Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Review: KeepNote

I was looking for a program to work with the scenes for my current project. After testing Celtx index card in my last project I was not very pleased and needed something else.

Then I stumbled on KeepNote. It is a freeware made by Matt Rasmussen and it is also new and updated regulary.

It does not fulfill my needs as a scene-software, but it might very well do as a note keeper in the first phase of the process when I just sit down and let the mind guide freely. So far this has given me a rather long and unsorted document. With KeepNote I think I might get something more structured, and yet keep the flow.

First the boring stuff: what is negative about it, from my point of view.

I like to keep Celtx as the center of the wheel and collect all things concerning a project within a Celtx file. Then I just need one file to move around and I can see all I need when I have Celtx open. This is not possible with KeepNote.

KeepNote does not create one file, but a file structure based on the notes made and their organization. This makes it impossible to embed the notes into Celtx. Overall it also makes it more difficult to move the notes around to different computers and send the notes to others (yes, you could zip them, but it is much more work).

And now to the positive: That is the rest.

You start with creating a notebook. You can add folders and pages. And subpages to the pages.

When you add a new page you have a big, blank space where to write. Here you can change font, make lists, links, add images, separators and add files. And when you want to start a new page, you just press Ctrl+N, give it a title if you like, and then continue to write.

The pages could be rearranged and the search options are cover most needs.

I miss the option to tag a page with keywords that I can see in the list with all notes, but that is a minor problem. Compared to just writing a long document, this is far easier to work with.

I will definitely try this program on the next project. With a little luck, there is a new version by then which covers my missing needs.

Wisdoms from the movies

Sally Owens: All I want is a normal life.
Aunt Frances Owens: My darling girl, when are you going to realize that being normal is not necessarily a virtue? It rather denotes a lack of courage!
From Practical Magic

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Waiting for the moon to speak to me

Thinking and writing

There has been little time to write. There are actually two reasons for this. One is that I haven’t had much time to write. The other is that I don’t take time to write, because I’m still in thinking phase. Unfortunately, I have not fully grasped that the thinking phase only works if I write. I need to sit down with the material, by a computer, to get the process started. If I don’t, I could just as much wait for the moon to tell me the world is flat.

I am terribly lousy on focus on a character or a part of the story or something else that needs work by just looking out the window while sitting on the bus. I need to be reminded of the situation and be able to write the flow down. If I only get the material, I get inspired and the ideas come, but they get stuck if I can’t write them down. And since I’m a crummy longhand writer I need a proper keyboard and a screen.

I need to put up a deadline. That works all the time. Then I realise the time passing by and get to work; Simple, but very functional.

So, the 2nd of December I should be ready with the characters including their names.

The 11th of December I should have everything in place to start writing.

Then I am bold enough to say that I will have the first draft ready the last of February. That gives me two and a half months to write the script. Slim, considering I can’t write full time, but close enough in time for me to feel I need to write a little whenever possible.

Wisdoms from the movies

Luke: I don't, I don't believe it.
Yoda: That is why you fail.

From: Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back

Monday, November 28, 2011

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Wisdoms from the movies

Woody: Your'e right, Prospector. I can't stop Andy from growing up... but I wouldn't miss it for the world.

From Toy Story 2

Friday, November 25, 2011

Names on characters in a fantasy story

How does one find out names for a fantasy story?

I figured I should do as last time and go for a Latin base. Now with Google Translate it is so much easier. Last time I fetched my mom’s Latin to Swedish dictionary and searched at random until I found something that sounded reasonable and had fairly relevant meaning. I didn’t have any Swedish to Latin, so there was no way I could take the word I wanted and translate it, then.

On the other hand, the best choices of meaning often turns out to be very alike the English word, or a name, like Regina (queen). I don’t know how common the name Regina is in the English-speaking world, but for me that is a “taken” word. I can’t give a character in a fantasy story a name that sounds like it was fetched from our real world.

