Derry, Northern Ireland

Derry, Northern Ireland
A book I'm working on is set in this town.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Music helps...

Depeche Mode's song gave me the light to see a path through the tangled words, and I now have a clearer sense of the chapter and what it needed. I've probably added a couple pages, but some of it's repetition and plot points that can be moved to earlier points in the book. What matters is, it no longer feels forced or ABC. Much better.

That's how I spent my birthday -- getting Jake into some deep shit and then finding a way out, again. I'd thought I'd take a jaunt over to Canada and have a nice meal at a steakhouse I like, but I didn't feel up to handling the nonsense of afternoon traffic beyond what it took to get me home. So instead, I dozed a little as I streamed Raul Campos' most recent show on KCRW, then woke up, grilled a hot dog and got to work on my own version of Revelations.

BTW, if you ever want to see a case of a decent website redesigned into something that is impossible to deal with, check KCRW's out. I used to be able to go straight into the archives and pull up any DJ I wanted. Now? Just try and find any of them being linked to. The main page is so full of crap, you can't find anything. You have to search by name, and then it brings up a dozen different possibilities, only one of which is their latest program. Damn, it's a chore.

I have no problem with change, so long as it makes sense. When it's done just for its own sake, it irritates me, because 9 times out of 10 it's not for the better. Our computer setup at work is like that. We had an okay system that did need upgrading, but what's replaced it is insane. For example, I can't save documents from a program to our server unless I first save it to my desktop and then shift it over, when it used to be a one-click process.

That's not to say other things aren't better, but when a new system adds steps to what used to be easy you have to wonder what the idiots who wrote the thing were thinking.

Probably fell in love with their code, says he who often loves his words too much.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

"Precious"

This very off-beat rendition of one of Depeche Mode's loveliest songs is just quirky enough to make its beauty even more evident. Dave Gahan gives it good voice...and lovely attitude. And gives me a truly clear view of what Jake and Tone are all about.

Aber es ist eine verr├╝ckte Situation...die Wahrheit!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Redid 26 pages...


...And I'm not happy with them. They're still too scattered to make much sense. It's all one chapter and needs to explain everything, but in a way that's natural. I feel like I'm forcing too much of it. So I'm printing these pages out and going over them, again. And again, if need be. These are a pivotal part of the story, and it has to work for Jake to continue on.

I think I'll pick up some beer or wine, after work tomorrow, and try a little of that. Was it Hemingway who said, "Write drunk, edit sober." Worked for him...till he killed himself.

C'mon, Jake, we can do this...we can do this...

Monday, July 28, 2014

I love my Jake...

He's got balls. No question in my mind. A real goof in the face of death...but never out of control...sort of. Jesus, the big reveal's either going to be the best thing I've ever written, or the worst. Or both, you never know. I'm open to impossibilities.

I no longer worry about whether or not a reader figures out who's behind what happened to Owen Taylor before Jake spits it out; it's not as important as his journey...and Tone's. That's not to say it's UN-important; it is. But Jake's the one who has to live it, and my goal is to make the last chapter of his story what matters more than anything preceding that. After all, it's how things are at the end that counts.

I'm enjoying the pain of writing, again. The irritation with myself for getting too verbose and cute with what's going on. The joy when I catch a phrase or sentence just right. The awe when a character takes over and leads me deeper into their soul. The anger when it doesn't make a damn bit of sense, even to me when I'm the one who wrote it.

And yes -- my characters do have souls, each bright and shining in its own way. Even the bad guys. They have to, in order for them to live...even on a page or in the back of someone's mind.

I wonder if the church considers that blasphemy?

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Strategic reworking

I'm reworking the last hundred pages of OT, clarifying and solidifying the structure. Then I'll input all the changes over the next week, for everything, and print out a new copy. It's still over 500 pages long, but I don't care; the story is what it is.

Interesting shopping experiences, today. Before doing my laundry, I had lunch and went grocery shopping at a Wegmans near a mall, for non-perishable items...and found just 5 of the things on my list. That's it. No tea that I wanted. No water. No Dr. Pepper. And on and on. So I put back those 5 things and will check another grocery store en route home, tomorrow.

Then I spent too much of the day trying to buy new clothes at that mall. I needed new shoes, pants, shirts; I haven't bought anything in over a year. Man...it was not easy. I found some decent shirts and a nice pair of shoes...in a 10 ½!! I always took a 9 ½ to a 10, before. But these were made in China, so maybe it was a case of different sizing. I dunno. It ain't my feet that's gotten fat.

The worst thing was, I couldn't find any pants I liked. I found some that were okay, but not in my size. And the ones in my size were nothing like I wanted. I like cargo pants because I can put my wallet in the leg pocket instead of back, but you think I could find anything other than cargo shorts? I don't do shorts. I guess my style's gone out of style. I'll hit online to see if I can find some, tomorrow.

I did ironing and watched The Sound of Music. It's a very well-structured film, even if it is simplistic and plays way too much with historical accuracy. But it's a nice way to spend time while doing a boring chore.

