I get by with a little help from…

I had a good talk today with a friend of mine from our old writing group.  The new group hasn’t met since February, despite word from the organizer that “she’s working on it.”  So my friend and I reconnected, and it was nice.

We each described what we were working on; me and the rewrite, her and her new story idea.  Then we talked about what we’ve seen lately, and talked about possibly bringing back another former member.

I don’t know how many writers like me take part in a writing group, but if you don’t, you really should.  And if there aren’t any around, try starting one.  Craigslist is a good place to start.

It’s like a support group made up of people just like you. The skill levels are for the most part equal, and confidence levels adjust with each meeting.  Being part of one has been incredibly beneficial to me.  I get feedback on my work, and give feedback to others.  It’s really played a significant part of helping me become a better writer.

-I worked the midday shift yesterday, and was making some good progress on the rewrite, but then there was a fatality around the halfway mark, so I kind of had to focus on all that work stuff.  Which was probably for the better.  Especially with the GM constantly coming in to ask questions.

I also made the decision to cut out a part of the story I still love, only because it  wasn’t really working in the overall scheme of things.  On a positive note, this forces me to think of an alternative idea, which will most likely be more effective than before.

-Question time! Is 8 1/2 too young to watch RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK? Today was the last day of school, and K suggested we celebrate by watching it as a family.  I wasn’t sure if it would be too scary.  Your thoughts?  Experiences?  And let’s avoid the ‘depends on the child’ argument.

Once upon a time…

A rainy morning equals me staying later at work, which means less time to do my own stuff.

So before I sat down at the producer’s desk, I knew I wanted to finally read a script picked from several a friend had sent earlier this year.

I chose SNOW WHITE & THE HUNTSMAN by Evan Daugherty, mostly because it sounded interesting, and I knew it was in production.  What I didn’t know was that it was a spec script that sold for $1.5 million.  For that much cash, it must be an incredible piece of work.

It’s a clever take/spin on the traditional Snow White story, except here Snow is on the run from the Wicked Queen, and the dwarves are supporting characters lifted straight out of LORD OF THE RINGS who don’t come in until about halfway through.

Basically, the Queen uses alchemy and a little magic to keep herself young and beautiful, but no matter what she does, Snow will always be the fairest in the land.  Snow runs, but the Queen recruits the Huntsman to bring her back.  This goes off without a hitch, but ends with Snow and the Huntsman on the run.

They endure several sequences of adventures, getting away from comic relief in the form of bounty hunters, and each growing a little as characters, which is expected.

The whole thing ends with all the characters done wrong by the Queen attacking the castle while the subplot involving the Queen marrying the brutal king of a nearby kingdom reaches its conclusion.  I can’t remember what happens to that king, so I may go back and re-read it.

I liked the idea of the Magic Mirror having a more human appearance, but didn’t understand why it fought for the Queen during the aforementioned battle.  The concept of fairies as mercenaries was clever, but they were only in one sequence (attacking the dwarves’ den). It’s almost as if Daugherty thought of a few ideas connected to fairy tales, and tried to incorporate as many of them as he could into the story.

Overall, I enjoyed it.  It was easy to follow the story, and there’s definitely a strong sense of adventure throughout the whole thing.  Because of that, I was paying more attention to how it went from one sequence to the next, rather than
as a whole.

I wasn’t sure what to make of how Daugherty did that.  First Snow and the Huntsman are getting away from the bounty hunters at a humongous waterfall, which they go over, then all of a sudden they’re emerging onto an icy tundra-like environment.  It’s like he had each sequence planned out, then just went from one to the next.  I wonder if those transitions could have been smoother, or maybe a little more smoothed out.

The writing itself was pretty good, but not as “wow”-inducing as I was expecting.  Sometimes it almost seemed sloppy.  A scene where Snow and the Huntsman take on the Queen’s guards is over before it begins; something like “within moments, they are the only ones left standing.”  Part of the story is Snow getting the Huntsman to train her to survive in the wild, and this is the big payoff.  It should have been a little more fleshed out.

