Thursday, November 8, 2007

Me And My Kitty


So much has been happening since I’ve last blogged; not to mention the fact Apple’s new powerful kitty ate a lot of my work and computer settings. I’ve spent the past two weeks trying to recover a lot of my old stuff from my archived files/folders and placing them on my new iMac. Even though this kitty was not so kind - leaving me with a few scratches - I’m a Mac girl. Once you go Mac, you never go back.

I was smart enough to backup all of my film work onto my trusty Lacie drive. However, not quite having my new computer fully set up, editing was placed on hold for a bit.

I did, however, manage to complete a rough cut of my short film before Leo attacked. It was a learning experience in storytelling. Filmmaking is collaborative - no question about it. Unless you’re someone like Robert Rodriguez, you can’t do it alone (though I even suspect he has magical elves hidden somewhere).

I’ve just hired an editor, and we will start working on bringing the short film to a level all involved can be proud of.

This month I have also been busy with NANO, and I plan to finish 50,000 words of my novel by the end of this month. As of today - day 8 - I have 13,341(5 chapters and 58 pages). I’ve always wanted to write a novel, and I even started two about ten years ago. However, once the screenwriting thing hit me, I felt I had found a happy home for my ADD.

Let me tell you, ADD is giving me one serious beat-down - big time. My house is the cleanest it’s ever been, and I’ve gained at least 10 pounds from the exotic dishes I’ve been experimenting with this month - and it’s only day 8. Thank God I’ve joined the gym this month - though I haven’t been there yet. Hey, it’s only day 8!

As far as the strike. I’ve been following it like so many “can’t-wait-to-get-my-WGA-card” writers, and I find myself extremely pissed every time I read an article or come across someone who blames the writers. I am so proud of the writers, and especially the showrunners - like Tina Fey and Shonda Rhimes. Rhimes’ statement of why she felt she had to walk the line opened the floodgates to my heart and soul. Integrity is a big word with huge shoes. I just hope one day I can fill them; even though at times it’s not a comfortable fit.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Production Pics

Trisha Tsolyn (DP), Zayre Ferrer (Associate Producer) and Me watching and discussing playback.

This was the last night of filming. We shot two locations - starting the day at 8 AM and finally wrapping at 2:30 AM. An experience I'll never forget.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

What I Did With My Summer...

I can’t believe the summer is fading. When I look back at the summer of 2007, those typical days of grilling, movie nights and vacationing with the kids will not be around to paste in the photo album.

However, my copy of Gorilla and FrameForge software would archive my first (of what I hope to be many pivotal moments in my career and life): produced, written, directed and edited short film.

As many friends and family members were surprised, and somewhat impressed, at the fact I was filming a short film, no one was as unsure, scared-out-of their minds, and completely naive as I. But I wouldn’t change those emotions for anything in the world. For it was these three emotions that kept me grounded and pushing on despite the many obstacles I faced.

I started my adventure sometime in the Spring of 2007. Having written screenplays that I was unforgivingly passionate about, and having received positive and encouraging feedback from mentors and producers, I found myself banging my head against the wall. It felt like I would be going in circles forever.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

It's A Wrap...


Whew!!!

It’s been a major rollercoaster ride, but I’ve finally wrapped on my short film Artistic Closure.

I now move on to Post-Production.

The shoot was four days long. Everything that could go wrong - rental equipment screw-ups, chopping off a day and of course, losing the lead actor just one day before the shooting of his scenes - went wrong. Despite it all - I love filmmaking. I’ve learned so much writing, directing and producing a short film.

I’m going to catch up on some sleep, but I promise to share the experience with the one loyal reader (Annabel).

Catch you later.

Oh, you can catch a few production pics on my production website.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Less than a month to go...

...and I begin principal photography on my short film. I’m excited, nervous, anxious, scared, confident, worried, tired, energized and every mixed-up oxymoronic feeling you can imagine.

I have a crew. A great crew. My DP advised me early on to get an Art Director - at the time, I had no real clue what one actually did - but, since my DP has experience, I listened. And I’m so glad I did. My art director has been my right and left hand. This past week, she and I did some shopping for the set. I love thrift stores, it’s amazing what you can find. We have most of the props and set dressing for the shoot.

My costume designer is also amazing. She’s my neighbor, who is a great seamstress. She has an amazing eye and gift for dressing people - something that seems to be in her blood, as she comes from a long line of seamstresses. What’s also great is that she loves vintage and thrift stores, and when I told her the look we were going for, she jumped right in without missing a beat.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Short Film Update

I’ve been busy - to-say-the-least.

A whole lot has happened since I last blogged.

I’m continuing to assemble a crew. So far, we have a DP, Sound Mixer, Art Director, 2 Production Assistants, and a Script Supervisor.

I also have a co-producer on board.

I have my two lead actors, and am still looking for an actress. I have some extras lined up.

I’ve secured one location and scouted a few others. Today, I made a few contacts in terms of securing the second location for the shoot.

I’ve also got a quote for production insurance that I will most likely go with.

The new website is up, but I still need to work on this a bit. I’ll be searching for a webmaster as soon as we put this short in the can.

This week, I hope to have a preliminary shot list and storyboard some scenes to present to the creative team at our upcoming meeting.

A lot of work, but I’m loving it (most days).

Back to work I go.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Foundation - Building Ain't Easy

Things have been moving along.

My new networking skills are continuing to pay off. I was able to secure a sound mixer and have been playing e-mail and phone tag with a very talented DP. I’ve seen her reels and I’m totally impressed with her eye for capturing, not just the subject, but the world around him/her/it. She is currently working on a feature film, but is very much interested in working with me. I’m going to need to surround myself with experienced people.

I spoke with a few potential animators. One, in particular, I really like. He is very enthusiastic about the vision and goals I have for the project and even offered sound advice. As he has a strong background in fine arts, I might also bring him aboard as the artist (there are pieces of artwork that must be completed for the project). The weird thing, we both attended the same undergrad around the same time. Indeed a small world. Based on our phone conversation, I will be rewriting the script in a way that incorporates the animation I want to include.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Putting the WORK in Networking

Whew!

I’ve spent the past three days networking my butt off. Though, I really wish it were that easy to slim down the junk-in-my-trunk (as my aunt so lovingly refers to my rear).

But, anyways...

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Jane of All

So, continuing on the track of being a Jane of All Trades (see post below for clarification), I’ve been a busy little bee.

The phone is my new friend. The hubby and I have been calling any and everyone we can, seeing if they know someone who knows someone who is someone that I need to know.

So far, a few of these phone calls have paid off. Next week, I’m off to meet with an artist about using her original artwork in my short. I met her a year ago at a New Year’s Eve party, and having seen and admired her work, I’m hoping she’ll agree to jump aboard this project.

My Pool Guy, who went to school for video production, as well as acting, is becoming a tremendous resource, in addition to serving as one of the actors (two down, a few more to go). We’re actually discussing the possibility of working on a future project.

Having always been a bit uncomfortable with making small talk with complete strangers, I now find myself sporting what I call a panicked confidence. A confidence stemming from the fact that I either have to step up to the plate, or give it up - and giving up is NOT an option. The other night, the hubby and I dined at a cozy little restaurant up the road from us. I got to speaking with the waiter- who also dabbles in acting and comedy (made a mental note of this) - and before we left, he introduced us to the owner, who agreed to let me film a future project there. This place is gorgeous. With a mind that rarely shuts off, I found myself coming up with a story idea, and will get to work on a outline in the next couple of weeks. I like to let an idea marinate.

My Pool Guy also told me about a former classmate of his that has a strong background in film production; though he has since left, he’s still very much interested in getting back in.

Last night, I approached the first person on my list of possible producers. His background is more in music, but he’s a go-getter, and someone who always perks me up no matter what mood I’m in. For me, that’s going to be crucial during those days when I’m dragging. He’s going to think it over, and in the next couple of days, we’ll discuss it some more.

As I predicted, my transcribing the script (from handwritten to Movie Magic) brought about some changes. Nothing big, more of a needed polish.

With all the people that I will hopefully be meeting with, I’ve decided I need a prospectus/small business plan. There’s no time like the present to actually put to practice what I may need for future ventures.

Again, this all a bit scary, but fun as hell. I really hope to get people on board that will share the passion I have for filmmaking, but above all, who want to have a helluva fun time and amazing journey.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

The Writing Bug Bites Another


Oh, proud mommy is me. Is that a real sentence?

I’ll just go and ask my 11-year-old son. He’s sooooooooooooooo smart. Scary smart. A bit arrogant smart, too, but, hey, I’m not hatin’.

For the past year or so, my son has been saying he either wants to become a social studies teacher or the President of the United States. On the president front, my husband told him to aim higher. Uh-Oh, did I write that out-loud? Are blogs covered by the Patriot Act?

Sorry, ADD.

So, the wise little owl that he is, brings home a written assignment that he must correct before handing in. He gives it to me and says, “Tell me if this is a good story.” Arrogant, didn’t I tell you? The boy knew damn well it was a good story. I was the clueless one, but what’s new?

So, he hands me this thing while I’m in the middle of my own writing nightmare. I take it from him and offer that “I’ll pretend to be a good mother and read it and nod at all the right places so that your confidence can continue to inflate and you’ll grow up to be a strong confident man who rules the world” smile. But, to my surprise, I was hooked from the first line. I mean, the first damn line. Did I say he was good? Better than good.

He’s even got a voice. Mind you, this was a kid who didn’t speak a coherent sentence for the first 3 1/2 years of his life, prompting us to spend money on a speech therapist. Though, I think we overpaid because when he does decide to open that mouth of his, it’s a mile a second.

