Thursday, July 29, 2010

May I borrow your toilet?

"May I borrow your toilet?"

I read it in a book with Swenglish phrases (English phrases in a Swedish way).

That might be what a Swede say when he or she wants you use your bathroom.

No, we Swedes don't have any problem with mentioning the actual part of your bathroom that we want to use. We are not looking for a bath or a bed for a rest, we want to use the toilet.

And then the interesting word "borrow". In Sweden we borrow, though we don't intend to bring it with us home.

The funny thing is that we say borrow sometimes even if we don't intend to leave it back. Like my grandmother having a guest staying over night and the guest realizes that she forgot her toothbrush. My grandmother kindly said: "oh, you can borrow one of mine." An awkward silence filled the room until the guest, very uncomfortably, replied that she would prefer one of her own, unused.

Of course my grandmother was about to give her guest an unused to keep, not borrow.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Tool Monday: Celtx

I switched from Final Draft to Celtx about one and a half month ago. It is still a choice I am happy about.

Celtx is a completely free screenwriting and pre-production program. It is not only aimed at film, but also at theatre, comics, audio and other sorts of media production.

The program supports plug-ins and there is a variety of those, some costs money. Personally I’ve found the Performance Tracker, the Full Screen Mode and the colored notes very useful.

Is it too good to be true that Celtx is as good screenwriter program as Final Draft? The answer is yes. But I think it won’t be the case within a year or so.

Celtx is still a young program and still has some flaws and bugs that Final Draft grown out of, like I never had the kind of formatting problems in Final Draft that occasionally appears in Celtx. Yes, I have been cursing.

Still Celtx outscore Final Draft. Why? It’s not only because it is completely free and installs without problem. No, there is so much more.

Most of all I just love to have all my files collected in one project. I add the pdf-versions I’ve sent, the feedback I get in return, my mindmaps, my reseach, and links to places, all in one place. (I’ve requested a new feature where you can export these files, because that is not possible at the moment though.)

With this project file attitude comes the option to do your own templates. And here is a little tip for you: import one project to Celtx first, work with it and get a feeling for what you need and then do a template with your basics; when this is done, import all ongoing projects. Me, I dived right in and imported everything with the basic template, and now I feel those four links and that basic mindmap would have been a great idea to have had in that template.

The script notes work better in Celtx than in Final Draft. You get them in a column to the right, depending on scene. Easy to find, easy to access. I could never use Final Draft’s because they popped out in an own window that often appeared outside the main window, which means they wasn’t visible or reachable for me.

You can have your scenes on index cards, and if you buy the Plot View you can move them around along a timeline and also with different heights, for different subplots.

Each character gets its own note in the Master Catalog where you can add additional info and later in pre-production tie an actor to the part. You can also add extra notes for the scenes and organize the crew needed. And not to forget: you can do storyboards.

So yes, there is more to Celtx than Final Draft, no only because it is free.

But mostly I think it is a matter of attitude. Celtx is the program for the future, for the young generation, people grown up with Internet and to used find free programs to use, unwilling to pay but gladly contribute in the same fashion. Celtx is open, it accepts plug-ins and share its source code.

Final Draft simply feels old. Yes, it still has the best editor, and if they hurry they might get along on the train heading for the future, but then they better run fast, because as soon as Celtx’s editor meets up to standards, there is no use for a program you need to pay for.

Alright, Final Draft is more or less industrial standard, but remember: it is only standard as long as we permit it to be.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Tool Monday: WordWeb

A tool I use daily is WordWeb. It’s a small program that helps me with my spelling and explains words unknown to me.

It’s very easy to use. You press the Ctrl-key and right-click on the word on the screen to open WordWeb explaining the word.

With the explanation you get a list if synonyms and antonyms as well as links to Wikipedia and Wiktionary.

The basic program is completely free.

The pro-version costs only $19 and then you get more words, common phrases, better search functions, and the option to add third-party dictionaries. To that you can add more dictionaries including for example geographic words, other languages or the whole Oxford Dictionary of English, if you are interested in paying.

The previous version did not always get the word clicked upon correct, especially if it was in an edit field, but the current version (6) seems to have solved this problem (or maybe it is a Pro-version thing).

This is a program I’ve become addicted to. When I write and I get this red zigzag line under a word and MS Word’s dictionary can’t help me, WordWeb is there, suggesting words that I might be looking for.

Since it is so easy to access it is a tool I use often, when writing as well as reading.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Back to the Beautymaker

I’m looking amazed at where I left off.

“He watches her as she walks with her skirt swaying in the breeze. She is an image of”

Image of what?!

I left of in the middle of a sentence! How on earth did I manage that?!

