Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

Reverse Suction

Monday, January 2nd, 2012

Okay, so my last - pre-holiday - post about embracing the mentally recharging energy of flaking out and just taking in sensory stimuli lasted about 24 hours.

Truth is, as thoroughly enjoyable as my holiday season was - how was yours by the way? - I kind of just got wrapped up in a new idea and spent every spare moment writing.

(Yes, I also hacked away at the next Mankind book as well so that’s still on the way.)

As a creator - for lack of a better word - you kind of rue the ruts when they come. They’re low points. That may be what some call writer’s block. I can’t say for sure. I don’t think I’ve ever had any blocks of the literary kind. I have had ruts however. I think of them as biologically strategic intervals of rest that the body accesses for dealing with things like eating or tending to personal hygiene.

They generally suck on a mental level. So I’m not sure why I’m kind of standing in the city bus of my mind, looking down the street and quietly hoping to see a rut in my future. Just so I can have a breather.

It’s a little disturbing. Not quite as disturbing as self-analyzing the fact that in my own fantasy the best vehicle for transporting my subconscious that my mind could dream up was a city bus…

What was I saying?

Right. It’s only January 2nd and I’m already mentally exhausted. Yet I can’t seem to stop. This should be a fun one!

Happy New Year to all of y’all. Make something awesome this year.

Less is More or Less More

Friday, November 4th, 2011

I write a lot. And as any follower of this weblog knows, I also produce as much of that writing as I can into movies (however modest). But the scale will forever be tipped in favour of the amount of writing I do versus the amount of independent movies I produce on my own.

Only recently have I started approaching others. Others who may be helpful in turning these words on a page into pictures on a screen.

And I know I have a lot to offer. Literally, in terms of sheer quantity of writing; I have a lot of material to offer. After all, unlike most, I’m able to write full time. All day long, everyday of the week - not many are as fortunate. I thought this was an asset. Points in my favour. If someone in the industry were to ask me, “what are you working on?” I could easily ramble off the log lines to half a dozen projects I’ve been polishing over the past few months. Let alone an arsenal of material still undeveloped. How impressive I must seem to these curators of content!


No, it’s only recently come to my attention that I may not look that way at all. See the guy with a ton of scripts lying around kinda looks like the guy who has nothing of value.

There’s an industry expectation when it comes to writers. Or perhaps the perception of an industry expectation. It goes like this: Writers are poor, lazy, alcoholic procrastinators, who work day jobs in video stores and devote very little time to actually writing. So if you show up to the party with half a dozen scripts, people think - damn, if you’ve got that many screenplays under your belt, how come I’ve never heard of you?

So I get it. It makes sense from this traditional viewpoint. Trouble is, there’s nothing traditional about entertainment any more. You can spend all your days writing and never pitching and wind up with a surplus simply because you like to produce as much of it on your own as you can. You can quietly amass thousands, even millions of fans of your work without ever making a blip on the radar of traditional entertainment.

But it doesn’t matter. When it comes to pitching my wares, I’m viewed as a writer. Even though I’m ambitious, don’t drink, only procrastinate doing things I hate (like a normal person) and haven’t worked in a video store since I was 21. It doesn’t matter to them. And I’m not here to change any one’s mind. I mean, sure, I’ll bitch about it on my own website but when it comes to getting the meeting you want to get, it’s all about accepting terms. Compromising. Adapting.

So I’ve amended my approach. You don’t want to hear about a range of possibilities. You don’t want choices. You don’t want surprises or new points of view. You just want something good. So “what am I working on?” Just one thing: The best fucking script you’ll ever read.

If You Can Talk, You Can Write

Monday, September 19th, 2011

I was rolling along in my trusty wagon the other day, brainstorming.

Well, “brainstorming” makes my thought process sound more organized than it actually is. When I’m really keyed up about an idea - and I’m alone - I tend to get a little carried away.

I’m talking lip movement here. Maybe - maybe - sound effects. Kind of like watching a four year old playing with Lego except a 35 year old sitting at a red light making explosion sounds.

Then I realized something. I’ve been going astray recently. I’ve been writing one way. The right way. The correct way. Fifty pages into a script that calls for action and drama and pizazz and I’m writing it like a recipe book. It was all wrong. As soon as I got the wagon home I started re-writing.

