On… Milk Milk Lemonade

Everyone (including me) has been talking non-stop about the new season of Inside Amy Schumer, particularly because of this and this, but this song is just as brilliant, and I have been singing it nonstop for a week, so I figured I should share it with you guys.

Also, just because I keep telling people to look this up: one of the Chris Hemsworth bits from SNL a few months ago.

 

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On… research

I’m a research nerd.

When I got my very first job in advertising in London in my early 20s, I was totally clueless. And I knew it.

First, I panicked.

Then I read every industry book and magazine I could find. I wrote down advertising phrases I didn’t understand in meetings, and looked them up straightaway afterwards. I read this and this and this and this and this. I researched the last twenty years of major advertising awards to figure out which campaigns won, why they won, and who created them. It helped, in a million tiny ways, totally separate from any creative ability I had, to learn more about the world that I was trying to join. I understood it, and – not to sound even more nerdy – respected it. (Of course, by the end of my 20s, thought ‘why the hell am I trying to sell people shit they don’t need? I’d prefer to just entertain them’. But before that came research.)

Becoming an author was far more point-and-shoot: I was still working in advertising, decided to write a book when I hurt my back and was stuck at home, wrote three chapters, sent it to ten book agents I found on Google, got some replies, finished the book, and got a book deal with Harper Collins, all in just over a year. Obviously there was a lot of angst in that year too, but it didn’t take much research. I had a story and a voice and that’s all you really need.

Then at some point last year, as I was doing a screenplay rewrite for a producer and wondering how many rewrites happen and how many screenplays go unproduced and just what ARE the odds of a movie being made anyway, I realized I didn’t know much about the entertainment business. I mean, I know how it works theoretically, obviously. I love movies. I love television. I was as obsessed with watching (and re-watching and re-watching) old movies as any other shy, creative teenager with slight OCD. I’ve always read scripts for fun (particularly, and predictably, Nora Ephron, Richard Curtis and William Goldman). I read a zillion old movie star biographies when I was younger, because hello, Ingrid Bergman.

But I didn’t know much about the history, the people, the culture, the machine. The business of the business. I didn’t know it worked. It was an amorphous mass in my imagination: Hollywood. And I really hated feeling clueless again.

So I started to read. My OCD took over. I’ve tracked down dozens of in-and-out-of-print books about producers, directors, writers, agenting, movie deals – anything to do with the entertainment business. And I LOVE them. Some of the authors of these books – particularly some of the producers – I now think of with such affection and respect, they’re practically mentors. They just don’t know it. (I’m sure they’d be thrilled.) These books are inspiring and impressive – and almost always extremely entertaining. So in case you’re interested in this subject, too, let me save you some time: here are the 29 books that you might like to read.

(I read quite a few how-to books about writing for movies and TV years ago, of course, books like this and this and this - but really, you can read about writing forever but at some point you have to just fucking write. Then get sharp, incisive feedback from someone very smart, then rewrite and rewrite and rewrite.)

I’m probably still pretty clueless, but that’s okay. I’m getting there.

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41TPeODCEfL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ MV5BMTk4OTE1NTg0Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNjkzNjYyMQ@@._V1_SY317_CR5,0,214,317_AL_
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I know I’ve barely touched the surface, so if you think I’ve missed a great book, email gemma@gemmaburgess.com

Once I finished that last book, by the way, I craved fiction. So I read Persuasion, and am now reading Pride and Prejudice. I know, I know. Hearing about someone reading Jane Austen is so fucking annoying. Austen has totally jumped the shark in the past decade. But then when you get back to the books, she’s just that good – funny and intense and romantic and wise – that you don’t care. Read Pride and Prejudice again. It’s worth it.

 

 

 

 

 

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On… this year’s anniversary portrait

Every year on our anniversary, Fox and I go back to City Hall in NYC, where we got married, and take another photo outside. We did it again today, and this is the photo. Ned’s face kills me. And Errol refused to take off his shades.

 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is 2014.
anniversary2013b2013.

anniversary 2012

 

2012. (There was no 2011 as we didn’t live here yet, anyway I was pregnant with Errol so it would have been a photo of me throwing up.)

anniversary 2010

And this is the day we got mawwied in 2010.

 

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On… Amy Schumer, again

Okay, so this started as a post about Amy Schumer’s speech at the Gloria awards last year, but then I saw this and… I had to post about it, too. The world’s first-ever funny rape joke. Amy Schumer is a golden god.

