Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Testing Another Pipe

Seeing if Yahoo Pipes is properly aggregating my feeds. This one is from my Gnet-X blog.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Story vs. Plot

E.M. Forster, Janet Burroway

A story is a series of events recorded in their chronological order.

A plot is a series of events deliberately arranged so as to reveal their dramatic, thematic, and emotional significance. (39)

  • Burroway, Janet. Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft 5th ed. Longman, 2000.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Usual Writing

I was just listening to Christopher McQuarrie talk about how he wrote "Usual Suspects." Apparently he had the end 1st when he presented it to Brian Singer. When an opportunity came about with Japanese financiers McQuarrie wrote the beginning and then filled the middle with various ideas that came from his experiences working for a private security firm, at times as a body guard for diamond brokers. He figured since he knew how security operated that he'd be able to steal from them. Later he replaced the McGuffin with a person instead of money, the person that could identify Kaiser Sozei. Incidentally a lot of the names in the film were from people that he had worked with in the past.

Sunday, September 20, 2009


A talented father that tries to keep his daughter from becoming the artistic prodigy that he once was because of a debilitating condition that he feels is robbing him of his full potential. He struck with the pain and grief of not being able to pursue his talents and does not want his daughter to feel this same anguish. But the influence is strong, in her blood, and she must discover the the secrets her father kept and face the same tragic decision to either accept fate or end life itself as her father did.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Cognative Dissonance in Film

Play with the audience's emotions, build expectations and manipulate emotions. And then at the climax of those heightened emotions, smack them with an unexpected stimulus. While they are in shock, their previous beliefs and conventions of thinking are vulnerable to a significant if not complete reconstruction. This where the 3rd act of your film can inject new meaning to the themes you are exploring.

Key to Movie Magic

Preparation + Opportunity = Luck (aka Movie Magic)

Feature Film Script Presentation

- Choose film script and read.
- Summarize story of film.
- Identify genre and underline themes of film.
- Identify main characters (at least 3) and describe their role in the film.
- Identify plot points of main character AND page number: Flaw, Catalyst, Big Event, Crisis, Pinch, Showdown, Realization.
- Identify the beginning and ending of Act 1, 2, and 3 and the plot points that transition to each act.
- Identify if the character changes by the end of the film and how or why this is so.
- Identify differences between script and film.
- Describe your own approach to directing this film: casting, locations, set design, lighting, camera, editing, etc.
- Oral presentation, 10 minutes.

Godfather Character Breakdown

Michael Corleone

Flaw: Doesn't want to be a part of his family.
Catalyst: Michael is always wanted close to the family but not a part of the business.
Big Event: Michael's father is shot.
Pinch: Michael must protect his father.
Crisis: Michael is the only one who can get close to Sollozzo and kill him.
Showdown: Michael discovers the traitor and plans a grand revenge.
Realization: Michael cannot escape his family responsibilities.

Vito Corleone

Flaw: Tries to retain to old ways, keep Michael out of family business.
Catalyst: Refuses to Sollozzo's drug business offer - grooms Sunny to take over business to keep Michael out. Don is shot.
Big Event: Don hears that Michael killed Sollozzo.
Pinch: Sunny is killed. Fredo is incapable of running the family.
Crisis: Michael is the only one who can run the family and find the traitor.
Showdown: Don dies and Michael takes over.
Realization: Times change and influence is subliminal as is blood - you cannot control fate.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Screenwriting: Lecture 1

Last week we covered:

Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win by fearing to attempt.
- William Shakespeare

STORY by Robert McKee
20 MASTER PLOTS by Ronald B. Tobias

Other Recommended Books:
ON WRITING by Stephen King

Making Choices

Screenplay - Act - Scene

Screenwriting compared to other forms of writing

In many cases the reader is aware of characters thoughts, feelings, memories, hopes, dreams, etc.
Great for expressing internal conflict.
Reader can take on multiple points of view.
Action occurs in mindscape of dramatic action.

Audience becomes 4th wall.
Characters talk or express their thoughts, feelings, memories, hopes, dreams, etc.
Action occurs in LANGUAGE of dramatic action.

Visual medium.
Story told in pictures, dialog, description all placed within context of dramatic structure
Linear = form = structure = beginning, middle, end

Plots that share certain characteristics

Character Goals
The desire to fulfill a need.
Obstacles stand in way of need
Obstacle is often a character flaw
Flaw often exists in back-story

Spielberg said that in the best stories someone looses control of their life and must regain it.

