Monday, March 30, 2009

The Writing Week (Vol. 2) part 65 - When Space is King


One of the biggest elements of New York City life is housing. Ask anyone who lives here. New York is one of the few cities I can think of where it’s not only perfectly acceptable and polite, but also expected, that when talking about housing, you ask, “What do you pay per month?” In other cities, that’s an invasion of privacy. In New York, it’s a way of life.

The City is defined by locations and rates – which borough you’re in, and which neighborhood within that borough – affects not only your social calendar, who comes to see you, how long you commute, and what you pay, but also how you live your life. What with nearly 9 million people living in just over 300 square miles, it’s no surprise that housing becomes king. And, for the first time in two years, I found myself among the horde of people searching for a new place to live in the City.

I won’t go into the details of the search – if you’re thinking of moving to New York and have questions, though, please feel free to email
info@screenwritersleague.com and I’ll provide whatever advice I can – other than to say this: I did my apartment search based on how I thought it would affect my writing. Every place we went, I stood in “my” room and looked around, wondering what my writing vibe would be. Will I work here? Does the room lend itself to creativity? Go beyond the bedroom – would I be comfortable writing in the living room? Do I feel that this space mutes my creative drive?

I won’t debate you if you read that and think I’m a bit OCD. A bit “out there.” A bit nuts. Maybe I’m alone in that feeling. Doesn’t mean I can deny it, though. A writer’s space is key. Read enough interviews with writers, and they often talk about needing their desk to be a certain way or their office to meet X, Y, and Z requirements. We’re neurotic by nature, and if we’re not comfortable in our environment, no matter how psychological and avoidable the reaction to that space can be, the creative process can be thrown all out of whack. I was lucky enough to find a new apartment that I not only like, but that I can imagine myself sitting and writing in. I can clearly see myself at my desk in my new room, as well as my new living room.

Thank goodness for a creativity-welcoming apartment.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Trailer Trash XL: Captain Kronos, Vampire Hunter (1974)


"One man dared to take a stand against this evil! One man dared to hurl a challenge of cold steel against the terror of the undead! He was Captain Kronos, Vampire Hunter!"

Many men NEVER dare to hurl a challenge of cold steel against anything. They're barely men at all.

In the late 19th Century, Mark Twain (nee Samuel Clemens) penned several of the most treasured American novels. Nearly 100 years later, his ancestor Brian Clemens tipped the scales back in the favor of terrible by writing and directing the Hammer b-film Captain Kronos, Vampire Hunter.



At 0:10 - Why are so many beautiful maidens taking that shortcut through Vampire Forest? I try not to question B-movie logic, but damn.
At 0:21 - O.J.-vision!
At 0:55 - "Just brushing my hair in front of the mirror... in the middle of Vampire Forest..."
At 1:16 - Bitten on the mouth??!?


"You see? He's been bitten on the mouth!"

Trailer Trash is a weekly tribute to oddball, cheesy and often just plain terrible movie trailers. Writers: These movies got made... so can yours! You can read through our archive by clicking here.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Hollywood...

Italian filmmaker Bernardo Bertulucci referred to it as “the big nipple”. Paul Newman refused to move west, saying he’d be too close to the cookie jar. Having just visited Hollywood a second time, I definitely see what they mean.

LA is a movie town. Its wealthy inhabitants made their fortune in the film industry as artists or as facilitators. Its working class is comprised of commercial actors, television writers, and music video directors. Its other main industries – tabloids, porn – derive from movies.

LA seems like a good place for aspiring screenwriters. At NYU, many professors advocated a post-graduate move. But if we were married to New York City, they would say to establish ourselves in LA first, and then we’d be able to write from anywhere. A manager I met offered a different perspective: “LA, New York… Live where you’re inspired.”

That statement has a lot of resonance. Too often, I consider a potential relocation as a good career move, feeling more able to market myself in Hollywood. I never considered the effect that could have on my writing. Not just in terms of the physical writing, but also being within proximity of The League, my former professors, and good friends…all of which create a great writing environment.

Marketing is secondary to writing something that represents my voice and talent. And as we’ve seen from Juno and Gran Torino - and of course from our newly represented Cakeman - you don’t need to have an address on Sunset Boulevard to get noticed…you just need your address on the title page of a good script. At least that’s what my trip to Hollywood reaffirmed. And it also inspired me to return as soon as possible…via First Class, courtesy of the big nipple.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

What, When, Where this Weekend - The Perfect Sleep, Goodbye Solo, Monsters vs. Aliens

What, When, Where is a weekly guide to select screenings, discussions and events in the NYC-area of interest to screenwriters. Have an event you'd like to see listed here? Give us a heads-up at info@screenwritersleague.com.

- The Cronenberg Retrospective at IFC Center continues. This weekend is my favorite: Videodrome.

- Filmmaker Matt Tyrnauer will be on hand to introduce tonight's screening of The Last Emperor at the Film Forum.

Opening this weekend...

THE PERFECT SLEEP, written by Anton Pardoe, dir. by Jeremy Alter


Premise: Against the backdrop of a noirish dreamscape, a tortured man returns to the city he swore he would never return to, in order to save the woman he has always loved yet can never have.

Playing: Quad Cinemas

A low-budget, comic-book style noir film? I'm all over this.

GOODBYE SOLO, written by Bahareh Azimi & Ramin Bahrani, dir. by Ramin Bahrani


Premise: Two men form an unlikely friendship that will change both of their lives forever.

Playing: Angelika

I've heard very, very little about this one so far, but Time Out's glowing review has me intrigued.

MONSTERS VS. ALIENS, written by Maya Forbes & Wallace Wolodarsky, dir. by Rob Letterman & Conrad Vernon


Premise: After being hit by a meteorite on her wedding day, Susan Murphy is transformed into a monster named Ginormica and subsequently whisked away to a secret government compound where others like her have been rounded up over the years. When the Earth comes under attack by an alien commander known as Gallaxhar, however, Ginormica and her new allies are set free to save the planet.

Playing: Everywhere.

I'm not sick of 3D yet. I have a feeling I will be soon... but not yet.

What are you doing/seeing this weekend?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Torn


Lately I’ve been trudging through one of my worst writing slumps yet. It’s the kind of slump that forces you to sit in front of the computer for hours on end without banging out a meaningful sentence. Stretch that over a period of 3-4 weeks and you know what I’m going through. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that the last bad slump I had was around this time last year, which happens to be one of the busiest stretches for me at work. It’s tough enough to get the pages flowing when you’re mentally exhausted by the time you sit at your computer, but it’s another thing when you’re mentally exhausted and you don’t know which of your ideas you should be working on.

