Monday, February 23, 2009

The Writing Week (Vol. 2) part 60 - Cracking the Ending and Writing for A Sequel

I should have finished my first draft of the Roman-army spec this morning, but my sleep cycle was off. These past few weeks, I've been waking up at 7:30 (an hour before I used to) to get a writing session in before work. That way, if I find myself detoured by drinks after work, I don't have to worry about the day being a total loss (that happened more often than I'd like. Ask Zombie. Or Onyx). This morning, though, I woke up in the middle of the night and tossed and turned for two hours before falling asleep again at 7. Probably should have gotten up and started typing, but the brain just wasn't working.

Regardless, I'll wrap it tonight. Usually, I go into a script knowing how it will end. (John August recently had an interesting post about deciding which project to write. His advice: write the one with the best ending, as it's the one you've thought out the most.) There's something about knowing where you have to get in your spec that guides the writing process from the very beginning, even if you know little in between. I find it helps to know what that last image will be, even if I wind up changing it along the way.

This time, though, I had no idea. Well, OK, not "no" idea, but little. I knew what Act Three would be, and damn, was I stoked to write it. But I hit a wall - in outlining, in writing, in thinking about writing or outlining - when it came to the final scene(s). I just didn't know how it would all wrap itself up. There were a few loose ends I wanted to leave untied for interest's sake, basically a new beginning type of ending that leave the possibilities open for further exploration of the characters (read: I'm a shameless whore writing with sequels in mind; so sue me).

Finally, on Sunday, I cracked it. The ideas worked themselves together in an imperfect puzzle at first, like a Rubix cube that's all right but for two sides. Then, I let everything wiggle into place, and I just want to get home and finish the thing. I think it works. And, let me clarify here, I do not advocate writing purely for the sequel. It's a dangerous approach, especially for a new writer writing specs. I'm well aware of that. But I do believe that there is little harm in setting up a solid spec that has franchise potential for a sequel. That doesn't mean leaving everything ambiguous or unanswered. No, a script should be able to stand alone and leave the audience wanting more, while not keeping them so in the dark that they need another movie to figure it out. I answer what I need to; I just offer routes for more playtime with the characters and the world later if people want. I think it's reasonable if it can work.
First thing's first though: finish this draft.

And The Winner Is...

OK, I'm sure you've watched the Oscars or read a re-cap online or read this morning's paper to see who won or heard about it at the water cooler or... You get the idea. You've heard the winners. If, somehow, you've managed to avoid learning who took home statuettes at the 81st Academy Awards, here's the list of winners.

Picture: "Slumdog Millionaire"
Actor: Sean Penn, "Milk"
Actress: Kate Winslet, "The Reader"
Director: Danny Boyle, "Slumdog Millionaire"
Foreign-Language Film: "Departures," Japan
Original Song: "Slumdog Millionaire"
Original Score: "Slumdog Millionaire"
Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award: Jerry Lewis
Film Editing: "Slumdog Millionaire"
Sound Mixing: "Slumdog Millionaire"
Sound Editing: "The Dark Knight"
Visual Effects: "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
Documentary, Short Subject: "Smile Pinki"
Documentary Feature: "Man on Wire"
Supporting Actor: Heath Ledger, "The Dark Knight"
Short Film: "Spielzeugland"
Makeup: "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
Costume: "The Duchess"
Art Direction: "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
Animated Short Film: "La Maison en Petits Cubes"
Animated Feature: "WALL-E"
Adapted Screenplay: Simon Beaufoy, "Slumdog Millionaire"
Original Screenplay: Dustin Lance Black, "Milk"
Supporting Actress: Penélope Cruz, "Vicky Cristina Barcelona"

No real surprises... sort of. WALL-E was a given (though part of me felt it was wise to expect a Kung Fu Panda upset). Screenplay categories contained no real shocker or disappointments. Slumdog, as Zombie just pointed out, took a TON of awards, with Curious Case of Benjamin Button taking a very large share of the remaining ones. Heath Ledger got what everyone expected to be his award for his awesome work as the Joker.

Where I got pissed, though, was with the Best Actor category. Yes, Mickey Rourke might have played Mickey Rourke, and Sean Penn's win (along with Dustin Lance Black's) provided the industry with a platform for gay rights, which is fantastic. But I was pulling for Mickey despite both of those reasons. Even if he did play himself, you know what? That takes balls. He went into some of the darkest parts of his life and his screw ups, unearthing much of what has happened behind the camera to him in his life. It takes a lot of courage to accept and reveal your own faults the way he did, and I have to give anybody who can do that major props. Maybe he didn't transform himself into a completely different person the way that Penn did, but what he did was just as emotionally charged and brave, if not more so.
You had my vote, Mickey.

Slumdog Millionaire screenplay now available

Motion Picture
Adapted Screenplay
Sound Mixing
Original Score
Original Song
Film Editing
Congratulations to Slumdog Millionaire for cleaning house at the Oscars last night.

You can now download the screenplay for free by clicking here. (Thanks again to SimplyScripts.) Get it while you can!