Progress Report 54 – Updates

Sorry, I’m late. I’ve been busy. I haven’t written that much, had to do work stuff but I hope I can manage to get some keyboard time in the next few month. I abandoned the idea for a novel. I still like the idea but I don’t know if it’s a good idea to focus on that part of my life again.

I’d rather do something fun and exciting so I’m probably going to focus on “The Eternal” and I’m also going to resurrect my Time-Travel TV show, for German TV this time.

There’s also an extensive rewrite of “Die Klientin” in the cards. Orlindo helped me pinpoint some problems but I don’t have solutions I like yet. I want to tell a specific story that I have to adjust for audiences and I need to find a way to make the movie and its characters compatible for german tv without sacrificing what interested me in the story. It’s complicated but I’m sure I’ll figure something out.

The “Saber Rider” rewrite is almost complete. I reworked the attack on the Alamo base and there might be some additional adjustments in the final battle but other than that, the rewrite is done and I’m quite happy with it.

No news from the guys from Spain. 🙁

Let’s do some News – #Rascacielos

Yes, someone likes our work!

In the last couple of months there have been some developments I want to share with you. I left some cryptic clues here and there but it’s time to set the record straight that tell you what we’ve been up to. It’s quite cool but I’m pretty sure it will fall apart quite soon, that’s basically why I’m posting this now, before this post becomes obsolete.

But not too fast, let’s rewind a bit… previously on Hard but unfair… You probably know that the last year was a difficult one for me. Things1 didn’t go according to plan and life has been strange, difficult and just generally sucky. I always had a really hard time coping with these kinds of experiences and feelings and this time it completely knocked me off base. I’m a different person because of it, at least I feel different and I’m finally moving on. I hope though that these feelings and experiences make me a better person or at least inspire me to become a better writer but when it comes to unrequited love, being emotional just sucks. Life is hard but unfair… but even in these dark times, there’s usually a silver lining, you just have to look really hard. Sometimes a personal failure can lead to something good and in this case it did.

Out of respect to others, I’m not going into the details of what exactly happened, it’s not too hard to guess though and as an avid reader of this blog you have enough information to fill in the blanks but I’ll tell you what happened afterwards. I cried my soul out and I promised myself something: Become the best possible version of yourself.

So, who is that? Well, basically it’s a better looking more successful version of the thing I was looking at in the mirror. If you follow this blog you probably read about what came next, I lost some weight, started to use some hair product, bought some new shirts, tighter trousers, generally speaking, I started to take better care of myself and my looks. One thing was missing though, professional success. I’m not saying that I’m a loser, I have a decent job I like and I’m not bad at it but this blog is supposed to be about my endeavours as a writer so you probably know how I’d describe success or what my dream version of success is.

Take your broken heart, make it into art. – Carrie Fischer

I wrote a new screenplay last fall and I promised myself to work hard on achieving my goal of becoming a professional writer. A broken heart can be a really good incentive to get things done and I admit, I definitely used those feelings, as chronicled on this blog. My motivation was about 50% hope and 50% defiance, or maybe the other way round. So I worked really hard on some new material, worked a bit on some old stuff and made sure that word (the screenplays to be specific) got around. I’m not sure how but … and here it comes … no, she didn’t confess her love for me…we reached someone. Yes, you read that right. Someone got interested in something we wrote, we being Orlindo and I. Yes, I’m serious.

On May 8th2 we got contacted through www.whiteworms.com by Capitán Araña, a Spanish production company. They heard about our script Skyscraper on the Blacklist and wanted to read it. They seemed legit, they just produced an animated movie called Ozzy that looked decent and professional enough, so we sent them a copy.

They read it.
They liked it.

A week later I was on a Skype call with them. They had some concerns but generally they saw a lot of potential. Their biggest issue, length. 104 pages was at least 24 too much. Too expensive was another issue. So we searched our feelings and a week later we had another Skype call. We agreed to cut the pages and find ways to make the script less expensive to produce. There were some easy fixes but also some areas that required a lot of work and some creative problem solving.

We worked our asses off. At this point I’d like to mention writerduet.com. Cutting the script down was very collaborative and writerduet’s collaboration features made it just so much easier. I don’t want to think about how much time and hassle that piece of software saved us. We also used Slack and Evernote to communicate and share notes and thoughts. It’s amazing how essential these tools became for me in the last couple of weeks and months. Somehow I can’t imagine my workflow without those tools anymore, especially if there’s a co-writer you have to share notes and ideas with.