And Daniel Truhuite looked good in his telegram delivery uniform.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Done reading, this time...

Read through the second half of OT and it needs a lot more work. The ending explanation is confusing, even though it's goofy. Well, one part is goofy...and that's where some confusion comes in. I think I need to cut a lot of what happens after it and settle as much of the reveal as possible in one location at one time. The way it is now is too rambling, easy and quick, even though it's involved.

What's funny is, it doesn't address some other things that are laid out as possible clues. And I wonder if I can get away with letting a guilty person go free from the legal ramifications of what they did. I don't know. I'll think about that as I do the next rewrite.

What's interesting is how this painting begins to take on greater meaning and importance during the story. I'd forgotten I was edging towards that, so just need to expand upon it, a bit more.

I also need to clarify why Jake's Uncle Owen didn't invite him to come live with him in Palm Springs after he was kicked out of his home. That still doesn't make sense to me. What I have now -- that he wanted Jake to learn how to stand on his own two feet -- comes across as weak. I need something a lot better.

I think I'll do another read through with red pen, just to see if I can figure out these aspects and work them in.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Back on track...

I've read through the first half of OT, making notes as I go along and finding inconsistencies that need to be addressed, but all I'm doing is red pen comments, right now. No inputting till I go through this draft, again; I want to remind myself of everything I've got in here before I figure out what to keep and what to get rid of.

I'm doing it this way because it's become a very complex story told in a simple, straightforward way. I've changed some characters' names -- like Father Sebastian to Father Boniface and Grace Karadjian to Grace Nieri -- and found my descriptions sometimes contradict what I've set up -- like where people live in the "fortress" condos Owen developed.

Plus there are clues I set up and have yet to do anything with. Some I don't think I ever went back to, in any attempt to explain them. It makes me feel better, doing this. The first half is pretty damn solid, and Jake's on track, again.

Tomorrow I'll go through the second half and know what needs to be done. Then I'll get down to it...maybe input the changes I have now and print out a new copy.

I feel a lot better, now.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Sea of Tranquility...ish...

I've started back to work on The Vanishing of Owen Taylor. Carli's Kills is going to need a lot of work to become a book, while OT is at the point of merely requiring clarity and simplification. So I've delved into the first 3 chapters -- and I think I'll merge them into 2, especially since there's a bit of repetition in them.

I like Jake's voice in this. It's simple and direct, already giving off a no-nonsense vibe. It helps me focus on simplifying the story...and on keeping secrets. Jake doesn't gossip, so he's not revealing anything until he is ready to. Later in the book, he's going to recall what he did to survive in prison...and it wasn't nice or easy. Hell, it makes OZ looks like the sweet-natured fantasy that it was, and I've only done one pass on it.

I checked out the ending, first, and it's pretty confused so will need extra attention. But it got me to the place I needed to be to make the rest work. I also realized I was being a wuss about solving the mystery; what happens is what happens, and that is that. But I will say, the way Jake reveals it all...well, at one point it's so wild, I think readers will either love it or hate the hell out of it.

What makes me feel good is, I did all this despite me fighting off a headache that came thanks to Zyrtek no longer working for me. I've sneezed more in the last three days than in the previous three weeks, which was less than zero help to my mood. Ugh, when are they going to bio-engineer new sinuses and eyeballs that are allergy free? I'm weary of semi-nose bleeds and tears whispering from my eyes.

Maybe I'll just sort some Dr. Pepper and see if that helps.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Just to cut the rut...

...something that is nothing but fun...

Almost settled down...almost...

This has been me, the last few days. No writing done. No artwork done. Nothing but full scale war within my psyche. Fortunately, I live alone so no one could overhear my mutterings and ravings and have me locked up for lunacy.

Also fortunately, the verbal battles I've gotten into with people who blame Israel for the slaughter of Palestinian civilians in Gaza and don't even think of holding Hamas at least partially responsible. Israel might be overreacting to Hamas' provocations, but it's Hamas doing everything it can to cause this while using its citizens as human shields. But what I've found is, most of the people blaming Israel for everything have zero sense of the history of that region. So bringing that up and calling lots of carefully-worded names let off a nice bit of steam.

I'm finally calm enough...relatively speaking...to see what the trigger probably was for this freak out -- Speed. The movie. With Keanu at his most beautiful and Sandra Bullock at her most endearing. It's a great action film with an elegant script by Joss Whedon (fuck Graham Yost)...and it was playing as I did laundry. Starting at 1pm. And that's when I began spiraling out of control.

I'd been living in LA for just over a year when the movie came out. I was doing my first storyboarding job, out there, too -- for a short film made by a Vietnamese film grad, using a John Woo style. All very lovely...and gratis (I think I found the job in the back of Dramalogue).

And here I am, twenty years later, doing the same fucking thing. It's like I haven't progressed an inch since then. Granted, I've actually written 25 screenplays (on top of the 8 I already had), lots of short films, plays, one-acts, books, won awards for my scripts and placed nice and high in many other competitions; the time has been filled with work and experience. But I'm still in the exact same position I was the weekend I went to see Speed. No, worse, since I now live in Buffalo instead of LA.

