Footing finally found

keaton wind

Well, that was fun.

After what seemed like endless attempts, I finally came up with what is hopefully a solid beginning for the sci-fi adventure spec. Or at least the first ten to twelve pages or so. If I haven’t grasped you in my yarn-spinning clutches by then and have you begging to turn the page, I’m in trouble.

But with all those previous drafts at hand, along with heeding the guideline that the events of the story need to KEEP PUSHING FORWARD, it all (slowly) came together.

And to make sure I wasn’t deceiving myself, or working with a “Eh. Good enough” mindset, I took a short break (to work on another script, of course). A quick perusal upon my return showed that, yep, it still works.

Finding the right beginning was truly the biggest obstacle. I wanted to really put this world on display, along with better establishing the main characters – primarily the hero and the villain, along with the supporting characters. Numerous options were explored, but none seemed to fully fulfill my requirements. The journey to find that solution was a long and frustrating one, and it was tough to not get annoyed.

But I held on and kept trying, over and over, finally hitting on a solution. Even though the rest of the story looms, I couldn’t have moved forward without reaching this point. Fortunately, most of it is pretty set in place, so hopefully it won’t take too long to work through it.

Quick addendum – during one of my moments of downtime working on this script, I saw several “scripts wanted” listings that were asking for low-budget horror. Last year I cranked out a first draft of a horror-comedy that wouldn’t be too tough to trim down the number of locations and characters so as to make it cheaper to produce. Figure it’s worth a try.

-Writer/filmmaker/friend-of-the-blog Venita Ozols-Graham has put together a crowdfunding campaign to produce a filme version of her award-winning psychological thriller short script WHO WANTS DESSERT? Donate if you can!

Wanted: little-known gems

Luckily, you won’t have to wait to see the show

I’m always keen for a good movie-watching recommendation, especially if it’s something I’ve never heard of, or at least heard of but haven’t seen. We all know a few of those.

So here’s your chance to shed a little light by a film (or films) that you’ve always enjoyed, but a lot of people may not be too familiar with.

Here are three of mine:

The Kid Brother (1927) An amazing piece of work from Harold Lloyd. Worth watching for the boat sequence alone. Plus it has a monkey in it.

ffolkes (1979) Roger Moore at his most un-James Bond-iest. A somewhat dated but still very entertaining action-thriller.

Whip It (2009) A charming and fun story that combines equal parts comedy, drama and women’s roller derby. Features a lot more name actors than you realize, and Drew Barrymore’s directing debut.

It doesn’t have to be a classic, nor does it have to be “a cinematic masterpiece”. You get a kick out of it, and think the rest of us would too. Just write down the title and what you like about it in the comments below.

Happy viewing!

Class is in session

All I need now is the magnifying glass
All I need now is the magnifying glass

When I start on a new project, I make a point of reading scripts and watching films that are similar to the kind of story I’m trying to tell.

This time around, it’s a rewrite of my mystery-comedy, so among the works being studied are CHINATOWN, L.A. CONFIDENTIAL and WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT (comedy, remember?). There are a lot more to consider (suggestions are always welcome), but I don’t want to overdo it. As much as I love submersing myself into these stories, I would like to eventually get around to actually working on the script.

Putting myself through this has a double benefit: I get to see solid examples of elements of the story and genre, which forces me to come up with different ways of how to tell a similar story but with my my own stamp on it. I’ll also be the first to admit that my skills at putting a mystery together aren’t exactly the best, so studying these will hopefully help me get a better sense of how to develop that part of the story.

Since this also happens to be a story I’ve worked on before, a lot of it is already in place, but there’s still a ton of work to do, with lots of ideas and changes being considered. Luckily, I have a few previous drafts to mine for material. Almost like starting anew, but with something very familiar.

My hope is that studying these scripts and films will help me get a better understanding of how all the puzzle pieces fit together in those stories, which will in turn will help me figure out how to do the same with mine.

This is the kind of homework I actually look forward to having.

