Thursday, May 9, 2013

Analog Love

It's Throwback Thursday where everyone posts old school pics so I came across this old one of me in college directing my dystopian short ANALOG LOVE at Dartmouth.

Cigar in hand - Godard would be proud.
Shot on 16mm black and white negative on a classic Arriflex.  The film was an homage to my favorites Alphaville by Godard and La Jetee by Chris Marker.  Man, those are awesome films.

How beautiful was Godard's wife and muse Anna Karina?  My god, those eyes...

I even found a girl on campus who looked like Anna Karina and insisted she be in the film!  I still think using non-actors in films, especially short or experimental ones, can be richly rewarding.

You can watch my film ANALOG LOVE here:


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Dungeons & Dragons Movie

I'm very excited at the news that Warner Brothers is planning on making a new Dungeons & Dragons feature.

Art by Larry Elmore
I'm a big fan of D&D and have been ever since I used to spend some recesses in elementary school playing AD&D first edition in the hallway.

So is Hollywood - Game of Thrones writer David Benioff loved D&D growing up, and Vin Diesel used to play games fueled by pints of coffee ice cream and describes the game as "a training ground for your imagination."

The last D&D movie was a big disappointment because it was so campy.  The tone was just goofy.  To players of D&D, we lost another chance for the mainstream to take the game seriously.  To the mainstream, it made D&D look like a silly game for teens.

Hopefully they use Larry Elmore as an artistic consultant.  His art has been used for D&D since the beginning and he is just amazing.

There's a great D&D podcast called Critical Hit that's been going on for years, and the folks over there really know how to use the game world in a captivating and engrossing way.  Maybe the writers of this new film can take a listen?  Probably too much to ask.

Scrolling through the comments on there's the classic amount of haterism about the project; mostly pointing to past adaptations that have flopped and the "difficulty" of using a world that's so wide-open and doesn't have any specific characters.  Those are somewhat valid points, but I think the fact is that this is a great time to give D&D another chance.

The fact that the D&D world is so vast and open is actually an upside; provided you get a writer who is REALLY imaginative and takes the time to create a lot of depth.  I'm talking countries, families, factions - look to great TV like The Borgias and Boardwalk Empire for examples of this.

The last D&D movie had no depth at all.  It was pretty much just set in one dungeon, which is a sadly literal way to interpret the brand.  Yes, you can even take it Sci-Fi if you want - there's support for planetary and interplanar travel in the D&D rules.  I personally don't think that's needed, but if Hollywood wants that, it's there.

As a writer, this adaptation is a DREAM PROJECT!  Precisely because it is so open - you can create all the characters!  My mind swirls with the possibilities.  As far as business goes, I suppose a lesson here is to write specs that you believe in, as apparently the recent spec Chainmail led to this deal.  Also, I should probably just keep writing so I get noticed and then these types of dream deals might actually be a possibility.

The world of Dungeons & Dragons is a rich universe containing a multitude of separate "worlds" such as Dragonlance and the Forgotten Realms, each as genuinely captivating as genre stalwarts Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones.  I hope they give D&D the same serious treatment, and maybe even create a respected franchise from it.

(p.s. yes I have a D&D spec that I have been writing with a fresh take on combining the real world and the D&D world... but I really shouldn't say too much more about it.)

What do you think of the D&D reboot news?

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Writer's Workshop - Hal Ackerman of UCLA

I'm excited to announce the first episode of my new series The Writer's Workshop is now online:

(CLICK HERE for the YouTube link if the embedded viewer below doesn't show up.)

My first guest is Hal Ackerman, who is the co-chair of the UCLA Screenwriting Program.  He's a wonderful teacher with loads of experience and wonderful perspective on the art and craft of writing.

He started out as a playwright in New York, then moved to Los Angeles to enter the film world.  Since then he's also written both fiction and nonfiction books.  Check out his Harry Stein detective series as well as his excellent book on screenwriting, "Write Screenplays That Sell."

Comments or questions?  Leave them below.