That brought on a serious attack of "WTF is wrong with me?" I'm way over my due date and into "time to be thrown out" territory. And what's worse? I do not want to write another script. I just don't. Even the thought of it makes me ill. I hate having to cut back on aspects of the story that won't make it into any film version...according to what little I know about the industry, today. I don't want to censor my work, but to write a script, you must.

That's where the anger fired up. Why should I have to? Because some unknown twerp of a producer might cringe at the idea of a woman castrating a man who raped her sister after she fucks him with a dildo? And yes, that was in the initial draft of CK. That's how angry Carli is. I can do that in a book, but unless I hit just the right producer who doesn't mind an NC-17 rating for the project, and who knows distributors who feel the same way, it'd be taken out. On top of that, the director and actors would get to do whatever they damn well want with my characters and story. And that's after me rewriting the script into as tight as I possible can...going through draft after draft to make it work.

Well, the hell with that. I'm writing what I fucking want to -- and that means doing it in book format, and self-publishing, if I must. Which I don't mind. That way, I can follow my own style instead of this enforced shorthand scripts have to be in; nor will I have to accept the limitations and demands of anybody else, if I don't want to.

So...now let's see if tiger's really got his roar back, or if he's just got a throat made sore by too much hissing.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Tonic didn't take...

I'm sick of everything, right now. Hate it all. I did at least manage to input changes for the first scene of CK...and proceeded to decide it's a piece of crap.

I'm still trying to figure out what the hell happened, yesterday, to trigger this anger and hurt. Nothing comes to mind.

I guess I'm just schizophrenic.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

"Ikiru (To Live)"

In 1952, Akira Kurosawa made a movie about a civil servant who contracts stomach cancer and has 6 months to live. The initial shock sends him into depression and self-recrimination as he realizes he's spent 30 years at a job that was so mind-numbing, he can't think of a thing he's achieved. So he sets out to build a park for some locals, but is faced with Japan's wall of bureaucracy that wants never to take responsibility for anything.

It's a long movie and a bit redundant, but to a purpose, and the last half is told in flashbacks by the hypocrites who mourn at his funeral (BIG Hollywood no-no)...but the ending is beautifully devastating in its tenderness and acceptance. I watched a documentary after the movie -- A Message From Akira Kurosawa, For Beautiful movies -- in Japanese, that takes you through all the steps he thinks important as regards making a movie. This should be standard viewing in all film schools.

I'd seen Ikiru years ago, I think while I was still in college, so I didn't remember a lot about the story. It cut deep. Kurosawa was cursed by the Academy's preference for giving actors turned directors Oscars instead of true cinematic visionaries. The fact that Sydney Pollack got Best Director for Out of Africa instead of Kurosawa for Ran scarred them, in my opinion.

They finally gave him an honorary one in 1990, and about damned time --
I wish the clip showed something of a cross-section of his work, but it's till worthwhile. And he went on to make even more movies, well into his 80s.

I needed this, today. I had a bad moment of futility crash in on me while filling in the storyboards I'd done for CK, and I needed something to chase it away. The beauty of Kurosawa's work always does work wonders on my psyche.

Now if I could just do something about my psychoses...

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Storyboarding changes stuff...

I have the first scene of Carli's Kills -- where Carli picks up Grady in the bar -- roughed out...and as I began thinking like a visual storyteller, aspects of the script changed. It was still a bit bland on the page, but hyping their little pool game into a scene of sexual foreplay made it a lot more fun. Changed the dialogue, too. So now there are 40 setups for 2.5 pages (which is a lot) but many are cutaways to balls getting hit and clicking into pockets.

What's funny is, it also set up a scene, later in the script, where Carli thinks she's got control but suddenly doesn't. Which does a better setup for when she meets Zeke the next time...and on and on. I once thought, facetiously, about storyboarding all my scripts just to get an idea of how they worked...and now I'm thinking that might have actually helped me see how to better translate the action to the page.

Too bad it took me this long to accept that.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Mankind is stupid

I'm rather preoccupied with the Malaysian jet that was shot down by what appears to be pro-Russian rebels in the Ukraine, using Russian anti-aircraft missiles. 298 people killed by idiots who thought they were shooting at a military jet, and who are now scrambling to blame everyone but themselves for the disaster. Their leader has gone so far as to say it was all a set-up, with dead bodies put on the plane, that was then blown up, all to discredit their revolution. Even Vladimir Putin is blaming the Ukraine for fighting to keep herself together instead of letting the pro-Russian side just walk away.

For some reason, this reminds me of the sinking of the Lusitania, in 1915. She was a British luxury liner traveling between NY and Liverpool when a German U-boat torpedoed her off the southern coast of Ireland. She sank in 18 minutes and 1,198 people died, including 128 Americans.

