Thursday, February 25, 2010

I repeat, I repeat: Don't repeat!

No, I haven't stopped writing my blog. It's only been five days, come on!

Since my last blog, two of my kiddos have had birthdays (they are the lights in my life and I am honored to be their mother), I've worked as a production assistant on a short film, in addition to a medical refresher course that I MUST attend (while I am waiting to make it to the big times of actually taking a vacation and NOT go into debt), created a powerpoint presentation that I must present on Maintaining Motivation in Your Staff (that I am being sent to South Carolina to deliver), plus worked my regular forty hours a week and trained a staff on a new computer program being issued in my department. My so-called "real job". Sounds busy?

Tomorrow, I'm off to be in a documentary called "Poisoned Apples" about bad and really mean teachers. I get to vent! Get ready world!  The best part about this is that my kiddos get to be in it as well. They're stoked. They can say they've been in a movie AND had a speaking role.

SO. What wonderful pearl of wisdom can I share with you today?

Don't repeat yourself. Never ever ever ever. If you say:

Bob runs to the counter. Searches register. Empty. Bob runs to the back. Finds cash. Hauls it out of there.

It sounds okaaaaaayyyy, but the word runs is in there twice. Which makes it boring. Why not sprints? Jogs? Hauls butt?

Don't limit your vocabulary! The world is at your fingertips and you wanna repeat!?!?

I repeat, I repeat: Don't repeat!
Just so you know, this is what he wanted for his birthday. He takes after his MOM!!!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Shutter Island

I have been waiting for this movie for ages, it seems. First it was to come out in November (I believe) but got pushed to February thanks to Avatar.

Opening night! Me and my besties had a Girl's Night Out. Dinner and a movie. Haven't done that it FOREVER it seems. So much fun. Now on to the movie.

One word: Hitchcock.

Completely done in the style of Alfred Hitchcock (at least I think so). Very little blood, guts, and gore. Not very scary. Suspensful? Eh, some. But it IS a psychological thriller.

One of my favorite scenes in the movie is (and don't worry this isn't a spoiler) is when Teddy (Leonardo Di Caprio) hears the voice of Max von Sydow. Max is seated in a highback leather chair, which it turned diagonally to a roaring fire. The writer makes you wait to see his face....the camera pans around the back of the chair, only to continue to pan because the chair protrudes on the sides like wings. Right before you see his face and as the camera continues to pan, a vase on the table obstructs your view.

Excellent writing! The writer,  Laeta Kalogridis, has the audience wait, wait, and wait to see his face. We, as an audience are suffering! We want to see who this guy is...this mysterious man.

We were in a packed theater. As the scene progressed, I listened to the audience's reaction. They were strained a bit with the wings of the chair, but when the vase was in the way, audible voices: "Oh man, come on!" "WTF? Move the f-ing vase!" "God, come on, I wanna see the guy!"

Wonderful reactions! Great writing! So suspenseful. Go see it.

I think this is one of the most well written screenplays I've ever had the pleasure of seeing. I think it's one of the best adaptations I have ever seen. (The book by the same name is by Dennis Lehane, who also authored Gone Baby Gone and Mystic River).

The direction by Martin Scorsese was superb. The set up of potentially creepy scenes was very well done. His use of characters, the actors, everything really, was fabulous. Truly felt I was watching Hitchcock. (Except with better music).

But the writing. The writing is GREAT.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A Pat On The Back!

Just got in from a screenwriter's group meeting.

I met two people who knew what they were talking about. The jury is out on the third. He didn't bring any writing samples and he didn't say anything. But, he did order chili.

I gave the guys the first fifteen pages of my action flick. Since this was my first meeting with them, they didn't know what to expect.  (I didn't either. This was MY first screenwriter group meeting other than my classes).

I told them to gut my script if necessary and that I was open to suggestions. So they read it. And then the questions:

How long have you been writing?  (This can be good OR bad when asked. I suggest watching body language when they ask. You can tell alot from someone's shoulders and eyebrows.)

Why did you use all caps for this word?

Why don't you expound a little on what the bad guy does in this line....

And that was it. It took ten minutes. They stared at me.

I blinked.

I think my body language said something to the effect of, "That's it?

The younger guy said, "I know we're being nitpicky about the caps and little stuff. But, it's because this is so extremely well written. There's nothing wrong with this."

