Taking back control

Super-busy this afternoon, so not much time to work on LUCY.  I did, however, discover a solution to a problem that has been bothering me for a few days.

I can’t remember exactly how it goes, but there’s this screenwriting tenet that basically advises the writer to not let the characters take over how the story progresses.  It’s up to me to steer things the way they’re supposed to go.

And when I was working on the handful of scenes I developed yesterday, I wasn’t the one in charge.  After I wrote out my little 1-2-sentence scene description, something felt…slightly off.  How would I get Lucy out of this set-up and closer to where I want/need her to be?  And didn’t we just finish up a thrilling action sequence?  There needs to be time to let the audience catch their breath.  I’m not Michael Bay, storming from one hard-to-tell-what’s-going-on sequence to the next.

I was NOT driving this bus, so to speak.

Although I was busy doing other stuff today, I used every chance I had to think about where I left off in the story and what was wrong with it.  It took a while, but I realized why I was stuck.

I had too much going on.  The story needed to slow down.  And since another screenwriting tenet is “kill your darlings,” that’s what I’m going to have to do with the couple of scenes I worked on yesterday.  While the idea of Lucy joining up with a wagon train of Mormons may seem brilliant now, I want to avoid falling into the trap of “then this happens, and then this, then this and then this…” and work more on making it “this happens, which leads to this, which leads to this, etc.”

Much as I dislike Robert McKee, he’s got a valid point with his rule that one scene should lead into the next; don’t just have things happen at random.

That’s what I need to focus on for the time being.  I’ve got a lot of ideas and potential happenings ready for this script, but I want it to flow along…organically.

Like no other scene could follow that one EXCEPT the one coming up next.

My work is so cut out for me.

Movie of the Moment:  It seems like HBO is running AVATAR every 5 minutes.  I saw it in the theatres and came out thinking DANCES WITH ALIENS.  Same plot, but very good in execution.  I turned it on today as the military is flying in to destroy the giant electric weeping willow.

Since she has no desire to see it, I briefly explained to K what was going on.  While the story was a bit on the familiar side, I really give Cameron credit for making it look fantastic.  It was fun playing ‘real or cg?’

It was also a little evident that this was made for 3-D.  There are lots of obligatory “in your face” shots, but watching it today I was reminded of how he uses it to make everything seem real.  The little floaty glow-in-the-dark mushroom/dandelion things.  Particles of dust in the air.  The 3-D is there to emphasize the scene, not cash in on a hopefully-dying trend.

Which could be why when you see ‘in 3-D” at the end of a trailer, chances are fairly high the audience will let out a collective groan.

Studios take note: 3-D only when necessary!

Oh, and original stories of interesting characters that don’t treat the audience like idiots.   Yeah, I know. Dream on, kid.

Not so fast, mental block!

Once again, my productivity levels go up when I’m supposed to be doing something else.

This time it was V’s hockey practice.  While my incredible child was working on stopping shots in goal, I sat in the stands with pen and paper, determined to get through the latest bout of writer’s block.

I think I’m on my way.

I managed to come up with an exciting end to a scene that originally seemed kind of boring.  I came up with a better way to introduce the infamous bounty hunter much earlier in the story; this also necessitates and hastens the inevitable rewriting of Act One.  Which is okay.

But I worry the focus on the main character is being drawn away by the ever-developing subplots.  Granted, some of the short scenes I was coming up with are very, very short, but it’s really important that the reader/viewer is always thinking “Will Lucy succeed?”, and especially when she’s NOT in the scene.  (Case in point: I think there’s one or two scenes in Back to the Future WITHOUT Marty McFly.)

So for now, I keep plugging away.  I’m hoping to get to the midpoint by the end of the year.  There are a few weekend shifts as part of that, so that will definitely help.

-A very big thanks to everybody who took a look at this blog over the past few days.  I had a whopping 19 (most ever!) people visit on Wednesday, and that’s a lot.  I hope you’re getting as much enjoyment out of reading this as I do in writing it.

And as always, comments and questions are highly encouraged.

-I haven’t had a chance to start reading my Black List scripts yet.  That may fall under that weekend category as well.  Either GANGSTER SQUAD or THE 13TH MAN will be first.

-While work on LUCY is chugging along (ooh, a train reference!), I keep forgetting I have these great notes on DREAMSHIP from the fine folks at www.scriptquack.com (highly recommended, but I don’t think they’ve put up my testimonial yet).  I’d really like to enter it in next year’s Nicholl, so I gotta get my ass in gear and get to work.  Looks like I may have to go the Stephen King route and work on each one on alternating days.

