Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Galway Girl

Well, I took a stroll on the old long walk
Of a day -I-ay-I-ay
I met a little girl and we stopped to talk
Of a fine soft day -I-ay-I-ay
And I ask you, friend, what's a fella to do
'Cause her hair was black and her eyes were blue
And I knew right then I'd be takin' a whirl
'Round the Salthill Prom with a Galway girl

We were halfway there when the rain came down
Of a day -I-ay-I-ay
And she asked me up to her flat downtown
Of a fine soft day -I-ay-I-ay
And I ask you, friend, what's a fella to do
'Cause her hair was black and her eyes were blue
So I took her hand and I gave her a twirl
And I lost my heart to a Galway girl

When I woke up I was all alone
With a broken heart and a ticket home
And I ask you now, tell me what would you do
If her hair was black and her eyes were blue
I've traveled around I've been all over this world
Boys I ain't never seen nothin' like a Galway girl

- Steve Earle

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

I'm very excited about this movie

500 Days of Summer

I think in the same way I was excited about The Fall. I love fantastic realism in movies. I think it's beautiful.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

It's the same old song

Once upon a time I read/heard a quote about how in a writer's career, they're only really trying to write one or two stories, it just comes out in different ways each time. I'm sure the real quote said it more eloquently, but after searching on Google for a while and not finding it, I gave up the quest. J. said in class last semester that Steven Spielberg's films are mostly about the same thing - family and home.

I hadn't really thought about this too much in relation to my own writing, even though the quote had stuck. I definitely had similar strains in my writing, but it wasn't that I was writing about only one thing. But this weekend I was hanging out with a friend, and I said some cheesy line like, "Love is the most important thing" or something equally clumsy (this is why I'm a writer and not a public speaker or improvisational actress).

But later I was thinking about it, about the things that I've written and liked, the things I want to write, and I was surprised to realize that there were things that were in every one of my stories - love and death. I think I put love in there a little more intentionally (because clearly, I think it's the most important thing), but I was actually pretty surprised about how death is also a recurring theme, but in each story they seem to strike this balance with each other.

I think it all comes back to knowing what you want to write and why. Sometimes you start with a theme and build the story on it. Sometimes themes develop organically and then you have to figure out how to braid them and the story together. When we studied Jerry McGuire last semester, it was frightfully (to us students) obvious Cameron Crowe masterfully pointed every single line back to his themes. So this unconscious balance I've been striking between love and death is going to have to become a lot more intentional because your story is never going to be as strong as when you're writing each and every scene with your theme in mind.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


Nothing unusual, nothing strange
Close to nothing at all
The same old scenario, the same old rain
And there's no explosions here
Then something unusual, something strange
Comes from nothing at all
I saw a spaceship fly by your window
Did you see it disappear?

Amie come sit on my wall
And read me the story of O
And tell it like you still believe
That the end of the century
Brings a change for you and me
Nothing unusual, nothing's changed
Just a little older that's all
You know when you've found it,
There's something I've learned
'Cause you feel it when they take it away

Something unusual, something strange
Comes from nothing at all
But I'm not a miracle
And you're not a saint
Just another soldier
On the road to nowhere

Amie come sit on my wall
And read me the story of O
And tell it like you still believe
That the end of the century
Brings a change for you and me

And Amie come sit on my wall
And read me the story of O
And tell it like you still believe
That the end of the century
Brings a change for you and me

- Damien Rice

Tales of a Student Producer, Part 3

We've almost got all our footage now. We have many one more weekend's worth of work, which has to be filmed either this weekend or next because the university's about to confiscate our equipment for the audacious reason of giving it to other students in other classes.

We filmed at a coffee shop on Sunday. We tried finding a place to shoot in our town, but all we have are chains and they were really unhelpful. One of the smaller, more local chains, who proposes to be dedicated to community arts, wanted to charge us $40/hour, even during business hours. Being a student film, we don't exactly have that sort of budget. So we branched out and looked at coffee shops in a neighboring town and found two that would let us film during business hours, no problem what so ever. Definitely no charge. Extremely helpful. I think that even having people who give you time and don't rush you allows us to also take our time and have time to move out of their way if they need us to. If we're not rushed to take a shot we don't have to muscle our way around to get the filming done. So if you're looking for a business location, look outside of the corporate chains and find an independent business. Even if it's a little out of the way. The cooperation makes the shoot much more wonderful.

I haven't seen any dailies yet. The director and cinematographer have, and they say that some color correction needs to be done on one of the scenes, but overall it's looking good. We did get some bad news from the lab that our first day's footage, the beautiful outdoor fall scene that we waited and planned and postponed and stressed over to make sure that we could capture the most brilliant fall colors, yes that un-reshootable footage had black lines running through it. It was frustrating to get that news, especially since there's about a foot of snow on the ground now, and the lab said that it looked like a film stock problem, not a camera failure or lab problem. The only consolation was the fact that the footage wasn't really necessary to the plot. But the director viewed the footage the other day and said that the lines aren't as bad as we were dreading and there's actually some usable footage. Whew.

The farther we get alone, the less stress I feel and the more fun I have. Maybe it's because I grew tired of being stressed more over this project than any of my actually school work or maybe it's because we bonded more as a crew and learned how to have fun together while we filmed. My coproducer and I get along really well, and she might produce my 1940s short. We were talking about film sets the other day and how each one is such a completely different experience from the next. I think it's just another reason why working in the film industry is a bit risky. And I think that's why it's an industry of recommendations. The people you work with make a huge difference on your experience of the shoot, and if you find people you work with well, you'll want to work with them again. Otherwise it's a gamble about who your next coworker is going to be. And consequently what your next film experience is going to be like.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

How to be a Screenwriting Master

Actually, I don't know how to do that.

