Posted by: Greg | March 12, 2010

Get Your Brain in gear…we’re creating ideas!

The way to get good ideas is to get lots of ideas, and throw away the bad ones.
– Linus Pauling, American Chemist

An idea that is developed and put into action is more important than an idea that exists only as an idea.
– Buddha

For most of my life I’ve been an idea generator. I think up ideas to certain situations whether they are for work, for school, for play time, and even for the world. Some of these ideas were put into motion. Others never even got a chance, mostly because I improved on the original or because someone explained logically and rationally why an idea wouldn’t work. Don’t get me wrong I rarely let someone shoot down an idea, but when you can see their point or get all the information needed, it’s okay for ideas to wither and die.

When I was younger and not playing with Hot Wheels, G.I. Joe, and He-Man I was watching movies, television, or reading books. I would come up with ideas for things I wanted to see, either a character on a tv show or a sequel to a movie. (I still think there should be a sequel for Remo Williams!) I never questioned how the ideas came about. They just appeared and I would follow them and be amazed.

Jump ahead to the moment I realized that writing a movie was the coolest thing I could imagine doing with my life! So, what do I want to write? What would hold my attention for the same length of time as a movie? And what would keep my attention for a few months as I go through the screenwriting process?

After two years of plowing through the International Baccalaureate and being the captain of the basketball and baseball teams my creativity was drying up, mostly because my time was scheduled out until graduation. After Mom’s insightful thought, see earlier post on “Why Screenwriting” I decided to ponder the idea generation process and figure out what works best. I also figured that this would get the parts oiled and slowly churning for future ideas. Plus, I wanted to write movies I wanted to see.

My most used method of idea generation is “What if…” situations. In my early attempts, movie ideas would start “What if a man…” and then fill in a scenario for that man. My early default was “What if a man got stuck in a parking garage with a terrorist?” I’m a guy. I played sports. I grew up on Shane Black written action films. Most of the men in the situation would be Martin Riggs or Joe Hallenbeck. You know action! (If I need to explain what movies those two characters are from please IMDB them.)

After a few hundred of these lame attempts I realized these ideas are more suited for a scene not a whole movie. What to do? Remove the scenario section and instead make it a goal. Thankfully, my brain was warm from all the pathetic attempts and ideas starting coming out clearer. “What if a man had to deliver a package across town to save his brother?” Hey, it’s catchy! There is a hint of a movie in there but not enough to keep me interested in writing something like that.

This sort of “What if…” idea generator really gets my brain churning. It creates questions and then more questions. What type of man? Does it have to be a man? A woman? A kid? What is the package? Does it have to be a brother saved? Could it be a school? Or a government building? If I can limit the questions and narrow down the uniqueness of the main character to something that is entertaining for me I write down the idea. Sometimes I review the idea and play around with the genre the movie could be completed in. I’m surprised how an idea can work for multiple genres.

I have an Idea Spreadsheet. Nothing special just a simple excel file where I throw down my ideas.

As I go through this process I also notice how other things can improve my “What If…” ideas.

News Stories
As sad and depressing as local news gets there are always little nuggets in a story here and there that generate questions which in turn end up in a “What if…” moment. I find myself going through the CNN and Fox News websites for stories that catch my eye. If some topic holds my attention I check out Wikipedia and if my interest is piqued further then I know it is a topic I want to learn more about and do research on. I mean the quote “Truth is stranger than fiction” exists for a reason!

Personal Stories
As a young kid I enjoyed listening to the stories the adults would tell of their crazy relatives or interesting moments in their lives. To this day I get excited when I hear people talk about their past or someone in their family. Those stories provide unending characters and settings. I find being a good listener equates to being a good writer.

Books and Movies
I read constantly. I always have two or three books going on at a time. Sometimes they are my first time reading through them. Other times I am rereading something I really enjoyed. I also watch movies. I try to watch two or three movies a week, usually two new and one old. I own a large amount and I enjoy all of them. I have satellite and a Netflix subscription. I have access to plenty of films and they provide an unending source of ideas.

If it is a book I am rereading, or a movie I am watching again, I delve deeper into why I enjoyed them. Was it the characters or story? If it was a character what about them did I like or dislike? I also find focusing questions like this are a good for fleshing out possible characters.

