28 May 2014

12 in 12: When 25% Is Passing

To those just joining this blog, I'd like to say thanks, really appreciate your patronage.  And I should also explain the impetus for the dramatic increase in posts this year (this one's the 13th of May -- one-upping the total of 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012 combined).

Fortunately, the math I'll use is not as complicated.
It's complicated, to be sure, but not as.
In February, I was finishing up a script called Bake Sale, an R-rated comedy that I had note-carded years ago but finally got around to writing.  Not having school and homework to worry about helped open up my schedule to write.  And my sons had reached an age where constant supervision wasn't an absolute necessary (they're 4 and 3, so yeah, they need Mom and Dad still, but at least there's no more diaper changing to be concerned with).  Anyhow, the point is, now that I was no longer a student but an actual screenwriting degree holding person, I felt I should get to writing screenplays full-time -- Bake Sale is the seventh feature I've written, so it's not like I was slacking or anything before then.

27 May 2014

Commencement and Screenwriting

I graduated from college this past December.  I got a late start (meaning I didn't start my post-secondary education until a few years after high school) and went part-time over 6.5 years.  While in school, my wife and I bought a house, had two kids, and I sold or had a few screenplays optioned.  I did well enough in my classes -- even the non-writing ones that I had little to no interest in -- and was fortunate enough to be named one of seven Outstanding Students with my graduating class (of around 1000 or so).

We were actually handed medallions at the ceremony.
Diplomas were mailed out two weeks later,
after grades were finalized. 
You know, just in case.
I was also asked/selected to give the student commencement address.  I think because there's "writing" within my major it was presumed that I could come up with a speech, no problem.  And sure, the speech wasn't that difficult, but I'd never spoken in front of more than a few dozen people at one time.  And there going to a give or take a few thousand watching and listening to me.

26 May 2014

Networking

In an effort to branch out and reach more potential readers -- you know, beyond me and the three other people who frequent this blog -- I'm trying new things for F*** No! But There's A Poster.  And the best way to do that in the 21st century is through social networking sites.

As such, I've created a Facebook page and a Twitter account.

Honestly:  I don't know what most of these are for.

Unforgiven: A Genre Analysis


Of all the genres in the history of American cinema the Western is easily the most popular -- or at least the most abundant.  The 1940s, ‘50s, and ‘60s saw hundreds upon hundreds of films depicting various aspects of the American West.  Though the genre is not as prevalent now, Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven (1992), has proven itself to be one of the best examples of the genre.  The film takes a revisionist approach to Western conventions and unlike classic Westerns leaves viewers with many questions about what constitutes good and bad or right and wrong people.  Despite the ambiguities, Unforgiven still follows, often modifies, and sometimes violates Western standards.  This includes its presentation of stock characters, settings, plot and story events, and issues/questions that Westerns raise.
 

23 May 2014

High Noon: One Shot for a Shot

While there are many relationships that carry more weight throughout Fred Zinnemann’s High Noon (1952), the one that sets all events into motion is the one between Will Kane and Frank Miller.  While most of the main events of this relationship take place before the film starts -- including Miller’s arrest, threat of revenge upon Kane, and subsequent pardons -- it is the outlaw’s imminent arrival to Hadleyville that eventually brings the two men together by the film’s end.  By the time Kane and Miller share a shot -- it’s worth noting that the characters only have one scene and three shots together –- the nature of their relationship is that of enemies.  Miller is returning to Hadleyville to kill Kane for sending him to prison five years earlier and Kane is staying in town to finish his last piece of business as marshal.

The relationship is very combative, as the single scene involving the men is the final shoot-out/showdown of the film.

21 May 2014

12 in 12: The (Mostly) Long and Short of "Education"

It's a strange thing:  When you've written a lot of screenplays, you get this peculiar ability to know, before you even write a page, about how long the script will be.  I knew Standers was going to be less than 80 pages -- though 12 less did throw me.  When I wrote Bake Sale in February, I knew it was going to be one of the longest scripts I'd written.  And it came to 122 pages, which is way too long for a comedy, but starting it I was sure it'd be somewhere over 115, so I wasn't surprised.

I bring this up because when I first got the inspiration for The Education of Tobias Smith, my intention was to write it as a short script (15-20 pages) for a class.  I got about five pages in and realized that it was going to take more than the 20 page maximum I was allotted.  So I put the idea aside and wrote Treading Water instead.  



And Treading Water not only got produced but led to a re-write job, so I suppose it all kind of worked out.

20 May 2014

High Noon: The Disintegration of Kane and Harv


This was written for a class 
so it might come off a bit more academic than a usual essay/article.
---------------------

I figured since I'm working on a Western, I might as well post some essays about some of the better films in the genre.  I've got a couple involving High Noon and one about Unforgiven.  I really like the Unforgiven one, so I'll save that for a bit, which means I'll be setting the table with some takes on High Noon.

It's best with the Oscar-winning song.
One of my favorite Westerns -- rather, favorite films overall -- is Fred Zinnemann’s High Noon (1952).  There’s so much story and plot that happens in just less than 90 minutes that you wonder how the filmmakers did it.  Among the many plots woven into the intricate narrative is the deterioration of the mentor-mentee relationship between Will Kane, the former/current Marshall of Hadleyville, and his deputy Harvey “Harv” Pell.

