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. 🙁

Progress Report 53 – Rewriting Saber Rider

After last weeks big news1, this week is going to be focusing on craft, especially rewriting.

I mentioned that after cutting down Skyscraper, we decided to to the same with Saber Rider. I finally got down to it and I’m happy to report that we were able to cut about 17 pages. We were at about 130 and now the script has 113. The plan was 110 and I’m going to try to find the 3 pages somewhere. Most of the cuts happened in the action sequences. There were to many and they were convoluted. As much as enjoyed Ramrod fighting his way though the four elements, it just felt like three Super Mario levels in a row.

I also reworked the assault on the Ramrod base and made it smaller and a bit more focused on April and Jesse. Some banter between the characters had to go due to this but there’s still enough of that to feel like Saber Rider. What I realised again is that making Saber Rider a bit older was a great decision. It instantly elevates the character relationships and adds some necessary weight to his character that was lacking in the TV show.

During this rewrite I also corrected some spelling errors and polished the dialogue a bit and by polishing I mean shortening. I have the tendency to let my characters speak to long and convoluted2 and each rewrite pr polish I cut a few words more. It’s definitely not the mist efficient process but I think in the end it leads to decent results and I’m usually quite happy with how my characters sound after a couple of polishes.

One last thing I want to mention, I used Highland 2 for this rewrite. Highland is John Auguts’ screenwriting software and I got accepted to the beta program. The app runs really smooth and is totally decluttered and You really focus on the words the page. I feel that with Highland and WriterDuett I can satisfy all my screenwriting needs and the Final Draft days are definitely over. Highland is similar to Slugline but has some neat features that won me over immediately. The “bin” tab where you can put omitted scenes is especially useful while rewriting. I’m really looking forward to the finished version.

That’s it for today. Back to playing Super Mario Odyssey.

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It’s a me, Mario!

  1. I’d love to report some reader spike or maybe a comment but seems like this blog is definitely a one man show. 🙁
  2. I wonder where they get that from.

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?

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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.

Still alive

NewImageDon’t worry, the report of my death has been greatly exaggerated, well slightly but you know what I mean.

I’m still looking for momentum but I hope to find it soon. There are a few things I have to take care of first but one way or another I hope that “our long national nightmare” will be over soon.

I don’t want to sound too dramatic but… well let’s just say that Werther seems like a really chill guy with a positive outlook on life….

I hope to resume regular posting soon, just bare with me until I find my bearings.1

  1. Cool wordplay.

Progress Report 50 – In for the long haul

NewImageThis is it, Progress Report 50. I know I’m a bit late but the last too weeks of the school year are always busy and I wanted this one to be a bit longer, it’s the 50th after all. Time to reflect and time to look ahead. I’m not going to talk too much about my private life, I did that many times in the last few month and I’m pretty sure I’ll keep doing that for the foreseeable future but today I want to focus on my writing and how I think I evolved as a writer or to be more precise what I learned about myself as a writer.

Working on Skyscraper and dealing with some personal problems1 I realised that Skyscraper and all the other scripts are much more personal than I thought. I’m starting to see things about myself in Scrap and Skip, well more so in Scrap, that I didn’t knew. I’m not a bird who can’t fly but some of his issues and especially parts of his journey remind me of myself and some of my issues, fears and problems. I didn’t realise it while writing but now it seems really obvious. There’s a lot of me in Scrap and I think that #ProjectMomentum is an important part of my journey and really helped me to spread my wings or at least getting me to a place where spreading my wings seems like the natural and right thing to do.

For me this is what art is supposed to be, I’m not saying that the things I wrote are great art but they speak some truth, maybe not universal truth but my truth and that’s the only one I have and frankly the only one I really care about. I know that Skyscraper is technically “just” a kids movie but if it gets made one day I really think that Scraps journey could be a good life lesson for kids and adults alike. Conquering your fears and self-doubts might not be the most original life lesson but I think it’s an important one, if not the most important one. It’s probably natural for any writer to give meaning to his work and I can see why, it adds value to your work and helps dealing with all the pain of being a writer. You wrote something that has meaning for you and if you’re lucky for someone else as well.

Again, I’m not saying that I wrote War and Peace but if were really honest, popular culture has a far wider reach than most great works of literature and and art, at least those who are not part of the cultural zeitgeist. A popular movie or a tv show has a far wider reach than Tolstoy or Joyce, I’m not saying that that is a good thing, Ulysses is a great book, so as a writer of these shows and movies you have to be aware of your responsibility. You characters, your themes, your stories are going to influence people, their choices and their values, maybe not in a big way but even small and insignificant choices can lead someone on a different path.

ProjectMomentum has been one of the best decisions of my life, it helped me though some dark times and made me a better writer and better person. Blogging about this process was a vital part of its success as well. I don’t know how this blog feels for my readers but it really helped me focus and reflect. If this just reads like gibberish I’m sorry but to me it’s really important.

I won’t do the numbers today, I watched a couple of movies and I’m preparing for my trip to Canada. I hope to get some editing and outlining done, maybe even some writing. I don’t know how often I’ll blog but you can be sure that “Hard but unfair…” returns in August and You can cry and laugh about me and my problems as a person and as a writer. I think the Canada trip is exactly what I need to recharge by batteries.

So, this is it for today but don’t worry, there will be at least 50 more of these in the near future, this time I’m in for the long haul. See you in August, who knows maybe something really great happens. You never know.

  1. I didn’t say I wasn’t going to talk about my personal problems, I just said not too much.

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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SoundtrackCorner #2: Main Themes

Finally, the long awaited second installment of SoundtrackCorner. In the first instalment I talked about some of my favourite composers and one of their compositions. This time I want to focus on Main Themes. I’m going to share five great Main Themes with you. I’m going to exclude some all time favourites, so no John Williams. You don’t need me to tell you why the Star Wars Theme is great and the same is true for Jaws and many other classics but maybe I can show you a hidden gem you overheard or maybe my hidden gems are just too obvious. Nevertheless, here are five great Main Themes, enjoy.

X-Men – John Ottman
Some superhero movies have a big problem, they don’t have a cool theme. The X-men franchise doesn’t have that problem.

Sleepy Hollow – Danny Elfman
Elfman is one of my favourite composers and Tim Burton one of my favourite directors. So Sleepy Hollow is a must for me n this list.

Dave – James Newton Howard
Dave is a quirky little movie with a soundtrack and a Main Theme to match.

Dragonheart – Randy Edelman
This is one of my all-time favourites. Dragonheart might not be the best movie but it has a great Score and an awesome Main theme.

The Right Stuff – Bill Conti
In my opinion one of the most subtle heroic themes ever. Just listening to this makes me want to watch the move again.

So what’s the screenwriting lesson here, this is supposed to be a screenwriting blog1. Well, listening to these tracks I see the movie and I get a clear idea about the tone. These Main Themes set the stage for the movie and it’s a sign of great artistry by the composers that in each of these cases the movie and the music are synonymous for each other. I can’t think of Dragonheart without hearing the music and vice versa.

Obviously most writers aren’t composers and that’s probably for the best so I’m not saying we should come up with our main themes but just like these themes, try to give your script an identity beyond the words. Try to give your script a voice, something recognisable, something identifying.

  1. …at least when it’s not a failed romance blog.