I don’t have a manager just yet to tell me “That idea is great and it’s got current appeal. You should work on that now, I know just the person who would be looking for it.” It’s up to me to reach in and grab one of my ideas, which seem to be constantly shifting their order of potential and priority. Right now I’m torn between writing what I want to write and writing what I need to write. In one hand I have several ideas that are more high concept and big budget in nature. These are the kinds of scripts that I enjoy writing most, especially if I’ve got one that’s historical in nature. They’re my “want to” scripts. In the other hand I have a series of script ideas that are more low budget and contemporary. These are the scripts that I feel like I need to write, largely because they balance out my body of work. Of my scripts that are most industry ready, they are definitely expensive, hard sells. Another reason why I feel like I need to write some of these smaller scripts is that the stories are more personal in nature. There’s more opportunity for me to put first hand emotional experience into the characters in these stories than in the bigger, high concept pieces.

I suppose it could always be worse. I could not even have an idea to choose from. Instead, I have several ideas that I feel are all above average. I just keep going back and forth, struggling through a few pages of one script before having a mini revelation and deciding that the other project is what I should be struggling through. How do you gain momentum when you keep switching creative vehicles? I feel like ultimately I’ll have to abandon one idea and focus my limited energies on the other until things improve and the slump lifts, but there’s still the question as to which one. I’m curious as to what some of you might think of a situation like this.

If you’ve got a distinctly character driven story and a distinctly concept driven story, is there ever one of the two that’s the safest bet? I know that can depend on so many things, but let’s enter the realm of fantasy and say you’ve got the best concept driven story ever and the best character driven story ever, but you can only do one. Which would you choose?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Book Alert – Screen Plays by David S. Cohen

I recently had the great pleasure of reading David S. Cohen’s Screen Plays, which analyzes the paths that 25 recent, yet quite different screenplays took from first draft to screen. While Screen Plays addresses the on and off-set struggles to bring the 25 select screenplays to fruition, detailing the process of getting producers, actors, directors, and studios attached, the central figure in every account is always the screenwriter(s) working on the project. Cohen, an entertainment reporter for both Variety and Script magazine, knows firsthand what writers go through when trying to bring their work to the screen – he spent time as a writer on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

If nothing else, Screen Plays should be hailed as a work of encouragement for emerging writers everywhere. The 25 writers and writing teams profiled often had to battle through studio changeover, a slew of actors and directors getting attached and unattached, and numerous turnarounds in order to stay on their projects and get their movies made. There are a handful of examples of writers that didn’t give up and bore the fruits of their persistence in this book. However, Screen Plays is more than just a proverbial encouraging pat on the back, more than just a reminder of what can come true for those of us who are dedicated to and willing to put work in toward this odd profession.


Though he covers material as diverse as the wildly successful and high-grossing Gladiator to the under-the-radar, largely unknown The Caveman’s Valentine (a novel to screen adaptation that I think I was one of ten people who saw), Cohen manages to weave a coherent narrative throughout the twenty-five case studies. I have to admit how pleasantly surprised I was to see Cohen weave the experience of one writer detailed in the opening chapters of the book into those of another scribe dealing, for example, with completely different material and a much smaller budget later on toward the end of the book. Cohen contrasts the experiences of successful, A-list writers David Franzoni (Gladiator) and David Beinoff (Troy) with those of one-time spec king Shane Black as he tried to sell Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang. What is most interesting in that comparison is how Black abdicated his throne out of disgust for Hollywood, while Franzoni and Beinoff each used their rising status to accomplish what other writers might have never been able to pull off – the high-budget, historical epic. Any writer with hopes of what little bit of power a screenwriter is entitled to in Hollywood will take the comparison and career paths of those three writers to heart, studying them and, hopefully, one day being able to apply the best strategy to his or her own career.

The range of scripts, approaches, and writers that Cohen covers is admirable, a sign of true dedication to creating a wide-reaching image of the industry from a writer’s point of view. In addition to the above mentioned scripts, in little over 300 pages, Cohen manages to paint coherent pictures of the successes and failures of collaborations (Mona Lisa Smile, Witness, and Monster’s Ball to name a few), indie-pictures that made a big splash (Lost in Translation), those that didn’t (A Dirty Shame), foreign films (Hero), and adaptations (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, The Hours, and Evening). He’s not afraid to say when the noble efforts of a writer failed to make a good movie (Random Hearts). And he writes about the movies, gets the writers to open up about them in such a way that while reading, I felt an overwhelming to re-watch the movies in question (American Beauty).

Screen Plays is a great look into the life and work of a working screenwriter. The scribes interviewed are exceedingly honest about what the process of adapting a book, working with a partner, losing a project, or seeing a movie flop or suffer the fate of bad reviews was like. It would behoove any aspiring writer to read this. Learn how to protect your work, or if you’ll be able to. Read about what faith in a project can do and how to get (most) of what you like about a script onto the screen. Experience vicariously what it’s like to be told your picture won’t get a release because of content, or how your masterpiece is way too long and pricey. Find out which battles you’ll have to fight, and which you probably shouldn’t. Screen Plays deserves a spot on any screenwriter’s bookshelf.

Screen Plays
David S. Cohen
342 pages
$15.99
Harper Paperbacks

Before you rush out to buy Screen Plays, email The Screenwriters League. We have five promotional copies of David S. Cohen’s book to give away on a first-come, first-serve basis. To claim your copy, email
info@screenwritersleague.com with “Screen Plays” in the subject heading. Include your name and shipping address. And be sure to subscribe to The Screenwriters League so that you can be notified first about future promotions and giveaways.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Writing Week (Vol. 2) part 64 - Write Badly, It's Good for You


When I was a freshman in NYU’s Dramatic Writing program, my professor said something that was both surprising and enlightening. One of the assignments he used to give, which we weren’t fortunate enough to have time to do, was to write as bad a short script as possible. His theory: setting out to write badly often produced the best work to date, because none of the concerns about turning out a masterpiece are present. The writing becomes unrestrained.

Think about it for a second; it actually makes sense. All too often, I find myself hesitant to put words on the page, lest they be any less than perfect. Writing a first draft is as much about trying to just get the story out as it is about writing a good script, maybe more so. Yet, when I work on drafts, I find it all too easy to obsess about every little detail and derail the writing process, allowing myself to get stuck on small scenes that will probably get cut anyway. I don’t like having to do extensive rewrites, but perhaps it’s best to not set out to write gold every time.