This time I wrote it as if I was in the car. At that red light. Making the sound effects.

Fuck, that works so much better. That’s fun writing. And fun reading. That’s energy. That’s pizazz.

People who have a hard time with it, have often said to me “I can’t write. How do you write?” And I’ve always told them if you can talk, you can write. And I always meant it. But I guess it’s been a long time since I’ve taken that advice myself. No more.

Psssshhhhhhoooooo… Prrrgggghhhh!

Writing a Blockbuster

Thursday, August 25th, 2011

Is “blockbuster” a genre?

I think it might be. Now. Because, when I hear it said, I know what it means. There can be no doubt about what a blockbuster is.

Modest movies can turn out to do better than expected, think The Hangover. Sometimes extraordinarily better than expected, now think Paranormal Activity. But you wouldn’t call them “blockbusters”.

Blockbusters stand for something big, don’t then? Enormous in scope, both visually (and symphonically) grand and ideologically broad.

I say it’s a genre unto itself.

What’s different about it, perhaps, is that it’s a genre with limited accessibility to all filmmakers. One of the few. Period pieces and some sci-fi might also be unattainable at the indie level, and true blockbusters most definitely are. I can mix all the corn syrup and red dye I want and make a splatter pic but wrangling a legion of Roman soldiers to storm a castle is a little above my budget.

Ergo, I - and frankly most of the writers I know - don’t spend a lot of time dreaming up blockbusters. But then, we are Canadian, and such things are generally frowned upon up here.

However, I’m kind tired of writing within certain limitations.

I don’t know. I kind of got tired of writing small. When I wrote Minushi I sure didn’t think small. Animation is the one exception to the budget rule. With enough time and enough paper, you can bust blocks with the best of them. But I’m not really thinking animation these days either. I guess I’m not really thinking. I’m just doing.

Yeah, there’s a plan. A loose arrangement of ideas. But it’s nice, you know. To be writing above your budget. Above what’s expected. To be writing a blockbuster. The very act is sort of blockbuster in itself. The lofty ambition. Broad. Sweeping. Impossible…

… In the optimistic sense.

Writing Big

Sunday, June 26th, 2011

Lately I’ve been writing bigger. That’s what I’m calling it anyway. Big. Bbig.

When I went from writing short comedy to long form screenplays I immediately started writing scripts that I thought I could manage on a shoestring budget. Small. Small scale. I wrote and wrote and this became my norm. In a country where a 1.5m film budget is what you shoot for and 5m is just obscene, can you blame me? Small country, small goals, non-existent audience.

But what does a budget matter? How is that the hallmark of a good story or even a good movie?

It’s not. But it is sort of a type of movie from a industry point of view. And that’s been my latest life lesson in pursuing this career of mine. This is an industry. A dollars and cents industry. It’s all well and good to make a movie - hey look at me, I’m making a movie! - but the party’s over unless you can sell it. Period.

See, there’s nothing about that little tid bit in the envelope with your government writing grant. Money from heaven. Ask no questions.

And what’s happened lately, as I’ve worked hard and had good fortune enough to have interest from the film industry down South, is that my collection of economical, small scripts don’t really amount to much. It’s like I’ve been invited to a potluck picnic and I’m the guy who shows up with a 2l bottle of Coke. An unrefrigerated bottle of Coke. With no cups.

So I’ve been writing bigger. It’s a hard thing to put a definition on but there’s a marked difference between a script that’s been written with a budget in mind and one that’s been written with abandon.It’s not just a matter of locations, effects, stunts and so on; there’s a language, a tone, that you allow when writing “art” scripts versus the broader appeal necessary for producing material fit for an actual film industry.

It’s got to be big.

Ironically, the closest I’d ever come to writing in this fashion previously is when I used to write those animated comedy shorts, lo so many years ago. Because back then I was writing for the audience. Not for other filmmakers. Back when broad was good, the target audience was wide and the intellectual brow was low.

So that’s been my little thing these days. That and this other thing that I’ve been wanting to announce to you for a long while. More on that… Eventually. In the meantime, go out and see a summer movie. A blockbuster. Revel in it. Marvel at how terrible it probably is. And appreciate just how tricky it is to get that terrible formula right.