Heya! We’re screening Sympathy Pains in Fayetteville (AR) this weekend at the Offshoot Film Festival. It should be fun – I’m planning on being there for a Q&A, and the people there seem great. We’ll be screening on Friday, Oct 3, 6:45pM, at the UofA Global Campus Building.
Hope to see everyone there!
I used the term “Unity of Opposites” today and realized/remembered that nobody knows what I’m talking about. I really like that term – an old professor of mine, Jeffrey Davis taught me the term, and it seems to me that more people should know it.
It’s a pretty simple concept – in a story, you put two opposite character types in a space, and then figure out why one (or both) of them can’t leave.
You see it all the time in stories – the cop who does everything by the book is teamed up with the cop who plays it loose. You’ll automatically get conflict in your story because these two characters are going to butt heads, and since they’re partners, they’re stuck with each other. They can’t leave.
The filthy roommate is assigned the dorm with the fussbudget. The honor student’s study partner is a lazy stoner. The athlete’s three-legged race partner is… me.
That’s always the trick. The story is more interesting if they stay together, but why do they? That’s the “Unity of Opposites” – why they don’t say say “OK – be crazy. I’m going home.”
There’s a great comic book called “Cerebus” that has an issue with the lead character (a warrior aardvark) trapped in the hold of a boat with characters based on Foghorn Leghorn, Groucho Marx, and a few other crazies. It’s a really fun issue. Why doesn’t Cerebus leave? He’s trapped in the hold of a boat. That’s the Unity of Opposites.
Please don’t tell me that the author of Cerebus is a misogynist. I know. He still writes a pretty awesome comic book that I started reading before that was obvious, and couldn’t stop.
My latest script is about a female reporter who’s stuck with a guy who thinks he’s a super-hero, and she’s his Lois Lane. But as I was fleshing out my outline, I kept thinking two things – first, why can’t I describe the story without telling it from his POV? And second, where’s the Unity of Opposites? Why doesn’t she just punch him in the face until he goes away?
So I left the original concept and made them brother and sister. Once I had that idea, the story stopped being a one-joke premise and (relatively) quickly started to expand to the feature that I was hoping I had. It also much more easily became about Megan, my lead, with her brother in the supporting role.
Though I do miss that one joke…
But I realized that I needed to really connect these two characters in some meaningful way that they couldn’t just ignore. I needed a Unity of Opposites, and my story’s starting to work now that I have it.
Thought I’d do a quick post about what I’ve been doing the last week or so.
The next feature script is about a reporter, and I was a journalism major for about a semester, so naturally I know everything that I need to know about the subject… I’m doing research! I’ve been shadowing a few reporters around town, and talking with others, and watching documentaries, and reading books and… basically anything I can to learn what I can about the daily life of a reporter.
You have to do your research, even just so you know when you’re changing things or making things up. You want to know why things are the way they are so they feel authentic to the audience.
My research for Table at Luigi’s was a 16 week (once a week) professional cooking class that actually ran a restaurant. Along with reading and documentaries (this was back before every other show on TV was about running a restaurant), we also brought in Chef Robert Hall, who had run restaurants and catering large and small. Not only was he a great technical resource, he also had a garage full of plates, silverware, salt shakers… everything from his old restaurant that we needed to for our set design!
Sympathy Pains’ research was into the world of comedy. Though I decided in the writing that we weren’t going to dig too far into the intricacies of that world, I needed to know, so the characters could act and talk intelligently in that world. While I didn’t go so far as getting on stage, I went to a dozen open-mic nights and regular comedy nights, and again read, watched and absorbed as much as I could.
Some of my research: the picture above is a reporter’s notebook – it’s long and skinny so it fits a lot of info on the page, but can fit in your pocket or purse when you need it to. It also allows you to write quickly without having to waste time running your hand all the way back to the left side of the page to start a new line. Though most of their notebooks aren’t that nice – they have the cheap metal spiral loops because the paper buys them in bulk.
No reporter’s desk is ever that clean.
And the quote on the title is part of a well-know journalism quote that I’ve always loved – “If your mom says she loves you – check it out!” Always look for a second source to make sure your information is accurate. Research is how you do that in your scripts!
So this is the sizzle reel I’ve been trying to find an afternoon to finish since March. It’s to give a sense of the feel of my short The Kick-Ass Diva (if you want to know about the film, it’s in this post right here). Hope you like it!
For those who don’t know what a “sizzle reel” is (I really loathe that name) – it’s basically a trailer for a show that hasn’t been made yet. It’s put together in pre-production to give a tone and basic concept of the finished project. Sometimes it incorporates some footage that’s already been shot, and sometimes it re-purposes footage from other sources (or both).
There’s a semi-famous sizzle reel that director Joe Carnahan put together for a possible Daredevil film that never got made, unfortunately. It looks like it could be a lot of fun. Here’s that reel:
Thanks to everyone who came out to our Little Rock Film Festival screenings of Sympathy Pains last week – talked with some GREAT people and had a good time watching everyone watch the film – it’s been a while since I’ve had a chance to do that. It’s always fun to see what people do and don’t laugh at – I still wonder why a couple of jokes don’t get the laughs I think they should…
It’s been a good week for Sympathy Pains news. We just won an Award of Excellence from the La Jolla IndieFest, and will be screening June 19th at the Trenton Film Festival in Trenton, NJ.
It’ll be a while before we hear anything more about new screenings, but if you’re in New Jersey (and who isn’t in a New Jersey state of mind?), check us out! Their website for tix and info is trentonfilmsociety.org