Thursday, April 29, 2010

An ending walzed in like a parakeet

My head is like a wasp’s nest right now.

First I read a blog entry on Go Into the Story about death in movies, trigging my thinking of my wreck of an end in Kim, and a sudden insight what to do about it.

Then I read Just Effing Entertain Me and saw that Julie Gray once again has arranged a short scene competition. The three words (parakeet, waltz, Sumatra) formed into a scene within my head within twenty seconds.

Why, oh, why did I have to get this great idea about what to do with Kim two small days before the deadline to Nicholl Fellowship?

I had accepted that I had nothing to contribute with this year, but now my hopes started to blossom. It is two days!

What didn’t pass on to the next level last year, will likely not do it simply by some rewritten scenes and a better ending.

And it’s still just two days.

No, no, no. Let it go.

Write that short scene. Do your editing on Kim and read it again. And again. And then consider what to do.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A session with Kim

For some reason I read my script Kim today. And of course I could not keep myself from editing.

Since I sent it to contests last year I've done at least one of these read-through-and-rewrite-sessions.

I must have. Because I had no memory of writing some things. And it is not very likely that someone else has been there.

But the script is quite good.

Not good meaning great, but good with potential.

The ending really sucks.

But apart from that, I can't really figure out what is missing. Something is - I can feel that very strong - but I can't pin-point what. Maybe it's simply my writing. Maybe not enough flow to pull the reader forwards.

But I got to do something about that ending first. Then at least I have a script I can say I love, because the story is very important to me.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

40 pages short. Learn to cope and continue.

Alright, I’ve faced the fact that “ERG” will not reach 110 pages in this first version. My plan at the moment is 70 pages.

I’ve made the first act longer, since it was rushed through, but the middle of the story is at page 34, not 55. Even try to push it to 45 seems right now to just add filling and no content. To get to 55 is out of the equation.

The important thing right now is to get the story down, no matter what length.

I’ve read it through and it is good.

Apart from the small detail that every secondary character is more interesting than the main character, but that too is a later problem.

This is a first draft only.

Friday, April 23, 2010

To plan and set deadlines

I made it. I succeeded to write half the script within the time limit I had set.


I’ve learned something important. It does help to plan and set deadlines, even if nobody cares but me.

Now, my assignment needs a rest. Or rather, I need to rest from it.

First of all, the writer of the book – he who has assigned me to write the script – will get a chance to read and comment so far.

Then I do need to take a step back and do something else a moment. It’s been intense for awhile.

Who knows, maybe I’ll get “ERG” and The Beautymaker moving again. I miss writing in English.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Give me the same, but different

There seems to be a saying in Hollywood: “Give me the same, but different” which means something like “we’ve found the winning concepts; now use them, but do something new”.

Compare that to what Claudia Hunter Johnson says in her book “Crafting Short Screenplays that Connect”:
“If you’re in this for the long haul, you’ll write many screenplays, short and long. It takes five to ten years to learn your craft, if you’re lucky. So don’t waste time seeking overnight success (which, by the way, takes fifteen years).
Seek yourself, your experience, your unique vision. In the end, that’s the most valuable thing you can offer.

Everything else has been done.”

Do they contradict each other?

Perhaps. I’m not sure.

With the book came a dvd with award winning short movies. Some of these I liked, while some I didn’t.

In general I feel that a short movie has fewer opinions about structure from its viewer than a feature, but for me to like a movie – long or short – I want to understand it, “get it”. Swaying cameras filming a room with blue light and a voiceover on top of that – I don’t “get it” (“My Josephine” by Barry Jenkins).

And this is where “give me the same, but different” comes in. I feel this is a matter of structure. I expect a story to have a beginning, middle and an end. I expect the two six-year-olds “marrying” each other to have a punch-line (“Kosher” by Aimee Barth). I expect the pen-pal relationship between the teenage girl and the man to end, because he thinks he is writing to a grown woman (“Lena’s Spaghetti” by Rachel A. Witenstein). But the stories in these shorts are still unique.

Yes, I think you can find success by copying a winning concept. But I agree with Claudia. It is within yourself you find that unique voice that will make you a brilliant writer.

Maybe it is an act of balancing. Staying within the boarders for what is expected and still have that voice and that story that nobody ever heard before.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Claudia Hunter Johnson's "Le Menu"

In the beginning of “Crafting Short Screenplays the Connect” by Claudia Hunter Johnson there is an exercise the writer refers to as “Le Menu”.

