Ayn Rand all around

October 1, 2014 Leave a comment

I was a big fan of Ayn Rand when I was in my early 20’s – which is when you should be a fan… the world is a black and white place made up of people in perfect health and incorruptible character. Exactly as she saw the world, and made it easy to fit yourself into her novels. They’re all pretty good, actually, if you can get past the first 20% – She’s not great at starting a story, but once it gets moving, they’re pretty exciting.

Of course, that’s assuming that you skip over the John Galt radio speech in Atlas Shrugged.

But here’s some pretty cool Ayn Rand stuff. First, a nice biography of Rand in comic book form. I read it a while back, but recall it being very even handed, telling her point of view as well as digging a bit into the likely reality of certain moments, without completely discounting her version of her history.

Then, there’s the Buffy the Vampire by Ayn Rand, which is just fun, and isn’t trying for any such even-handedness.

There also appears to be an Ayn Rand’s Devil Wears Prada, which I haven’t looked at, but can’t imagine how that’s really that much different than The Devil Wears Prada – maybe it’s been too long since I’ve seen it and am just remembering Meryl Streep too prominently.

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Sympathy Pains in Fayetteville

September 29, 2014 1 comment

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!

 

 

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The Unity of Opposites

September 23, 2014 3 comments

lethal weaponI 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.”

cerebus51-2There’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.

“If Your Mom Says She Loves You…”

June 12, 2014 Comments off

reporter-notebook-journalist-690x389

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!

Kick-Ass Diva Sizzle Reel

May 29, 2014 Comments off

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:

The Filmmaker Next Door

May 28, 2014 Comments off

Michael Mohan, director of Save the Date, and an old student of mine has an excellent review of Nicholas Stoller’s Neighbors. Whether you’ve seen the film or not, check out the review, because Michael does a great job of digging into a lot of what makes comedy work (and not work), as well as looking at Stoller’s career and where Neighbors fits in. And then Stoller adds a comment, which is kinda cool. Check it out.

Final Cut Studio, redux

May 26, 2014 3 comments

Oliver Peters has an interesting post about recreating the old Final Cut Studio with current non-Adobe or Avid products. I’m not sure what to think about his suggestions. A couple of notes to add to what he says.

First, he suggests Logic Pro as a replacement for Soundtrack Pro/Audition/Pro Tools (I like putting Pro Tools last in that list, just to be a curmudgeon). I did some research on audio software when we were moving from Final Cut Studio (at UCA, we settled on the Adobe Cloud), and found one instance anywhere online of someone doing a narrative feature in Logic Pro. And it was a guy who primarily did music, but thought he’d take a crack at a film.

Please correct me if I’m missing a group doing narrative sound mixes in Logic Pro, but what I kept finding was people saying that Logic is a great music creation tool, but just doesn’t cut it for narrative work. My take on it was that Logic Pro is laid out to handle notes and beats, not dialogue. I suspect that Oliver was suggesting it as a tool to augment doing your major audio mix in Premiere, which for an audio guy just isn’t a pretty concept.

I’m not a power user of Photoshop in any way, but is there any world where people don’t pass photoshop files back and forth? Again, I could be out of the loop, but working in something other than Photoshop feels like whenever someone gives me a file in Pages format, and I have to go bug someone with iWorks to convert it to something usable for me. I could easily use a program other than photoshop, given how simplistic my needs are, but I can’t imagine trying to work with anyone else while doing that.

The post side-steps DVD creation, saying that FCPX and Compressor can make simple DVDs, but that’s hardly what a client is looking for. I’m not using X, but the old FCP and Compressor DVD tools couldn’t completely hide the MS-DOS looking menus, and were pretty buggy. Of course, Adobe has left Encore out of the Cloud apps. Am I really the only person still making DVDs? I’m typing this right now while burning an hour-and-a-half program for a client. Where should I put that online that’s convenient for him to download and watch? DVDs are still relevant, and comic books used to be 25 cents!

Of course, I’m about to get a new laptop which does not include a DVD burner. We’ll see how that goes…

Wow, I didn’t mean this to be a negative reaction – I thought it was an interesting post, but turns out as I dig into it, life without the Final Cut Studio or Adobe is lacking.

 

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