Layers of Conflict
Outside / Action Story
Indiana’s desire to discover the Ark of the Covenant.
Inside / Emotional Story
Indiana’s feelings for Marion.

Types of Plots

Plot Driven Stories
Raiders of the Lost Ark
Shawshank Redemption

Character Driven Stories
Citizen Kane
There Will Be Blood
Edward Scissor Hands

Types of Plots
Character wins
Character loses
Character sows own seeds of destruction
Character grows by doing the right thing
Character grows up
Character learns
Character fails to learn
Character declines / falls

Form not formula
Form = Structure
Formula = replication, imitation
Structural components a can be rearranged
Beginning, Middle, End
Birth, Life, Death
Sunrise, Sun up, Sunset

Style is the perceived measure of deviation from a standard or from what is perceived as “real.”
Learn the rules first then you can break them.

3 Act Structure
Act I
30 pages long
Setup story, dramatic premise, situation, relationships, environment
Act II
60 pages long
Obstacles that keep character from achieving dramatic need.
All drama is conflict
30 pages long
Succeed or fail
Resolves story

Plot Points
Any incidents, episode, or event that spins the action into another direction and is used as a transition into each successive act.
Main plot points occur at the end of Act I and the end of Act II.

Raiders of the Lost Ark
Action Story
Character Flaw: Indy’s obsession with Archeology
Emotional Story
Character Flaw: Indy chooses archeology over romance

Catalyst kicks things out of balance
Catalyst leads up to the Big Event
Catalyst reveals something about the main conflict
Foreshadowing, 伏線
Setting things up for a payoff later
Creates unity in story
Indiana hates snakes

Action Story
Catalyst: The Nazis are on the verge of discovering the Ark of the Covenant.
Emotional Story
Catalyst: His old flame Marion has the key to the Ark of the Covenant.

Action Story
Plot Point 1 / Big Event: Indy obtains the key to finding the Ark.
Emotional Story
Plot Point 1 / Big Event: Indy is stuck with Marion.

Major event that fully commits the character
Point where all seems lost

Raiders of the Lost Ark
Action Story
Pinch: Indy and company are buried alive in a tomb.
Emotional Story
Pinch: Marion is kidnapped by the Nazis.

Action Story
Plot Point 2 / Crisis: The Nazis obtain the Ark and intend to open it.
Emotional Story
Plot Point 2 / Crisis: Indy must choose between destroying the Ark or saving Marion.

Everything on the line
Showdown is bigger than Big Event
Unity of Opposites ensures character plots will cross

Raiders of the Lost Ark
Action Story
Showdown: Indy chooses not to see what is in the Ark.
Emotional Story
Showdown: Indy and Marion are both captured but Indy insists that Marion not look at what is revealed by opening the Ark.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


Made a hamster sized contribution to this feature film but it was enjoyable. Check out ETIENNE! at Going big in Vegas!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Saying goodbye to my old car - in my dream

Another weird dream. It started out with this sleazy restaurant owner that bought a an old run down place that had a specific name and logo that I couldn't remember. From there it somehow transitioned to me in some kind of contest where a bunch of medical practitioners (doctors and nurses) gathered in some kind of parking structure where I parked my old Infiniti G20 car (which I recently sold in reality). After everyone parked we all filed into some big cave like building where we were being locked into for a period of time - a month or so. It was kind of a social experiment like survivor where we were all supposed to live with each other and either help or compete for food, clothing, etc. So the 1st thing they throw at us is this huge cement truck full of ice cream and they put some hill-billy in distributing amongst the people. While everyone got just a small cup full, this hill-billy and his friends got cup after cup of this ice cream and so everyone was just got raving made to have this ice cream. That's when I noticed the logo on the side of the cement tuck was the same as the logo on the old restaurant, only the bottom was scratched out to say "Ice Cream." so as if it was some kind of flashback sequence, I went back to the beginning of the dream and over-heard this sleazy restaurant owner confess that he made up this survival game to create demand for his newly branded ice cream.

