Monday, May 31, 2010

To do the impossible

When I was a kid toothpaste was sold in boxes. A small box which contained one tube and was thrown away once it was opened.

When I was a kid each box with custard powder was delivered with a plastic spoon for measuring.

When I was a kid the petrol contained lead and all parking lots and bus stops had black spots of leaking oil.

The toothpaste was packed in boxes because else they would not be able to be piled.

The plastic spoon for the custard was there for the customer’s convenience.

The petrol must contain lead or else the engine would break. And – hello – it’s not possible to construct a car that doesn’t leak any oil!

But here we are.

No extra box around the toothpaste, no plastic spoon, no lead in the petrol and no oil stains on the tarmac.

We’ve done the impossible.

Keep up the good work.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

That knot in the stomach is called Responsibility

Robert A Vollrath has thousands of exciting things on his hands. It's not without envy that I note his ability to hold all those things going.

The thing is, I don't dare to do that. I can keep many things going as an organizer, but if I need to do all the things myself I need to do things very strictly and disciplined and one slip and it will all fall apart. I don't dare to have a card house like that when people are depending on my work.

I sleep better with one deadline at a time.

I love when I've things to write. I love even more that people actually ask me to write things for them.

But I'm not quite used to the responsibility yet. Yes, I'm nervous.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

An exciting schedule

I've got to plan and structure my work. I want to do a little too much at once right now.

I've got two own scripts under the pen. They got to wait.

Prio one right now is an upcoming assignment concerning a script for a 45 minutes movie to be produced this summer by Sx2 Productions.

Then I have the adaption of the crime novel that I continued working on last week and a rewrite of a short-short script in collaboration with another writer.

And Robert A Vollrath has discussed a new assignment with me too.

So, now I really need to learn to plan ahead. I know I can do it, if I just put my mind to it. This is serious business. People really rely on me delivering on time.

And I will.

I'm a very responsible person. I don't promise things I cannot keep.

I've been very careful to not have deadlines that collide. I just have to focus. And focus has been very absent for me the past week. It feels like I've been all over the place doing almost nothing. It makes me nervous.

But I think it's because I've got a real deadline for once.

I want to be a pro. Let’s prove my worthy.

The Worthy Toll Road gate. Cost to pass through the gate is £2.00 (as of August 2009). The South West Coast Path continues through the gate on the right, towards Culbone.

Photo by Maedin Tureaud

Used under under the Creative Commons
Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Nordic Youth Film Festival

"Ett livsviktigt möte" / "A Vital Meeting" (for which I wrote the script) will be shown at The Nordic Youth Film Festival the 13th of June and be a part of the Nordic Youth Film Competition.

I'm still amazed and impressed that the director of this short Simon Jansson is only 14. What did I do at that age? I think I was writing on a titanic novel never finished.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Connection is an underestimated quality of a script

In "Crafting Short Screenplays that Connect" the writer Claudia Hunter Johnson is not a great friend of the desperate need of conflict.

I can’t find the quote in the book right now, but my impression of her opinion was that she believed that adding conflict to a story was backwards; conflict is a result, not something you add.

The most important quality in her opinion seems to be connection – between characters as well as towards the audience. Connection together with conflict you might get a great script.

I agree with her that connection is an underestimated quality of a script.

There are a lot of writings about how to create a character that we feel for and want to follow and know more about, but very little about the more abstract quality of connection.

I remember a Swedish child’s program based on a series of popular books about the cat “Pelle Tail-less” written by Gösta Knutsson. Pelle was the hero and Måns the bad guy. And in the tv-program everybody loved Måns.

Måns was the guy that connected with the audience when he got out in the cold, denied access to the social network with the other cats.

Pelle was simply too good, too nice and too perfect.

Connection is a powerful tool.

But if I look at conflict in a wider perspective, it’s not about argument, but two or more desires in contradiction. You don’t need two people arguing to have a conflict.

And if conflict is result, or something you add, well, I would say that the whole story, the whole script, is a construction. If you add characters and get a conflict, or have a conflict and add the characters to create it – I’m not sure it really matters.

But I do feel she has a vital point in her emphasis on connection.

Conflict might be what drives the story forwards, but without connections nobody will be interested.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A screenwriter's resposibilities

When I arranged the decorations for my son’s birthday party it turned out that he was terrified of balloons. And I mean terrified.

It took us a while to understand that he was afraid the house would fly away, like in the animated movie Up.

No talk about these balloons were non-flying no helium balloons and that a house doesn’t fly away in real life helped. The balloons were banished to the guest's bathroom, where I filled the ceiling of the minimal compartment with balloons (with the use of some tape).

And my mind kept thinking about my responsibility as a screenwriter.