The story was about a Marine in the distant future who, having returned from a future war, is unable to adjust to life away from the war. My little egghead (and I mean that with all the loving affection from a mother who continues to struggle with her own learning), he even has this vivid flashback/dream sequence thingy going throughout the entire story.

In the words of Don Corleone: “My boy. My boy.”

Jack of All Trades, Master of None

God, how I hate this saying. First of all, who’s Jack? I’d like to meet him (though it’s most likely a her) and give him the coveted Platinum Multi-Tasking Award. I think the person who came up with this catch-phrase was an underachieving slacker.

Okay, okay, so I understand what it really means, but sometimes I resemble that remark, and I can be quite defensive.

Having decided to leap into my first short film (outside of a class assignment), I’m starting to realize that I’m Jack, John, Jim, Jacob, and just to bring a wee-bit of realism to this thing, the glass-ceiling-breaking Jane.

What is a writer-director? Does a person start off wanting to equally be both? Does this person spend hours, days, months and years honing the crafts of both writing and filmmaking? For that matter, do screenwriters not consider themselves filmmakers? As a writer-director, what skills should I concentrate on more, and which one matters the most?

Do I have answers to any of these questions? As usual, I just ask a bunch of questions.

Will knowing the answer to these questions help me get my film off the ground faster? I’m not sure, but it would either prove or disprove that little saying about “master of none”.

I started out loving books. Words, words and more words. I can’t go more than a month without buying a new friend to spend several hours losing myself in a world either familiar or unfamiliar. Growing up, I didn’t watch much television. My mother believed that it was not an appropriate vehicle for growing minds, though, oddly enough, I was allowed to sit in on some of the shows she watched. Dallas was a favorite of hers... and mine. I guess I still have the flare for the melodramatic. We watched the Dukes of Hazzard (and I refused, as a loyal fan, to see the remake). My mother was big into the nature shows, and entering her 84th birthday, I just recently informed her that there are entire channels dedicated to the shows she loved watching on PBS. How come old people are channel-surfing challenged?

But, my ADD is getting ahead of me.

My older brother introduced me to movies. The first movie I remember seeing in an actual theater was Star Wars. He’d take me to see a lot of movies that I can barely remember, because as a small child, I would usually fall asleep. I remember, he was also the first person I know to get cable - WHT. Stripes, that was the first movie I watched over and over. Big brother also owned a number of VCR’s (Beta Max (sp?), I vaguely remember), and here is where I completely fell in love with movies. I would watch some of those movies over and over and over. To this day, I know verbatim the movies Beat Street, Ghost Busters and The Last Dragon. He also introduced me to my love of Karate Flicks - as we called them.

When I started teaching high school, I was given the opportunity to create two elective courses from the ground up, and I jumped at the opportunity to teach a film class. I was lucky that the school - a vocational and technical high school - had a TV studio. The TV studio class met for three periods straight, and I designed a course where I would team teach with the TV teacher, giving us four periods of film exploration.

I didn’t know at the time, but this served as preparation for my dip into filmmaking. I learned about the history of film, the “great” auteurs. I also learned about the technical aspects, from lighting to editing. I forever believe that if you really want to learn something, teach it.

Where the heck am I going with all of this?

I don’t think I set the stage to become one or the other. Without realizing it, I put myself on the path to becoming a writer-director, or what I like to call a filmmaker, with the hopes of becoming a MASTER FILMMAKER.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Nothing is ever small

So, I’ve been moving ahead with the pre-production of my short film. A snail’s pace - but I’m still moving.

I just finished a rewrite of the script - a class assignment I completed while at NYU. It turns out I just completed my first adaptation. The assignment was to write a scene for the stage between two people, where one person does not speak at all. It was a difficult assignment, and the first for that class. I dug deep in my bag of tragedy and anger and came up with a nice little piece for this great actor to perform.

We rehearsed the piece along with an assigned director and it was really received well. It didn’t hurt that this actor is AMAZING. He’s also agreed to be in the short film.

So, when I decided I’d turn this piece of theater work into a short film, I was totally clueless. Okay, I had a clue, but it didn’t prevent me from having to scratch the original outline and put my filmmaking hat on.

I’ve learned theater is theater and film is film. While they can meet, there has to be a whole lot of preparation and rearranging. What I thought would be a simple, no-budget film is turning out to be anything but. After coming to the realization that I would have to think bigger than just a stage with two actors, I have come up with a more visual story, without losing the original content and feel that garnered an emotion-filled response.

As I mentioned in previous posts, I write freehand, and now comes the task of sitting down and typing this 13-page script. I’m sure the page count will change, as I am a perpetual rewriter. Once I hammer out this draft, I’ll be sending it out to the actor. As he already knows the background and the emotions needed for this character, his feedback will go into another pass of the script.

Now I’m realizing that I’ll have to sit down and actually come up with a budget for this thing. What I thought only needed two locations, now calls for at least two more. I’ll also need a few more actors than I’d originally planned, and a good editor and lighting person. Or I can just learn to wear many, many hats. I am going to prepare two budgets - maybe three. One will be my dream budget, the other my bare bones budget, and maybe an it-can-happen budget.

The other thing I’m realizing is that I may need to get a producer on board. I have one or two people in mind, but as I have never worked with them on this level, I’ll really have to sit down with them and make sure it will be a good fit.

What I’m realizing through all of this is how much I really love storytelling. I’m also understanding the business end, which make me a bit Sybil-like when I sit down to work on the script. I have to think with a creative hat while remembering what can and cannot be done due to financial strain.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

What Have I Gotten Myself Into?


So, my head is spinning. Okay, not quite spinning, but there is blurred vision.

I’ve been going back to school. No, no classroom or teacher involved. Just me doing crazy research on what I would need to make this short film the best it can be.

I spent a few hours yesterday with How To Make Your Movie: An Interactive Film School software. Pretty informative. I’ve also dusted off my copy of The Complete Film Production Handbook. As my short will be using real actors (and not just a bunch of friends and family who owe me a favor or two... though, I wish I could), as well as locations that I don’t have personal access or connections to, I am seriously thinking about forming an LLC. Since I already formed a nonprofit a few years ago, I’m pretty familiar with creating a business plan, filing articles of incorporation, forming a board of directors, etc... But, nonetheless, all of this is still a bit scary.

The more I think about the short film, the more excited and scared I get. I know the work and hours it takes to get this started and then to see it to completion. Doing a short film for a class assignment is one thing, doing one completely on my own is a whole ‘nother “thang”.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained. The strange thing about all of this is that I’m having fun. It’s weird, but the researching, scouting, planning and pulling out my dreds is giving me a high that I don’t want to give up.

I’m on my way to being a filmmaker.

Did I mention I’m scared shitless?

Did I say, It Is What It Is?

Here’s an LA Times article. To explain what I felt after reading it would take a lifetime, and still not show the emotions trapped deep inside of me.

This world - it is what it is, and I am what I am. Somehow, we have to meet in the middle. Baby steps, but steps nonetheless. I’ll keep on moving - always forward, always forward.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Taking the Plunge...

...into my short film.

So I’ve decided to stop talking about it and just plain do it. I guess I’m officially in pre-production for my short film.

I’m scared as hell, but extremely excited at the same time. It’s been over a year since I completed my first short film. It was a class assignment that called for no dialogue, but I had so much fun and I learned tons working with a crew of just four people.

I’m still gathering a crew for this project, as well as securing actors (I’ll just need two, and it seems like I might already have one - oh, and some extras). I’ll be scouting a few locations that I have in mind. The script is based on a piece that I’d written for one of my theatre classes back at NYU. The good thing was that it was performed by actors on stage and, afterwards, my classmates and other actors asked questions and provided feedback. The feedback will serve as the first set of notes going into the rewrite. It looks like I’ll be able to use the same actor who performed in the original piece; he is extremely familiar with the backstory.

Did I mention I’m excited?

Friday, May 18, 2007

Getting Notes


I am mentally challenged when it comes to receiving notes.

While my brain tells me that I should just keep my mouth shut, listen and meditate, my heart tells me it’s my freaking script and I’ll defend it like my life depended on it.

Well, this bipolar reaction to receiving notes is stressful as hell.
The really, really, really odd thing is that I actually implement notes into my subsequent drafts and have no problem acknowledging when someone’s notes have made the story stronger.

Then why, oh, why can’t I take constructive criticism (or what we writers call notes)? Because of that last word - criticism.

Oh, well, they say knowing is half the battle. But I don’t want to fight.

I’ve also learned that giving notes is an art form. Okay, maybe not an art form, but not everyone is good at it. Learning to distinguish good notes from shitty ones takes a bit of practice, as well. I firmly believe that there are no useless notes; even the worst can serve as a learning experience, even if it’s just building up your tolerance for complete idiots.

The biggest thing I’ve recently learned is that notes are only good when you are ready to receive it. I don’t mean when the script is at its best, or when you have fine selected those you trust, but when you, yourself are open and ready to fully open your mind to what needs to be done to bring your script to the next level.

Even the best notes given at a time when one’s not open will fall on deaf ears.

So the point? Knowing who you are is the most important step in the writing process. Understanding your own motives, intricacies, and misbehavior can make this crazy, rollercoaster process a bit more easy to swallow and stay the course.

Rewrite Central


All writing is rewriting. Who said this? I believe it’s true, but I also believe that all writing is writing.

Huh?

I recently sat down and read a script I’d written about two years ago. An action-thriller; the protagonist an African-American woman who kicks butt. The thing was, I just couldn’t read it - I mean, I was tweaking as I read, thinking about which character to kill off completely and what scenes might be added to put this baby in overdrive.

