Monday, March 30, 2009

On Writing

Anything, including film starts with an idea.
My initial idea for a film project started as a Half Life 2 short. I wrote about four characters who were trying to find others in the post apocalyptic Half Life universe. So, I wrote a forty six page script (that I thought was awesome) and sent it around to my friends and family.
Found it was pretty bad.
Some people responded with fluffy sentiments like, 'it's great, stays true to the source material!' while others (the honest ones) told me it was either 'just OK' or 'Not very good'. But that's OK, good even. Anyone who's interested in writing knows that for most people, it'll take ten or fifteen scripts before you get something decent. The most important thing is to actually start writing.
That first forty six page script was good for me. It taught me mostly what not to do (cliches, forced exposition, and plot hammers). It also taught me that, hey, I can write. Alright, I'm no Cohen Brother, but heck; I've got me about fifty pages of script here. That's a starting point, and my idea lived in there somewhere.
But, my idea needed a new home, and I knew I needed help to get it there.


I began reading professional writers blogs. There’s a ton of them, but I fell in love with John August's blog as well as Jane Espensen's and from there, found I was doing it all wrong. I was using a jack hammer instead of a chisel. JJ Abrams has some interesting things to say about story telling, and the year before I read On Writing by Steven King (a must for anyone who wants to write at any level).
Those are all amazing resources, but the real kick came from a friend of mine who encouraged me to take the story out of the Half Life universe, and make it something my own. I heard my idea yell ‘YES!!’
Oh, and uh, these guys were already doing the Half Life survivor story better than me anyway :)
Anyway, by making the story completely my own, it meant I was free to use my own ideas, it also meant no rules and (more importantly) no copyright infringement! Hurray! I preformed open heart surgery and removed my idea from the Half Life body and started writing from the ground up, now developing the content for the Internet.
Ahh the Internet.
Storytelling on the Internet, isn’t movies, it's not books, and it’s not television. The Internet is a new medium where the rules of conventional storytelling are not set. It’s an open range, and I’m Wyatt Earp. I can do whatever I want, as long as it doesn’t suck. I’m not saying that story telling on the net needs to be completely different from the way television and movies (generally) tell stories; just that there is no convention. So for me, that kinda blew thing open a bit.
The idea of writing for this new medium got me thinking. I wrote my second and third drafts around this but they were garbage too. Better, but still garbage. Honestly, I think it was either the seventh or eighth script that I knew I had something that wasn't bad. I knew I had something good when my wife told me she thought it was 'cool' and that she wanted to ‘find out what happens’.
My idea was coming to life. The next step was storyboarding.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

You want to do what?

I’d been playing music forever. My dad had a band while I was growing up and taught me how. I took music lessons, my friends played instruments, and music was life. I was constantly playing or wanting to play. I’d get in trouble at school for ‘fidgeting’ but really, I was drumming to the song in my head on my desk. Music was all I ever knew. I drew a little, but I never was really good at it. I wasn’t into books because nobody told me they were awesome until I got older. So, the one, and only thing I thought I could do was music. And that’s what I did.

Fast forward twelve years, a hand full bands, getting married, and there I was; really trying to make it big in the music industry. I had a pretty good job (still do) in insurance, and I was in the best band I’d ever been in (as I write this, were getting ready for our last show). As much as I loved music, it was unintentionally moving into the periphery of my life. I was finding it less and less satisfying, and began looking for other creative outlets.

Then, I saw this. I watched it three times and thought ‘Oh, I want to do this. Film. Holy crap, I want to make movies.’ I realized film encompassed every fascist of art that I loved; drawing, music, photography, writing etc. Not to mention everyone could be a part of it.

See, in a band, the experience feels exclusive-even if you don't want it to be. I mean, unless you have a producer, only the band members themselves are able to truly contribute. But with a film, well, everyone is vital. If you sow, great, I can use you. Know a lot about guns? Awesome, you’re in. If you mix sound, well now you’re more important than any lead singer ever was.

Chrissy (my wife) and I were driving to a friend’s house when I told her about my idea to delve into this. I wasn’t quite sure how she was going to react, but, she didn’t even blink. She just said, “Yeah, I could totally see you doing that.”


With her support, I knew I had a real chance. Because when your wife believes in you, it’s like freaking jet fuel. But before I could fly, I needed a jet-or more accurately, a camera.

So I started researching. I knew nothing about film, much less cameras. I knew I wanted widescreen and that was about it, and there are literally hundreds of options. I honestly looked for about two or three weeks straight, and in the process learned a very introductory knowledge about cameras, frame rates, etc. It was when I read about 24p in particular, I knew I had to have a camera capable of shooting in that frame rate. After deciding on the HV20 (I might add, an amazing little camera), and nearly getting swindled for $400.00 in the process; It was December of ‘07 that I went to a Wolf Camera and bought it for no money down and zero interest for ten months. By the way, they try to charge you that interest at about five months, unless you call and correct their ‘mistake’.

Now I had my jet, and my fuel.

It was time to break it out of the box.