Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Dark Night of the Soul

Now I have four empty areas in the Blake Snyder’s Beat Sheet of my current script project.

The first area is at the end of “Fun and Games”, just before Point of No Return. The second is in the middle of “Bad Guy Closes In”. The third is the longest and it is at the end of act two at “Dark Night of the Soul”. The fourth is in the first half of act three.

Usually I predict my scenes to be a little longer than their real length, so the gap of five minutes at the end of “Fun and Games” will not become shorter. I think I will have a two-minutes-scene that will be part of my hero’s love interest’s arc. He is an unbearable environmental fanatic incapable of a relationship containing much more than sex.

The fourth gap in the finale will also be quite easy, because I “just” need one more obstacle for my hero to reach the bad guy.

The part in the “Dark Night of the Soul” worries me most. Then my hero is in jail. Her possibilities for action are limited. I don’t want it to be too talky. I want some visuals showing what goes on in her head. And we are talking six minutes here.

I have decided not to write a single line of script until my beat sheet is ready and every scene and its character’s has their goals. I try not to repeat my old mistakes.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

A set-up for Lipizzaner-horses

I had vague knowledge about the American Civil War (1861-1865). I knew that it was the south and the north and that it was about the slavery’s be or not to be.

When I started to read a Swedish book written by Ulf Zander about American movie, history and identity I learned – among other things – that the mentality of north and south is still there.

Suddenly I watched the movie Crimson Tide with new eyes.

In Crimson Tide there is a submarine captain played by Gene Hackman that has been driving submarines for twenty years and his new, much less experienced but well educated Executive Officer (the second-in-command) played by Denzel Washington.

Not one word is mentioned about the fact that the Executive Officer is black, until close to the finale when Gene Hackman’s character talks about Lipizzaner-horses that are all white.

During my previous views of the movie I reacted to the fact that the captain’s opinion about his Executive Officer’s color is not properly set up.

Now I know how wrong I was. The set up is done and well done indeed. If you just know a little about the United States.

The submarine’s name is Alabama. Alabama is a state in the southern. Alabama wanted to keep the slavery and discriminated its black population long after the civil war.

During the captain’s pep-talk to his crew he says that the submarine has a proud name and that the outstanding state has fine people.

The Executive Officer is also the only black officer on board. There is one more but he is slightly colored, not black.

Suddenly I felt a completely different tension in the movie. And it was for the better. That is what I call a set-up.

Filmography links and data courtesy of
The Internet Movie Database.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

When a friend is no longer there

I had a mentor for about a year.

She was an actress and gave me feedback on my writing and tasks that developed my skills. She bluntly delivered her honest opinions about my achievements which was precisely what I needed. I don’t give much for tiptoeing in these cases.

I considered her a friend.

Then she started to feel bad from stress at her work and suddenly she ended our line of regular sessions but said that we still should stay in touch.

We met and phoned a few times after that. It was not often but it was with smiles.

Last time we met we bumped into each other and chatted a little before we both moved on. I was late in my pregnancy that time.

Then followed three years with small children where most of my focus where on my family. I asked her over, but somehow we never got that far.

When I felt that I could handle my life again and widened my view I wanted contact with my friend again. But she sent me a letter where she told me that she did not intend to continue the contact.

I can’t understand why.

If I did something wrong, she never told me. And if she felt that I didn’t stay in touch, then I could have told her that I had had a tough period where there was no strength left. But she didn’t ask. She just told me she was not interested in further contact, period.

And I had lost a friend.

A friend I had missed and longed to see. A friend that I had obviously not treated right and bad enough to erase all interest in a meeting to tell me about it.

Monday, July 21, 2008

To start the creative flow

Photo: Sputnik under Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic

In an earlier article I mentioned Linda Seger’s book “Make a good writer great” and that one thing that differs between a great writer and a good one, is that a great writer knows when to write and knows how to kick start the creative flow.

I can dive right into a scene and write, sure, but in general these scenes do not get a golden star in the margin. The creative flow is not there.

What do start the flow is planning the scene. Rather practical. Except for the fact that it is something I don’t want to do because it is boring. Or rather feels like boring before I get started.

What I do is quite simple in theory. I write down my goal with the scene, what I as a writer want to show. Then I write down each character’s goal and it is important that there is a conflict between these goals.

It is interesting how goals can be so difficult sometimes. But if I can’t find any goals, then the scene is useless. It does not have to be any complicated goals, but every character in the scene must have a need to fulfill.

When I work with this I get very inspired.

Then it is so easy to jump right in and write. But where to go when that scene is done? Well, here we go, I don’t need any goals for the next scene, I just continue. That is not good. It will be a horrible result.

It is much better to do the goals for as many scenes as possible. Then dive into the script and write. You see, I have noticed that reading my goals starts the creative flow too.

So far I have never succeeded to write goals for every scene and really do my pre-work properly before I start to write the actual script, but I am capable of learning, so there is still hope.

The scenes become so very much better with these goals and the other pre-work done so I am stupid to work otherwise.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Creative flow among nappies

Linda Seger writes in her book “Make a good writer great” that one thing that differs between a great writer and one that is just good, is that a great writer knows when to write and knows how to kick start the creative flow.

A great writer knows how and when to write.

I read this book a few years back and have since then used some of her writing exercises. I still lack some of the discipline needed, but there have been improvements and I have taken small, small steps towards greatness, I hope.

Yesterday I flipped through pages of the book, recalling things I read.

I have a way to start my creative flow, although I am yet too eager and dive into writing on the script too soon. But my main problem is that I don’t own my time. When to write is strictly limited. There is no solution for that in the book.

Unfortunately Linda Seger presumes that we are all able to support ourselves on our writing as “good” writers. Maybe she should. Maybe I should quit my job.

