Progress Report – The Fourth Dimension

Sorry, I’m a few days behind. I had a cold and carnival happened (I swear, that was the order) and some schoolwork needed to be dealt with as well. If I’m really honest, there were those Assassin’s Creed games but I don’t feel this today so let’s dive right in, this is going to be a short one.

One Screenplay: I wanted to read something short with a lot of (good) dialogue so I read the pilot script for “The West Wing. Aaron Sorkin ist a great writer and “West Wing” has a special place in my heart, I think it turned me into a leftie but that’s not the reason I read it. It’s a good example of how characters (and there politics in this case) are revealed through dialogue.

Acs gi bg1 new

It’s like Batman in London.

Two Movies: I watched the two Sherlock Holmes movies on Netflix. The first one is decent, the second one just doesn’t work for me. Due to playing Assassin’s Creed Syndicate I was in a Victorian mood and that’s why I ended up watching those two. §To be honest, those Assassin’s Creed games, I played Black Flag and Syndicate are way better at telling a story as most movies, especially Black Flag, one of the best Pirate movies I ever played through. The ending of Syndicate isn’t that great but the world and the characters is just awesome.

Seven Pages: Still on it. I’m rewriting the beginning and I should have some new pages (around 25) by the weekend.

Seven hours of development: Orlindo wrote a first scene and fleshed out his outline so I gave him my two cents. I had some nitpicking to do and raised some big questions. Ultimately my biggest concern was the lack of stakes (who am I to talk, my movie has no stakes at all).

Actually this is it for this week, I need to get some pages done and this blogging thing is fun and everything but the pages are more important. If you want to read more head over to Orlindo’s site, his posts are a bit longer.

Progress Report – Three Time’s The Charm

Three in a row, I’m really proud, I can’t remember the last time my writing was this consistent and organized1. I’m going to keep the numbers short though because I want to focus a bit on some work I did for my #ProjectMomentum project “Down Under”.Wpid Before Sunrise Movie Poster 2015 2016 4

One Screenplay: As I mentioned in my last post I lined up “Before Sunrise” in my reading queue. I’m not going to write too much about that now, I’m going to write an entire post about that one since it serves as an inspiration for “Down Under” but there are a few important take aways I’m going to mention.


Two Movies:
I went to see “The Hateful Eight”. It was long but I really enjoyed it. It’s almost like a play but the energy is palpable and everything you expect from a Tarantino movie is there. I was particularly
impressed with the narrative structure. I don’t want to spoil anything but QT just knows how to tell a story. The second thing I want to mention is not really a movie and I didn’t even finish it this week but Netflix’s “Making a Murder” is so good I just have to mention it. If you haven’t watched it yet, go now.

Seven Pages and Seven hours of development: I’m still waiting for some news from Orlindo and his Project, so I couldn’t comment or wok on his. Instead I focused on my Idea: Down Under
Back in August 2015 I wrote about my summer and how I got inspired to write again.

So, when I say that I got inspired, I really mean that. Since that summer in Cambridge I always wanted to write an ensemble piece about people traveling and experiencing something together and in Australia I realized, that this is it. If I combine my time in Cambridge and my time in Australia with all the people I had the honor the meet and get to know, I end up with a great story, a story about people who are looking for something. Some are looking for adventure, some love, others are searching themselves but all of them are looking for friendship.

It took me 30 hours to get home from Australia but that was enough time to finish an outline and I’m almost 20 pages into the screenplay and so far, I really like what I’m reading. It’s far from perfect and I have to figure out the exact tone of the script but I’m in love with the characters and that’s what excites me the most.

 

It’s time to give you a longer update and to tell you what problems I’m currently facing. In my last post I told you about my strange process. I decided to take a step back and focus and the outline and make sure that all my nice moments and characters turn into a coherent story. The problem is, that I only have moments but no plot. I think I have to focus on that. I have some ideas for some plot points in the second half and I think I need to move those plot points into the first half. There are too many characters to juggle and I need to make sure that each and everyone of them not only gets a moment to shine but also an interesting arc or at least some form of journey.

