE DAY!

Enjoy it while it lasts, because we all know what happens after Love Day:

Lots of (random) links today:

 

I treat this time of year like Thanksgiving- I spend a lot of time thinking about what makes me happy and what I can do for others. So, just because it’s Love Day, here are (very random) things you’ll love:

And me? What do I love? I love you guys. You’re all such awesome creatures- throwing yourselves against the walls, trying to knock ’em down and let more of us in. Keep working hard. Keep accomplishing great things that seem impossible. And keep being excellent to each other along the way. 

Terry Gilliam Says What We Are All Thinking

“But you know, growing up in the San Fernando valley out there in the hills, with friends whose parents worked in the film business, I wanted to get in there and make movies. It wasn’t about directing. See I don’t think of myself as a director, in my mind I’m a filmmaker—there’s a difference. A director makes a script that’s given to him, I just want to make this thing that is in my head, and whatever job is required to do that, I will do that job.”

— Terry Gilliam “My Life in Eight Movies” (via Indiewire)

Olympic News We Love: Gus Kenworthy Wins The Olympics (And Puppies)

So many inspiring stories have come out of this year’s Winter Olympic Games. This is one of those, but with puppies:

 

Ladies and Gentlemen, Gus Kenworthy has just won all the Olympics. We now return you to your regular programming.