I’m trying the “Write Badly” approach right now. OK, I’m not actively setting out to write a terrible script that could never see a production. What I mean, though, is that I’ve discarded the heavy weights of perfection in favor of a fun, carefree write that will require rewrites later, but will keep me actively working on something now. I’m in between drafts of my Roman army spec and awaiting notes on my post-Apocalyptic spec. I didn’t want to start a new action spec, for fear of triple-stacking myself in that genre right now, which could lead to a blending of projects. Like any committed writer, though, I didn’t want to just sit idly by or allow myself to fall into a slump for lack of projects.

The solution was simple: write the high school comedy I’d been toying with, with no real commitment to quality yet. I needed a cool down period in between projects, but had to keep the muscles moving. Sort of like slowing to a jog or a fast walk between sprints, I wanted to keep exercising, but focus more on maintaining a work ethic than really diving into something serious right now. And I’ll tell you this, I’m really enjoying it. I almost feel like I’m cheating when I come home, write for an hour, and have five coherent pages of something I’m not 100% serious about right now. I’m writing, but it also feels like a break from writing. If you’re stuck in a rut or taking a step back from one project before diving into rewrites or another major project, yet you want to keep active, then maybe this is right for you. Write “badly;” you might like it.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Trailer Trash XXXIX: Varan the Unbelievable (1962)

"The world is amazed by Godzilla and Rodan, but it will be knocked for a ghoul by Varan!"

Right off the bat: what the hell does that tagline even mean? Knocked for a ghoul? Huh?

Whatever. What can you really expect from a generic Godzilla ripoff when your monster looks like this?


Let's narrate that scene. For fun, whenever you read the name of the film's titular character, draw the pronunciation out a bit, like "Varaaaaaaan, the unnnnnbelieeeeeeeeevable!"

FADE IN:

EXT. JAPANESE HARBOR - DAY

Sounds of SCREAMING as VARAN THE UNBELIEVABLE emerges from the cold water.

SAILOR 1
AGGGGGHHH! It's... Varan the Unbelievable! I... I can't believe him!

WOMAN
It looks like some kind of flying squirrel.

SAILOR 1
BUT HE'S GOT A LIZARD FAAAAACE!!!!

WOMAN
I still say squirrel.

They are eaten by the Varan the Unbelievable.

(Ed. Note: If anyone knows a way to properly indent screenplay formatting in blogger, please shoot me an e-mail.)

Anyways, on to the trailer trash:



It seems like whoever edited that trailer was aware how silly Varan looked, and made sure not to show more than the top of his head or a single foot at a time.

Yeesh.


"So AWESOME it will shock you to the core!"

Trailer Trash is a weekly tribute to oddball, cheesy and often just plain terrible movie trailers. Writers: These movies got made... so can yours! You can read through our archive by clicking here.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Writer Spotlight - Aurin Squire


Writer Spotlight is an irregular segment promoting upcoming readings, productions, and screenings of work by emerging writers in New York City. Have one of those coming up that you'd like to let people know about? Email us at info@screenwritersleague.com.


Aurin Squire is a NYC based playwright and webcomic creator. The off-broadway previews of his show begin this week. The show, To Whom It May Concern, is playing for four weeks; tickets are discounted at theatermania.com. You can check out his webcomic, Bodega Ave. here.


Entertainment Agora presents...


To Whom It May Concern
By Aurin Squire
Directed by David Gaard

The only thing a Marine in Afghanistan and a gay teenage boy in Kansas share are two computers, some letters, and a world of lies. That's all it takes to start up a cyber romance. "To Whom It May Concern" is an wireless romantic comedy about sex, scams, and the sordid little lies we tell for love.

Limited Engagement (March 19th-April 12) Thurs-Sun @ 8pm
Arclight Theatre
152 w. 71st St.

Theatermania.com for discount tickets
or 212.352.1303 or 866.811.4111

What, When, Where this Weekend - Sin Nombre, Hunger, I Love You, Man

What, When, Where is a weekly guide to select screenings, discussions and events in the NYC-area of interest to screenwriters. Have an event you'd like to see listed here? Give us a heads-up at info@screenwritersleague.com.

Opening this week...

SIN NOMBRE, written and directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga


Premise: Sayra, a Honduran teenager, and Willy, a recent recruit in the Mara Salvatrucha gang, both dream of better lives for themselves, and a fateful event will find the two strangers united on a freight train bound for the U.S., where the hope for new lives await.

Playing: Landmark Sunshine, Lincoln Plaza Cinemas

The early buzz around this reminds me a bit of what Slumdog was receiving early on. Let's see if it meets the same success.


HUNGER, written by Steve McQueen and Enda Walsh, dir. by Steve McQueen


Premise: The last six weeks of the life of the Irish republican hunger striker Bobby Sands.

Playing: IFC Center

I'm most interested in seeing this for once scene: a 20-minute dialogue shot in only two takes, described by Time Out New York as "probably the greatest one-act play ever filmed."


I LOVE YOU, MAN, written by John Hamburg and Larry Levin, dir. by John Hamburg


Premise: Friendless Peter Klaven goes on a series of man-dates to find a Best Man for his wedding. But when his insta-bond his new B.F.F. puts a strain on his relationship with his fiancée can the trio learn to live happily ever after?

Playing: All over.

Paul Rudd, Jason Segel? I'm in. Let's just hope this can avoid all of the tired Apatow-isms that seem to be almost required in comedies these days.

What are you doing/seeing this weekend?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Have the Cake and Eat It


This week my boyfriend is out of town for spring break. It is Day 3 in Fort Productive Solitude, and I'm going nuts. There's not enough time. There just isn't. I had made a lofty goal of pounding out 30 pages in 4 days (I'm going out of town for the weekend), and it almost seemed possible, but for the other to-dos that I ALSO vowed to do now that I have time (time! precious little time!). Wash the shower curtain, change sponges, scrub the bathroom, dust the bookshelf, go to the gym. Cook. Clean. Laundry. Why won't dishes go away? Why every time I eat there're more? There must be a better way to appease the sink. Blood sacrifice? Salt and holy water? On Monday I finished the new beginning to the fantasy script I've been working on, then added another page, then cut 2 pages. Tuesday I started the new script I've been plotting. Wrote 3 pages (only! Only 3 pages!!), then woke up at 2 in the morning and wrote 4 more pages before I realize that I'm not in college anymore and need sleep to function at work. And now, Wednesday! Cruel Wednesday marking the half way point of this week. And soon I will sink back into the swamp of blissful, mindless, happy, oblivion of LOW PRODUCTIVITY.

Onyx once compared writing while in a relationship to cheating on your girlfriend. I think I laughed. I now weep in misery. I suck at cheating. I've tried writing around said boyfriend, behind said boyfriend, blatantly in front of said boyfriend. It's useless. I wrote 10 pages at most in the past month. While he also desperately wants to study for his exam, we are like two people who decided to have an open relationship, but only cruise the bars half heartedly. An hour a day is just not enough for me.