On the other hand there is no need to keep a Latin word intact. I want to keep the feeling of the original word, but make it easy to write and – most important of all – speak out aloud. After all, it will become a movie and be spoken a lot. It must feel good in the mouth and ring good and true to the ears.

Wisdoms from the movies

Oogway: One often meets his destiny on the road he takes to avoid it.

From Kung Fu Panda

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Power of Bitterness - one of the characters

When the idea for the Power of Bitterness was born there where three characters: my female hero, her male counterpart who turns into her love interest, and the villain.

There are now more characters involved, the story developed and all. So far so good. Except for that male vis-à-vis. He is no longer a love interest, but more of a mentor – if he is anything any longer. He is needed for the story, but faceless as a character.

I wrote “thug” in the description to give him a little roughness, but in my mind he remains as colorless and correct as Mickey Mouse. You might even be blinded with the shine from his halo.

This is the one character I’m not satisfied with yet. Otherwise I feel they are all solid and interesting, balanced between dirty and clean, rough and smooth. But this one eludes me.

Maybe I made a mistake when I cut the love interest part? I don’t know. The difference in age was so big so I figured it would cause conflicts that didn’t fit the story. But maybe that is just what they do. She is only a teenager, yes, and he is over thirty, but she is far older than him in mind and spirit. She should not see any hinder for a relationship, but he would. Maybe this would add the final touch? Make the story human. Make my main character more human.

I want to start writing, but I want that feeling first. That gut feeling telling me this project is a go. I’m just one character away.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Wisdoms from the movies

Shen: How did you find peace? I took away your parents, everything, I scarred you for life...
Po: See that's the thing, Shen, scars heal.
Shen: No they don't... *wounds* heal.
Po: Oh, yeah... what do scars do? They fade, I guess...
Shen: I don't care what scars do...!
Po: You should, Shen. You got to let go of the stuff from past - because it just doesn't matter! The only thing that matters is what you choose to be now.

From: Kung Fu Panda 2

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

An issue of political sympathies

I “met” a fellow film maker on a forum. He was interested in getting some scripts written – and willing to pay for the job. He read some of my work and he called me up.

I can’t say he called me at an opportune moment, because we had guests, but he didn’t ask and I didn’t feel comfortable to tell him to call at another time. He went on talking, and talking a lot, inspiring and interesting and creative. He had money and wanted to do film. Perfect.

If he had not mentioned in the middle of it all that he was a member of Sweden Democracy – a political party that made it into the government last election and works against multi-culture and immigrants and anything that “threatens” our Swedish way of life. Values I don’t stand for.

Why did he tell me?

Or rather, why did he have to tell me?

I have not much of a clue about the political standpoints of those I work with in general. I have not asked and they haven’t told. It has not been an issue.

The movies he wanted to make was not political, he assured me. They had nothing to do with the party.

Suddenly I faced the choice if I wanted to work with someone whose political standpoint I more or less despise. If I wrote for him I risked being taken for supporting racism; if I didn’t – only based on his political views – I behaved just like I think they do to others: exclude people because they belong to the wrong group.

I decided I would give it a shot. I would pretend that I hadn’t heard the last, and I pitched him an idea based on what he said he was looking for. After all, as I said, I know very little about most people I’ve worked with and I could end up being connected with any strange political view or religion there is. And he seemed serious and dedicated to his films and that was what really counted after all, I figured.

After a while I realized that all my characters and my potential stories, based on that pitch, became so overly multi-culture and soaking with morals and values matching my own. I realized I will never be able to tell the audience anything important. I would write to tell him something. I had – despite all my good intentions - succeeded to put a tag on him and put him in a box based on a too small amount of facts. Just as I believe “they” do to other people.

Lesson taught.

Monday, November 21, 2011

A state of mental and emotional strain

I had one of those nasty dreams last night. One of those dreams telling me I’m not in balance with myself.

