Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Mountain or mole hill?

At what point do we stop worrying?

I suspect never. Afterall each rewrite brings something new, more polished, to the table.

Okay, so you've found your producer, they like it, they want to make it. They give you notes. You tweek accordingly. They appear happy. It's good. They vanish off to locate funding.

Which gives you time to think....

And on reflection you know the story can be better.

If you rip half the story out and start all over again, potentially the next version will knock your - and everyone elses - socks off. ... Or it might not.

The producer is happy with what is there. And there's no guarantee that the new version actually will be better. You might wind up destroying the certain something that attracted them to that particular story in the first place.

Bit of a tight rope to walk.

So you don't. You leave it. And you worry.

You really don't need to.

Either the film will be made, or lets face it - smoke and mirrors - won't be made. It's out of your hands.


All writers are control freaks. Let's face it, crafting a story - influencing your characters lives ... feels pretty close to being a divinity. Even if only in the world you've created.

Being powerless over the fate of your story => fear => worry.

We all go through that fire, that torment. Part of being a writer.

I think once the producer has said yes, they like it, they want to make it, ... I think you are allowed to stop worrying and move onto the next project. Relax, have an hour or two off, and then dive into the next story.

Fires of creation burn better and hotter than the cool fire of torment.

Have at it, says I. On to the next inferno! :)

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Want a laugh?

Not enough dark humour in your life?

Check out Phillip Barron's new masterpiece Just For The Record. You can find the trailer on his blog by clicking here.

Trailer makes me giggle. Can't wait to see the film!

Put the word out, it's gonna be good. :)

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

"Just tell the story"

"Just tell the story." He said knowingly.
"But -- " I started...
He interrupted by capturing me with those lovely brown eyes of his.
You ever had anyone do that to you? Ever had an actor you think is sexy capture you with his eyes? Ever had Bruce Campbell do that to you? It's a pretty amazing experience.

Sorry, felt in need of a writing-related gloat. My insecurities must be playing up today.

The reason I bring it up, is, I think in the last few days I stumbled on to a key bit of wisdom. Something just clicked as I've been plotting a rewrite. It's about the writing process - and the bitch of it is, I have no idea where to start explaining it using words.
Pretty poor show for a wordsmith.

It is to do with getting emotion on to the page during the treatment / outline stage ... or, if you are into cards pinned to a board, then.

And it all links back to "Just tell the story".

SCENE A) informs how we feel about a character, what we know they have just experienced, SCENE B) builds on SCENE A, so you don't have to explain exactly what's going on - because the audience can see the image in SCENE B and make a reasonable guess about what is going on emotionally with the character.

In this instance, in SCENE A someone is tense, scared, has been messing with supernatural powers that they shouldn't have, it all reaches a crisis point ... SCENE B we see them again, in the same location, relaxed, character smiles gently - - and we know they have very likely been possessed. ... But we don't need to show the possession, and we don't need to explain in the action line that the character has been possessed - because we don't want the audience to know for sure, until a bit later in the story when it becomes really obvious that that's what is going on.

Again it's to do with the off screen story. In this case the villain's.

See, I've not explained it very well.

But I have finally grokked it. I knew this stuff before, but I didn't grok it. And now I do.

I wanted to share it with you.

If I can work out how to explain it any better than this, I'll post again later on.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Want a good scare?

Go see Drag Me To Hell.

...N'ah it's by that Spider-Man bloke... ...and it's PG-13**...

You are a died in the wool horror fan? Yes?
You loved Saw.
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (the original) made you shudder delightfully.
In short you like a bit of sickness with your horror-high.

If you don't already know about Sam Raimi's horror chops, I guess you've never seen the Evil Dead films. Shame on you!
(If Evil Dead II changed your life, this is better!)

Next thing you'll be telling me you haven't seen Peter Jackson's early work. *rolls eyes*

Go educate yourself. How can you call yourself a horror fan if you don't know about Sam Raimi?

Drag Me To Hell is one of those films that is packed with scare. Ignore the teen friendly rating, it means nothing. This film made me terrified of a handkerchief for Dog's sake!

It will make you jump - a lot. It will gross you out - yes, even you! You too will be scared of a humble piece of cloth with some nice embroidery on it. It will make you laugh in that sort of "Oh my god that's sick!" kind of way. There are some satisfying visual references to other horror films - - who can forget that house? And generally you'll spend most of the film about a foot above the seat of your chair* - which lets face it, you don't really want to be sitting on anyway because you spilled your coke all over it in the first few minutes, and then accidentally dumped the popcorn on it a few seconds after that.

Okay, so you take my advice, you go to the cinema, get comfy, the film starts, introductory scene shows promise of what's to come, and then it goes to the meet the characters section and for about 5 minutes you are wondering why you came to watch this boring ass film ... that Eleanor doesn't know what the f**k she's talking about.

But don't leave.

Trust me on this.

As soon as the gypsy turns up - and then the action kicks in in the car park, you (like me and my friend) will not be able to take a toilet break (despite a serious need to relieve yourself from drinking too much coke before the film started) for fear of missing something.

I haven't nearly wet myself in the cinema for so many years! Sam Raimi really is the master.

Go see it.

The cinema was half empty when I went on Saturday night to the 7pm showing. I couldn't believe it. Get the word out. This is a film all horror fans need to see!
It uses old school horror methods to grab you by the throat and give you heart-attack after heart-attack, and as a result it gets the teen rating - despite being a film I wouldn't let any teen** in my care go and see. :) Nice one Sam.

*jumping in shock and terror!
**PG-13? They're nuts!!!

(Most films are lucky to get 7.# from me. I almost never give out scores like this. Films that have rated 8.0+? I can count them on 1 hand.)

Friday, 5 June 2009

Guttering: emotional impact and momentum


Steve posted recently about creating momentum in story by cutting scenes correctly, in late - out early, contrast the scenes to build conflict, and letting the audience fill in the blanks in order to heighten their investment in the story being told because they have become co-creators in the movie/story process.

I definitely agree with all of this. And it is difficult to build these things into the story you are telling - that's why writing is work. It has to be said that this kind of finessing is missing from the majority of scripts that are out there that I've read [mine included, embarrassingly].

Part of our writer's toolbox should be understanding the importance of creating the Off Screen Movie as this can lead to a far more involving movie-going experience for the audience. - - The link goes to Terry Rossio's description of his awakening to that realisation when watching Schindler's List. Follow the link and read it, you'll be glad you did!

I had a similar revelation myself when reading *Black Orchid where the blood in the gutters totally blew my mind. It was like my subconscious screaming at me - -
...story can happen off-screen in a very powerful, emotionally involving way, if you hint at it correctly.

It completely changed the way I look at telling stories, and reinforced exactly how important it is to cut from scene to scene in the right places and how we should hint at our off-screen story in a way that allows it to be a living entity in the background of the unfolding tale. The landscape, if you will.

In short, I believe that in an ideal world the offscreen story should be part of the arena of the film as well as being an intimate part of the viewer's emotional experience of the story being told.

Screenwriter bollocks? Maybe. But IMO that doesn't make it any less true, or any less important to the process of crafting a very satisfying, emotionally moving tale.

... Now all I have to do is work out exactly how to do that....

Steve says that it's all a matter of planning. I think he's right. Annoyingly.