Also, her speech is so brilliant that I stood up at my desk and gave her a standing ovation. Enjoy.

“Here I go, and if it doesn’t go well, please just don’t blog about it.

Right before I left for college, I was running my high school. Feel it. I knew where to park, I knew where to get the best chicken-cutlet sandwich, I knew which custodians had pot. People knew me. They liked me. I was an athlete and a good friend. I felt pretty, I felt funny, I felt sane. Then I got to college in Maryland. My school was voted number one … for the hottest freshman girls in Playboy that year. And not because of me. All of a sudden, being witty and charismatic didn’t mean shit. Day after day, I could feel the confidence drain from my body. I was not what these guys wanted. They wanted thinner, blonder, dumber … My sassy one-liners were only working on the cafeteria employees, who I was visiting all too frequently, tacking on not the Freshman 15, but the 30, in record-breaking time, which led my mother to make comments over winter break like, “You look healthy!” I was getting no male attention, and I’m embarrassed to say, it was killing me.

But one guy paid me some attention — Matt. Matt was six feet tall, he looked like a grown-up von Trapp child, and he was five years older than me. What?! An older boy, paying attention to me? I must be okay. Uff. I made him laugh in our bio lab, and I could tell a couple times that we had a vibe. He was a super senior, which is a sexy way of saying “should have graduated, but needed an extra year.” He barely spoke, which was perfect for all the projecting I had planned for him. We grew up in the same town, and getting attention from him felt like success. When I would see him on campus, my heart would race, and I would smile as he passed. I’d look in the mirror and see all the blood rise to my face. I’d spend time analyzing the interaction, and planning my outfit for the next time I saw him. I wanted him to call. He never called. But then finally, he called.

It was 8 a.m., my dorm room phone rang. “Amy, wassup? It’s Matt. Come over.” Holy shit! This is it, I thought.He woke up thinking about me! He realized we’re meant to start a life together! Let’s just stop all this pretending that we weren’t free just to love one another! I wondered, would we raise our kids in the town we both grew up in, or has he taken a liking to Baltimore? I don’t care. I’ll settle wherever he’s most comfortable. Will he want to raise our kids Jewish? Who cares? I shaved my legs in the sink, I splashed some water under my armpits, and my randomly assigned Albanian roommate stared at me from under her sheets as I rushed around our shitty dorm room. I ran right over to his place, ready for our day together. What would we do? It’s still early enough, maybe we’re going fishing? Or maybe his mom’s in town, and he wanted me to join them for breakfast. Knock-knock. Is he going to carry me over the threshold? I bet he’s fixing his hair and telling his mom, “Be cool, this may be the one!” I’ll be very sweet with her, but assert myself, so she doesn’t think she’s completely in charge of all the holiday dinners we’re going to plan together. I’ll call her by her first name, too, so she knows she can’t mess with me. “Rita! I’m going to make the green bean casserole this year, and that’s that!” Knock-knock. Ring ring. Where is he?

Finally, the door opens. It’s Matt, but not really. He’s there, but not really. His face is kind of distorted, and his eyes seem like he can’t focus on me. He’s actually trying to see me from the side, like a shark. “Hey!” he yells, too loud, and gives me a hug, too hard. He’s fucking wasted. I’m not the first person he thought of that morning. I’m the last person he called that night. I wonder, how many girls didn’t answer before he got to fat freshman me? Am I in his phone as Schumer? Probably. But I was here, and I wanted to be held and touched and felt desired, despite everything. I wanted to be with him. I imagined us on campus together, holding hands, proving, “Look! I am lovable! And this cool older guy likes me!” I can’t be the troll doll I’m afraid I’ve become.

He put on some music, and we got in bed. As that sexy maneuver where the guy pushes you on the bed, you know, like, “I’m taking the wheel on this one. Now I’m going to blow your mind,” which is almost never followed up with anything. He smelled like skunk microwaved with cheeseburgers, which I planned on finding and eating in the bathroom, as soon as he was asleep. We tried kissing. His 9 a.m. shadow was scratching my face — I knew it’d look like I had fruit-punch mouth for days after. His alcohol-swollen mouth, I felt like I was being tongued by someone who had just been given Novocain. I felt faceless, and nameless. I was just a warm body, and I was freezing cold. His fingers poked inside me like they had lost their keys in there. And then came the sex, and I use that word very loosely. His penis was so soft, it felt like one of those de-stress things that slips from your hand? So he was pushing aggressively into my thigh, and during this failed penetration, I looked around the room to try and distract myself or God willing, disassociate. What’s on the wall? A Scarface poster, of course. Mandatory. Anything else? That’s it? This Irish-Catholic son of bank teller who played JV soccer and did Mathletes feels the most connection with a Cuban refugee drug lord. The place looked like it was decorated by an overeager set designer who took the note “temporary and without substance” too far.