In my dream I saw a house, with a fire going on in one of the windows, spreading, people running out. I picked up my phone and called the fire department. Then I figured I should take a picture for the papers. (This has its background in me downloading the ScoopShot app to my smartphone in case I one day come across something I could sell to the papers – which wouldn’t include something violating the integrity of any individual – but you know, just in case.) So I bring up my phone again to start the app and I can’t find it. And my phone turns crazier for every effort I make, and it is running low on batteries too and I get more and more stressed.

And “stressed” is the key. I have these dreams where I desperately try to do something and never get there, only when I experience stress in my life. Nowadays I know that these dreams signal that I should be aware, that I am on the wrong path.

Things have been escalating lately.

Little things, piling up. Meetings with people concerning the kids, scheduling meetings with others, a hint of worry – which is not my cup of tea generally, but comes creeping in these situations. My boss having a conversation with me telling me I spend too much of my working hours writing on my blog, which wasn’t true, because I schedule them to be published in daytime, but the pure knowledge that someone thought that I didn’t do my job properly and telling my boss about it, made a dent in my creative spirit, and paranoid as well. Me seeming to get into constant conflicts with my youngest at dinner table, making my husband suggest that he and I should switch places, making me go bananas and rush away from the table pissed as hell.

One of my sons have had a problem with getting his message through since it was very hard to understand what he was saying (all his consonants sounded about the same). Now when he has received help and got passed this, he got a board game from the speech-language pathologist that was called “tell me about…” which encouraged talking and telling. The idea was good, but the result wasn’t that inspiring. I saw in my mind, what I wanted to do with it. In the same time I realized that there is no such time for me to explore it.

It is not the first time I have ideas about things I want to try and test and develop. I get them a lot. But there is no time. I’m working on a script and drawing images for a graphic novel and that is about as much time as I have. The only reason I have time to draw is because I can be sociable at the same time and I can put it away in an instant (except when I’m inking – I need to clean the brush).

Not to have the time is depressing.

I’m hearing this a lot from others as well, telling me they don’t have time to do things, asking me how I find the time to write. Usually I say that it is a matter of priority and to be satisfied with small portions of time. There are things I like to do that I have had put less priority on and don’t have time to do, and I have accepted that, like sewing my own clothes (or for the kids). Lately however there has been a lot of potential projects in my mind that I with great regret had to put in the archives, because there is no time.

I made this priority long ago to feel better and not get stressed and overwhelmed with things to do. It has worked as clockwork. I’ve been quite relaxed. No stressful dreams in years.

Somehow this has now backfired.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Power of Bitterness update

Mind map movie script structure

My mind map for “the Power of Bitterness” is magnificent. For the first time ever I feel I have substance for something longer than a hundred pages. I feel I have finally understood what is needed to have something worth spending two hours in a cinema.

I have written features before, yes, sure I have. And a three of them are scripts I would show with pride. But two of them demanded substantial rewrites, just because of structure problems, before they reached a state where I felt satisfied.

That is why I look at my dense mind map with awe and hope.

What speaks against my story is the fantasy genre. Since the Lord of the Ring movies made up worlds feel a bit like “been there, done that”. But as some wise guru pointed out: it takes so long for a script to become reality, so what was hot when you started might no longer be hot when you are done. Besides, this is a story I want to write. This story demands that I write it. If the finished script will be thrown in the barging bin or sold for millions is really no concern of mine at the moment.

What I will continue with now is to do some more work on the characters and then plan the scenes.

Celtx has a form for characters that I thought that I should try out. If it doesn’t work, I try something else. I also need to give them all names.

I’m not sure what tool to use to plan the scenes. Celtx has index cards but I didn’t quite like the functionality after all. I’ll try a different approach this time. But it would be rather nice too keep it within the same program.

I’ll keep you updated.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Rude and nasty dialog in movie scripts

Rude dialog in movie scripts

If I ever need inspiration to some nasty dialog I go to any of the many forums on the Internet.

A guy – lets call him “Adam” - wants to turn off VirtualStore in Windows 7 and asks how to do this in a forum. (It does not matter if you know what it is, just hang along.)