There were a couple of steps we had to take to turn 104 pages into an under 80 pages. Some pages were easier to cut than others but after a few days we were down to a 73 page screenplay and that was where the real work started. In order to cut pages we had to get rid of some connecting scenes and sequences. We had to come up with new connecting scenes and reworked entire sequences.

Another thing we had to keep in mind was the proposed budget. We wrote Skyscraper without thinking too much about money, the world was big, many characters, crowd sequences, water, wet fur, … . So when the proposed budget is less than 10% of that of a Pixar movie, you have to make some adjustments. This was probably the most difficult issue but also the one that required to most creativity.

The biggest nuisance was proofreading though and I’m not just talking about typos and stuff, by cutting pages, whole scenes or even sequences you risk cutting something vital, a small detail that was important for the plot but because you’re so into the story you don’t realise its importance. That’s why I, on behalf of Orlindo and myself, want to thank our friends who provided some proofreading/feed-backing. It was vital and fresh eyes were sorely needed. Thanks, if there’s a showing in town, you’re invited… if the villagers want to run us out of the village afterwards we need someone to blame.

Jokes aside, we’re actually very happy with how the script turned out. There are a few details missing and some moments I quite liked are gone but generally speaking the script feels more focused and no matter what happens we’re glad that we rewrote Skyscraper and we learned some valuable lessons for our next screenplay, yes we’re actively pursuing some of our ideas and I’m positive that this rewrite will lead to a better next script.

But I digress, you were wondering about the guys from Spain. Well, we sent them the new version and started waiting and waiting and waiting …. After a week we started to doubt ourselves … not that they were taking that much time but they were really fast the first time around and let’s face it, emotions were running high. After the second week, all our doubts were gone, yes we suck. After week three….
Let’s just say we waited for some time. Our Spanish friends were busy with other projects and summer went by without any new developments. I’d love to say that in autumn the whole story gained “momentum” again but apparently they are really busy. We’re still waiting. So were basically experiencing our very first “development hell”, at least we can strike that off our bucket list.

This is the whole story up to this point. We’re obviously just at the beginning of this journey and there are many things that could and probably will go wrong but it feels like a really big step in the right direction. I’ve never been closer to achieving my childhood dream and I’m cautiously optimistic. There aren’t that many people who are lucky enough to get this close to achieving their dreams, especially if it’s something outrageous like becoming a screenwriter and yet here I am.

There are truly exciting times ahead and I hope that this journey takes me where I want to go or at least where I need to be. So stay tuned, hopefully there’s more to come, either a great Hollywood success story or a hilarious Hollywood failure story that ended before it really started… well not exactly Hollywood but you get the drift. I will continue to share news about this adventure under a new segment I’m calling #Rascacielos, that’s Spanish for Skyscraper.

The Hollywood process is like trying to grill a steak by having a succession of people coming into the room and breathing on it. – Douglas Adams

This is getting really long, so I should wrap it up. Just two more thoughts, first, thank you3. Not for breaking my heart but for pushing me to become the best possible version of myself. I couldn’t have done it without you. Second, this is a strange thought though, it’s probably just me being me, like totally stupid and ungrateful for this awesome opportunity and just by contemplating this I feel like I’m betraying my childhood-self or it might just be that part of my brain/personality again that makes me a writer, anyway, if someone (fairy godmother, I’m talking to you) offered me a choice, either this or a little more luck in that other area… how shall I put it… a heartbeat seems like an awfully long time to decide something so easy.

You know what? Actually, I think my childhood-self would definitely approve. 🙂

Stay Tuned.

  1. Let’s be honest, we all know that I’m talking about a girl. I have no idea what it says about me that I start this post about my greatest achievement with one of my biggest failures… but I guess it’s fitting.
  2. That’s exactly 10 years, 1 month and 1 day since we officially started the project, April 7th 2007. Coincidence?
  3. You know who your are.

Progress Report 52 – The New 52

The last week I divided my time between rewriting “Die Klientin” and annotating “Saber Rider”. Rewriting “Die Kleintin” was quite enjoyable. I prefer rewriting to writing and it’s especially rewarding when you feel the script improving. Thanks to Orlindo’s notes I was able to improve the story considerably and I’m currently in the process of polishing my changes and adjusting a few things. I had to realise that I had to improve my two main characters in order to make the story more interesting. I realised something though, technically my story is not about how my main character changes throughout the story, don’t get me wrong he does, but how his character is revealed. This makes it even more important that his perceived change makes sense and is visible. Otherwise he just seems like a boring character without an arc.

In this polish I have to focus on his journey a bit more and I think I know how to make his arc work on the page. The stronger his arc on the page, the stronger the gut punch of the twist will hit the audience. I’ll keep you posted on that one.

