Super Awesome Buddy Squad

Before participating in the 48 hour film project, my director/producer/man in charge, posted videos from past years in different cities.  One of the films he posted has become my favorite short film.  I don’t know how these people managed to find this group of nerdy and incredibly interesting actors to pull this off, but they did.

I give you, Super Awesome Buddy Squad.

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Screenwriting for the third time

I’m in the midst of modifying a Stephen King short story into a screenplay.  It presents some challenges.  Remember what I said about books being internal and movies being external?  Yeah, this story is a prime example of that.

It’s first person, for starters.

Much of the story takes place in flashbacks and narration.  Some of the story contains references to things that I don’t understand or am too young to know about.  Part of the story is so disturbing that I’m not sure how much should be shown in a film.

But, it’s a great experience so far.

My teacher taught us that in screenwriting you have to make choices.  I teach my acting students to “commit.”  Basically, in all writing and acting once you make a decision you need to stick with it.  Go to the place that is inevitable with that kind of decision.

When modifying any other medium into a screenplay, there are things that have to change.  Choices are not just important, but necessary.  I had a lot of friends who got all annoyed about LOTR and the changes that Peter Jackson made to the story.  But I even if I don’t agree with every change he made, I see that the changes made a better movie.

Let’s get back to what I learned before my last semester of film school.

There was a second magic thing that I discovered about screenwriting while on Christmas vacation.  It was: Write the screenplay however the heck you want and break all the rules, as long as you show the story.

Yup.

I learned to be a rebel.

Compatibility

This summer Apple came out with the new Retina display Macbook Pros.  I needed a new laptop.  I waited for a few months and when the desire was too much to hold back, I went to the Apple Store and got my very own.

It’s pretty sweet.

I took it home and we haven’t been parted since.  I am on my computer almost as much as I am wake.  This baby is fast.  Sleek.  Clean.  Gorgeous.

And completely incompatible with every other form of technology I own.

I found out right away that it didn’t have a firewire port.  Okay, no big deal, I’ll get an adapter.  That’ll be $30.  Plus $20 for a new cable, because oh right, firewire has been updated since I bought my camera.  $50 dollars.  Doesn’t seem like too much, but on the cusp of how much I paid for the Mac, it annoyed me.

That wasn’t the end, either.

This version of the Mac doesn’t have a port for a microphone.  Why?  I don’t know.  It makes no sense to me.  There’s the option of connecting through the usb, but then I’d have to buy a new mic and I don’t even want to go into the cost of that.  Fine.  I’ll get another adapter.  If I bought it through Apple, the adapter would cost about $30.  Again.

NO WAY.

I found a middle-range, probably too cheap one on Amazon.  It was about $11.  Not too bad.  Hopefully it works.

I know technology is changing and I understand why it has to.  I guess I just wish it could stay compatible with old technology for at least 5 years.  That way us poor, recent college grads could afford our computers and eat too.

Winter’s Bone

I was trolling imdb.com last night and came across Jennifer Lawrence’s bio.  It included this personal quote:

“[on her role in Winter’s Bone (2010)] – I’d have walked on hot coals to get the part. I thought it was the best female role I’d read – ever. I was so impressed by Ree’s tenacity and that she didn’t take no for an answer. For the audition, I had to fly on the redeye to New York and be as ugly as possible. I didn’t wash my hair for a week, I had no makeup on. I looked beat up in there. I think I had icicles hanging from my eyebrows.”

I know very few people have seen this movie, but I asked for it for Christmas the year it came out.  It is a hardcore film, but it’s also a really good indie movie.

Screenwriting Again

I said I would expound about Screenwriting, so I will.  Last time I posted about it, I left you hanging about what I learned over Christmas break.  Well…

It was magic.

Really, it was.  I’ve been writing or telling stories ever since I could speak.  Maybe even before then.  Through all these short tales and long tales I honed my art like a carpenter whittles and smooths wood (See that, that was a simile. I know, impressive).  Writing teachers told me to keep going, I had a gift.  Sometimes I didn’t believe them when I saw all those red marks on my papers.

When I took Screenwriting, I knew a bit about how to tell a story.  I just didn’t understand the cardinal rule of screenwriting: write a movie.  What? you say.  Of course screenwriting is writing a movie.

But movies are not books.

My teacher once said something like this, “Books are about internal struggles, movies are about external struggles.”  He said that because we were talking about suicide in movies and how it isn’t very popular.  I asked why, of course, because I was writing a suicide script.  “Suicide,” he said, “is hard to show.  It’s all in your head.”

Movies are about what you can show.

Let’s say your best friend goes blind.  (I don’t know why, maybe he fell into a vat of acid or something.  Yes, he can be a superhero now.)  Okay, so he’s blind and you have him over to watch a movie, because you’re kind of a mean friend.  But to make up for it you describe the entire film.

Writing a screenplay is describing the world and the story to someone who’s blind.

Everything that you write should draw an image into the mind of the reader–who is hopefully a director or producer or actor.  Stay away from backstory.  Stay away from sentences that describe feelings.  Stay away from stories that have to be narrated–it means the images can’t stand on their own.

Movies are about what you can show.

I’m not saying don’t have dialog in your movies.  But I do recommend writing silent films first.  If you can write a film with no dialog and still tell a compelling story, you’re probably a great screenwriter.

The 2nd assignment my teacher gave us in Screenwriting 4 was to make a short film with only about 20 words of dialog.  I made one with no dialog, except when an actress improv-ed some in German.

So the first thing I learned over Christmas break: Movies are what you can show.  I’ll tell ya the second thing in another post.

 

Here’s a film that needs no narration.

Con X

This past weekend a band of misfits rolled into Kansas City and took up residence at the Ramada.  They spread out their tables with sonic screwdrivers, Looper posters, headshots to be signed, mechanized R2-D2s and steampunk goggles.  Movies screened in one room while Stormtroopers and Redshirts trolled another.  Outside on the grass an epic battle ensued between medieval knights and a samurai Iron Man.

Con X.

A sci-fi convention to beat all sci-fi conventions.

I was there with Zodiac Cinema, a small production company out to save the world, one awesome movie at a time.  Besides helping to man the table, my job included running panels with celebrities.  On Friday I headed questions for Mark Fredrichs, Amber Armstrong, and Ashley Palmer, some of the talented cast of Paranormal Activity.  They were and are the kindest, coolest and most interesting professional actors I have ever met.  They even allowed us to take pictures with them.

On Saturday I had the chance to head a panel with Cliff Simon, Jay Acovone and Alexis Cruz, some of the folks from Stargate: SG1.  These guys were incredibly experienced with the convention scene and they seemed pretty cool.  I found out that Cliff Simon was originally from South Africa and they used his accent as part of the character of Ba’al.

After some fire-twirling, creepy elevator riding, and terrible dancing the weekend was over for me.  But that Stormtrooper wearing a kilt will never fade from my memory.  Some things you can’t un-see.

Onward to Comic Con.

Tony Scott

This was a real guy who showed that he had real fears.  Not very many people are willing to do that.  And he was incredibly talented.

In tribute to film director Tony Scott.  I’m sorry you’re gone.  But I’m glad that you have a legacy of films that will remain.