Tuesday, August 30, 2011

On the Bridge of Khazad-Dûm - An hilarious short script

I would like to promote another Swedish writer, who contacted me to get some feedback. His short script won one of Julie Gray’s contests. It is ten pages long and absolutely hilarious.

The script is called "On the Bridge of Khazad-Dûm (Or How a Crazy old Coot Nearly Ruined My Day)"
You can read it here (unfortunatly you need an account to read the actual script).

Monday, August 29, 2011

The art of manipulation

I experienced something very interesting on a conference the other day. A prime example of manipulation. Of course, my colleague who was one of the guinea pigs on stage claimed that he wasn’t manipulated at all, that it was all a simple trick of cheating, but I disagree.

The guy on stage had five envelopes. In one he put a big money bill. Then he mixed them, wrote numbers on them and called up four volunteers to enter the stage. They each got to select a number from 1 to 5, representing the envelopes. Then he invited them in turn (in opposite order) to select one of four chairs and take a seat. As it turned out, none of them had got the money. Their envelopes contained one big letter each and they formed a word. Not only did he keep his money, he also placed them in the chairs where he wanted them to be.

This is how I claimed he did it: For the first guy he said “you have one, two, three, four or five. Which one do you select?” Except that what he said was “we have one, two, three, four or five”. My first thought was “the money is in number two”. To my surprise the guy took number one.

Then he went to the second person and said “it is very common that the next person follows the pattern and takes the next number in line”. She, aware that he is manipulating them, doesn’t want to follow the pattern and selects three.

To the third – a woman – he holds them up in order with five on top and two at the bottom and said “it’s like shopping, you don’t want to buy too expensive or too cheap”. She picks four.

Then he comes to the last guy – my colleague - and holds the five in the height of his face and the two in the height of his crouch. My colleague picks number five and gets the comment that it is very common that we prefer something in eye-height.

I’m not quite sure how he succeeded with the chairs, but to me it is obvious that he put the envelopes in the exact right hands.

The money was in number two.

Now, my colleague claims that the numbers on the envelopes didn’t match the numbers that it seemed like he wrote after shuffling them. His conclusion is that he wrote the numbers afterwards – the envelopes were never out of the audience sight, mind you. I agree that he didn’t write the numbers on a whim after having mixed them. Since they did contain a letter that he needed to keep a track of, he had of course numbered them in advance.

The theme for the session was how we make our decisions. There is no reason why he should have used magic tricks. And I don’t think that he couldn’t handle to lose some prestige and some money if someone really picked the envelope with the money.

I think he knew exactly how to make things go his way.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Everything is upside down - or maybe that is what it was?

I have these great characters, but I don’t think they will participate in a romantic comedy any longer. I’ve looked through Blake Snyder’s list of genres for inspiration and my love story has turned into a “dude with a problem”. It will however not be a problem like Die Hard or Titanic, but rather like The Hand That Rocks the Cradle.

The basic idea is that his new-found love is not what she appeared to be. I have however not yet figured out exactly what kind of primal threat she will constitute.

As I have told before, my project ERG was put on hold because the villain was more interesting than the main character. I think now that I will split the story into two scripts. The process that the main character goes through will be a short script. And the former villain will be the main character in a new script. It might even be merged with my agent sketches.

The short script I have in mind with the ERG’s main character might be an expensive story though. I have to keep that in mind. And it won’t be a five-minutes piece either. It will need a different ending too. Or?

Lots to think about, less to write.

Filmography links and data courtesy of
The Internet Movie Database.

Sly Sylvester - a short movie on its way

I want to send my congratulations to my friend Kim Nunley, who will get her first short movie produced shortly. Follow the progress on Facebook.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Writing and listening to music

I rarely listen to music when I write. If I do, it is somebody else’s choice and I’m a passive listener.

When I listen to music as an active listener - like when I’ve picked the tracks and do nothing but let myself be engulfed by the euphony – my head is a pure generator of moving images. That’s why I can’t listen to music and write at the same time. Either the images from what I write clash with the music, or the music is too fast for me to cope. Writing movies is so slow comparing with a three-minute song.