That’s right.  This never ends.

Goodbye progress!

And hello writer’s block!

I’m about 7 scenes into Act Two, and just couldn’t think of what happens next.  I hate that. I’ve got a few ideas, and I keep going over them in my head to determine whether they work or not.  Fortunately, this is not the first time this has happened, nor will it be the last.  I’ll work my way through it, but boy is it frustrating.

Even worse, I thought of a way to bring in my highly-awaited bounty hunter character, but until I figure out what happens to my protagonist, I can’t do anything with him.

Part of my problem is I overwrite when I’m still in the planning/outlining phase.  You’re supposed to know what the point of the scene is, or at least, what happens to advance the plot.  Sometimes I do, but more and more often, I go way beyond that.  I add snippets of dialogue.  I put in action.  One primary reason for doing so is I think of something that really helps the scene, and if I don’t write it down now, I’m going to forget about it later.

If I can contain myself enough, or at least self-edit, while I put each scene together, it may help move things along.

I’m also reminding myself to not let the story veer off in an unexpected direction that will change everything.  I know where I want to go, but need to stay focused in order to get there.

-I also got some very good notes on Act One from another writer friend.  He had some good suggestions regarding slightly changing a few things, including one I never thought of which would really help in condensing the story as well as speeding things up.

Tomorrow: back on track!

My take on the Black List

The Black List was released today.  That’s a list of the hottest unproduced screenplays floating around Hollywood; ironically, a lot of them are in the process of being produced.

The more a script is mentioned, the higher it’s ranked.  This year’s leader, COLLEGE REPUBLICANS, got 49 mentions.  I think JUNO was a high-ranking script a few years ago. (The script may have been popular, but I still say the movie sucked)

A friend downloaded EVERY SCRIPT from this year’s list and asked if I wanted the whole thing.  I had to look at the list first.  It’s 42MB, so not all of it.  I decided to cherry-pick which ones looked interesting to me.  Basically, all you’re working with is the title, the logline and the writer’s name.

I narrowed it down to 11, including GANGSTER SQUAD, about the LAPD vs the Mafia in the 40s, THE 13th man, where a WWII-era codebreaker discovers a secret code being sent through comic books, and ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER, which is based on the book.

What was very interesting while reading the descriptions of each script was the range of subjects.  Honestly, some of them sound just flat-out boring.  Haven’t we seen enough stories about aging hitmen, criminals out for one last score, women who will do anything to get their Mr Right, zombies, and other tired cliches?  However, a refreshing counter-argument to that last one is BOY SCOUTS VS ZOMBIES.

What a shame Hollywood is so afraid of originality (and writers who are good at it).

Writers are constantly being told to be original and come up with something new.  Then when they do and achieve success with it, it’s changed so drastically that everything that was cool and unique about it has been removed.  And then the moviegoing public complains about the same old dreck.

One of my guidelines for my scripts is “write something I would want to see.”  If the concept works, then the next step is making sure the story works.  That’s key.  If it doesn’t, then it’s a lost cause. It’s easy to make a bad movie from a good script (happens all the time), but you can’t make a good movie from the bad script.

While it would be nice to make it to the list, it’s more important to me the story works.

THEN they can heap praise and shitloads of money upon me.

A few steps forward

Just a handful of scenes on LUCY today. I’m trying to work out the transition from the opening of Act One to the page 45 twist.  It’s coming together.  Slowly.  Confidence levels still pointing upward.

I was able to fix my time problem by eliminating the California aspect completely and having it all take place in .  That Denver/Rockies climax still sounds pretty good.

-I got some good feedback regarding my 3 Stooges idea from yesterday.  The story is possible, but it would be difficult to avoid having it turn into a Stooge-ish comedy.  Consider this one officially backburnered.

Movie of the Moment: Nothing right now, but I got to see the trailer for next year’s THOR movie.  It looks okay, but there’s no sense of excitement or thrills I got from the first IRON MAN.  Where’s the powerful aura of gods on Earth?  Of an ages-old story that still holds up in modern times.  It’s Kenneth Branagh, for crying out loud!  I want Shakespearean drama from an Asgardian aspect!  So far, I ain’t seeing it.

-I think I’m officially done with entering the logline contest.  I didn’t win again this time, and I haven’t been very impressed with some of the recent winners.  Besides, I’d rather focus on LUCY and my other stuff anyway.

-Got a note from the director.  He says production is wrapped, and now he’s dealing with post.  No idea when it’ll be ready.  I wonder if he’ll follow through with the release party thing.  Hope so.