Sure, I had opened the script to read it and get ready for a possible rewrite, but as I sat there reading, I started writing, going over scenes and changes in my head. It wasn’t planned. I didn’t sit down and write out an outline (which I will be doing shortly).

I write. I tell stories. Sometimes the same stories over and over with different casts in different circumstances. I invent worlds and sometimes destroy them. I manipulate. I conspire. I build up. I tear down.

Writing is writing. Forget the catch-prashes, the gurus. Forget about the right way and the wrong way. Just follow your mind, heart and soul and do that thing you love.

Writing is writing.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

My New Tattoo

So, I've been wanting a tattoo for about three years now. But, I'm a wuss... until now.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

It Is What It Is


So, has it all been just in my head ?

I gotta keep working harder. We can build them stronger, faster, better.

“Where my girls at?”

Friday, April 27, 2007

New Script

So, I started work on a new script. Oh, how I love the passion evoked by a budding idea.

Sustaining that passion - well, that’s the rub.

I’m taking my first stab at a completely commercial project. I initially wanted to make it a PG-13 type thingy, as well, but my foul-mouthed, perverted little mind will not allow me to go down that Disney-cleaned-42nd-Street turnaround. Those of you who remember Times Square in the 70’s and 80’s will get my little reference.

But anyway, I am so psyched about my new project, even though the sub-genre has been done thousands and thousands of times before (of course, I have a twist and a way to make it my very own - or at least I hope to).

I know what some might be thinking... then again, if I knew what people were thinking, I’d have broken into this Hollywood playing field many moons ago.

I don’t know the market. I get my weekly Variety and read articles filled with names my ADD will never allow me to remember, and I can connect the dots to trends and money ebbing and flowing in particular directions and then I close the darn thing because my head begins to hurt.

All I know with 1,000,000,000,000...% certainty is that I love writing, and as much as I try to stop (just for mini vacations- a day or two), I CAN’T.

I’ve read books, I’ve gone to school, I’ve networked, I’ve cried, laughed, screamed, and through all of this, the one constant is my head filling with ideas and characters and themes and stories and voices...oops, I was not supposed to mention the voices.

I’m in the early stage of this new script. Having just finished another draft of my labor-of-love script which required a bit of heavy emotional thinking, I’m looking forward to this new project filled with the kind of silliness I like to escape to every so often. As much as I love Syriana, I can’t pass up an old Adam Sandler movie or White Chicks or Rocket Man. I need the yin and yang in my life, including my writing.

Not sure when I’ll have a rough draft of this finished, but I’m working on it and enjoying it

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Mind Mapping


I recently started using mind mapping for brainstorming and outlining my story. I’m a visual thinker, and it is opening amazing creative doors for me.

While I’m still outlining, I find myself working it out beforehand using the mind maps. There is so much more clarity. Where as before I had so many ideas running around in my head, I now find myself opening up a mind map and getting my ideas down in a visual format so I can see where things actually connect.

As with all tools, it’s not for everyone, and I’m sure every project will come with its own method.

There are a few programs out there. I did some research and I ended up going with NovaMind. As I’m new to this program, I have yet to open up all the possibilities. There is a screenwriting version, which is what made me go with that program. There are some free mind mapping programs out there, as well.

I also find mind mapping integrates itself perfectly well with all the other tools in my writing arsenal. I’m able to use the map as a jump-off to my outlining, bringing more focus and clarity to the ideas and the story.

I love it when a plan comes together.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Poseidon Rant

So, I caught Poseidon from the beginning. It had really great potential.

But why, oh, why, remake a movie and not realize that it’s a classic and it’s going to take some really, really, really hard work? Huh?

I just purchased - on Amazon - the novel by Paul Gallico and look forward to reading it. But until then, my 2 cents.

Okay, so we are going to remake a classic. A classic that stands the test of time. Where do we start?

Oh me, oh me. Pick me, I know this one.

We must ask how close to the original do we want to stay, or will we be just keeping the name and overall theme?

Okay, so what did they do? A mish-mash of both. Is that a word - mish-mash?

Let me just say this. I watch the original over and over because I LOVE Rev. Frank Scott. He says and does everything I wish I had the guts to do and say, but I’m too damn scared that I’ll get struck by lightning, or have all of my really religious friends and family disown me. He’s a reverend, for Christ-sake. Am I going to hell for that?

Okay, so now in the new movie, we have Kurt Russell. Or is is Josh Lucas? Shit! I’m so damn confused. Okay, so it has to be the one who dies, right? No, or maybe that was the new twist - our hero lives this time? Shit, shit, shit! Work it out before you put it up on the screen, people!!!!

Okay, I’ll just “doggy, doggy, step right out” this one. I pick Josh Lucas. He’s younger and hotter and a bit more bankable. O0ps, my wanna-be executive hat is rearing its ugly head.

Okay, Josh Lucas is to Gene Hackman as... Night is to Day? What were they going for here? Huh? Huh? Huh?

Rev. Scott was a...well, reverend. Dylan... a gambler (and maybe an ex-Navy something or other - not sure, but I might have heard him mumble something like this). Anyway, okay, people I get it. He’s a gambler, he takes chances, calls people’s bluff, likes the odds and bets the house. But... why the hell should this make me care wether he lives or freaking dies? Arrrggghhhhh!!!!!!!

Oh, pick me again. Please pick me.

He likes children. Remember when he first meets the snot-nosed little kid (actually, he was cute and adorable - want to turn things on its head? - make it a kid we secretly wish swallows a bit too much salt water - oh, no, that’s cruel - just plain cruel - but fucking interesting). I digress. Sorry.

So, Dylan likes kids. And... there is this instant chemistry with the kid’s single mother (NOT!), and we can’t wait to see if the two will hook up. So... that’s why we care whether he lives or dies. Give me a big fucking break.

Anyway. Oh, we also get a nice few lines of exposition. I’m the kind that likes to go it alone - blah...blah... blah. I wish he would have. Might have made it a bit more interesting. An amazing race to see who could get to the bottom of the ship and out first. And my money would not be on the kid - but I’m cruel.

Where was I? ADD is setting in pretty fast and I’m only at the beginning.

Do I hate this movie? No. Interesting enough, I’ll probably watch it again. I pay enough for cable and... I have no life.

It’s like being a deer and headlights. I know it’s going to be ugly, but I just gotta stand there and go...WTF?

Okay, focus, focus.

So, now we have Kurt Russell’s character - Robert Ramsey. The last name - is it supposed to mean something? Anyway. So, Ramsey is an ex-firefighter and get this, the fucking ex-mayor of New York fucking City. I’m sorry about the profanity... but JEEZ!!!!

Okay, so now we all can relate to a NYC mayor? We’ll find out next year if they were on to something.

Not just any NYC Mayor, but one who seemed to have quit early (some reference to this mumbled again during a sidebar moment). His wife also dumped him and he and his daughter have these little fitty moments (why? who the hell knows, though I’m suspecting it has something to do with adding conflict). So, this ex-mayor, firefighter, husband happens to be on a cruise with his daughter (couldn’t tell is she was a late teen or way past teen - but not important - I guess) and her boyfriend. No, make that her fiancee - who she has not yet told her father of this late breaking news.

Who gives a shit!!!!

Okay, okay, he’s the ex-mayor of NYC. That makes him a very powerful man - instantly. Also, we all know New Yorker’s have attitude. This gives us an instant character that we have to do very little developing for. BULLSHIT. I’m a New Yorker and do I have an attitude? No fucking way.

So, we finally have some conflict here, right? Father - daughter thing, add the possible, would-be, might-be, gotta-break-the-news boyfriend not quite fiancee thingy and we have bonafide conflict that is sure to keep an audience at the edge of their seats.

It could happen.

Okay, so Dylan and Mr. Ex Mayor are total opposites brought together during a time of crisis and must find a way to work together in order to save lives. No, no. They are the same people, with the same need to be in control and they must get past their selfish wants and desires and help to save the lives of a small group of helpless and lost souls. That would indeed be the first movie, the two characters being Rev. Scott and Det. Rogo.

Now, to be fair, I do sincerely believe that the remake was going for this. I do believe that they thought a selfish gambler and an ex-NYC Mayor would fit this criteria. But here is where I think things run amuck (did I tell you I love that word amuck?). Rev. Scott and Det. Rogo don’t work because of their job titles alone. No, it’s just the beginning. We have to give them their own personal conflicts to deal with. Remember English class? Inner conflicts? Man Vs Self? The story already has the Man Vs Nature built in. It does its own job, it brings people into the theatre.

So, what’s left? Man Vs. Society. Man Vs. Man. Man Vs. Self.

But, I digress. I’ll come back to this later. Or maybe not. ADD is a horrible thing.

What were each of these characters struggling with? Why is this important? Well, damn, you took a small group of people away from a large group of people and decided to give the small group a fighting chance. Right there, they must be special. Now your job is to prove it. Tell me why I feel they shouldn’t have died with the rest of the lot.

I can go on and on and on and on, but I’m tired and I want to go to sleep. The bottom line, why the hell should I care? You already killed off thousands of people on that ship, why should a handful be spared? What makes them any more worthy?

If you are going to remake something, study, I mean really study, the original piece. Understand why it’s worthy. But if you are not going to study it, then make it completely over. Sit down for hours and days and months and years if you have to - figure out how to make it your own. Figure out that twist.

Could I have done a better job? NO, that’s why I ain’t sittin’ down to write a remake of The Poseidon Adventure. Jeez!

But if I was able to sit in the room, maybe as just a fly or annoying gnat, I would have thrown out a few brainstorming thingys.

