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Love in all shades

It’s been nearly two months since I’ve worked on my screenplay. Most of this break has been devoted to researching the genre I have chosen, romantic comedy, and figuring out how I’m going to expand my previously 45-minute short into a 90-minute feature film. So far, it has not be smooth sailing (i.e. finding a new name for my fictional town), there is one aspect that I want to explore before I return to the screenplay: interracial romance.

I want to craft a script in which the interracial part is no the central theme of it. It will be more like “Well, the characters just happen to be of different races.” My female protagonist, the script’s lead, is African American, and her object of desire is of Greek ancestry. When I created the characters, it seemed like a natural progression. I’m an open-minded person and that’s to be reflected in the screenplay.

Continue reading “Love in all shades”

When your imaginary world is real

I started my screenplay with the idea of placing it in a fake town in upstate New York. Living so close to the Pennsylvania/New York border affords me with chances of venturing there from time to time. It seemed like a good idea.

The fake town had to have the following characteristics: 1) It had to be large enough to have an art scene and a museum. My central character is a photographer and a museum worker, so the town had to be suitable for her to make a comfortable living. 2) The town would be within three to four hours away from a large city. I picked Buffalo as that city because it is large enough to have professional sports teams but small enough not to be intimidating. 3) It was going to be west of the Hudson River.

Continue reading “When your imaginary world is real”

Script to screen: Noah Baumbach’s “While We’re Young” and “Mistress America”

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Noah Baumbamb

A few weeks ago, I started reading scripts for movies that I wanted to gain pointers from for my screenplay. It’s an exercise that mostly has to do with learning structure and how much to include in the script. Recently, I read two scripts by writer/director Noah Baumbach: “While We’re Young” and “Mistress America.” They’re an easy read without any complicated plots or schemes, and they rely heavily on dialogue. As a budding screenwriter looking for guidance, they present a troubling conundrum – should I include much action in the script or should I leave it to the director.  Continue reading “Script to screen: Noah Baumbach’s “While We’re Young” and “Mistress America””

So I’m writing a rom-com

Three weeks ago, I had written the logline, beat sheet and first two pages of a fish-out-of-water screenplay. It was going to be a 40-page short about a photographer-turned-detective hired to follow around a playboy for a few days. When I shared my beginnings at my screenplay workshop, I got a response that was completely unexpected: it would work as the start for a feature-length romantic comedy. How did that happen?

This writer is a fan of thrillers and film noir. My film collection includes only three rom-coms, and they’re the out-of-the-ordinary ones (I’m looking at you “Heathers”). So I have no idea how I got to this point.

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“That Touch of Mink”

I look at it as a challenge. Let’s write something that is out of my comfort zone. Let’s turn 40 pages of shortness into 90 pages of a feature flick. Since this revelation I have watched a fair share of romantic comedies, from the classics to recent releases. I’ve also updated my Netflix and Amazon Prime queues to include more of them. Before long, I’ll get recommendations for every Julia Roberts or Meg Ryan movie ever made.

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“The Science of Sleep”

What I fear the most is what if I create something that I don’t like. With the 10 pages I have completed so far I like how the story has unfolded and I really like my characters. My heroine is not like the ones that make me not like rom-coms in the first place, but I’m stuck at a place where my creativity is focused beyond where I am. It’s like I’m starting over.

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“Hello, My Name is Doris”

At the same time, I remember that not all rom-coms are the same. It often feels that way with what is being churned out by Hollywood these days, and my ideas can create a new way at looking at things.

This new direction means reworking the beat sheet, tweaking the structure and having fun with something unfamiliar to me.

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“Enough Said”

Chocolate meditation

Sometimes creativity does not come easily. There are times when stepping away from the notebook or the computer is needed, and I often turn to meditation as a solution. Meditation does not have to involve finding a zen-like environment, breaking out scented candles and humming om for several minutes. It could be as simple as eating a piece of chocolate.

This meditation is by Dr. Danny Penman from his Mindfulness in a Frantic World column in 2011. I’ve included some modifications for creative types that will be helpful for writers. Penman suggests trying a new type of chocolate for this exercise, but I prefer using small Dove chocolates, particularly dark chocolates, instead.

This meditation takes only three minutes. Play some light music and set a time with a calm alarm.

