Monday, December 28, 2009

Haiku Movie Review Squared

It's been awhile. We can get into that later. In the meantime, here are two Haiku Movie Reviews to keep you occupied.


Old tales new faces
Stunning visual appeal
Story takes back seat


Sharp wit spurs action
The original bromance
Guy adapts with flair

Monday, December 7, 2009

Sell Me Out!

More on selling scripts and selling out...

I've been thinking further on this topic ever since we got to discussing this at Scriptchat and I posted THIS. Since then I have been working double time trying to kick things into high gear. I currently have four projects on the go. None of them are paying. All of them could lead to something paying in the future. I currently work five days a week at the bill paying job.

At this point, when lunch consists of rice-maker rice with mushroom soup poured on top, and I have to drink six cups of coffee to stay awake through a family or friendly outing (not bored, just tired) I would put myself whole-heartedly in the SELL OUT IF NECESSARY category. If I write it with a slender blue eyed blonde haired girl and you tell me it will sell with a purple giraffe, then give me the lavender crayon and I will tear through that sucker!

I'm losing my mind a little bit, and I'm giving into it whole-heartedly because that's what it takes to pay my bills and start a career (hopefully) as a writer. I realize that dues must be paid, but it will be a huge help when something pays off. Anything. I also feel that the majority of what I've written is not made up of personal stories that I want to tell. More so of subject matter that I find interesting and am interested in exploring further. So far, most of the suggestions for change that I've received have been positive and have made my stories not only more sale-able, but more interesting.

If I survive December and meet all my deadlines, perhaps the Bling-Bling will be my reward. Perhaps not. Hopefully my willingness to compromise will yield. Perhaps we will see what happens when someone tries to ask for more than I'm willing to give. Who knows? The beautiful thing is that its all up in the air, and there is nothing but possibility ahead. The awful thing is that its all up in the air, and there is NOTHING but possibility ahead. But here I am rambling while there are dues to be paid.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Less Talk More Rock!

I was just mentally composing a post on what is challenging me today, but I think it will serve my purposes better if I just shut up and get to it. Less yap more write. That OK with all y'all?

Don't worry, more speculation posts to come in the near future.

PS: Happy Thanksgiving America! (Canada, zip it, you had your turn!)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Pot Stirrer

Today I want to stir the pot, but I know I'll regret it tomorrow. I have an overwhelming desire to blurt out loud all of the things I've been saving up. All the remarks I am not allowed to say, the cutting comebacks I bite back, the hypocritical judgments that would reflect so poorly on my character. I can just see the pot, sitting there, looking all clean and reserved and my hand reaches out for the spoon. There is so much I could unleash lately, but I hold back. Its a self-preservation thing.

The problem with stirring the pot is that the payoff is seldom worth the long term consequences. There may be a momentary release, but the guilt and isolation brought on by letting your guard down lasts a lot longer than the high.

I'm hoping to lend this pot stirring fixation to my writing. It is far more rewarding to deal with the consequences when my characters are the ones stirring the pots. Perhaps I can live vicariously through their biting remarks, and lack of vocal filters. If they have a lapse in judgment, I can play both sides of the coin. I can push buttons I would never dare approach in real life. I can finally release the pent up rage, and then turn it around and respond with the righteous indignation one is entitled to, when verbally attacked. I think it could be fun.

Breathe sigh of relief. Chalk this one up in the writing-as-therapy category.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Nerd Alert!

You know what comes out tomorrow? The new Star Trek movie. On BluRay. Shiny steel encased three disc'd BluRay. Oh yeah. Obviously this will result in further failFAIL situations (thank you all for the encouraging words, by the way) however, I did manage to bang out some goals today, so perhaps a little more failFAIL isn't the worst thing.

Sunday, November 15, 2009


I've failed the NaBloPoMo. I've failed my personal writing goals for the week. I've failed at my attempt to avoid fast food. Good thing I've change my motto to "failure IS a option, actually".

Tomorrow is a new week, but I'm sick of the phrase "back on track". What crazy track is this anyway? I have no idea where its going, and most of the time I don't even know where its been. Tonight I just have to be content with my failure, and allow myself to come to terms with my limitations. Once we're on a first name basis, I can smash them to pieces and show them who's boss.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Projects Vortex

I have three writing projects currently swirling in the project vortex. I am prepping to add a fourth. I like having many plates in the air, however, I'm finding it difficult to prioritize. Each project has a very specific goal, and will facilitate a unique result. I've managed to bet on the lead horse, but the rest of the contenders are all locked in a dead heat for second, and the runner up remains unclear.

How many projects are healthy to take on at once? A more confident person than I may compare it to having a main and an alt. If you understood that somewhat vague reference then its likely we are kindred spirits.

It is my experience that one project usually takes an early lead, but should I stonewall the others until the first is polished? Is it OK to bounce to the second when my head hits a stonewall of its own while working on the first? Do multiple projects mean I'm stretching myself too thin and not giving my all to one script? Are these long-winded questions tempting you to navigate away yet? I'm done. Promise.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

November 11th

I was not there, the day you landed on that beach, slogged through that mud, sat shivering in that trench. The day you offered what little you had left for the promise of what I could be in the future. It would be a long time before I would be here, and even longer before I could fully appreciate what you gave, so I could be.

I wear my poppy proudly, knowing that you offered everything you had. Knowing that a wife like me sat at home with with your picture in her hand dreading that knock on the door. Knowing that a woman, like me, shed countless tears into bloody hands as she tried to nurse so many of you back to your former selves. Knowing that a man, like you drew his last breath for the life I live today.

I wish it was easier, to see the promise you fought for. To cut through the mess and dive into the hope that you brought for us. I wish we had done you more justice. I wish your sacrifice was the last. Maybe someday, somewhere, someone like you will be the last. For what you gave, I honour you, thank you, and assure you that I have not forgotten.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Writing Rituals

Two days of missed Blogging. The people at NaBloPoMo are plotting my punishment. I have a passel of excuses, but I'm not going to use them. Why? Because I am not a passive protagonist (unlike some of my characters).

I'm commencing my writing ritual, it goes something like this. Turn off the TV. Wander around the house tidying. Make myself something to eat. Drag my laptop to my "real" workspace. Pick the perfect writing soundtrack. Open whatever document I saved most recently. Stare. Stare. Stare. Make myself some coffee or tea. Stare. Stare. Sip. Stare. Tweet three things. Check my blog stats. Look at my watch, realize I have forty minutes before X happens. Uncross eyes and bang out what is sure to be pure awesomeness or absolute tripe. Move on to plan X. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Someday I will have what it takes to sit down and do what I need to do without all the pre-curser, but today it is what it is.

"Lions make you brave, giants give you faith, death is a charade, you don't have to feel safe to feel unafraid." -LIGHTS

Friday, November 6, 2009

Poetry Tag

I have fourteen minutes left in today. It has been a challenging week, but I will spare you the details.

Tomorrow I'm going to see LIGHTS, thanks to some incredible friends of ours. First I must survive the brunch crowd. Wish me luck.

No Pants Island left you with a Limerick. I will leave you with my specialty, a Haiku (minus the movie review):

Bitter winds unite
Changing minds and directions
Whisper in my ear

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Rule of Two?

Tonight it is, because I have only two things to say. A statement and a question:

1. The shower curtain scene, though overused, terrifies me every single time. I know "it" is never behind there, but I have to cover my eyes every time. I am going to successfully use a shower curtain scene someday, and "it" WILL be behind there.

2. When writing a spec of an existing series, how important is it that the series is currently on the air? What is the grace period for how long a show can be out of production before your spec is no longer acceptable?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

I'll Write THAT For A Dollar!

After a day like today, I'm pretty sure I would write alternative definitions for Riboflavin if it would pay me. Call me a sell out, but anything, and I do mean ANYTHING is better than today. Let's talk about the social construction that is tipping. Actually, lets not talk about it, just read this (comments, particularly). Now, I know people out there are feeling all recessed, but may I just interject by saying that there are many no-tip-required establishments out there, available on virtually every street corner for your recession friendly needs. Also, when you order a bottle of wine, pricey entrees and a double cappucino post dessert, you've lost your right to play the recession card. Now before I carry on whining, let me be very clear about something;

I know when I deserve a bad tip.

I know when the service is slow, when I make a mistake, when I accidentally say something stupid... (One of my worst involves this greeting: "Hi there, my name is Rachel, can I get you off?" *Panic stricken stop, dodge glare from scary girlfriend* "Ummm....started off, STARTED off with something?" *Run, Run, RUN!*) When I make these mistakes, I fully expect a bad tip. When I mess up your order, I have the Terminator-esque computer vision that tells me at what rate my tip is decreasing, and that's OK. Even when its not my fault, when the kitchen runs long, or the hostess doesn't give you the giant booth you want, I'm not surprised that my tip is affected. But do me this one courtesy, please general public I beg you; DON'T tell me everything was wonderful, that the service was lovely, ask me to get involved in your conversation/photo experience/personal life, or hit on me, and then make me pay to serve your table. You don't stop on the street for a dime anymore - so if you're thinking 2% is enough to pay my rent, you'd be wrong.

