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.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Its That Time Again: Logline Extravaganza!

Its a rainy Friday morning and I'm basking in the 1.5 hours of online bliss before I head in to work. I've decided to revisit my previous exercise of five loglines to keep me busy. Perhaps I'll make this a weekly thing. Five Logline Friday has a nice ring to it (though it sounds highly ambitious one cup of coffee in). Visit this PREVIOUS POST to compare and contrast today's ideas with the previous. Here goes:

1. OVERSHARE: Jane, a seasoned commuter, passes her time eavesdropping on the transit passengers around her, listening to their phone calls and imagining their lives. One morning she hears the private intentions of a passenger who has plans to kill herself that night. When the passenger disembarks suddenly, Jane feels compelled to go after her and keep her from her dark plan.

2. UNDEAD EVOLUTION: It is 2027. The human race have been subject to a violent plague and all have become the walking dead. Starvation is imminent, until one zombie child develops an awareness, an understanding of her surroundings. The need to feed becomes secondary to the need for survival, and the evolution of the undead begins.

3. THE SWAP: Bored with their domestic responsibilities, a group of housewives in the fifties start a program where working women can experience the domestic life for a day, and they will take over the office responsibilities. Breaking the barriers between career woman, and domestic goddess, the role sharing results in comedy, and an awareness to a new kind of life.

4. CHARISMA: Some people are simply too charming for their own good. Ellie is one of those people. Every time she opens her mouth, she makes a new friend. Her advice is highly sought after and her phone is always ringing. When Ellie begins a new job, her new admirers begin to cross the line from over-friendly to over-bearing. Ellie decides to take a vacation, only to be hotly pursued by those who want a piece of her, and they will do anything to get the piece they want.

Wow, those took longer than I had anticipated, and I only got four. Remind me next time that this exercise is not conducive to the morning. I will edit post when I can extract the fifth one from my brain. On another note, I'm aware that these are not my best work, but it is worth the posting humiliation to stir the creative molasses into gingerbread.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Exploring the Scary

After my last post on cheap scares and tears, I've been itching to explore certain elements that make a movie scary. Furthermore, how to amp up the scare factor to spine-tingling, bone-chilling and eventually out right terrifying. I have an inkling that a lot of the scare factor depends on one's personality and receptiveness to differing tactics, however, there seem to be some tried and true methods. I've covered several below, please feel free to nudge me with pushy comments if I've left out a favorite.

First, "The Cheap Scare" (see my previous post for more detailed coverage). This tactic relies on a combination of music, timing and suspense. We all know its coming, and that is the beauty of it. The suspense of that knowledge without the key of knowing the precise moment amps up the scare factor. It is a similar feeling to anticipating the initial drop on a roller coaster. You know its coming, but you can't fully prepare yourself for the sensation.

Next is "The Grotesque Factor". Generally entailing blood spatter of some kind, copious entrails, or zombies chewing on a misplaced limb of some sort. The grotesque factor is for movies whose primary purpose is to disturb you into being afraid. The fact that this extreme disgusting-ness is taking place anywhere, even on your 2-D 42" LCD screen is just too much, and you are sufficiently freaked. This tactic is specifically targeted towards those with weak stomachs. Rob Zombie seems to be a master of such films. I try to stay away from films that employ this tactic, for the well-being of others around me.

Another tried and true is "No Escape". This one is primarily used in Zombie movies (and is also my biggest weakness). It plays on the underlying fear of being trapped. You may feel that fear in relation to a dead-end job, or due to the padded room that you recently left behind; no matter the circumstances everyone is subject to this fear at some point. For some, myself included, the feeling that there is no escape, and no viable option for success is terrifying. Zombie movies encompass this best of all since zombies have the potential to be anywhere that humans have been or will go. Also, anyone around you could become one of them at any moment, and ultimately, so could you. There is no trust, no solace, just chaos and failure...excuse me while I go cower in the bathtub.

OK, back now. The last tactic I will cover today (though this is by no means a comprehensive list) is "It Could Happen to You". This tactic is more of a subtle art. The goal is to make the story line close enough to real life that you begin to look over your shoulder, expecting the worst at any moment. This device usually employs a character who is encountering a spot of bother in their day-to-day life. A bullied student or a single mother, for instance. The story then puts them through the ringer with some sort of super-villain, crazed killer, or supernatural entity; ultimately ending with either their triumph, where they realize they are stronger than they ever knew; or their untimely demise. The reason this tactic works is because these are the events we view on the six o'clock news. Granted, they are generally less graphic, with less sharp pointy things and witty dialogue, but therein lies the entertainment factor. We begin to believe that if we are a victim of circumstance in one area of our lives, then we are also subject to a psychopathic next door neighbor who kills for nothing less than a pint of sugar (does anyone say pint anymore without referencing beer?). Even though these cases are few and far between, realistically, who doesn't like to believe they're special and deserving of a super-stalker from beyond the grave?

Alright, I'm spent. Your turn. Any other sublime scare tactics I've failed to discuss?

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

From Cheap Scares to Cheap Tears.

I used to have one main concern in my movie watching. I'm sure you're familiar with it. You're at the movies with your date. He wanted to see "The Haunting in Connecticut" and you jumped at the chance since you dig him, even though you secretly were all over "He's Just Not That Into You" for the third time. You're in the theater, holding your popcorn, wishing you hadn't ordered the large iced tea. You know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the creepy violin music means that the bad guy is going to jump out from behind the next object that comes into frame. You cross your legs, you're really feeling that iced tea. The problem is that you cannot pinpoint the exact millisecond that the music will THRUM and the camera will ZOOM, and you will jump, spilling your popcorn on your date, and peeing your pants just a little bit. This is the moment, my worst nightmare, the cheap scare. You know its coming but the timing is dicey and it gets you every time.

There is now a new moment that puts my risk of theater embarrassment through the roof. I'm dubbing it "The cheap tearjerker". Usually appearing in a longer than necessary drama, or the ever thriving chick flick, the writers pair with the casting team to attach you to a character, usually a hard done by woman, young child, or sometimes even an animal. They put said character in a situation specifically designed to trigger a release of pity pheromones throughout the atmosphere. Then they add just the right touch of emotion enhancing music. The feeling permeates the theater. Add in the fact that your boss yelled at you the previous day and you dented your fender when you parked, and you are done. The tears well up and no amount of staring at the wall lamps can stop them from leaking down your face. Your date looks over at you and your makeup mess is further enhanced by a blush of shame. You are thanking the theater gods for the dark when you hear a rustle of purses being opened, and noses being blown. At least there is solace in the fact that you are not alone. You now have the reputation of being "sensitive" and everyone in your Twitterverse will be aware that you cried in Wall-E by the time you reach the water cooler tomorrow.

All that being said, I'm clearly going to use both of these tactics in my writing-- or at least in my first drafts.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Social Media Un-Savvy

So, in an attempt to develop my web presence I have added Twitter updates to my blog, and blog updates to my Twitter feed. Yes, I am currently cross-eyed. Part of me wonders how long I'll be able to limp by with my limited knowledge of the four-eyed monster that is the internet. Is it sad that I'm only 26 and lacking the knowledge to function at full capacity online? I grew up with the internet - I'm generation "A" here, and yet I'm daily falling behind.

Perhaps the internet has a system similar to dog years. For every year, post high school, that you age in RL (that's "real life" for all you who aren't down with the made up acronyms), you age 2 years online. So since I graduated 8 years ago, I've aged 16 online years; therefore, in terms of my internet savvy, I'm nearing middle age.

Maybe the frenzied Googling of feed-linking intructions has made me crazy. No more theories for today.