I look back at my life 2 years ago, when I was at the height of writing productivity. I didn't work out, I didn't go out, my food were mostly bought or frozen, yet somehow dirty dishes would pile out the sink onto the counter and eventually the floor. I was quite convinced I was going to die alone in the woods with cats. At the absolute highest/lowest point, there were mice in my apartment and all I did was break off the part of food that I found chew marks, and eat the rest. My cowriter at the time saw this and pointed it out to me. I couldn't figure out what the hell was his problem. If he didn't want my food just leave it. I could do 30 pages in a week back then. I don't miss that kind of life. But I do.

How on earth do people eat a healthy balance of vegetable and protein, cuddle, and actually write daily?

Rick Moranis, where are you?

I've actually been wondering that myself a lot lately...

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Screenwriter Millard Kaufman Dies


From Imdb.com.


Mr. Magoo Co-creator Dies
17 March 2009 5:15 AM, PDT

The Oscar-nominated screenwriter who co-created the cartoon character Mr. Magoo has passed away.

Millard Kaufman was 92 when he died of heart failure on Saturday in Los Angeles.

Kaufman first conceived the short-sighted, clumsy Mr. Magoo with animator John Hubley for their 1949 theatrical short Ragtime Bear.

That film was a box office success, and the co-creators subsequently handed over the series to director Pete Burness, who won two Oscars with the 1955 film When Magoo Flew and 1956's Magoo's Puddle Jumper.

Kaufman later went on to write the World War II boot camp drama Take The High Ground, which earned him a Best Original Screenplay Academy Award nomination in 1954; his second Oscar nod came for his Western film Bad Day At Black Rock two years later.

He also tried his hand at penning novels, publishing his first effort Bowl Of Cherries in 2007. His second novel Misadventure will be released posthumously this autumn.

Kaufman is survived by Lorraine, his wife of 66 years, two daughters, a son and seven grandchildren.

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Writing Week (Vol. 2) part 63 - All the Little Things


Things add up. That's one of the things I love most about writing. What's the saying, "the truth is in the details?" For me, the joy is in the details, the little details that on their own, mean little or nothing, but together, can be monumental. This week wasn't "productive" by page count standards. But I'd still consider it one of the more productive weeks I've had this year.

Not to jinx myself (knock on wood, spin three times in a circle, and cross my fingers), but I've recently found myself quite busy. I finished a draft of the Roman-army spec recently, and have to tackle the re-writes for that, since I have a friend at a reputable production company who wants to read it. That same friend also read my post-Apocalyptic spec and really likes it. With a little work, she thinks it could actually go somewhere. And, finally, I had a chance encounter with someone who knows a producer looking for big budget comedies. I happened to have an idea for a comedy (and little more than that at the time), so I emailed the producer who said he'd call when he's back in town. Top it off with an enthusiastic call I had from a family friend whose daughter is a producer and who screens material submitted to her, and it was a good busy week.

Now, I know that any or all of this could fall through at a moment's notice (or without notice, really). I also know that a lot of people would have considered it foolish to email a producer about a film that was nothing more than a basic idea, which ended when the logline stopped. On the flip side, I know that this is a business where every little thing counts, and every opportunity has to be taken advantage of, especially at the beginning of someone's career. Sort of the "leave no stone unturned" approach to breaking in. As new writers, we have to adopt that philosophy. Plenty of scripts are purchased when they're still just ideas; if you ask me, if you have a chance to take an idea somewhere (as long as you can and will develop it), do so. I even know of instances where people send queries about projects they haven't even begun working on just to judge interest in them. I don't know if I'd go so far as to support that, but I do think it's worth pursuing any lead you have.

The "little things" like these, leads and chance encounters that haven't born fruit yet, but can maybe turn into something, are just another part of writing. I'm sure we can all cite examples of a time when a little breakthrough (a character's motivation in this scene, a line of dialogue that makes something work, a sub-plot ironed out) might seem insignificant to anyone else, but to you, are huge, productive, commendable accomplishments. I hope I'm not jinxing myself (my writing-related superstition is massive) when I say that I'm riding high and hopeful off of these little things this week.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Trailer Trash XXXVIII: Over The Top (Sylvester Stallone, 1987)

"Some fight for money. Some fight for glory. He's fighting for his son's love."

From the producer of Desert Kickboxer and American Cyborg: Steel Warrior comes a movie where Sylvester Stallone is a trucker who arm-wrestles his way into his son's heart.


[Ed. note: One of the best posters ever.]

Ladies and gentlemen, Over the Top:



Hey, did anyone think this movie looks a little... heh... OVER THE TOP???

.snort.

Heh, heh... heh... hahaahahahaHAHAHAHAHAHAHA HA HA HA

Ha, ha.... ugh.

Sorry, you saw that one coming, didn't you?

This movie had some of the best marketing to ever grace this Trailer Trash column:


Check out that VHS cover blurb!

"Rocky, Rambo, Cobra. And now Hawk, in the biggest fight of his life."

Three of those are names of iconic Stallone characters. Pick which one doesn't belong. (Hint: It's the one they put in bold type.)

Between this tagline and the one on the poster at the top of this column, it seems like the thing the filmmakers were most proud of was coming up with the name "Hawk".


"His name is Hawk. He's fighting for his son."

Trailer Trash is a weekly tribute to oddball, cheesy and often just plain terrible movie trailers. Writers: These movies got made... so can yours! You can read through our archive by clicking here.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

What, When, Where this Weekend - Severed Ways, Tokyo Sonata, Last House on the left, Sunshine Cleaning

What, When, Where is a weekly guide to select screenings, discussions and events in the NYC-area of interest to screenwriters. Have an event you'd like to see listed here? Give us a heads-up at info@screenwritersleague.com.

Opening this week...

SEVERED WAYS, written and directed by Tony Stone


Premise: In the 11th century, Vikings, Indians, and Irish monks collide on the shores of North America in a historical epic adventure of exploration, personal glory, and religious dominance. Abandoned by a Western exploration party and stranded in the New World, two lone Vikings wade through a grand primeval landscape, struggling for survival while still in the grip of their Norse ways.

Playing at: Angelika

If the premise doesn't sound knock-you-on-your-ass awesome enough, this movie has a black metal soundtrack by Burzum, Morbid Angel, Judas Priest and Dimmu Borgir. This has the potential to be the most metal movie ever filmed.

A DIY-Viking Epic? I'm in. Oh, lord, I am so in.

