Category Archives: Screenwriting

On Those Stupid Outline Thingies

5.1 GB left of 8.7 GB. I’ve been sitting at my computer for a little bit now, staring at the progress bar in the hopes that it will magically move faster and faster in the ensuing moments. Since I’ve been doing this for a bit now (like I just said), it’s probably safe to assume that it’s going to take even longer to finish. So while the download is doing it’s thing and pissing me off, I figured I would jot down some thoughts in a stream of conscious manner to break the monotony of my latest string of “well-organized” posts.

In short, I want to talk about outlines.

I hate outlines. I hate writing outlines and I hate thinking about them. I come from a method of writing that involves turning on the writing program of choice and just vomiting as many words out as I can, hoping to touch upon a compelling narrative or two in the process. I like saving that organization thing for the second draft, where I have to put thought into stuff like theme or why making the side character a cat instead of a man is hilarious. No, really. It’s funny as hell.

But lately I’ve started to change how I see the writing process. Call it a writer’s puberty, if you will. Suddenly, I find that I can’t write anything unless it’s got a preset structure going in. Something that would have simply been a sit-and-write before has now become an exercise in meticulous planning. The change happened with the last script I wrote (which I have YET to revise). I decided to do things different from my usual method and write out an outline to focus my writing and get things done in a shorter period of time.

Well, it worked. In fact, it worked so great that I got it in my brain that outlining was a good thing. Now I can’t write any kind of story without drafting up a roadmap of all the things that need to happen in the story. The problem here is that I’m still the person from before who needs to jump right in and start hammering on the keyboard like there’s no tomorrow. I still need that freedom to take the story anywhere and develop the characters as I go along.

4.5 GB left.

God, I really hate outlines. I should probably finish the one I’ve started for my horror film.

Chuck, We Need To Talk

Can you come here a minute, Chuck? We need to talk. Yes, it’s as bad as you think it is. Sit down and let me get this off my chest before I lose my nerve.

This isn’t working. I’m sorry, Chuck. It’s you, not me. I can’t go on in this relationship anymore. It’s obvious that things are going nowhere and I really need a show that appreciates my sensibilities and that is able to grow with me. I’m all the way over here in season four and I feel like you’ve never really left season two. I come home after a long day’s work and turn on the television, only to find the same old schtick that I’ve seen before. If I wanted “same old,” I would have purchased an older season or watch Undercovers instead. But that’s not on on Mondays, so that leaves me with what? Weeds? Sure, I’ll only watch a half hour of television to relax in the evening. Maybe I’ll fill the rest of my night crying into a vodka bottle while listening to The Magnetic Fields.

But I digress.

I feel like we’re not in this together anymore. I wanted to see Casey have a larger arc involving his daughter. The promise of that excited me in ways I’ve not felt since you gained the Intersect 2.0 or when I found out that Scott Bakula was going to be your dad. Seeing a new side to an otherwise one dimensional character felt so right.

Or how about Morgan and the Buy More story arc. Here’s a character that started off nothing more than the comedic relief of this show. He was the idiot that served to lighten the mood when the spy stuff got too intense. With the most recent season, I expected to see him take more of an important role and come into his own. Hell, you promised me that this would happen last season when he became an official operative and started going on missions with you.

What? Hold on. Neighbor yelled something about spoilers. Give me a sec. I’ve got to reply. HOW ABOUT YOU WATCH THE SHOW WHEN IT AIRS, HUH?! MAYBE THEN YOU WOULDN’T BE SPOILED. WHORE. Can you believe that? It’s like they wait to watch things on DVD or something.

Where were we? Oh yeah. Us.

We had all this potential together. What happened? What went wrong?

Wait. I know what went wrong. You went back to HER. You decided that you wanted to spend all your time with Sarah, making your petty squabbles the main focus of the show. Instead of letting me get to know your friends better, you made this all about you. Do you realize how much it hurt watching the most recent episode and realizing that things would never progress between us? It was like a slap in the face, Chuck.

No. I won’t hear it. Don’t tell me that you can change. It’s too late. I just…I…I think you should go.

On Writetober

It’s October, and with it comes horror films galore. Just saw the original 13 Ghosts a few days ago and had a blast. Going to watch all of the Friday the 13th movies at some point this month as well as a bunch of really crappy horror films. Might also get a viewing of Candyman in and a bunch of films I’ve never seen before. Apart from that, I’m taking the proverbial pen to paper (lap to laptop, maybe?) and writing a horror film. It’s a film in the style of Skeleton Key and Candyman in which a main character obsesses over a mystery and it ends up being their undoing.

I was thinking I would write the outline this week, and then take the rest of the month to write out the script itself. Sounds simple, right?

Just a matter of writing it.

*sigh*

On A New City, and Stuff

I suppose I should make some kind of post about life as I know it right now. Decided that I was done with Chicago and moved my ass all the way over to the west coast to live out a life of fame and fortune. That is to say, I moved to LA to try and see if this writing business will actually pan out. Whether or not this was a bad move remains to be seen. Whether or not this degree of mine was a bad move remains to be seen. Basically, I moved from one question mark to the next. But hey, that’s what adventure is, right?