I have to give a percentage of my loot to the kitchen and the bar regardless of whether you're clutching the purse strings or not. I am attempting to make a living based on a teetering piece of social construction, and that is my choice. But you choose not to live in England where they don't tip, and that is your choice. I know you wish the restaurant would pay me a wage that would cancel the need to tip, but I also know you wouldn't appreciate the dramatic increase in your food costs. If you dine out in North America, it is safe to assume that your server makes minimum wage, even less in some regions. We've built a tradition of tipping. I can't force you to buy into that. If you want to walk out paying the price of your bill and not a penny more, I really have no leg to stand on, and I can tell you I've never questioned a customer regarding a tip. I can, however, remind you that there is more behind the smile that I am working hard to maintain then a lack of dental benefits.

Ok, angry rant has gone on long enough. I also feel the urge to qualify every time I freak out. I am lucky to work at a place that values their employees, providing excellent training. I am not required to dress like I'm working the street corner. I have a management team that supports their staff and helps to manage complaints in a great way. The above is not in any way a reflection on my employers, it is simply a product of several bad days, and the lack of power to educate the offenders in the moment.

That being said, bring on the selling out! I'll write it with a dog, I'll write it with a cockroach for all I care, just show me the MONEY!

...and scene.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Villainy is Afoot

I'm loving the chatter after yesterday's post. I'm slightly loathe to post something new today, but I promised the NaBloPoMo people so I will forge ahead.

Yesterday after reading John August's post "Every Villain is a Hero" I began to think about the type of villain that I respond to. As I work to craft my characters, I want to be sure my antagonist is multi-faceted. I want to move past one dimensional and create a villain that the audience could almost rally behind, if they weren't so distracted by who they're supposed to support.

Benjamin Linus of LOST is still one of my favourite complex villains. Perhaps its because I can hold out hope for his redemption, since i don't fully understand his motives. Perhaps I just like having someone to hate on loudly while shaking my fist at the flat screen (why my husband still loves me also remains a mystery). One thing I know about Ben, he wholeheartedly believes in every single thing he does. The why may evade us, but we can harbor no doubt regarding his convictions.

Favourite complex villains?

Monday, November 2, 2009

Selling Scripts and Selling Out

Last night during script chat we had a lot of discussion surrounding the issue of selling vs. selling out when it comes to screenwriting. There are three different schools for writers, as far as I can tell:

1. Writers who want to sell their scripts, whatever the cost, and will collaborate to all extents. They want to earn their bread and butter by any means necessary.

2. Writers who want to sell their work, but do not want to sell-out, meaning that telling their story is still very important. They are looking for a compromise, they still want to eat, but aren't willing to sacrifice their story for a Porter-House steak.

3. Writers who don't care about selling and just want to tell their story. They aren't looking for the cash, and will work a day job for the rest of their lives if need be, in order to tell a story their way. The trick here is getting people to listen.

I can't say what category I fall into. I guess it really depends on the day and how good my tips have been at the restaurant. At this point I work a day job because I don't have a choice, a girl's gotta eat. If I were given the opportunity to exclusively write to pay our bills, I think I'd jump at the chance to do so, even if it was based one someone else pulling the strings; however, just like the H1N1 vaccine, I'd be concerned about the long term effects.

The way I see it, a lack of creative control in the long run would either spur me to write my own projects on the side, or turn me into a jaded bitter writer, hitting the keyboard for the man. I'm not sure the lines are as clear as I've defined them above. As was mentioned on last night "Film is a collaborative medium... bend over."


Off To A Bad Start

I'm 23 minutes late for my first NaBloPoMo deadline(I don't make up the names friend, I just follow the herd). Seeing as I didn't realize this was going on until I took a trek to No Pants Island, I figure they'll have to forgive me. Consider this my post for November 1st.

Haiku Movie Review for "Law Abiding Citizen"

Jumps in with a bang
Entertains a hungry crowd
Big punch, small payoff

That will have to suffice. If you get bored, migrate here.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Post Scriptchat Chat.

I'm sitting here, post #scriptchat thinking about my career as a writer, getting ready for my job as a waitress. After the unique and exciting experience that was #scriptchat, I feel better and worse. Better because I was always told that writers were a competitive community who weren't in the game to help each other out. That's clearly not true of all writers, as I've seen time and time again since joining Twitter. Worse because I know what I'm up against. There are SO MANY other talented writers out there. Who am I to think I have an equal talent level to these folks? I'm still a total beginner. And while I am one of the few who still believes in beginners luck, I can't help feeling that I'm going to be holding my breath for a long time (or sneaking in an oxygen tank when no one else is looking)

Also, things like THIS don't make me feel any better (Since, clearly the internet is there to make me feel better about myself). I'm not saying he's wrong, in fact its probably in your best interest to live in the right geographic in order to work your career, though I know of more than a few exceptions. But I don't want to move to Toronto. I just don't. Nothing against the city, but its not in the cards for us right now. So I'm holding on to the hope that I can be the exception. (Peter is a smart guy and a great writer, so his words are harder to pass of than random e-chatter)

I've never been a quitter, though sometimes my follow-through is weak. This is one area where I'm not willing to give up. I will continue to be hopeful, and push myself, exorcising all career avenues available to me. Hope is hope, even if its a fool's hope.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Masterful Settings

It is a chilly night in October. I'm sitting in my favorite chair, avoiding the sleep I need to function because I want to be awake (and I had two Pumpkin Spice Lattes - whoops?). Tonight I'm contemplating what makes a setting spectacular. My favourite novels have a sense of ambiance to them that I cannot deny. This ambiance, this flawless combination of physical space, mood, and atmosphere is magical. It can transfer from novel to script, and script to screen - with the right set designer/art director combo, of course.

There are several masters of setting that have me grovelling at the toes of their artistry. I don't have the energy to discuss in detail, but I'd love for you to add to this list.

1. Charlotte Bronte (can't figure out the funky "e" on this Mac) for "Jane Eyre". That story has a desolate quality that I can't shake. Its in my bones every time I sit down with the book. Bronte drills the hopelessness into you with every detail, right down to the greyness in the setting. It is masterful.

2. Edgar Allen Poe. My favourites are "The Black Cat", "The Cask of Amontillado" and ultimately "The Raven". The very words he uses ingrain the scratching of leafless tree branches into my core. I can feel the chilly wind. I can hear the oppressive fog. Its incredible.

3. Sofia Coppola. "Lost in Translation" was one of the best "set" films for me personally. Something about the isolation and alienness (is that a word?) that Charlotte experienced throughout the film, and the contrast between unfamiliar beauty and unfamiliar ugliness that came across was spectacular. It spoke to me. This is a film you love or hate, in my experience. I fall on cupid's side.

Three is the magic number for tonight. Please, add to my list. A novel, story or film where the setting blew you away.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Saving Dollhouse

**I'm going to be a jerk here. If you don't feel like a giant dose of jackass today, do not read on.**

I adore Joss Whedon's Dollhouse. I've said it before, and it isn't going to change. I think to show appeals to people who desire a certain wit from their drama, that seems to have been lacking, of late. I love the premise. The characters appear easy to understand but continually impress me with their depth and complexity. The mystery of the show is unraveling beautifully, engaging me more with each episode.

That being said, I'm really tired of trying to save Dollhouse. Since its very conception, it seems that Dollhouse was created to be canceled. Anyone who loves King Whedon's work knows that his journey through the throes of the FOX network have been tumultuous at best. Every internet forum this side of Malaysia insists that Firefly was canceled way before its time. This well known FOX faux-pas doesn't seem turn the tides for Dollhouse. I was surprised (pleasantly, of course) that FOX renewed Dollhouse for a second season. I thought that perhaps all the petitioning, emails, tweets and - dare I say - threats, may have done some good (lets face it, we none of us could truly threaten the almighty FOX.) Now, I'm not sure why FOX bothered to renew the series in the first place. We're two episodes in, and the only thing I've heard is how Dollhouse's head is on the sweep chopping block once again. Tweets are flying around, trying to garner attention, interviews are everywhere, and there is an ominous tingle every time I tune in that it will be the last. Granted I don't fully understand sweeps, or how the network gets its stats, but it seems like they've renewed the series to shut us up, only to take it away and blame it on the ratings. Then when they do cancel it, they can play the big hero who gave it a second chance, and we are the villains who didn't tell enough of our friends to tune in, or put the correct twibbon on our Twitter Avatar (I tried, I don't know why my twibbon is gone). Really, FOX? Maybe don't put the show on a Friday night when your target demographic is either working, or squeezing in an over-priced dinner out with their geek-with-benefits buddy.

I guess all I'm saying is either give the show a chance, or don't. Don't make me beg for the TV I want to watch. FOX already knows the 'verse's position on Dollhouse. I think they also know that if they're willing to give it a chance, and let it ride, it will succeed on a marginal scale. However, I think the biggest problem is that it doesn't satisfy the almighty dollar hunger that infects every decision they make. I get it, networks are in it for the cash and they have to be, but if that's the case then why did they even air the show in the first place? I'm done begging, FOX. The ball is in your court. Too bad I know what that means. Don't fool yourself though, I will not be tuning into "More to Love" to console myself.

