Who done it?

The right detective and how they handle the case can make all the difference

Ever watch or read a mystery and think to yourself “I could do that.”?  Well, let me tell you something:  It ain’t easy.  Especially since I’m not especially adept at figuring them out from an audience point of view.  K and I could be watching a mystery, and within a few minutes, she’ll say, “Got it.  Do you want to know who did it?”  And I’ll say no, because I’d like to try and do it myself, thank you very much.  Besides, I usually stop trying around halfway through, and most of the time she’s right anyway.

This short is eating up a lot of my focus and creativity this week.  The outline’s due Monday. I’ve got somewhat of a grasp on the basics.  Guy murdered, suspects all around, and each with a valid motive for wanting to bump him off.  I think that takes me to about the halfway mark.  I’ve been working on coming up with some nice plot twists and red herrings to keep the reader/viewer guessing, so that’s what I’ll be working on for at least the next day or two.

I keep going back and forth as to who the actual killer is.  It may work better to decide that, then work backwards to where I am now.  We’ll see how it works out.  I don’t know how professional mystery writers do it.  I guess it’s just hardwired into their brains.  More power to ’em!

I got an email from the director the other night that was labeled ‘character updates.’ Basically, it was a bunch of photos of scantily-clad women, each one labeled with who they represent in the story.  I’m beginning to have some suspicions about why he’s doing this. An ulterior motive, perhaps?  But that’s not for me to say.  I’m just the writer on this thing.

here we go again

Seeking out clues to a strong script

I had a very interesting chat last night with the director of  my new short project. His latest venture: a whodunit/thriller.  Materials so far include character descriptions, a scene-by-scene breakdown and a one-paragraph synopsis.

I’ve never written an out-and-out thriller before, but am always up for a challenge.  Even more so when I’ve got a maximum time limit of 25 minutes.  I know this isn’t going to change cinema as we know it, but it’s fun to try.

He’s a very nice guy, but I worry he’s too influenced by what’s out in theatres when he comes up with an idea. He referenced some aspect of the recent release ANONYMOUS as being particularly well done, and thought it would work well in his story.  I haven’t seen it, and think it’s already gone from theatres, so there’s not much I can do with that.

This happened when we were putting together his previous short. He was concerned his story was too similar to INCEPTION, and feared people would think he was ripping it off. I had to reassure him his script was nothing like it, and just because something was done in a certain way in Nolan’s film, didn’t mean he had to follow the same rules.

Reading over his materials, I noticed a few potential red flags in terms of the story (in this case, the structure of a mystery) and voiced my concern. What did he want to do about this? How did he want to handle that?  A few times, he sounded a little caught off-guard (which I’m not faulting him for; I suspect he’s not that experienced in this genre), but said nothing was written in stone and I could make changes where appropriate.  I doubt major studios are this lenient with writers, so I’ll take my breaks where I can get them.

There are some traits of a few characters that present a challenge to work with, but he seems pretty set on them, so I’ll do what I can.

My deadline for an outline is Dec 4th, which is fine by me. He also mentioned how he likes how I’m pretty good at fast turnaround.  But another hurdle is now how much time to I can allocate to all of my in-development projects (which I get a certain thrill out of saying. That’s projectS. Plural.).

I can get the outline done, but also want to be able spend time on DREAMSHIP and LUCY.  Overall, no complaints whatsoever. Every writer should be this busy.

Where did all this work come from?

So much to do, so little time to do it in

For some reason, I’ve been really busy the past couple of days. And some of that busy-ness has even been screenwriting-related.

I’m trying to allot time to each particular project when I can. Some time on the LUCY outline here, cranking out a few DREAMSHIP pages there, and now I’m supposed to talk to the director of my short project tomorrow night.

All of this added to an already busy schedule of work and parenting,and you get one tired guy.

I won’t even go into the Thanksgiving issue, which in this case means pie. My assignment for our sojourn to a friend’s house: one apple, one pumpkin. No problem.

But as exhausting as all of this is, what’s really great is I’m enjoying every single minute of it.  Even better is I’ve been making some good progress on just about every front.

-THIS CLOSE to finishing a key scene in DREAMSHIP, then it’s back to the attempted 3 pages a day routine

-Still hammering out details for the rest of Act Two of LUCY, but the previous draft is a great resource. Love the cherry picking of what works and what doesn’t.