When I listen to music my mind wanders, moving into the worlds the music creates for me. I’m a passionate and skilled dancer – any kind of dance; my suddenly graceful body can be dancing ballet en pointe as well as jitterbug. I can ride a horse and run through fires as if I’ve never done anything else in life.

When I listen to music I find the emotions my characters need.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

It is your writing that counts, not you

Julie Gray at Just Effing Entertain Me has once again succeeded to write one of those passion-slashing articles that I cannot really see any reason to write. But that’s me.

She swifts back and forth between encourage writers and pointing out that screenwriting is not for everyone.

By the end of the article she states:

“Screenwriting may be for you if:
1. You are under 40
2. You live in or near Los Angeles or New York
3. You need no validation or approval for your writing
4. You know the odds are terrible and you just don’t care
5. You think in high concept, cinematic ways.
6. You love dialogue more than descriptions
7. You write contained stories”

So when I turn 40 – which will be rather soon – I shall quit? I think not. Maybe she means that it is no idea to start a career in screenwriting when you are passed 40. That is also a very strange attitude. Who cares about a writer’s age?

Maybe things would be easier if I lived in LA or New York, but the generation of directors and producer growing up today knows how to use the Internet. They will use it far more than my generation. Of course meeting people in person is always a good thing, but so far I haven't met any of the buyers of my scripts before the deal.

All writers need some form of approval unless you write a diary. When you write scripts, you need it more than most writers, I would say. When you write a novel and get refused you can self-publish. If you don’t sell a script you need to produce yourself, which is quite costly and needs skill. There wouldn’t be a bunch of read-‘n’-criticise-sites out there if we didn’t need validation.

Yes, it is a tough business. There is no reason to deny that. But I can’t figure out why it is so important to tell which writer will fit for which type of writing. She speaks about the screenwriters and says that if you don’t fit here, keep writing something else. I’m sure she means well, but what about the novel-writing-guru who sets up norms for a novel writer? And that poetry-writing-expert’s "writer’s DNA needed" for becoming a good poet? What if I don’t fit anywhere if I listen to what others say about me as a person?

That is my point. She attacks the person and not the writing from that person. Who and what I am is not important. It is what I write that counts. Julie Gray herself has once stated this.

So here is wisdom to every screenwriter in the world (produced or not): It is your writing that counts.

There may be several reasons for you not being produced, but it is not very likely that it is because you are too old or live in the wrong place. Yes, it could be troublesome to get your script into the hands of the right people, and that can have something to do with the way you, as a person, handle things, but in the end it is your writing that counts.

You may find that screenwriting is not for you. That is fine, as long as you have come to that conclusion by yourself, based on your writing and your heart. Not because of a stupid list tells you that you don’t fit.


I've decided to go back to as it used to be. It may take time to select and edit an image, but if professional appearance is my goal, I have to spend the time it takes.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Rethink the story

I must take a step back from “To Be” and rethink the story. First I thought the story would be the same even though I shifted the main character from her to him, but as I continued I realized that the story is not his.

First of all, I have to analyze what kind of story I want it to be. I’ve always considered him rather pleased with his life, but love changes it all in an unpleasant and frightening way. Is that the way I want it still? In the beginning of the story, people have problems with him, while he is rather satisfied. I’m not the kind of writer who wants to tell someone that he only thinks he is happy; because he doesn’t know what is behind those hills where true happiness is found. People have the right to be happy. Happiness is the essence of life.

Then I need to consider his love interest, if she will be the same character or not. His mother and father are terrific characters. There is an old hag and drunken homeless I would like to keep too. His sister and her wife didn’t turn out as I expected – they aren’t as happily married as I thought; maybe that is a good thing for the story – they could fix it.

So “To Be” returns to the drawing board and I have nothing to write any longer. That is no fun, but I need to think what is best for the script.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

A matter of confidence

When I write short scripts I have a glorious confidence. I know how to write focused and to the point. Maybe an illusion of grandeur, but that is beside the point right now.