I’m going to try to make sure that those arcs fit the theme but since I haven’t settled on a theme yet I’m flying blind here. I have some ideas but I need to pick one. While reading “Before Sunrise” it struck me how early and how clearly the theme/mission statement of the movie is spoken out loud.

JESSE

Do you have any idea what they’re arguing about? Do you speak English?

CELINE

Yes. But no, I don’t know. My German is not that good. (a beat) Have you ever heard that as couples get older they lose their ability to hear each other?

JESSE

Really?

CELINE

Supposedly men lose their ability to hear higher-pitched sounds and women eventually lose hearing on the low end. I guess they sort of nullify each other or something.

JESSE

Must be nature’s way of allowing couples to grow old together and not kill each other, I guess.

These are the first lines spoken by our two main characters and for me, it’s the movie in a nutshell2 and it’s exactly the thing I’m looking for. Obviously my movie isn’t about love, it’s about making new friends and coming to terms with who you are in the process. It’s about growing up and finding that spark, we all have as kids, again. But right now I’m looking for that spark myself, not the one you lose growing up but the light bulb one. I’m still waiting for that moment I described in “A (Hi)story Lesson”. I know that I can’t force that moment to happen and in the meantime there’s a lot I can do so I’m not complaining, I just wish the solution would present itself rather sooner than later. Until then I keep churning out pages with short brakes of playing “Assassin’s Creed – Black Flag” in between.

So stay tuned. Now playing. The Hateful Eight – Ennio Morricone.

  1. During the heyday of Skyscraper and Saber Rider I was really in the zone a couple of times. It’s about building momentum, a critcal mass of pages that gets your creative juices flowing, so basically everything #ProjectMomentum is about.
  2. If you really think about it, it’s all three movies in a nutshell.

Progress Report – The Second Coming

I’m a few days behind but I did the work, it’s just that this post got postponed a bit. Orlindo just shared his second status update on #ProjectMomentum which means it’s my turn again.

So, let’s crunch the numbers.

One Book: I recently finished World War Z by Max Brooks and for work I’m rereading The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon. rereading The Ocean at the End of the Lane reminded me how great a writer Gaiman is and the book actually might help me with Orlindo’s idea. Some of my comments in our last exchange were heavily influenced by Gaiman’s book. But #ProjectMomentum is about screenwriting so I should start reading screenplays again. Thanks to Weekend Read by my favorite blogger and podcaster John August reading screenplays on an iPad is a breeze. Even “breeze” is an understatement, you don’t have to leave the app to download great screenplays. So I started with Star Wars – The Force Awakens and I have to say, it was a good read. I especially looked at character introductions and the action beats.

I love how Rey is introduced, through action and not through dialogue but my favorite bit is how the screenplay portrayed Finn, from “OUR STORMTROOPER” to “FN-2187” to “FINN”. It’s a tiny detail but I guess that’s what people call craft. Next up “Before Midnight” and after that I think I should read a german screenplay.

anomalisa-poster

Two Movies: I watched more than 2 movies but I want to mention two of them that stuck with me. First off: Anomalisa. I went in cold, I only knew that Charlie Kaufman made an animation movie and boy did he deliver. It’s like nothing I’ve seen before but the biggest take away is, that some stories just demand a specific art form. I can’t imagine this story any other way. The second movie was “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl“. I read the book with my students and the movie is just wonderful, if you like funny movies about cancer. I don’t know If Orlindo has seen this movie but It might be a good idea foe him because the vibe would fit his story as well. A bit whimsical but emotionally honest.

Seven pages: I’m on it. I’m typing and deleting. There are a few screens I need to get on paper but after that it’s back to the drawing board. I need to figure out what the story is about. If writing a screenplay is like carving a statue, out of stone I’m currently pouring concrete into a rock shaped mold. Seems lie I have to wait before I can start chiseling.

Seven hours of development: I read Orlindo’s outline and gave him some feedback and commented on his feedback to my feedback. We’re using Evernote for our development process and so far I rally like it. It’s nice to have everything in one place, sending emails back and forth is ok but it gets confusing after 15 emails.