Write five to ten answers to:

  • What I love
  • What I hate
  • What I fear
  • What I believe
  • What I value
  • What I want
  • What I know about
  • People who made a difference in my life
  • Discoveries that made a difference in my life
  • Decisions that made a difference in my life

She phrases her playwriting teacher Sam Smiley:
“In order to create art works of many worth, each artist must have something to say, some values, some attitudes, some store of experience – a vision”

She continues:
“That’s what Le Menu is all about – identifying those attitudes, values and experiences that will energize our work as screenwriters, creating a menu of what we know and care deeply about. It’s one of the most important things we can do as screenwriters, because our unique material and vision is the source of unique screenplays.”

She also points out the need to be specific, to find the source of the hate, the value, the belief.

First I thought that it wouldn’t add anything to me, this exercise. I mean, what’s the use in writing “I love my kids”. Of course I do.

But if I try to pinpoint why, why the love for a child is so strong, then maybe I can visualize love between a parent and a child better, not just presume that it is obvious. Maybe I can create stronger emotions than if I don’t.

And when my thought continued along that line, I flipped the coin over: maybe I can pinpoint why some parents are able to leave their kids, or are unable to love them?

Time will tell. Now I’ll go and fill in five to ten answers.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Monthly Screenwriting Competition on Circalit

Raoul Tawadey - CEO and Founder of - e-mailed me to tell me about a screenwriting competition they are about to host. He writes:

"The BBC and Hollywood Producers to Judge Monthly Screenwriting Competition on Circalit.

Screenwriters across the globe are posting their scripts up at where BBC and Hollywood producers are now reviewing winning scripts with a view to production. The competition takes place monthly and is divided into television scripts, feature length screenplays and shorts. The winning scripts are decided every month by public vote and are then sent to BBC and Hollywood producers to be reviewed and potentially produced. The BBC will be reviewing the winning television script each month, whilst Julie Richardson, managing member of Imaginarium Entertainment Group and best known as the producer of box office hit “Collateral” will be reviewing the winning short (any screenplay under 60 pages). Meanwhile, feature length screenplays are being judged by Hollywood scriptwriter, Tom Lazarus, and Europe’s premier script development organisation, The Script Factory, supported by Twentieth Century Fox, Columbia and a host of other major production studios.

Briony Hanson, Co-Director of The Script Factory, commented, "We're very excited by Circalit's project to offer writers the chance to find support for their screenplays. The site is clear, user-friendly and it seems like only a matter of time before Circalit becomes known as one of the essential places for the industry to look for new screenwriting talent and we're happy to be working with them to help screenwriters."

Tom Lazarus, screenwriter and director, author of nine produced features, Master Class instructor at UCLA Extension Writer's Program and International Film Consultant, commented, "Circalit is a welcome addition to screenwriting community and a good place for writers to network and make industry contacts."

To enter your script visit"

I have not been in contact with before so I have no idea if they are any good, but as I understand it their site is new so I think it is fair to give them a shot and see what they can do.

Julie Gray's workshop visiting San Francisco

My friend and blogging colleague Kim Nunley has asked me to tell you that if you happens to be in San Francisco, California, USA the first and second of May (Saturday-Sunday) you should take the opportunity to visit Julie Gray’s screenwriting workshop.

From Julie Gray’s site:

Learn The Menage a Flaw method for writing unforgettable, character-driven scripts – every time!

Use The Tracking Map to test structure and arc like never before!

Marvel at the WWYD (what would you do) worksheet and find the “compelling question” hidden in your script!

Day two focuses on strategies for breaking into Hollywood: Learn how to sell both your writing and yourself. We’ll discuss agents, managers, competitions, queries and the art of pitching. Role-playing and practice pitching in a supportive environment will help you gain the confidence you need to build your career and the professionalism, playfulness and fresh perspective you need to stay sane and happy while doing so.

Registrants for all classes will receive a 10% discount on books, supplies and dvds from the Writer’s Store PLUS $50 off registration for the Great American Pitch Fest.”

Monday, April 19, 2010

What makes writing so special?

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. But I've had other creative hobbies since I was a kid as well.

I’ve been taking classes in painting; I play the flute and can make horrible sounds from both trumpet and trombone; I make my own models for embroidery and knitting.

What makes writing so special?

Why do I want to make a living on writing and not on painting?

Among all the other hobbies I have, writing is the only one that stays constantly present. All the others come and go in cycles. Some never return (I’ll likely not make any more hats or lip balms in my life). But writing is there, all the time. Why?

Because of expression. All the other creative doings are for me or my family alone. There are no needs of an audience. I don’t put any messages into the results.

But my writing is my channel to the World; my way to communicate, to tell things that I believe is important.