Okay, so we don’t want to go with a man of the cloth. First, why the hell not!!!!!!!! So, what’s completely opposite of the man of the cloth? A gambler? Should have made him a drunk. Oh, you did - that was Kevin Dillion’s character. Why?

Okay, so you wanna stick with a gambler. Why should I care about a gambler? And whatever you do, please don’t show me a scene where he is actually sitting at the table gambling in a real, honest poker game. How about a card shark? What about an honest-to-God hustler? A low life who sneaks aboard ships to dupe really old ladies and naive nouveau riche people out of their money?

Hey, I didn’t say my idea was the best, or even good. But at least we are starting with a character that’s interesting. I wanna see him trick and hustle his way out of this disaster. I don’t know, but by making him a hustler, at least I can see him in action instead of being told that he’s a man who likes to take chances. Making him a gambler is telling, not showing - sorta like cheating. But we all cheat, right?

Richard Dreyfuss - his character is gay. Can we create some conflict with that? Is there a character who is so homophobic that he has to come to grips with this in order to live? Maybe an ex-NYC Mayor or gambler? Okay, so it’s riddled with cliches, but that hasn’t stopped you so far.

And what about my idea to make the kid a freaking brat? Why do we always have such lovable kids? In the first movie, the kid was a little fucking annoying, but that came in handy. Turn it up a notch. Give us a kid that challenges us. We all know that we should save the helpless, but what if this kid brings out the worst in everyone? Now, that’s what I call conflict.

So, we lost the Shelley Winters character. I suspect it’s because we can’t bring up the fat thing. Okay, so what do we replace it with? You see, her being overweight (you don’t have to use the fat word) was an inner conflict, as well as an outer one. It put her in direct conflict with the other characters. So, we’d have to put our heads together and try to find a replacement character whose physical attributes cause a problem. Yeah, I know, blind would be too cliche, but you gotta give me something that brings out the side in people that shows their prejudices. You see, cause that’s what I think the original was all about. Thou shall not judge and pick who should live or die, only God shall (but give us a fighting chance - I’m paraphrasing here).

Please don’t give me a stock character who we know must die. Why? Because he is a drunk and a male chauvinist pig? If you do give me this character, then keep with the theme and let him redeem himself. Again, give him a fighting chance.

Oh, and don’t give me a group of people who like each other. Yes, the best in us comes out in times of crisis, but what about the will to live? What would we be willing to do in order to live? Oh, and don’t just show me one character kicking a complete stranger off of his leg in order that he may save his own life. Or give me a parent who we are most likely to believe will do anything to protect their child. Turn it all on its head, people. Give me something old, but new. Work it out.

Okay, I need to go to bed. I must say, though, I am really learning a lot by analyzing this movie. I will most definitely watch it again, as well as watch the original and read the book. School is in.

Oh, and just to note - I KNOW NOTHING. But I aim to learn as much as I can.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Busy Little Bee

So, I’ve finished a draft of my script. Also came up with a new title, as I’ve brought in about 60% new material, completely did away with a major character, and brought another minor character to the foreground.

I’ve printed the script out and now comes the fun part - yet another revision. I won’t rush this part - for me, this is where the soul really takes effect. Punching up dialogue, cutting scenes that don’t advance or entertain, and basically making this piece my very own - giving it MY VOICE.

But, I’ve also made time to finish two books: Little Children and Step On A Crack. I really enjoyed Little Children, but was a little disappointed with the ending. I’m looking forward to seeing the movie - though I’m sure they had to change the ending.

Step On A Crack - well, this is a new crime series that I’m sure will find its way to the big screen. I can’t lie, I really saw this as a movie and would jump at the opportunity to write it. Does this mean it’s great literature? - hell no! But it’s so damn entertaining. A few things would have to change in order to bring this to the screen, and some more character development is needed. But, all-in-all, I see this as a movie. He’s already had Kiss The Girls and Along Came A Spider made into a film.

The series I can’t wait to come to the big screen is the Jack Reacher Series by Lee Child. I’m told there’s one on the way.

I also made time for a few flicks the past couple of weeks (Greenfingers, A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, Running With Scissors, Open Range, Quinceanera, The Devil Wears Prada). A lot of documentaries (The Human Behavior Experiment, This Film Is Not Yet Rated, The Heart of the Game, An Inconvenient Truth, Home, Jesus Camp).

I finally caught Poseidon. First off, WTF!!!!!!

Why the hell make a movie over and throw the baby out with the bath water? I didn’t get to see the entire movie from the beginning. I came in towards the middle when I realized the hubby was actually sitting through it. Now, I don’t know who was the first person to say, “We just gotta make this thing over”, because, I personally don’t think the person saw the first movie, and if they did, they sure as hell didn’t get it. JEEZ!!!!!!!

It was a drama (but it was called an adventure - yeah, yeah, yeah - get them in the seats and then spring it on them - drama, baby - major drama). Yes, there was a boat, and yes, there were some very good action sequences in there. But the meat and potatoes of the original movies were the characters and their interactions. I love a good popcorn movie every now and then, but FREAKING leave what you damn well don’t understand ALONE. I think I’ll leave this for another blog entry. Now that I’ve seen how they royally screwed up the middle and end, I want to catch this “sinking ship” from the beginning.

I made a trip to Hollywood Video tonight and purchased a few goodies:

Happy Feet - I LOVED this movie. My children didn’t quite feel the same way. I have the soundtrack for this, as well.

The Pursuit of Happyness - The Hubby and my son really enjoyed this movie. This was the first movie where I saw men in the theatre really become emotional and not afraid to show it. We need a few more like this.

Children of Men - Saw this one in the movies, but I was a little disappointed. I felt like the movie wasn’t sure what it wanted to be - action or drama. I also thought Clive Owens’s character could use a bit more developing. But what the hell do I know.

Casino Royale - Haven’t seen this one - looking forward to it.

Curse of the Golden Flowers - Haven’t seen it. I have a major crush on Chow Yun Fat.

All The King’s Men - Saw the original, want to compare.

Superman Returns - I’m really not wanting to see this; however, I felt the same way about Batman Begins and, let me tell you, I’ve seen that movie about 10 times, from beginning to end.

Flag of Our Father’s - I’ve never been really big on war movies.

Stargate - Loved this one. My husband insisted on getting it for our ever-growing collection.

Catch A Fire - Saw this one in the movies; a major disappointment. I think it needed a bit more time in the oven. I was a bit detached from the main character. I’m going to watch it again a few times - hope to learn about character development. I’m a strong believer that you can learn just as much from movies that you don’t like, if you can learn to clearly understand why you don’t like it. Maybe just the school teacher in me.

Trading Places - A classic. Huge Eddie Murphy fan.

The BodyGuard - Poor Whitney Houston. JUST SAY NO!

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid - I’ve seen this when I was younger. I don’t remember much, but I think it’s about time I revisited this again.

I’ll try to get in a few of these movies in between script work.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Write What You Love


Write what you know.

My very first script had me writing what I loved. Politics. I did a good amount of research, and had written a script that explored themes that I was very familiar with. I passed it on to a few people, and they were quite surprised at my very first attempt at a screenplay. Looking back at this script now, I see that it was an extremely rough draft that needed so much work. Also, to see a few years later a movie with the same theme, as well as many set pieces that were eerily identical to the ones I had written, confirmed that I wasn’t so far off track.

However, there was one piece of feedback that got to me more than I ever realized until recently. I was basically told to stick to what I knew. Now, this sounds like an innocent comment, but after letting a few others read the entire set of notes, I knew I wasn’t wrong for getting a bit pissed.

You see, I had written a political drama, which followed the campaign of a gubernatorial race. Had I gotten it right? I can’t say for sure, as no one in the field of politics gave me feedback indicating I screwed up the process royally. Did any of the feedback I had received point to scenes or situations that were wrong or inaccurate? No.

Then what was this about? This person thought they knew me. In fact, they had been privy to a lot of my past. They had seen me grow from a scared child to a scared adult. So, when they picked up that piece of writing, they didn’t see ME in it. What THEY expected did not come through. It was almost like, “What would you know about this and how could you know?”

Now I know some might feel that this is bull. But how many times have you written something and someone close to you questioned you about it in a way that said they were “getting” you for the first time?

Come on, women writers are expected to lean towards romantic comedies. If I read another thread on one of these websites that lists the differences between men and women... jeez. If you believe it, it makes it so. Remember, belief is a powerful, powerful thing.

We’re okay with talking about the differences between men and woman openly. We even tend to become very detailed with these differences - offering examples that are so drenched in stereotypes. Some writers constantly turn to these blueprints of what makes up men and women when putting together their characters.

But what about those differences we’re not so comfortable talking about openly? Like race and/or religion.

A few posts back, I talked about culture having an effect on how people TELL certain stories, and I believe this is true. What I’m talking about here is pigeon-holing a writer because of who they are. Again, this is bull, right?

I’m guilty. You see, not realizing it, I keep falling back to writing what I know, instead of writing what I know I love.

I’ve written 11 scripts, and not all of them were “black scripts” about inner-city life. But I must admit, some of them are, and I keep coming back to those because I feel it fits into the mantra of write what you know. Am I passionate about these stories? Yes, but no less passionate for them than for those stories I have written that have white protagonists or all white characters. I love stories. I love movies.

As a black woman, I can’t deny that race is still an issue in this world, and it creeps into all parts of my life - even screenwriting. But I live in a complex world and I’m a complex person. I’m black, I’m a woman, I’m American, I’m human, I’m a mother, I’m a New Yorker, etc. All of these parts make up the whole, and when I sit down to write, any one of these parts can be leading the pack.