I hope I could give him some valuable insights and/or nudges into different directions. I can see what he is going for and the story starts to take shape and I’m confident that he’s close to the moment I talked about in my last post. Like Anomalies, some stories just want to be told a certain way and I hope that our stories will reveal themselves to us rather sooner than later.

So let me end with my music tip for the week: Fargo TV Soundtrack by Jeff Russo. The Main Theme is just beautiful.

A (Hi)story Lesson

Zootopia poster

Zootopia: I’m not saying they stole our idea but…

Let’s dig deep into the Whiteworms archive:

Orlindo shared an interesting article about the Making of Disney’s Zootopia. The article hit really close to home. Not only is the premise vaguely similar to Skyscraper , they also ran into some similar story/character issues. It’s interesting to read that even the pros run into the same problems/opportunities.

You learn something with every screenplay and this was definitely true for Skyscraper. It wasn’t just the fact that it was our first really good script that met our expectations, it was how we got there. When I look at the first iteration of Skyscraper (script or outline) I see the same premise, the same world and the same characters but it’s a totally different movie. I dug up the first email I wrote about what later turned into Skyscraper1 and the basics are there. We didn’t know what kind of bird, the ending was different and there were cats instead of guinea pigs but the basic idea was there.

It was much later, December 2012, after we took part in some competitions that we completely changed the first act. It was quite similar to what the makers of Zootopia describe in the article. It wasn’t easy to throw away good pages and characters you got attached to over time but it was necessary and it made Skyscraper a better movie. Sometimes people talk about “a stroke of genius” but I wouldn’t call out decision there “a stroke” it was an idea that presented itself and we decided to try it. Only after the rewrite we saw how good the idea was and that thanks to those changes the whole movie (even the parts we didn’t have to touch) got a lot better.

A similar thing happened when we wrote Saber Rider. When we started we stayed replay close to the source material but we soon realized that certain elements needed to go the way of the dodo. We had to make some changes that hurt us as fans and even some of our friends thought we were nuts and had some reservations. But we applied those changes2 and the movie just came together in a way we never hoped it could. Everything suddenly made sense.

So what do we take away from this? First of all nothing is sacred or to use an overused pharse: Kill your darlings. I’m not sure though that all the changes we made were our darlings but it is important not to censor yourself. Every stupid idea has merit. It might not be the solution but it’s probably a step on the way there. Skyscraper and Saber Rider are in the past and I doubt that we’re going to have some big ideas for those two movies but I can’t wait to see what the big idea fpr my current project is going to be. I’m not looking forward to deleting all those pages but the new pages I’m going to write because of that idea….damn, I just wish I had those pages already. :-)

  1. It startet as “Untitled Whiteworms Animation Studios Feature”, that was a mouthfull so we changed that to “Central Park” until we realized that “Empire State Bulding” makes more sense. We actally registered it unter that title with the WGA. It was much later, after that fateful rewrite, that we changed it to “Skyscraper”.
  2. Like making Saber Rider 25 years older than everybody else.

Progress Report

It has been 3 days. And I can honestly say, so far #ProjectMomentum has been a (moderate) success. I have to admit that I spent most of my time tweaking www.whiteworms.com though. Orlindo suggested to make the site multilingual (German and English) so I applied some wordpress plugin magic (thank you polylang) and lo and behold, the site is multilingual now. Next up Klingon. :-)

But let’s have a look at the numbers: 1-2-7-7.

Spotligt

Spotlight

Did I read a book/screenplay? Well I have a few days left and I think I’ll be able to finish World War Z. And I have to say, it’s a remarkable book. I really enjoy the style and as a history buff it really reminds me of oral history books. But there’s more to the structure than just that. All these interviews create something that is far more interesting than a) a traditional narrative and b) the sum of it’s parts. The different perspectives and the subtle references to each other really make this a fun read.