It is bold and lofty to say that I have things to tell the World, but I don’t preach; I don’t tell anybody how to live their lives. I just tell you my version of what is good and great and funny, and those who want to can listen.

Then it is fun to write. No, spectacular! I’ve never felt like a god when I play the flute. And who can feel divine when doing embroidery? When I write I can get those wonderful kicks that cannot possibly be outscored by any drug (never tried, never will).

Maybe it’s because when I write I am so damn good. This feeling don't last and my writing never feel more than mediocre later, but that’s beside the point.

What ever I do I have a dream about what it will become when ready. The result is likely to have flaws and compromises; being a result of reality and not the dream.

But the writing can be flawless.

I see the perfect scene in my mind and write it down. I probably edit it afterwards. I may even throw it away. But when I write and the moments afterwards the result is



Friday, April 16, 2010

In search for an answer

I can’t figure out if I am bipolar or not.

I’ve done a few online tests and two of three claims that I am.

On the other hand, I want to be, so this probably affects my answers.

Want to be? Yes, it would explain a lot. I would get an answer to things.

First I thought that I can’t be bipolar since I don’t have any “lows”, only “ups”. Hmm. . . Yeah, right! I just need to scan through the pages of my blog to see that I have "lows". Not perhaps on the pages themselves, but the story behind them. Once I was even close to a divorce for Heaven’s sake!

So I have “lows”. Lets face it.

I have distinct “ups” as well as I have just as distinct “lows”. And this is a very typical bipolar trait. It’s just that I chose to remember what’s positive, and the “lows” disqualify.

Does these "ups" and "lows" cause me the typical problems? I would say no. I function in my family and at work. I get up every morning, go to bed every night. I don’t get easily angry at work. I don’t end up at the police station. I don’t gamble or spend money in other ways when I’m “up”.

But I do have a hell of an energy when I’m “up”. And there are no valves to open at work or at home to get this out every time I need it. And this could be very frustrating.

Is this a matter of restraining myself to behave normal, instead of go mania? Do my lifestyle restrain my options to use this energy?

Or am I simply not bipolar?

I do want to understand why I seem to be different. Are my problems similar to everybody else’s but we all sit nicely behaving like normal, or do I have some disorder?

For me it is a matter of understanding myself as well as my surroundings.

Not about finding a treatment.

The thing is, I like the way I am. I don’t want any treatment. I know I can be a frustration for my family, but I don't want to mess up with my brain. I want to learn to handle things without medications.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Expanding a microscopic first act

I found myself writing on ”ERG”.

I’ve told you before about me realizing that the script was becoming too short. One of the reasons for this was the complete lack of introduction; a minimal first act.

Earlier I had added a little in the beginning and now I found myself adding more. And it was good.

And so fundamental that I could not understand how I could have missed it in the first place.

The story includes a computer program. I had missed to introduce this program! I thought I had, but honestly, you only get it if you already know it.

Hello!” My husband tried to get my attention. “We are supposed to be leaving now!
Hum, yeah. . . coming” I saved and took my Notebook along. I flipped it open again the minute I had a chance.

17 minutes of battery time left. No time to sit around and think. Keep on writing.

I wrote as long as I dared and while the warnings of an imminent shutdown and possible loss of data became more and more prominent.

The last thing I did was typing “XXX Add something here XXX” between two scenes.

Because now there was a jump in time between the scene and just had written and the following and as it is now, it is impossible to detect.

I have some thought what to put here though.

I don’t know if this expansion of my microscopic first act will solve the shortness of the whole script, but it sure didn’t make it worse.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Sorting is anti-inspiration

On Kim Nunley’s blog I found a link to one hundred free applications for writers.

I started to look at them with an idea that I needed something to organize notes and articles which I saved for future inspiration.

I took a look at Evernote, a web based service.

If I had had a cell phone with a camera (I had, but it didn’t like it in the back pocket of my jeans as they tumbled through the washing machine) and e-mail function I could have taken photos and e-mailed them to Evernote. Nice.

I don’t.

I have to take a photo with my camera, download it to the computer, rescale the very large image and then upload it to Evernote.

It takes time.

For what use?

I’m an organizing freak. Either I have everything unsorted in a box or I sort and label until I go insane.

Sorting is anti-inspiration. To be useful chaos is necessary.

On the other hand, an box with unsorted articles which is rarely opened and which content rarely expands due to laziness to keep interesting stuff, is of little use too.

I wanted to have easy access but keep my sorting fingers off.

Like a digital wall where I glue things up as they come, making a note here and there.

