Tuesday, September 29, 2009

That little thing missing

I felt great when I worked on Robert’s story, writing the second draft. I was pleased with the result and wasn’t anxious in any way when I sent it back to him. Of course I realized that he might not agree with me, but I was confident that any disagreement can be solved.

It surprised me that I was so calm, because it was based on a true story, experienced by Robert himself. He had been there. I had not.

I could just as much felt that I had nothing to add or being afraid of ruin the story.

But I didn’t.

I felt splendid. I loved working with the script.

Now I’m sitting with my own short story to be produced in the same project and am nervous as I don’t know what.

Suddenly nothing is good enough. Why?

I can’t say that I am stuck because I feel the script improves every time I work with it. It’s more like I can’t see the end of it.

It sounds silly, I know.

What I mean is something like right now I can’t see that it will ever be ready. I rewrite and rewrite, but it still isn’t perfect.

But it’s just me lacking in confidence.

I will find that little thing – because it probably just is a little thing – missing and all of a sudden I will feel confident again.

Unfortunately small things tend to slip away and be hard to find.

But it's there somewhere. And I will find it.

This will be something I can be equally proud of.

The Anonymous Production Assistant’s Blog: Earning It

The Anonymous Production Assistant’s Blog has a very rewarding entry about the American Dream that hard work should result it high payment and why it mostly isn't.

Read it here.

Monday, September 28, 2009

About acts in movie scripts

Yves Lavandier has in his book Writing Drama a very interesting chapter about structure. He discusses the three acts in a way I’ve never heard before.

He considers the first act to be the period before the audience knows the purpose and the objective of the story; the second act the period where the main character tries to achieve the objective; and finally the third act the period after the objective has been abandoned or achieved.

He specifically points out that this contradicts the common opinion about three-act-structure in American movies. He claims that before 1980 American movies were based on the theories above, but 1979 Syd Field published a book about movie script structure that introduced the structure most commonly used today.

Syd Field’s first act is about 30 minutes long and lasts to turning point one, where the story gets a new direction. Yves Lavandier wants it no longer than 10 minutes, 20 at the most.

This made me think about what an act really is.

I won’t go back as far as the Greek Dramas this time, because I know too little about those, but as far as a play in theaters before electricity came. Then you had candle lights. An act could be no longer than the time it took for a candle to burn down. The needs for acts were practical. You needed to change candles, and many times the on stage set as well.

An act was something necessary for practical reasons. A limitation. A forced upon structure of the play.

When Yves Lavanger says that the third act is the about ten minutes after the climax, and Syd Field wants it to be thirty minutes - which twenty of those if before the climax - it does not really mean that there are any differences in the story.

Except from the fact that these two gentlemen would put their acts’ borders differently.

Neither theory goes well with the need to change candles.

Maybe it is time to let go of the term "act"?

Friday, September 25, 2009

The art form of short scripts

I’m soon about to sign my first contract.

I’ve got my payment, written my first assignment and now sign the contract and then e-mail the file with my work along with a synopsis of my short script of my own also about to be produced in this project.

I’m thrilled. This is so exciting.

It’s not the feature movie with the unlimited budget and famous stars that will give me an Oscar, but you know what? I don’t care. That is not important.

Once it was, but no longer.

Once upon a time I didn’t see the use of writing short scripts. They would not bring me fortune and glory.

But for a reason I don’t really remember now, I wrote one, one day. And then another one and another one.

And my short scripts have gained far more attention than my feature scripts ever got so far.

A short script might be springboard to fortune and glory, but most of all it is joy. Pure joy.

Just the simple fact that I can write from start to end within hours and have a first draft does well for the spirit.

And then to get a story through with almost every possible limitation is an art form in itself.

I'm no master of this art form, but I intend to try becoming one.

This Makes My Day: Sand Mandalas

One of my favorite art blogs has a blog post about Tibetian Sand Mandalas, one of my favorite art forms.

There are two videos about how they are made and why. And why they are ruined once they are finished.

Please visit the blog and the specific blog entry here.

