Blog - Wannabe Written by John Shea
So you thought I packed it in and quit writing reviews? Well... Maybe. I don't know. I still intend to write reviews of Precious and The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. Both of them deserve the attention. Maybe I'll get around to A Serious Man. Maybe.
Work is progressing nicely on a fourth draft of Natural Tendencies. I've cut this sucker to the bone and finally have it coming in at a reasonable page length. And in the process the story is getting much cleaner and easier to follow. Now I'm working on giving it a real emotional kick. After last month's film festival, the feeling I took away was that emotionally my work needs to be stronger. Movies like Up In The Air and Precious convinced me to work harder on that side of things. Hopefully when this draft is finished, the story will carry an emotional gut punch in the ending. It's getting there.
|Would it be audacious to suggest that Pirate Radio is the important movie you see this year? Probably, but suggest I will. Any movie that so strongly states the proper response to an abuse of authority deserves your love and attention. This movie rocks, both figuratively and literally.|
|What makes Jason Reitman stand out from the crowd of directors is his mastery of tone. That has allowed him to tackle material that could have easily gone badly with a tone deaf director. Thank You For Smoking's libertarian themes could have been mangled, turning Nick Naylor into an unfunny caricature. Juno's unique voice and ambiguity on hot button issues could have tipped badly into message, rendering it a cheap after school special.|
|Against the Current is an indie film written and directed by Peter Callahan. To discuss this film properly I'm going to have to bring up some plot points that are surpises of sorts in the story. So if you'd really rather know nothing, move on, check it out and come back.|
|Living in Emergency is a documentary about the organization Doctors Without Borders. They recruit doctors from all over the world to send to war torn regions or areas battered by natural disaster. It specifically follows four doctors in Liberia and Congo. Two are on their first six month tours and two are veterans of multiple tours.|
Yes, once again it's time for me to post up a quick note to assure all three regular readers (Hi Mom!) that I am not in fact dead or stunningly lazy.I am hard at work. But since I don't feel like writing daily articles about writing three pages of this or cutting three pages out of that, I just wait until I feel really guilty and then spurt it all out on the page at once. Please don't visualize that.
You didn't notice the delay but I just popped off for a moment to read the last few posts, so I could remember what I've previously said. These posts are infrequent enough, I don't need to add the insult of repeating myself. Primarily right now I am in the process of rewriting my original script Natural Tendencies. This has always been a story that's biggest problem is too much stuff. The first draft was a butt-numbing 168 pages. The second draft was 129 pages, but I cheated and moved the margins and reduced the font size. In truth it was more like 151 pages.
For this draft I removed the cheats and started aggressively cutting. Now when I completed the second draft, I really felt like I'd cut the story to the bone, which was worrisome because the damn thing was still much too long. Ah how naive I can be. Since that draft I've learned much about the craft of screenwriting. It's not novel writing. I can't take the time to describe every little detail, thought or emotion. What I do describe needs to be something visible on screen and something that will fill out nicely when actors and designers get a hold of it. With that thought in mind I took another run at the script and brought it down to 128 pages, with no cheating. And best of all, I hadn't been forced to radically alter the story.
It's still too long though. And so I'm now in the midst of another pass. This one needs to cut things down but it also needs to alter the story trajectory a bit. My thoughts on the themes of the story have changed a tad since I first wrote it so some changes are necessary. That could sound like waffling but I believe these changes will make the script a lot more powerful and emotional.
Prior to that I did another quick draft of Joe Bob the Messiah. A few ideas hit me since finishing the previous draft that I wanted to include. Not major changes, just small additions that improved the characters and closed some plot holes. So now that script and She Hates the Idea are in the hands of my early readers.
Last week I also wrote a script for a short film. It's something meant both to entertain and teach me more about filmmaking. It will run about 4-5 minutes, will hopefully be funny and should give me an opportunity to try out the special effects techniques I've been learning lately. And if it comes out anywhere above the level of pure crap, I'll show it to you. Don't hold your breath though. At the end of this week is the FilmColumbia film fest so my schedule is pretty well booked for the short run. Hopefully there will be time to shoot it next week.
Finally, if you actually want day by day descriptions of what I'm up to, check out my twitter feed. I'll also be using that to send out quick thoughts on the movies I'll be seeing next week (no, not during the movies). I feel silly saying twitter but I enjoy the challenge of being coherent in under 140 characters. It's not a bad skill for a screenwriter.
I mentioned that I was learning special effects recently. Well, here's what I've been up to the last couple of days. Enjoy.
Now that you've had a few weeks to absorb my last lesson plan (by which I mean, watch someone else's videos), it's time to give you a second taste of the TNMC Film School. I'm going to stick with new media and point out the staggeringly awesome Creative Screenwriting Podcast.
Okay folks, here's the first entry in an idea I've been kicking around my head for a long time but have never managed to actually get around to doing anything about. As regular readers (both of you) know, I want to make movies. My main interest is in screenwriting but I'm ambitious enough to want to take the reins of an entire film. I've spent some time editing, trying to make music, learning special effects and operating a camera. Every one of those disciplines I leaped into after encountering something that inspired me to try it for myself. That includes countless books, DVDs with great extras, podcasts, websites and even TV shows. I'm going to start going through my personal library to highlight the really useful stuff. Hopefully the other wannabe filmmakers out there will find it useful. And maybe I'll turn a few folks on to the idea of making their own movies.
Now, I'm not going to be doing these in any particular order. So don't think I'm ranking things by what I go with first, last or somewhere in the middle. All I'm saying is that is that I found it useful, helpful or inspirational. You can supply your own rankings if you think that's important. With that said, let's get to it.
The first item in this newly launched faux film school is the internet TV series Film Riot. I've seen lots of videos that tell you how to make movies. Film Riot is different because they don't just show you how to do it. They integrate the techniques into the very fabric of their shows, which provides both context and great entertainment. The very first episode described how to generate the lightsaber effect and phaser blasts. And if you've spent any time on the internet, you have to know that this is not revolutionary information. But Film Riot goes the extra step by making a short film that gives them a funny excuse to use those effects and then backs up to show you how to do it.
It's a well written show with slick production values, two elements that greatly elevate over similar informational material you might find elsewhere. To date they've covered various effects related to guns, teleporting, cloning, car crashes, forced perspective, getting hit with a car, blood, numerous ways to maim or kill someone, lighting, audio, DIY equipment and more. And it's funny as hell.
The show is hosted by Ryan Connolly and features his brother and numerous friends as actors. They make for one fine crew. I've shown their videos to a number of people, who universally come away impressed. Even if you don't have any interest in filmmaking, this could be worth a watch. To be fair though, I've watched a few people's eyes glaze over during the more technical parts of the videos. That's not a criticism, just an indication that it's not for everyone.
That's it for the first class of my new film school. Go study. And by study, I mean watch all the Film Riot episodes. I'll be back soon with another lesson.
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