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.