Progress Report – High Five

Greetings my friends. It’s time for a post again but before I go into the numbers I want to talk a little bit about #ProjectMomentum in general. We startet about a month ago and so far things are going good, not great but good. I don’t get as much writing done as I want to but it’s a a lot more than last year. It really helps to blog about your process and it’s good to write down your thoughts and lessons you learned from the books you read or the movies you watched. Reading “Before Sunrise” for example taught me some valuable lessons. I’m not sure I would’ve read that screenplay without #ProjectMomentum.

I said good, not great. Well, It’s the same old story, we (I’m talking about Orlindo and myself) are just too nice to each other. We don’t put on enough pressure on each other but how can I pressure someone else if I’m barely able to get my work done (and by barely I mean not really). So how do we fix this? I have no idea. Maybe some outside pressure would be a good idea (commenters, I’m talking to you), maybe I need to focus on my work and make sure that I’m writing enough pages to make Orlindo feel bad (or maybe the other way round….I’m talking to you Orlindo!!!!).

So, generally speaking, so far so good, but there’s room for improvement. But let’s dive into the numbers.

One Screenplay: I read the novelization of “Bend it like Beckham”. I made my students read it and I’m going to show them the movie. It’s a good story with a nice message but other than that there’s is not lot to talk about there.

The Land Before Time

Don Bluth rocks!

Two Movies: Lot’s to report here. I watched “The Good Dinosaur”. Yeah, not much to say there just that “The Land Before Time” was so much better. The other movie I watched was “When Harry met Sally”. There’s not a lot you can say about that movie that hasn’t been said before. It’s truly timeless and really funny, I’d love to write a movie like that.

Seven Pages: Getting there. The weekend was a bust but I have some good ideas and I’m planing on getting them to the page today.

Seven hours of development: Also getting there. I’m waiting for Orlindo’s pages and inspired by the recent Scriptnotes episode and the twitter feed of the week I had a look at my character introductions, especially the women and I happy to report that I’m not that horrible. Sure, some are atrocious but most were quite alright. I decided to focus on that and I looked at some old scripts and and made some changes.

So that’s it for this week. I just hope that the momentum keeps building bit I guess that’s the point.

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

Wpid Before Sunrise Movie Poster 2015 2016 4

Vienna is beautiful.

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”.

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

Definitely not Team America.

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.

149059_aa

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 other 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.