Ok, jerkness over. For now.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Tone, Forums, and of course, Fear.

Today I went to one of the VIFF Forums on Drama writing for television. The panelists included Laurie Finstad-Knizhnik of "Durham County", Molly Newman of "Brothers & Sisters" and Dahvi Waller of "Mad Men". I made it out of the day job in Burnaby at 1:17 PM (thanks to my fabulous co-workers, who took on a bunch of my work) and was paying for my pass into the session in downtown Vancouver at 1:42 PM with 3 minutes to spare. Also, thanks to my buddy Erin (@nopantsisland on Twitter), we had great seats!

What I took away form the forum is still a little jumbled in my head, as I try to sort it out, I will talk about the difference between television writing in the US, and television writing in Canada. From what I understand, in the US you get on as a writer's assistant, after getting coffee, copying outlines, and researching you may or may not be one of the lucky few to get a staff writing position on a show. From there, if you keep your head down and your ideas sharp, you may move on in your career and get to the point of actually writing an episode or seven. Once you ascend to another dimension, you may achieve Jane Espenson status (@CapricaSeven on twitter) though this is unlikely for most.

In Canada, you have an idea. If you know the right people in the right market, you may get some cash to develop that idea. If you have a great agent, you write a pilot for that idea, and someone makes it (I'm still unclear on the *someone* bit). Then, after you've tread the deep end for longer than you thought humanly possible, and your pilot gets picked up, they may (likely will) bring in a veteran to help you, and you become one of the coveted story-breaking, outline-creating, writers room attendees. Though from what I understand, you can be booted from this process at any moment, depending on the nature of your contract.

These overviews are pieced together from the bits I've been gathering by asking cheeky questions, appealing to more experienced friends, and researching what I can on my own. It seems to me both systems have their good points, and both have gaping flaws. The US system definitely puts the emphasis on mentoring young writers, and honing their skills into people who can eventually stand on their scribe-stilts. This system does not leave much open for the inexperienced writer with the big concept. If you want it, you have to earn it, pay your dues, and work your ass off for it. The Canadian system, however, leaves the door open for new ideas, even from inexperienced writers. You get a few names, you can most likely pitch to someone, even if they shoot you down. The problem is that once you experience a morsel of success, the stress and loneliness that follows from the solitary nature of that success can threaten to envelop you. I'm not sure which system is better, or if there is a clear winner, but I do know that they both scare the living crap out of me.

Is that normal?

Perhaps its because I haven't actually pitched anything besides a short film. Perhaps its because every time something doesn't come easily to me I question my skills. Perhaps I just need some chocolate. If I ever make a dent in either system, I will edit this post with an opinion. For now, I'm going to bask in the knowledge of the late, great Blake Snyder and read "Save The Cat". At least its something I can take to the bank.

OK I didn't mention Tone once. I got tired, and this was already too long.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Lessons from the Seven Day Rental Section

I was going to wait until we had finished six movies to write this post, but a barrage of gaming and project writing has taken over our waking consciousness at the Langer house, and I figured I'd better write while I still remember the four movies I want to write about. A while back, I asked Derek to go to the video store and rent a movie, without consulting me. I have a love-hate relationship with the video store. I adore the accessibility of new media, and the wonderful and less than wonderful movies I have watched, but I hate choosing. I hate walking around the store without the faintest clue of what I'm in the mood for, then trying to match that to the vague idea that Derek may have about what he's in the mood for. If I could get back all of the hours I've spent walking around the video store, I'd have written the Great Canadian Novel by now. But this isn't a movie store rant. When Derek home with six movies, I was pleasantly surprised. They were all movies that it would be unforgivable never to watch, from the seven day rental section. I decided to take mental notes on some of Hollywood's MVPs in cinema and see what lessons I could take away as a writer. I'm assuming I'm the last person on earth to see these films, so if I'm wrong and you are the last, do not read on, as spoilers will ensue.

(Let's put our distaste for Roman Polanski's personal fails aside for a moment while we revel in the genius of this film.)

Immediately after seeing this film, I placed it in my top ten. I had heard many things about Chinatown, but nobody mentioned that I would fall head over heels for Jack Nicholson. That aside, Chinatown taught me some very valuable lessons. First, you can expand on the typical set up, and take it a step further than is necessary which will surprise a smart viewer. While watching Chinatown, I was convinced that Faye Dunnaway's character was the villain, especially after Jack slept with her. It was a classic set up. Boy meets girl, falls for girl, sleeps with girl, is betrayed by girl. What I was pleasantly surprised to see is that she was and wasn't connected with the underhanded goings on that Jack was investigating. Though she was keeping her sordid past from Jack, she wasn't the bad guy. This challenged my unsophisticated palate, and showed me that I've gotten too comfortable with the easy set ups and quick fixes of the current age. I'm also a big fan of a real ending, not a gift wrapped happy heart warmer, though sometimes my emotions play tricks on me and tell me that I'm upset by a less than happy ending instead of impressed by it.

One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest

Only served to solidify my new love for a less wrinkly Jack. This is a masterpiece. Not only was a pleasantly surprised to see Louise Fletcher AKA Kai Wynn (yes, I'm a Star Trek geek) as Nurse Ratched, a meaningful role, but I loved the dynamic between Ratched and Nicholson's character. I love the ethical shift that takes place when we automatically side with the criminal and despise those who oppose him, whereas if this were a story on the nightly news, we would undoubtedly bestow our allegiance on Nurse Ratched. The acting in this movie is brilliant. There was a scene where the camera stayed on Nicholson for upwards of forty seconds, and I couldn't look away. It makes me wonder how much of that dynamic comes from the actual script, and how much it is due to great directing, acting, and editing. I have not read the novel, but I heartily believe that the weightiness of the original work transferred to the screenplay, and in turn filtered into every part of the project.


OK, this was an unexpected win for me. Generally political comedy isn't my bag unless its in the form of a 3-8 minute SNL short. Part of this is due to my lack of knowledge regarding the finer points of the American political system, and the other part is due to me being a drama & sci-fi snob. Not to say I don't enjoy a good comedy, but I really pick and choose. Bulworth, however, taught me that comedy can be bold and dark, even when you're expecting it to be wussy and campy. I was surprised by the level of ridiculousness that showed up in the film, and even more surprised that it worked. When the senator is busting out an ill-timed rap, dropping the f-bomb, and wearing a tuque (beanie for non-Canucks) but I still truely want him to succeed, something magical has happened. The thing about Bulworth is that I still haven't figured out how they won me over. In part it was due to a solid concept, and a genuine belief that someone in a similar situation could act out in such a way, but why the complete success? I am still at a loss.

The Firm

Epic. I was skeptical because of my love for A Few Good Men. It seemed to me that lightening couldn't strike twice for Tom Cruise in a lawyer movie. I was wrong. The Firm was fantastic because of the dramatic tension that permeated the whole movie. I loved that the writers were able to knock the average thriller time line out of the park, and I didn't get bored once. Something The Firm taught me, was how low you can sink a character before you redeem him. Sometimes threatening a lead with losing everything isn't enough. The character really needs to believe they have lost everything and still carry on their in quest, that is really when you, as a viewer, can begin to believe as well. The Firm still incorporated the typical thriller formula, but went above and beyond the bare minimum and expanded on the typical requirements to create a masterful, tense and exciting film.

So that is a window into what I've learned though some of these heavy hitters. It was refreshing to watch some films that weren't afraid to break some rules, and perhaps have written some new ones. The other two that we have yet to watch are Annie Hall, and Ed Wood. If we get to those before the video store has us arrested for our abuse of their "No Late Fees" policy, then I will write some more.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Creative Pain

I've been thinking a lot lately about the link between art and pain. A lot of the artists, writers, musicians I know have experienced a great deal of personal pain in their lives. They are often able to use the fear, sadness, and anger in their work. Or perhaps it is the other way around and their work is an outlet - a way for them to deal with the pain. Either way, I am not a person who has experienced a great deal of loss or tragedy in my life (I feel as though I'm walking on eggshells, giving fate the finger as I write this. I am by no means inviting pain into my life). I was musing on whether this affects my ability to create on a relate-able level. I'm not immune to pain, obviously, and have experienced several moments of defined emotional agony in my twenty-six years, it just isn't a frequent circumstance (yet?).

One thing I do know, I feel the pain of others, deeply. I have a reputation for being fairly blunt. "Honest" is the euphemism I'm usually handed, followed by a quick "but that's a good thing!" to ease any embarrassment they may feel for outing such an obvious quality. Usually people seem to think that bluntness is coupled by a lack of sympathy, or empathy, given the situation. Though this may be true for some, for me this isn't the case. I feel so deeply for those in my life experiencing pain. I can see it in their eyes when they fake a smile, slip into a mask, and its all they can do to carry on. I see it in the eyes of strangers as they walk down the street in a daze, and I want to know their story, to make them better even just for a moment. Maybe being an artist simply means opening your mind to the sadness, or on the flip side the joy, that others around you are experiencing. People always say to write what you know, but I know people and that leaves the door of possibility wide open.