Monday, May 6, 2013


Wow, what a crazy couple of months.
Portland actors Josh Rice and Angie Collins

From March 15-30 I shot scenes from THE CYNIC screenplay I'd written in the UCLA program.  I went up to Portland, Oregon (my hometown) between Winter and Spring terms and shot using a small crew and 100% local talent.

It was an amazing experience and could not have gone better.  We got great locations, wonderful actors and a great result.

We shot on my twin Canon 60D's using nice vintage Pentax Super Takumar lenses from the 60's.  A great way to go if you don't have thousands of dollars to spend on lenses.  I love how they look.

Right now I'm cutting together the trailer with plans of raising funds to complete the feature.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

First Draft

The first draft is a funny thing because all the time you're working on your outline, you feel like a caged bull and can't wait to explode from the abstraction of themes and plot points to the rich detail of the actual script.  Then, when you've been a good little boy and gone through several drafts of your outline and gotten it both really tight and really layered, you stand right where you've wanted to be for weeks or maybe even months:

a luxury car from the early 20th century
Page One.  Now all those wonderful themes you've knit seem really daunting.  How will I put all those subtleties and subthemes in, and how will I make sure they echo and compliment the main theme in just the right way?

And that first scene, wow that's a doozy.  Main character - his or her first line.  What will it be?  It's gotta be active, right?  It's gotta have thematic repercussions and clues to character arc/journey that aren't clear at the moment but make sense in retrospect.  And above all, it's gotta be memorable... simply, COOL!

I'd like to do a study of first scenes in great movies.  There are a few that come immediately to mind... I wonder, if you were to ask someone about a favorite movie of theirs, how often could they recount the opening scene?  I wouldn't be surprised if this was a high correlation.

Isn't it true that as a viewer you can pretty much tell from the first scene whether or not you're going to like the movie?  You're either "on board" or not, strapped in, bought the ticket, going for the ride... or you flip the channel or go get a snack.  My brother was commenting the other day that, when reading, by the time you're ten pages into a script, you really know all there is to know about a writer's voice and where this whole thing is going.  This made me very nervous as I was just about to start my draft on page one.

Anyway, the good news is that I started it and got one page done that day.  I was pretty happy with it.  Of course, I know that everything will be rewritten... but I also like to make my first draft as good as I can because... well, I think it's the right  thing to do, to have some pride and not take refuge in future drafts, and besides... I also believe when you build something you should have a solid foundation.

My brother mentioned also that he tends to overwrite early drafts.  I was kinda envious of this because I find with my own writing that, because I have the story all planned out in my head, I tend toward hyperconcision.  For some reason I assume the story already exists in the world and it is familiar to all... but of course it doesn't and it isn't.

It seems like a dumb trait as I write it down, but if I had to defend it I would say that I've always been fascinated by suggestion as opposed to explicitness, by saying less than is required so as to create a mood and let the reader fill in the cracks with the mortar of his own mind.  I suppose I'm fascinated by what is not there, what is not said.  We'll see how this works out.

In conclusion, on Twitter recently I saw a screenwriting tweet that suggested that writing out of sequence could be a useful tool to avoid the many-headed hydra that is writer's block.  I like this and will try it today.

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Power of Time

It's been awhile since my last post.  During that time I went through one draft of my second act, which was very brief and simple.  Over Thanksgiving break I talked with people about the story and came up with a new direction for the female lead.

It really consisted of making her story bigger.  In class my professor was very surprised - "speechless" was the word he used - at the changes or developments I'd made.  But he said he liked them.

By the time I'd shared them in class, I'd assimilated the changes (or rather additions) I'd made and so they didn't seem so shocking to me.  But I remember first "cracking" the new storyline, and I was very excited about it.  It seemed compelling and also natural at the same time.

I think I needed that time to sit with those characters and come up with a natural plotline that didn't feel contrived or stereotypical.

I've got all the characters I need, the main plot, the subplots... now on to first draft.  We're really moving along in this course, and it's good.  Stay tuned.