He started to go down on me. That’s ambitious, I think. Is it still considered getting head if the guy falls asleep every three seconds and moves his tongue like an elderly person eating their last oatmeal? Chelsea? Is it? Yes? It is. I want to scream for myself, “Get out of here, Amy. You are beautiful, you are smart, and worth more than this. This is not where you stay.” I feel like Fantine and Cosette and every fucking sad French woman from Les Miz. And whoever that cat was who sang “Memories,” what was that musical? Suze Orman just goes, “Cats.” The only wetness between my legs is from his drool, because he’s now sleeping and snoring into me. I sigh, I hear my own heartbreak, I fight back my own tears, and then I notice a change in the music. Is this just a bagpipe solo? I shake him awake. “Matt, what is this? The Braveheart soundtrack? Can you put something else on, please?” He wakes up grumpily, falls to the floor, and crawls. I look at his exposed butt crack, a dark, unkempt abyss that I was falling into. I felt paralyzed. His asshole is a canyon, and this was my 127 Hours. I might chew my arm off.

I could feel I was losing myself to this girl in this bed. He stood up and put a new CD on. “Darling, you send me, I know you send me, honest, you do …” I’m thinking, “What is this?” He crawled back into bed, and tried to mash at this point his third ball into my vagina. On his fourth thrust, he gave up and fell asleep on my breast. His head was heavy and his breath was so sour, I had to turn my head so my eyes didn’t water. But they were watering anyway, because of this song. Who is this? This is so beautiful. I’ve never heard these songs before. They’re gutting me. The score attached to our morning couldn’t have been more off. His sloppy, tentative lovemaking was certainly not in the spirit of William Wallace. And now the most beautiful love songs I’ve ever heard play out as this man-boy laid in my arms, after diminishing me to a last-minute booty call. I listened to the songs and I cried. I was looking down at myself from the ceiling fan. What happened to this girl? How did she get here? I felt the fan on my skin and I went, “Oh, wait! I am this girl! We got to get me out of here!” I became my own fairy godmother. I waited until the last perfect note floated out, and escaped from under him and out the door. I never heard from Matt again, but felt only grateful for being introduced to my new self, a girl who got her value from within her. I’m also grateful to Matt for introducing me to my love Sam Cooke, who I’m still with today.

Now I feel strong and beautiful. I walk proudly down the streets of Manhattan. The people I love, love me. I make the funniest people in the country laugh, and they are my friends. I am a great friend and an even better sister. I have fought my way through harsh criticism and death threats for speaking my mind. I am alive, like the strong women in this room before me. I am a hot-blooded fighter and I am fearless. But I did morning radio last week, and a DJ asked, “Have you gained weight? You seem chunkier to me. You should strike while the iron is hot, Amy.” And it’s all gone. In an instant, it’s all stripped away. I wrote an article for Men’s Healthand was so proud, until I saw instead of using my photo, they used one of a 16-year-old model wearing a clown nose, to show that she’s hilarious. But those are my words. What about who I am, and what I have to say? I can be reduced to that lost college freshman so quickly sometimes, I want to quit. Not performing, but being a woman altogether. I want to throw my hands in the air, after reading a mean Twitter comment, and say, “All right! You got it. You figured me out. I’m not pretty. I’m not thin. I do not deserve to use my voice. I’ll start wearing a burqa and start waiting tables at a pancake house. All my self-worth is based on what you can see.” But then I think, Fuck that. I am not laying in that freshman year bed anymore ever again. I am a woman with thoughts and questions and shit to say. I say if I’m beautiful. I say if I’m strong. You will not determine my story — I will. I will speak and share and fuck and love and I will never apologize to the frightened millions who resent that they never had it in them to do it. I stand here and I am amazing, for you. Not because of you. I am not who I sleep with. I am not my weight. I am not my mother. I am myself. And I am all of you, and I thank you.”

Yup. She’s the best.