-Ideas churning for the short. Should be an interesting talk with the director.

-Pie ingredients purchased. Only mixing and baking remain.

I’m trying to make sure I don’t spread myself too thin over all these projects, or burn out on any of them.  When you’re pursuing something as big as this, you find the time and energy to get it done.  If it seems too much like work, or time just drags when you’re doing something you love, chances are you probably don’t love it anymore.

Fortunately for me, I haven’t experienced that sensation, nor do I expect to.  I’ve got big plans for these and future projects, and although it may be a little rough along the way or take a little longer than I originally hoped to get them done, the main point is they will get done.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Progress squared

Figuring out a story can sometimes feel like this

It took a while, but I was finally able to sit down and work on both LUCY and DREAMSHIP, and I like how both are coming along.

With LUCY, I’d been stuck trying to figure out how to get to the page 75 twist, and after several attempts, I finally made it.  I’m not entirely sure if the sequence leading up to it is the absolute best way to approach it, but I’ll keep it for now.

Now the fun really begins, with the drive to get to the end of Act Two. I haven’t looked at what I came up with for Act Three, but if I can work it out, there may not be a need for many changes.

As for DREAMSHIP, I got through a good sequence and am nearing the page 45 twist.  Lucky for me, the next few scenes are drawing from what I had in a previous draft, so there won’t be much call for change with that either.

I also realized there’s a super-important plot point I’ve yet to introduce or else the ticking-clock aspect is completely shot. But fate and the writing gods have smiled on me, or at least I hope they will, because there’s a scene in Act One that would be a perfect place to put it in.  Time to break out the pen and paper again.

-Materials for my next short project arrived, but I haven’t looked at them yet.  That’ll be part of the weekend stuff.

-V turned 9 over the weekend. K asked me if I thought she’d be able to handle MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL. I didn’t think so. K’s argument that she (K) would have enjoyed it when she was 9. But K was a very logical child, whereas V, as much as I love her, isn’t. My argument was that after watching WILLY WONKA, V asked if Oompa-Loompas were real.  I rest my case.

And by fortunate happenstance, JURASSIC PARK was on AMC last night. Again. I casually mentioned to K that I wish V could handle watching it. Then the T-Rex scene came on. Without saying a word, we both knew that wouldn’t happen for quite some time either.

-Movie of the Moment: X-MEN: FIRST CLASS (2011). I loved it.  More proof that a smart comic book movie is possible.  Why oh why didn’t the writers of GREEN LANTERN have the same sensibilities?  But I digress.

I really enjoyed the dynamic between Charles and Erik, and the gradual drifting apart of two friends.  Kevin Bacon made for a great villain, but I thought January Jones’ Emma Frost would have had a larger role.  Beast has always been one of my favorite characters, and it was pretty clever how they worked in his change to blue and furry.

I liked how they worked in a lot of stuff from the comics, as well as maintained continuity with the Singer films. (Face it. X3 sucked.)  Just a lot of fun to watch. Very curious if the inevitable sequel will take place in the 70s, which would be the smart way to go.

Voice from the past

early model not-so-mobile phone

Completely unexpectedly, the director I co-write the short with last year rang me up. After much delay, he’s finished all the post-production work and is making copies of the end product.  I should have my own copy within a month or so.  I’ll update the link in the portfolio section once I get it.

He moved to LA about a year ago, and is currently working on directing trailers.  As he succinctly put it, I now know somebody working in the industry.  Always a good connection to have.  Gotta start somewhere.

But he was also calling because he wants me to help write his next project: a 30-minute short he hopes to eventually submit to the student Oscars. I’ll have more details in a few days, but it’ll be some kind of crime thriller.  Yeah, I can write that.

While I was originally hoping to have the DREAMSHIP draft done by the end of the year, this may slow that down a little, but working on that, the short and the LUCY outline is a good challenge.

They say you should write every day, which I try to do. Some days are really productive, some not at all. But the effort is always there.  Sometimes it’s how much drive you feel inside.  I can’t explain why, but that feeling’s been stronger for me the past few days.  I think I’m feeling more confident in the strength of my stories and how things are developing overall, which always yields better results.

Suffice to say, I’m expecting great things from myself between now and the end of the year, and am fairly confident I can pull it off.