Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Aftermath ver. 1.0

I’ve been neglecting this here blog with good reason: The Screenplay.

October was divided between typing the screenplay and a vacation in Florida. The warm weather and rest was perfect. Upon my return, I resumed typing the screenplay and began my revisions in earnest. After all the hair pulling I did this past year, it was extremely gratifying to see all the pieces fall into place. Plot, character, theme. Cause and effect. Action. Emotion. Everything came together. I submitted it to the Blue Cat Screenplay competition in early December and should have some feedback from them in early January.

Now, word on the blogosphere is that competitions are a waste of time and money, but I disagree to a point. You have to do your research. If it’s clout you’re looking for when your screenplay makes the finals or even wins, there’s nothing that compares to the Nicholl Fellowship. I’m not sure where Blue Cat is on the list of prestigious competitions, but they’re the best bang for your buck in the feedback department. My two previous scripts are better for the feedback I received from them.

The one thing that ALL screenplay competitions offer that writers benefit from is deadlines. It’s been said before all over the net (and books and classes and seminars) but I’m saying it again ‘cause us writers need deadlines. The thing is you got to be smart about deadlines so you can submit your best work. This means you have to be smarter than me.

What I submitted to Blue Cat was not my best work. As proud as I was of that draft, I discovered some small things that needed improvement in the days that followed my submission. You need to look at the year ahead in regards to competitions. Pick the ones you want to submit to and make note of their deadlines.

Then meet those deadlines.

I allowed myself a week or two to revise before submitting. I should’ve given myself at least a month.

That said, I truly feel the current draft of the screenplay is some of my best work. It’s a scary feeling because I know I need outside feedback. So I’m not looking at this thing again until the feedback from Blue Cat comes in.

Thus, I enter the Aftermath of being focused on a screenplay for so long.

My home office was a mess and I’ve begun to clean it up. There are stacks of books I want to read that I’m going to get to, as well as stacks of magazines. And there’s a short story that I rewrote a year ago that I need to revise. Slowly.

Taking my time with this short story will allow me to keep those muscles in shape while reading those books will help me recharge. There’s also a slew of emails to catch up on, most of which are screenwriting newsletters with great articles that have been filed away for future consumption. Many of those articles will assist in the post revision-post aftermath phase; a phase I’ve never entered before.

Query letter phase. (Or rather, query email)

In the new year, once that short story is done and submitted, I’ll begin researching production companies, agents, and managers who accept unsolicited queries. Creative Screenwriting Magazine and Script Magazine have great articles and listings, as does Inktip. I’ll probably put this latest screenplay on Inktip and sign up for the Hollywood Creative Directory Online which has (the last time I checked) options for yearly or monthly subscriptions. All this research and query writing will be interspersed with revisions on the previous two scripts, then with brainstorming on the next screenplay. And given the whining (and preaching) I’ve done on this blog about running out of steam, I know I need to plan a short break in April or May.

So here’s to 2011. The aftermath of 2010.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Hugh's Cherry Post

I'm entering this mostly blind. I'm a cautious person by nature, but I'm neither very good at research, nor at taking advice. And so I'm just wading in. How does one start a blog? Do I tell you a little about myself? Or is that something you're meant to discover along the way - the scattered crumbs for cyber-Hansel-&-Gretel(2.0) to follow to some half-baked idea? Anyway, it's not about me, it's about writing...

I'm spilling the contents of my head.

Here's the thing: I refuse to believe there is one way to write. There isn't. But most writers know this and that's one of the reasons the community builds. When it comes to unlocking creative energy, to harnessing it, making it yours, making it universal, wrestling it to the page and then whittling away the excess (or in reverse order) to something more refined, there are so many variables that one can consider that you could almost become overwhelmed before you'd begun. But as a writer you wade into that mire. And as a writer, even as you curse and shake your fist, you love it. A million-and-one set-backs, but each with its own potential for a minor victory. As a writer you are a receptor for it all, and every method, every little piece of advice can help - even the pieces you don't take.