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The Revenant

2 Movies: I finally watched Spotlight this week. This one got in under my radar but I was quite impressed. It’s a quiet movie with great performances and I really liked the fact that it was really immersive. I instantly was captured by the story. Which brings me to the otter movie I watched: The Revenant. Well, let me start by saying , I really liked it. Its better than Birdman, the performances are great, the movie looks gorgeous but (and I mean this in the best possible way) for me the movie tried too hard. Spotlight felt effortless but every single minute of The Revenant felt like they were trying to make an awards movie. Leo’s role and his performance screams Oscar…

As I said, I really liked it but it just felt a bit forced. It will probably win Best Picture but I’m still rooting for Mad Max.

7 pages: I think I have two so far. Not bad but I can do better.

7 hours of development: I’m waiting for Orlindo to send my an outline I’m supposed to work on. I should get that tomorrow and give him feedback. I also cleaned my projects folder and I’m probably going to reevaluate my Time Travel show. I think there’s something there worth exploring in the era of binge watching.

I’m also counting the time I spent on the website since it’s project related.

Another random thing I want to mention is a musical discovery I recently made. I stumbled upon a series of Recordings  called Recomposed by Deutsche Grammophon. It’s basically remixing/recomposing old classics. Totally at random I listened to Recomposed by Max Richter: Vivaldi, The Four Seasons (Deluxe Version) and it was one of the most interesting pieces of classical music in recent memory. I included and Apple Music link. If you have time, it’s really inspiring music.

That went well…

Remember back in September when I decided to use this blog to rant about stuff and broadcast my opinions? If not just look at the previous post. So much for epic fail, but who was I kidding, everybody knew that it wasn’t gonna work, it was just a bit/a lot sooner that expected. I’d love to say that this year everything is going to be different but I’m not going to. Talk (in this case typing) is cheap, only actions count so I’m not going to promise anything instead I’ll try to do stuff, or better:

Do or do not. There is no try.

So I’m not even trying anymore, I’ll will do. I don’t know what exactly but I’m sure It will turn out absolutely horrible and inconsequential but you, yes google indexing bot, I’m talking to you, are along for the ride. This whole new attitude is part of a New thing Orlindo1 and I are trying to get our writing back on track. I called it “Project Momentum”. We’re having shirts made and everything but the idea is to start writing and (and this is the key part) not to stop when it doesn’t fit your schedule.

We are both terrible at time management and don’t get me started about deadlines we set for ourselves but we want to do this writing thing and if we don’t change our working habits, we’re definitely not going to achieve our goal, and I’m not even talking about getting a movie made, I’m just talking bout finishing one.

I was totally motivated back in September and wrote almost 30 pages, some of them decent but then I stopped because I had other things to do. Long story short, we are writing again. We are also trying to do some form of Scott Meyers 1-2-7-14. It translates to “read one screenplay, watch two movies, write 7 pages and work 14 hours on prepping a story per week“. We’re not totally sure about the 14 and I decided to include books as well. Currently I’m in the middle of Max Brooks’ World War Z, which is so much better than the movie they made, but I digress. I’m also including one blog post per week, maybe to make sure I reach my numbers.

But no, just as I said it’s not about trying, its about doing. On that note, I think that’s it for today. I have to get back to my pages and the music of David Bowie.

NewImage

Yoda knows best.

  1. Orlindo will document his perspective of #ProjectMomentum on his blog. He writes in German so you not only get two perspectives, you also get two languages.

What to write about

My biggest problem with this blog thing is the eternal question of what to write about. I can’t write about writing all the time and to be honest my life isn’t that interesting. I think I should’ve blogged while on holiday but who want’s to sit down everyday to write while on holiday. I did a fair amount of writing writing in Australia but I don’t want to write about and I kind of already did.

So, what to write about?

New Apple products? There are tech sites who do a far better job with that, but seriously…Apple Pencil????

New Movies? I’m not a critic. I have strong opinions about movies but I don’t think that they are coherent enough to share on a regular basis.

Books? Same problem, I’m not a critic. I love books and I read quite a few of them but I don’t think my opinions are of any value to anyone other than myself and my students.