What was my line of thought? What has she an image of?

As far as I can remember there have been no flooding, houses on fire or traffic accidents lately. Why, oh why, did I have to leave right then?

Saturday, July 17, 2010

On vacation

I’ll not be posting regularly for a few weeks now.

First of all, me and my family have our vacation time, and secondly what time I have to write I’ll be writing on my scripts.

A young and promising Hollywood director has contacted me for a script and I had nothing to meet his criteria what he was looking for. Then I once again got reminded of how little I’ve been writing on my own feature scripts lately. Half-finished stuff don’t take you half way, it takes you absolutely nowhere.

I've been writing short scripts and things on commission and that has been great, but now I must tend to my own grand and majestic feature scripts for a moment.

So, I’ll send my first draft of the adaption to the commissioner and await feedback, and in the meantime I’ll sort around among my ideas and half written scripts and make sure that if ever anybody asks me for a feature again, I’ll have something to show.

This is what I’ve worked for to achieve and I don’t want to sit like a dumbass with an empty folder.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

First version of my adaption of a novel is coming up

Now I’m focusing on the adaption of the crime novel “Mord i Malmö”. It would be great if I could have the first draft ready by the end of the week. It is possible, but let’s not hope for too much.

I’ve done a mindmap of the whole story, as I want it in the script, and it has been to great help now, when I’ve not been writing regularly on it for some time. It is so quick to be back on track with something as visual as a mindmap.

The ending of the story in the book was a bit complicated and lacked that titanic obstacle that is supposed to be in our hero’s way, so I need to do it in another fashion. The great thing about the novel is that it is written in me-form, so it is very easy to find focus in the story.

I’m having long pretty talky scenes in the script. It’s not an action, so in a way it is expected, but I need to make sure that it is what I want, that it works. I try to make the dialog dynamic, like short lines and long lines mixed; No “yes” “what?” “that!” “nooo!” type of dialog, but rather a dialog that. . . I don’t know how to describe it. . . in lack of a more poetic expression: a dialog that keeps you awake.

A dialog can’t be a ping-pong match. I deliver a short line – you deliver a short line, I deliver a long line – you deliver a long line. Long-short-long-short does not work either. What I try to gain is something more unexpected.

It is an interesting experience to adapt a novel. This one is pretty short, so I don’t have to cut so much. I can’t dream about what it would be like to adapt a Tom Clancy.

I have an old favourite book from my youth I tried to adapt once, just for fun, many years ago. I succeeded to get it down to just over twohundred pages – a three and a half hour movie. Some day I hope I’ll get the option to do a more serious try on it. I’ll likely do a better job today.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The importance of a story

John August writes about the lack of real story in many independently produced movies.

He writes:
“My hunch is that it’s actually a consequence of thinking small. If you’re making a movie on a limited budget, it may put real constraints on your locations, schedule and cast size.

But that frugality doesn’t need to limit your story. Story is free.”


“A lot of story can happen even when you’re constrained to a few locations. Hamlet takes place in a few rooms. So does The Usual Suspects. Both Go and The Nines pack a lot into each of their three-part sections. And while Sex, Lies and Videotape might seem low-plot, the story keeps forcing characters to make choices and face the consequences.”

He is right. Story is free and no budget in the world can compensate for the lack of it.

But I’m not sure that it is simply the director/producer's small thinking that causes a movie to lack of story. I think it is a blind urge to make a vision come true as well.

Somebody gets a vision of a movie wanting to be made. An emotion, a few colors, a character, all floating around in somebody’s mind, and if the owner of that mind has access to a camera and an actor and finds a few good locations. . . Well, I guess, there is a risk that he or she goes to work like a painter places a canvas on the easel and makes strokes with a brush.

I think it is a risk that that mind is afraid of ruin the vision – that perfect vision – if it’s going to be analyzed, structured, pushed back and forth.

It is a risk that the vision is lost, yes, that is true, but I think that it is easier to make the vision into reality if you stay cool and processes the idea, finding the story, the changes, the conflicts and the connections.

At least my visions are simply a scene or two. They cannot become even a short movie standing on their own. Nobody understands or is interested in those few scenes as they are. I need to find the story before and after those scenes to have something worth telling. Then I might earn their interest.

For me, sheets and quilts on the washing line out in the garden, in the warm summer breeze always give me a special feeling – don’t ask me why right now, just hang along – and I get a vision of a movie with those waving sheets in the centre with a poetic voice over.

No matter how hard I try, I’ll never succeed in passing my vision to the viewer that way.