They say there are no original stories left to tell. Maybe that's true. But there are an infinite number of ways in which to tell them. So, just as we patch together our own stories (novels, screenplays, etc.) and try to create something original, something our own, from every and anything - perhaps, so too, we can create our own technicoloured-dreamcoat-method, gathered from anything and everything... even if it's what not to do...

I know I'm already learning. Hopefully it'll be better next time.

Welcome to my scrap of cloth.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Progress ver 1.3

Just over two weeks past my deadline, and I’m done.  I finished the first draft of this sucker last night, but of course I’m a wee bit behind on typing it.  Structurally, the script is working.  I’ve got some issues to deal, with and my third act has some elements that are making me rethink how I approached it.  All in all, I’ve still got a ton of work to do and I’m really looking forward to it.  Once I address these issues, I’ll start the list of revisions I mentioned way back when.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010


John August has a post about music while writing that everyone should check out.  The thing I find interesting is using these playlists as a tool when you’re stuck or when you’re ping-ponging between projects.  (I find that’s more applicable to working writers.  I feel the rest of us should try hard to focus on one thing at a time)

I’ve dabbled a bit with playlists for writing, but the intent was for something to start off with in the search for inspiration.  Using it as a tool to compliment, let’s say an outline, is something new to me.  Outlines tend to detail plot points, and lately I’ve been making little notes about the impact of those beats on the character, and vice versa.  The thing that interests me about setting up a playlist (and perhaps being act/sequence/scene specific) is that it could remind me of the emotion I feel should underline the scene.  It’s details like that that sometimes get lost in all that plot and structure thinking that occupies a lot of the writing process.

The only problem I’m faced with is the fact that music with lyrics can be a distraction.  Well, unless it’s the crap that plays at the coffee shop I write at.  I tend to tune out that stuff, but with music I like… I tend to get sucked into it.  In the past, I’ve reached for instrumental music, some of which are soundtracks for films I’ve enjoyed.

585-1 Heat has got some great music, some composed for the film (Heat, Coffee Shop) and some tracks from a variety of artists ranging from Moby to Michael Brook.  (I discovered Terje Rypdal through this soundtrack and have collected a number of his albums since)

Lately, I’ve been listening to David Julyan’s score for Insomnia, and Elliot Goldenthal’s score for Public Enemies.  Micahel Nyman’s scores for Gattaca and The End of the Affair are old favourites, too.

insomniaFor music that hasn’t necessarily been written for film, there’s always guys like Moby, Synaesthesia, Future Sound of London, Dead Voices on Air, and the list goes on…

I’m thinking my new playlist will need some of Nine Inch Nails “Ghosts,” selections from the soundtracks I mentioned above, and a good serving of Mogwai.

I love the idea that a playlist can be used as a tool and look forward to giving it a try.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Procrastinate Efficiently

photo My September 22 deadline is approaching and I’m a little behind. I’m only a little worried ‘cause I figure if I’m gonna procrastinate, I gotta do a thorough job of it. So I’m gonna procrastinate on worrying about the looming deadline. What the hell. I’ll start worrying about it on September 1st or later. Keep in mind that this isn’t the same as procrastinating on writing. Just the worrying part.

I decided to take it easy this summer. I’ve got a good routine writing on weeknights so I figured it wouldn’t kill me to enjoy my Friday afternoons instead of labouring away at the library. (I’ve got Friday’s off from my part-time day job) And besides, them libraries gots bed bugs.

The thing that’s been on my mind is this feeling that at some point, I‘m going to have to work a little harder at this script. I’m going to have to start going back to the library (or a bug free location, if they exist in this city) and crank out more pages. The funny thing is it’s getting easier as the script progresses. I seemed to have struggled with the setup of this one, and as I ironed out the wrinkles there, everything else has started to fall into place. It’s far from perfect (already started a list of things I want to look at closely in the first revision) but it feels like it’s coming together. And that’s key.

Staying positive will help make the writing go smoother. So in order to stay positive, I’m going to put off the worrying. At least for a couple of weeks.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

MLA with a mouth

So the current controversy is this MLA, Alberta Culture Minister Lindsay Blackett, saying Canadian content is shit.