In the aftermath, the German government made all sorts of excuses as to why it was okay to sink a ship carrying nearly 2,000 civilians -- including that the ship was carrying munitions (which was later revealed to be true, despite American and British denials). They also pointed out that Germany and England were at war, and they had even put an ad in a news paper warning people against traveling on a British ship.

Still, the slaughter of nearly 1,200 non-combatants turned the tide against Germany, and 2 years later the US declared war. A year after that, Germany was in ruins. Did Germany learn a lesson? Nope. Twenty years later, Germany was headed straight for disaster, again, and 7 years after that, the country lay in ruins, once more.

The combined total of dead from those two world wars is thought to be close to 100 million.

So now what do we have? A jetliner from a country that has nothing to do with the situation in the Ukraine carrying mainly European citizens is shot down by idiots, to whom Russia had handed weapons they had no idea how to handle. Putin shot himself in the foot, doing that. Some people think he'll be gone within a year, thanks to this. I doubt it, but you never know.

However, I could see this being the spark that brings on another world war. Nobody cares about Moslems killing each other in Syria and Egypt and Iraq and Libya and Lebanon, not really. They barely cared about the Muslims being slaughtered in Bosnia and various other Baltic countries, 20 years ago. Nor do they honestly care about the fight between Israel and the Palestinians. It's just something to excuse their usual Jew-bashing.

But you kill hundreds of Europeans en route to holidays or an AIDS conference? Well, that's different. Now the politicians will HAVE to do something about Russian meddling in The Ukraine...and that won't be pretty. More economic sanctions will hurt Putin's base even more, despite his approval ratings being sky-high in Russia. Who knows -- maybe he'll get as dumb as the rebels, nuke someplace to remind people of just how powerful Russia still is, and set off Armageddon.

So, the end of the world could begin in the Crimea -- what a ludicrous story.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Storyboarding...

I'm doing boards for Carli's Kills, nicer and more precise. Got 5 frames for 3 set-ups done...and I'm back to thinking I should keep the opening, with Anastasia hurling to her death. It cuts so nicely into Carli doing a break on the pool table. And using Derwent pencils makes me feel real, again.

I like working in soft graphite. It's easy to change and has a nice feel to it. My next favorite style is colored pencil. That's what I did these in...each frame taking a couple of hours. I've sometimes thought about doing a graphic novel of one of my scripts, using this style...and may, yet...but it'll take years to complete.

I'm still pissed that Marvel is turning Thor into a woman. It's one thing to be PC; it's quite another to rewrite facts and history to suit yourself. I despise people who do that, be it on the left or the right.

Two prime examples -- Republicans saying Democrats are the party of racism because most Southerners were Democrats. That ignores the fact that when the Democratic party said it would no longer tolerate racism and pushed through the Civil Rights Act in 1965, all those Democrats became Republicans...and now many are Tea Partiers out to control the GOP and crush anything that benefits minorities, making them the party of racism, not Democrats.

On the left, it's the ludicrous casting of Audra MacDonald as the Mother Superior in the remake of The Sound of Music. The play is set in Austria in 1938. Miss MacDonald is amazingly gifted in so many ways, but the very idea of a black Mother Superior in that time is so insane, it kills the story. It's rewriting history to suit today's mores.

And that is all I have to say on the subject...until my next rant.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

It's on...

I got the news, today -- I'll be in Los Angeles, starting on August 18th. I've got my ticket to fly in on the 16th, and I'll be staying by LAX. Gonna be there 3 weeks on someone else's dime. Woohoo!

Makes up for Page Awards flipping me off on both Return to Darian's Point and 5 Dates. Both are damn good scripts and hit all the points needed for a story, but I didn't even make the first cut. I think it has to do with their "feedback service." If you go through that and write the scripts the way they want you to, and it turns out half-assed decent, you make the Quarterfinals. Otherwise, you have to be amazingly good to get into that group. Blood Angel made it on its own, a few years back...which is meaning more and more to me, now.

I still have half a dozen others to hear from, two of which are just now ending their final extended last chance to enter deadlines that might be extended, again. It'll be interesting to see what happens with them. I like the idea of script competitions, and if RDP, 5D or A65 get anywhere in another one (to join with my Indie Gathering win, which won't be official until August 17th when the awards are handed out) I'll start crowing loud about it to agents and managers.

But reality is, they are very hit and miss. I used to enter the Nicholl every year, thinking my latest best script would win me a fellowship. Obviously, that didn't happen. I finally went to their library and read some of the winning scripts and had a massive WTF moment. Trite dialogue. Surface storylines. Cliched characters. Barely following screenplay format. Someone (I don't remember who, maybe in my writing workshop) told me they have a certain agenda that shifts from year to year, depending on who's coordinating the competition. If you happen to hit it right, you get it.

Same for Sundance Screenplay Workshops. I applied there several times, then learned all but 2 of the slots were quietly handed out to writers or directors already known to the coordinators, so thousands of people are vying for 2 openings while thinking they're trying out for 5 times more. Granted, the odds aren't all that much better, so you're still trying for something next to impossible...but the whole facade of them being for developing new writers and pretending they're doing so much more than they are irritates me. That said, I'm also one of those blind fools who think, "This time it will be different," and who is proof, positive, that such thoughts are a form of insanity.