A verbal pat on the back to me! Yay! I will enjoy this for tonight. Thursday, however, I take my fifteen pages before the jury of my peers and mentor. Will it get gutted? Oh, no doubt. Am I up for that? Sure! It's all good. How else can I learn?

But that's another blog. For now, I'm enjoying my pat on the back.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Sometimes The Best Writing Is The Simplest!

So I went to see my 9 year old's class play called, Pirates! The Musical!

He had a speaking part this year so we (the entire family) were THRILLED. (My 9 year old has special needs. This was HUGE.)

And before I finish and actually get INTO what I'm trying to write about, let me just say, he did great and of course, was amazing. But then again, he's related to me!

Now to the crux of my blog:

As the third graders were singing their swashbuckling hearts out, I checked the program. The script was written by John Jacobson!

John Jacobson was a choreographer for Disney at one point. He did the choreography for the shows and parades. When Tokyo Disney opened, they flew him out and gave him a house while he prepared the performers. I tell you this because this same John Jacobson ALSO did the choreography for my high school show choir. His energy was amazing and was a super fun guy to hang around. We all loved him.

Now he's writing scripts. And MY children are performing them.

It's the simplest thing. A well placed 'Argh!' and the audience rolled. One little 'Avast!' and the entire scene changed.  Of course the acting was stellar by all the third graders (although mine would have walked away with an Oscar). But how could they act if no one had written the parts for the King of the High C's? Or Purplebeard? Or the Stowaways?

I learned that sometimes you don't really HAVE to say that much in order to get your point across. Less is more. At least sometimes.

AND I learned that John Jacobson NEVER rests!

I know this wasn't a very technical post. I wanted to brag on my shining star son. I was pretty excited to see John's name on my little's ones program. It's super personal when you know the guy, y'know? Argh!!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

From Paris With Love, Baby!

I went to see "From Paris With Love" on opening night. Loving the movie, "Taken" as much as I do (as Will says, it's a rocket sled on rails!) I was uber excited to see where Pierre Morel would take it. (He directed both movies). Plus, I respect John Travolta's acting abilities. It's always good to see Jonathan Rhys Meyers on the silver screen too!

The movie was good, I'd say, but what I was personally impressed with was the writing of John Travolta's character, Charlie Wax. Charlie's an unconventional CIA agent whose methods are a bit unorthodox. The character knows his stuff and is fun to watch. Nothing is lost on him. He's contraversial. He's fun. He knows different variations of swear words and explains each one. He's definitely an interesting character. John Travolta plays him well. It was an enjoyable movie. (I admit, I liked "Taken" more, though).

But it's all about character! Wax is a tough as nails, go getter. Meyers plays the role of James Reece, a low level operative that wants to make it to the big time. Wax and Reece are great opposites...Wax has experience, Reece has none. Wax spends time with prostitutes, Reece is loyal to his girlfriend. They have a good ying/yang polar opposite dynamic.

Which is great for a script!

Just remember, each character has to have their own voice, their own feel, because they must be, and I stress, MUST be a living, breathing, character in your script. Each character has his own motive, his own desires, his own style. Charlie Wax has that in "From Paris With Love". His character is great!

Go see it and tell me what YOU think!!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

It's Superbowl Sunday!

So I have my laptop with me and I'm watching the Superbowl as I type this.  I'm wondering how many years it'll be before someone makes a movie about the Saints coming this far...being so reslient following Hurricane Katrina, never before making it to the playoffs much less the SuperBowl....

What an amazing story!

Don't get me wrong, the Colts are amazing too. Which brings me to another story:

My father, before he had his director job for the network, was a camera man in  Mississippi. He had to go and film college football games. Guess who he used to film? Archie Manning, Peyton Manning's father. They spoke on a few occasions and becaucse of that alone all of my childhood consisted of faithfully following the Saints status, going to some games, even MOVING to Louisiana at one point. He and my father's friend, Mike Falgut, would say EVERY year, "This'll be the year the Saints go to the Superbowl. You'll see!!!" History shows they never did. Part of that was due to the horrible coaching by Bum Phillips. (Never trust someone with the first name Bum). After Archie retired, my father was a bit sad...he followed other teams, but for him, it wasn't the same.

Life got better when he heard Peyton was at Tennessee. Man, then it was all about college ball. When Peyton got drafted, it was all about the Colts. Still is.

So, here I sit. In the living room with my father. He's rooting for the Colts. I'm rooting for the Saints. Not because they're my favorite team. I'm rooting for the underdog. Stories are everywhere.