I want to write stories. Stories that I love and stories I want others to love. I also want to write stories that give us memorable characters that we have seen far and few on the screen. I would think that most writers have something personal driving them to write, but I would also like to believe that as writers, we can’t help but to love stories that are just plain, great stories, regardless of race, religion or sex.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

YES!


I just finished the hand-written draft of my latest rewrite.

I love completing this stage more than I do the actual type-written draft.

Why?

Because I’m a weirdo. And I like the smell of ink. And I like the swelling in my right arm from so much.... writing, yeah, that’s it... writing.

But for real. I LOVE HAND-WRITTEN PAGES!!!!!!!

I’ve noticed something about completing my first draft this way - besides the pain in my arm. I’m forced to write pithy. Using pen and paper doesn’t give me much room for long, drawn-out sentences and descriptions. I’m extremely conscious of every page I write. I know when I reach halfway down the paper and soon must turn it over; I’ve got only so much actual real space right there in front of me to use, so I choose my words wisely (or, at least, I try).

Did I mention my arm hurts?

Now comes the task of the second draft - the typing, and here is where it slows down. One, now I have to actually try and read my scratchy handwriting, and two, I will most likely hate absolutely everything I wrote and will proceed to ripping it apart.

Did I mention my arm really, really hurts?

The script I’m working on has been reworked a number of times, and each time, it has gotten better, or at least, those people reading it at some of the contests have thought so - but what the hell do they know, right?

For this rewrite, I have 52 hand-written pages of new material. This was supposed to be a quick rewrite - a few changes here and there.

Am I happy with the new stuff? Today.

But tomorrow is sure to bring shit loads of doubt and angst - I’m neurotic that way.

See ya in a couple of days, unless my arm falls off.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Satisfying My Habit


I just got back from BJ’s. I love going there; it’s one of the many places I can satisfy my habit.

They say the first step is admitting you have a problem.

Well, I think I’m gonna crawl, no steppin’ for me.

You see, I LOVE MOVIES.

And I can’t pass a whole rack without breaking out in sweats.

Tonight, it was on me real bad. I picked up a few movies to quench my thirst... for now

Trust the Man - Every now and then, I like to curl up with a romantic comedy.

Farce of the Penguins - I don’t remember hearing about it, but it does sound funny. I hope it delivers the laughs.

Snakes On A Plane - I have to admit, I won’t be watching this one. I’m a ‘fraidy cat. The hubby will eventually get to it.

A Prairie Home Companion - I always enjoy Kevin Kline, so I couldn’t pass this one up.

Corky Romano - My kids and I LOVE this one. We do silly films all the time.

Flushed Away - One for the family to watch together.

Crank - I remember wanting to see this really bad.


You know how I know I got it bad? Just Sunday, I went to FYE and picked up:

The Devil Wears Prada - This one is for me and my daughter to bond over.

Midnight Express - I had to add this to my growing collection.

Easy Rider - I have never seen this. I know, I know.

All About Eve - Couldn’t pass this up.

Sparkle - I had this movie, and someone stole it. It’s one of my favorites.

Hollywoodland - I’m looking forward to seeing Afleck’s acting chops on this.

Delirious - I watched it right after the Oscars. Damn, I love vintage Eddie Murphy. I actually went to see Raw live.

The DVD I’m desperately waiting to get my hands on - The Painted Veil. No release date as of yet.

Did I mention I LOVE MOVIES?


Do Your Characters Run Amuck?

I once told someone that my characters tend to tell me exactly what they wanted to do. After offering to give me the number of a really good shrink, he conveyed that, though this was interesting, it might be a sign of of a problematic story.

Of course, the stubborn, arrogant writer that I am, smiled and said fuck you. No, not really. I smiled, but held the f-you in.

It’s only recently that I half-agree with him.

How the hell can you half-agree with someone? Married people do it all the time, but, anyway.

My characters still tell me where they want to go, leading me off in directions that I had not intended. And I absolutely love and hate when this happens. I love it, because, when this happens, I know I have succeeded in giving each, individual voices. They have their own minds, thoughts; a life all their own. I hate it, because my little darlings are running amuck. By the way, I love that word - amuck, amuck, amuck.

Okay, back to what I was saying. Analogy time. If I’m the parent and they’re the children, and they start to tell me what they want to do, that can only mean that I have not given them enough guidance. They may need a little more structure, be it a better understanding of the rules of their world; an understanding of what their goals in life should be; perhaps a little more constraint and focus.

Okay, enough with the analogies. As screenwriters, we tend to get a little touchy about RULES.

Oh, no, she’s a rules kind of gal.

Yes and no.

Each one of my stories have their own set of rules. I’m creating a world with people that interact in a very precise way. Because of this, I have to set up parameters, or RULES. These are not rules dictated by outside forces, though they may share extreme commonalities with rules of other stories, especially if you believe that most stories are just a rehashing of the same old stories told over time. But they are rules that I have established specifically for the world, characters and goals that I have created. Parents will tell you that flexibility is the key to managing a household, but, in addition, there must be a strong set of governing rules before negotiations can take place.

We have 120 pages - nowadays less - to tell our story. It’s compact. Its goal is to rise above all the other stories out there. How do you create something that strong, that powerful? Ask Rocky. Ask any parent who’s child does NOT run amuck in the supermarket. Ask Jack LaLane. It’s called discipline. It’s called laying a solid foundation - structure - with a precise set of boundaries, and a clear- cut goal.

It’s called screenwriting.

And I need to get back to it.

Getting Out of the Way of Me


Did I mention I love writing?

It’s the pre-planning that gets under my skin. From day one, I always outlined, but the problem was that I’d rush through the outline, just to get to the part I LOVE. The writing of pages, glorious pages.

And that was the problem?

One of my instructors told me once that the biggest problem I had, in terms of writing (and, maybe even, my life overall), is that I didn’t know how to get out of the way of me.

What the hell does that mean? Arrrggghhh!

Don’t you hate to admit when somebody is spot on about your issues or problems? I do, so I won’t admit it.

Without admitting that this instructor was right, I needed to learn how to get out of the way of me.

So, I have an idea for a story that I am so in love with and I just can’t wait to write. What’s wrong with this sentence? Nothing, really. Just maybe way too many I’s. You see, I had to learn that writing a script was not a personal moment - well, not if I wanted it to be up there on the big screen where millions and billions of people could see it over and over again and it wins the Oscar for best everything and every director wants to work with me... Oh, sorry, I got lost there for a second.

My point is, I had to learn to step back and look at my story outside of who I am, and what that meant for me was pre-planning. Breaking down the story into it’s simplest form. Asking questions that would bring more clarity. Taking the personal out, just long enough to see the bigger picture on a wider scale.

I think this has to do with some of that left brain, right brain type of thinking. Don’t ask me which means which.

For me, I look at the process over all as heart, mind and soul coming together. All three of these things must come to play during the process of my writing. They may not come together in any particular order, but they must find a way to coexist. My heart is present from the jump; it’s what fuels my passion and drives me to complete the story. It’s there during the first draft, freeing emotions and all manner of thoughts. My mind joins in during the pre-planning stage - the outlining and laying the story out. The soul, well, that’s the most important, and no wonder, the most difficult.

The soul is what I have to breath into the script in order to make it come alive for others. I have to give the script life, and, simply, having the heart and mind to do so will not give my script/story wings to fly. Not only to fly, but to touch others in some way, be it small and simple, or wondrous and unforgettable.

So, I got out of my way long enough recently in order to do the part of writing I love the most - pages. Seven today, I start off slow, basking and enjoying the moment. As this is a revision of a script I first completed two years ago, I’m at the soul stage, and loving it.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

It's So Bad, It's Good


I’m right in the middle of the book High Profile. It is so bad, it’s good.

Maybe because I’m a Shakespeare, 17th Century Literature, Harlem Renaissance geek, I found myself losing a brain cell with every line I read. But you know what - it’s so f-ing entertaining. I could actually see this damn thing becoming a movie starring Bruce Willis as Jesse Stone.

Well, I’m off to read the second half and waste away a few more brain cells.

Tomorrow, I start writing actual pages. I can’t wait.

Oscar Winning Short


I was lucky enough to catch the Oscar-winning short The West Bank Story two years ago at the Stony Brook Film Festival. Hilarious, but deep. If you can, get your hands on this little gem.

Oh, also, if you have a film, you might want to enter the festival. It’s really great, and huge.

Writing Ritual


I discovered a year ago that I have this strange writing ritual. After outlining and preplanning my script to death, and right before sitting down to write pages, I find myself hitting the bookshelf for some light reading.

Detective novels and/or thrillers.

I don’t know what it is, but reading these books places me in a zone. I know a lot of writers like to listen to music while they write. Others watch a lot of films in their genre. But for me, it’s the books; the reading of these heavily, plotted stories with pithy sentences and quick dialogue.

I think it starts the ball rolling, in terms of pacing. These books are usually fast-paced, not like drawn-out literary works (which I usually curl up with after a script draft is put to bed).

I’m currently reading High Profile, by Robert B. Parker, one of my two-book-a-month-book-of-the-month-club selections, and I’m amped up. I’ll be starting on actual pages in the next few days, but firs,t I’m going to curl up with Jesse Stone and get into the mood.

Did I mention I’m weird?

The Screening Room

I just finished watching the documentary The Devil and Daniel Johnston.

Riveting...

and completely insane.

I’ve never been so confused in my life.

Growing up in East New York, Brooklyn, and pretty much listening to what my much older brothers listened to - and you bet your ass it wasn’t folk music - I had never, ever, ever heard of Daniel Johnston.