Things are different when it comes to features. There I lose confidence. Single scenes can be great, characters splendid, the story one of a kind. It’s just that what makes my short scripts so fabulous makes my feature scripts less worthy.

To spend ten pages on pure setup is a huge waste of time. I know it is needed, but I do have great trouble with “doing nothing” – I know it’s not a matter of doing nothing, but that is what it feels like. Overall I have a hard time to relax and let the story take its time.

When I write a feature I balance on a narrow edge of confidence. I don’t need much to slip and fall. That’s what just happened. I read the forty-something pages I have written, and though I’m not done, I cannot figure out how it could become three times as long. Not even twice as long. I switch the main characters and suddenly I realize that I do need to rethink the story after all. I hate that. I really genuinely hate the feeling of failure. It is hard to see anything positive with a half-written script that needs return to the drawing table.

And I hate the feeling of being a bad writer.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Me and my drawings

I will not illustrate my blog with my own drawings hereby. I've been told they don't hold up to standards and make my blog look unprofessional.

I have a few options.

One of them is to return to as it used to be, me using mostly old paintings as illustrations. The problem with this is that it takes time. I like to work with images, but this was very much the same that needed to be done every time. Finding the right image could be difficult as well.

Another option is to keep the blog unillustrated, which is an easy but uninspiring alternative. I think images enlightens and could even be a little humorous.

A third way is to let somebody else handle the illustrations. Which could be difficult since I wish to pay when others work for me. It can also take time, in which case the first option may still be better.

What do you think? I'm open for suggestions.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A life outside the phone

At the bus stop, I was watching the most stunning sunrise I had ever seen. Fog on the ground, dark clouds rising and the sun colouring it all into a spectacular view. My ever present camera was left on the kitchen table. Desperately I pulled out my smartphone. Due to me being such snob when it comes to cameras, I had set the lowest quality on the photos. Because I only use the camera in the phone for unimportant photos, like price tags I need to remember and such. I fumbled to increase the quality, so it would be a photo worthy a life outside the phone. The bus arrived. And I left the best photo I never took behind me.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Who is the main character?

Drawing by Désirée Nordlund

Something wasn’t working in my current feature project To Be. I know what was supposed to happen, but I couldn’t figure out how to write several of the scenes. And the resulting pages where too few. It would end up as seventy or maybe eighty at the most.

What was wrong?

When I went to bed it struck me – I had her as the main character, when it ought to be him. (Don’t laugh mom, I know you told me, even without reading the script.)

He is the one going through the major changes. He is the one changing the course of the story. He is also the one surrounded by conflicts.

The exciting part is: I don’t need a full scale rewrite. There is just one scene I need to remove, but that’s all.

I need to insert a new first scene, which is already finished in my head, to give him focus from the beginning.

I think my brain picked up the thread when I read that the writers of While You Were Sleeping had had problems with the script, until they made her the main character instead of him. I don’t know if they had the same problem as I, but my brain started to work never the less.

I got to ask myself more often who the most fascinating and intriguing character is. Now I kind of pick the character I like best as my main character. But no matter how much I adore Jack Callaghan (While You Were Sleeping) he is not a particularly interesting character. And that counts for my female lead as well. She is sweet and diplomatic and somewhat mysterious, but she doesn’t change much, and she is as enthralling emotionally as Mickey Mouse.

That’s about the same thing that happened with my project “ERG”. The main character had an emotional depth as deep as a glass of water, while the villain was the far most fascinating character. In this case, however, I need to rethink the story and start over. While in To Be I just need some significant adjustments in what I have already written.

Today’s lessons:
Who changes most?
Who is the most interesting character?

Do I need to write this a hundred times on the chalkboard, or will I actually remember it this time?

Image by Désirée Nordlund

Monday, August 15, 2011

Finding an umbrella

If you want to take a look at photos from a very talented Swedish photographer, please visit Noras paraply (Nora's umbrella).