He gets “It is a feature which you don't understand or which you are not willing to understand.” in return from “Bob”

Not very polite is it? Can you think of a situation where Adam walks up to Bob and asks “I need to turn VirtualStore off. How do I do it?” and Bob looks down on him, snears and says “It is a feature which you don’t understand. Or you are not willing to understand it.”

Bob is not a friendly face after this, will he?

Adam didn’t think so either and punches out:
“Thank you for your useless opinion. Typical response from some one who thinks they understand the situation better than the person asking the question [..]. I did not ask for your opinion of my understanding, nor your opinion of why virtual store is good or even how it works, I simply wanted to know how to stop it from working as perfectly as you seem to think it does.”

Can you imagine Adam giving this reply to Bob? At least in my imagination, Adam becomes really, really pissed and almost punches Bob in his face. But on the other hand, then he does not deliver this kind of speech.

No, forum conversation does not work as spoken dialog. But they work perfectly as inspiration. And there are character studies in it as well. For me, who always tend to make my characters reasonable and polite in their behaviour, forums are a great way to find the dark side of human conversation.

(As for this situation, Bob did the very common mistake to presume that Adam had provided all the essential information needed – and what was missing could be found the same world as he was living in. This was not the case. Adam did know his situation better than Bob, but he had missed to tell the most important thing: He was not responsible for the software that didn’t work. Bob was a software developer, and from his point of view Adam was probably someone that thrived backwards, unwilling to do modern programming. From Adam’s point of view he had told everything needed: how do I turn it off? He had no reason to think he should need to provide anything more than that.)


Thursday, November 10, 2011

The empty space of not telling

I’ve been thinking about what is told and what is not in a movie. What should be told and what shouldn’t. And the point of not telling. Like an ikebana, where not only the flowers count but also the empty space between them.

I watched Never Let Me Go the other night. It begins by telling us that in 1952 there was a medical breakthrough, that made it possible for most people to live beyond a hundred years of age. As it turns out the way to do this, is through donators of organs, children bred for this single purpose.

What we see is like an alternate world, where these donators are something that is natural and not questioned.

It vexes me that these kids’ fates and lives are something that goes undisputed throughout the whole story. There must be a point to it. In my world, two young people in love should question why they should donate their organs and die.

By not bringing the question up on the table, these kids have not learned that they have rights, that they can affect their lives and that they can think for themselves. And that is telling something too, by not telling. It is scarier that someone gives up his life because he accepts it unaware of the options than if he had made an active choice.

Then I continued to think about why it was set back in time. Considering the debate around cloning today, it would not be possible that we accepted human cloning, and even less that we would treat them as soulless objects. Would it have been different if cloning was discovered in 1952? Is there some message in the choice of time? You would not spend the extra costs to make the movie if there were nothing to tell by doing so.

Still I can’t help I feel unsatisfied by the empty space between the flowers. I want things questioned and debated. I want the confrontation.

But since the story is told through one of these donators, who has never learned to take initiatives about her own life, who is to raise these doubts?

What do you tell by not telling? How does the audience get the message as intended? By exposing the conflict or ignoring it?

You could say that these kids and the world they live in are institutionalized. It is all they know and feel comfortable in. A classic way to tell a story about an institutionalized world is to send somebody new into it and let this person become the main character. In “Never let me go” there is no such character. It begins and ends as an institutionalized world. Nothing really changes.

But this is not about a revolution like the Island. This is not a story that really raises the question about human lives. To me, it is more a strange way to tell everybody to enjoy what you got. Like the empty spaces in the ikebana fills a purpose, but without the flowers the there is nothing but void.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Tales from the Script - Trailer

I got a link to this trailer and I felt I must share it with you. As the trailer it is of course everything is chopped up in little pieces. Still though it says alot. I hope to be able to some day check out the entire movie.

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Third Act and my mind is locked as a bivalves

It is quite amazing how devastating it is to work with the third act. The third act is my weak spot, my Achilles' heel. The pure thought of the last act of my story creates locks in my mind, locks that I have to remove. They are locks that block my way to write the great script that I believe it will be – if I get access to what is behind those locks.