TOKYO SONATA, written by Kiyoshi Kurosawa and Max Mannix, dir. by Kiyoshi Kurosawa


Premise: An ordinary Japanese family slowly disintegrates after its patriarch loses his job at a prominent company.

Playing: IFC Center, Lincoln Plaza

One of the best-reviewed movies opening this week, and I really enjoyed the director's previous horror films Pulse and Cure. I'll check this one out.

LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, written by Adam Alleca and Carl Ellsworth, dir. by Dennis Iliadis


Premise: After kidnapping and brutally assaulting two young women, a gang led by a prison escapee unknowingly finds refuge at a vacation home belonging the parents of one of the victims -- a mother and father who devise an increasingly gruesome series of revenge tactics.

Playing: All over.

A remake of Wes Craven's Last House on the Left, which was a pseudo-remake of Ingmar Bergman's The Virgin Spring. The original was pretty brutal and hard to watch - I'm curious whether they'll change enough in this version to make it worth remaking.

SUNSHINE CLEANING, written by Megan Holley, dir. by Christine Jeffs



Premise: Industrious single mother Rose Lorkowski starts an unusual business in order to send her son to a private school; alongside her unreliable sister, the two women enter the world of biohazard removal and crime scene clean-ups.

Playing: Loews Lincoln Square, Landmark Sunshine

I'm intrigued by the idea alone. There's a lot of potential dark comedy in it, but this'll likely wait for the DVD release...

What are you doing/seeing this weekend?

Tullio Pinelli, frequent Fellini co-screenwriter, 1908 - 2009

Screenwriter Tullio Pinelli has passed away at the age of 100.

Pinelli collaborated on screenplays with Federico Fellini for decades, with screen credits on many of my favorites of his films, including Nights of Cabiria, La Strada, 8 1/2 and La Dolce Vita. He had a long, healthy career, with more than 80 film scripts to his name.

The New York Times obituary can be found here.

Very sad news indeed.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Writing Wire for 3/11: Hamartia, Screenwriter's Block, Lesbian Vampire Killers, Boob, Eerie Horror Fest, Cheap Two-year-olds


- Do you know your what protagonist's hamartia is? Or even what hamartia is at all? Unknown Screenwriter can fill you in.

- Does 'Screenwriter's Block" exist? The WGGB doesn't seem to think so. Danny Stack gives his take.

- Film School Rejects gives a run-down of must-see indie movies playing at this year's South by Southwest Festival. There are plenty of movies I'm interested in checking out - the list includes movies titled Lesbian Vampire Killers and Make-Out with Violence. NOW you're clicking. (Also, the trailer for SXSW short Boob. Has to be seen to be believed.)

- MTV Movies Blog has an interview with Jonathan Demme about not making Rachel Getting Married "too entertaining." The movie (one of my favorites of 2008) hit DVD this week, so add it to your Netflix queue if you've been lagging.

- A 3-D Re-Animator movie?! Only if Jeffrey Combs is involved.

- Wes Craven talks to the Onion about remaking his horror classics The Hills Have Eyes and Last House on the Left three decades later.

- Speaking of horror movies: the Eerie Horror Fest has opened their call for entries for the 2009 Horror Screenplay competition.

- In an open letter to Hardcore Nerdity, Watchmen screenwriter David Hayter asks fans to see the movie again.

- John Woo is shooting a Stranglehold movie as a followup to his classic Hard Boiled. The movie will be a remake of a videogame that was a sequel to a movie. I know that blew Cake Man's mind already.

- In non-movie news, there's a two-year-old girl for sale on Xbox Live. (Thanks, Lokor!)

Monday, March 09, 2009

The Writing Week (Vol. 2) part 62 - Writing Momentum


There's something that we've talked about indirectly here a lot, something that keeps us moving forward at a healthy pace, but once it's lost, it's hard to regain. That, my friends, is momentum. Just like in physics, I believe that there is a momentum for writers. You know when you have it, and when you don't.

On Tuesday of last week, I got notes from the League on my first draft of my Roman-army spec. And there were a LOT of notes. To give you some background, this particular project is one that about half of the League had major trouble conceiving of when I first outlined it. They thought there were major plot holes, huge character problems, and that I failed to get from A to B. All this based on a semi-coherent outline written more for my guidance than for theirs. nonetheless, they had some big concerns.

On Tuesday, all the doubters admitted that they were pleasantly and genuinely surprised - I hadn't written a perfect draft, but I proved to them that what I wanted to do was possible. As far as the responsibilities of a first draft, I had done what I needed to do. Yet, there was a flip-side to that; I had a great deal of work ahead of me, work that would change the tone and massive structural points of my script. In an effort to wrap my head around everything, I lost momentum on the project.

Writing momentum is something amazing, something great, and something psychologically terrifying, because the last thing in the world we want to do is lose it. I'm sure you've experienced it. You're working consistently, banging out a solid draft, when you miss one day of writing or take some time off in between drafts or any other number of things that cause you to immediately cool down. It's not a good feeling. Getting back to the computer gets harder with each day you're away from it. The only real cure seems to be to force yourself to sit down and wait it out, staring at the blinking cursor until you manage to get rolling again.

Well, on Friday, I found something out. I was at a meeting for work, typing away like a madman, taking minutes for five straight hours. As I sat there, fingers clicking over keys, I began visualizing the changes needed to improve my script, and I had the desire to run home and begin to make those changes. Maybe it was the fact that my mind was wandering by the time hour four of note-taking rolled around, maybe it was the beginning of the sickness that sent me home from work five hours early today, maybe I just had an epiphany, coincidentally, at that time. Whatever it was, the mere act of such frantic typing got my mind working, thrusting me into my script once more as if I had hit my stride and couldn't get my thoughts out fast enough. It's strange, but maybe the cure to a loss of writing momentum is frantic writing about something unrelated to your script
.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Remembering Heath Ledger

I was very happy when Heath Ledger won the Oscar for The Dark Knight. Yeah, it was a shoe-in since the film’s premiere, but it was still a great to hear his name announced. His untimely death made the already-high expectations of his Joker difficult to live up to…and he exceeded them. The quirky mannerisms, the voice, the petrifying stare: he created one of the great villains in movie history (bettering Hollywood icon Jack Nicholson in the process) and was properly recognized for his achievement.

But The Dark Knight will not be his Rebel Without a Cause, the film that defined James Dean and engrained his effeminate male “cool” into America’s psyche. That distinction goes to his portrayal of Ennis Del Mar in Brokeback Mountain.

I have to admit, I really had no interest in seeing Brokeback when it first came out. The trailer made it look campy: a rocky love triangle involving Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Michelle Williams that involved slaps to the face and melodramatic lines with the inspirational theme from Shawshank in the background. It seemed like kitsch.