The very moment he opened his mouth I was like, “what the...?” Is this for real?

Beauty, indeed, is in the eye of the beholder. And so is genius, for that matter.

If thousands of people truly believe this guy is a genius... I want a hit of whatever they are smoking.

There’s a huge fan base, and I mean huge. You know what, more power to them. It’s an amazing thing to believe in someone that strongly and feel that what they’ve created speaks to you on a level that nothing else has.

But, again, can I get some of what these fans are on.

It’s a great documentary; if you haven’t seen it, you will be blown away, or, at the very least, confused out of your freaking mind.

By the way, if there is anyone out there in blog world actually reading my ramblings, I’d love to hear about any other “must-see” documentaries. As I stated in a previous post, I’ll be trying my hand at one soon.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

My Head Hurts


So, I spent Saturday watching Little Miss Sunshine (twice) and Half Nelson.

Oscars - tonight.

Did I mention my head hurts?

When I started screenwriting, I always got the same advice about watching great movies and seeing how they are done. At NYU, they crammed all the great films down our throats - even forcing us to create beat sheets of our own for these masterpieces.

But still...

My head hurts.

I was sitting down watching the “best film of the year”, totally “hilarious and non-stop laughter”. And, guess what? I wasn’t laughing.

I even watched it with the commentary on, and when the directors mentioned why they felt they just had to make this film, my head stopped pounding a bit. Ah-ha. They recognized these characters. Cool, I respect that. It must feel good to get your hands on a script that connects you to a people/place that is so familiar.

You see, that’s what a great script does; it introduces us to characters and places we recognize in ourselves and our lives. Even when it gives us larger-than-life super-heroes and villains, there is still something familiar in the emotions. We feel that the writers, directors and actors have captured an emotion deep within us.

So, it doesn’t matter what you write, as long as it connects with an audience - a UNIVERSAL audience.

BULLSHIT!!!!

A universal audience. Ha! Please tell me what this stock word means, and I’d especially like to hear it from those marketing people who keep cramming down the “18 through 25 male demographic” jargon. Universal, my ass.

There are a shit load of films I’ve seen over the few years of my life, and some of them have touched me so deeply. Then there are movies, while they have been entertaining enough to keep my ADD at bay for a short while, they don’t connect with me on a personal level.

Maybe it’s the same reason it was so damn hard to sell me on a belief in Santa as a young girl. You see, I grew up in a, um... an “economically-challenged” neighborhood (for those on PC watch), and I knew damn well there was not going to be any white man, dressed in some bright red two-peice pimp suit, landing on my roof and trying to fit down a fireplace I didn’t even have.

While I fully understood the sentiments of Christmas and the feelings of joy the belief in Santa was trying to create, there was no connection for me - at least, not on a personal level. Santa was never speaking to me, but I did find his talks to others entertaining.

So, why does my head hurt?

Must I connect on a personal level in order to enjoy a film and see the greatness the movie gods have bestowed on it? Are there films that universally speak to every single, living, breathing, human creature on the face of the earth?

Experiment.

Go see the next two “box-office” films. Maybe even three. Take inventory of the audience - I mean, REAL inventory. If you spot one old man in a trench coat and he’s smiling that toothless grin, chances are he’s really not there for the film. Trust me on this one - I’ve got stories - but that’s another post.

How many people are in the theatre? Take in the faces, try to gauge the ages, sex, race, etc...

Ten to fifteen of one race does NOT make it a universally-appealing picture. A true melting pot is just that - a melting to the point where you can’t count or tell or distinguish.

Go on, think back to when Chris Rock hosted the Oscars. Remember that segment when he went out on the streets and asked blacks what they had seen that year? While it was pretty darn funny, it was pretty darn revealing as to our UNIVERSAL theory.

I would love to see the same thing done with whites being asked about movies like Stomp, Daddy’s Little Girl, Something New, etc...

This is not to say there are no blacks who see “Oscar-worthy” films (WHATEVER THE HELL THAT MEANS - sorry, wrong post), or whites who haven’t seen black films, or Asians who haven’t seen Hispanic films... you get my point... or, maybe not.

So what does that mean for writing a great story? Some of us will have to know our audience and realize that this might place limitations - but, hey, life is filled with limitations and hurdles.

We’re writing a film with the expectations that an audience will want to watch it, and having watched it, walk away with some sort of satisfaction/enjoyment. They felt something familiar, even if it was something new (don’t you just hate paradoxes?).

Knowing the realities of who your audience will most likely be, while hoping to gain and win over new ones, helps to bring focus to the writing, as well.

I seriously doubt that most rappers are sitting down creating lyrics to reach the 99 year-old grandmother who has lived all her life on her family’s farm. However, if they can dig down deep and find something that even she can understand, then that’s the power of creating something truly amazing and beautiful.

That’s what I want to do with my writing, and hopefully, it will get my head to stop hurting.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

So I've Decided...


Decisions are hard for me. Not because I don’t want to do anything, but because I want to do EVERYTHING.

For the past two years, I’ve been wanting to do a documentary, and it has not just been a random thought in my head. I’ve done the research on how to get started, figured out the topic, took inventory of my resources, and ran the idea across a few people who have shown interest and are willing to help.

So what’s the problem? Go back to my post on procrastination - it says it all.

The local adult education program is offering a course on creating the documentary, and I’ve decided to sign up. It’s an 11-week course that will, hopefully, get me to focus and get the ball rolling.

But first I need to complete this darn rewrite... arghhhh.

Oh, the woes... I mean, joys of writing.

Screenwriting is to Newspaper Editing...

So, I was sitting down trying to figure out what past experiences have prepared me for a life in screenwriting. In other words, I was procrastinating.

After about two minutes - did I mention I have ADD? - I realized there’s no such thing as being prepared for anything. There is no spoon.

But about three minutes later, I started doing some more procrastinating... I mean, thinking, and I started remembering my days on the staff of my college newspaper, during which time I served as a copy editor, then assistant editor, as well as having my own column.

Hmmm, maybe there might be some things I can pull out from my old bag of experiences. Let’s see...

Deadlines. When it absolutely, positively has to get to the printers within the next 20 minutes and you still have to put the finishing touches on the layout. Experience learned? Procrastination. Yup, this has come in handy.

But in all seriousness, there are two things - I’m sure there’s more, but my ADD won’t allow me to concentrate for that long. So, the two things that still remain with me from those long, long, long, long hours working to get a newspaper out and to the public are...

What was I saying?

Oh, the two things,

Rewriting. I only wish that many newspapers did this. Have you noticed how many damn mistakes there are in newspapers nowadays? And let’s not even talk about news reporting on the Internet. But, anyway, I digress.

As a black newspaper on a large - huge - mostly white, university, we knew that we had to put out the best-looking and best-written paper we could. There was no room for mediocrity. So, every article was rewritten until we felt it was first, coherent; second, enlightening; and third, unique in some way that would grab the attention of the reader and keep them coming back for more.

Without realizing, I carry this over to my screenwriting - or, at least, I try.

Second lesson learned...

Honestly, I forgot. Damn, I hate when that happens.

The point of all this? It’s a blog, a chance for me to hear myself ramble on about shit that nobody even reads.

But the chance that someone stops by...

The point is, use what you have. What experiences in life have prepared you to be right where you are at this very moment?

Friday, February 23, 2007

Character Relationships

So, MaryAn over at Fencing With the Fog got me to thinking.

About what? Writing, what else?

Anyway, these past couple of days I’ve been struggling with bringing focus to the script I’m rewriting. My problem is that there are millions of things I have to say and want to get across in the story. However, who gives a shit?

You see, that’s the rub. Who will give a shit and why?

As already mentioned, I’m enrolled in Writer's Boot Camp’s 22-month Think Tank - almost done. I’ve heard some describe it as cultish. For me, it’s a guy/gal with a whip, cracking it every time I move my ass away from my seat. I also love the nifty little tools like premise lines, 3-6-3, unity page, etc... I never leave home without them.

One of the things I fought early on with Boot Camp was the idea of concentrating on the relationship between characters. And when I say concentrate - I mean concentrate. Every tool forces me to examine the relationships between characters - in particular, the main and dynamic. And, like Brittany Spears in Rehab, I keep resisting... at first.

You see, I’m a writer. I don’t need no stinkin’ rules or guidelines. A real writer just writes from the heart - after all, I have some thing(s) to say.

Okay, back to reality.

Stories are about relationships. Every single movie ever made is about one person wanting or needing something from another person or needing the help of another person or wanting to kill, love, bed, win-over, etc.., another person or having to hide, reveal, pretend, confuse something from another person... okay, you get my point - people - relationships.

As MaryAn put it, there are people who don’t know how to have relationships.

YES! This is the stuff that movies are made of. The complications of those relationships.

A lot of gurus, books, and schools spend a lot of time talking about a great protagonist, or even antagonist, but I don’t go to the movies to see one guy or gal up on screen. That shit would be just plain... uh, BORING.

I go to see what the characters will do and say to one another. Maybe they’ll say something crafty that I wish I could say to the guy next door who keeps parking his goddamn yellow truck in front of my house. Maybe they’ll blow up something - or someone, thus allowing my own angst a venue of release.

We already have in play words like conflict and antagonist that convey this. Conflict, for me, is relationship.

But you already knew this. So, back to writing I go.

Monday, February 19, 2007

To Outline Or Not To Outline...


That is indeed a commonly-asked question.

I’ve just finished another draft of my outline.

ANOTHER DRAFT?

Yup. In fact, it’s a rewrite - one that I thought was going to be a quick script fix, since the script placed in the semifinals of Nicholls.

