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Who knew people like babies?

If you like babies, this post is for you. I was thinking today how Hollywood loves babies and families.

And Disney loves dead moms.

Uh…what? Moving on. Kids are a great market. They’re fun to write for, and they enjoy pretty much everything that you do. And don’t worry. Crying is natural.

Seriously? Cute.

Who wouldn’t want to write for that? And it gets better. Writing for babies and small children is fun and easy because they like simple things with interesting visuals. Screenwriting at its basic fundamentals.

I watched this YouTube video “Who’s Your Favorite?” and thought, what a lovely example of a short film. I know that’s not what it was meant to be, probably, but it actually has a nice arc, a fun premise that is explored, complicated, and resolved (though not really to Daddy’s liking), and it left me with that satisfied feeling I get when I watch something that has a beginning, middle, and end. I love that this is set up as an interrogation (just from the one BUM! from the opening of every Law & Order episode ever made), and it’s of a baby about which one of her parents is the favorite. So simple it’s genius.

 


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A Class You Can Do By Yourself – Week 1

As promised, class has begun. Sit down, take out pen and paper, play some music if you like, and follow along.

Screenwriting is an art and a craft that takes practice and diligence to perfect. This process will not be easy, but I hope it’s fun. It’s certainly fun for me. If you’re still on the fence about doing this class, know that all you have to produce over the next 8 weeks is an 8-10 page screenplay. Okay. Let’s start while the momentum is still hot.

Exercise 1

Getting Into The Groove

First, write down 1 – 3 of your favorite movies (or TV shows if you have trouble thinking of films). Save this in mind; we will be doing some more exercises with this list later. Next, write down 1 – 3 adjectives describing each film and why you like it. e.g. characters are engaging, world is beautiful, score is moving. Now, look for similarities between the films you chose. Take note of how and why these films speak to you, and what they are saying as far as a message or a moral goes.

Taking notice of what you are already familiar with and know you like to watch can help guide you in the direction of the story you should write. Maybe the story hasn’t come to you yet, but maybe you’re honing in on a genre, or the overall thing (for lack of a better term) that you want to say with your piece.

Exercise 2

Watch A Movie

Watch Lunch Date by clicking in the title. Refer back to How To Watch A Movie And Write At The Same Time as you watch, and think about each question thoughtfully in regards to this Academy Award winning short film.

By now, you should be in full on movie zone. A good place to be if movies are what you’re trying to write. Notice how using the How To Watch a Movie… guide makes you a more active watcher? Notice the specific vocabulary terms for working in this craft? Good.

Exercise 3

Read.

Read these handouts on premise and synopsis, and loglines.

Notice how a story can be told is as much or as little detail as time and space allows. Once you have your screenplay idea in mind try thinking about telling it in several different ways. This will help you crystallize your screenplay idea down to it’s small, workable essence.

Exercise 4

Write.

Write a premise for one of the films/shows on your list.

Notice how a premise is essentially comprised of an engaging character in a world filled with conflict. 

Exercise 5

Read some more.

Read this handout out on formatting. Make sure you have some screenwriting software (either Final Draft or Celtx), and that you familiarize yourself with it.

If you’re only going to play by one rule in Hollywood, make sure it’s this one. If it looks like a screenplay, you can get away with breaking a lot of rules in the narrative.

Exercise 6

Loosen up.

This writing exercise consists of making four lists as fast as you can can (speed is important to emphasize that you shouldn’t think too hard about what you’re putting in the lists).

Write down the numbers 1 -10. Title this list “Characters.” Write down anything from ‘nuns’ to ‘squirrels’ to ‘presidents’ to ‘Martin Luther King, Jr.’ We just want the people part of a noun.

The second list from 1 – 10 is  “locations,” e.g. ‘an aircraft carrier,’ ‘the moon,’ ‘Dominos Pizza’.Now we’re onto places.

The third list from 1-  10 is activities, such as ‘write a novel,’ ‘play tennis,’ ‘knit’. Here we are looking for actions/verbs.

The fourth list from 1 – 10 is things that someone could be doing an activity with.

Great. Once you have finished making your lists, combined with any one item from each of the lists to generate an idea for a scene/short film, a la ‘nuns on an aircraft carrier playing tennis with a mallet,’ or Martin Luther King, Jr. at Dominos Pizza writing a novel with a toy car.’

Notice how you can get great ideas by tapping the subconscious, which means not thinking too hard about things and “letting” the mind spill out good fodder.

And that’s it!

Great job this week!


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What I Didn’t Know About Novel Writing (until about an hour ago)

Normally, in screenwriting the gurus say that story begins with character or possibly structure, but what I learned today in my nifty fiction workshop is that novels begin with setting, and that location begets character not the other way around. Whodduh thunk it? Now, in the land of common sense this might seem to be obvious. You can’t have a person existing in a vacuum, and thus it would be a logical assumption to make that they have to have ground under their feet before you can plunk them down and set them off running on their journey. But somehow I missed that.

Oops.

On the bright side, my background as both a screenwriter and a visual artist puts me in a good position to come up with proper settings for characters as fast as you can say…

Cracker Jack.

So, I’m working on my first novel, and surprise surprise, I’m basing it on an idea that was originally for a screenplay. The thing is, I know all the secondary locations, but not where the meat of the story will be set. Worse still is that all I can think about is this 7 ft. mixed media installation that I did a few years back during my undergrad days at Sarah Lawrence. It looked like this…

Yeah, get a load of that one.

The most interesting thing about this piece, which you can’t see from here, is that in the very far right corner, right where the tunnel meets the plaster outcropping is a faint but distinct silhouette of a man in a tuxedo offering a woman in a Victorian bustle a rose. Well, that, and that this piece came to represent what my brain must look like when I’m suffering writer’s block. As I was telling a friend earlier this evening, I’m not sure how or when it was that I began to conflate the issue of true love with my work as an artist, but there it is. Plain as day for all to see.

Okay, okay, in typical Holly fashion this may all seem very tangential, but I actually have a point to make. I think. The point being that the novel I’m writing is about Cupid, the god of Love, and a young female demi-god who is coming in with the aim to restructure Love as it have been done through the ages (very much an “Up In the Air” knock-off). So what I’m thinking is… do Cupid and the demi-god need to spend the majority of their journey in a desolate limbo place like my brain on writer’s block? Obvi, they spend some time on Olympus, and some time on Earth, but as far as each one of them going through a self-as-artist self-discovery journey, do they need to be in a place that only exists within the human soul? Because, if the story is about Love, where else could it be set without it being about love in, say, New York City, or Bangladesh? This story is not about Love in a place, it’s about Love within the human condition. So that makes sense.

But. But. Okay, so there’s this fantastical place that may or may not exist within ourselves. The next task is how do I ground that in sights and sounds and smells and tastes and PLACES that are familiar to us all? This is where I ask ya’ll for your help. If you have an inner-life what does it look like? Or does it not matter? Should I just write what my inner-life looks like and assume that people will be able to relate because anyone who would pick up a copy of my book will have a rich inner-life and can just imagine what it would be like for them?

While you think about that, here’s a beautiful video to watch. It’s by William Kentridge, and is a stop-motion video of him erasing and drawing over the same images. Words cannot describe.

Click the link below.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IJ-c4N2njwg

P.S. I swear by next week I will be offering more information rather than asking a bunch of unanswerable questions. In the meantime, enjoy the video.