Friday, April 27, 2012

"Paralyzed in Paradise" is in post-production

A script I wrote 2009 is now in post-production. I’m talking about “Paralyzed in Paradise” which was part of my first paid job as a writer. It is also a collaboration work with Robert A Vollrath.

I don’t know much about the project so far. I’ve been promised to get some photos for the blog, but also told that it will take a while due to workload.

The director is the young and promising Rebecca Basaure from the Universidad del Cine and the University of Kansas, Film & Media Studies, where she has received both awards and scholarships for her efforts.

The main character is played by Jeffrey Staab.

I’ll hope to be back in June or July with some photos and more info.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Death of Old Tommy

I must write a about my script The Death of Old Tommy. An award winning director has shown great interest in it and together we have developed the story to something better than it was.

First of all I got the task of translating it to Swedish. That was a far more horrifying experience than I thought it would be. It is strange that it should be so difficult to translate an English text into your native tongue. What I sent her was close to an outstanding mismatch of all kinds of Swenglish expressions. Somewhat embarrassing indeed.

The story is about a man who tricks death and got to live three hundred more years, then he empties Hell and teaches God some good manners.

I was told by the director that she had shown the script to a known actor she considered playing Tommy, who returned the feedback that Death in its black hood and scythe was too much cliché. She asked me if I could do something else with the character.

This was one of those moments I just wanted to scream “are you insane”, but to all luck I’ve learned to not spill out my first spontaneous thoughts and ruin my prospects. There are of course situations when I’ve been asked to rewrite a script of mine into something completely different, and at those times I should be very careful not to sell my soul. This request was not one of these.

I wanted to keep the classic figure of Death because of the fun I made with the character, when it had to leave its scythe and climb a tree.

I was not asked to do something else with the story. I was asked to do something else with a scene I just loved. I had to look past my love for a skeleton in black robes climbing a tree and see what else I could do with the character - still climbing the tree.

Then there was this final scene with Tommy and God, where Tommy rebukes God. No matter religious beliefs, a god rarely is wrong. And if that should be the case, it’s not really realistic that a human would force a god to defeat, just like that. The whole scene was missing a twist, I was told. It simply wasn’t the ending the story deserved.

I couldn’t have agreed more; now when someone told me. That is the funny thing with screenwriting: you think you know your story best, but you rarely do.

The scene went back and forth a few times and in the end two major changes were made to it:
  • God tests Tommy. Tommy dares to rebuke God, but God lets him do this to test him.
  • Since God is the one giving Tommy three wishes in the beginning of the story, Tommy reflects on the result of his choices, now when he stands beside God.
The director emailed me and said that she had a good laugh when she read the scene, and must mean I got it right, she concluded.

Then there was another rather interesting change to the script that demands some background. In the early feedback I got from readers I was asked why he wanted to live for so long. What in his life requested such presences and attention? I inserted a scene showing his love for helping people. We know from earlier in the story that he has a Bed ‘n’ Breakfast and give food to people though he has little to spare. This new scene showed more of this helping hand. This scene is now gone, as it was in the first versions. It did slowed the story down, just as I had a hunch it would do. But I added it once upon a time just the same. I should have trusted my instinct.

Now, why don’t I tell any names? Because in this country it is as hard to find funding for a movie as it is to find a polar bear in Sahara, and the funding for this project is not yet in place. The script is still mine. And very understandable you don’t want your name connected with too many “no thanks”.

Me, I consider this a “yes, please” and I feel it adds to my experience and good reputation to have an award winning director wanting to film a script of mine. If this movie is never made by this director, it is not because of my script – at least not directly (someone still says no to the funding, but the one wanting to do the movie – the one with the good taste – said “yes”).

Sunday, April 22, 2012

One man - or woman - can make a difference

I don't want this to become a blog with political standpoints, but this speech about Raoul Wallenberg by United States' President Barack Obama, and what I have learned about Raoul Wallenberg myself, reflects much of those things I think is important.

I think it is important to not look the other way. I think everyone should know that one man or woman can make a difference that echoes in Eternity (if I'm allowed to add a little reference to Gladiator). Knowing this, we all have responsibility for what happens around us. We are all part of it.

Raoul Wallenberg dared to take a stand where most us would not have the courage to do so.

Friday, April 20, 2012

The ability to remember numbers

A month ago I wrote about my lack of ability to remember numbers and my ambition to get around this snag and learn.

The idea was to have an image for each number zero to nine and use these images during a mental walk through a known area.

First I tried to collect suitable real, existing images, but after number four, I stopped with that because I had a very clear image of my number five in my head and I realized that it was not important to look at any real images. One to four are however based on images I found on the Internet.