  1. Unwrap the chocolate and rest it on the tongue. Read the inscription on the Dove wrapper and slowly close your eyes.
  2. Concentrate on the smoothness of the chocolate. Do not bite into the chocolate yet; wait until the three minutes are up. Instead, enjoy how the chocolate begins to melt inside the mouth.
  3. Think about the inscription. Is it inspiring? Is it funny? Is it relevant to your needs now?
  4. As time runs out, enjoy the chocolate slowly. If necessary, repeat with another piece of chocolate.
  5. Open your eyes slowly and write down the thoughts you had during the meditation. Creativity may strike during this quiet time.

Pitch perfect

Two weeks are in between my blank page and 10 pages worth of a screenplay. My idea has been five years in the making, but it is now becoming a reality. The screenwriting class in which I’m enrolled wraps up next month, and I hope to have a good foundation for a script suited for a 30-minute short. According to my instructor and experts, one script page equals one minute of screentime, so 10 pages equal one-third of my dream.

In the middle of filling out index cards with my characters’ traits and constructing a beat sheet (fancy word for a script outline), I’m reading “Save the Cat: The Last Screenwriting Book You’ll Ever Need” by Blake Snyder which is having me rethink how I’m writing. I’ve only gotten through the introduction and the first chapter, and already I’m changing my approach to my writing.

One thing that Snyder writes is to develop a punchy logline, or a pitch, that will attract moviegoers and studios to produce your screenplay before diving into the project. Since I had only gotten to character development and the start of a beat sheet, but I didn’t have a concrete logline. A good logline entices the viewer to leave the house, purchase a movie ticket and buy an overpriced popcorn and soda combo.

Take these recent releases for example with loglines from IMDB:

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  • The Huntsman: Winter’s War” – As a war between rival queen sisters Ravenna and Freya escalates, Eric and fellow warrior Sara, members of the Huntsmen army raised to protect Freya, try to conceal their forbidden love as they combat Ravenna’s wicked intentions.
  • Barbershop: The Next Cut” – As their surrounding community has taken a turn for the worse, the crew at Calvin’s Barbershop come together to bring some much needed change to their neighborhood.
  • The Boss” – A titan of industry is sent to prison after she’s caught insider trading. When she emerges ready to rebrand herself as America’s latest sweetheart, not everyone she screwed over is so quick to forgive and forget.

Some of these do a good job at describing the plot without giving it away. “Barbershop” and “The Boss” have the least confusing loglines of the three. The second clearly states that a transformation will happen to the community, and the third is more of a personal journey. “The Huntsman” is a head-scratcher; the plot is a mess with so much being given in a lengthy sentence. Is the audience to already know who these characters are? In one sentence we know there’s a sibling rivalry, a romance and fighting. Unfortunately, the pitch is a miss. If the description isn’t good, imagine what the movie is like. I’ll know shortly when I review it for the newspaper next week.

Back to my logline. Snyder suggests pitching a logline to total strangers instead of friends and family. I’m not that brave, so I decided to share it here. Here is my screenplay’s logline (for now):

An aging restaurateur hires a mousy photographer to investigate his playboy son before putting him in charge of a successful business empire.

Would you go see this movie?

Carousel, April 14

Thursdays are my Tuesday at my first job, but it’s also the day in which I’m able to catch up on what I like on the Internet. Here are a few links:

Back to school

Last month, I signed up for a writer’s workshop at a local university. It had been about 14 years since I had been enrolled in a class, and I was nervous that I wouldn’t be able to pick up learning again. Being 36 made me feel old, and I was afraid that I would sick out in a large class of kids fresh out of college.

My imagination and fear were grander than reality. I was one of two students in the workshop, and the other student was older than me. I signed up for a screenwriting class because it was something I wanted to attempt but was afraid to take it seriously. My plan is to one day get a master’s degree in either design or creative writing, but I’m skeptical of getting it in screenwriting. While movies have a big part in my life, I don’t imagine myself using the medium as a career. Sure, I love to write movie reviews and analyze film, but realistically I don’t see myself in the business. I like to dip my toes in the water but not take plunge – at least not yet.

In three classes, I have so far written an observation piece and a two-page screenplay adapted from Zadie Smith’s “On Beauty.” We’re expected to share the adaptation next week and work on ideas for a five- to 10-page screenplay for the end of the workshop. I have two ideas for a short screenplay, and I plan to share one of them with the class. I’m halfway through the workshop, and I have learned so much already.