In the movie Up the owner of the house deliberately ties a huge bunch of balloons to his house with the purpose of flying away with it. It is his intention and a successful runaway. We are supposed to feel he is a lucky guy.

But from a child’s point of view, a stable place in life is removed. No matter how happy the old man in the house is, what he does is unexpected and a house is obviously something at least my son thinks should remain where it is, safe on the ground.

Is this something a screenwriter could be held responsible for?

The whole point with the story is to put that very house on that very spot. The house cannot remain, because then it will be torn down.

I cannot see how to do a better setup.

A story cannot be about being safe. A movie is the option for us all to do something we would never do.

I think a screenwriter is responsible for displaying good values and a variety of complex humans.

A flying house with all the good intentions in the World will always scare some little kid, just as Lightning McQueen in Cars when he drops of his trailer and becomes lost could be scary.

But both these examples show something very important and that is what happens afterwards: a change in life does not need to be a bad thing.

And that I think is one of the most important aspects of storytelling: it helps us all to go forwards.

Filmography links and data courtesy of
The Internet Movie Database.

ScreenwritingU: How to Query Production Companies

Here is a valuable post about how to write a query letter to production companies.


Monday, May 17, 2010

How to reveal the bad guy

Today I’ll continue to write on ”Mord i Malmö”, the writing assignment adapting a crime novel into a movie script.

I’ve received feedback from the commissioner and overall he sounded positive. Since I have restructured the story quite a lot I thought he would have had more comments about that, but on the other hand he wasn’t completely unprepared since I had sent him a sketch of my ideas for the structure.

The bad guy is a bit of a problem for me. In the book he turns up very late, but if someone pops up like jack-in-a-box in a movie it is not considered good structure, because you want to give the viewer a fair chance to “solve the case” for themselves.

I know for my self how annoying it is to watch a crime drama and I think I know how it is based on what is presented to me and then the detective gets another guy and presents a whole bunch of new facts, nailing the guy to the crime.

So I wanted the bad guy to appear early and be a part of the story.

But how?

As it is now I got the impression that the commissioner thought he was too visible. And he is. And I think it is obvious that he is the bad guy.

On the other hand we don’t know why and who he is.

If I make him more like a shadow, a dark figure, we still know that this umbra-character did the crimes but the tricky part is to figure out who it is and it might be that or that character.

If we see his face, as it is now, it is obvious who isn’t the killer.

It’s not easy to get it right. But it is as it should. Where would the fun be if it was too easy?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Development of a story

It is interesting how a story develops.

I said that the short scene with parakeet, waltz and Sumatra was done in twenty seconds. That is true. But not the scene that ended up on paper.

My basic idea was that the man – John – deliberately started to imitate the male bird with sounds and all. The woman – Jennie – gets the point and does the same. The “punch line” would have been that someone was asking what they were doing. And it alls explodes in laughter.

Now think about the beginning, middle and end.

And start with the end.

What kind of ending is it when the two main characters can’t end the story by themselves? Does it even have a point if a third guy has to deliver the final line?

Then we have the middle part of the story. The man has shown her interest in her. By responding in the same manner, she has shown her interest in him. No matter if they imitate the birds’ courting dance, she has responded positive to his invitation.

Then the story lacks of conflict.

And by conflict I mean that the two characters in the scene have opposite wishes. If they thrive for the same thing, the scene is dead.

And finally we are at the beginning of the story.

I saw this guy by the birdhouse, in fancy of this woman, imitating a bird, making sounds, bobbing his head, maybe using his hands to simulate the fluffed feathers. . .

The woman does not get it.

Do we as an audience get it? Maybe. But we won’t understand why he does it. And honestly, neither did I.

Read the scene here

Monday, May 10, 2010

Parakeet, waltz and Sumatra; my finalist scene

This was my contribution to Julie Gray's Short Scene Contest. It made it to the top three as a finalist! The scene had to contain the three words "parakeet", "waltz" and "Sumatra".



JOHN appears to be watching two parakeets on the other side of a glass wall.

The male bird desperately tries to court the seemingly uninterested female. He approaches, she moves away, over and over like an endless waltz.

John’s eyes keep to wander to JENNIE, a big-busted young woman watching the birds just a step from him.

He takes that step.

He stands close to her.

They are parakeets.

Jennie takes a step sideways away from John.

Yes, I know.

John takes another step to catch up.

They are from Sumatra.

Jennie gives him a look.

Oh, I thought they fetched them on
the Moon.

Jennie moves.

When John follows, Jennie crosses her arms and gives him a stern look.

Get lost, okay?

Jennie strides away.

John sighs.

One the other side of the glass the courting finally has paid off. The male sits on the female’s back, mating.

John watches.

He turns and runs after Jennie, catching up.