Last time I saw her photos she was taking classes in photography. Then they showed potential. Now she can really capture the moment with her camera.

Photo belongs to Noras Paraply

Silver Bells on Kickstarter

I came in contact with Kickstarter when Jerry J White III asked for founds for his project The Marriage Counselor. I looked around on the site and found so much passionate and inspired people wanting to fulfill their dreams.

The short film Silver Bells is one of these that I favored. If you would like to know more about the project and maybe support it click here.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

My list of feature scripts

I'm numbering my scripts based on the number of finished feature scripts. I've had several more projects that didn't result in a script ready for a reader.

1. Kim
2. The Recreators
3. The Beautymaker
4. Kim
5. The Beautymaker
6. Sunlight

Yes. Kim and The Beautymaker appear twice. But this is because they were completely rewritten, not based on the previous version at all. This is why I count them as new scripts. A rewrite, based on the current script is not a new script, but a rewritten version.

Now, just because I have finished it, and it has gained an "official" number, it does not mean it is something I would send to a potential buyer or a contest. It simply means I have finished at least a first version. For me it is a vast difference between a started but not finished script, and one that is finished; even if it is not yet as good as it can be.

So To Be is today numbered as project seven, but if I don't finish it, the next project will take its number. Otherwise I can soon brag with fourteen or something feature scripts, but can only put three on display.

Then I do have an unnumbered finished project: an adaption of the Swedish crime novel Mord i Malmö, which I'm pretty proud of.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Sunlight is ready to meet the world

First inking exercise by Désirée Nordlund

The general update is as follows:

I've sent a short script to Rozalya Dimitrova. She said she liked the first version, but she wanted a more powerful ending. Hopefully the version I've sent her is what she wants.

I've finally proofread Sunlight all the way through. And rewrote it some too along the way. It is finally ready to meet the world. I know I should have worked with the logline a long time ago, but I have to get started now instead.

Now I'll return to To Be. It will be great to return to the script with fresh eyes.

I'm also kind of interested in reworking my halted "ERG" script. A script that I froze because the focus was wrong. The villain was far more interesting than the main character. And the main character didn't change the course of the story as a main character should. I think the story has potential though.

I've flipped the title of Kim back and forth again. I don't like the title, but I have no great ideas. "Kim" is too lame, and everything else I've came up with have been too pompous or too overly dramatic. I've also - as interest was shown by a director - written a version of Kim with budget in mind. I have however not received any response on it yet.

I wonder if The Beautymaker will ever meet the world. The few people who have read it has returned with bad reviews. And this counts for both the first version and the major rewritten second version. If this script will ever be produced its journey is worth a script of its own.

Image by Désirée Nordlund

Thursday, August 11, 2011

To fly without wings - Trailer

The latest trailer from Sx2 Production. A perfect trailer, in my opinion.

The text in the trailer says "everybody has dreams", "how do we reach them?".

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Taking feedback

“Very creative, but the mythology needs work – Simmiolas’ abilities and purpose are never quite clear within the story.“

I stared at the feedback concerning my script "The Recreators" (my second feature script) with unbelieving eyes. How could the reader miss the main characters abilities and purpose?!? I was on the verge to blame the reader, for not understanding what I had written. But it’s never the reader’s fault. Never.

So where have I missed showing his abilities? I thought it was very obvious that he has the same powers as God, just in smaller scale. I have references to our Christian version of God, but if you are not familiar with the Biblical version of how God created the world, it is likely you miss that setup.

But he says he can only work with the forces of Nature and not against, and that he can create rain, but not food – maybe that is where it fails? I know the difference between creating rain and enforce growth in a plant, and creating water and food out of thin air. Maybe that isn’t obvious to everybody?

And the purpose? How can it be possible to miss? Gee, I almost jumped up and down in frustration. What kind of people do they put on reading these scripts? But once again, the purpose was – how unimaginable I may think it is – obviously missed.

It is clear that my setups are too subtle.