Annotating “Saber Rider” was fun as well. There are some scenes that are easy to cut or shorten but there are also big decisions to be made on what to focus on. The plan is to cut a few pages and a couple of million dollars. I have a couple ideas on how to accomplish this. One of the highlights of this process was using my new iPad with the (silly) ApplePencil. Guess what, it worked like a charm. The latency on that thing is great and you can really write and annotate on the screen.

I’m going away for a couple of days and the plan is to do the next polish pass on “Die Klientin” in a similar fashion. I’ll tell you how that went.
I also made some progress with “The Eternal”. I think I know how to proceed and I started making a playlist today. Let’s see how that one turns out.

I don’t know how much time I’ll have to blog the next week and the week after. So don’t hold your breath but to make up for that, I’ll give you a little tease, I’m thinking about doing Nanowrimo, well, not a novel but I have this idea for this novella/short story I might try out. I just had that idea a couple of days ago but for some reason I keep getting back to it. Not sure if it’s a healthy idea. Hooked yet?

New 52 justice league

The new 52.

Progress Report 51 – I Will Survive

Greetings my friend. I know updates have been spotty but I hope this will change now. I really hope that some of my personal issues that have been keeping me way too occupied are finally ready to be resolved. I‘m not saying nor expecting that they are going away over night but I hope that it will get better in the weeks and months ahead. But ebnough this is not supposed to be a therapy blog, it‘s a writing blog so lets talk about writing.

I think I finally cracked one of my ideas, the one called „The Eternal“. I think I finally figured out who the main character is and I think that the rest of the story will follow now. It‘s still a lot of work but I‘m confident that I can get a decent story on paper.

Orlindo also gave me feedback on „Die Klientin“. His notes are really helpfull and I‘m sure that incorpotrating his thoughts will elevate the script and make it better, probably not producable yet but definitely more focused, more logical and more fun. I really appreciate his feedback and getting notes like this always reminds me why I like collaboratong so much.

I decided to stop making the numbers a part of the weekly reports and instead focus and writing a bit more about what I actually did. I might do the numbers from time to time but not regularly, I mean seriously, how many times do you need to hear that I did schoolwork. 🙂

But I will try to end every report with „one cool thing“1, a thing that I encountered that week that I want people to know about and/or check our. This weeks omne cool thing is the new Netflix show „American Vandal“. I don‘t want to spoil anything just watch, It‘s worth it.

  1. Yes, I‘m totally gonna steal this from John August and Craig Mazin and the Scriptnotes Podcast.

Progress Report 49 – Making Plans

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“I love it when a plan comes together.”

That was a crazy week. 3 rehearsals, 2 concerts, one procession and too many hours of not getting any sleep, some of this might have been my fault and I’m not complaining but I’m glad the week is over. It was awesome but exhausting, like all good things.

I’m skipping the numbers today and I’ll dive right in. We finished our new version of Skyscraper. We cut it down to 73 pages and we are quite happy with the finished product. As I mentioned last week, not everything is perfect and I also realised, that we fail the Bechdel test but we wanted too cut pages and sacrifices had to be made. We learned a lot and I’m pretty sure that I’m going to write a post just about that process and some “behind the scenes”. That one might actually be worth your time. So stay tunes.

Anyway, inspired by this milestone I decided to go though all my projects, dormant, on life-support and near death and triage them to decide what I’m going to do next. I decided on a few parallel ideas and projects to keep all my creative muscles exercised. I don’t know yet what Orlindo is planning but I intend to do my job as his #ProjectMomentum partner and keep pushing him to work. I’m going to focus on these 5 things:

  1. Inspired by the new shorter version of Skyscraper, I’m going to cut at least 20 pages from Saber Rider. There’s going to be heavy tweaking as well.
  2. I’m trying to crack the idea I mentioned a couple of weeks ago. It’s a very personal project and I want to get it right. This one has the biggest potential to be my next project.
  3. Die Klientin: I need to rewrite that one, it’s a bit of a mess right now but I can really see that movie being made for TV.
  4. Windwheel: Windwheel is an idea Orlindo had and I hope to be able to push him to keep working ion it. I won’t be the lead in that one but I really feel good about that idea and it might be worth to explore where that one might lead.
  5. That new exciting idea I’m waiting for. I don’t know what, that seems to be the point but I’m pretty sure that in the next couple of weeks I’ll get inspired to write something new or at least get an idea for something. It might be animated, it might be something totally different.

This sounds like a lot and it definitely is but I think these things are different enough to coexist next to each other in my brain. But then again, maybe I receive a total curve ball and all my plans fall apart, I guess I have to take it week by week. So, see you next week.