Oh, how stupid and wishful.

I’ve been procrastinating big time these past few weeks because I knew, deep down, that I was going to have to pull up my sleeves and get to WORK, WORK, WORK.

I spent most of the morning working on the latest outline. Being enrolled in Writer’s Boot Camp, I’ve been using a nifty little screenwriting tool called the 3-6-3. It’s a form of sequencing.

At first, I resisted this tool like a virgin on prom night - but, hey, you can’t stay closed forever.

I’ve tried a bunch of different ways to outline - and I still go back and forth between different outlines. I’ve even combined the 3-6-3 with a method taught by one of my teachers at NYU. Some gals like to keep their options open.

Okay, enough sex metaphors.

So, what I thought would be a quick fix to the third act of my script, had me killing off the second lead of the script and introducing a completely new opponent. Oh, how fun.

But the great thing about all of this is that I was able to test this out in a one page outline (yes, one page - nifty little 3-6-3). I didn’t have to write pages upon pages upon pages - you get the point - only to discover on page 80 the story was not falling into place.

There are still some weak spots I need to work out, but, again, it’s easier to do this in a one-page format than 100+ pages.

Back to WORK I go.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Banning Books



You’re kidding me, right?

Books? Words? A form of learning and educating oneself?

Geez!

So the word is SCROTUM? Such an ugly word. Every time someone hurls it at me, I cower, waiting for the inevitable.

Dare my children hear this word? Oh, God, what would come of them?

First, they’ll run off to find their other little innocent babes and have a ball - opps - I mean, have so much fun tossing the WORD around.

Then, they’ll move on from this gateway word to perhaps testicle or, maybe, leave the male anatomy all together for more racier words like vulva or areola. And you all know where that’s going to take us. Dare I say it? Penis and that awful vagina. God, the horrors.

********************************************************

True story.

I remember when my daughter was 2 and 1/2, maybe three. She was in daycare, and we were called in during parent/teacher conference. Mind you, I don’t know what the hell we could conference about - “Oh, she really puts a spin on the singing of the alphabet” or, “she eats paste like no other.” Oh, well, I digress.

Anyway, we go in and her teacher seems a bit uncomfortable. She’s fumbling with her words. Finally, “I’m not sure how to bring this up, but today when we took the kids to the bathroom, your little precious one (of course, she didn’t say precious - I think she used angel), well, the kids were talking about their, you know, private parts, and your daughter corrected them. She, well, she used the words vagina and penis”.

So we did what any conscientious parent would do; we slapped the teacher hard across the face and said, “you brought us in here for this stupid shit?!”

No, we didn’t, but I do recall we said simultaneously, “AND?”

You see, the moment we knew that, in order to make a better life for my daughter, continuing our education and pursuing a career, meant that we would have to place our daughter in daycare - hand her over to others - strangers - on a daily basis. This scared the shit out of us. We decided on the daycare that was affiliated with the medical school my husband attended and which was located just across the street, allowing him to pop in anytime he wanted.

But we knew we would have to arm her with ammunition. A voice. This was something I had started earlier while attending graduate school. I had made the conscious effort never to talk to her in baby talk, and I was ridiculed and made fun of by more than a few family members. However, by the time our daughter was two, she had a pretty strong grasp of the English language.

The down side was that whenever we had family members come to visit, they often thought of her as entertainment - calling her over - “Hey, come over here and say that word again”, and she would oblige with a roll of her eyes and an “imbecile”.

So when we explained to her teacher at daycare that we had purposely taught our daughter to identify the parts of her body correctly, we got a blank stare. What the hell were we doing? I mean, it’s like an American tradition to give cute little names for body parts, especially those really private ones, right? Shouldn’t we want to protect our children for as long as we could, allowing my little girl to maintain her innocence as long as possible?

Yes, our job was to protect her, the only way we knew how - we bought her a sawed-off shotgun and some brass knuckles.

No, we armed her with knowledge and words that would clearly be understood, God forbid she may ever need them for protection. As young parents, my husband and I had recalled a few cases involving child abuse where the cases were thrown out or inconclusive because the child was not able to CLEARLY explain what happened to them. You see, the judge is not too sure what an actual boo-boo means. He needs the words vagina, penis, fondled, touched, hurt, tongue. Yes, all graphic, just like the word scrotum.

Before we start banning books and, even worse, words because we feel the need to protect our children, maybe we should ask exactly WHO are we protecting?

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Boyz in the Hood and John Truby


Here’s some interesting stuff on the structure of Boyz in the Hood:

John Truby

Structure

I’ve been thinking about this thing called structure. Three acts, a clear protagonist, an antagonist we can actually see - human, a clear arc/change in the main character, etc.

I’ve read tons of books, attended classes, but I continue to struggle with this thing called structure. It’s not that I don’t get it. A few of my scripts follow many of the conventions just fine.

However, there are a few of the stories I tell that have me fighting with the structure I find in most books, classes, and universities.

With these stories, I find myself forcing my stories and characters to obey these “tried and true” methods. It’s during these times that I find myself washing clothes, cleaning house, chipping ice off of my huge, circular driveway armed only with a garden tool (don’t ask). Anything to avoid trying to make my square story and its characters fit into the round peg of structure that’s been passed down from the beginning of storytelling.

Ah-ha! Maybe that’s it. Maybe there are other forms of storytelling when it comes to movies? As a former H.S. English teacher, I know this exists in literature. Though many of the creation and myth stories were extremely similar, the way in which they were told represented the individual culture, life and experience of the storyteller.

Why are stories told the way they are? Under what circumstances were certain stories historically told? Was it out of pure entertainment because there was nothing else around to do? Was it a way to gather the entire family/clan/tribe together after a particular harsh winter/harvest/war?

What was the goal of these stories? Were there certain cultures that only told a story as a way to entertain - share happy times with one another?

Or were there cultures that used stories as a way to teach and inform - passing down rules that govern their behavior (sounds familiar?)?

I can’t help thinking about my own culture when it comes to me telling stories involving African-Americans, especially those populated in inner-cities.

It’s only been recently that I’ve come to look back at my storytelling origins. I wish I could trace it back to Africa - and some day, I’ll set out to do just that. But as I spent most of my college years devouring slave narratives and slave history, I realize that I am very much influenced by this important period in my ancestral history.

Slaves had what we today might equivocate to myths. Most were in the forms of spiritual songs. Songs that carried messages deeper than the simple words strung together in harmony. These songs had hidden and crucial messages. Personification was perfected. A bird or animal might represent a slave recently killed. A river or mythical land might hold the plans for escape and the route in which to take.

One of the things that many of the songs contained was the notion of getting to a better life in the hereafter. Death was not seen as an ending, but a blessing - a new beginning. I could assume that most preferred death to the life of slavery they now lived - no matter how good the SLAVE MASTER.

So, what’s my point?

If death is not seen as bad thing, what does that do to a story? Does it have a ripple effect on all the other story elements?

But what about other little things, like character structure? What about the flaw or misbehavior in the protagonist? Well, looking back at slave narratives and spirituals, some might say that the main character were without flaw - as if they were do-gooders. What many miss is that the flaw of these main characters were the fact they were born - more specifically, they were born black and there was nothing they could do to change that.

This leads me to what I have come to call the theme of overcoming. It’s not a change. After all, there is nothing one can do about their “flaw" - ask Michael Jackson.

So, if there is no way to change, what structure does your arc follow? But, most importantly, what is your fight/goal/purpose?

To get those around you who can, to either change or acknowledge/see the plight of your life.

I’ve been studying - and continue to - two films that are starting to shed the light on a possible structure inherent in many black films that goes against the traditional Hollywood Structure.

The first film is Boyz in the Hood. When I try to apply traditional structure to this film, my mind spins and spins and spins.

First, who is the main character? That’s easy: Trey. Okay, I’m right there - maybe. Why is Trey the main character? What is his flaw, his goal; what must he change? Easy, right? His goal is to escape the hood, right? Is it? What will that solve - because Trey seems like this individualistic guy, right? He only cares about himself, he’s a loner? And, better yet, Trey’s in the hood because he selected to be there and he can just get up and leave whenever he wants to?

Or maybe, just maybe, like those spirituals, the hood is not isolated. Okay, we already knew that. So doesn’t that change his goal of wanting to get out of the hood? If the hood is not the hood and it represents society (as Furious eloquently points out during his speech on economics and re-gentrification to the neighborhood fellas), then how can he escape that? How did the slaves do it? Death...

And -- EDUCATION.

I know I’m going around in circles. I’m still closely studying this movie. With complex characters like Ricky, Doughboy and Furious, who seem to have their own separate and equally compelling story lines, it’s a structure I recognize, that feels good - but always gets me the most notes and criticism. One main character, one clear, human antagonist and one story with a B or possible C story that does NOT have secondary characters being elevated to the equal of the main character.

Why the hell not? I’ know I’m not the only one who writes this way and that have received criticism after criticism, forcing us to conform to the tried and true method of structuring a Hollywood movie. I remember discussing screenwriting with a few other black writers and we found an interesting universal criticism offered to us - why so many damn characters?

It’s our way of telling a story, and believe me, there’s a history in that. This is by no means paint-by-numbers. And not all black writers write alike, but take a look at many black films and see how their structures differ. Open a newspaper and read the review for a new, black film coming out. What sounds interesting about the criticism?

By the way, the other movie I’m taking a closer look at is Do the Right Thing. Who the hell is the main character there? Mookie? He changes? Right. Or does he want someone else to change - to ”WAKE UP“?

