Sunday, 31 August 2014

3 Reasons Why You're Not Writing That Script Right Now

So, last week I finished reading Caitlin Moran's newest novel, How To Build a Girl, and decided for once to carry on reading into the acknowledgements at the end - the book was that good. In typical humorous style, the author decided to open her acknowledgements by explaining how it felt to write a book - which according to her, was basically worse than giving birth, in hell. Then dying, being brought back and having to have to give birth again -  and so the description goes on. 

It was very funny, but also a rather comforting truth, to be reminded that even for a professional writer, writing can be hard, very hard. As anyone who's written a script or a book knows, there are all sorts of reasons you can end up not writing at all - which is a huge problem. If you're not writing, you're not really not being a writer - and that's when you have to sit and down and think, okay, why I am not writing? And what I can do about it? 

Well today I'm here to help with this list of reasons/excuses that prevent people from writing - drawn from own experience, as an often not writing-writer myself, and from  a variety of articles, posts, books and videos on writing. 

1] Procrastination

This is one of the biggies. How often have you heard the old anecdote about the scriptwriter discovering they suddenly had a wonderfully clean house and a very blank page? 

Procrastination is a real killer, not only because can you get caught up in just thinking about doing something, sometimes you can caught up in stages of actually doing it - for example, when you become stuck researching a topic for a script. Good thorough research is worthwhile and should be done, especially if a script is historical, but it is a finite stage - at some point you have to start writing the script. 

2] You Think Have No Time

I recently started watching a vlog presented by one of favourite actors David Hewlett - its worth checking out here. Anyway, one his videos dealt with writing hints and tips, where he basically said - if you say you don't have time to write you're lying, because you always find time for what you love.

I think is probably true too. Obviously if you're just breaking into scriptwriting or any writing career, who will have a day job to pay the bills - and maybe not just one either. Nonetheless, if you can find time shop online, to watch a film, to go to the pub - then you  have time to write. Remember you don't need a whole day, or even an hour, just five or ten minutes a day helps - and technology has made it easier write anywhere. You can find Celtx and other scriptwriting apps for your phone. All need is a little WiFi and you could be making writing during your coffee break or on the train.

So if you're find yourself thinking, I don't have time, ask yourself - do you really have not time, or are you giving yourself an excuse to procrastinate and avoid writing? 

3] You're Distracted By Too Many Ideas

Again whilst watching Hewlett's video, there was made mention of having too many ideas and becoming distracted - and I immediately realised this was a problem I had. I kept having new ideas, and getting excited and engaged in one, getting as far as developing a storyline in my head, perhaps even write a few pages, and then - I'd have a new idea or go back to an old one, leaving the last idea unfinished in the gutter.  How much completed work did I get done? Answer - zero.

Ideas need to be developed, and if you feel you are ready to plunge researched and turned into draft scripts. If they are not ready, they should be put in a drawer - or at least most of them. Because another I have learnt, from a script feedback session, is that you need to have several scripts, pitches and treatments to hand to show producers and other people. 

This has led me to think that you should have a few projects on the go, preferable at different stages. Edit one script, whilst writing a treatment for another and perhaps developing a pitch for another sort of thing. This would also give some variety, so you don't get bogged down in just one story world and set of characters, and means if you're stuck on one story you can take time out and work on another. 

So that's my list. There are lots more reasons of course, and I intend to look into those throughout the next few weeks and months, along with hints and tips. If you have any suggestions or advice on how to get writing then please comment below!

Monday, 18 August 2014

Review: Frances Ha

When I first saw the trailers and reviews for Frances Ha (2012) I was pretty excited. This was a new black and white comedy film, set in New York - and I envisaged it as possibly a modern-day Manhattan, but with a eccentric female protagonist in the lead. Perhaps a bit more artsy and more openly serious than Woody Allen's style, but hopefully somewhere in that ball-park. 

The film follows Frances, a woman in her late twenties, as she moves from place to place across New York and further a field over a indeterminable period of time. She starts off living with her best friend Sophie, as she attempts to become a professional dancer. However, when Sophie decides to move to a more expensive apartment it causes a rupture in their friendship, and Frances is left drifting from rented place to rented place, whilst it becomes clearer and clearer that she's not going to be taken on by the dance company. As the year progresses their friendship is tested further and further, as Frances bumbles along alone, broke but still hoping to become a dancer. 

Though I applaud Frances Ha for being about a more realistic woman - a woman who is going though a horrible drifting period of not having a secure job or home and for whom the most important things in her life are her friendship and her career - I can't honestly say I found it funny. 

There were a few moments, a few lines here and there which I noticed - such as 'Ahoy sexy' which  I love - but otherwise I found very little to laugh about in it. To me it felt more sad and slow. I think part of it is recognising that feeling of being stalled in your life, when everyone seems to be doing fine and you're still scrambling away trying to find a foothold - a job, a home, something to say at the dinner table. Yet at the same time, Frances living in New York basically hopping from apartment to apartment, is so far removed from my own experience it seems almost alien at the same at time as being a little familiar - but that's just my person opinion. 

There also quite a few moments, random moments, that I assumed were meant to highlight her everyday life, but didn't seem to add much to the plot. So, she is had an old chair that wouldn't fit in her storage container and had to leave it on the pavement with a sign to take it for free? Yes it reiterates the fact she has no permanent home of her own, but it surely could have been incorporated into another scene with dialogue. The only one of these scenes I really enjoyed was one of her dancing down the street, enjoying the moment, doing what she loves. I love a good dance scene too.

There's also a scene where she has to run to ATM because she has promised to pay for her date's dinner. I liked that scene, I had to go on a similar quest for an ATM once. However, I wasn't impressed when said Frances fell over running back to the restaurant. I felt this was a bit of a cheap attempt at physical humour. You can't even say it was meant to happen to get her to her date's flat. It seemed like that would've have happened scraped elbow or no scraped elbow.