Is good art conditional on pain? Perhaps, but I don't think it needs to be your own.

Friday, September 11, 2009

How Miracle Laurie (@miraclelaurie) Changed My Life

How Miracle Laurie changed my life.

As you may or may not know, I've been an avid fan of Joss Whedon's Dollhouse on FOX. Despite critic's impressions of the show, the Whedon crew has built up enough street cred to grant them my viewing fealty for the rest of my TV watching days, so Dollhouse will continue to be watched in my house.

This post, however, is about one actress, Miracle Laurie, who plays Mellie/November and newly Madeline on the series. Though Eliza Dushku is a stand-up lead, for some reason when Laurie is on screen, I cannot take my eyes off of her. She brings a refreshing vigor and openness to each character the writers toss her way. I also love that she doesn't fit the typical profile for today's actress (read: M. Fox) she doesn't have waist length extensions curled into Gossip Girl waves, you can't see her ribs through her skank tanks, and her eyes don't have that haunted Hollywood glaze, rather she uses them for her role. Laurie oozes sex appeal in Dollhouse, but in an a-typical girl next door kind of way. She complements both Eliza Dushku and Dichen Lachman, and lends a vulnerability to the callousness that sometimes accompanies a show where 'suspension of disbelief' is heavily required (not that I'm complaining, I live to suspend). Today on twitter Laurie posted a picture of herself driving her car home from the set. It was refreshing to see her behind the wheel of a sedan, like 99% of the people who watch Dollhouse, smiling and enjoying her Friday.

Miracle Laurie is my poster child for the theory that there is still hope for Hollywood. Perhaps that is too big of a mantle to place on one person, whom I've never met and really know nothing about, but this is where I've chosen to place my idealistic nature for the time being, and Miracle, I'm sorry but you must now bear the weight of my admiration.

OK, so perhaps not every aspect of my life is altered for all eternity, but anyone who can make a cynical leopard swap a couple spots merits a blog post, or twelve. Keep smiling Hollywood.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Happenings x4

Several things have happened over the past eight days, resulting in a lack of posting. Soon enough I will write a bigger, better, juicier post.

1. I finished my first draft of my script (you already know this) and breathed a huge sigh of relief, which has lasted all week. This sigh of relief included me taking some time sit back, think about my projects, and evaluate. I've been re-reading the script, though not editing it quite yet, aside from some grammatical issues.

2. I had several evening engagements. I worked one evening, and had a friend come in from out of town another evening. We went here and listened to this guy. It was great.

3. I came up with what turned out to be the best short film idea I've had in a long time. Derek and I have been tossing around ideas and scripts to shoot this fall. Our goal is to have something shot by the end of the year. We had several possibilities, but no clear winner. One morning last week Derek sent me a message from his day job that said something to the effect of "Loglines: Go". The first one I sent I was sure would be met with something akin to pity, however, he loved it. It is going to be a fun project, so I've been researching and working on that as well.

4. We've been playing video games and watching movies. Lots of movies. Great movies that I cannot believe I've never seen, all from the Seven Day Favourite section of our local Roger's plus store. There were six rented in this little catchup marathon and four have been watched. Once we make it through the other two, I have a blog post planned on what can be learned from watching movies that aren't the new-hip-thang. On a side note we also watched the documentary Overnight, which I would highly recommend if you can handle the language.

More from this way soon enough. Buy me a pumpkin spice late and it may be sooner rather than later.

Monday, August 31, 2009


So, after all that, I have completed the first draft of my first ever FEATURE LENGTH SCRIPT! What was supposed to be a five-day-feature morphed into several months. It is full of typos, and plot flaws and missing scenes and lame dialogue, and I couldn't be happier! Completion was always the goal with this project, and though it is nowhere near "polished and let someone read it" finished, the fact that the draft is complete and tangible makes me happier than I could express.

So, now I'm going to celebrate by printing out two copies. One for myself and one for Derek. Soon it will be a mess of red corrective pen strokes, and I'm really OK with that. Nothing could ruin today's triumph. Except maybe a giant tsunami that engulfs Vancouver. Or a forced "wear your bikini to work" day. Or a dinner of boiled cabbage and goat liver. Ok, lots could ruin it, but so far we're good.

Time to celebrate!

Losing my?

Mind? Sanity? Sense of self? Understanding of this plot?

All of the above?

I'm currently trying to channel a bulldozer, plowing through the wreckage, hoping its smoother on the other side once I've crossed. A sidebar on that: bulldozers are not particularly attractive, and neither are writers who are mid-third act and forgetting how to connect the threads of the plot that are still hanging. There is ink on my glasses from an exploded pen. Need I say more?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Three More Reviews


Good fun straight through
subtle seduces intense
Tunes lacked Quentin's flare


Tale artfully told
Challenges Western pacing
Vengeance reigns supreme


Sweet and Savory
Child's story superior
Streep sweeps us away

I suppose I could at least TRY and stay consistent with my formatting. But life lived only for rules is boring.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Haiku Movie Reviews, to date

District 9
Enlightened effects / great story with new techniques / paving a new road.

The Ugly Truth
Butler Sans Accent / Too many mind games, no punch / Tired jokes with a twist

Engaging premise / Beautifully juxtaposed / A quiet triumph

Sub effects for plot / Comic relief on steroids / Why Michael Bay Why?

Public Enemies
Well acted and scored / True story pacing meets Mann / Too much handy-cam.

Monday, August 17, 2009

My Head is Full

My head is full tonight.
Full of things that could be, should be, but will they ever be?
Am I working hard enough or just wasting the opportunity? Does it make a difference if no one ever sees what is inside of me?
Or Should I let it be, just for him, for me?
Something that no one else can ever see?
I want to let it out, but inside it is still perfect, basking in amniotic memory.
When it breaks free it is filthy, ugly, scary, changed from its strong consistency.
Becoming something I’m afraid to be.
Where is the courage that yesterday promised me?
Where is the discipline I claimed to see?
I guess there is nothing left but to just be.
I hope you’re with me.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Making Choices and Meeting Friends

Life is a series of small breaks. You know what else it is? A choice. Every single moment of every single day we are making choices. Am I going to sit down or stand up? Am I going to have the cod or the halibut? Am I going to put myself out there and try something scary, or underestimate myself and stay safe. These choices will define the experiences that we have each day, and what we miss out on. This week has been one of many experiences for me.

First, I have had the pleasure of experiencing Vancouver through the eyes of my in-laws, and in so doing rediscovered the beautiful place in which I live. Where I tend to get distracted by the business of my week and forget to stop and let the sounds of the ocean wash it all away, they are enthralled by everything they see because they do not have the option of rushing past it on their way to a lunch or in rush hour traffic. It was really nice to see it from their perspective.

Second, I went against my doctor's orders and walked all weekend on a foot that should have experienced only ice, elevation and a considerable amount of pain killers. I chose to do this because I could not bear to sit at home and miss out on the first set of experiences mentioned. We don't get to spend enough time with our out of town family, and I could not stand to be left out of the equation. Even now as I sit here with the ice and the throbbing, I don't regret it.

Third, I had the opportunity to meet one of my favourite bloggers. Someone whose courage and attitude has inspired me with every post he has written. You can check out Matt Logelin's blog here. We spent Thursday night downtown hanging out with Matt, and on one of the most difficult nights of the year for him, he still managed to listen to our goals and dreams and encourage us in our chosen career path, about our marriage and our future. He allowed us to pick his brain about his many experiences since losing Liz, and the arrival of Madeline, and he was genuine and friendly. I only hope we were able to show him as great of an evening as he did us. We had a great time.

The choices I'm making this week? 1. A little less fried food, a little more fruit. 2. Rest, ice and elevation (doctor's orders, for real this time). 3. No underestimation. I am just going to go for it.

Monday, August 10, 2009

3 Virtues and a Flaw

Something we do at work when we are trying to correct a behavior is to give the person in the hot-seat three positive focuses before we offer the one (and only one) "opportunity" that they should be focussing on. It sounds like a load of corporate hooey - yes I said it - up front, but mostly, it just works. I've found it a good excercise for myself when I get overwhelmed about the endless list of non-virtues I posess (sorry, no spellcheck on my blackberry) so here goes my public display of affection for myself, the main focus being my flaw.

Virtue #1. I'm Deep.

It sounds ridiculous to say it out loud. Along the lines of the newest celebutante on late night who says "everybody thinks I'm like, so shallow, but I really think about things, like, world hunger, and people who have to shop at like, Wal-Mart. I obviously have layers." But I do actually do a lot of thinking and analysing, and I hope it shines through on occassion.

Virtue #2. I am aware.

I am not one of those people who is blissfully ignorant of the solo mother who is trying to coral her stroller and second squirming two year old through the not-so-automatic doors. I'm usually present enough to help someone who's dropped a bag of groceries, or left their car keys on a table at the restaurant. I like to notice things (note: texting and awareness can almost never co-exist)

Virtue #3. I'm funny. Whether intentional or (more likely) unintentional, I can crack people up. I try, and often fail, through my writing, and I definitely make an effort in person. The main detractor to this is when I incidentally cross a line or step on some toes, though I find most of my friends and family to be extremely gracious in these situations.