All I know is that I haven’t really done a lot of writing since I got here and that’s NOT a good thing.

Feel free to ignore this post at your leisure. This is me getting back into the habit of writing.

On Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

I’d like to get a couple of important details squared away with you first before I start rambling about why I think Scott Pilgrim is one of the top mainstream films this year. First of all, I’m a writer. As such, I believe in the story and characters above all else. Things like “who directed it” or “who produced it” or “how it was made” sit on the shelf below. Finally–and this is the most important detail–I’m a video game nerd from 8-bit yesteryear and I digest non-mainstream comics like fifty-nine cent, name-brand mac ‘n cheese; which is to say, I really dig comics. I’m the dorky, indifferent kid that wants “to think about death and get sad and stuff.”

There. I feel like we can proceed.

Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World is awesome, and the hyperbole is well-founded. The film, from beginning to end, is an experience. Every moment oozes with style and is tailored to the “and stuff” generation I subscribe to; 8-bit sound effects run rampant, sound effects are written out comic book style, and characters pull huge fucking hammers out of their satchels.

This is all fine and good, as long as it’s not at the expense of the characters or the story. There have been too many adaptations that have opted for the “look right” option and have totally flubbed on the story front. With Pilgrim, the main characters all have story threads that wrap up nicely by the end credits and title character himself grows from being a kind of “twenty-something asshole” to “not that bad of a guy.” To quote him, “I think I just learned something.” The romantic triangle between him, Ramona and Knives is also very believable and the awkwardness and crushing blow of getting dumped is played out in a way that’s borders on uncomfortably accurate. It’s nice to see the filmmakers keep a good balance between silly romantic cliche and heartfelt character stuff.

The casting for the film didn’t feel wrong, and everyone was able to do their own thing with the characters. Michael Cera, despite his tendency for sameness across his roles, embodies Scott Pilgrim and does the role good. After seeing the film, I’m not sure anyone else could have played that role. One reviewer I read suggested that all his other roles are just training for this, and I can definitely agree with the sentiment.

Perhaps the most memorable role of the film is that of Scott’s roommate Wallace, played by Kieran Culkin. Every scene he is in is gold and I found myself wishing he had had more screen time. Brandon Routh also shines through as Todd Ingram and revels in the delightfully ridiculous role. When I say that I can’t complain about any of the casting choices, I’m being super-vegan serious.

That’s not to say that this film is perfect. It’s not. It’s a niche film tailored to a specific demographic. It’s paced like a video game and it winks at it’s viewers like an epileptic seizure. The characters could be deeper and could have more heart, but that’s not necessarily the point of the story. What you see on the screen is as faithful an adaptation of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s work as anyone could hope to achieve. It’s not going to be Criterion Collection Masterpiece of Nerddom, but it’s most definitely in the top mainstream films of this year and is pretty much THE film of the “and stuff” generation.

I lesbians this film so hard.

Serenity

Eleven Day Steampunk

Serenity

April 1st came around and two things happened: I completely forgot that it was April Fools Day and I began the screenwriting boot camp known as Script Frenzy. If you’ll recall, I wrote earlier about my plans to write two scripts to make up for the zero I wrote last year. Well, I’m here today to tell you that I’m done with my first script, LAMENT. It’s a Steampunk Western Revenge Flick about a father and a husband who will stop at nothing to kill the man responsible for ruining his life. There’s action, there’s drama and there’s enough steampunk to whet your appetite.

All in all, the script took me eleven days to write, averaging out about ten pages a day with a day or two off to keep my sanity. I discussed the beauty of outlining in my last post and the proof was in how easy it was to bang out the script. I essentially breezed through ten pages, checked my notes, and then soared through another. Naturally, my script ended at page 93.

Now you might ask, “Doesn’t Script Frenzy require 100 pages?”

Yes, it does. This was perhaps one of the more interesting aspects to my writing binge this past week or so. By around page 85, I started to burn out. When you burn out as a writer, the first thing that goes by the wayside is the prose. While you’re generally not supposed to flower your script with prose, the details help. I perused the pages near the end and realized that I had all but dropped the prose in favor of quick action text like, “Westin charges forward, shoots guy,” or “Westin kills bad guy.” On the first day, it was more along the lines of, “Westin steps off the train, letting his bag drop to the ground. He toys with the cigarette sandwiched between his lips and tosses it aside.”

You get the idea.

The other thing that also seems to fall by the wayside is the dialog. The first few days of writing (roughly 30-40 pages) saw some interesting dialog between the characters, stuff that gave you a decent idea as to what made them tick. Granted, we’re not talking Tarantino’esque yakking, but something useful for a first draft. By the last page, no one was saying a word except for the villain and he repeated himself to an annoying extent.

“Hey,” you might interrupt, “weren’t you supposed to do two scripts?”

Busy month, indeed.