But does it have to be written in ten feet letters? Does it have to be stated clearly what he can and cannot do? His point and purpose, yes, we need to understand that, but isn’t part of a mythology some mystery? How easy it is to blame the reader. How easy it is to state that we don’t know Gandalf’s abilities and limitations either.

No, it is not always easy to handle criticism.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Amanda Dawn Harrison - a script from an actress' point of view

Amanda Dawn Harrison

There are many people who will read a script when a movie is about to be made. I’ve found a lot of information about how to write to impress a potential buyer, but very little about how to write a script that will work for everybody else involved.

So I decided to check around in my network and ask them.

First out is the very talented actress Amanda Dawn Harrison from Los Angeles, USA, who very kindly shared her experiences for this blog.

Question: When you as an actress read a script, what do you look for? What kind of information do you need to create your character?

Answer: As an actress, when I read a script I look for a traditional character arc. I look for eloquently written dialogue and a cohesive storyline. But more than anything, I look for something different. I put myself into the characters, what they are feeling, what they lose, what they gain. I also some kind of strange twists. Something that isn’t regularly done in a film. I also enjoy rich dialogue scripts.

Q: What would you say is the most common mistakes screenwriters do? From an actress’ point of view, what would you say is often missing?

A: Something that is regularly missing is a cohesive storyline. Making sense. Also, most times there are no longer character arcs. And more now than ever, people keep writing the same stories. Then they rewrite them. Major motion pictures no longer are always worth watching for too many keep repeating the same stories. Remake after remake. It’s overwhelming. As an actor you are sort of put between a rock and a hard place. An actor wants to be pushed. Wants to get out of the realm of playing typical parts and run around in the head of someone of history, or someone mentally challenged or be the girl next door who has a dark side. Hollywood has the money, but most times, doesn’t have those films anymore. You want to make money, but you don’t want to be a sellout. So at times, it can be a double-edged sword.

Q: Is the script the main source for inspiration, or do you create your character from other sources too?

A: Yes I do create characters from other sources too. Sometimes, you come across a script that was created from another work of art. Sometimes writers use poetry, a grand piece of art, or a song to inspire them. Actors do to. And sometimes knowing what inspired the writer helps the actor become inspired too. So it is very important.

Q: And finally, language, how important is the way the script is written? Spelling errors and grammar, do they matter? Does it matter if the action text reads well or not?

A: Are they detrimental to a script, not at all times. But I do take a writer more serious when there are properly done. It’s amazing how some writers, although may have had a full education, don't know where a comma is supposed to go. Or the proper use of a semi-colon. It’s said. I do. Some actors may not, but I do. Again, not detrimental, just sort of annoying. If the script is great, I learn to get over it.

I wish Amanda all luck with her future projects.

Image used under permission from Amanda Dawn Harrison.
All rights to the image belongs to Amanda herself.

Friday, August 5, 2011


Storyboard exercise by Désirée Nordlund

Proofreading a script properly is a more tiresome work than I thought was imaginable. It is so easy to read what I think I have written and not the actual text. Common problem, I think.

The first thing I do is checking “all” words in WordWeb. “All” is of course not the truth, but I ought to check at least 75%, but I don’t think I do. There are too many words that are “obvious”. This attitude leaves mistakes like “prefect” instead of “perfect” left on the paper.

Then I copy-paste the action text bit by bit into Grammarly and run an analyze with one of the more formal settings on. Then comes the delicate task to figure out if the errors pointed out really are errors or a result of a computer generated pattern that doesn't match what is written.

One frequent mistake of mine is my long sentences. That is very Swedish. We write long sentences. I think this confuses Grammarly some and insists on commas in strange places. I find it extremely difficult to write short sentences sometimes. A full stop is so final, and I want to continue telling something on the same subject, in the same place, in the same breath even, and that is not the English way. At least that is what I’ve been told.

It takes its time to proofread. But it is worth it. I prefer to have done my best on it and then let it out to the world, and don’t send it away first and then find clumsy mistakes.