And finally the easy part. The above was practically torture. I am not practiced at saying positive things (read: bragging) about myself.

The Flaw: I'm extremely impatient.

The kind of impatient that misses a spectacular sunset because she was too set on getting gelato to hold off for five minutes and watch. The kind who can't enjoy a still moment without knowing its expiry second, and what's next on the agenda. The kind who rushes her extremely patient husband out of the house to go do errands when they could be enjoying another cup of coffee and an episode of The Honeymooners on a Sunday morning.

People always say "well at least I can admit it about myself" I think what good is admitting it unless I can do something about it. My problem is I don't know how to change.

Clean and dirty laundry now aired, I urge you to undertake this exercise, and give yourself some positive feedback before focussing on one thing you want to change. I want to hear some self-bragging! If only to validate my own overshare.

Also this post was done via PDA so I take no responsibility for its choppy feel. Embrace it.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Reasons I Didn't Write This Week

Everyday I come up with a new justification for my lack of writing. Usually it goes a little something like this:

Little Voice in my head: "Rachel, I noticed your screenplay is at the same page count as yesterday, why is that do you think?"

Me: "Well, I was scheduled for a 9:30 start at work, and we both know that I am a terrible morning writer. Then I had a birthday dinner to go to tonight and I didn't get home until late, so I figured I'd go full board tomorrow."

Little Voice: "Hey Rachel, I was wondering if you hit your five page goal today?"

Me: "Oh! Well, technically I didn't actually hit the keyboard, but I did a lot of mental writing. So don't worry, work has been done.

LV: "Mental writing?"

Me: "Yeah, where you think about what you want to write when you have time to sit down next. Mental writing is the new five pages!"

LV: "Rachel, its Saturday. I was really hoping I'd see that progress we've been talking about."

Me: "Oh hey, yeah, I'm just really not feeling very well today. I think I ate some questionable food. Really the only thing that can help me today is gingerale and reality television."

LV: "Time well spent."

Me: "Was that sarcasm?"

LV: "Caught that did you?"

Me: "Hey Little Voice, aren't you going to harass me today?"

LVIMH: "What, you don't think I deserve a day off? I'm part of a union you know!"

Me: "Whoah, hey, relax!"

LV: "Now that you mention it..."

Me: "No way, you lost your chance. I'm going out"

LV: "Rachel, I'm serious. You owe me about six billion pages today."

Me: "Right, I know. Listen though, I'm thinking I'm just going to wait until after our company comes and goes next week. I have a lot of errands to do before then."

LV: "Rachel?"

Me: "Dude, I told you. Company, errands. I'll just be stressed if I start writing now."

LV: "Yeah, I'm thinking a little stress may be healthy for you at this point, rather than the utter complacancy we've been experiencing of late."

Me: "What? Sorry? I was staring at the wall for a minute and tuned you out."

LV "So, you want to be a burger jockey?"

Me: "What? No!

LV: "Oh, sorry my mistake. WRITE!"

Me: "Yeah, I'm pretty sure I need a new project."

LV: "I quit."

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Five People To Avoid At The Theater

We've seen a lot of movies recently. That usually tends to happen in the height of the Summer Blockbuster Season, when we go on vacation, and when we are able to purchase discounted tickets. The stars aligned these past months and all three of these factors came together to send us to the theater at least once a week for the past month (a lot, for our pay grade). It seems that every time we see another movie, we encounter several people who live to make the theater experience as frustrating as they can. Since I am generally too passive to do anything on the day, I choose to write scathingly about it later. Today I feel I have earned the right to rant since I actually "shushed" someone for the first time in the theater (before you get all up in arms, they were swearing and talking loudly throughout the film - which happened to be Harry Potter - and someone else had already shushed them once.) I've decided to outline several people I meet at the theater that almost make me want to wait for the DVD release.

1. The party people: The worst thing about this one is that they come in a group. Usually teenagers, usually high, they come in five minutes before the movie (which, thankfully, restricts them to the front row). They've usually smoked a copious amount of weed, or broken into their parents liquor cabinets to pre-drink vanilla vodka before the evenings main event, a PG movie and then calling the least observant parent to pick up the whole crew in their mini-van. They send a younger sibling trying to make the cut to save twelve seats, and then they saunter in and sprawl out with their snacks and huge purses (likely holding a two-six of sour puss) They make out, chit chat, and giggle, generally distracting the other paying patrons, and then whine about the lameness of the show upon their stumbling departure.

2. The Texter: You all know who I'm talking about, the problem is you likely ARE who I'm talking about. It seems like overnight it has become acceptable to text during a movie, since you're not making any noise. I've even witnessed a pre-show Rogers commercial that involved a girl texting her friend whilst mid-movie (can I just say EPIC Rogers FAIL, btw). Its NOT ok to use your cellphone at the movies. It lights up the whole theatre, distracting anyone behind you from the screen. I really don't want to know what you said to your boss, or how many shots of Patron you did last night, but if you're two rows down and whipping out your Blackberry so you can BBM your girlfriend, its hard to miss! I paid to watch the show, not to watch your social life drama unfold via Facebook, and you can Twitter your thoughts once you've seen the WHOLE movie. An extension of this are the people, who are audacious enough to answer their phone in the theater. This happened recently and I tried to give the offender the benefit of the doubt - maybe his wife was in labour? Then he said "Nothing, just watching this lame movie" and my grip on the arm rest increased tenfold.

3. The Critic: I have no problem with critics, especially when I agree with their thoughts. What I hate is the person who critiques the movie, during the movie, at a volume everyone in the general vicinity can hear. They subject you to their unenlightened thoughts, whining about plot points they didn't understand, asking what was said when the theater errupts into laughter and they were awakened from their mental slumber, then commenting on how unfunny the joke was. Lets keep it to ourselves, ok?

4. The Space Invader: I wish I was talking about martians who invade the theater with plans to capture and conquer (is "martian" even P.C. anymore?). I'm referring to the person who takes up their seat and half of yours when they sit down. I'm not discussing size here, its an attitude. Their elbow never vacates the shared armrest, and occasionally goes as far as your ribcage. Their shoulder veers to your side over and over, and their scent wafts into your bubble, causing your popcorn to taste of B.O., or worse CK One. This person often seems to be a smoker, and occasionally has a laugh to match their aura. Since I've gotten married and Derek graciously lets me take the aisle everytime, my encounters with the Space Invader has been limited of late.

and finally....

5. The Noisy Snacker: Don't be fooled, they come in all shapes and sizes. They usually sit in their seats, looking completely normal and harmless, talking in indoor voices until about fifteen minutes before the show time. You think you've lucked out and chosen a good seat, next to considerate neighbors. Then, they stand up. "Oh well, probably just taking a pre-film bathroom break" you think to yourself. Sadly, you are mistaken. You look up to see them returning at the last second, arms laden with popcorn, sodas, candy, sometimes even a five course meal. As the show starts, so too does the chomping, the rustling, and the slurping. They finally finish their popcorn and you breathe a sigh of relief; at least you can enjoy Act II in peace. No no, my friend, they still have sour patch kids, which they pull out of the rustling package, one by one, handing them up and down the row to their party, oblivious that all the other farm animals have had their dinner and made it to the barn by this point. I'm not ragging on everybody who gets a snack at the movies, I'd be in that category often enough, but these people have a specific talent for getting the most noise out of the smallest movements. Each bite echoes throughout the theater, coming through in THX complete with the added bonus of spit. Seriously? That's enough.

Clearly, I'm a rage-a-holic who should generally be kept in her cage, but it feels good to break out and howl at the moon every once in a while.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Birth of the Haiku Movie Review

We have seen two movies in two days, not unheard of for us. Both films failed to fulfill all my hopes and dreams. Since time is short on my end these days, but I am clearly full of humble (read: loud) opinions, I joked that I should practice my haiku skills for reviewing films. Derek thought this was a great idea and coined the term "Haiku Movie Review". This is lovely since a haiku is traditionally five syllables on the first line, seven on the second, and five on the third (though some examples vary) and this all fits neatly into a tweet. Obviously I am bastardizing the artful purpose of this poetic form, using it to serve my own purpose, but what artist has not stooped as low in their time?

The two movies we saw this weekend were Public Enemies and Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen. Here are my respective #HaikuMovieReview(s):

Public Enemies:
Well acted and scored
True story pacing meets Mann
Too much handy-cam

Sub effects for plot
Comic relief overload
Why, Michael Bay, why?

Feel free to comment for further clarification, or to rage at my lack of respect for the art of poetry. With that, I bid you adieu.

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Girl Who Cried "Art!"

Musing tonight about art and life. As I return from a much needed trip home, I'm struggling with the same old question. "If a tree falls in the forrest..." But my version goes more like this: Am I still an artist if nobody sees my paintings? Am I still a poet if nobody validates my iambic pentameter? What is it about the prospect of success that changes the value of my art?