I like parts of Frances Ha - the black and white, Frances, the friendship - but somehow the whole just feels dour, and most of all I really don't find it that funny. Frances is a funny character but the circumstances she is living in are not, and it pulls her and us down into a basically a quiet, drama about everyday life.

In summary: I really wanted to like Frances Ha but in the end I just didn't find it funny. Whether its because I just didn't get the jokes, I don't know. Otherwise, not a bad film about an uncomfortable period in a young woman's life, though it does meander, and the action unrolls slowly and indulgently. 

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Tribute to Robin Williams

This huge, sad story has been all over the news recently, so I just had to post something. Robin Williams, one of the most beloved and universally recognised actors has died. 

I wish I could say I was a surprised, but unfortunately over the last few years so many wonderful actors have died that, I didn't even really question it when I first saw the news. Nonetheless, it is still tragic considering the fact that Robin Williams died young for this day and age, and most sad of all, took his own life. 

And then I wondered, if it doesn't sound to strangely selfish, what Robin Williams meant to me - because in the end, what else can an audience or film viewer ask? And the answer is, a lot. I realised that Robin Williams had an important part of my childhood movie experience. I had grown up watching Aladdin (1992), Jumanji (1995), Ferngully (1992) and Hook (1991). Films I shall always have a great fondness for - even still love. I mean Aladdin is just brilliant! Even into adulthood it is still one of my favourite Disney films, and Robin Williams is a huge part of its brilliance. An irreplaceable, integral part.

He was also the first actor I ever realised was the voice of someone from a Disney film, perhaps even the first voice actor I realised existed or recognised at all. 

I also remember watching him in Bicentennial Man (1999), one of the few movies that made me cry. The fact I only caught it the once on my home television, and that yet I still remember it so avidly is kind of justification itself for the impact it had - and in retrospect, Williams perform was subtle, and moving. Something I doubt I appreciated at the time, again because I was young. 

I need to watch that film again, and Jumanji, because in the end, I think, that's the best tribute you can give to an actor or a filmmaker. I'm sure I've said it before, about Gordon Willis and Elizabeth Sladen, but that's because I believe it's true. Enjoy what they created, watch their films. Laugh, and cry, and enjoy them - and they will never be forgotten. Robin Williams is the genie Aladdin and always will be, and hopefully not just for my generation, but all the next ones too.

Note: In this post I have not discussed the depression/mental illness that caused Williams to take his own life, even though there has been quite a bit of media connecting the actor with these issues. I just wanted to say that I do appreciate the issue of mental health and depression, and actively spread awareness about them, however I felt this blog was not really the place for an in-depth piece into those issues. I encourage everyone to do research into mental health to gain a better understanding of it and the help available.

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Top 5: Not So Dumb Blondes on TV

Another top five again I'm afraid, still very busy! However, this one is a little of bit of an unusual one.  I was thinking about an old episode of The Simpsons the other day, where Lisa finds herself being discriminated against because she is blonde. 

The episode had a good point, I've heard a few blonde jokes in my day, but it also made me realise that actually I've seen several blonde characters on TV who are were very intelligent. In fact, I've not really noticed any dumb blonde stereotypes, which hopefully means that certain negative stereotypes are becoming obsolete. 

Then again, when writing this list, two of the characters that came to mind have been on previous top five lists - which means either I have to watch more TV, or there is a small pool of characters to choose from. In the end though I did manage to think of more.

Anyway, here's my list of the top five blonde characters, who definitely are not dumb. Please tell me what you think about this subject in the comments!

1] Lisa Simpson - The Simpsons

The character who inspired this list is of course blonde, not that I really registered it until now thanks to her equally yellow toned skin. Lisa is academically very intelligent, a lover of literature, art and jazz. She is a member of MENSA, and gets involved in a variety of scientific pursuits such as astronomy and meteorology, as well as artistic ones such as music. Basically an all round Renaissance woman! 

2] Buffy Summers - Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Perhaps not an obvious choice at first, but Buffy has a great variety of skills. She has street smarts, knows alot about the supernatural, and of course, and excels in martial arts and self-defence. On top of this, she proves to be academically above average when she gets a good result on her SAT tests, which gives her a variety of college options in one episode.

3] Seven of Nine - Star Trek: Voyager

A human turned Borg, Seven of Nine is basically a genius who's Borg knowledge gives her a technological edge over her Starfleet counterparts. In fact she is so smart, she is even invited to join a group of genius aliens, a sort of think tank, in one episode. As well as her scientific expertise, she is also an accomplished pianist and singer. She also helped create and run Voyager's astrometrics lab.  

4] Bernadette Wolotiz - The Big Bang Theory

A microbiologist working for a big pharmaceutical company, Bernadette was originally introduced as Penny fellow waitress friend at the Cheesecake Factory. However, it soon transpired she was doing the job to pay off tuition fees, and was working towards a PhD. As well as her study of microbiology, Bernadette proves in one episode to have a good knowledge of physics, and particularly experimental physics, when she shows interest in Leonard's work. 

5] Romana II - Doctor Who

A Timelord who joined the Doctor with the sole purpose of helping him find an ancient and dangerous device, Romana not only matched the Doctor in intelligence but hinted at having left the Timlord's Academy with better test scores - she left with a triple first! Blonde here in her second incarnation, she was also more relaxed but nonetheless still extremely clever. In one episode it turns out she has even built her own sonic screwdriver, with which she helps repair a spaceship, and which the Doctor seemingly tries to nick. In spin-off media Romana continues to do well beyond her travels with the Doctor, and becomes President of Gallifrey itself.