Time To Be Thankful

I realize that Thanksgiving is an inherent American holiday.  It was started by a group of travelers who had made it to a new land and then suffered horribly.  Many–most really–of them died the first year or so they were here.  When they had a colony established, including houses, they were blessed with enough food to keep them alive.

And they were thankful.

Okay, a lot of Americans don’t really remember or care about the origin of Thanksgiving.  And this is a bare minimum summary of it, at best.  But in the words of my fellow Co-Producer, “I believe that this is the time I was meant to be born.  All the technology…I feel right here.  I belong now.”

So I’d like to take this moment–3 days after the American holiday of Thanksgiving–to list some things I’m thankful for in the realm of technology, artistry, and filmmaking.

1.  The continuing evolution of the camcorder, from RED cameras to my Sony FS100, to the Blackmagic Cameras to the DSLR in all its forms.  I am so thankful that we found a way to record motion.  Thank you French guys who worked on the first cameras.  Thank you to every filmmaker and inventor since then.

2.  Every tablet on the market.  I love tablets.  Read more about my obsession with tablets here or here.

3.  Youtube, Vimeo and every single outlet with which I am able to share my work with the rest of the world, and see theirs.  I don’t know about you, but I think that this time period is the best for opening up our world–Americans, Canadians, New Zealanders, Indians, British folk, Germans, Japanese, Chinese, Egyptians, Italians, etc–to other cultures, artists, technology, friendships and new thinking.

4.  Texting.  Yup.

5.  Books.  In every form.  And the access I have to hundreds upon thousands of them.  There was a time when money, gender and social status would’ve kept me from reading like I do.  And technology, whether or not you prefer to read digital books, is preserving books beyond what mere paper could do.  When all the physical books are gone, I will be the last person printing an entire book from my computer.

That’s my top five technological thank yous.  I’m thankful for a lot more stuff, including you.  But ain’t nobody got time to read all that.

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POV or Point Of View Part 2

Welcome to part 2.  I blogged about POV here, a few weeks ago.  Point of view is complicated.  Aside from the POV within the story–which I mentioned in part 1–there’s the POV of the author of the story, script, whatever.  For the purpose of this post, let’s stick with books and feature films.  I can speak with the most knowledge about those and it will be less confusing.

You can tell a lot about the author from his or her story.

First off, the education of the author is usually obvious by the subject matter and/or the vocabulary.  If I read a book and I can’t go a full page without learning a new word, I know that the writer is very educated, either because they read a lot or they had a lot of school.  If the book or movie is about a bunch of college professors sitting around talking, the writer is probably well-acquainted with college professors.  And if they aren’t, the book or movie will suffer.

I often think that education and little-known words can be a weakness.  It’s not the words you know, it’s the way you use the words you know.  Here’s some of the best book writers that I know of: Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, John Green, Timothy Zahn, Sarah Dessen, Jasper Fforde and Jane Austen.  Some of them speak at a higher level, most of them just know how to use words.

Secondly, you can tell what is important to the author, or what she is passionate about, or what is bothering her, or what she wants to change about the world.  How?  Ever notice that every single movie (aside from the Batman franchise, but even that is arguable) that Christopher Nolan has made is inherently about the same thing?

Reality.  What is reality.  What do we want from reality?  Is reality something we get to choose or does it already exist?  Does the audience ever really know what’s real in most of his films?

Nolan is captured by this idea of real vs made-up and it comes out in each of his stories.  Inception, which is about the dreamworld.  Memento, which is about how a guy with memory loss sees the world.  The Prestige, which is about magicians who can create a reality for the audience (and other reasons that are spoilers so I won’t mention them).  And even The Dark Knight, which is about choosing to let people decide the reality that they want.

Let’s get another example that isn’t Nolan, eh?  Let’s talk about J.J. Abrams.  Abrams is best known at the moment for Star Trek: Into Darkness.  It’s fantastic, drop what you’re doing and go see it.