I remember when I was a kid and visited Budapest with my parents. In a bakery there was this statue made of cake, or a cake as a statue. It had been sitting there for a long time and although a fascinating peace of art it was greasy and dusty and quite... Eergh!

It feels much healthier for mind and body to realize that nothing lasts, and eat the cake.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

An image of lost control

Once upon a time my father worked as a volunteer with disadvantaged people, people not able to handle their life.

That’s why the home of my childhood was impeccably clean. To my father, a home in disorder is a home of someone who lost control over the situation.

The main character in my latest short script is mentally down in a dark hole.

But his kitchen is tidy and clean.

Aaarhg, no that does not ring true, does it?

I know my father is somewhat extreme in his opinion about what is an acceptable standard for a home, but not even he would think “gee, this guy has problems” if he saw the kitchen I described.

So, now the main character’s kitchen looks like… well… not a dumpster, but close.

Swedish standard kitchen from 1955.
Länsmuseet Gotland
Photo: Gun Westholm
Image edited by the writer

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

I've killed a darling

“They are talking about different things” my mother said.

The dialog in my latest short script did not work. I showed it to my mother who in general comes up with fresh ideas.

She asked me why they first discuss apparent dead and the next time the soul’s be or not to be. I said that they are talking about the soul all along.

“No. He might. She isn’t.” she said. “They are talking about two different things”.

I realized that she was right.

And the line that caused the confusion was the very line that inspired the whole script.

Once upon a time I heard two women talking on the bus. The younger of the two was on her way to her father’s funeral and she expressed her happiness about her father’s wish to be cremated because “if he isn’t quite dead, then it will go so fast”.

And many years later this line inspired a script.

But it has nothing to do about the soul. It is about someone being apparent dead and the comfort knowing that you aren’t burying someone alive. A topic off the map for my story - as it turned out.

I so much wanted to keep that line.

But, even if my mother gave me some quite good ideas to be able to hold on to it, I have to let it go.

I have to.

Because, honestly, the script will do better without it.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Plausible characters

Yves Lavandier has in his book Writing Drama an interesting chapter about creating characters.

It is obvious that he does not care much for most characters in movies or even Shakespeare’s plays, giving one example after another of what he regards as bad.

He considers character’s change close to needless since it does not happen in real life. He also disagrees with characters appearing as talking candelabras or cars (tell that to Disney and Pixar – they make millions on this concept).

But despite this rather pompous and bitter attitude towards movie characters part of a many-zeros-in-a-row-dollar industry he has some – in my opinion – important reflections.

One of these is that a character must base his/hers action from the way he/she is characterized, not in a way to suit structure.

He gives an excellent example of this with the scene from When Harry Met Sally where Sally fakes an orgasm at diner.

Yves Lavandier writes:
“It is undoubtedly an excellent scene, but is does not chime with the way Sally has been characterised up to now as a discreet, sensitive and if anything rather buttoned-up young woman.”

And I think he is right.

The scene is great. But Sally isn’t likely to behave like that.

In that case we need a setup telling us that she feels too discreet, too buttoned-up, need to be more visible, brave or something else justifying her action.

A scene in a movie is part of a larger concept and no matter how brilliant a scene is, it ruins the movie if a character suddenly behaves in the opposite way from before, just to fit the needs of the story and structure.

Filmography links and data courtesy of
The Internet Movie Database.

Screenwriting & Editing: The Shawshank Redemption

Go Into The Story has an interesting article about writing and editing, with an example of the first scenes from Shawshank Redemption.

Read it here.

Monday, September 21, 2009

A question of responsibility

Movies are not real life. In general they do not claim to be an image of real life. They are advanced fairy tales giving us stories to give us comfort and amusement.

There is nothing wrong with this.

Telling stories is one of those basic needs little spoken of. I believe that the more difficult our life is, the more we crave for stories. Not only to flee the real world for a short while, but to give us hope out there in the real world.

So from my point of view, it is completely okay that the characters in a movie change in a way that people in real life never do, that they have passionate sex rarely experienced for most people and take on a tank with their bare hands.