I have no answers to these questions, except that I will always be at odds with myself in some respect. Part of me agrees with the fluffy-bunny-thought that I am an artist even if I am the only one who ever sees my work. By this right, even I choose to draw one legged stick figures for the rest of my life it is still art. The cynic in me, however, tells me that there are many people out there who think they are artists that would not even make it onto my creative waiting list. Both of these trains of thought are surprisingly egocentric. With the fuzzy-bunny version, I have the audacity to declare that anything I create is art, whether it is beautiful or not, valuable or not. With the cynical strain I have the condescension to judge whether what others create is worthy of being considered art. Both of these thoughts make me more uncomfortable with the amount of credit I am granting myself.

There is no conclusion here except to say that I cannot cure myself of the affliction that drives me to create. I cannot force myself not to think conceptually. It would take a serious amount of morphine to stop me from dreaming up ideas. So I will continue to hold out hope that I can create enough to satiate the desire, and that maybe someday someone else will condescend to give it that elusive title of "art".

If you were able to wade this far into my abstract post-vacation brain, you deserve a prize. Maybe next time, I'll have one for you.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

A Hiatus Type Post

So, normally this is a writing-themed blog, however, since I am on vacation, so is my typical subject matter.

Tonight my sister-in-law and I made the (rather spontaneous) decision to cook a dinner of Chinese food, Canadian style, for the family. She rocked out the chicken chow mien, beef and broccoli, and my personal favorite, the hot and sour soup. I managed the szechuan green beans (if you have an issue with my spelling of szechuan take it up with Google) and the dumplings, as well as assisting with the rice, tea and various meat preparation tasks. All in all it was a great meal with a legendary amount of leftovers.

The reason I'm writing is not to tell you how awesome we are, though I could wax poetic on that topic for a while. While we were cooking, I noticed a paradigm shift taking place. We are currently staying with my in-laws, whom I have the good fortune to adore. When we began cooking, my lovely sister-in-law took it upon herself to banish her mother to the patio swing, promising she would seek her out if she had any questions regarding the location of the garlic grater. Minutes later, I followed suit with my grandmother in-law, who maintained she was just supervising. I succeeded in telling her this was not the case and she was to immediately go relax and allow us the chance to prove our worth in the kitchen.

The interesting thing was that it appeared very difficult for them to stay in the relaxation zone and allow the young (ha) ones to assert their culinary independence. Now that I have my own kitchen, I know the pain of relinquishing my space to someone who might get lost without a road map to my cupboard chaos. I can only imagine how these feelings may be multiplied by years of family dinner experience, Chinese cooking classes (it's true) and an overwhelming desire to nurture those who are only around for several weeks out of the year. Its interesting that something as simple as having dinner cooked for you can be an exercise in letting go; as well as in perspective, for those of us who are just beginning our foray into group cooking and entertaining.

Once you've had the joy of mothering three children, or becoming a grandmother and great-grandmother several times over you deserve a mammoth pile of respect. You know exactly when to time the rice, start the tea, boil the water, and who may or may not need an extra napkin at the table. You have years of dishwasher loading mojo on your side, and six different recipes for tiramisu, all of which turn out every single time. You've already achieved domestic-goddess-hood, mingled with career woman-dom, not to mention you've learned Facebook post empty nest. All these merit badges under your belt, and there is only one thing you find challenging: stepping back and allowing those you've successfully reared to show you what a great job you've done.

Why is it so hard for us to turn off that desire to suggest an alternate method, and allow someone to show us what we've taught them? Perhaps its the same reason that when I finish training someone at work, I still have the desire to coach them on anything they may choose to do differently (in my defense, I ignore this impulse as often as possible). Tonight was a lesson in letting go for two great moms, and a lesson in culinary timing for two eager daughters. I'm proud of us all for making it a spectacular evening all around.

We had a great dinner, and a great time together. Nobody got sent to the ER with food poisoning (yet), and my sister in law and I even carried our efforts into doing the dishes. To the casual onlooker, you never would have known what was boiling just beneath the surface. All this and a fortune cookie.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Five Day Feature

As you know if you've been gracious enough to read my previous ramblings, I've been going on about a Three Day Thriller that I've been working on. Turns out that the idea has evolved, thanks to some of my Tweet-Buds @robertcarroll (blog here) and @hollywoodjane (blog here) and @sambanova. We've morphed the Three Day Thriller into a Five Day Feature to encompass more than a single genre, and given ourselves between now and Sunday to complete it, choosing the five days that work best for us to write.

I've realized that I've painted myself into a bit of a corner here, as I am leaving for a two week hiaitus on Friday at 5:30AM and between now and then I am scheduled to work every day at the bill paying job. So, I have a small confession to make. I'm going to be cheating ever so slightly. I am planning to transfer my Three Day Thriller into the Five Day Feature. I have currently already worked on the thriller for three sittings, which would give me two more sittings to finish it. Since Thursday is a total write off due to holiday preparations, I figure I'm not cheating too badly, and am hoping my tweet-family won't excommunicate me too easily. I'm Thirty-one pages in, which still leaves me quite a feat to accomplish around my work days. I'm extremely excited to have some moral support from other (read: better) writers who are forging on along the same timelines.

Check this blog for updates, or follow along on Twitter. You can search #5dayfeature for Twitter info. Happy writing to my compatriots.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Writing the High Road

I had a great discussion tonight with Derek (@dereklanger for you twitterholics) about why The Hangover worked for us, when Old School (both from director Todd Phillips) failed to impress either of us. We came to the decision that it was a combination of several factors that set The Hangover apart, not the least of which was a decision made by the writers to take the high road, and grant a marginal amount of intelligence to their viewers.

Generally, we avoid seeing comedies in the theater. Being on a modest budget as we claw our way into our chosen field, we usually spend on movies that will deliver more in the theater than our BluRay and LCD can achieve at home; most of the time this doesn't include comedies (romantic or otherwise) without a substantial amount of special effects. The Hangover was an exception, since it had come highly recommended and we were looking for a group-friendly show on a Saturday evening. We were duly impressed.

The Hangover is atypical of its genre because it does not write its characters into a corner and then inform you that the walls in the corner are white. Instead, the writers have written characters that embody some of the traits necessary to foster humorous reactions and a wide variety of jokes, but they allow them to grow on you slowly. They provide a wonderful platform for you to relate to each character by giving them a voice of their own to tell you who they are, and what they are struggling with instead of having characters B and C tell you that A is an uptight loser who brushes his teeth sixteen times a day. This, coupled with using relatively unknown actors who do not bring their typecast to every role they accept breathes new life into a genre that is begging Jim Carey and Will Ferrell to take a vacation.

This got me to thinking about the guts it takes to write the high road. It is always easier to have Mr. A tell you that Mr. B is a forty year old virgin, who will likely never get laid (better yet, why not have the title inform you of that) but it is a subtle art to get the character to tell you about himself, through his reactions, his lifestyle, even his puce cashmere sweater. I want to learn to be the type of writer who always takes the high road. Lending intelligence to your audience increases the likeliness that smart people will want to see your film, and plays Darwin to the ones who really should just be in Space Chimps which is likely in the larger air conditioned theater down the hall.

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Fear

I've been reading a delightful blog called "Ruts and Grooves" lately. The author of this blog has been touching on some topics that have been stirring the molasses in my brain and helping me shake up some old skeletons, in a good way. She mentions how fear is a huge impediment when it comes to writing. The fear that there are flaws that you cannot conquer, the fear that your characters are flat, or your dialogue is boring, the fear that you won't know what to do once you've finished, all the things that cause you to stop typing and say "why even bother?"

To this end, I have set a goal for myself. I decided to attempt to write a thriller in three days. A feature length script, from concept to completion in three days. The goal of this project is not to write a masterpiece, rather just to write. By setting a time limit, I am forcing myself to ignore the fears that cause me to halt my progress, or abandon my attempt altogether. The only thing I hope to gain from this exercise is a ninety page screenplay. Quality is not even part of the equation.

Today is sitting number three. I am clearly not finished, however, the project has only been gaining appeal as I work on it. While I have to extend the time limit, I am still on track with the purpose behind the exercise, and I haven't rewritten a single line. I have not even granted myself the liberty to reread what I wrote in the previous sitting, except for a quick clarification.

I don't know how many sittings it will take, but I'm extending it to five for the time being. Even if the only thing I can even use it for is campfire kindling, I will be proud to say that I've completed a project, and exorcised my fear. Thank you to the author of "Ruts and Grooves" for putting your finger on a plaguing issue.

The fear is in the backseat. I may have no idea where we're going, but I'm behind the wheel and we're going to wind up somewhere different than where we began!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

You May Ask, But I Have Not The Answer

If it is generally accepted that everyone wears a black hat, black gloves and a black cape, and my closet is filled with seven sets of the same, then it stands to reason that I wear these things as well. The truth is I hate black hats, black gloves and black capes, but if that is what is good and honest and enduring in a body, then is that not what I must wear?