Music? …same issue.

Stupid people? This is really tempting but then again, I don’t want to be too mean. This is one of those things though, that when done in moderation might actually be quite fun. I think I posted some rants before and if I have something to rant about I might actually do this. As I said, I’ll try to be not too mean but if someone deserves a rant, he or she will get one.

Life advice? That’d be fun and probably deadly for the people following that advice.

I could go on, but what I’m really trying to say, I’m not qualified to write about pretty much anything, but I want to keep writing which leaves me with a big dilemma.

So I decided to not care anymore. I’m going to share my opinions, ideas and pretty much anything that floats around in my head. You might not like everything but I don’t care and I hope you don’t care too much either.

but lets end with one of the greatest thinkers of the 20th century, Groucho Marx:

These are my principles, If you don’t like them, I have others.

Take care and stay tuned for my first opinion/rant piece.

Featured Screenplay: The Passion of The Geek

old-typewriterSo, I had the idea for a new feature in the site. I call it Featured Screenplay, so what I’ll do is, I’ll share some of my screenplays with some thoughts about them and if you would like to know more about them just let me know.

I’m going to start with my first real endeavor into screenwriting, I started this one a long time ago, even before “Skyscraper”. Back at University, after I completed my first (totally over-written) romantic drama (no, I wont tell that story), I decided to get rid of all that drama crap and write something funny.

I combined some of my experiences (yes, the script was a bit like therapy) and some crap I made up in my spare time and turned it into a fairly personal story that is so completely out there that even I can’t take myself serious anymore. The script is full with half-baked ideas I once had (my unfinished time-travel TV show), strange characters and scenes that are blatantly stolen from classic movies.

I called this magnum opus “The Passion of the Geek” and even though the script has many flaws, I still remember it very fondly. The “hero” of the story is Ben, basically a movie version of me, which gets confusing when Ben has to convince me, yes me Greg, to help him rewrite the movie.

Yes, it’s quite strange.

I break the fourth wall a lot and the script makes fun of certain romantic comedy tropes. I tried to write a movie with jokes for people like me, a lot of meta-jokes and some nice references. It is really important though, that I don’t consider it a spoof movie. I’m not the biggest fan of recent spoof movies and I tried to avoid their biggest mistakes and focused more on timeless pop culture than on recent hits.

“The Passion of the Geek” probably not my most original work (hell, even the title is kind of stolen) but I’d argue that the the script is more than the sum of its parts. Maybe you read it and be the judge of that. I include a little sample here. Feel free to comment and critique it.

EXT. OLD FACTORY, PARTY LOCATION – NIGHT

Amy and Ben are standing in front of the old factory. Full moon above them. It is a really romantic setting. Amy seems a bit uncomfortable with the situation.

AMY

Okay, what is it?

BEN

Long or short version.

AMY

Make it short.

BEN

Short then.

(deep breath)

Amy, it has been a long time since the day we met and I wanted to say this a million times but I never had the guts to. But now, thanks to Olga, I just have to tell you how much I love you.

Ben feels relieved. The weight of the world has just fallen off him.

AMY

Who’s Olga?

BEN

Never mind, forget about Olga. Olga is not important. I just really like you and I hope that you like me too.

Amy is moved by Ben’s honesty and she is sad that she has to disappoint him.

AMY

Listen Ben, you are a really nice guy and I really like you too but I’m sorry, there is someone else.

The echo of the “someone else” travels around the world.

Ben tries to hide his disappointment.

BEN

It’s okay I expected that to happen, but it was important for me to let you know how I feel. Is it too late to play the friendship card?

AMY

No it isn’t. I would love to have a friend like you.

BEN

Friends then?

AMY

Yes Friends.

She smiles and kisses him on the cheek. The image freezes and the picture quality changes.

INT. TV ROOM – NIGHT

The footage of Amy and Ben kissing is shown on a TV. Ben stands next to the TV.