However this does not mean that characters can do what ever I like in what ever manners. They need to have a feeling of reality. A false feeling, yes, but that is beside the point. Like a frog can turn into a prince in a child’s book, Peter Parker can turn into Spiderman in a movie. It is not interesting if this could happen in real life; what is interesting is if I can make it real in the world I created.

We dive into a movie aware that it is a fairy tale, accepting rules that probably are way off the map in ordinary life.

But movies have a “problem” that a book rarely faces.

They are too real.

We see real people in a real world and apart from spidermen and batmen it looks quite like our own.

It is easy to be fooled that it is justified and no problem to kill a “bad guy”, that the world is full of either good or bad people, that you can change somebody’s life with the right words at the right moment and that love is passionate every hour of the day.

A movie affects far more than a book could ever do.

It does not change a person’s life perhaps, but it lingers like some kind of truth in the mind.

For me, this is a question of responsibility.

What moral would I want to linger?

Friday, September 18, 2009

How do I write for the actor?

I can’t remember any book about what I as a writer need to put in text from an actor’s point of view.

The Writing Drama-book I’m reading I miss this part as well. I thought I had found something about it under “the actor’s role”, but everything the writer had to say about this subject was that numerous writers and directors had started out as actors.

I have read so much about how to write to attract potential buyers, but in the end there will be actors reading the script and create their character from what I have written.

What do actors need to know? What makes them feel comfortable?

A word: intrinsically

"A life
Intrinsically linked
An underlying purpose
Awaiting retrieval"

Derick Burke at Journeytime

Intrinsically - With respect to its inherent nature. Intrinsic - inseparable from the thing itself, essential, being part of a whole.

Based on the Latin word "intrinsecus" meaning "on the inside" or "inwardly".

An interesting word, I think. I came to think of the Force in Star Wars. It could be described as intrinsically linked to the whole Universe.

What could also be intrinsically linked? The body to the soul?

It does not feel like a word you use to describe something that are man-made. Or is this because of the place I read it?


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

My first paid job as a writer

I’ve received a request to rewrite a first draft of a short script into something that eventually will be filmed.

My first paid job as a writer.

If you have read the comments to my blog entries it will come as no surprise that it is Robert A Vollrath at Endangered Truth who assigned me.

I’ve never rewritten something by somebody else before.

As I read through the material the first time I noted that the ideas I got when he pitched me and what he had written was pretty tuned, so on the whole we pretty much agree it seems.

But I also made the reflection that this was the first time that I really had to respect another person’s opinion about my writing. I am not assigned to rewrite this into my story. My job is to bring out his story.

This is not about me and what I want to tell.

My assignment is to make a great script of Robert's story and bring out what he want to tell.

This is so exciting!

I'm nervous.

But confident.

Me, a comic writer?

Sofluid had a link on her latest blog entry to a site where you could do your own comics.

The fun thing about this was that you don't need to draw yourself. Or can't in case you wanted to.

I just had to try the interface and it was pretty amazing really. The result is not any Hergé, the possibilities was fairly large.

Here is my first attempt:

And in case you can't see it click here

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

About an Interview with Michael Moore

It surprises and frightens me that a fairly sane person like Michael Moore who makes politically hot documentaries describes capitalism in terms like it was an organic creature with a mind of its own.

Here is the interview for Swedish SVT (available to 9th Sept 2010).

This is not about capitalisms be or not to be, if it is good or bad. It is the fact that Michael Moore treats a political system like it was alive, like a physical monster you can touch and kill.

There is no such monster.

You may like or dislike any political ideals, but you can never escape the fact that there are humans behind every situation. It is we, the humans, who have created our society and their political and financial situation. We are responsible. You and me. And Michael Moore.

To demonize the society’s ideals you deny responsibility, claiming it was ”their” fault, them, the others, the system, the society.

But the fact is that “the system”, “the society” is you. You are part of it. No matter if you like it or not.

And if Michael Moore wants any real change he won’t gain anything by fighting something that does not exist.