I was dragged to see it in theatres; afterwards, I decided Heath Ledger was my favorite actor of my generation.

It’s an injustice to simplify the movie as a gay love story. It’s really not a love story, as it’s about a man who lacks the ability to love. The story shows how this inflicts collateral damage upon his daughters, his ex-wife, and the love of his life, Jack.

But he is also pained, even though the story provides little dialogue or action to substantiate such. It’s all Heath Ledger. He rarely smiles. When he talks, he barely opens his mouth. When he parts from Jack, though Jack looks in his rear-view mirror and cries, Ledger only slumps his shoulders and walks away. He doesn’t even engage people with his eyes. He’s an enigma, and not even Jack can open him up.

The performance personifies Heath Ledger, the actor. William Goldman wrote that the problem with modern Hollywood is that there is no mystery behind our movie stars. Ledger was never a YouTube sensation, was never involved in a stupid arrest, was never one to grace the cover of US Weekly. He was a handsome movie star who remained shy and quiet. He was Hollywood’s next pretty-boy in Ten Things I Hate About You and A Knight’s Tale, who turned down the big paychecks for movies he wanted to do.

It gave me hope when he landed the role of the Joker. It was the most coveted role in Hollywood, sought after by ever young male in the game. But it went to the guy who would not conform; the guy who became a star by following his heart.

He won the Oscar for playing a destructive psychopath. I wish he had won for Brokeback as well. It would have been fitting for Ledger and would have been another example of his affect on Hollywood: a soft-soft spoken role wins over a charismatic character with an accent.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Trailer Trash XXXVII: Clownhouse (1988)

"The clowns... The clowns, Randy... they're here..."

Fear of clowns is a pretty common phenomena that can be easily explained: clowns are f***ing scary. Clownhouse is a movie that UNDERSTANDS that. If you want to scare someone, you don't necessarily need a good script, believable actors or haunting set pieces. All you need is clowns.



Everyone falls into one of these four categories: 1) People who don't mind clowns, but don't seek them out. 2) People who would rather be dead than be locked in a room with a clown. 3) Juggalos. 4) Clowns.

Which one are you?


"All this clowning around is about to come to an end!"


Trailer Trash is a weekly tribute to oddball, cheesy and often just plain terrible movie trailers. Writers: These movies got made... so can yours! You can read through our archive by clicking here.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Competition Alert - Dentyne "Realationships" Playwright Contest



Hi all, sorry this one is so last minute, but we just dug this up. If you have some time to write a 10-minute play this weekend, it's worth checking out.


The Dentyne "Realationships" Playwrights Contest?

Dentyne® and Manhattan Theatre Club (MTC), a leading not-for-profit professional theatre company which produces plays and musicals on and off-Broadway, are supporting the original face-to-face entertainment form by inviting budding playwrights from across the country to write short plays about sustaining personal relationships in the age of technology - all for a chance to have their works performed by professional actors in front of a live audience in New York City!

Who Can Enter?
The contest is open to all other amateur playwrights who are legal residents of the 50 US states and DC and who are 18 years of age or older at time of entry.

Entry Requirements & Timeline
Entrants must submit original, two-person plays that take place in a contemporary setting on the theme of sustaining personal relationships in the age of technology. One grand-prize winner will be chosen in the general public contest to receive a $7,500 prize plus a trip to New York City to have his/her play produced and performed live by MTC!

Click
here for more information.


Good luck!

Thursday, March 05, 2009

What, When, Where this Weekend - Watchmen, 12, Phoebe in Wonderland

What, When, Where is a weekly guide to select screenings, discussions and events in the NYC-area of interest to screenwriters. Have an event you'd like to see listed here? Give us a heads-up at info@screenwritersleague.com.


WATCHMEN, written by David Hayter and Alex Tse, dir. by Zack Snyder



Premise: Set in an alternate vision of the year 1985, the murder of an ex-superhero causes a vigilante named Rorshach to look into the matter, an investigation that reunites him with his surviving old colleagues -- all of them former superheroes themselves -- and gradually unveils a conspiracy with links to their shared past and catastrophic consequences for the future.

Playing: Everywhere.

This one doesn't need an introduction - promos for this one have been absolutely everywhere.

I saw it. Loved it. That's coming from a big fan of the graphic novel - I'd recommend reading that first, if you haven't already.

12, written by Nikita Mikhalkov and Vladimir Moiseyenko, dir. by Nikita Mikhalkov



Premise: Twelve jurors must decide the fate of a Chechen teenager charged with murdering his stepfather.

Playing: Film Forum

I just saw the trailer for this one. Looks like a remake of Twelve Angry Men with - wait - is that an explosion? A knife fight?

I'm intrigued.

PHOEBE IN WONDERLAND, written & directed by Daniel Barnz


Premise: Confounded by her clashes with the seemingly rule-obsessed world, a little girl seeks enlightenment from her unconventional drama teacher.

Playing: The Angelika

The premise (taken from IMDB, however much that's worth) doesn't make the movie sound like what this Time Out review makes it out to be: a drama about a little girl at the onset of Tourette's. Not sure if that impression is correct, but I'm more interested in the latter film.

What are you doing/seeing this weekend?

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

The League Interviews - Filmmaker David Spaltro


The League recently had the pleasure of speaking with independent filmmaker David Spaltro, who recently completed his first feature film, ...Around. ...Around, a "love-letter to the City of New York" follows Doyle Simms from his turbulent New Jersey home to homelessness in Manhattan as he attends film school. Though living in Penn Station and attending school by day, Doyle develops an odd sense of both home and family with the colorful people he meets over his college career, including Saul, a homeless man who shows Doyle the ropes, and the beautiful, aspiring actress Allyson. ...Around is a commendable first effort by writer-director Spaltro, who shared some of his experiences and thoughts on making the film with the League.



David, thanks for taking some time to talk with The Screenwriters League about your feature film, ...Around. To kick things off, why don't you tell us a bit about your background as a filmmaker - where you went to school, what got you interested in making movies, basically where it all began for you.

I moved to NYC to attend the School of Visual Arts film program in the summer of 2001. I think I'd always been interested in storytelling and after gravitating away from fine arts and graphic novels I'd taken up both theater arts and a communications program at my high-school. I sort of got the best of both worlds education, and then coming to SVA and seeing how much of a collaborative effort Cinema was, how much was involved and the scope of what you could achieve with it, as well as being exposed to all kind of films I'd never seen before I think I really fell in love with the idea of film being a medium I wanted to communicate in.