Progress Report 48 – Life on Mars

Greetings my friends. Busy week so this is going to be quicky. We have a big concert coming up, actually tow and work requires some attention s well, it’s oral matura next week. I’m really looking forward to July, I’m in serious need for some R&R. But let’s do the numbers.

One book/screenplay: Looking at some books for my students to read next year. Haven’t made a decision though.
Two movies: As part of the Skyscraper rewrite I watched Ozzy, an internationally financed animation film. Its not a great film but I’ve definitely seen worse and the movie shows that a shorter, cheaper version of Skyscraper is something commercially viable. I also watched LIFE. Cool movie, too bad they didn’t do the Venom thing. Would’ve been great.
Seven pages and seven hours: Still polishing the new draft. We got some feedback from friends and we hope to have a decent new version by next week. I feel good about the new version. There are a few things I miss but overall the script feels a bit more in focus. There’s a new found purpose to the story nut much fat. Some of our friends argued, that the pace is almost too high, and they are probably right. It’s even faster than before and there’s almost no filler and the quite moments are short and far and few between.

But that’s not necessarily a bad thing for a kids movie and I’m not trying to sound disrespectful, I love kids movies but they are generally faster paced than let’s say a P.T. Anderson movie.

Unfortunately, that’s it for this week. Too busy but stay tuned… who knows.

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Progress Report 46 – Up, Up and Away

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Keep calm.

I just booked my summer holiday. Canada, I start in Vancouver and take a trip through the country and I end up in New York and yes, I have a Hamilton ticket. I’m really looking forward to that. I need a break and 5 weeks of travelling should do the trick.

This is just going to be a quicky so let’s go straight to the numbers.

One book/screenplay: Not really, I had to spend some time with Skyscraper.
Two movies: The new Pirates is a mess. I also watched some random movies. Nothing too fancy.
Seven pages and seven hours: I spent most of my time with Skyscraper. We decided to cut it down to 80 pages and we hope to be don by the end of June. The goal is to make the script “cheaper” to produce. Pixar is not going to buy it but maybe someone who produces mid-budget animation movies might be interested. So technically I worked more than 7 hours but I produced minus 21 pages. We’re down to 82 right now but there are a few areas that require a lot more work.

There were some easy cuts, surprisingly easy, but some cuts require some adjustments and some new ideas. It’s quite an interesting process. You have a goal that creates problems and solving these problems is quite challenging but also inspiring. I haven’t felt so creative in quite a while. I love it.

In fact I enjoy it so much that I’ll stop now and get back to writing. Stay tuned, who knows.

Progress Report 45 – Master of None

What a busy week. So many things going on, I’m sure you are familiar with that. You have a thousand things to handle, so many different tasks to balance and then on top of that something totally unexpected happened and you just have to ask yourself where to find time for that. Two weeks earlier or later, no problem but why now? Why now?

Guess what, turns out you can find time. Sure you’re extremely busy and your nights get shorter but I actually like being busy. Don’t get me wrong, I love doing nothing but being busy, doing something I like or even love is not bad either. You probably wonder what Im talking about, well, a gentlemen never tells…no it’s not about a women, I said doing something not someone you love…but at this point I wouldn’t be surprised if… no, not going there. Focus. Quick, let’s do the numbers before I get sidetracked again.

One book/screenplay: Do term papers count? I ha to read and correct some term papers, some of them good, some not so much but it’s work and it has to be done. I also reread Skyscraper but more on that a bit later.
Two movies: I didn’t watch too many movies but I binged Master of None, Season two on Netflix and wow, what aigret show. Season 1 was good but the second season is a sight to behold. Ansari and his team truly deliver on something great and unique. I don’t want to spoil anything, just go and watch it.
Seven pages and seven hours: I’m combining these two this week. A couple of month ago we wanted to rework Skyscraper to enter some competitions, well we reworked it a bit but we decided against the competition. This week I found myself going back to the script and I started to look for stuff to cut, shorten and polish. 103 pages is a bit long for an animation movie. Making it shorter seems like a good way to improve the scripts commercial appeal. In a way it’s similar to what we did with Saber Rider. It worked great for Saber Rider, it actually made the script better so hopefully we can repeat that with Skyscraper and who knows, maybe we soon have good news to share…c’mon, we’re allowed to dream. 🙂

Let me end with just a few quick thoughts on Master of None, I’m really busy remember. I liked the first season but compared to the seond one it was a bit unfocused. Maybe that was deliberate to some extent, Dev had to find himself at the end of the season and I think like Dev, the show really found itself in season two. It feels more mature and clearly wants to say something about human nature that goes far beyond the experiences of an Indian Muslim in America. All his problems, even the religious ones, especially those, are totally relatable and feel universal. I think that’s high praise and the show deserves it. I’m looking forward to season three.