Chaos is not what computers are used for.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

A ticking clock

I as I’ve stated under Current Projects I want to be halfway with the first draft of my adaption within 11 days.

I put the goal real tight, because I wanted to see what I could do if I “had to”.

There is no real deadline for this project. Only my own.

I wanted to challenge myself.

I got inspired by Julie Gray’s podcast about planning your time.

I will do equally with my own two feature scripts when I’m done with this project.

It helps. It really does. I become aware of the passing time.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Listening to Robin Jerabek

Yesterday evening I visited a film music event with scores written by Robin Jerabek.

We met at the speed dating evening for movie makers and since I am a big listener of movie scores I thought it was terrific to get a chance to talk to a living walking composer.

"Do you really hear new music no one played before in your head?"
"Hum, yeah. . ."

I get images no one seen before when I hear music, so why no the other way around? But for me composing music is a talent I don't have at all. And then it becomes a mystery. For me an admired one.

Robin started by saying that some of the visitors must have wondered what kind of strange character he was almost jumping into their laps giving them a hug.

"Well" he continued "as a movie score composer I sit there and watch that clip over and over and over and I've seen you so many times. But you've never seen me."

I watched two short movies.

The first score was a gentle melody played on the piano. Sweet and harmonic. One of those pieces I would gladly select to play when reading a good book or in general be at eas.

The second was the opposite. In every way, I think, apart from that it matched the mood of the movie just as well as the previous. It was psychedelic and made me think of the shower scene in Hitchcock's Psycho.

It was a nice evening and it was great to finally see and hear the result of his work. I'll be happy visit again.

And if this blog entry has a strange grammar and odd use of word I am currently lacking access to my usual tools.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Watching auditions

The set for Walking the Graveyard is making progress. Soon Jerry White will start filming.

Last week I got three auditions each with a pair reading a scene from the script and I got the opportunity to pick the two actors I liked best. I thought that I was about to judge talents and wondered how I was about to do that, but I realized that it wasn’t about that at all; It was about gut feeling.

One of the men hit spot on what I was looking for. The character is in my eyes a sweet and tender man who got himself a tough shell to handle the grief. The woman in the story cracks that shell. One of the male actors cracked his characters in a way that hit my heart.

The female character was much more difficult. The woman in the story is not a person of that many contrasts. She is a catalyst. I began to ask myself if I had written better lines for the man.

All three was using the text differently, but the variations were less than for the three guys. Does this mean the character is boring? This was however no time for cold feet about what I had written.

I looked at the auditions over and over again. Contrasts; Softness against a tough shell. That was what I was looking for. And I found it.

I guess this was one of the last times I’ll be doing this. It’s a shame, really. Not only because it was fun and interesting for me, widening my views and understanding for movie making, but it would maybe raise the status of the screenwriter if he/she was more involved like this.

Though I will not in any way speak for what Jerry might feel about this arrangement, my guess is that a director in general has to please enough people as it is without having to please the screenwriter as well.

I'm grateful for this opportunity.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

A cliché line, but yet: I'm back

I’ve not been blogging for awhile and I’ve really missed it.

There have been a few factors that kept me away from it. First of all we reformatted the hard drive on our computer and took the opportunity to install Windows 7. So every program needs to be reinstalled. Thank you very much, but that was the whole point with reformatting, since that whole thing was clogged with leftovers.

Then it was Easter Holiday. This didn’t turn out exactly as planned, since we succeeded to infect the whole visiting family-and-relatives group with Noroviros when our oldest son very unexpectedly got sick and returned the dinner on his bed and floor of his room.

And as usual I get completely knocked out by this @#¤% virus. I'm not kidding. I'm still 4 kilograms short (no real loss if it had been fat).

But as I returned to the living again I read Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol huddled up in an armchair with a blanket around me. That’s not so bad.

As for the future I’ve rescheduled my working hours and will in the future have every other Monday free. This is both for taking care of household work and for taking care of me and my writing.

We have in Sweden a right to work lesser hours when you are a parent to a child younger than eight years old. The purpose of this is to have time to leave and fetch your child from preschool in reasonable hours but also to have time with the household.

I have for some time felt a growing desperation for never ever have a minute on my own unless I sit on the bus to and from my work. The solution revealed itself when I found a quicker way to get to the job which saves me forty minutes every day. Then I could do this rescheduling without working less.

I feel it is an enormous luxury to have a Monday all by myself and I will do my best to make this day work as well as I can.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

I'm not back yet, but soon

I've got a little software problem (new computer) and cannot make any images. I'll be back soon.