But I have a family.

I talked to a scriptwriter who told me that when he worked he closed the door and didn’t let anybody in and only came out to eat. And he did that about a month at a time. He on the other hand didn’t have small children. Would he really do that if he had a little one calling for daddy on the other side of the door?

I love my family.

Does this mean that I can never become great? Or does it mean that it only will take me longer to get there? Come on, there are lots of parents out there. Are we all lost cases?

Monday, July 14, 2008

A two-year-old on the screen

I read a book about the movies based on work of Astrid Lindgren. It was much about what happened behind the scenes, more than the actual movies.

How many directors accept the task to direct a not yet two years old little child? To have a kid in that age in a story is a great idea when it comes to fun, adventure, conflicts and a lot more. But it is impossible to tell a two-year-old what to do in a way needed for filming.

Well, director Olle Hellbom obviously had a great hand with children. He was behind most of the movies based on Astrid Lindgren’s books and there are plenty of children in those stories.

He showed his very young actor what to do until the little toddler imitated him. Amazing.

But there is another aspect of such small children in movies that were not mentioned in the book at all. The older children had volunteered to act. It was their choice. A little fellow of two years can’t make that choice. Is it really fair to use a defenseless child like that, even if there is no harm in the intentions?

Friday, July 11, 2008

Slamming into a concrete wall

When I was sketching on my current movie script project I suddenly realized that my bad guy was bad, but hey with my hero’s background he was no more than a pocket thief. Argh. Not good. Not good at all.

And what is worse is that I didn’t realize this until I got to the third act.

The good thing is that this time I was only sketching, not surfing on a creative flow typing in Final Draft and slamming into a concrete wall. This was a soft break like sliding up on a beach.

My hero has a criminal background that catches up with her. If the bad guy is supposed to be considered bad he has to be ten times as bad as the hero’s background. And the threat must extend to more people than the hero and her loved one.

This needs a good night sleep to solve.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Example of great supporting characters

I think “The Fugitive” is a great example of the importance of developed supporting characters.

The main characters are the fugitive Doctor Richard Kimble and US Marshal Samuel Gerard who hunts him.

I know that Tommy Lee Jones won an Oscar for Best Actor in a Supporting Role as Samuel Gerard, but I consider him one of the main characters never the less.

Samuel Gerard surrounds himself with a team of deputy marshals: Cosmo Renfro, Robert Biggs, Poole and Noah Newman.

Sure Tommy Lee Jones and Harrison Ford (as Richard Kimble) need to do their job, but without the superb supporting characters the movie would have been much less of everything.

A character like Samuel Gerard needs interesting persons around him to talk to and act towards. He is the big dog in the pack but that does not mean that the rest of the pack can be an anonymous flock.

When Samuel Gerard and his team climb down into the tunnel sewage Cosmo Renfro says “Aw, shit! I just bought new shoes.” As a writer I need to know Cosmo Renfro to be able to write that line. To say “Aw, shit” is natural, but that does not make an interesting character.

Noah Newman is new at the job at the beginning of the movie and has to fetch coffee and donuts and by the end he gets a recognizing “Well done young man” from Gerard.

And they still remain supporting characters. It is not their story, not their point of view. They are just there. But they are still full of life. Great job indeed.

Filmography links and data courtesy of
The Internet Movie Database.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Two famous little angles

I am not much for cute cherubs – putti. Yet I have two famous little fellows at the top. Why?

The two putti are part of a bigger picture – the Sistine Madonna by Raphael (above).

Most people with Christian background know, or make a qualified guess, that the lady in the middle is the Virgin Mary and the child in her arms is Baby Jesus.

But who are the man and the woman on each side of her? I don’t know if it was obvious at the time the painting was made 1514, but most likely educated people knew they were the saints Sixtus and Barbara.

I don’t think that Raphael would have believed me if I told him that those little putti at the bottom would be the famous guys almost five hundred years later.

And that is why they are there, at the top of my blog.

To illustrate the importance of supporting characters.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

A perfect character

The guy cleaning the office entered, swept my desk with a rag and emptied my wastebasket. He has a haircut like a sumo wrestler but is thin as a flag pole. I said good morning and he gave me a nod. He is not a guy who chats.

I thought that I would definitely mind to have a job with smelling cleaning chemicals up my nose all day. And to be honest I would feel a bit over educated.

But as a character in a script he is perfect.

What kind of things he is able to see. Not only that a wastebasket can be interesting (he must know what kind of candy I like by now) but he also moves all over the office, in all rooms and when done he probably moves to another office cleaning their rooms. He could be in an office at odd hours witnessing theft or even murder.

Me, I watch a computer screen most of the day.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Just add words

Now this will sound like a commercial but I really like Final Draft.

For those of you not familiar with the program, Final Draft is a word processor developed for screenwriting.

It is interesting how much easer it is to work with a program dedicated to one task alone compared to for example Microsoft Word, a word processor that is for everybody and every use.

Ctrl+1 and I got a scene heading. I press Enter and the text becomes formatted for action. I press the tab-key and start a dialog. It can’t become easier.

I used to write in Microsoft Word, with templates and formatting and all. Sure, it looked nice, but it took time just to get the formatting right.

With Final Draft it is just to add words, just as the commercial says.

Of course the “just to add words” is as a matter of fact the difficult part. But it is actually worth a lot to not have to meddle with practical stuff around the text. The formatting takes care of itself. And you get help with names of scene headings and characters too.

I think that program was a good investment.

An investment that wasn’t even close as good was the upgrade of Final Draft. What did I pay for? An index-card system where I suddenly could write on both sides? I already had the prefect tool I had paid for. I should have guessed that I wasn’t likely that they had been able to add value enough to pay for an upgrade.