People Watching
I am always fascinated by people. Sizes, shapes, colors, gestures, and dialects. Sitting back and watching people interact with each other will provide loads of little nuggets for characters, lines, and images. I also find being a watcher equates to being a good writer.

What techniques do you use to generate movie or story ideas?

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Posted by: Greg | February 21, 2010

Good vs. Evil and lots of Spoilers!

Warning: This post contains spoilers to movies! If you have not seen The Departed, Law Abiding Citizen, any Die Hard or Lethal Weapon films, Hot Fuzz, and any other action movie for the last twenty years stop reading this post and go watch some, mostly the first two since they pissed me off the most!

I’m a balance and equality type of guy when it comes to life. I think this is because I am a Libra and proud of it. Go Scales! This desire for balance is even more pronounced when I watch films. Besides looking to be entertained and taken from reality for 80-120+ minutes I want to have a balance when the credits roll. I want the good guy, or at least the protagonist, to succeed against the evil guy. (This does not hold true for The Usual Suspects, I wanted Verbal Kent / Keyser Souza to win.) Whatever evil befalls the hero throughout their journey this must strengthen and produce the opposite in terms of triumph. I’m not asking for a lot from the film.

Wait, yes I am…alright, fine! I want to see a happy ending. I want to see good triumph over evil. Sorry, I’m Dudley Fucking Do-Right.  But The Departed and Law Abiding Citizen left me without balance and a poor movie experience! And here’s why.

First on my list of no balance is The Departed.

Hey, folks this was a great film till there were ten minutes left! I was cool with Melvin Udall and President Bartlett dying. I kind of expected that. What I did not expect was the elevator door opening and BLAMMO there goes your lead character!!! Are you fucking serious?!? I just watched two hours of this guy mentally struggling to stay sane during his undercover work! I’m invested. Highly invested. This dude has gone through a ton and this is how the audience is left! Will Hunting should get an earful and some serious behind bars time for all the crap he did. I wanted to jump through the screen and throttle his neck for being so sleazy. But NO, we had to kill our hero right as he gets his man. Yessiree, we had to watch Frank Abignale Jr.’s brains redecorate an elevator car! If it weren’t for Charlie Croker and his long shlong weapon Jason Bourne would have gotten away.

There was no resolution for the hero. He never sees justice. If your going to write something like this follow it through and make sure the bad guy wins. Let Tom Ripley get away. Have him kill Dirk Diggler. Then we know that all persons with knowledge of his wrong doings are dead. Evil wins. Do it that way! I would have been happier with that ending. Sometimes I’m okay with the bad guys winning. Not really, but the movie built up to a coin flip of who will win anyway. My brain could handle the baddies winning.

That whole movie was ruined in the last ten minutes for me. My hero was killed and so was my balance. Kind of screwed with me for a week. Even though the evil sleazy Boston accented mofo died the hero did not do it. Sorry, this is a poor ending and poor resolution. Please, tell me I am not the only one that thinks this way?

Think back on Die Hard, can you imagine how you would feel about that movie if Hans shot John McClane in the last scene? Can you wrap your brain around the possibility that right before McClane reaches the gun taped on his back Hans shoots him after repeating the infamous line “Yippee-Ki-Yay-Motherfucker”? I could probably write a whole post about the wonderful balance in this film! McClane – Hans, Powell – Karl, and Argyle – Theo. Ah, the sweet sweet symmetry of it all.

Well, let’s look at one of my favorite action movies of all time a bit closer. (It really pains me to do this too, but I still rank it #1 for Xmas movies!) How about Lethal Weapon, what if Gary Busey beat the snot out of Mel Gibson? Oh, wait…he did.  Gibson’s character doesn’t get even with anyone. Then again his big problem is more internal and in that sense Gibson does balance out. He has someone new to love in Danny Glover’s family and is no longer a loner. He fights Gary Busey because they are both the Vietnam veteran bad asses of the movie. But it takes Glover and Gibson to kill him in the end. WTF? NOOOOOO. No, it should be Gibson and his smiley-face-making gun, a Beretta I believe.

