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 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.

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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-typewriter

Not my actual typewriter.

So, 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 102 pages long and was last revised in October 2016. So if you’re interested in a half-baked strange comedy for total geeks, drop me a line.

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.

Inspiration

Wow, second post within a week. what’s wrong with me, ah yeah, I remember, I got inspired. So let’s ride that wave as long as its there.

Inspiration is one of those things that you can try and hunt down but you might as well wait until it comes along on its own…and I can’t believe that I just wrote that crappy sentence because it kind of sounds right but it’s total bullcrap. Sure, it might seem from time to time that inspiration just hits you out of nowhere but you’re lying to yourself if you think that the hours, days, weeks or whatever that lead up to that moment weren’t as important as the moment itself.

Inspiration light bulb

Screw the light bulb!

Inspiration is often described as the moment someone switches on a light bulb and I actually quite like that image but it is misleading. Inspiration is not just the moment the light is switched on, it’s everything leading up to that moment. Before I can switch on my light bulb I have to build a house, makes sure the wiring is correct, actually buy a bulb, screw it in (insert you how many … does it need two score in a light bulb jokes) pay the utilities and maybe, maybe if none (especially me) made a mistake, then maybe I can switch the light on.

So what am I trying to say here. Inspiration isn’t a moment, it’s a process. You have to work for it, you have to earn it and sure, life is hard but unfair and they are those people that seem to get inspired all the time without any effort but I have news for you. Either their ideas are crap or they are just screwing with us and pretend that everything comes easy to them. Don’t ask me why they do that, some people are just dicks.

But anyway, if you want to be inspired, you have to work for it. Do interesting and new things, met new and interesting people and make an effort, the longer it takes, the better the idea. Picture it like a mountain, the loner and harder the walk, the better the view.

So, that’s it for today. I have to get back to enjoy the view and write some pages.

I’m back and this time I mean it…seriously!

I’m back and I’m writing.

I know I said that before but I truly believe that this time I might last at least a week or so. I feel motivated and full of energy and I honestly can’t remember the last time I felt this good about pretty much everything. Sure, there are the daily quarrels of life but somehow they don’t seem as bad as they usually are. Before you get any ideas about my sudden change in mood, perspective and excitement…. I cracked my next project and I’m writing again.

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Uluru

I know, you probably had a different thought but I feel really excited about my new (old) idea that I cracked during summer. I traveled to Australia and spent five awesome weeks there. Australia is a beautiful country, everywhere you look you get inspired but even more than the country, I got inspired by the people I met.

I had the honor and pleasure of meeting many awesome people on my trip and even though some of them I only met briefly, I’ll remember each and everyone. It really paid of to do this trip alone because it forced me to open myself up to other people and it was definitely worth it to get out of my comfort zone. “Getting out of my comfort zone”was pretty much the theme of the holiday. I decided to do all the stuff I never thought I would do and I was surprised how well I did and how those experiences changed me.

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Finding Nemo

You knew that I could have a great time camping in the outback and sleeping in a swag? (Well, taking a shower on an outback campsite is still on the list of things I have to do.) How did I not realize how much fun river rafting is? And why on earth have I waited 32 years to start scuba diving?

But, as great as all those things (and countless more) were, they get second place when I think of the people I shared those experiences with or the people I just randomly met on my journey. I would love to name a few of those people but it somehow feels wrong to compile a list and leave a few people off. Everyone was equally important in making this trip memorable and everyone contributed to the wonderful experience I had.

Among all the strangers I met, there are a few I call friends now and every time I think about my journey, I realize that they were the people who made this trip special and they are what truly inspired me. I had a similar experience during my summer in Cambridge and strangely, the people I met in Australia are somehow similar tho those I met in Cambridge, which I think that I must be one of the luckiest people on this planet to meet such great people not once but twice. Maybe I attract those kinds of people but I prefer to think that they found/find me.

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.

I hope to be able to share something around christmas, so stay tuned.

So it’s January again

It’s January again, but I’m not even trying anymore. This blog thing is not going to work out the way I intended to but on the bright side, 2014 was a quite productive year for me. Saber Rider is coming along great and some other projects got some well deserved attention to. I reworked “The Passion of the Geek” and I’m thinking of taking “Tomorrow” out of the drawer.

Orlindo and I are currently working on an idea for a german movie project. We have some interesting ideas and we’re positive that we can come up with something that “ze Germans” are interested in.

I’ll try to keep you posted on our progress but don’t count on it. 🙂

Looks Like I did it again….

Seems like I forget to update the blog…again…but this time I have a good reason.

Actually I have more than one good reason, so let me give you an update.

1. My new flat is almost done and by almost i mean that I have absolutely no idea when it will be done. The only thing I know ist that building your own house/flat is one of the most bizarre things ever and that doesn’t include all the annoying things the contractors do.

2. Work is murder. I don’t know why but this year has been particularly stressful, especially the last couple of weeks. I’m really looking forwards to the end of the school year.

3. Saber Rider is coming along great. The last rewrite was a blast and I really think we cracked it. Sure, there are some minor kinks here and there but we have a fun movie that makes (for the most part) sense. In the end we started to change a few things and realized that we didn’t need to stick too close to the source and instead decided top deliver our version of Saber Rider. We don’t know how people will react but we strongly believe that we did the right thing. Certain things made no sense, or still make no sense in the series (ist just for kids, you know) and by bringing it to the big screen we just had to address some of these issues.

Yes, thats why I didn’t post and to be honest I don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel yet. Someday I’ll have to move and the next rewrite or the next project awaits and hopefully works is not going away either. But I keep you up to date.