Okay, all of this might very well be BULLSHIT. Or just another way for me to justify why I can’t seem to get my story to fit the tried and true story structure I’ve been taught by the many experts and the hundreds of Academy Awarded films.


Or maybe there is something more to culture and structure.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Every Little Breath I Take...


...is killing me.

This asthma is whipping my ass like I owe it money.

And I’d pay up, with a little extra on the side, if it would just let up.

I’ve been taking hit after hit on my nebulizer pipe - it’s a two-hit a day habit.

I’ll be moving on to the more powerful drug once my supplier (CVS) fills my order.

The big guns - STEROIDS.

The Greatness Squad


“These are the films you must see if you want to know how to write or make a great film.”

Says who?

Well, everybody, right?

Really? Is it the same everybody who said the world was flat? Or the everybody who believed that the Earth was the center of the solar system?

Okay, okay, so I’m being dramatic. Hell, I even like most of the movies that seem to make “everybody’s” great movie list.

But I gotta wonder, if the complaint is the lack of originality in movies today, why do schools, books, and critics keep forcing aspiring screenwriters and filmmakers to emulate the same top 10/20/50/100 films?

It also makes me wonder if I think something is great because I’ve been told a thousand times by “experts” that it’s GREAT.

What about those “guilty pleasures”? Just the word guilt should inform us that outside influences are creeping in on a very personal moment. What happens when we don’t like a top 100 greatest film/screenplay? Will we be stoned by the masses? Considered a quack? Banished from “everybody”?

There should be no guilt in pleasure. For the freaks and homicidal maniacs, this does NOT apply to you.

Can somebody - or better yet, EVERYBODY define greatness? From which pool did these great films get plucked?

No, I’m not denying the extreme value in these films. But I can’t help to think that by giving me the same great films to emulate, I’m being steered into a particular direction. Do all these films share a common denominator?

Yeah, stupid - GREATNESS.

Okay, okay, I can see I’m not going to win this argument, not even with myself...

BUT

Let the “everybodys” have their greatest list. I like to keep my list open, adding and subtracting from the list as I see fit. One man’s greatness can be another’s pile of poop.

What film is on your great list that didn’t make “everybodys”?

Mine - Five Deadly Venoms, Finding Nemo.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The Process of Learning

I’ve been working on my Nicholl’s semi-finalist script. It’s become one of those projects, like refurbishing a 1950’s car from scrap. Slow and meticulous. While I continue to work on other projects, I keep coming back to this one.

I don’t know, maybe it’s a model project - the script I’m supposed to put together, rip apart again, and put together, and rip apart again - over and over. I’m tempted to say until I get it right, but I don’t think it’s that. It’s about the process - THE PROCESS OF LEARNING.

I’ve been given this great opportunity to stay home and write. The old axiom - practice makes perfect. It’s not about perfection, it’s about learning. Just because I cut short my extremely, expensive education at NYU doesn’t mean the learning stops. I’m an education fiend - I got it real bad. I need my fix - daily.

I still continue to pack my bookshelves with books of every kind - screenwriting, theatre, fiction, nonfiction, classics, biography, self-help, history, politics, etc... I’m a writer - words are my thing. I love them - the way they look, sound - the emotions they evoke. I even belong to the Book-of-the-Month club (though they now send two books a month).

And movies. I live at the Hollywood Video store - and NO, I don’t rent - I buy. I want to own them so I can watch them over and over and over again. The moment I knew I was in love with movies was my 32nd birthday - I mean, really in love with movies. We had a housewarming/birthday party, and while we received a total of three blenders, a crockpot and an areobed, I received about five gift cards to Blockbuster and Hollywood Video - and this was BEFORE I had even written my first screenplay.

My husband and I speak in movies. We even have the kids doing it. One liners from our favorite films thrown in to drive a point home. When we purchased our first home, we moved with 36 boxes of books, six boxes of movies and three duffel bags of clothes - no lie. Clothes, we don’t need no stinkin’ clothes.

But I digress.

I still purchase screenwriting books and software, and I still read the advice blogs/interviews of many a pro screenwriter.

Why? Don’t I know this shit by now?

I don’t know, maybe I’m a bit old-fashioned - or maybe just too damn cautious. But in order to know what really works, shouldn’t I also know what really doesn’t? How could I dismiss what I haven’t tried and/or learned?

I learn it, try it - if it doesn’t work, I move on to the next. I tell you one thing, it teaches this impatient gal that little thing called patience.

The other thing is, I love being surrounded by the things I love. Movies and books - and, of course, my family. Not necessarily in that order... I don’t think.


A few of my favorite things.

Wanting More For Our Children


Every parent wants the best for their child. They don’t want their children to experience any of the unnecessary pain and heartaches they had to endure. Of course, we know that experience is the best teacher, but we hope that some, if not most, won’t be first-hand experience.

My 14-year-old daughter came home from school yesterday and handed me her course selections for next year. She’ll be in 10th grade. She is an amazing student. All throughout middle school, she received honors. Currently, she maintains a 96 average - yeah, I’m a proud Mama.

I proceeded to ask her what she wanted to do with her life. What were her dreams and aspirations? She shrugged - like most teenagers her age. Ask them about a song, movie, or TV show and they’ll run off at the mouth a mile-a-minute.

After pulling teeth, nails, hair, ears, and her across the room... No, just kidding - I would never pull her nails. She tells me she wants to be a writer.

AHHH, how sweet, she’s just trying to please Mommy.

I don’t think so. And there’s a little part of me that wishes this were the case, especially knowing the tough road she has ahead of her.

You see, my daughter writes. She writes like it’s going out of style. She has notebooks upon notebooks upon notebooks crammed in every nook and cranny of her room. And they are filled. She wakes up and writes, she writes before she goes to bed. She has that little blister on her fingers from writing. She even blogs - OH MY GOD. That scared the crap out of me there for a second until I realized it was on The N.

She lives on the-N.com, posting her stories and episodes of DeGrassi. She has shared with me a few of her story ideas. I was always cautious not to become too overly-excited for the fear of turning into one of those baseball dads who can’t seem to realize that their dreams can never be lived out through their child.

So I backed off. Good, right?

I don’t think so. What she also informed me last night was that seeing how hard I struggle with trying to break into the industry, she didn’t think it was a realistic goal for her to set. You see, my children have been an active participant in my writing. They have seen the ups, and way, way, way downs. They have sacrificed, as well; forfeiting after-school programs while I sat some 60 miles away in a classroom in NYU.

But what I reminded her was that while there are no promises in this game, I love it. I love writing - it’s like breathing.

I see a lot of me in her, and it scares me like hell. I mean, horror story scares me. Like me, she’s afraid to share her work - afraid of failure and disappointment.

I want more for my daughter. More than I had. The problem is, sometimes it’s the more that we get caught up with. More of what?

I want her to have more support than I had. More encouragement. More opportunities to fail; to try new things - to explore her options.

There are no handbooks on parenting - and there shouldn’t be. If I follow my heart, hopefully my head will catch up - eventually.

I’ve decided to give my daughter more. The girl’s got talent - and it needs to be nurtured. Isn’t that my job as a mother? That, and bragging about the talent she has.

Movie Moments #1

So, I was watching Winter’s Solstice for the second time last night (from IMDb - Plot Outline: In this suburban drama, a widower (played by Anthony LaPaglia) confronts his older son's (played by Aaron Stanford) decision to leave home and his younger son's self-destructive behavior). I know, some of you haven’t even watched it the first time, and maybe never will.

The thing is, I LOVE movies. Not all, but there is a redeeming moment in almost every film ever made - well, maybe except for The Cat In the Hat.

SPOILERS

So, I’m watching the movie on cable (even though the unopened Netflix version is sitting on the coffee table in front of me - don’t you hate when that happens?). The movie is a bit slow, not because of the story, but the camera has this little annoying habit of drawing out every single moment.

But, one moment pays off big time. There is the scene where Jim Winters (Anthony LaPaglia) has just arrived at Molly Ripkin’s (Allison Janney) for dinner. Molly had invited Jim and his two sons for dinner. However, the boys are a no-show and Jim arrives, where Molly has set the dinner table for four.

What follows is collaboration defined for me. It is where the screenwriter, the actor and director have each brought their talent and skills to the table. Alone, none of them would have been able to pull off the scene, but with each doing their part, the scene speaks volumes.

Molly walks into the kitchen, Jim follows. However, the director/camera never steps into the room. Instead, we, the viewer, remain in the dining room where we can only see Jim, and hear, only slightly, what Molly is saying.

So?

Duh, I am no longer a passive observer. I am now in that house with those two people. In fact, I have somehow melded with Jim. Though he has stepped in the kitchen with Molly, he is not in that room. He is not there in that moment. Granted, I didn’t read the script, but I can only imagine that the writer gave us some indication that Jim is not really paying attention to Molly; that he is more concerned with something in the dining room.

However, it was the director who took it one step further and showed us, not told us, this bit of information. And LaPaglia does an amazing job in being a bit preoccupied. Though his body faces in the direction towards Molly, his eyes are ever-so-fixed in the dining room.

Finally, Jim can’t take it anymore, and he rushes into the dining room and carefully gathers two of the place settings.

There it is. The moment for me. The moment that sums up this character; this story. The writer, director and actor SHOWED me a deeply inner emotion, rather than have Jim explain later to Molly that he misses his family of FOUR - that he feels incomplete, and that he’s struggling with moving on, by forcing these memories from his every day life.

Damn, I love that scene.

Yes, I’m strange. But it’s these little gems that continue to serve as my education. I can read “show, don’t tell” in a million books. Actually seeing it put to practice, now that’s something else.