Thursday, May 15, 2014

writing beginnings/ Rock band Islands question

This is on my

Apr. 27 Writing beginnings: I was going through my old Screenwriting Goldmine emails and I found this one on Sept. 28, 2012.  It was really good.  Phil Gladwin wrote

“Hi there, 


It's less than a week before I announce the quarter finalists for the Screenwriting Goldmine Competition, and it's all very exciting round here. It's been an incredible reading journey, and the myriad different worlds I've entered over the last couple of months has made my head spin on occasion. It was really refreshing to see so
many of you write with such ambition. The job was made far harder than I anticipated by the sheer number of very capable scripts that have been submitted. A lot of you can write very well indeed. 


I very often see lists floating around on blogs of 'Cliched Openings to Scripts', and, though I could, I'm not going to write my own. (It could be a cliche, after all.) 

There is one point I'd like to make though.

There is an incredible number of you who opened your entries to the contest with an exciting scene or sequence, which I enjoyed very much, and then wrote the words '6 Weeks Earlier', or '12 Hours Earlier' or '1 Year ' and then went back in time to the real 
beginning of the story.

The story then ran on from there on, mostly linearly, until we got to that scene again (classically at the Act 2 break) from which point we ran on to the end of the story.

It used to be a surprising, even exciting, technique - and indeed you still see it on screen all the time (that most excellent recent British crime show 'Good Cop' opened like that only a couple of weeks ago) but, if I'm really honest, by the fiftieth, or hundredth(!) time it had cropped up, I was getting a little jaded.

The idea is that it makes your script hit the ground running, plunges you back into the story, and by taking you back to the beginning of the story energises the first part of the script with the massive question 'How do these innocent looking characters end up in those dire straits?' 

That's not to say I absolutely hate it - indeed some of these quarter finalist scripts I've chosen do actually open like this, because when it's done well it does work well. 

But do I have a few thoughts that might make you more cautious about using it:

1. It is a terribly, terribly common technique these days. And terribly common is not what you want when you are trying to impress. 

2. If it's done right, then, when you get to the scene/sequence the second time through then you really ought to have something different to say about the scene. 

By which I mean that, given that they have had all the questions about the opening answered by the story, then the second time round the audience should see the same scene on screen, but understand it completely differently. 

Otherwise it's a simple repeat beat, and they are boring. 

(See The Hangover for a fine example of how they make it work, and what new information surfaces at that point to propel the story on.)

3. It makes me think that you have trouble writing beginnings! 

I'm sure you realise that a beginning should be strong, intriguing, powerful, and ask story questions that makes you want to know more. 

So, instead of using this trick, I would strongly recommend that you look at the characters at the time of the beginning of the story and see what you find about them - at that time - that is all of the above, and start your story there.”

My opinion: He’s got a good point.  Alias was the one that started using this on their show.  I guess there is the overuse of it.  I can say it’s not in my The Vertex Fighter script.

It’s not in my Rain script.  There has been lots of changes in the beginning of the script.  There was a morning scene, and then at the night scene where the action happens.  I was told by writer in residences that it was fast-paced.  However, Marty Chan did say that the morning scene wasn’t really necessary so I started it at night instead.

Apr. 28 Screenwriting class: I looked up Communications Studies at MacEwan.  There’s still a screenwriting class there.  Way back in 2009, after I graduated, I did think of going to take that class.  Now years have passed, and I feel like I can learn this by reading screenwriting books.

Apr. 30: I read another script for the Meetup group.  It took me a few days to read it.  I sent him my notes on how it reminded me of other TV shows and movies like The Matrix, The Tomorrow People, and Harry Potter.

May 4 Kickstarter: I was reading in the Metro on Mar. 14, 2014 called “Fulfilling fan dreams- for a price.”  It mentioned the Veronica Mars movie and the hardest part of the campaign was the fans who gave a certain amount of money and got the prize of a cast-signed posters from all the actors.  Now Zach Braff and Spike Lee have their own campaigns.

The article mentions the ethics of it like “Contributors pay for different levels of rewards, but don’t share in profits.”

“Veronica Mars may have introduced a democratic spirit to a green-lighting process usually controlled by film executives…”

House of Cards producer Dana Brunetti: “It’s a brilliant idea that’s gotten out of hand.  It’s wrong when people like Zach Braff or Spike Lee use that same service to fund their films when they already have success.  I think it overshadows and takes away from the little guys who actually need the funding.

Veronica Mars creator Rob Thomas: “If it bothers you that Zach Braff probably has a lot of money from Scrubs, then don’t give it.”

May 7 Rock band Islands question: I was reading in the Edmonton Journal on Mar. 26, 2014 called "On the Edges of the Big Time" by Mike Bell.  Here’s the beginning of the article:

Why aren't you more successful? Don't ask Nick Thorburn this question, even if your intentions are good, and you mean it in the nicest way.

"It's one of the most annoying questions that can be asked after a show. As though I have some kind of control over the fate of my music and how it's received commercially or critically. It's really funny," says the songwriter behind Canadian alt pop act Islands, while on tour in Germany, where he's hearing the query on a nightly basis.

"But it's a constant question that I've only just started noticing, like people almost seem upset with me as though I'm holding back. And they don't understand, they're perplexed."

My opinion: I’m not a fan of the band, but I thought that was really interesting.  You can not control how your work is going to be received commercially or critically.  There are some things you can predict. 

I know when I am going to write about a MADtv sketch in my email/ blog post, I will always forewarn you and say: “This may be offensive to some people, so be prepared.”

This belongs in my writing email because I’ve had Tracy’s blog since 2008.  I was to be discovered by it.  I also send my script pitches out often and producers read it.  I can’t control if they will like the script or not.

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