Color my ass crazy.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Thor is a woman, now?

Seriously? What idiot thought this up? It's spitting on Norse Mythology and History.

It's madness...madness...

Monday, July 14, 2014

Chaos is okay...for a while...

I'm looking around at my apartment and wondering how the hell it got into such a mess...only I know why. When I write...or try to...I lose focus on simple things like vacuuming and dusting and sorting out paperwork and making sense of my disorder. And then I get to where I need time from the project I'm working on and realize I'm surrounded by chaos. Books on their sides. Dust everywhere. Crap lying all over. You'd think I came down off a three-week drunk.

This came about because I need some space from CK to get my head straight about the story, again. I'm still having ideas on how to make it work better, but I started writing them into the hard copy and found myself hating what I'd written. Meaning I'm too close. Better to let it sit.

Didn't help that today we had new computers installed at work with Windows 8. I now officially cannot find ANYthing. Supposedly all the files I worked on last week are there. Somewhere. But I'm gonna need a map. Of course, we're handling a small bookfair in Melbourne and today's the day of picking up the clients and shipping them out, and I had no access to the server or files, or even e-mail, except on my phone. That's not easy to deal with. I did a lot of typing and faxing.

I think I'll let CK sit till Saturday. I don't know.

Screw it, let's have more of Darcy Oake.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Talk about short, if not so sweet...

Okay, kicking Stasi out of Carli's Kills, except for two scenes, made it easier to finish this draft...but shortened it. After all the adding and cutting and dumping and including, the script wound up being 80 pages long. Normal rule of thumb -- one page equals one minute...but if I work it out right in my timing, considering I'm only a quarter as detailed as I normally am in the action bits, the project should wind up at about 90 minutes.

I do have a couple of moments later in the story that will need to be set up in the first part, and I think I want a bit more of Zeke's background. But then, other aspects of the script don't quite hang together, yet, so the next pass will be to clarify and streamline the story, making sure I have everything I need for it to be properly told.

I get the feeling part of the problem is that the one-word theme of the story is shifting...but I'm not sure to what. Francis Ford Coppola once said, "When you make a movie, always try to discover what the theme of the movie is in one or two words. Every time I made a film, I always knew what I thought the theme was, the core, in one word. In The Godfather, it was succession. In The Conversation, it was privacy. In Apocalypse Now, it was morality." Of course, Coppola also said a script should be like Haiku, which is the exact opposite of Tolstoy, so maybe I'll take this as just his opinion.

Still...I was thinking CK was all about redemption, but it's not happy with that. It seems to be more about guilt, which combines with the idea of punishment. Which is rather moralistic. I sort of know why...but is that workable? I'll have to let that stew in my brain for a while before I dig deeper into it.

Lately, when I think of Zeke -- whose name has become Robert Ezekiel Lindstrom, for some reason -- I'm picturing this guy: Darcy Oake. He's a Canadian magician who did some very cool stuff on "Britain's Got Talent" and made it to the finals. Dunno if he can act, but he's got good camera presence. Of course, he'd have to fake missing a leg, but that's easily doable for a magician.

And just to be clear, I'm posting this image of his hot little self just so no one will think I'm really as deep as I think I am.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

La Guerre Est Finie...

Anastasia overplayed her hand. She forgot -- I'm the writer, dammit, so I get to decide. Play nice or else. She got the "or else;" she's cut down to one scene...and she doesn't even get to tell it. I added a character who was there, that night, and it worked out one hell of a lot better.

Which, in truth, is probably what I was really aiming for (says 20/20 hindsight). I wasn't just missing the obligatory scene; I was missing a way of fitting it into the story. And by sketching out part of the first scene, I began to sense it shouldn't begin there. So now the script starts with Carli and Grady.

The obligatory scene still doesn't fit perfectly, but it's in and done, and now I can finish polishing up the last 20 pages of the script. I may shift the scene around some, in the next rewrite, just to see if it works better later or earlier in the story...and I may put Stasi's death scene back in...but I'm not having to worry about that, now. I smashed this friggin' wall to bits, and proved I'M THE MAN! Well...the writer. Man. Person.

Looks like I'll have a solid first draft of Carli's Kills done, tomorrow. The one I'm currently working on was too rough to be considered anything more than an extended outline of the story. So I'll only need another 5 or 6 rewrites to make it readable.

And it's still doable for under $500K. The story's pretty much centered around the Cantina Madriza and surrounding desert. Carli's home. An apartment that, with a green screen backdrop, could double for a highrise in downtown Phoenix. One bomb going off and a building burning down. Cheap, up one side and down the other.

Well...that's what I was aiming for.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Damn, damn, damn, damn, damn...

I've lost control of the script and I'm now fighting to regain it. Anastasia didn't just hijack the story; she raped it, tossed it aside and spit on it. I had a nice enough rhythm going and build to the scenes, and yeah, it needed something more. But this? A queen bitch to counter Carli? WTF!?!?!