If I were to venture out in a brown hat with purple polka dots and a scarf instead of a cape, who knows what sort of calamities may befall me. If I forgot my gloves at home, surely the bus would not stop to pick me up, truly I might fall in a large mud puddle, absolutely could I be refused entry to my place of employment. All of these possibilities are enough to scare me from committing such a widely unpopular faux pas. But I do so long for the courage to toss away my black hat, black gloves and black cape. The fear holds me back.

If I was to wear a red coat, perhaps I could learn to dance. If I was to wear a blue cap, perhaps I could learn French. If I had the spunk to dress apart, stand apart, live apart, who knows what I could be capable of? What chances I may take? But the fear holds me back, so I cling to my black hat, black gloves and black cape, and live a black life.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Five Reasons I Love the Classics

I'm sitting here watching "Roman Holiday" instead of doing my work, and I'm trying to put my finger on a few reasons I love classic Hollywood cinema. Here's what I've come up with so far, in random order:

1. Intonation: It seems everyone speaks with the same inflection. The girls all enunciate with faux British staccato, unless they hail from the Deep South. The gentlemen all talk either like Jimmy Stewart or the Old Prospector, both of which are equally entertaining. I wonder if studio speech courses were a requirement in order to appear in "the talkies".

2. The Sets: These ridiculous fake sunsets, the most audacious of back lot city streets, not to mention the background behind the car while driving.

3. The Kiss: That momentous moment when the leads realize they cannot live without one another, gaze into each others eyes. The music builds, the edges blur, and the actors press their faces together with such force you almost expect a perma-meld of the cheeks. The woman's head inevitably tilts back and the man enfolds her in his strong dominant embrace. Nobody move, hold it, five more seconds AND...release.

4. The Pacing: I love old movies that I have never seen, because I never know what to expect. The formula is completely apart from the typical 90 minute Rom-Com, where I can guess the next scene simply by looking at my watch. I love being surprised, and the unexpected knocks on my door so seldom these days, that being in the dark is refreshing.

Alright, I tried to go for five but its an even number kind of night. Feel free to hit me with some of your favorite (or least favorite) elements of classic cinema.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Life We Choose

We shot a conference today. I am always pleasantly surprised when the keynote speaker is interesting enough to keep me engaged in more than singing "Mama Mia" over and over in my head to the rhythm of the time code. One topic the speaker touched on particularly resonated with me. Though he was talking about a different area, I found myself applying it to my writing and film career, as it stands (currently on all fours, though we're working towards two legs).

He mentioned that he has always been a terrible fundraiser, because when he is asked the question "What would you do differently with our money that you are not able to do now?" his response has always been "Nothing. We're already doing what we want to do." His intent was not to say that they don't want funding, but that they plan to accomplish their goals with or without the extra cash. He stated that the best people to pay to perform a job are people that are already doing the job for free, because they like it. That way by paying them, you're taking the pressure off, and allowing them to make even more of an impact. Though this methodology does not work with every business model, I believe it applies to us. If we want to make films, we should make them. Funding or not, credits or not. If we are passionate, we are passionate. Perhaps someday someone with a rich uncle, or Harvey Weinstein himself will pay us to do what we want to do, but until then we continue to pursue our passion on our own.

This made me re-examine my priorities, to reconsider my motives for doing what we do. Sure, I love to make money. Do I want this to be my full time paying career? Absolutely. Is that my motivating factor? Absolutely not. We want to create films with a message, that share our artistic vision and allow us to exorcise pent-up creativity. We want to tell stories, weave legends, and live a passionate life. These things are not dependent on money, though its easy to convince yourself that they are. Obviously I will not say no to a budget that will greatly increase the production value of our films; heck, I'll actively seek one out if it suits us, but we will make our films without one if necessary. Whether we see our projects on the big screen in Hollywood, or crowded around our laptops with our families. Whether we affect only one person in our family, or one thousand in our city, or one million throughout the world, we are going to do this because we love it. Most of the time.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Magic of Star Trek

I am currently coming off my second viewing of J.J. Abram’s “Star Trek”, and am still reveling in the excitement I felt during both screenings. I come at Star Trek primarily as a fan of TNG (The Next Generation, in non-geek) and of late, Deep Space Nine. I rarely watched the original series though I have seen all the movies (The Undiscovered Country being my favorite; no hate from the Khan lovers please.) I went into Abram’s adaptation feeling a certain amount of trepidation. Like so many other fans I was nervous that the genre would be overrun by a new wave, and homage would not be paid to the vision of the late Gene Rodenberry. Within the first hour my fears had been allayed and I knew that I loved the movie. This is unusual for me since most of the time I cannot gage my reaction to a film until the credits.

The thing that blew me away about this film was the cast. Though my knowledge of the original characters has by no means reached Trekker status, I couldn’t have asked for a better selection of actors to play the young crew of the Enterprise. Whether it was a strategic decision to choose relative newcomers to the big screen or just dumb luck, this film struck gold in its lead players. Chris Pine was able to breathe life into young Captain Kirk, making the character his own, whilst still humbly paying tribute to the Kirk created by Shatner and the original series writers. Zachary Quinto portrayed Spock in conflict, struggling with the pull between his human and Vulcan heritage. I was worried going in that I would only see brain-lusting Sylar of Heroes, marauding around space with pointy ears and a botched eyebrow job, but this was not the case. Quinto separated us so fully from his silver screen persona, allowing us glimpses of the Spock we know and love, but whom he has not quite grown into yet. The most paralleled portrayal in my opinion was that of Karl Urban, who portrayed Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy. His mannerisms were nothing if not precise, and the humour surrounding his Bones-isms was perfectly timed and had just the right amount of tongue-in-cheek.


I read a review today where it was mentioned that Kirk’s character has zero development, and his journey is pretty much nil, in the emotional sense. I couldn’t agree more, though at first I couldn’t figure out why I still loved the movie. Typically if a character is lacking development I am turned off; in this case, I think I was just so excited to see where Kirk came from that I bypassed my normal must-haves for a character. I know from the original series that Kirk is a fairly stagnant character. Kirk is who he is, no bones about it I expected this. Seeing it brought to life by the vibrant and attractive Chris Pine only solidified my love for Kirk and his ways. I get the feeling that this movie bucks the system in many ways. Abram’s took an unpolished script from mid-writer’s strike, characters beloved by possibly some of the most intense fan group (ever met a trekker?) and a story arc that had a very specific format to follow, dashed a little bit of cinnamon and paprika on it, and the rest is magic.

The choice to create an alternate timeline was probably the best thing the writers could have chosen to give the film a little bit of breathing room from the expectations that it had to live up to, whilst showcasing characters that are recognizable despite different circumstances. The alternate universe allowed Abrams to showcase a different set of events without feeling like he was stepping on the toes of those who’ve memorized the dates and times of every important Star Fleet event in Trek history.

Nero as a villain was an interesting choice. This is possibly the only thing that remains up in the air for me (other than the copious sun flares that plagued the movie; seriously once is funny, twice is annoying, three times deserves a spanking). Nero is a villain that facilitated both Kirk and Spock’s agendas in the film. Kirk has a personal vendetta against Nero for causing the death of his father. Nero’s reactionary choices allow Kirk to showcase his shoot from the hip style. Spock, whose future self incidentally caused Nero to become what he is, struggles with the emotions brought on by Nero’s form of revenge and Kirk’s method of dealing with Nero. Why am I up in the air? We barely get to know anything about Nero. We see a brief holograph of the pregnant wife he lost when Romulus was destroyed. We know why he is here, but we never find out who he is. Some history on his personality would have been nice. Was he always so reactionary? Has he proven himself ruthless prior to these events? Do those awesome tattoos mean anything? Even a flash-forward (or back depending on how you look at it) to him with his wife may promote more sympathy for Nero, thereby creating more intensity behind his cause. One thing I can say for certain, Eric Bana delivered a great performance, as usual. I could barely find Bana in Nero at all, unless I scrutinized the eyes. He went as far as he could with what he was given.

Abrams breathed new life into the worn backdrops and tired sets, creating an Apple Store bridge, with clean white technology and Kindle-esque tools. Engineering resembles a submarine packed with technology, and well-oiled machines. The Enterprise gives the impression of the Navy, in space. The crew salutes the captain when he walks past, and you can tell that they are there to perform a duty, rather than attend a housewarming party. This was s fantastic directorial choice, as the original Enterprise was essentially a ship, not the home that was portrayed in The Next Generation where the crew lived on the ship for years at a time. In Kirk’s early days a mission was undertaken, executed, and the crew was returned to earth or their respective planets. This take gives the viewers a sense of realism, something that we can attach ourselves to based on the knowledge and experience that we possess.