Image belongs to Désirée Nordlund

Two of my scripts have moved on to the next round

I'm happy to announce that my short scripts "The Death of Old Tommy" and "Dear Uncle" have both made it to the second round in The Golden Brad Award Contest. Read more here. (I'm not exactly alone on that list.)

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

"The Marriage Counselor" needs funding

Jerry J White III (director of Walking the Graveyard) has a new upcoming project that needs funding. This is how he describes the project:

"The Marriage Counselor follows the life of a counselor as he offers his advice to his troubled couples. Only problem is he is most of their problem.

Cameras, Editing, Cast, Crew, Food, Locations, etc are very expensive and need not be forgot. As a team we have the camera, grip/electric post services and location donate to make this a reality but we want to pay our production team what they are worth.

We are keeping this at a low budget so we can make sure to definitely meet our budget. Anything over the total will be amazing to make the extra episodes. No matter what this project will be made with the dedication of these amazing people and there excitement for the project.

This is going to be a SAG new media production and we are going to have a fantastic cast of people that will also need to be paid. We thank you in advance for checking out our project. We look forward to bringing you the best entertainment possible this fall. Thank you for your help and have a great day.

Director,Jerry J White III"

Please, click on this link and help financing the project.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Should I write for free - part II

Last week I wrote an entry about not writing for free. This article had a background: Two things crossed my path, one thing had nothing to do with the other, but both were on the subject of unpaid writers.

One was an email I got, with the request to promote their screenwriting contest on my blog; the other an entry in a movie making forum.

The contest in question produced the winning short script. Nothing wrong with that, except that the writer didn’t get any financial part in it; neither any first price money. I wrote back and explained why I was not about to promote the contest, and got the reply that directors and writers rarely get paid. He explained to me that it costs a lot of money to produce a short movie, and a writer, in general, doesn’t have that kind of money. No, a writer doesn’t have that kind of money, but he or she is not a producer. If they had offered the writer a budget to produce the script, I wouldn’t have objected. But now it was like a writer should not get paid, because he or she has The Grand Vision and the capability to write it down in a way that everybody else involved can transform into a movie. Isn’t that worth paying for???

The forum entry was from an upcoming director who wanted a script from an excellent writer to produce, to fill a slot in his show real. A truly professional attitude presented. All the way to the question about payment: no, he was not willing to pay the writer, since he wasn’t about to make any money on the film. The show real is made to get jobs. How can he claim that the short movie will not bring any income? I told him that “excellent writers” do not work for free, and he replied that he simply wanted someone interested in writing scripts, since he didn't fancy that himself. I couldn’t help it, but I replied that he should have written “Amateur looks for a free script” right away instead of “Professional director wants brilliant script” and fooling everybody.

As I stated before: don’t work for free. What you do is valuable, do never think otherwise.

Monday, August 1, 2011

The search of white males in 1969

Story board image by Désirée Nordlund

1969 “Pippi in the South Seas” was to be filmed. A bunch of extras were needed as pirates. First set was in Sweden. All extras were photographed and documented so they could find similar people in Yugoslavia for the next set. Then they moved to the third set in Barbados; only to realize that the locals were black. . . Nobody had thought about that. Barbados was not the tourist intense place it is now. What to do? Nothing against black people, but the first two takes had white male pirates. Elisabeth Fahlén – the production leader – walked into the one and only hotel in the area and succeeded to convince all white male guests to become pirates. So in the final movie one or two billionaires, quite a few CEOs and the explorer Thor Heyerdahl can be seen running and screaming as blood-thirsty pirates.

As I read the book about how the Astrid Lindgren movies were made, I get more and more stunned when I compare it to the movie making of today – at least how they are made in the United States. But one thing seems to be the same as now: stars want big hotel rooms. The previous Pippi-movies had had a few German actors since it was a co-production with a German production company. They sent the biggest stars they got, and they didn’t like to get wardrobes as hotel rooms and find that three kids were in the center of the director's attention.

Source: “Astrid Lindgrens filmvärld” by Petter Karlsson & Johan Erséus.

Image by Désirée Nordlund