Then, I kind of flash out of that story and into me and my sister watching the ice cream restaurant story unfold on TV. After a few minutes I get bored and leave my sister to watch the show alone. I head for the parking garage to visit my Infiniti car and for some reason decide it would be a good idea to cut through the concrete floor of the parking structure around my car. After a few minutes I had this imperfect circle around my car and the next thing I knew there's a rumble and the Infiniti falls down to the level below smashing a Nissan 300Z car below it. Now in my dream, this was an unexpected result and I messed up my car along with someone else's. The guy who bought the car was supposed to pick up the car next Tuesday (in reality that's when he supposed to really pick up my car) and now he's not going to want to pay the full price with all this damage. So I'm freaking out and then this French guy starts complaining to me at the other end of the parking lot about how I've cut holes in the parking garage floor before and because of me they building owner had to re-route the water pipes because of the damages I caused. and then i realized in my dream that this was only a dream, so I reassured the French guy that none of this actually happened and woke up.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Che Part 1

Just saw Che Part 1 (of 2). Very much a biopic if I've seen one. It had the same tone as the "Fidel" biopic that aired a few years back on HBO (I think it was) - a mix of Che's UN speech inter cut with the Cuban revolution. At times it moves slow but I appreciate how the film avoids spectacle by letting the character breathe and talk and contemplate. In which case I suppose it's marathon running time can somewhat be justified. It's interesting how unnoticeable Soderberg is in this film - the film could have easily passed as an import from an under appreciated foreign filmmaker. Of course Del Toro couldn't have been anymore perfect for the role. From scene to scene there is no anticipation of plot but rather the feeling of history unfolding which is what fascinated me (my wife said the film seemed interesting but she quietly lost interest a quarter of the way through). So I wouldn't say this film is for everyone.

Look forward to seeing the other half. Interestingly the film was shot on the digital RED camera (although some scenes seemed to have been treated to look like 16mm). Celluloid would seem like the logical choice for such a gritty biography like Che but the in watching the film, there is no distracting qualities that come through from it's digital acquisition. It actually looks quite good.

A Quick Round of Movie Reviews

Dark Knight on Bluray - Friggin amazing as it seamlessly switches from full screen 16:9 (IMAX scenes) to widescreen matted.

Speed Racer - I liked it, but it seems like the rest of the world hates it.

The Lookout - A decent thriller if Memento was never made. Good performances.

Clerks 2 - I realized I was never into Clerks 1 but I've been listening to Kevin Smith's Smodcast and that's one hilariously random rant about gay sex, ass kicking, Nazi's, religion... you name it.

The Bank Job - If you expect the Transporter you won't get it - an exceedingly average film.

Rocky Balboa - I thought I could appreciate this film but I think it falls flat, at least Rambo had gratuitous violence.

Red Belt - Interesting film but the dialogue is weirded and surreal, the actors speak in simple sentences and repeat what they say. Maybe it's a Mammet thing.

Journey to the Center of the Earth - I should have known better than to rent this garbage.

Starship Troopers 3: Maurader - A friend's recommendation, yeah it's bad - the bad kind of bad. If you have Casper Van Deen listed as the main actor yet only really makes a guest appearance, you got one big pile of dung.

Paranoid Park - I thought I could appreciate this one too especially with Doyle behind the camera (and in front of it) but there wasn't enough in it to intrigue me.

Hellboy II - It was OK. Good effects and imaginative but it didn't seem to have any relevance - it didn't make me think or love or hate or feel... Hellboy I was kind of the same experience for me.

Tekkon Kinkreet - Very cool animated style and world. A kind of an evolved Akira story.

Books to Write With

In the spirit of encouraging writing, here are some book recommendations for writing:

"Screenplay" by Sid Field - The classic handbook to the 3 Act screenplay, a must for any tool kit.

"Screenwriter's Bible" by David Trottier - I Like this book because it introduces a plot structure driven by critical events that define and/or drives your character(s).

"20 Master Plots" by Ronald B. Tobias - I've had this one for almost a decade! This is where I learned the importance in balancing the triangle of relationships between characters and when I'm stuck plotting a story, I reference this book to get ideas on where to go.

"Story" by Robert McKee - If it can inspire Charlie Kaufman then it's good enough for me. If anything I learned that a great writer makes decisions whereas an inept writer avoids such responsibility.

"On Writing" by Stephen King - A seamless narrative of how he became to be and how he puts print to page. He claims that if you want to write, you got to read - a lot. The King reads something like 80 books in a year.

Here's a curve ball for you,

"Love Signs" by Linda Goodman - Now before you laugh your ass off, you know you yourself or someone close to you has identified with horoscopes on one level or another. This is simply because horoscopes are a time tested study of patterns and character. And if you think it's all fiction - well then that's exactly what we're writing, fiction. This book is a great reference on how your characters might interact with each other... and if you want to go one step further and use this book for your love life, well then that's just none of my business.

So there you go. You may now go back to your regularly scheduled programming.