I have this All Is Lost-moment, I have a basic idea for the Dark Night of the Soul and then she will. . . She will. . . Uhm. . . Well. . .

The problem is not what she is supposed to do. The problem is that there is no problem to do it. She could finish the story within ten minutes. There needs to be a greater mental challenge than the actual doing.

I have identified two obstacles I can use. One I know how to apply, the other I don't.

For some reason I’ve watched Prince of Persia – Sands of Time when I needed a break. I think it in some aspects matched my script’s situation. A laughed at movie as it may be, it’s not that bad. At least not from the point of view I watched it today. The whole idea with the possibility to turn back time creates a giant deux ex machina as the center of the story, which might not be that smart, and there is some Krull alerts too, but the characters are worth it. They are actually far better than the story.

What fell upon me when I watched it, was how horribly logic everything needs to be for me. Prince of Persia is a movie where the logic fails and in a way that is very creative. I have a hard time getting passed the locks because I see things logically. My mind would never allow a floor turning into sand, delivering the hero to a giant space under the earth, with a majestic hourglass created by the Gods. Pity. It really is. Not that I prefer these things, but that I block myself even to think it.

Image by Skeeterwiz34
Image edited by the writer

Friday, November 4, 2011

Change for a Dollar

I just wanted to share a short film with you. It is written, directed and produced by my Facebook friend Sharon Wright.

I've heard so much about it, but never had the opportunity to actually see it for myself.

Laura Strugar-Smith who is the mother, also acts in Walking the Graveyard based on my script. Jerry J White III who directed Walking the Graveyard is part of the crew for this movie.

The Independent Critic wrote "It can be so simple to change the life of another human being...if we're only paying attention. Are we? You and I? Paying attention?"

Here it is, Change for a Dollar. Enjoy.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

About pitching

At Screenwriters Networking Group on Facebook, Steven L. Sears from Pondalee Productions wrote some wise words about pitching which I quote here with his permission.

"Be comfortable. Dress comfortably, but not in a distracting manner (no revealing tops or bulging spants). On your way to the meeting, turn off the radio and only think about driving (duh!) and your story. DON'T BE LATE!!!

When you get there, they will offer you something to drink. Take the water but DON’T DRINK IT. Believe me, the last thing you want is to feel that tickle in your bladder halfway through the meeting. Only use the water to wet your lips during the meeting.

To that end, make damn sure you go to the bathroom before you walk into the office.

Practice your pitch. There are several different models of pitch (premise pitch, origination pitch, backstory pitch, etc.) but no matter which one, practice it.

Confidence when you enter the room, not arrogance. Be professional at all times. Friendly, but you’re not there to be a buddy. Confident, but you’re not there to tell them what to do.

When you do enter the room, you’ll be introduced to everyone. Make sure you remember their names for your records later. And do NOT make the mistake of assuming the person taking notes in the corner is someone you can dismiss. A lot of freelance writers dismissed the assistant during some of our story meetings. His name was Alex Kurtzman.

There’s going to be idle chitchat at the beginning. It’s designed to make everyone comfortable but, also, to gauge what kind of person you are. Be comfortable and easy going, but stay focused.

Eventually, you have to pitch. You may choose to pick the moment you start your pitch, or they may just say “so what do you have?” and you’re on. Either way, you need to know how to start.

The second hardest thing to do is start your pitch; coming up with that segue or first line to launch yourself. You need to rehearse this and, when you do it, make it look as if it was just a natural spontaneous thing.

The HARDEST thing to do is to STOP your pitch. When you are done, there is most likely going to be silence. It’s going to be uncomfortable and you’ll want to fill the silence. Don’t. Practice the end of your pitch and stick to it. Make THEM fill the silence and start the discussion. When I finish my pitch, I deliberately take the water I was given and take a long slow (and shallow) drink. That gives me an excuse not to speak and puts the pressure on them to start.