Do you know where penguins come

The comments I got was positive, but I was asking myself why no one saw a potential rapist in John. I meant it to be a funny scene, but yet - why was John always a good guy.

Because I wrote the story from his point of view. I even gave him a name. He can't be dangerous then, can he?

Friday, May 7, 2010

One inch from getting squelched

The bus leaves the stop and halts by the traffic signal waiting for green light to cross the road and join the rest of the traffic, when a woman comes running.

When the bus driver gets his green light he continues on his way, but the woman doesn’t stop running. The pavement ends but she continues out on the cobblestones on the side of the road.

The bus is halfway passed the traffic light when she stumbles and falls to the ground like a log.

She is inches from tumble under the bus. The bus driver hangs on the breaks, stopping the vehicle.

The bus now blocks traffic in both ways. They get green light now.

The woman rises and finally reaches one of the bus’ doors. She expects it to open and let her in.

The door opens.

The woman steps in.

The driver closes the door and drives on.

Something I’m still very curious about is: if she hadn’t fallen and the bus hadn’t stopped and taken her on, what did she think would have happened? Did she really expect the bus to stop on the spot like that, blocking traffic because she came running?

Did she ever realize how close she was from dying?

Thursday, May 6, 2010

I'm a finalist!

Ain't this cool or what? I'm one of the three finalists in Julie Gray's short scene competition!

I blinked once.

I blinked twice.

My name was still there!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Writing assignments

I love writing assignments.

Not just because of the income, but also because there is a customer who say if what I have written is sufficient or not.

I did a hasty rewrite of Kim (a script written on speculation which I finished last year) and realized I had no one to send it to just like that.

When I have written things on commission I don’t dwell on my writing a lot. Usually I send it to the customer for feedback as quickly as possible. There is no need to try to get it perfect before you know you are on the right track.

With Kim I suddenly realized that I had become unused to just sit there with a finished script and no one to turn to that had some form of “final word”.

To look upon this in the negative way, it was quite some time since I finished a new feature script.

I prefer the more positive attitude though: I’ve been busy getting paid for my work.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Discovery and decision (Crafting Short Screenplays that Connect)

Part II of Crafting Short Screenplays that Connect by Claudia Hunter Johnson contains exercises.

And we are talking serious exercises; not “just” simple lists of love and hate objects.

The writer calls the part of the book “Five (not so) easy screenplays”.

The first exercise is about a discovery that makes an important change for the character. Maximum three pages, a complete script (not just a scene out of context) and the discovery and the change have to be visual on the page.

According to Claudia Hunter Johnson a story is built up around discovery and decision. You make a discovery and based on that, you make a decision.

I’ve never really thought about it that way. I’ve been more focused on the need for the main character to guide the events, to be an active part, and not be pushed around as a passive pawn.

But if I focus down on it, all it comes down to is precisely discovery and decision.

And that is part of what this book is about it seams: to find and learn about those vital storytelling moments; those small, but major, mechanisms that make it work.

Monday, May 3, 2010

In search for an answer, part II

I went to the doctor to get affirmed or negated if I “suffered” from bipolarism.

The first thing I said was that I liked the way I was, that I wasn’t worried and that I wasn’t interested in any medication. I just wanted to know to handle the situation better.

She asked me some questions and finally said that I had no need to worry, that I obviously didn’t suffer from it and there was no need for medications and everybody have ups and downs in their lives.

Thank you. You didn’t listen to me, did you?

Since it was my first visit as a listed customer/patient she sent me for some standard tests and I went home with iron pills because my blood value was a bit low. “And you know low blood value can make you feel a bit down” she said.

Sometimes I feel it is unfortunate that I don’t erupt in anger more easily.

I understand it is hard to grasp that a perfectly ordinary, smiling woman might have problems that go beyond ordinary ups and downs in life.

One thing I find interesting in this is that if I am capable of handling daily life then I don’t have any real problems.

If I am capable to get out of bed and get to work, if I’m responsible enough to not spend my family’s money on what ever toy I might want at the moment, if I am considered enough towards my family to not try commit suicide when I’m down, does this mean that my ups and downs are just shallow ripples in the water?

Or does it mean I’m mentally strong enough to handle the situation and guide myself?

Is there any difference?

Yes, in the long run.

There is this standard brain, the normal brain, unique, but on the whole what a brain of the majority of the population looks like.

Then there is a bunch of variations in the pattern. Things that appear much more selldom. Some cause the carrier of the brain huge problems, some great advantages.

One of these variations is called bipolarism.

It has a known pattern.

If I know the pattern I can handle my situation better.

But then I need to know if that’s what I got.

A doctor that simply dismisses it like that without really listening to me. . . No, I don’t feel that is sufficient to either a confirmation or a denial.

I’ll eat my iron pills as life goes on.

Part I