But I do know how to be a student in a master screenwriting class. Sorta. We had our first class on Wednesday, and I think it might have been one of the more terrifying moments of my undergraduate career. I had calmed down from my will-never-have-a-job-and-will-probably-starve rant of earlier, but I was still feeling the expectations. We had to pitch our ideas to B. and the rest of our classmates, and the first person to pitch has been working on her idea since she started filming it as a short this past year (this is the film I'm coproducing, actually). And I get really nervous summarizing my ideas, especially since it's so completely opposite of what I wrote for V. and B. this past year. But I pitched it, and even with its shaky start, B. liked it. Talking it out actually helped me define it a little more, and B. got to go on a few theological soapboxes. A good time was had by all.

We had to write 5 page treatments for today, and that was difficult. I actually don't remember if we had to write treatments for our previous screenplay; I think we just did step outlines. I've never written an action movie treatment. The second act of course got muddled, and so there were paragraphs like "So and so and evil person fight." I just didn't mention the theological discussions at all. It's only supposed to be five pages, right?

But I'm really excited about this Current Draft. I think I'm going to be able to delve into a lot of spiritual issues. I just want to be able to handle them with tact and craft. And though this will be my first action script, it will be my fifth screenplay, and I already have the feeling that it will be my best yet. And this will be the script that I give to David Koepp. : )

And the feedback so far on the second draft of "Collapse" has been pretty good. I'm submitting it to our most prestigious university competition in Febuary, and am hoping to get a third draft done before then. I'm just trying to decide if I want to continue with the changes I made for B. or create a completely different plot line that I might like better personally.

It just dumped snow on us the other day and it's stuck. And its completely beautiful, but it makes me wish I had my 1940s short ready to shoot, because this is exactly the type of weather I imagined for it. But then again, as my friend pointed out to me, no one really wants to shoot outdoors in the middle of the winter in Michigan.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

It's Started

My last first day of undergraduate classes starts tomorrow. And up until about forty-five minutes ago, I would have told you that I was actually looking forward to it, that I'm even a little bit excited for my classes. It's past that time now, and everyone else has gone to bed, even my slightly sniffly roommate, which is a huge disappointment. Because I was going to stand on her swively desk chair to get eye level with her on her loft bed and unload my sudden change of feelings onto her. Here's the problem:

I seriously feel sick, and I think I stopped breathing for a minute while I was brushing my teeth.

Not in an "I'm actually feeling ill" sort of way. More in a "I just realized my imminent death is approaching" sort of way. Because here's the thing about a film degree. Sooner or later, you realized that you're qualified to do --

Absolutely nothing.

My roommate and I watched The Nines tonight (we really enjoyed it, Mr. August, and I hope to be able to expound on it more thoughtfully when the possibility that my head is going to explode passes). Mr. August's blog is one that I check fairly frequently, so I decided to do a little post-viewing research about The Nines. Poking around his blog led me to this post about a young grad who went to LA to make his mark on the world. He gets around making contacts, PAing, and writing what he hopes to be his directorial debut. This is all great, this is all wonderful, this is what we, as young film grads, expect out of the world. Until it hits me, once again, that I am qualified to do --

Absolutely nothing.

Adam Davis wrote and directed several shorts while at college, had John-freaking-August as a recommended contact, and had plenty of experience to flesh out his resume. And for all his hard work, he gets very short term PA jobs for indies and shorts. Yes I know we all have to pay our dues and yes I know that clearly some how it's paying for the rent and yes I know that those jobs will lead to bigger things. That's not why I'm panicked. I'm panicked because Adam did a lot before he graduated. He was experienced. I have done nothing. Okay, so this is not entirely true. I have PAed, I have written and directed my own (video *gasp/shudder*) short, I'm coproducing a film. But to be honest, because of my short time at my second uni and my pursuit of screenwriting, I have basically zero technical knowledge. Who is going to hire me to be a PA if my only credits are a two day PA gig for a student film and a coproducing byline? They could probably pick up someone from Circuit City who has just as much technical knowledge as I do!

Perhaps this wouldn't concern me so much. Perhaps I wouldn't feel so sick. I have been talking recently about how I feel that I've received such a good education as far as my writing is concerned that I'm not even sure I need an industry day job while I'm practicing and writing and rewriting, waiting for my big break. However, now that I'm in the master class, now that I've gotten an email from my first screenwriting professor about my class standing (which was p-r-e-t-t-y good, apparently), I am petrified. I have never been at the top of the game. I have always been second best or second choice. Top ten material but never first place. I don't know how I got here or what to do next or how to even stay here. That's part of the terror of creating, I think. We never really know how good it's going to be until we make it, and we're never really certain if we'll be able to do it again. Even if I do have some shred of talent that will eventually turn into a writing career for me, what am I going to do while I'm still working on getting there? There is no way I'm going to have a marketable script before I graduate. What do I do in the meantime?

It's the graduation panics. It makes my stomach feel three times smaller, my breath come in short shallow spurts, and my eyes roll up toward the back of my head. It's the question of how am I supposed to survive after my last class is over? What am I going to do? How am I not going to starve? Who's going to hire me? And how can I fool them for as long as possible until they realize they've made a mistake and hire the blithering fool they mistook for a real film graduate? What happened to that large 3-person box from camp I planned to live in?

It's in moments like these that I wish I would have chosen a sensible major, one that actually qualified me to do things, that I could have gained quantitative knowledge from. Or at least a shred of confidence.

Please excuse me while I go curl up into a fetal ball.