BEN

(to the audience)

That’s what I call crash and burn, I got totally friendzoned but you have to admit that I stayed cool. I could have freaked out, but I stayed cool. But let’s press rewind and watch it again.

He presses rewind and the video rewinds.

BEN

Where I got the video? The Internet where else? But now look how I experienced it.

The TV shows the scene from before.

BEN (IN TV)

I just really like you and I hope you could like me too.

AMY (IN TV)

Listen Ben, you are a really nice guy and I really like you too but I’m sorry, there is someone else.

Her eyes start glowing red. She takes her hand and rams it into Ben’s chest. She rips his heart out. She holds the beating heart in her hand and LAUGHS LIKE A SUPER VILLAIN. Then she throws it on the ground and stomps on it.

BEN

I need a drink.

Ben walks away from the TV.

EXT. OLD FACTORY, PARTY LOCATION – NIGHT

Amy and Ben are walking back into the Building.

AMY

Wanna know something funny? Back when we met, you know the accident and everything?

BEN

Yeah, sure how could I forget.

AMY

I kind of had a crush on you.

BEN

Really?

AMY

Yes.

Amy smiles.

INT. TV ROOM – NIGHT

EVIL AMY on the TV screen kicks Ben in his testicles.

This is one of my favorite scenes and shows the kind of humor the screenplay uses. I hope you liked it.

The current version of “The Passion of the Geek” is 93 pages long and was last revised in October 2014. So if you’re interested in a half-baked strange comedy for total geeks, drop me a line.

Apple Music

Apple Music…I like it.

And now for something completely different…Apple Music.

I’m a huge Apple Fanboy so it’s no surprise that I tried the Apple Music Service and I have to admit that I quite like it. Sure, it has its flaws but most new Apple services have some issues at the beginning but two feature I really like are the playlists and some of the radio stations.

For some strange reason “Beats1” doesn’t work but I don’t think the music selection there ist right up my alley but I had a look at some of the genre stations and some hand/genius made playlists that were recommended for my taste and I have to admit that I rarely have to skip a song and if I do, it’s mostly because I heard that song too many times because I own it.

I tried Apple Music on my birthday and the selection was spot on, I only wish, that there was an option to make the playlists endless (no, not repeat) but I guess that’s the problem with curated stuff. Someone has to make an “endless” playlist.

But anyway. I hope that they keep improving the service and that they keep adding music. I decided to stay on and keep using Apple Music.

The ideas keep coming

As you may know, I’m in the middle of my new screenplay. Well, middle is a bit of an exaggeration but I have 23 pages which is quite ok. about two thirds of those pages are actual screenplay pages and the rest is outline and notes.

Leuchtturm 1917

But I don’t want to talk about the outlines. I want to talk about my handwritten notes/ideas I wrote in my little black book, no it’s not a moleskin it’s a Leuchtturm 1917 and those little things are just awesome. But I’m getting side tracked it’s not about the notebook you use, it’s about what you use it for and I like to use it for a whole bunch of things.

  • I like to use them for ideas. These ideas can be a few words or a few pages but most of the time there are not fully fleshed out and are just there to make me not forget something I think I might use some day.
  • I also use it to make an outline and by outline I mean the basic structure with some moments, septettes and character beats woven in. The outline and basic Idea for “Down Under” is 11 pages in my notebook and was written in one day.
  • Then there are shower thoughts and by that I mean script related thoughts that might turn into ideas. These is probably the most useful thing I write down and when I browse though my notebooks these short entries usually are the most interesting and sometimes lead to interesting rewrites. “Make Saber older” was one of these and I just had a great one on Monday for “Down Under”.

But it doesn’t matter what you use your notebook for or if you even use one, just make sure you have something at hand to write down what your brain spits out. A lot of it might be garbage but there might be this tiny spark of something that’ll turn into a great idea and you wouldn’t want to forget or miss that one. So write everything down. Use your phone (sometimes i do that as well) or a pice of paper (don’t loose them) or text or email yourself (technically that’s like using your phone) but make sure you write because that’s what it’s all about. The more you write the better the chance that you write something good.