I've already tried cutting her back, but she ain't havin' none of it. She's like Carli's doppelganger. Shit...I need to step back and figure out what the hell's going on. This is wrecking my fun little thriller.

I think it started when I roughed out some storyboards for the opening. Nothing very good; just something to get me closer to a visual rhythm...and the scene shifted from a quick snarly moment to a long zoom in on Mindy and her man screwing in a hotel room, not cutting until she gets out of bed to go to the balcony. Then it's from behind, zooming in, again...and that's as far as I got, but that was still 8 frames of work to get the feel for it.

Thing is, I was dissatisfied with my sketching. It looked juvenile, and now I want to go in and make it better. And I have the feeling that dissatisfaction kick-started something in my brain about the story. It's too ABC in its simplicity...and yet not honest enough. And yet, it is. There's something else I need to fight -- my tendency to make every story I write, lately, about something deep and meaningful and the length of a Bible instead of just plain quick and fun.

If I wrote a short story, these days, it'd wind up being 250 pages long.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

BAM! First wall...

One of the fun parts of writing is getting into the story and suddenly finding yourself completely rearranging everything. I was still trying to find the right moment to detail what happened to Lara on the night she was raped, and why...when all of a sudden Anastasia hijacked the script. She decided she was going to be a bigger part of it all, and now I don't know what to do.

Seriously, she wants to be the queen bitch or she's gonna tear it apart. If I go the way I'm thinking, right now, it changes everything. Probably for the better. Maybe. No...definitely. The characters in the story decide its direction, and if Stasi feels this strongly (and no one else is willing to fight her over it), that's the way it goes.

So in the opening -- crazy little Mindy does the dive out of the hotel window. Everything else in the first half pretty much stays the same, but this alters the second half in a big way. Because now Carli's looking to find Stasi to talk to her. To find out exactly what happened to Lara and why. And when she does find out (as she must), all hell breaks loose.
But I don't know how to write this moment, at the moment. I've tossed out half a dozen different scenarios and none of them work. Guess I'll focus on it, this weekend.

Of course, Zeke wasn't too crazy about this turn of event. At first. But then he saw I'm going to play with him and this situation, some, like I did with Chase, and that made him smirk at me. He doesn't have a problem with me saying, it's time men were viewed as sexual objects for the taking, by women.

God, the Dworkin Queens will HATE this movie, once it's made...I hope.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Reversals work

The scene where Chase is being interrogated by Carli was falling flat...until I made it funny. He thinks Carli was bought for him as a birthday present, and he's hoping she's going to force whiskey down his throat because he's now 21 and legal for anything, ANYthing. Like an eager bunny rabbit. It takes him a little bit to catch on that's not what's happening.

I did some thinking about this kind of thing in a thriller...and remembered movies like Myra Breckinridge and Basic Instinct, where men are the victims and women the aggressors...and in ways somewhat similar to CK. Granted Myra uses a strap-on to violate Rusty, in MB, as a form of revenge rape against all men, while Carli plays with Chase's fantasy about her real reason for interrogating him in a sensual way...as if she's about to "force herself" onto him. Sharon Stone's character uses sex as a weapon in BI, just like Carli uses sex to get Grady to go home with her. Of course, MB bombed at the box office, despite Raquel Welch being a huge star, but BI made hundreds of millions, so...

I tried to indicate the moments of love and sensuality come between Carli and Zeke, because they're equals. I'm leaving it up to the director as to how far they go with them, but in my mind, I'd make it Red Shoe Diaries, to the max. All soft touches and golden light with nudity and kisses.

I think I will storyboard the full script, just to see how that works.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Mind drifting and shifting and wandering so...

This is a really good movie, and Brendan Fraser holds his own with heavyweight actors like Sir Ian and Lynn. He was smart to take it on.

Working on the interrogation scene between Carli and Chase drained me...but it's still being fun.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Careful...too much fun being had...

Okay...so I've got a dealer named Chase in Carli's Kills. College preppy guy with a kick-ass SUV who handles only pot and pills for the Greek House boys and girls and thinks he's hot shit. I even found the perfect photo representation of him.
He didn't have anything to do with what happened to Carli's sister, but he's supplied by Dax's gang...so Carli interrogates him. He's who gives her the final rendition of what happened that night...at least, enough for her to figure out, since he wasn't actually there.

Well, just to be wicked, I decided to pull an homage to the shower scene in Psycho, but it's Carli with a gun instead of mamma with a knife who rips open the curtain. And she questions Chase as he's tied, naked, to a chair, dripping wet. Threatening his manhood with a loop of piano wire.

I want it to be goofy and creepy and funny and obnoxious and everything. Which is probably way too much, but I can always scale it back.

And keep it in the book. Which will be a LOT kinkier, OMG will it...

I've always wondered if women are interested in seeing men threatened with sexual violence. I know most slash fiction, a lot of which includes male on male rape of well-known TV and film characters, is written by women. And there's a whole sub-culture of sexual assault by tentacle, against both males and females, that is practically devoured in Asia. So maybe women are after a little payback of their own.