Because the emotions that washing line causes in me, occur in me alone. If I want to pass those emotions to others – and that is what every moviemaker wants – I need to build a story that connect with the audience, making them understand, and get emotionally attached to, those wet sheets drying in the wind. And that story must be shown, not told. And I need to dig into myself to find why I get this sensational emotion, and then see what the story might be.

So don’t be afraid to hold your horses and start digging. The story is your vision.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Research backfired

When Scott Myers at Go Into the Story asked the readers if they liked research I came to think of an uneasy situation it took me years to overcome.

This was close to ten years ago. What research needed I read from books and the Internet. I never talked to people. First of all I was shy and uncomfortable with talking to people I didn’t know, but also I wasn’t keen to the idea to seem like some form of fascinating animal popping up claiming to be a screenwriter.

I took a class in movie script structure and the teacher encouraged me to meet people. He assured me that people love to talk about their job, no matter if it is a strange thing called screenwriter asking the questions.

So I waltzed into a well known antique shop and wanted to know everything about fakes and fauxes.

Not a good idea.

First of all, I should have made an appointment and made sure that my purpose was clear and I got to talk to an enthusiastic person.

Then I should have worked to overcome my shyness before I marched into that store.

But most of all, the guy was as interested in telling me about fakes and fauxes as the kind police officer in Seattle was in telling me how you escape once arrested. There is knowledge you simply need to earn to get.

I was so proud of gaining courage enough to walk up to the counter and ask a question to an unknown person, that I completely forgot about everything else.

The guy behind the counter was taken aback, my questions got diffuse answers and I left defeated and convinced that I would never talk to anybody again.

Monday, July 12, 2010

New interface

As you can see I've updated the interface of my blog.

I'm not quite done yet. Please, have a little patience with me.

Tool Monday: Merriam-Webster Visual Dictionary Online

I have an eight hundred pages thick visual dictionary in my book shelf that was one of my most used tools when I started to write in English. But since I don’t sit at one place writing any longer and can’t have my neat pile of books beside me all the time, I’ve been looking for some online services to replace my beloved visual dictionary.

Merriam-Webster Visual Dictionary Online is one hot candidate.

To the left there is a list of themes. Clicking on one of the headlines in the list gives me a list of secondary headlines, both to the left and on the main surface.
When I click on one of these secondary headlines I get a list of items as well as new sub groups.

traditional clothing - Visual Dictionary Online

The images are easy to understand and good looking. One of the great advantages of Internet vs books is that color does not cost extra.

The images both give words to what I see and explain each word under the image. Very nice. In my old visual dictionary the flying buttress was only marked out but not explained.

There is also a search field if you want to search for a specific word, but somehow I feel this does not work all the way. I searched for words I've seen in images without always getting a hit.

If the theme is there, it is well covered - like fifteen types of skirts or about just as many variations of a kitchen knife – and all with pleasing images.

The only drawback - besides from the search field - is what is not there. I didn’t find anything about lifts/elevators. I think I can live with that.

The images all have a watermark on them. It doesn't bother me, since I’m only learning a word, but in case you do mind it, you can buy the visual dictionary and install it on your computer using it offline. Then the watermark will be removed, they tell.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Some useful writing tools

I think I will start review some tools I’ve found useful in my craft. Software and services I've found on the Internet. Starting tomorrow Monday as my Monday theme.

Friday, July 9, 2010

How it became Mountain Wind

One of the most beautiful places in the World is Tarfala. It is in the north of Sweden, very close to the highest peek of the country.

Three majestic glaciers look down on the huts resting there. The valley leading down from there is narrow and steep. Here the winds can get strong, when the cold air rushes downwards. Houses have a tendency to follow along, so the huts are tied to the ground with cables.

Yup, that small, red dot close to the glaciar border is me.

When I’m longing to get back to the mountains, it is images from Tarfala that comes up in my mind.

Mountains have a significant place in my heart. When we travel it is often to see mountains. Our journies have taken us to the Swedish fjells, Norweigian fjords, the Alps, the Himalayas, and the Rocky Mountains.

Photos by Magnus Nordlund

Thursday, July 8, 2010

I'm Mountain Wind

Now it is official. My company’s name is Mountain Wind.

I had to register the name at a governmental office here in Sweden before I could use it.

The funny thing is, before I got their approval I got a mail from a company selling Internet Services sent to me in my company’s name and I got a telephone call from a company who had picked me personally to ask if they could do me a website for free.

Then I got the registration papers from the governmental office.

So, Mountain Wind it is.

I know, the dot-com domain with that name is taken, but I gave up that demand. It is still just me, writing. It’s not a multi-million-company with a bunch of brand new products to sell. It’s simply me.