Striding boldly into Phase Two

Might as well make it a nice-looking door, right?
Might as well make the way in look nice, right?

I had to work New Year’s Day, starting at 5am. It wasn’t as bad as you might think.

It meant holiday overtime (always nice), the roads were extremely quiet, so there was a lot of downtime, which provided me with the opportunity I was hoping for: to hack and slash my way through the script, cutting out anything unnecessary.  Turns out there was about ten pages’ worth, including an excessive amount of adverbs.

But it’s all gone now, and the script is that much better for it. Tighter, smoother, a faster read.  114 pages of potential cinematic goodness.

The professional feedback will have to wait for now, but notes from trusted colleagues are proving to be just as helpful.

Apart from a few tweaks, this script could officially be considered READY TO GO.  A minor celebration will be held in the form of a trip to the comic book store.

The next few weeks will be split between researching and contacting potential reps and continuing the fine-tuning of the western outline (gotta keep the creativeness going).

-Awaiting delivery of my equipment to get the podcast up and running, so add contacting potential guests to the aforementioned list.  More details as they develop.

-Movie of the Moment – THE HOBBIT (2012). Enjoyable, but way to0 long. Why exactly did they feel this had to be a trilogy? Two movies would have been fine.  This is not the epic tale that LOTR is, and suffers for it.

Saw it with V. She liked it, and was genuinely surprised at the end because she thought it would be a single, self-contained story. She’s already stated her interest in seeing the next one. I can’t help but wonder how much Smaug will be featured in Part 2, and Benedict Cumberbatch doing the voice is an added bonus.

-V was also off for winter break, so there’s been a lot of crashing/vegging out in front of the TV. I’m happy to say she’s outgrown some of the inane kids programming she used to watch, and has discovered I LOVE LUCY. It’s easy to see why this still holds up today. She’s already watched the Vitameatavegamin episode three times, laughing hysterically each time. HuluPlus only provides parts of each season, so we’ll have to try Netflix to track down the candy factory episode.

When your 21st century child develops an appreciation for Buster Keaton and Lucille Ball, you must be doing something right.

Show. Don’t tell

A feast for the eyes. In a good way.

One of the most important rules of screenwriting, yet lots of writers have trouble putting it into effect.

The organizer of my first writing group always suggested writing each scene so the audience would have an idea what was going on if the sound went out.  Not easy to pull off, but it is possible.

I got my first taste of silent films in high school. We watched Griffith’s BIRTH OF A NATION and Buster Keaton’s THE GENERAL, which remains one of my all-time favorites.  It was on the other day on Turner Classic Movies. We caught the second half. V loved it.

*Side story – Earlier this year, I posted on TriggerStreet looking for help with my original logline for LUCY, describing it as combining THE GENERAL and THE SEARCHERS. Somebody commented that they’d never heard of either. I want to say I was shocked, but reminded myself not everybody has my kind of appreciation for older films.

It’s oh-so-gratifying to listen to V laugh her head off while we watch these. I like Chaplin, but Keaton is an underappreciated genius.  Last summer, we finally got around to catching some of Harold Lloyd’s work, including SAFETY LAST (the one with the clock face, which was okay), THE FRESHMAN and THE KID BROTHER, which is a masterpiece.

What’s great about silent films is that apart from the dialogue cards, everything else is told visually, so it’s easy to follow along.  The actors, with only their bodies and facial expressions, convey what’s happening.  The Silent Era was especially effective for newly-arrived immigrants who spoke no English. They understood what was going on.

When I write a scene, I try to make it as visual as possible so it’s more than just somebody talking.  This goes beyond describing what we see in a physical sense, but how a character acts or is reacting.  I’m also working on punching up this kind of writing so it doesn’t read or sound boring.

Some writers make the mistake of describing something that can’t be seen, such as what a character is thinking.  I’ve also heard this labeled as “How do we know?”  You may describe somebody as reflecting on their past, but if we’re watching the film, all we see is a person sitting there, doing nothing.  HOW DO WE KNOW they’re reflecting?

Get the idea?