19 May 2014

12 in 12: Schooling for "Education"

One thing I've been dealing with while writing scripts in different genres than I'm used to is trying to write the script right.  By that I mean less about finding the proper words to use and more about establishing the appropriate tone, mood, and atmosphere -- what I like to call the flavor of a script/movie.

Probably the definitive revisionist Western.
With The Education of Tobias Smith, I've been watching a lot of Westerns.  To be honest, I've got maybe dozen Westerns I really like and watch more than I actually care to admit.  For the most part, the films would fit the revisionist sub-genre.   And to be honest, that's probably where Education will fall into:  Most revisionist Westerns are non-Western Westerns because of how they approach the generic tropes established by traditional/classic Westerns.  Good guys don't always wear white hats, the outlaw has more ethics and morals than the law enforcer, Native Americans and Mexicans aren't necessarily bad because they're a minority.  Beyond something like Stagecoach, which didn't invent the genre but has since defined the genre, I subscribe to the school of thought that the best Westerns are revisionist Westerns.

18 May 2014

The November Script

This is a script idea that first came to me when I was writing What Happened to Christine in 2011.  Christine was written for a screenwriting class, and in that class we'd have regular writing exercises each meeting.  Some of the exercises pertained to the scripts we were working on -- writing our protag's obituary or eulogy; writing a scene between two characters from the script who didn't otherwise interact with each other; re-writing a scene different ways, with one character having the upper hand, then the other having the it -- but most were just general free-writes to get our creative juices flowing and for the professor know that everyone in class was at least writing for 10 to 15 minutes a week.

Didn't finish the assignment?  Just don't show up.
Problem solved!
And unfortunately, I'm quite sure that for most of the class, that was the only time they wrote.  Except, you know, the final week of class when they had to have 80 pages of a screenplay to turn in.

College, right?

Anyhow, most of the writing exercises involved getting handed a photo of some kind -- landscape, portrait, architecture, a scene, etc. -- and writing on the first impulse that came to mind.  I can't recall what photo triggered this idea, but who am I to question inspiration?

17 May 2014

Writing Scripts, Writing Posts

Here's the thing:  I know I should post more here.  Maybe get down to some of the nitty-gritty details about how I go about writing a script.  Or give a review/analysis of scripts I've been reading and movies I've been watching.  And then I realize:

10 May 2014

The October Script

I have a bit of a passing interest in cryptozoology.  Though that may go without saying seeing as I did write a script called The Incredible Frog Boy Is On the Loose Again!, inspired by the Loveland Frog.  Seems most states have some kind of cryptid hanging out somewhere withing its borders:  Bigfoot in Washington, Mothman in West Virginia, the Lizard Man in South Carolina, the Jersey Devil in New Jersey, and dozens of other lesser-known ones mostly relegated to regional stories and sightings.

Where I grew up, we didn't have anything like that, though the town an hour up the road did.  All for the best, I suppose, since for a while my family lived right up against the woods on the north side of town and then just 20 yards from another big swath of woods.  I know better than actually believe in non-existent creatures, but I was more impressionable as a kid.


Pretty, isn't it?
That's just to ease you into letting down your guard...
But that's the thing about the woods:  They're (Or is it "It's"?) creep as all get out.  Why do you think a great many horror and slasher films take place there?  'Cause it's a universal fear, getting lost in the woods, one tree looking like the next, the canopy blocking out the stars and moon, drenching you in darkness...


Same picture as above, just darkened.
Bait and switch, bait and switch.

09 May 2014

The September Script

I'm sure I've mentioned it before, but one goal of mine for the 12 in 12 is to lean out of my comfort zone and try to write in different genres.  I didn't do that with the first script, Enumclaw, but I was more easing in to the challenge, wanting to feel like I knew what I was doing going into this.  But Standers is a contained thriller; The Education of Tobias Smith is a period Western; Greyhound 1170 is a dual-lead drama, probably using flashbacks/flash-sideways and such; the July script I can't say yet; and Skidmore Park is an ensemble piece -- none of those genres/sub-genres have I ever attempted in a feature screenplay.


T-N-T.  I'm dynamite.
I think stretching my legs into different genres can help me to figure out if I'm better at writing Type A movie versus Type B movie.  It's like, maybe I'm writing dramas, but it turns out I can really throw together a horror or comedy with adept skill and ease.  And then, having found my wheelhouse, I focus on that genre, pound out some worthy scripts, then by virtus et labor, my screenwriting career begins.  Well, begins more so.


07 May 2014

The August Script

A few years ago I took an advanced writing course -- focusing on prose writing -- in which I had to write a kind of excerpt of a larger project.  So it was something like a couple chapters of a novel, a few scenes from a play, a dozen or so poems... that kind of thing.  I chose to do a short story from what was supposed to be a collection of interconnected short stories, along the lines of A Visit From the Goon Squad.

Three covers.  One book.  No waiting.
For the class, I had to not only write the short story itself, but also provide an outline of the entire project.  So I had to figure out the characters and plots and themes and everything else that goes into writing a worthwhile story.  And because I won't insult anyone's intelligence, I won't make you guess what the general idea of the 12 in 12 script for August is.