Then I have tried to load the image of the number whenever there were numerals. This demands some patience, because it goes a little slower, and it is rarely a number I need to remember. I want however these images to come without me commanding them to do so. I’m not fully there yet, but I feel confident that I will.

I have used the technique to memorize the number of my Visa – and the phone number to block it in case it is lost – membership numbers and such. Things not always needed to be kept in the mind, but a victory for me to be able to remember. My brain is one step further away from decomposing.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The dreadful third act

I’m closing on the third act. The dreadful third act. The place in the script where my writing usually sucks.

Isn’t that a marvelous attitude?

How on Earth am I supposed to write a third act that vibrates of well put words when I have this trunk of bad emotions jumping around in the back of my head?

I have not even finished the second act yet. There are about ten pages left, and yet the knot begins to build up.

I’ve written the next Oscar winner so far. Damn it if I cannot remove that nasty, little knot from my own mind. One thing is certain: no one but I can remove it. So if it shall be thrown out, I have to do the job myself.

First thing I must do is to ensure my plan for my third act still works.

I am the kind of writer who plans her script before she writes. This time I was rigid on planning the third act, just as carefully as the rest of the script. Historically I’ve left the third act to its fate until I got there. Not very surprisingly that has also been the place where I got stuck.

So, this time I put effort in planning the whole script.

But, the two first acts have not in every aspect been as planned. I have not strayed off far. And I have been very aware of my changes, considering what would happen later. Still – since I’m well aware of my fear for the third act – I want to check my notes before I begin; double check it is all there, ready to be spilled out on the empty page.

Photo by Lianki
Imaged used underCreative CommonsAttribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported
Image edits by the writer

Monday, April 16, 2012

A phone call later

I had this fascinating call with a producer today. It was about the lack of payment I wrote about earlier.

The one word that comes to my mind is professionalism.

Not only did she explain what had happened in the communication between her and the director, but she also made me feel important and interesting for future projects; and of course made me confident that there will be money on my account shortly.

She took all the steps needed to have one satisfied screenwriter in the other end, which is good, not only for their own reputation, but also for the future. Now she knows she has a writer, just in case a writer will be needed in the project.

I was talking to someone who wasn't afraid to call and it sure wasn't her first time to sorted up messes and conflicts. Somehow in a weird way I felt kind of honored. I guess that is her job as well.

I don’t care if she was honest and personal or not. In the long run honesty is a fabulous plus, but for this call, it is really not important. Really, it isn’t. What is important is that they thought it was important enough to sort this mess out and make me happy as long as needed.

I’ll get my money and have the right attitude for rewriting if needed. When the production is done, the reasons to keep me happy are far less. Now the needs have shifted some: the only reason for the producer to stay in touch is of she thinks I might come in handy later, and that is up to me, if I have done an outstanding job or not.

And since she told me there might, maybe be future projects, I will of course, according to plan, do my very best to do an outstanding job and show every ability I have, to prove I'm easy to work with as well.

Someone owes me money!

How hard can it be to pay a bill? Honestly, if you ask someone to do a job for you, is it not reasonable to pay this person according to the mutual deal?

I’ve written a script on request from a director. The payment was supposed to be on my account the 16th of November, last year.

That is five month ago!

I still have not seen any money, but I know that the script is in pre-production, planned to be shot after the summer.

Sure, I’ve pointed out the lack of payment. First time the buyer missed that the invoice was assigned to the e-mail, then it was forgotten, then there were Internet-problems, then there were other bills to pay first and then. . . I don’t know what excuse this person will come up with this time.

One thing I have learned, and that is to add a legal 8% for each month the payment is late. I am however not entitled to add this afterwards. It must be part of the deal from the beginning.

The sad thing is I don’t think the director understands how this affected the finances in my company. I was supposed to get the money on the previous financial year. Since the income over a year is not that big, I’m not entitled to include this debt in my finances, which made my company to go with minus last year. My private problem, of course, me calculating that the money should be paid in time.

To be honest, I just want to put one big, fat, yelling message on this person’s public wall on Facebook telling what I think about the way to handle the finances, but I don’t. Not yet, at least.

I've had a very nice conversation with the producer and I think I can now consider this problem solved.

Friday, April 13, 2012

In a quiet little town. . .

There are things in life that takes you by surprise.

I remember once a bin that said "don't open" on the lid. Then of course I opened it. Inside was a frog in plastic. Since it was considerably wet around the bin I had already a clue about what would happen. And the frog did indeed spit water.

I don't think those who pressed this button had any clue about the events to come.

