Sunday, April 24, 2011

what's in a name?

I often have a hard time with character names. Names are wildly important to me. Not only does the name have to fit the character I'm creating, it has to be a name that I want to hang out with for the next year of my life. I have unfinished screenplays and manuscripts wasting away on my computer because I just couldn't stand to type J-E-S-S-E again. And sometimes the only thing holding me back from starting a story is knowing the character's name.

I read a book once. I don't remember the name or the author. It was, I can tell you, one of those books where a writer tries to tell you how "you too can become a famous write like me!" In that book he said that names are unimportant. They are so unimportant, that you should be able to assign each character a number. Instead of Frank and Sue, call them 1 and 2. Once you finish your manuscript, do a "find & replace" search and change all the 1's to Franks. His philosophy was that not only can names bog you down, but how can you really know your character until you've gone on a complete journey with them? I understand what that writer was saying, but I just can't do that.

I need to know Charlie before I can write for him. Knowing that this guy grew up being called "Charlie" tells me a lot. Speaking of Charlie, that's the other thing I like to do. I like to pay homages to other characters, friends, and heroes of mine with the names I choose (even if I'm the only one who gets it). Taking the characters from The Ruffians, for example:
  • CHARLIE HAMMOND. I named him after two of my favorite Charlies ever: Charlie Brown and Charlie from LOST. Hammond, however, came from Russell Hammond, the character Billy Crudup played in Almost Famous. I have this theory that Russell Hammond is actually Charlie's father, but we'll have to wait to see if that's true.
  • ALEXANDER GREENE. Originally his name was going to be Xan (though short for Alexander). I work with a guy named Xan who is supremely cool and I liked the name. But Corey, who plays Alexander, preferred going by Alexander. So we went with that. His surname, Greene, came from one of my favorite people from American history, Nathanael Greene.
  • SOFIA TOWNSEND . . . I wish I could speak to this name, but it was the creation of Rachel Komorowski. You'd have to ask her. I imagine it's because she's a fan of short shorts and Stuart Townsend.
I'll stop here because I could go on and on about all the different characters I've named. And honestly, it's just not that interesting (except to me).

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Time Capsule

Just created a time capsule. Come back to this blog on December 6th, 2011 to open it.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Second Drafts and Sound Tests

Stayed up until the wee hours of the morning (4am?) finishing the second draft of episode 5 of The Ruffians. I'll probably do at least another draft of the script, to smooth out and/or intensify one particular monologue, but I like the flow of the episode and don't think anything else will change all that much.

Had to get the oil changed in my car. I was miles and miles overdue for an oil change. So I watched the mechanics work on my car while I chomped on some Krispy Kremes, sipped my coffee, and listened to Never Not Funny.

Came home and did some sound tests. Sound has often been my Achilles's heel and I want to turn that around with Personification. I don't want to ever talk about sound again. I don't want it to be something people talk about any more. I don't want complaints and comments about loud sound, muddled sound, or no sound. I want them complaining about the episodes being too short and too much time passing between seasons. I came to the conclusion that the sound has been so low in past episodes due to distance between the microphone and the actor. Whether we use the H4N's onboard mic or the boom mic, we get great sound -- if we're close enough. So that'll probably be my #1 direction to the sound guy on Monday.

Think I should go mow the lawn now. I'd like to put it off till Sunday, but on Sunday I want to be re-watching Doctor Who (season 6 begins tomorrow night! AAUUGGHH!!) and picking the El Camino for Monday's shoot. So . . . yeah . . . let's go mow that lawn.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Not Writer's Block

It's Not Writer's Block.

I'm not stymied. I'm not facing a wall. I know exactly where my script is going. I know all three of its parts and have already written the first. I'm about to start the second but first I must wait.

Not Writer's Block is what I call the calm before the writing storm. I see the story laid out in front of me, but I cannot progress until I find the perfect combination of words. I need the first sentence. I've written the first visual, but now I need the second. I need the thing that is going to launch the second act -- I believe the thing that will launch the story is a sentence. A phrase. A thing that a previously unseen character will say. He will set the tone for the rest of the episode and I need it to be perfect.

That's where I am. The start of act 2 of episode 5 of The Ruffians. I'm playing the scene out in my head and examining it from different angles. I just need to find the right approach. I need to find the thing. I need to crack the code.

It's Not Writer's Block. It's not frustrating. It's thrilling. It's the writing process. I'd say "it's why I do this," but I do this because I have to. I can't do anything else. I wouldn't know how. Yet, this is the part I love the most. The sometimes slow, often methodical, exploration of character and story.

And it must be done before I can continue. So on the surface, it resembles writer's block. But it's not. It's Not Writer's Block.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Independent Film Scripts

Just finished watching Atlas Shrugged, Part 1. The movie had a smattering a problems -- and while, yes, many of them could be traced back to the book -- they could all be traced back to the script. There is absolutely no excuse for that.

The wonderful gift of being an independent filmmaker is that you don't have producers and studio execs asking questions like, "but what if she had a ditzy best friend? Ditzy best friends are hilarious. You know what's also testing really well right now? Chimpanzees. Can we have a scene with a chimpanzee in it?" These producers and execs mean well, but their interest is attracting more people to see the movie (and thus make more money), not tell a better story.

Being an independent filmmaker means you are in charge of the story. Nothing has to be put on the screen that you don't want there.

There are a lot of corners that have to be cut when you don't have studio backing. Not having the budget of Spider-Man 3 means you're probably not going to have a lot of CG action sequences. You're going to have to be thrifty with your time and money. You might not be able to afford sets, lighting, or film. And so you plan your shoot accordingly.

But you know the one thing that's not affected by the budget? The script. The script is free. The CG antics might need to be reduced and the number of locations might need to be reconsidered, but the story, as it's written, doesn't cost a dime. The dialog can be polished ad nauseum. As the screenwriter, you may have a deadline, and you may be working with people who have a very specific film in mind, but you really have no excuse for churning out a lackluster script.

The script should shine above all other things. The lighting and the acting and the locations should fail the script. The script shouldn't fail the actors. Walking into an independent film, the audience expects not-the-best acting and not-the-best lighting. So impress them with your script. Show the audience why this movie got made. Because if your movie has not-the-best lighting and not-the-best acting and not-the-best sound and not-the-best camera work and not-the-best script . . . then what is there to enjoy?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Nerd Royalty

We were going out to dinner, the wife and I. As we were driving down the road, we passed The Law Offices of Richard D. Malek.

I smirked and said, "Richard Malek? Richard D. Malek? Now there's a Dalek who's not even trying to hide his secret identity!"

I expected a groan. Instead Kelly looked over at me with a grin. "I was thinking exactly the same thing."

I am her Nerd King and she is my Nerd Queen. Oh, how I love her.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

episode 3: the cast

in case you missed it on Facebook . . .

Episode 3: Personification. Starring Corey Newmyer, Scott Fogg, Chris Walter, Rachel Komorowski, Jordyn Henderson and the surprising return of Tenika Dye.

Rehearsals will be on April 18th and 19th and we'll be filming on April 25th and 26th.