OK. So, ...Around. This is based on your own personal experiences, right? What inspired you to write the script, and when did you decide to actually go the next step and make it into a feature length film? Was it a difficult decision or something you knew had to be done?

I actually fought against it in a weird way. After I graduated with some other personal stuff I was really burned out and left the country to go backpacking and working through Europe and then, after a few months back working odd jobs, I took a job teaching English in Korea. It was there, locked in my room during a monsoon season that I was able to write "...Around". I had been telling all these "NY Stories" while abroad, but I never thought I had an interesting concept for a film or that anyone else would deem worthy of viewing. It took Ulli Gruber, a good friend and former classmate of mine, over a cup of coffee to convince me to try and take my own personal experiences and work them into a script. Once I started it just poured out.


What is your writing process like? How long did it take for this to become a full-blown screenplay? Do you use a particular writing software? Is there music you listen to while writing? Any writing quirks you think helped you to complete the script?

I don't have a process so much as I just sit down and write. I usually have a concept and general idea of the story, but I don't block out character arcs or acts or write random scenes down. I usually just keep writing until it's all out, which usually conceives a far too long first draft. But, seeing as all first drafts need to be reworked immensely, I find to save the editing for after you've banged it out to be most helpful. If you're editing as you write down your first words, things change too much or it takes far longer. The first draft should be feeling, but that's not everyone's method. Though I use Final Draft to write the script and edit, as it's much cleaner and helpful for rewriting and formatting, I used to love writing a first draft by hand on legal ledger pads. Kind of archaic, but there was something about just letting the wrist move and energy go. I do listen to music, all the time, especially when I'm writing. Sometimes depending on the scene or the kind of project, it will dictate the playlist. When I was writing "...Around" I think I played a lot of The National, Broken Social Scene, and Rolling Stones.


As you know, The League's mission is to detail the work of aspiring filmmakers from the ground up, so can you talk a bit about how you went about developing this film from the get-go? What did you do first to get the ball rolling?

Once I had a draft of the script I started showing it around to friends, classmates, and actors I knew. It was originally going to be just something I'd do, almost like a workshop, very low budget and just running around with my friends. But people really enjoyed the script, even when they had notes to give to tighten and make it flow better. They saw a bigger promise and I thought I should go around and try and get it financed and make it the way it should be made.


Can you tell our readers how you went about raising funds for the film? What sort of budget were you working with on this film and how in the world did you manage it? Was there anything unexpected that you wish you'd seen coming in terms of budgeting?

I'd never raised money for a film before and while there are a bunch of established ways, like anything, there is no one way to do it. I knew that the easiest way to get money was to have a name actor attached to the script because a production company would see, at least commercially, a viable way to get their investment back. So I started cold writing agents and mangers through a free two-week IMDBPro trial. I got a lot of great response from both companies and actors reps about the script, but the companies wanted the name attached in a document before any money was promised and the reps wanted money in escrow before they committed. It was a catch 22 I tried to finagle around but the upcoming writer's strike and possible (still to this day) SAG strike made reps very nervous and everyone got booked fast. It was then I realized I'd have to finance it myself so I broke out the 40 credit cards. The hardest part is when you get into post and maybe need some more sound work, or in our case after our original sound guy did a shoddy job, a whole new mix that you find you’re out of funds. That's one thing to raise more, but if you're juggling numerous credit card bills it can be an almost impossible nightmare.


There are a lot of characters in this film, many of which have speaking rolls. What was the casting process like? The same with locations; you shot in a lot (and we mean A LOT) of places. How did you go about securing the ability to film in all of them, or did you? Is there anything about having so many actors and locations you'd like to share?

Definitely broke a cardinal rule of low budget filmmaking by writing in so many scenes and so many locations. The easiest thing to do is Reservoir Dogs and set it all in a warehouse or Clerks and put it all in a convenience store. But I was also trying to make a calling card for myself so I didn't want to do a conventional one location thing. I knew the story had scope and it's NYC so you need to show it, that's one of the main characters also. Luckily Lee Gillentine, our producer, hired a bunch of great art department and crew that built locations in the same places overnight and also got many sites permitted or worked out deals to shoot in several locations all over NY. I think we were averaging three locations a day, which to do one location move a day on a big budget shoot is a lot. I think it kept us on our toes, and there was sort of a do or die kinetic energy that we carried in. I definitely wouldn't recommend it unless you've got the incredible support I did.


Alright, so with all that out of the way, you went into shooting. How many days did you shoot and what was the process like? Who helped you plan everything and set the schedules? What was the worst thing about shooting? The best?

We had 21 shooting days out of 26 production days from September 2nd-28th 2007. Lee Gillentine was our line producer who did the budget and the hired and the crew and wrote a tentative schedule, but we'd been working with a few people that screwed up some permits and the shoot plan had to be revamped so our AD Grant Simone took over while Lee and a few PAs went about making sure the permits went through and other office tasks. Grant really came in and helped save the day a lot on set, kept everyone moving and kept thinking outside the box to achieve the day we needed to achieve. I think the salt of any great director is having a solid AD, especially on a hectic low-budget shoot like ours. I think running out of time to get everything we would have liked to get may have been the harder part of the shoot, but the best feeling in the world was being on that set with all those great people in front of the camera and behind it. I don't think I've ever felt more at home then on that set. I miss them all dearly.


You directed and wrote ...Around, so can you talk a bit about you the writer versus you the director? Did anything change from page to screen for you? Were there other people whose feedback you relied heavily upon?

Sometimes, especially when it's personal, I believe you can be too close to the material. I think as director and writer, though, I had control of the vision I wanted. I could do a rewrite on set or if something fell-through alter it as needed. I was also constantly polishing up the script as I was rehearsing with Rob Evans and Molly Ryman so I'd be able to alter and add the character a bit towards what they did improv in rehearsals or to their own characteristics. I also had a lot of great notes from different individuals I respected and had worked for that helped me shape and shave the script into the tighter shooting version we worked with.


Is there anything you would like to say to all of our readers who are thinking of shooting their own feature films? Any advice or cautionary tales?

I think if it's something you want to do and you love it there is no cautionary tale I could tell you that would stop you from doing it. At the end of the day, if you're passionate about your story and wanted to tell it you'll do it on a cell phone camera, which I would have if it came down to it. Just be honest with yourself and if you take the plunge then enjoy it and tell the story you want to tell. Don't sidestep that. Surround yourself with good people; it'll make the experience and end product all the better.


So what's next, both for ...Around and for you?