Alice

Outlining Is Useful After All

Alice

They teach you in film school that outlining your films is an important step in the screenwriting process. Oftentimes, students ignore this lesson and just wing it, letting the characters do what they “were meant to do.” This was the method I applied to writing my very first feature for Screenwriting II. I wasn’t going to let planning and plot construction ruin MY masterpiece. My characters were going to take me on a journey and it would be this grand adventure through amazing-land.

Well, I was an idiot.

You have no idea how easy it is to sit down and start writing your story when you have the basic groundwork set out in front of you. Protagonist goes here, here and here in act one. Fill in the blanks. BAM! I’ve always known that outlining is a good idea, but I’ve never really put it into practice until lately. I can already see the results as the story is more organized now in my head and I’ve got a firmer grasp on the plot than I did a few short days ago.

Also, I’ve got an end to my story. None of my scripts prior to this have had endings and it’s made finishing them something of a challenge. It’s unbelievably difficult to plot out a journey you don’t know the end to. The possibilities become TOO endless and the “what-ifs” start wasting valuable time, time you could be spending on the actual script itself.

Maybe some people out there in this cruel world can sit down and write a feature without ever outlining a single thing, but I know I’m not one of those people. Having as much planned out as possible before I sit down to write is an absolute must.

Script Frenzy

A Most Ambitious Frenzy

Script Frenzy

Last year I failed Script Frenzy. I had a good idea, but I just didn’t have the commitment to the event that I needed to see the project through. From a writing perspective, I had gotten too mired in plot and “revise-as-you-go,” a screenwriter’s worst nightmare. I would open up my script during those 5 days I wrote and start from the beginning, tweaking everything until it felt as succinct and ready-to-sell as a final draft. By that fifth day I was burned out and done with the whole mess, so I stopped and went about my business.

Well, that’s not going to happen this year. I’ve decided to overcompensate for my failure by writing two scripts this year for Sript Frenzy. That’s right, two scripts! The idea is that I will get my first script done within the first ten to fifteen days, and then spend the last part of the month working on my second feature. I plan to budget at least ten pages a day to my script and then write some kind of rambly-ass post on here to update how things are going.

This will be a very very very interesting April.

Allons-y!

On Tim Burton’s Alice

I love the Alice in Wonderland story. In fact, I read the book a few times in high school, watched the old movie, played the hell out of American McGee’s Alice and often thought about how I’d take a stab at the story if I ever got the chance…you know, should I ever pursue a career in writing. Well, thanks to Tim Burton, I won’t have that chance for awhile. He’s gone ahead and adapted my favorite kid’s story into what looks to be a quirky flick about the Mad Hatter and an all out chess war straight from Narnia.

Wait, wut?

There’s a lot to this trailer that intrigues me in terms of direction and style. Everything in the real world is a drab caricature of Pride and Prejudice, and has enough gray tones to make you instinctively yawn. Wonderland itself looks dark and demented and all kinds of crazy. So far, so good, but what about the story that’s hinted at? A war? Alice in armor? Chess pieces clashing together like this was Middle Earth? Granted, this is only a trailer and I shouldn’t be so quick to judge, but I’m already on amber alert here. I’d really like to enjoy this film when it comes out (count me there on opening night), and I hope Burton’s silly love affair with Mr. Depp doesn’t detract from the world that I know and love. But with a trailer like this, it’s hard to be all out enthusiastic.

At least they HAVE a Cheshire Cat. Yeah, that’s right, SyFy’s Alice!

If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Remake It

The HORROR! THEY'RE REMAKING WHAT?!
The HORROR! THEY'RE REMAKING WHAT?!

I’ve got a rather novel idea that I’d like to share with the world, something which I think everyone can agree with on some basic level. Something, which when I say it you’ll say “amen” under your breath. Ready for it?

We don’t *need* remakes.

I was looking at some stills for the upcoming movie remake The Karate Kid and suddenly this revelation hit me in all it’s clarity and wisdom. Why was this remake needed? What wasn’t told with the original story that needed to be re-told? What other kind of spin could anyone actually put on this to make it suitable for a new generation? Last I checked, the original source material still holds up and isn’t that painfully dated. And it’s not the casting that bothers me about this remake, it’s that the best option was to just re-do everything and call it a Karate Kid movie.

What if instead of remaking everything under the sun people decided to just take the basic story structures from these older movies and make something new entirely? A young, troubled boy finds an outlet for his untoward behavior in karate, thanks to a sage neighbor. Why does it have to be called The Karate Kid, and furthermore, what’s so important with it being a remake? Is it just to bring in the nostalgic moviegoers? Is it because remaking already established properties is fiscally safe?

How about this? Let the basic story stand on it’s own feet and trust that audiences that like that type of story will come in and see it. Since there’s nothing new under the sun, it’s not like you’re going to get sued for having a similar story type to the Karate Kid. If that were the case, I highly doubt a lot of “original” properties wouldn’t exist today.

Just something to think about. If it ain’t broke..