Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Planes, Trains and Automobiles



I just got back from a meet and greet with other acting and film production students.  It seems everyone wants to do comedy or horror, there is no real middle ground. But my phone is full of potential Horror actors and comedic directors, contacts that I will probably not use tomorrow, or next week but sometime during my career as a writer, I will call upon their talents.  It's not only what you know, but who you know.

Let me catch you up on the week and weekend happening.

The stairwell pitch went well.  We split up into our two production groups and spent a minute pitching to the opposite group.  The other group critiqued our presentation and at the end of class they had the chance to option one of our pitches. They optioned Romancing the Stone, which is the one I pitched. So that was a nice confidence booster.

I know I said I would be posting one of my projects, but we are scheduled to workshop it this Friday.  Hopefully, you will see it next week.

Over the course of the year, there are a number of 48 hour film shoots, where writing students can submit scripts and if they are good enough, they will be filmed by VFS students over a weekend.  I will be teaming up with one of my classmates to write the short 'Roommates', which I pitched in my last blog.

I finally found a basketball crowd.  There are four guys in class that play and we have set up times every Sunday - weather permitting - to play ball. It is a nice stress reliever.

Things are starting to ramp up! Tonight, I will be reviewing the script Planes, Trains and Automobiles, rehearsing another pitch, writing a twenty line poem, typing out a character study, and trying to keep one eye on the chicken in the frying pan.

Take care and stay tuned.


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Stairwell pitch



I am just sitting down with a warm bowl of Mac and Cheese and a log line for Romancing the Stone that needs to be rehearsed for my stairwell pitch tomorrow. Wednesday is going to be a huge day!

I pitch three original ideas (Roommates - a mocumentary about the perils of rooming with a polar opposite, Tag - an animated action piece about a rambunctious game of tag between a young boy and his pet Velociraptor and Couch Time - a comedy about the dynamically insane relationship between a therapist and her patient who thinks he is a super hero). That morning I turn in a critique of 'Some Like it Hot." Awesome movie if you have not seen it. Jack Lemmon, Marilyn Monroe and Tony Curtis. Quick, witty dialogue.

Then in the afternoon I pitch the 'Romancing the Stone' line while walking down a flight of stairs. Selling an idea is hard. Selling an idea, making eye contact while walking down a flight of stairs backwards... well, we'll see.

I met Tim Brown, President of Distribution of InSight productions in Vancouver. He gave a half hour talk about the business side of the movie market. Good thing I am passionate about writing and not in it for the money. He said if we have an idea, write up a one-page synopsis and send it to him directly. He reads everything himself, because InSight is small enough that he wants to help develop talent. He is friendly, approachable and down to earth kind of guy looking for action sci-fi scripts with female protagonists. And wouldn't you know it; I have one locked away in the vault. I'll let you know the response when I pitch it to him.

I have agreed to play street hockey this weekend. Should be an interesting experience. I have not attempted such a feat since we took an old chew can, wrapped it in electrical tape and kicked it around the icy basketball court in elementary school. Even then, my foot-eye coordination was not that grand.

Well I am off to rehearse my pitch. Take care and stay tuned...


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

It's all about story...



So here is an interesting tid bit that was brought to my attention today. In feature films, actors and directors are in charge. Rightly so. However in television, writers are kings and queens. Directors come in for a few weeks at a time, film an episode and are gone. Actors and their characters could come and go also. But writers are the constant. They are the backbone of the series. Not exactly safe, but somewhat secure in their occupation.

I started out with the intention of writing for feature films, but television is getting more and more appealing all the time. I am scheduled to write a television spec. script later in the year. I have narrowed it down to Two and a Half Men, Grey's Anatomy or Chuck. I am leaning more toward Chuck. Hopefully it does not get cancelled.

I also have the option of writing my own pilot in September. I have a few ideas. One being Millwrights: a mocumentary about a group of eccentric and comical mill workers who have to put their difference aside and band together in order to keep a small North Idaho sawmill from foreclosing. It's the Office meets MASH, woodsman style.

I had a chance to chat with Michael Baser, head of the writing department this afternoon. He wrote for sitcoms such as Three's Company, 9 to 5, the Jefferson's, Full House etc... He is an amazing talent, who has spent more than 30 successful years in television. His advice: Solid story. Know the characters and structure, but have a solid story. For television it is all about story. Most of the characters in TV are catalyst characters, they may not change a whole lot from episode to episode (however they may bring about change in others) so focus on the story line and write it so it reveals a little more about the characters.