Watch and enjoy.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The use of verbs in action lines

I read this quote, quoted by someone, on Facebook:

“There was a girl who came to me with her first screenplay. It was a good first shot. I gave her some advice. I told her, ‘I want you to go home and take a yellow Marks-A-Lot and highlight every verb in this 120-page screenplay, and then I want you to read them out loud and ask yourself, Can I find a stronger verb.’ Characters should never enter. They should storm in, they should skulk in, they should tremble in. These are the only chances you have to create visual pictures in people’s brains.”

– Larry Ferguson (Beverly Hills Cop II, The Hunt for Red October)

A simple but yet a marvelous good advice. I think you can get far by describing an image with one powerful verb.

I once read that producers dump the script if they read that someone "enters" or "exits" a room. That sounded insane at the time, but come to think of it, lame use of verbs does says something about your overall writing ability if your characters enters and exits instead of marching, boosting, running, jumping and smashing in and out of the locations.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The young, the wise and the thug - three characters all alike

Since my feature scripts have tended to be a little short, I calculated with hundred pages in the progress bar to the left. As I’m now over half-way, I realize his script will probably become a little over a hundred and ten pages. So I have adjusted the calculation of the bar to match this. That is why the progress went backwards a little.

I have considerable flow in my writing, and it feels terrific.

However, when I read what I have written, I find three characters too much alike. There are four male characters in the story, and three of them sound and behave just about the same.

One of them is an older teenager too wise for his age, as it is now. The main character is also a teenager, but she has spent the last three hundred years in another place, so she should have the wisdom of old age. This other youth should have more of the monochrome view of life that is common for young people. He ought to be more naive, and since he is the crown prince he should be eager to show himself worthy and grown-up.

The other male character is the King, who should of course have a lot of experience, but also the laziness of an older man used to a comfortable life controlled by his wish. He should have more of slyness than now; I want him to be a less comfortable person to be around.

The third character should be more of a thug than an honest, reliable man. He is the villain’s right hand. It ought to show. You don’t behave as a gentleman when your master is ruthless. Then you should’ve picked another employer.

On the whole, I think I should be less afraid of creating unlikable characters.

First I’ll finish the first version of the script. Then I’ll go back and do something about these characters.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Escape Room Game is a semi-finalist

I'm happy to announce that my short script Escape Room Game is one of 25 semi-finalists in Canadian Short Screenplay Competition.

I have no idea how long this information has been on the Internet, because I just read it. They sure didn't sent any e-mail, but somehow the hosts of these competitions rarely do.

It seems like I'm the only finalist with other native language than English (if you consider Canada as English-speaking, which I do, even if I know there is French as well).

It is interesting how different it is. I sent the script to three competitions. One it came third. On another it was sorted out in the first round. And now a semi-finalist and its future not yet settled.

I'll check back by the end of April and see if it has moved forwards.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Review: Penzu

I’ve been looking for a way to store ideas. I’ve had notebooks of different sizes over the years and filled them with articles and stuff. Great, except that most of the stuff I want to save is now digital. And though it is fascinating and inspiring to browse through my old notebooks, they are not searchable.

I’ve tried EverNote, but that was very uninspiring. And it was not meant for adding lengths of writing.

Over time I realized that what I needed was a diary. Just like I used to carry a notebook around in previous years. I found Penzu.

At once I realized if I was about to use this service, I needed the pro-version. I needed the option to change background, paper and font, and tagging not to forget; anything else was out of the question. Pro costs $19 for a year.

There is a free version and if you don't mind about the looks and just need a place to write, it works just fine.

The first thing I did was writing an entry reminding myself that I should not use this diary to whine about things. I don’t believe in writing about sad things and when I’m angry. Some people say that by writing they get it out of their bodies. I can’t speak for anybody else but me, but I don’t work that way. What I write stays with me. What I don’t, might in time, leave me. And honestly, isn’t it better to remember the good stuff?

So, now I keep a diary, writing every day, so far; sometimes even more than once. Articles are either PrintScreened and uploaded or linked to (depending on the likelihood that the link will work in the future). If something bad happens, I write about it as a fact, but not dwell on it and certainly not drown it with sorrowful and whining emotions.

Writing every day I think is good, even if it is not on a script. Sometimes I feel a hard time to keep going on the current project, and this just gets worse every day I don’t write. Sometimes I feel I don’t have the time. Writing in the diary is quick and blessedly lacking pressure for quality.

The only thing missing is the option to draw right on the page. Like my garden diary could never fit as a Penzu journal, because I do a lot of drawings (rough plan sketches of what is planted where), and then I would need to scan those and upload them and it becomes too much trouble.

I have not yet tried to use my smartphone for this. Maybe it is possible to take a photo and add it to a new journal entry and then write about it later? I don’t know. Might be useful.