Hello, nice to see you again.  It was awesome, wasn’t it?  Good.  Abrams is the man behind Mission Impossible 3, Super 8, Star Trek (2009) and Star Trek: Into Darkness.  At the heart of these movies, and even including Armageddon, which he wrote and Michael Bay directed, is the idea of family.  The family you create, the family you have, and the family you want.  In MI3, Ethan Hunt wants to settle down and get married, which changes the way he works.  In Super 8, the relationship between father and son is strained because the mom is dead.  The son looks to friends and a girl to be his family.  In Star Trek, Kirk’s family is non-existent, until he joins Starfleet and acquires his ship and a father figure.  In Star Trek: Into Darkness, Kirk’s crew, and the crew of another major character, are mentioned as being family.  And what the characters would do for their families is a major plot point later on.

Thirdly and lastly, you can tell the audience that the writer is aiming to please.  This doesn’t mean that other audiences can’t enjoy the work.  It’s just the aim.

For example, Suzanne Collins wrote The Hunger Games trilogy for boys.  Stop right there and don’t hate me.  I know she wrote this trilogy primarily for boys because it is extremely and graphically violent, preoccupied with action over emotion, lacks excessive description, the main character is not concerned with girly things, but hunts and fights, and the ending is less than happy.  But there’s a love triangle, you say.  Whatever.  Just because it’s written primarily for a male audience doesn’t mean that the audience is all males.

Here’s a fun example: Stephenie Meyer.  We all know what she wrote, right?  It’s only 4 books and 5 movies.  Think vampires.  Yup, she wrote the Twilight books.  Now, I didn’t read these books.  Not interested.  But I saw 4 of the movies.  From a filmmaking perspective, the movies were well-made.  Anyway.  These books were written with primarily a female audience in mind.  I bet you already knew that.  Why?  Because they contain overly emotional relationships, complications to the plot that are relationship driven, a drawn-out love triangle with 2 seemingly perfect men, anticlimactic scenes, an imperfect and girly main character (someone to relate to), a very neatly bound and happy ending.

It’s funny, until the movies came out, the only people I knew who had read these books were guys.

Ha.

Good grief this is the longest post ever.  If you made it this far, congratulations!  You are now in possession of my POV on writer’s POVs and how you can identify them.  You can tell a writer’s education, passion, and audience from his or her writing.  And many, many other things.  Watch out for them as you read.

This list probably says a lot about me…

Sickness

I am very sick.

And also contemplating a lot of my story.  I’ve been working on a trilogy of YA books since last year.  This third book is my current struggle.

I have never written sequels to any of my works.  I am not usually a big fan of that.  Maybe I’ve been burned by too many authors who wrote lame sequels or maybe it’s my ongoing dislike for most TV shows.

You tell me.

Whatever the reason, this book is very hard.  I have to keep all the information in my head while I write, which is not a strongpoint of mine.  I have a villain with very layered reasons as to his motives and desires.

Like this guy.

Here we come to the upside of being sick.

I have oodles of time to sit around feeling awful and thinking of my story.  I can dissect the characters in peace, without any comment from friends or family.  I can live in their world without worrying about losing sight of my own, because hey, I’m not going anywhere.

Great.  Now I’m thankful for being sick.

Book Writing to Screenwriting to Book Writing

I started writing books.  Then my brother made me run camera for his films when he was a teenager.  I also provided scream noises for one of his horror movies.  And I think I was a vampire victim at some point.

Ketchup on my neck smelled great.

Anyway, I partly blame him for getting me into movies.  When I wrote my first film it was an adaptation of one of my books.  A medieval fantasy story.

In my last semester of Screenwriting, the comment was made in class that it was impossible to work in two writing disciplines at the same time.  Writing a book and writing a screenplay were so different that it would be too hard.  You would fail.

I disagree.

I think it’s entirely possible to write books and screenplays at the same time.  I think some authors write books that are screenplays already.  The technical aspect of writing a screenplay is very different from a book, but writers are technical by nature.  Work hard and you can do it.

The more I learn about screenwriting, the better book writer I become.

A few hours ago I switched from writing on my time-travel adventure book to editing that Stephen King screen adaptation.  I had to remind myself of the story and the medium.  I was able to forge ahead and finish the editing.