Be flexible and accessible to their comments and ideas. Try not to say “no” to anything. At the worst, say it’s something you hadn’t considered and you want to give it some serious thought.

Finish the meeting and walk out with the same confidence you walked in with.

Feel good about yourself. Go home, write up everything that happened in the meeting, including names and details. File it (and you should be keeping a file of these meetings) and discuss it with your agent.

The “art” of the pitch is something that does take time. It’s almost completely experiential and the more you have, the better you become at it. And, eventually, you’ll enjoy them."

Later he added:

"A little exercise you can do to help you out when you're in the room.

As I said, practice your pitch. But you also want to make sure your pitch is quick, concise, focused and informative enough so that they will be engaged with you and your story. To that end, here’s a good way to practice the effectiveness of your pitch.

Take a friend to dinner/lunch. Someone who doesn’t know your script/story. As soon as the waiter walks away with your drink order, start your pitch, but you have to finish it by the time the waiter comes back with your drinks. Then ask your friend to describe your story as she heard it. Question her to find out how it was received and where you got things across and where you failed.

Yes, you don’t have much time and you’ll probably have more time in an actual meeting. But this will teach you how to concisely and confidently present your “logline pitch” with the intent of hooking them when you DO get that meeting.

It doesn't hurt that you will now be able to work in a quick pitch if you find yourself standing in a grocery line with an A-Lister."

Thank you, Steven.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The hundred blunders

I’m one of the Moderators at one of Sweden’s most popular movie creator’s forums; and I explained to a novice, the difference between having this stunning idea that has never been made before and being able to present an actual script.

I got a reply like “you seem to have insanely more experience than I”.

Well. . .

I don’t know. I’m not quite established yet, and I’m certainly no well known; but when it comes to experience, I’ve been writing movie scripts since the late 90th, and succeeded with about a hundred blunders.

A serious one was not to listen to the feedback unless it agreed with my own opinion. If someone said my script was terrible, I decided that they were wrong, and hadn’t understood it (which was their own fault of course). It was not until I got a chance to hand my script over to someone who got well paid to write, and he smashed it flat in an instant, that I realized that I wasn’t a writing genius.

Another fantastic blunder was my meeting with Fanny Danielsson, one of Sweden’s most well known upcoming directors at the time. She declared she thought writing an action movie was one common mistake among beginners, and I ask her if she would like to read my action script. Also forgetting to tell her that it was written in English.

I’ve been sending scripts to Hollywood actors. Once even with a tape with mood music; embarrassing, but true.

I’ve refused to write according to standard format. I’ve even written with the wrong font.

One smart thing I did was mailing a bunch of query letters when I was in the States, saving money. On the other hand, I didn’t get one single reply.

For long I was focused on writing a feature script in English to sell for astronomical money in Hollywood.

Yes, there have been a lot of blunders.

On the other hand, I had confidence. A solid, unwavering confidence that I was the best writer the world had ever seen. I must admit it felt fantastic to be that. The backside was, I became rather frustrated when nobody got the sensation in my writing.

There have been two significant changes in my career. No, three.

The first happened when I finally understood that I did have something to learn; that I was a novice. My hardest lesson, but a necessary one.

The second was when I decided that writing movie scripts was something I wanted to do full time. That was about 2008 when I started this blog. Then I stopped writing in periods when inspiration hit me, and I began to write close to every day and learning to fetch inspiration when I needed it.

The third was when I sold my first movie script. It was Walking the Graveyard. And not only was it my first short script sold, it wasn’t even written when the contracts were signed. Robert A Vollrath had the full confidence that I would write a script that he would like to produce. This is just something that doesn’t really happen, but it did.

Not only did he buy Walking the Graveyard. He also paid me to co-write a script of his that needed rewriting. So suddenly I had a CV containing two entries instead of none and that made an enormous difference. From late 2009, I’ve expanded that list to no less than eight short scripts, and being a judge in two contests as an addition.

I guess I must have done something right along the line.