If you haven’t watched Amy Schumer’s show yet, then get the hell off my blog and go watch it – Season 3 starts tonight – and prepare for Trainwreck, because it’s going to be your favorite movie this summer.

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On…. careers and children: the perfect combination

From NYMag.com this week:

“Why try to have “it all” at all? Here’s why: Because having a great career is the best and having babies is fucking incredible and having both is AMAZING, and no I’m not kidding, not even a little bit.

Ah. My God. I love this woman. Polly, whoever the hell you are, we need to meet.

 

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On… a movie deal

If you’re my buddy on Instagram (and if not, why not? Come now, let’s be friends – it’s a private account, but basically, unless I used to date you, I’ll totally accept you) then you already know this, but…

I have a movie deal with New Regency.

I’ve been waiting to share the details, so here they are: I went to LA at the end of last year with a production company called Locomotive (the marvelous people who brought you Friends With Kids) and pitched an idea to a big studio called New Regency (the marvelous people who brought you Birdman, Gone Girl, 12 Years A Slave and many many other incredible life-changing movies including PRETTY WOMAN. YES. I KNOW. ME TOO) and… they liked it. So they bought it.

And now I’m writing it. I won’t tell you the whole plot now, because why spoil the fun?… but it’s an idea I’ve been kicking around since last summer, and you know the cut of my jib by now: funny, real women being funny n real n stuff…. (SEE? That level of communication skill is what makes me a writer.) More details to come.

 

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On… Playing It Cool

Totally seeing this.

 

 

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On… covers

I haven’t posted about covers in a while. Partly because I’ve been working on movie stuff and haven’t had time, but also because I just don’t think about them much anymore. Covers are something that you completely lose your mind about with your first book, and learn to shrug off with approximately two seconds thought by the time you hit no.4. (Ditto publicity. Ditto distribution. Ditto reviews. You can’t control it, so don’t worry about it. Just start your next project. Far more productive. Everything will be fine. And so on.)

I loathed my first cover, it looked like the kind of book I’d be embarrassed to read in public. I only wrote the damn book on a whim so that girls like me and my friends could read something funny about love that wasn’t stupid, and here I was, with an incredibly stupid cover. I kept thinking ‘but… my book is so much cooler than that’. Didn’t matter: that year in the UK, all the light contemporary fiction books written by women had cartoon covers with a dickish girl sporting a red coat and a jaunty leg kick, and so it was for me. (I got a hand in the US cover, which I like very much.)

Anyway, now that I’ve had five books published in the UK and the US, as well as in German, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Polish, Lithuanian and Slovakian, I just enjoy covers, and everything else book-related, with a sort of benevolent detachment. Once I’ve written the books, I love them, but they’re no longer mine, and I don’t really worry about them again. (I know some people say their books are like their babies, but dude, now that I have babies, I know that’s not true. Books are books. Babies are your heart.)

The US covers of the Brooklyn Girls series are terrific. I was unusually involved in this cover process, thanks to my lovely editor. I suggested we try something that looked a bit like an Instagram picture crossed with a Richard Linklater movie still, so we did, and they’re perfect. (Okay, so the middle one is a leetle streetwalkery, but what are you gonna do.)

the_wild_one      brooklyngirls_us      loveandchaos_us

The UK covers of the series are also great – reminiscent of posters for a TV series, which I like, and the girls have attitude. (Third cover coming soon).

brooklyngirls_uk      loveandchaos_uk

Dutch covers are cool, like Dutch people. You can tell this girl is a teeny weeny bit stoned, about 6.1″ and will probably have a home birth one day. I am waiting to see the next Dutch covers. If anyone can find them, shoot them my way.

dutch_1

Polish covers are incredibly damn stylish. Especially the first one, with the girl looking out of the cab. She’s adorable.

dziewczyny_po      polish_2

German covers are a little kooky. Why is she chasing men with a butterfly net? Why is the Indian protagonist suddenly white? Why are there boys in a tree and why is she wearing red rainboots? Why not. Don’t ever change, Germany.

gluckssalat      derletztesingle      mannerfrei

Spanish covers are a little surreal. As though Bridget Jones wandered into a Pedro Almodovar movie.

spanish_2       spanish_1

And… we shall have to wait for Italian, Lithuanian and Slovak covers, as I don’t have them yet. Can’t wait. I hope the Italian cover is all bunga-bunga-esque.

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