Behind every decision, every law, every error, every bribe there are humans, individuals; A person that you may like or not, but still a person with every right to be treated as a human and claiming the same respect as you expects to get.

It is my personal belief that respect for each individual is necessary for a better society.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Are you going to start whining again?

I feel like I’m off the track, derailed.

What happened to my writing at least a page a day? It’s more become a page every other day, unless it rains.

Yes, my script Kim wasn’t greeted with open arms in those contests. But my language had taken a leap for the better.

Now it is time for me to work on the other assets needed to write a great script.

But then I need to write!

I love writing, once I get started. I don’t have to feel inspired before Final Draft is up and running.

I’ve told myself this so many times.

The problem is that as long as I just write for the crows on the roof this is all a dream. A sweet dream, but childish.

Where I live you don’t sacrifice a steady job and your family to chase a foolish dream.

And that what it feels like: a foolish dream.

I read about other bloggers pitching their ideas, about the importance to network, face to face. I will never be able to do that. Sure, I can cross the Atlantic if needed for meetings and reworking collaborations, but then my scripts have reached another phase.

I’m not there yet.

But since I don’t want to put the burden of mommy’s lost dream on my sons shoulders to fulfill, I’ll better keep chasing the dream myself.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Deux ex machina

Deux ex machina means God out of the machinery, meaning a god or some other unexpected happening turns up and sets things right, like the villain suddenly gets a heart attack and dies.

This is not considered as good storytelling today, although the old Greeks favored these kind of dramas.

I read that stories like Cinderella and Pinocchio include deux ex machina, solving the problems, but the writer told me that this was okay because they are stories for children and they accept these kind of phenomenons.

First of all, shouldn't we tell good stories to our kids? Good stories can include just as much fantasy.

And secondly, are these stories really examples of deux ex machina?

Cinderella, absolutely. When she has her All Is Lost moment, crying in the garden with her ruined dress, Fairy Godmother appears and solves it all. She is not introduced earlier in the story and we have no way to predict her arrival. Deux ex machina.

But Pinocchio, I would say, just a little. The Blue Fairy is introduced early in the story so we are told from the beginning that this is a world including a Blue Fairy. And in the ending when Pinocchio becomes a real boy, it is because he has fulfilled his task given to him in the beginning. So far I don't see any problems.

But, the Blue Fairy appears twice in the story solving their problems: when Pinocchio is caged by the marionette owner Stromboli, and as a message on a scroll telling them where to find his father. These two are good examples of duex ex machina, in my opinion, even if we are aware of the option of the Blue Fairy.

This because the Blue Fairy is used as the easy solution, instead of letting the main character get past the obstacle himself.

Maybe we accept this more easily in a child's story, but look at animated features today; are there any "gods" popping out somewhere? Easy solutions not properly setup? No, not that I can come to think of right away.

Good. Children deserve good stories.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Oh no, he is dashingly handsome. Again.

How many characters aren't described as handsome?

I even read once that they should be described as handsome to attract leading actors.

Honestly, if you are a professional actor do you really accept a part because the character is described as handsome?

Look at unknown people on the street, on the bus or at work. Is the first thing you reflect upon if the person is handsome or not?

What is in the word handsome?

Alexander Rybak, is he handsome? I would say no, because a mouth wide as a barn is not my definition of handsome. But he does look very nice and friendly. I would describe his face as one with a wide, happy smile and boyish features. His whole appearance wants me to make friends with him. But handsome? A rather boring way to describe him, I would say.

And in what way do I tell anything about the character by describe him as handsome? Does he use it? Is the feature needed for the story? If not, find some other way to describe him, please.

Consider the word "handsome" as cliché.

And if not before, I hope I have worn out the word to oblivion by now.

Alexander Rybak
Photo by Jarle Vines
Used under Creative Commons Attribution Sharealike 3.0 license

Monday, September 7, 2009

A culture clash behind the cameras

Stina Lundberg Dabrowski is one of my favorite journalists. She published a book 2006 about some of the various interviews she has done over the years. And they are many. She has a large CV with people ranging from the Dalai Lama to Margaret Thatcher and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

What amazed me about the book were basically two things: first, she is not the woman with the big confidence that I thought and two, there are quite amazing things happening behind the camera.