"...Around is currently on the festival circuit and working with Cinetic Rights Management a division of Cinetic Media on forms of digital distribution. We're also working on a tie-in soundtrack and have been approached by some distribution houses on a small theatrical run. I'm finishing up a script, "Things I Don't Understand", that I'd like to make my next directorial feature and bring in Molly Ryman, Marcel Torres, and Ali Tobia. I'm also working on a few scripts to put on the market for selling and am in talks about working on a pilot for an "...Around" television show that's gotten some interest. It would give a little more insight in Doyle's four years in NYC and several other characters.

Look for updates on both David and
...Around at www.aroundthefilm.com.

The Collaboration: Why The Ship Sank


About six months ago, Cake Man, Zombie, and I decided that we wanted to collaborate on a script. We were pretty gung-ho about it, and it wasn't long before we were exchanging ideas and nominating three concepts from a list of fourteen ideas that spanned several genres. The plan was to have this featured segment where I would report on our weekly successes and failures with the project. It was going to be informative, and hopefully inspiring. Half a year later and all I have to report on is why I think the project didn't work.

I'd first like to mention why I think collaborating is important, even though I have little experience with it. In my circle of writers we mostly envision a career where the concept is born in our mind, put to page by our hand, and sold with our name alone. The fantasy might be something along the lines of getting a call from an agent and finding out that two studios are in a bidding war for your script. Rarely do we fantasize about being commissioned to write an idea that isn't our own, or better the pages that another scribe already wrote, which is the more common reality of a working screenwriter. Collaboration is only a part of the equation, but I think you have to be trusting, flexible, and more detached than you normally would be with your own project because you don't have sole ownership. It's the flexibility that I'm most interested in, because looking at myself and my friends, I wonder how many of us could succeed if a concept was suddenly dropped on our table and we HAD to write that and not one of the ideas that we'd been toiling with in our heads for years. I don't think we'd manage very well, at least not right now. But the more versatile we are the easier it would be, and I certainly think collaborations could help in that regard.

So what happened with our project? The first thing that comes to mind (no particular order of significance) is the script concept. Not to say that we didn’t have a solid idea. We spent several meetings making sure that the concept was right for a first time collaboration and that we weren’t going to be using fluff for a first go. If we nailed the script we wanted it to be something we could push. The one thing about the script idea was that it was a balanced creature, designed to be manageable for different writers with varying interests and styles. We were all interested in giving it a go, but I think we lacked the sheer excitement that comes with starting a new script of our own. We didn’t absolutely have to write it like Cake Man had to write his Post-Apocalyptic spec, or like how I had to write my Action/Horror Western. The idea felt just right for all three of us, but not absolutely right, which I think it needed to be, especially given our differences as writers.

The question has to be brought up as to just how compatible the three of us were as collaborative writers. I’ll admit that between our trio there are some major differences in terms of style and interests. Sometimes Zombie and I seem a world apart, while Cake Man is more of the bridge. On paper we probably don’t amount to the ideal writing team, but part of me has to believe that as three trained writers we can successfully collaborate on a screenplay despite differences. A script is so skeletal, and though our time at NYU saw screenwriting students hone their creative abilities in different ways, our technical abilities were being developed the same. I anticipated that we’d be able to lay a functional foundation, and scratch and claw over the layers that we put over it. Unfortunately we never got that far. In Cake Man’s latest writing week he discussed the possibility of writing becoming a chore. I think the collaboration was a bit of a chore for all of us and several factors contributed to that, one of the most significant being the blessing of a steady 9 to 5.

Employment, as beautiful as it is in our current time definitely played a role in terminating the collaboration. But whereas the idea and our level of excitement may change, the reality is the factor of our day job will always be there (fingers crossed) through personal projects and collaborations until we find greater success as writers. It's something that just about all writers will have to deal with. In the end it boils down to our discipline and determination outweighing the fatigue of a 9 to 5 and other obligations. Our discipline was there with room for improvement, but the determination to get the job done faded fast.

2009 is still young and I hope that by year’s end I’ll be able to log some collaboration time. I expect that Cake Man and Zombie have their eyes set on round two as well. Even if it’s just pulling hairs over a first act, or simply banging out a few sub-par pages, it’s still a start, and writing tends to have that snowball effect where all you need is a start. I'm determined to give this process a go again, and I'll admit that it got the better of me as I'm sure it has many writers. What are your collaboration experiences like? Do you think it’s necessary, or even worthwhile?

Monday, March 02, 2009

The Writing Week (Vol. 2) part 61 - Should Writing be a Chore?


Well, after figuring out how to finish my draft last week, all I had to do this week was actually write the rest of it. First drafts are a love/hate thing in my opinion - you either love them or you hate them. And, I find, whatever that initial reaction is usually flip-flops later. I've had first drafts that I thought were smashing, only to be confronted with their complete lack of coherent structure as feedback started coming in on them. On the other hand, I've written drafts that seemed to be little better than a waste of ink, paper, and time. These often go over really well with those I seek notes from.

I'm terrible at judging my own writing much of the time, so all I can say for sure is that the first draft of my Roman-army spec is probably, I think, most likely somewhere in between. It was, at times, an excruciating write. Other times it was fun and quite enjoyable. I've gotten some preliminary feedback from a couple Leaguers and the gone but not forgotten LoKor (yes, he's alive!). Of the three, two think that the draft is solid and just a few tweaks and cuts from being ready to go out. Mystery man number three, though, believes that there's work to be done. A LOT of work. I guess I'll find out tomorrow at our next meeting, and see for myself.

Working on this draft, though, has raised an interesting question for me - should writing feel like a chore? I read a lot of interviews with writers who make it seem as though writing is the last thing in the world that they want to do. Some go to extreme lengths to make sure that they put words down on the page at some point during their day (or week) no matter how much they are loathe to do so. Writing, for a number of writers, is worse than a chore; sometimes it is torturous. I have to ask - how can this be? Maybe I'm fortunate enough that I enjoy writing and get pissy when I don't do it one day; and yes, I've had days when I really can't focus on my work. The blank page just stays blank. But should it ever seem that daunting that we do anything possible to avoid it?

There are a number of ways of looking at writing, I suppose. Writing is a hobby, writing is a job, or, if you're lucky, writing is a bit of both. I'm not making money as a writer at the moment, but I acknowledge that, at least now, it is my career. I would not pursue it if I did not enjoy sitting down to work on a script before and after work each day. If I didn't get excited at the thought of a new idea or a new project, I don't see how I could ever get myself to stare at another blank first page. Perhaps it's because I haven't yet made money writing that I like doing it so much - I haven't been exposed to the ugly side of the business, haven't had a project taken away from me and can only go up from here. Because I haven't broken into the industry yet, I am left alone to still look forward to doing my writing on my own terms. Either way, it's an odd thought. Should writing be a chore? Is it for you?