From what I could find, this is scheduled for release next year with THOR’s Chris Hemsworth as the Huntsman, TWILIGHT’s Kristen Stewart as Snow White and Charlize Theron as the Queen.  The only one I’m not sure about is Stewart.  Will she be believable as a princess turned warrior/survivalist?

I can see getting this through Netflix, but not paying to see it in the theatre.

-Movie of the Moment – SUMMER WARS, an anime from 2009.

Imagine the Internet, but on a much grander scale, with practically every aspect of life controlled on it or through it.

Now imagine an AI program made exclusively to hack programs taking control and basically screwing up the way the world runs.

In other words, Facebook has turned evil and is out to destroy the world!  I realize some people already feel this way, but this is just a bit different.  And it’s set in Japan.

Oh, and the only three people who can stop it just happen to be in the same place at the same time.

This was a fun and brilliant combination of standard Japanese animation (a family reunion of sorts for the matriarch’s 90th birthday at their country house) and eye-catching CG (almost everything set in the virtual world).

Basic set-up: girl asks two computer geek friends if one will help her with something, which turns out to be posing as her boyfriend/fiancee at her great-grandmother’s party.  The boy who goes is also a math whiz.

One of the cousins is the best gamer in this virtual world, and the black sheep uncle created the hacking program, which the US military decided to test, but soon lost control of, and now the program is running amok and has taken over almost half a billion accounts.  See? Just like Facebook.

The three must work together in order to stop the evil program from not only basically taking over the Internet, but dropping a satellite onto a nuclear power plant, resulting in the death of much of humanity.

And you thought all the Japanese ever fought were giant monsters attacking Tokyo.

While I prefer to watch foreign films in their original language, I went with the English version for this one.  No reason; just felt like it.  But it’s always weird to hear Western voices talking with a Japanese sensibility. I think it adds to the charm.

Break out the party hats

This is my 200th post since starting this blog two years ago.  That’s a lot.

I’ve certainly enjoyed writing it.  When I first started, I was really bad about posting, then hardly posted at all. For months at a time.  K would occasionally ask “Did you write something on your blog today?” I would grumble some kind of response, then feel guilty for doing so, then feel even more guilty for not writing anything.

What kind of writer doesn’t want to write?

I decided to try and post on a much more regular basis sometime last July.  I couldn’t do every day, but maybe 3-4 times a week.  I figured if I could do this, then there’d be no reason I couldn’t do more script stuff as well.

It seemed to work.

Although I abandoned my attempt at comedy, I came up with what I consider a great idea for my next script, and decided to go through with the rewrite of a previous script.  It’s been fun.

I’ve tried to keep the topics interesting, even though I usually end up talking about my progress.  Hopefully it hasn’t bored you too much.

It’s also been a real kick to write about scripts I’ve read, or films I’ve seen.  There are so mnay great examples of each out there, and I love finding them all.  Suggestions or recommendations are always welcome.

Sure, there are lots of other screenwriting blogs, many of which get a lot more hits and traffic than mine, but I don’t mind.  I enjoy documenting my progress, ruminating on any number of random subjects, and occasionally opening a window into the non-writing parts of my life.

I hope you’ve enjoyed it as well, and thanks for coming along.

Location, location, location!

I can’t explain it, but I think trying to work/write in a traditional setting is counterproductive.

When I do the midday traffic reports and am firmly planted in the studio, I’m practically gushing with creativity.  Sitting in the bleachers at the ice rink while V has hockey practice, I can get past a scene that’s been bothering me for a few days.  Today while V had her dentist’s appointment, and I’m sitting in the parental waiting area, I came up with a sequence that perfectly fits into my first ten pages.

When I sit anywhere inside our place, such as at the desk or at the dining room table, I get nothing. Zilch. Nada. A big fat goose egg.