When she finally got her interview with Senator Hillary Clinton for instance (around the time for the release of Mrs Clinton’s book) she realized that she would not look good arriving alone, without entourage. This time she didn’t even go with a crew, because she shared the camera guys with two other TV stations due to budget.

So she called the embassy in Washington D.C. and asked if they had anyone interested in act as her assistant and meeting Hillary Clinton.

Once there Mrs Clinton’s assistant informed her that the interview was about to be only fifteen minutes, not thirty. Stina had sold a half-hour program, based on a half-hour interview (already that too short material) and only fifteen minutes was out of the question.

She starts an argument so when Mrs Clinton arrives she is “red as a Christmas apple” in her face.

They sit down and Stina searches in her purse for her powder to dampen her blushing cheeks only to realize that it was back at the hotel. She asks Mrs Clinton if she could borrow hers and gets a look in return as if she had asked to borrow her underpants.

The interview couldn’t get a worse start.

And none of this is seen on TV.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Go Into The Story: Larry Kasdan + more

Check out this interview with Larry Kasdan at How They Write A Script -- Larry Kasdan.

Also note that Julie Gray's blog the Rouge Wave have transformed into Just f*ing entertain me!

I also want to take the opportunity to congratulate Kim Nunley at Wish I could speak whale for being a semi finalist at Silver Screen Writing Contest.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Great, now I'm a monkey?

"In short, Hitler has as many mitigating circumstances as anyone else and was no more responsible for his virtues and his faults than, say, Mother Teresa. In a sense his faults, like those of the rest of us, were external obstacles. Personal, to be sure, but not internal."

Yves Lavandier in Writing Drama

Sometimes I wonder if I will ever get through a book where I constantly disagree with the writer.

On the other hand it is a great exercise in more than one way. It teaches me patience, tolerance, understanding… what ever, it was not the point with my blog entry.

The writer’s opinion is based on ideas by Sigmund Freud.

From my point of view, I would say that if this were true, we would still be monkeys.

Yes, what happens in our childhood affects us and shapes our future life, but it does not carve it in stone like an unavoidable fate.

We are always responsible for what we do, and also for what we feel.

As I see it we have a brain and a soul working in symbioses, both in control of our mind and body.

If you let your brain take the major charge of your life, you don’t develop and any changes are for “worse”, moving towards comfort and less challenges both mentally and bodily.

If the soul is dominant over the brain, you develop constantly and you learn to control yourself and gain a larger understanding for the people around you.

The brain wants to find the easy way and is apt to fall back into known tracks.

The soul searches for the answers and continues to ask questions. It can change the brain’s deep tracks and make it take new routes.

In short, Hitler may have had a bad childhood, like too many kids all over the world. This may excuse him for hating Jews, but in my opinion it does not make him less responsible for not doing something about this hate.

And yes, this is an internal obstacle.

A word: Lachrymose

"Many works of drama, if we look more closely, prove to be simply melodramas in disguise. Not because they are lachrymose, but because their protagonists have few if any internal obstacles, let alone a tragic flaw, and have to face a hostile world."

Yves Lavandier in Writing Drama

Lachrymose – show sorrow. From Latin “lacrima”, “tear” and ending “-osus” meaning “-full”, tearful.

Not much more to say about that.

But I have something to say about the text where I found the word.

I can’t help feeling that the writer’s views about genre are out of date. “Tragedy” and “melodrama” are terms that make me think of Shakespeare or pompous opera, not about Indiana Jones or Star Wars.

And when I sit there with my story it is such problem to put a label on it. It always feels like a combination of more than one.

I think the late Blake Snyder’s view upon genre felt much more spot on. “A quest of a golden fleece” or “a fool’s story” feels not only like an accurate label, it is also a label that rules on its own; you don’t combine two types of story. I also believe it is a tool to help me work with the story.

What kind of labels do you put on your stories?


Filmography links and data courtesy of
The Internet Movie Database.