The pacing of the film can be summed up in my phrase of the week “A no holds barred, action packed, non-stop thrill ride”. From the opening sequence, my eyes were glued to the screen. A great portrayal of familiar characters with a new cast and the best that updated technology has to offer. Combine that with J.J. Abram’s particular brand of magic, and you have a summer blockbuster that few can resist, and will likely last through the winter as well. Kudos to the team of Star Trek for approaching a seemingly insurmountable task, and showing us all that there is no reason you can’t buck the formulas and still appeal to the masses.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Pro Bono Lifestyle

I've been musing recently about my quest to make the ever sketchy transition from a generic job to an industry specific career. Perhaps I'm not historically savvy (read: old) enough to remember things clearly, but I seem to recall that there was a point in time where the natural progression went as follows: childhood, post-secondary, career. Or in some cases: childhood, entry-level job, working up to executive-level. It seems now that the natural progression is: childhood, post-secondary, strange limbo where you panic about your debts and your lack of career options in your field, slave labour where you work for free trying to gain experience, possible aligning of stars leading to entry level position indirectly related to your field.

I heard today that one of the young kitchen guys at work has given his notice. I guess his plan is to use his savings to support himself as he volunteers at high end restaurants to gain the necessary experience to be employed by them, experience he isn't receiving at our mid-market restaurant. Perhaps I am just suffering from the syndrome that causes every generation to see themselves as hard done by but I seem to remember a time where the work-for-free stage was not necessary to break into your field. We are in the limbo right now. We don't have enough work through the production company to quit our day jobs and still make our student loan payments, but we have too much work to continue at the pace we are going. Getting the amount and type of work that would allow us to forgo casual employment requires a lot of experience. For instance, I am pursuing script reading for cash I have applied to one internship and have had at least two opportunities to read pro-bono for production companies to gain resume experience. All of this still will not guarantee me a position reading for a salary.

My question is this: Has there always been this much competition to break into a career? I know its not solely the film and entertainment industry. I know photographers who are doing weddings for free and musicians who play free gig after free gig. To be a journalist you have to work for your school paper, then your community paper, before obtaining any kind of paying gig. Is it an unwritten rule that you have to prove your dedication to your chosen field within an inch of your sanity and solvency before you are granted your gold (or in some cases silver) star and given the chance to move onwards and upwards?

I was discussing this with my husband today. He mentioned that perhaps we are experiencing a generational standstill in the workforce. The baby boomers are occupying many of the top-dog positions as executives, head chefs, department heads etc., and that perhaps when they hit retirement we will experience a widespread shift in power. The next generation will take the top spots, leaving a gap in the entry to mid level positions in many industries that are currently full to bursting with talented potential workers. He theorized that perhaps we will see a tipping of the scales of opportunity, and anybody with a small portion of skill will be accepted for paying positions. Neither of us being a student of population growth verses employment opportunity we are simply hoping for the best. Regardless, it will be interesting to see the continued progression of the employment cycle over the next decade or two. Until then, does anybody have an internship opportunity for me? I will work for credits!

Also, when in doubt blame it on the baby-boomers.

Monday, May 4, 2009

The Art of Funny

People tell me I'm funny. I get it all the time. At first I took it as a compliment, thinking that perhaps I could roll it over into my writing to be successful in more ways than I had initially considered. Perhaps I could be a sketch writer, or write for a website that focuses on satire. After reading some of my early attempts, I'm developing a new perspective on my so called sense of humour.

First, I'm pretty certain that people confuse random with funny. I tend to go for shock value with my chosen phrases and occasional outbursts. Its not intentional, but I get bored with the traditional way of responding to situations so I throw a random caustic opinion into the mix every now and again. When you work in the service industry, such responses are a cathartic form of anger management; often allowing me to keep my job. More traditional conversationalists are often shocked by my lack of pretense. Their immediate response is laughter, which informs their linear brains that I must be funny; this information follows the internal interstate to their voice box and "Wow, Rach, you're so funny" pops out.

Secondly, I've realized that transferring humour into your writing is a whole different ballgame. There are so many factors to consider. How will this joke be perceived by all age groups? Will it be culturally relevant if and when this script is produced? Does is cross any PC lines? Is it something that only I would consider funny because I've been there? If I can get through all of these questions and still want to use the joke then hit +s and break out the champagne! When I do hit humour it my writing it is usually because I've gotten to know a character and can imagine the funny things he or she might say. I'm certain it has little to do with my own sensibilities.

I am pretty sure I will always envy those who have an inherent gift of humour. The feeling that comes from making people laugh is unparalleled. Being able to immortalize that gift in your writing is fabulous. Until I master this skill, I will just have to survive with the comedian I have locked in the basement. Which reminds me, its time for his lunch...

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

How Early Is Too Early to Want It?

Recently we pitched for the Crazy8's Film Festival here in Vancouver. The idea behind this festival is to make a short film in 8 days with an $800 budget (plus an exorbitant amount of production services) and then to show the film at a screening in front of industry professionals and the public alike. This is meant to showcase new talent, and create a calling card film that can be submitted to the festival circuit, as well as on a demo reel. We did not get in. We did, however, attend the screening for the six films that made the cut. Five out of the six were comedies, and the one drama blew them all out of the water. "Mike Inc." created by Jose Pablo Gonzalez and Paal Wilhelm Nesset was an incredible feat, especially considering the time constraints.

We went into our pitch with a project called "Grocery Confessions" (which we will incidentally be shooting this summer. Tell your friends and rich uncles!!) Though we pitched it as a dark comedy, "Grocery Confessions" has a lot of dramatic elements and is not slapstick by any means. As our first major pitch, we felt pretty good about our efforts, and received some positive feedback from the jury, despite the outcome. I suppose if rejection felt like cookie dough ice cream and kitten snuggles it would be a very different world we live in. What I'm getting at is that after attending the screening, I felt better and a little worse.

Looking at the types of films that were chosen, it was apparent that comedy was a major theme throughout the chosen films. I don't mean comedy in the "Darjeeling Limited" or "Oh Brother Where Ary Thou" sense, we're talking knee-slapping, guffawing, SNL-type comedy. Some of which succeeded, and others that may do better on YouTube. This made me feel slightly better about our story, if only because I can now convince myself that they weren't looking for our brand of story, as opposed thinking that despite the positive feedback we may have botched the pitch.

I feel worse, because the guys who made "Mike Inc." are clearly well on their way to amazing careers in the film industry, and were able to buck the system and create a mini masterpiece within the constraints that were thrown at them. It is inspiring and discouraging to witness their success. That is the nature of the beast, the good the bad and the ugly all in one California Roll and dumped on a peice of lettuce. Chew on it! Coming out of the event, I have several new ideas to flesh out, and much more networking to do.

What I want to know is; when is it too early in your career to be picky about what you will and won't do? When are you allowed to avoid something that isn't up your alley, even if it may further your career in some way? Is there a right time to say "I will not compromise"? I ask because we could have pitched a comedy of the slapstick variety, and possibly made it into the festival, but we didn't. We chose to pitch a story we're passionate about, in a genre that we love, in a format we can get behind. Was this a bad move? I still say we did the right thing. Thoughts?

Also, since i was a delinquent on Logline Friday, perhaps I will try to achieve one line a day the rest of the week.

*disclaimer* I save all my best loglines for my idea log, in case someone decides to borrow the mediocre ones I post for their own gain. This exercise is merely to stir the molasses that is the right side of my brain. (On that note, if you've never done the right brain/left brain test, you should check it out. I ALWAYS see the dancer turning clockwise and it takes me forever to see it the other way - what do you see?)

Here is today's Logline:

A chef in the city is fired when he is wrongly accused of harassing his female co-workers. He exacts his revenge by paying customers to complain and send their food back.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Self Indulgence

I'm currently in the middle of a multidimensional three-way relationship that I haven't quite figured out how to navigate. The participants in this toxic tango are at war with one another, constantly in bed with one member when it suits them, and then sneaking out at one in the morning for a torrid rendezvous with the other. My fiscal responsibilities are at war with my creative drive, and both are in a love-hate relationship with my time availability.

Pumping out creative work that is of a pleasing nature to more than just one's parents is time consuming, and costly (especially when such work requires equipment, knowledge and personnel). My drive to succeed in my chosen industry begins tantalizing me with future bill paying opportunities; all I have to do is sign on the dotted line and commit to two free reader's reports per week, eventually (fingers crossed) leading to a paying job doing script analysis. My fiscal self is screaming "Yes! Show me the money!" but my creative self sulks in the corner saying "Oh yeah hi, remember me and your so-called PASSION?!". This blood feud is coupled with a time barrier that is really rather tiresome, between pro bono work and a day job where most of the people I pour coffee for think I have a speech impediment-- waitress and actress are synonymous some days, and neither are my calling. I could continue, but self pity is never attractive for more than two paragraphs.

I guess posting after ten results in copious whining. Start up the dirges and break out the mourning food, Rachel's got a time crisis on her hands! Yeah, me an the entire universe including anyone who's ever had a dream. Sometimes all it takes is discussing the problem to make you buck up.

On another note, during the proofing of my reader's reports, I've noticed a lack of confidence in my writing. Far too much thinking, perhapsing and maybeing to make a real person believe what I have to say. If I'm not selling myself on my ideas, there remains little hope for someone else to jump up and shout "EUREKA" in manner of Bugs Bunny. Thank you to Natalie Goldberg and her book "Writing Down the Bones" for bringing this to my attention and suggesting some great fixing exercises.

Next post will be decidedly more entertaining and less morose. Many thanks for your indulgence.