Mount Everest (left) and Ama Dablam (right), Nepal, 2001
Photo: Magnus Nordlund

Wednesday, July 7, 2010, f**k off!

I’ve considered writing sponsored blog entries. Yes, I know, I want this blog commercial free. But at least this type of commercial would be under my control.

Why selling yourself like that? Well, the harsh reality is that if I want to support myself on my writing I need a bigger income.

Yet, I still felt a little bit disgusted and ashamed when I started to look into the sites where you can get these kinds of assignments.

I quickly realized that my perfect and delicate little blog wasn’t of any interest out there in the big world, with its shampoos, lifestyles and designed vases.

Never the less I entered my blog address to one of these sites and got this very humiliating reply:
- The website is a suspected fake.
- The website does not have enough link popularity.
- The website does not have enough traffic.

I accept that my limited amount of readers does not constitute a solid interest from an advertiser, but to call it a fake, that was just. . . I don’t find the words to tell you how much this auto generated and robot calculated conclusion upsets me.

Well, Big World, you can keep your shampoo and I keep my very much real blog as it is, just the way I want it., fuck off!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

A writing marathon

I wrote against a tight deadline yesterday.

By eleven o’clock AM I had to deliver the third draft and I had had done too little during the weekend.

Yes, some could be blamed I had an unexpected fight with Celtx, but to be honest I missed more by doing other things when I had my chances.

So I had to write for three hours straight yesterday, starting while I ate my breakfast. My head screamed for a break, but I refused, because I knew that I would not be able to deliver on time if I lifted my butt out of the seat.

I usually write for an hour at a time. If I have a whole day to my disposal – which happens for about 0.5% of the days – I write for three hours, maybe four, but during two, three or maybe even four times during that day.

The last thing I had to do was adding an extra scene at the end. After writing for more than two hours I had to write a whole new scene. Maybe not the best conditions to do so. The more I think about that final scene, the more I feel I delivered a bad joke.


I just want to remove those lines, those so very unnecessary lines of dialog. They don’t add anything! And they spoil that perfect last line of dialog in the previous scene.

I hope they feel the same and want a fourth draft.

Friday, July 2, 2010

How to start writing a movie script

So you have this great idea for a movie?

Hold on to that thought; that lovely sensation that you have the best movie ever made in your hands. Because there will be a tough way for you to get there.

These are my recommendations for your progress:

1) Pinpoint your idea. What is it you want to tell and why?
2) Split it up: What will happen? Who’s the main character? Supporting characters? I prefer to simply scrabble this down, just let things and ideas flow, see what comes of it.
3) Start thinking in terms of structure. Personally I work with a mind map for the structure, but working with index cards are common among writers. If you are totally unfamiliar with screenwriting get a book about it and read it first.
4) Structure done, continue with the characters. Especially focus on the way they talk and behave, because – at least for me – it is easy they get the writer’s voice.
5) Then continue working with each scene. Each should have a goal, a conflict and a connection (with other characters or to the audience).
6) Start writing and good luck.

Some don’t like to do so much work before writing, but prefer to dive right in and write and see what happens. All I can say is that dive right in does not work for me at all; it ends up as a catastrophe. I’ve ruined so many great ideas that way. Yet, there are great writer who work just that way. You simply have to find your own way.

Another advice is to not sit around and wait for inspiration. Write every day, even if you don’t feel like it. You can always erase it. One way or another you will eventually find what trigs your inspiration to come to you when you want it to be there.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Locations for filming

When I write a script I see where it is set in my vision of the final result. I see the perfect locations, the furniture in the rooms, everything.

My vision is however never what the final result will look like. I don’t say this is bad or wrong, just that the movie in my head cannot be recorded and used.

In my script for Sx2 Productions there is a scene in a bathroom, at night, with only dim light from the window illuminating the room. I got a note in the margin back: “what if the bathroom where we film this does not have any window?” It’s not like a small producer has a huge amount of locations to thrive in. Or large equipment to set the proper light, for that matter.

Another note concerned a high bridge in the story: “We don’t have any high bridges here.” A water tower on a mountain will be used instead.

When I saw the photos from Walking the Graveyard I realised I had had a Swedish graveyard in mind. It didn’t matter to the story at all and what I’ve seen of the set it is just as great, it’s just that they look very different, a Swedish and an American graveyard.

When I work on the adaption of a novel set in a specific Swedish town I almost feel handicapped because I know so little about the locations. On the other hand, if this is filmed, other locations might be used instead.

Writing a movie script means to be flexible in the choice of locations, but in the same time be specific enough to paint a picture and pass on the inspiration and passion to the reader.

But it is a good thing if the script breethes the right geography.