We've had a century of violence against women on film, and very little in reverse. Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! is one of the few examples of male and female roles being turned on their heads. Maybe this would go over big in Japan...and freak the Talibangelical preachers out in Arkansas and Kansas.

Amazing where your research will take you, and the crazy-assed ideas you'll get from it.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Of course...

I went through the printout of CK with a red pen, today, mainly to get a feel for the flow...and sure enough, I forgot something. I learned years ago from a couple of men who'd actually written and worked in film and television is that there are certain scenes which are just plain obligatory in your project. They may not be the same from one to the next, but once you read the script you'll know if it's missing because anything after that will fall flat.

Well...the obligatory scene I neglected, and by deliberate intent, was the one explaining exactly why Carli goes after these guys. Not her verbal explanation, but an actual visual representation of it. She has a video on her phone of what happened that night, but it's incomplete. I thought I could get away with hinting at it here and referring to it there...but that didn't work. I need a scene where Carli finds out she didn't know everything about that night that drove her sister to suicide, and that it's worse than even she imagined.

In short, I need to show it. Otherwise the whole revenge thing becomes lame.

Of course, that meant adding a couple more scenes in to set up the revelation better. So I noted where they need to go. The nice thing about having a hard copy of the script is being able to quickly jump back and forth on the pages. Maybe it's old-fashioned, but it worked. Now I'm letting it sit overnight.
I had a ton of ironing to do so watched Magic Mike. I'm a big fan of Steven Soderberg's naturalistic style, and I figured any movie with Joe Mangianello, Alex Pettyfer and Matt Bomer would be fun to look at (I bought it on special at a truck stop, about a year ago). OMG, it has the same storyline as Saturday Night Fever, which I thought was trite in 1977. It even has the same damned ending shot!

I'll grant that Channing Tatum's good-looking, but he's too Wonder Bread for me. And I stopped liking Matthew McConaughey when he did that series of dumb-blond-boy-man movies, years ago. It struck me his manner of acting has become "open mouth or close mouth or grin." Unfortunately, they got the lion's share of the naked torso shots. Plus Alex Pettyfer came across as a lot older than 19, even though he was only 22 at the time...and his acting was very surface. And here we have a movie about male strippers but not one of them is gay, nor are there any gay characters in it, at all.

What's really sad about this is, I didn't believe a minute of it. There's one huge deal concerning drugs and a sorority that was handled so unrealistically, I damn near turned the DVD off. This is from Steven Soderberg, who did amazing films like The Limey and Traffic and Erin Brockovich and Ocean's Eleven. Maybe I was expecting too much from him doing a male-stripper movie; it's rather like Orson Welles doing The Sound of Music -- interesting, but no way in hell could that work.

Damn, I wish he hadn't.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

First draft of CK

Okay, it's party time. I slammed down and completed a first draft of Carli's Kills, and now comes the real work -- making sure it fits together in a way that makes sense. It's not yet 90 pages, but there are parts where I cut down the narrative part to things like -- they make love. That, alone, could take two or three minutes if done properly. Or -- She checks the pistol. Fires. Misses. Leading into a bit where Carli shows Zeke she knows more about weaponry than he does. That's ¼ of a page when it will probably be 45 seconds to a minute of screen time.

I have the scenes in the proper order, I think. I do almost believe I'm missing one, but an hour's worth of thought didn't bring it to mind, so...we'll see if it makes its appearance during the rewrite.

I printed out a copy. Now I can do my red pen thing, tomorrow. Until then, a little dance....

This is from Orphan Black, and all the girls dancing are the same actress -- Tatiana Maslany. And this gives you a solid glimpse of how movies are really made, today.

Should give actors with huge egos much pause...but it won't.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Harry Potter Marathon...


I had the day off so finished up the Harry Potter series of DVDs...and ...The Deathly Hallows duo caught me up almost as much as The Prisoner of Azkaban. Not so much because of the director but because the producers were wise enough to break the last book into 2 parts -- I know, they only did it to make more money, but it was a smart decision for the story, too. It gave the characters time to breathe and grow and feel...and to me, that made the final hour of the series breathtakingly heartbreaking instead of rushed through.

I worked out most of the plot twists without having read the books or knowing all that much about them, but one took me completely by surprise and I wonder if it was intended. It comes in a throwaway line that goes by so quickly, I wasn't sure I heard it right. But then events strongly suggested I'm right. I may be the only person reading anything into that line...but it worked so perfectly for me, I just know it's right.

It was fascinating watching the growth of Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Gint as actors, too. Emma Watson started out as the best of the group, but she got equalled by Rupert and surpassed by Daniel, to my surprise. No, I shouldn't say that; I saw Daniel in The Woman in Black, and he was good in that. Plus anyone who takes on Alan Strang in Equus, on-stage no less, deserves respect. I saw a road show of the play in San Antonio and it was intense.

So in order of like --
HP3
HP8
HP7
HP6
HP4
HP5
HP2
HP1
And a special hat-tip to Matthew Lewis (AKA: Neville Longbottom) for winding up so dashing.