So spread the word. It's all about story. Well, I am logging out to finish my adaptation of Dashiell Hammett's Maltese Falcon. Take care,


P.S. Spec script is short for speculation script. It is a script written on the speculation that is will be sold. In other words it better be epic.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

basketball and short films



I spent the morning scouring the local parks for a basketball court. The pickings are bleak. There is an elementary school close by with hoops, although I'll be waiting for the weekends to go shoot around. I really don't want to mimic Samuel L. Jackson in the comeback (2002). If you want a laugh check out: http://www.milkandcookies.com/link/67265/detail/

The above was one of the short films we previewed in Friday's class. We also watched two from Juno's Director Jason Reitman's earlier days

Gulp: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cXnOMrGwjoo

and In God we Trust: http://www.slashfilm.com/2008/02/25/cool-stuff-jason-reitmans-short-film-in-god-we-trust/

Our class will be previewing short films for the next two weeks before we pen our own 5-9 page script. Feel free to recommend any short films you have found humorous or inspirational. I am looking to soak in as much as possible before I start writing.

I received my first assignment on Friday. Write a three paragraph short story (any subject) using proper three act structure. I chose to do a historical piece on the Van Doo: the French Canadian infantry regiment formed during the outset of WWI. I will be posting a polished draft later in the week.

Stay tuned and take care,


Thursday, January 8, 2009

Characters & Greys...



I am kicking back after the first official day of class. We studied different types of character's, specifically villains, because 'the better the villain, the better the film' (Hitchcock). And as a personal assignment I went through all my stories and identified the villains and their motives. Some are blah, while others... well they scare the crap out of me. Which is good. Those will be the stories that I'll be concentrating on this year.

And now it's 9:50 and I am watching Grey's Anatomy (my dramatic addiction) doing character studies. Not a huge day in terms of adventure, but progressive. And inspiring. I am devouring the story telling information and excited about applying it to my future cinematic projects.

See you all in the movies.


Tuesday, January 6, 2009

VFS: Let the adventure begin...



I am finishing up the book: Laughing Out Loud, by Andrew Horton. A slick intellectual read that dives into the world of comedy, many of his references are from France, Mexico and Slavic countries. But for the last hour I have been side tracked researching the legend of Atlantis. Everyone has their theory (Santorini, N. America, the depths of the Atlantic, Cuba - Yep Castro has been hiding Atlantis for years), however Jim Allen dug up some very compelling evidence that places Atlantis on the west side of South America. He compares the Poseidon legend with that of an Inca legend, which recounts the tale of Tunapa "god of the waterways," who is said to have destroyed the ancient city with violent quakes and a flood. Interesting.

The reason I bring this up is because I am scheduled to write two 110-page feature film screenplays and I wanted to base one on the legend of Atlantis. Here's the pitch: An adventure/comedy about an American Intelligence officer - Jackson McMillan - who is called to action when the villainous Sigma Corporation, headed by a rogue U.S. agent raids an Asian archaeological site plundering artifacts linked to the lost city of Atlantis. In order to thwart the Corps scheme, McMillan teams up with a goofy computer tech for a globe-trotting race through the hills of Ireland, the streets of Madrid, and the temples of India to a remote Caribbean Island where they discover an ancient, underwater necropolis harboring mystical powers that could destroy the world.

That's just one of the idea's swimming through my brain at the moment. My brain is like an onion, lots of layers:) That's for you Deano.

So far there is a really creative group of writers in my class from all over the world. They really have a drive to succeed. I already find myself feeding off their energy, kinda of like drafting when you run. And they all have innovative ideas and inspirations, which will be awesome to tap into throughout the year.

Well I have to get some sleep before copyright orientation tomorrow, followed by a 'Tech up' workshop. Take care.


P.S. Sage advice 036: Just because the label is translated into French does not make it French bread. So put it back and get the cheap stuff.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Orientation Day



I have a few minutes before I return for the International Student orientation. Sat through a highlight video of past students works. The bar is high, and there are some really talented students in my class. Out of 24, I am the third oldest. I never thought 26 was that old...

I get my ID card and schedule Monday, January 5th and for the first two months I go to school 4 days a week. Bonus. Finalized paper work for Canadian medical insurance: $54 a month. Double bonus. And snagged a few bottled waters on my way out the door. If they are free, grab three, especially water. Triple bonus.

Well off to one more orientation. Take care and keep it between the ditches this winter.


Thursday, January 1, 2009

New Years Day



Joseph Campbell is deep. Ocean deep. Cosmic deep. I am finishing Hero of a Thousand Faces and at times I feel as though I am drowning in his knowledge. Which is good. Because the fear of drowning begets the necessity to swim. So I glean a little today, apply it tomorrow, continue to tread, continue to breathe and soon I'll be swimming with the big fishes. Soon.

Orientation is tomorrow. 8:30 a.m. I have my map, my schedule, transit ticket and ambition. So in the words of the Joker, "Here... we... go..." Only time, persistence and fate will determine if I made the right move. And so begins act two...