Which leads me back to my opening line.

I’m going to have to figure out the best way to take advantage of this newfound enlightenment.  I can’t afford to hang out in a coffee shop, even if I get tea, so that’s out.  San Francisco has a bit of a homeless problem, so sitting on a public or park bench is also not a great choice.

There are two public libraries nearby, and finding an empty seat or table is usually pretty easy, so those are maybes.

But with the weather turning nicer, I keep returning to one spot that may be ideal.  Our place has a very small deck off the dining room.  About 5 by 12, with very high frosted glass walls.  If it’s a nice day, I can step outside, plop myself down in a lawn chair and see what happens.

Definitely an experiment worth trying.

-Movie of the Moment: A triple-header today.

Finished THE KING’S SPEECH. Since I have to see a few more Best Picture nominees, I can’t compare it to them, but I enjoyed it.  I was expecting something a little more complex, but there were only a handful of characters and a minimal number of settings; it seemed much more play-like.

I can see why Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush were both nominated; each gave a phenomenal performance.  Their scenes were a joy to watch.

Movie #2 was WHIP IT, the roller derby movie directed by first-timer Drew Barrymore.  I loved it.  I thought it was a blast.  Some of the storylines and characters may be a little cliched, but the sum is definitely greater than the parts.  Just a lot of fun.

Movie #3 was THE ILLUSIONIST, the third of last year’s three nominees for Best Animated Feature (the other two being TOY STORY 3 and HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON). This was done by Sylvain Chomet, the brains behind THE TRIPLETS OF BELLEVILLE and based on a script by Jacques Tati; the title character is even drawn to look and act like Tati.  The wonderful but incredibly sad story of an unremarkable stage magician fading into obscurity as TV and rock & roll gain in popularity.

I read a couple of reviews that say the young woman who follows him from a small Scottish village to Edinburgh believes that his magic is real, but I didn’t catch that.  I thought she saw him as a fascinating man living a life of adventure, and wanted to tag along.

For the most part, this really is a silent picture.  There are some snippets of dialogue in English and French, but the storytelling is all done visually, and quite beautifully at that.

Don’t go into this thinking it’s a film for kids, ’cause it ain’t.  Nothing bad happens, but *SPOILER* it’s not easy to explain why the magician has to let his rabbit go into the wild, or why the ventriloquist’s dummy  is marked down to ‘free’ in the pawn shop window.

If you watch this, prepare to have your heartstrings given a good solid tug.

Oh so close

I haven’t posted in a few days because I’ve been in ‘focused writer’ mode, concentrating on getting through Act Three.

And after much thought and consideration, I’m happy to say that for the most part, it’s done.  (Insert cheers and applause here)

There are still some little things to take care of, such as handling the notes to myself like “Work on this,” “Expand!”, or “How about/What if…”, as well as fleshing out some scenes here and there, but I don’t expect that to be too hard.  I’m hoping to get something workable out of it by this time next week.  Fingers crossed.

It was also nice to give the whole thing a quick read-through.  It moves a little quicker than the previous version.  And parts I thought would be hard to take out weren’t really missed at all.  I guess that’s the benefit of the streamlining process.

No set deadline for finishing, which may actually be helping me make this kind of progress.

-No actual Movie of the Moment, but we started watching THE KING’S SPEECH. Really like it so far.  I also can’t help but think of Helena Bonham Carter when she did the upper class voice in WALLACE & GROMIT’S CURSE OF THE WERE-RABBIT.

I caught some snippets of TERMINATOR 2: JUDGEMENT DAY on AMC.  It’s easy to forget what a great writer Cameron can be.  It’s definitely one of those movies you can watch from any point and be entertained.

I’ve never read the scripts, but I suspect this and ALIENS are good blueprints for how to properly put an action movie together.  Couldn’t hurt to at least use them as examples.

Something to keep in mind for this and when I start back up on LUCY.