As the saying goes -- some people hit puberty, this guy beat the hell out of it.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Too funny...

So...I've entered Return to Darian's Point into a number of screenplay competitions. I like the script and think it's ready to go into production. The last pass I did through it was trimming back a bit more description and removing directions to actors. That's it. No dialogue reworked or scenes rearranged.

It's a simple story: A suicidal young man who's just lost everything returns to Ireland to sign away the last piece of property he owns -- a small island off the Cliffs of Moher where his younger brother died, 16 years earlier -- then kill himself. Only he winds up caught in his family's ancient curse, and he is forced to face not only the demons of his past, but a creature of absolute evil that needs his death to set it free.

The script's already been a finalist in last year's Shriekfest and was a semi-finalist in Writers on the Storm, so I know it's good. And it's unusual. More gothic in horror than slasher-gasher crap.

Well...the first notification I get is from Script Pipeline; RDP didn't even make the first cut. Okay, that's that. No big deal...but not an auspicious start to this round of competition pushing.

Then I get notification from The Indie Gathering that Return to Darian's Point won Best Horror Script. Cool. Very happy about that. In fact, I'm planning to attend. I have enough points for a couple nights at a La Quinta near there, and points enough to rent a car from Enterprise so my little old Honda doesn't have to push it in the August heat.

Only what happens next? A possible packing job in LA pops up...which might entail me flying there in the middle of the festival. It's like the fates are toying with me to see just how much fun they can have.

But what's really funny about this to me is how one competition says my scripts not as good as hundreds and hundreds of others while another competition says it's the best in its genre. Hardly a consistent pattern as regards judging the quality of screenwriting. But I will say, what I've found is I do poorly in competitions that have "coverage services" or follow the current books about writing for film, and better in competitions where they judge a script on its own merits and not against a checklist.

That helps, immeasurably, to make me proud of my work.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Other mysteries...

I'm reading Patricia Cromwell's Scarpetta, about a medical examiner in Boston called in on a murder investigation because the chief suspect asked for her, and I'm put off by it. Cromwell's style keeps reminding me of some fake hard-ass thinking he's being honest because he rubs your nose in filth and confusion. I didn't like that kind of style with Russell Banks, didn't like it when I read some Dean Koontz, and Steven King heading that way finally turned me off on him.

It's the same with movies. The original Kiss of Death, made in 1947 with Victor Mature, was a hundred times more hard-assed than the remake with twinkly David Caruso. It was honest to its characters and let Victor Mature be a crook who got into another heist and went to jail to protect his comrades. The remake, had to make him a nice guy who was forced into a heist gone wrong, and they made up for the weakness by tossing in a couple hundred "fucks". And the remake of that near-perfect noir film, Out of the Past -- retitled Against All Odds -- was like weak tea because they ignored Mitchum's casual corruption and made Jeff Bridges a nice guy who goes looking for a buddy's girlfriend then tried to tough it up with lots of sex and a drag race and angry actors.

I keep having that feeling with Scarpetta -- like I'm being told "This is life, and it's messy and cruel and people are mean and hateful, sometimes, and even if you love someone that's no guarantee against the odds." It's all "drama" and no honest conflict. It's faked up nonsense and gilded to look pretty.

I'm reminded of a story Kirk Douglas told, about when his father gave up cigarettes. The man quit cold turkey, but always carried one cigarette with him. And when he felt the nicotine scream, he'd pull out that cigarette and say, "Who is stronger? You or me? I am stronger." And he'd put the cigarette back in his pocket. To me that's a nice distilled illustration of the truth of human drama. It's not who can cuss loudest or beat the hell out of you best. It's how strong you are in your quiet moments, because those explain the strength needed in your harsh moments.

I guess this is a cautionary tale in what not to do with The Vanishing of Owen Taylor or Carli's Kills.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Role reversals

Well, Zeke's in trouble and Carli's got to rescue him. Sort of a flip on the girl being the one caught by the bad guys, making the hero do heroic things to save her...but Carli's more like a guy in so many ways. No, that's wrong -- she's a woman capable of handling herself and smart enough to understand what's going on.

That was something I hated about Kill Bill -- how Uma Thurman's character kept doing things that were stupid in order to keep the plot going or provide a shocking turn of events, even as reality was consistently ignored. That's lazy screenwriting.

CK's becoming a pretty tight script. I may be able to clock it in at just over 90 pages. We'll see. The first act is 26 pages long, so that normally works out to 104 pages, for me.

I watched Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and it was almost a Chris Columbus movie, it was so shallow and quick to ignore what was complicated in any way or might gum up the works if they paid it any mind.

I will say, I do like how Neville's become a solid part of the pack. But the twist about Harry's father and Snape was tossed aside so contemptuously, it made me angry. This was a hugely important moment and deserved more than two minutes of film time, way more. So far #3 is the best with #4 a decent followup. #5 is a distant third, and then come the first two.

I can only hope for the best with the next three.