Rooting for the underdog.....perhaps that's my writing style? After all....

I'M the underdog.


Now that the Saints have won, I have to say, what a GLORIOUS ending to such a story!!!! They overcame tremendous odds, saw the prize that they wanted, worked hard and just TOOK IT!

We could learn something from that, don't you think?

Friday, February 5, 2010

Good Reviews!

I've gotten good reviews on my beat sheet!

Now I'm on to laying out the sequences of my script. For direction, I look to the movie Chinatown by Robert Towne. What a tight script. And...tight sequences. Great flick. Recommended.

From there, I'll start crafting my pages. By April I'll have a full feature length movie screenplay ready to market. And it will be superb.

You can all say you knew me when!!!

More to come....

Thursday, February 4, 2010

So excited!!!

I have a concept. A good character, complete with her flaws. Is the villian bad enough? Bad enough to be her equal? Hm....

I completed Round 1 of the BS2 (see previous post).  I emailed it to my group and got helpful feedback, although some of the comments told me that a couple of them don't actually read but pick out choice words and form opinions...

Completed Round 2 of the BS2! Emailed it to everyone, including my teacher/mentor. We will discuss it today in class, as we will discuss everyones.

I'm so excited! I've done a good amount of research for this plot to work, I've gotten my A/B stories worked out. I write good dialogue. I know this bc if it's not forwarding the plot, I strike it.

This process has me hyped. I've watched a shell of an idea with a character I thought would be cool become a character with her own voice, heart, demons, what have you. And the story breathes on its own. At least I think it does. I hope it does!

Which is why I'm so excited to share with my group. Not because I want them to "get it" (although that would be marvelous!) but because they will find the weakest links for me. So I can pound it out; MAKE it breathe on its own. I love to hear things like: "I don't find that believable," or "That doesn't make any sense that he would do that...what's his motive?" Pertinent questions.

And I get to dig for the answers.

I adore this process.

I'll let you know how it goes!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Just another step...

As you know, I'm currently taking a course at a prestigious university for screenwriting. It hones my skills. And, I make friends and contacts I hope to keep for a long time.

Our assignment this week was to fill out a BS2. That's Blake Snyder's formulated Beat Sheet. (I use this alot. It keeps my script flowing exactly where it needs to flow without senseless rambling. Blogs are for that!)
Once we completed the BS2, we had to email it to our group. So, you know, I did it.

I'm amazed.

First of all, the sheer talent in my group is awesome. One girl has such an "indy" spirit. It cries out in her scripts. One of the guys is big into the armed forces. And whaddya know...his script is about the marines. Another guy created a hilarious absurdist comedy. I really am rooting for him to make it big just so I can see it hit the big screen. Their scripts were great!

So I critiqued them and told them where I was confused, things like that. I emailed the critiques back to the group.

Then I got my email. MY critique. From three extremely talented individuals -- my group. All coming from different points of view. All points valid, engaging.  I love objective feedback!

My script is an action flick with a strong female lead rising above harrowing trials (she's an assassin so she HAS to) emerge the heroine. I like it. But I need a fresh set of eyes...eyes that aren't attached to me and can't read my mind. I need my script to be able to be understood by the reader. They can't take time to decipher what they think I may be saying. It needs to be clear.

Indy girl had some good comments. Changes will be made. Military man had some good insight. Changes will be made. 

I have to say, though, that the best review I got was from the comedic absurdist writer. After reading my beat sheet and giving me some ideas he gave me a compliment: "I like the character and I feel you can write something with the ferocity of a Bourne movie."

WOW! What a compliment! I was stunned to read that. Why? Because I was doing my best to have it read like a Bourne movie. It gave me a boost. Maybe I can do this after all!

Tomorrow I have to resend my new and improved BS2 back to my group. Where some may hate feeling vulnerable to let another read their work, I welcome it! I admit it's painful to hear someone say, "That doesn't work there," or "This doesn't move the plot along" when I've worked so hard. But not only does this teach me things and give me a fresh perspective, I get to become closer with my group and learn from them, both their triumphs and mistakes. And they learn from me as well. (Well, HOPEFULLY!)  I love it this process. I look forward to it now. The pitches in class. The feeling of my throat becoming dry and my hands turning clammy...I'm living the dream, man.

Just another step so you all can say you knew me when....

...and you ALL will say that one day.....

For more information the BS2 or Blake Snyder, please visit