Hey Lindsay, even if that were the case, (and it’s not) you learn by doing.  And you get better.  Statements like that don’t promote Canadian stories.  Statements like that could drive people away.  How is THAT gonna help?  How is shooting your mouth off and shrinking our audience going to help the industry?  Our storytellers need deserve the chance to grow in their craft to tell OUR stories.  I’m not just talking about the folks currently fortunate enough to be working in the industry.  I’m talking about everyone with something to say and/or express.  There are a lot of creative people you haven’t heard of who are working very hard at their craft RIGHT NOW.  It would be a shame if your comments, your lack of vision, your small mindedness, damaged an already struggling industry to the point where it becomes even more difficult for these people to find a channel, and outlet, to share OUR stories with the rest of the country. (and hopefully, the world)

Shame on you.

Yes, there’s Heartland. There’s also The Bridge.  No, I’m not gonna make a list.  I’m not insecure. 

I don’t feel the need to walk around with a tape measure.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Progress ver 1.2

While the Yellowjester (Mark) is still taking a hammer and chisel to his novel, I had a slight setback on the sci-fi script.

And a great one at that.

I looked over my act 1 and felt it didn’t work. A quick review of my outline told me why and it was one of those head slapping moments. I kept thinking, “was I asleep when I wrote this?” It truly was one of those moments where you look back and realize you were asleep at the wheel. Did I just go through a red light? Did I already put sugar in my coffee?

So over the last week, I’ve re-outlined and have already started re-writing Act 1. It’s definitely more cohesive, more exciting, and more engaging than the dribble I printed on May 30th. And it’s strengthening Act 2.

So at the risk of sounding lame, I feel I should point out something Syd Field mentions a lot in his books. “What doesn’t work will shows us what does work.” And that’s why I am grateful for my little setback.


As per usual, I troll the internet looking for inspiration.  Denis McGrath has had some particularly inspiring posts here and here and here. Then there’s Lightspeed Magazine for those of you looking for a new market to submit your prose to.  I’ve also rediscovered Creative Screenwriting Magazine’s series of Podcasts.  So far my favourites are:

Star Trek
The Kingdom
The Prestige
The Dark Knight

Check ‘em out. 

If I had the contacts, and the stones, I’d try to get something like that going up here.  Maybe someone better qualified will one day.  We can only hope.  The more noise that gets made, the better chances the media will pay more attention to Canadian creatives.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

My Favourite Headache

The reason for such a huge gap in this blog, as with previous attempts to maintain a blog, is that I was busy. Writing. And panicking. Sort of.

From October of last year through December, I spent my writing time on reading. Recharging my batteries is something I tend to forget to do. I read some good great books in that time:

Broken Angels – Richard K. Morgan
Beyond Belfast – Will Ferguson
The Yiddish Policeman’s Union – Michael Chabon
The Killing Circle – Andrew Pyper

It was also important to feel like I was doing something. I had a complete breakdown in confidence, both in my abilities and in the story I was working on. Reading was a chance to recharge and look for inspiration, so I told myself I was working at my craft -though this was more study than hands-on. By the new year, I had begun to re-outline the current screenplay to find what I liked and what I didn’t like. By February, I was working at a decent pace, and in March I got into a good groove and haven’t slowed down. I wrote the first Act in the last couple of weeks.

The confidence/panicking thing is something all writers talk about. One thing I’d like to know from the established writers/screenwriters is do they suffer from CRS like I do. CRS is a frightening condition that plagues me and is genetic. It was passed on to me by my father and there is no known cure. It is such a rare disease that even a Google search only yields a long list of unrelated results. The full medical term for CRS is Can’t Remember Shit.

I seem to forget, quite regularly, that first drafts are shit. I forget to recharge. I forget that Syd Field talks about all this in “Screenplay,” and that I’ve told myself in the past to re-read “Screenplay” as a reminder that panic is normal. And I forget that I shouldn’t regret the choices I’ve made because, after all, writing is my favourite headache.