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Jack of all Trades…

Progress Report 44 – 47:11

It’s that time of the week again but let’s start with some personal news. I did my first 10k yesterday and I totally crushed it. I wanted to run under 55 minutes, a decent pace for me, but I was able to finish in 47 minutes and 11 seconds. I’m really proud. I obviously didn’t win anything (I placed in the middle, 68th to be precise) but I ran for me and it’s safe to say that I successfully completed the challenge. Hooray!

You probably wonder if I had time to write with all my racing, of course I did, well not actual writing but I did some outlining. Here are the details:

One book/screenplay: I started with the Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, I’m thinking of reading it with a class next year, too early to tell though.
Two movies: Finished Buffy today, great finale. Angel’s 4th season is really strong as well, even though the plot feels a bit too constructed sometimes, still great shows. Maybe I’ll go see Get Out today.
Seven pages: Still waiting for stuff to write.
Seven hours: I’m fairly certain that I cracked the idea. I have a decent outline for act one and two (two is a bit sketchy but makes sense) and I’m reworking them right now in order to get a good grip of the third act. I’m not sure how to introduce the Supernatural elements, actually I don’t know if they are necessary.

I decided to set the story on a space station, picture 2001 meets Gravity with a bit of Alien to keep everyone on their feet. I actually think that a psychological version of Alien is actually a good way to describe my idea. It’s not about a Ripley who fights an alien, it’s about a character who fights another kind of evil, inner demons, either real or supernatural. It’s more about an internal struggle than an external one, sure it’s a movie and you need some action but I mentioned I see the monster of the story as a metaphor, a manifestation of inner turmoil that the protagonist needs to resolve. I hope I’ll be able to externalise this internal conflict in an appropriate and entertaining way. That’s why I’m going to stop now, I need to get some work done.

2001 Space Odyssey

No HAL in my movie.

Progress Report – Vol. 43

I’m a few days short but I did some work, so shut up, just kidding…about the shutting up, not about the work.

Guardians Galaxy 2 Baby Groot Trailer

WE ARE BABY GROOT!

I spent my second week off from work working in my office. School stuff and writing stuff. I’m working on the outline for my next movie and I’m making progress, slow but steady. I had some ideas on how to make the story more dramatic, most of them not very original but I decided to write them down anyway. I’m a strong believer in writing and rewriting so I rather have a page with stupid things on it than nothing at all.

Let’s do the numbers.
One book/screenplay: I’m currently reading To Kill a Mockingbird for school. Good read.
Two movies: My Buffy the Vampire Slayer Marathon Turned into a Buffy and Angel marathon. These two shows are just awesome. Season one of Angel takes some time to get its footing (the Arrival of Wesley1 mark the spot) and The 6th season of Buffy has some issues2 I’ll probably do a dedicated Buffy and Angel post at some point about my love for these two shows and some lessons about storytelling. I also saw the second Guardians of the Galaxy movie and I’m happy to report that James Gunn delivers. A fun ride with an adorable Baby Groot.
Seven pages: Who am I kidding.
Seven hours: As I mentioned before, I’m hard at work on my new idea and so far it looks promising. There’s a lot of work to do but I think I figured out what story I want to tell. I Hope to be able to blend my love for genre-movies with the emotional depth the story needs. It’s a very personal story and I hope that the genre elements help me too get to the core of the emotions.

It’s interesting, the more I think about this story and all the other things I wrote the more I see that everything I every wrote is deeply personal on at least one level. Sure there’s comedy and action or whatever in pretty much everything I wrote and there’s plenty of silliness as well but to some extent there’s always something in there that is straight from my heart, or at least that part where my emotions wreak havoc from.

I have a lot of doubts about my writing and I’m not sure that my stuff is good but I’m fairly certain that it is at least honest and I’m fairly certain that my writing made me a better person and helped me working through some stuff. I don’t know what I’d do without this outlet. I guess as a writer you have to be a bit crazy but for me it’s probably the other way round. I’m a bit crazy and that’s why I write.

Which is why I must get to writing right now, there’s a lot of work to do.

  1. A quick aside: In Buffy Wesley was a joke and in Angel he’s introduced as a klutz but by Season 3 he’s probably my favourite character and that’s not just because we have a similar taste in women. 🙂
  2. Once more with Feeling not being one of them.