Monday, October 29, 2012

The Cynic

I've officially decided which screenplay I will be working on for Fall and Winter terms.  Pretty exciting!

In our eight-person workshop group, which meets once a week for three hours, we all pitched three different loglines to the class.  After the loglines were read, we had the opportunity to answer questions from our classmates.  This served to clarify things like plot, tone, theme, etc.

The whole class voted on which of our three loglines they would like to see us write into a full script.  Our instructor Tim Albaugh weighed in too.  I'd say about half the voting results were pretty unanimous, and the other half were between two.  So, I think the system worked well.

I definitely learned something from the process.  For my three pitched loglines, I chose two projects that I have been developing for YEARS.  The other pitch was one that I came up with just a few days before.

Guess which one won?  The brand new one.  And you know what?  For some reason, that's the one that excites me the most.

I came up with the idea with absolutely no preconceived notions, other than a theme I wanted to explore.  It comes from a quote by Oscar Wilde.  So, I started with a bare foundation of a character who is afflicted with a certain myopic way of looking at the world.

Given this, the plot suggests itself as the story of this character's journey to correct this deficiency in outlook.  Of course, good storytelling dictates that his conscious goal throughout the story is very different.

I think sometimes in life we hold onto ideas and concepts for a long time, and they become dear to us.  The longer we hold onto things, the harder it is for us to look at them objectively.  They can grow moss and barnacles, and lose their vitality and relevance.  I still like my old ideas... and plan to get them done eventually.  But maybe it's smart to listen to and engage in what is fresh and new and vital to me NOW at this very moment.

Initially I was disappointed that the two stories I had been holding close to my heart for years didn't garner more interest.  But perhaps the fact that my latest idea is my "best" is an indication that I am growing.

Shouldn't any artist hope that his latest work is his best?

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Reader Poem

This young blog already has its first reader contribution, a wonderful poem from Kit in Chicago:

"O regal eagle,
So mysterious and majestic,

What secrets are shrouded in your soul?

The flaps of your wings,
So powerful and whirling with featherdust,

How can we know the brutal gearing of your ways?

The stones of Tomorrow
and the compass of Truth
Soar into consciousness -

The mountain goats of my mind
Cower as you swoop and shriek.

Oh bird of destruction, what goats will you snatch today?"

Stunning, isn't it?  The powerful imagery reminds me of William Blake's "The Tyger."

Kit also included a link to this video by way of inspiration or accompaniment.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Workshop Group

In the UCLA Professional Program in Screenwriting, once a week for three hours we meet with our workshop group.
Lajos Egri
That's where actually be writing our screenplays - two full features over the course of the academic year.  The group consists of a professor and 8 students.

Our professor is Tim Albaugh, who graduated MFA from UCLA's Screenwriting program in 1992.  Tim seems like a good guy who is friendly, knowledgeable and fun.

My groupmates also seem like a good bunch, some are fresh out of college and some have other careers already.  There's a couple very young people, a couple older ones, a couple in the middle (like me).

There's homework every week; the first week we reread Aristotle's "Poetics" and now we're working through Lajos Egri's "The Art of Dramatic Writing."

I was not familiar with this work; I have since learned it is a legendary piece and I am quite enjoying it.  Apparently Egri lived and taught private courses in Los Angeles until his death.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Hello World

I'm three weeks into my new Professional Program in Screenwriting at the UCLA School of Theater, Film and TV so I figure I better start now if I'm going to be keeping a blog about it.

Our course lasts over the whole academic year (three terms) and we meet once a week for a large lecture and once a week in a small workshop.  Seems like a good format because you get the macro and micro scale of things.

Our lecturer for the large group is Hal Ackerman.  So far he's been great.  He's got a great sense of humor and also recognizes that writing is a lot about heart and emotion.  He's from New York and started as a playwright.  I'd say he's in his 70's.

The first day of class he ended by playing a Tom Waits song about a hooker in Minneapolis, with the lights off and lyrics projected on the board.  Can't get much better for a screenwriting class than that.

He also told us how his (latest?) wife left him via text message.  That rules.

In the third class he told us "sometimes you get what you need, remember that Stones song?"

I sung it on the walk back to my car.