Danny Glover does complete a balanced hero journey. His family is molested and in the line of fire the whole film. The head man of the drug running world tussles with the head man of the Murtaugh world. Chalk one up for Mr. Murtaugh.

See that’s how the hero’s journey should have ended and balanced. Head Drug man and Head family man fight…family man wins! Head Evil Badass and Head Good Badass fight…Good badass wins. Mano a Mano.

Here’s the another one where the balance fell apart and I am irate over the ending, Law Abiding Citizen.

I just saw this with my Dad about four hours ago and I am not thrilled with it. Basically Ray Charles and Phantom of the Opera duke it out. Cool. Who will win? The good guy or the other good guy?

I’m sorry did that confuse you? Yeah, screwed me up too!

The problem of the movie is two good guys duke it out. It really gets into the psychological aspects of morals and right versus wrong. Oh, and the law as well. Can’t forget about the law! Ugh. The only way for me to give this movie any semblance of balance is if I choose Law as the hero. Law starts out broken and flawed and ends up being redeemed in the end. But I would be stretching my movie watching reality meter too far!

So, the journey for Phantom is kill all people dealing with the death of his family, this includes lawyers, law clerks, and a judge. I’ll simplify it even more, the legal system itself is under attack by Phantom. Honestly, he does a great job. Overall, I was not impressed with all the killing. The actual guys that broke in and killed his family yes, they needed to die. But when it came to the law clerks that assisted in the decision from ten years earlier I lost respect for the Phantom’s troubles.

I’ll be upfront and honest about something. If anyone ever did anything to my family or friends I will go Keyser Souza on them, or what the Phantom did in the above movie. I liked Taken and Commando for a reason. (Taken was much better! Liam Neeson got my vote for Dad of the Year! Daddy got his little girl back.) Horrific evil visits those that attempt to harm family members. I tell you this in hopes of conveying the message that I would do lots of nasty evil things to make sure my family and friends are alive and well. Should anything less than alive and well occur to my family and friends, I’m creative and confident enough that my problem solving and balance oriented mind would find something. I’ll let that rattle around upstairs for a second while you ponder what I mean.

So, for Ray the journey is…stop the other guy. Yes, I wrote that. That was all Ray did in the film and he couldn’t even do that very well. He is really a do nothing character. He’s like Tom Cruise from A Few Good Men, early in the film Tom Cruise, not later. In the beginning Cruise is known more for plea-bargaining than actual trial work and when he’s pushed and realizes why he got the “Code Red” case he changes attitude and becomes a real lawyer.

In the movie Ray never got that. He never realized what he was doing was cheapening (Is that a word?)  the death of Phantom’s wife and daughter with a plea. As the decade went by he was still the same slick-ass-persian-style-manner of lawyer. (For those of you that get the reference you’re eyesight is crystal!!!) Basically it was him repeating this line through 90 minutes,”I don’t believe you can do it”. Um, after the first three…maybe four murders his tune should have changed. By the third murder I was quite positive that Phantom CAN and WOULD do everything he says he will do.

Nope, in the last twenty minutes his attitude changed after his two best buds died after saying the same thing to him, “Did we bring this upon ourselves?” Of course you did you moronic twits! And even at the end I am not sure that Ray really understood all that Phantom put him through. We have a dead Phantom and the same Ray…no, no, NO! There is no balance if the character is flat. Boring. Phantom did all these amazing things and Ray just kind of dealt with the punches as they flew all around him. Show some emotions and not just a blank stare Ray! Damnit, believe in something after the first few murders. Hell, believe in anything!

Ray reminded me of Scully from X-Files. Only thing is that whatever Scully didn’t believe in that episode happened in that episode. And guess what…she believed for the last fifteen minutes. And what do you know by the next episode she didn’t believe again!!! HELLO, you just saw an alien, a guy that can shot lightning from his body, and *fill in your own X-Files character here* and you still don’t believe!

For me, as an aspiring screenwriter, this is how the journey should have gone.

Phantom in the script should be like the Count of Monte Cristo. (My favorite book ever! The movie was okay.) He was wronged and spends the next decade working on his revenge. Figure out how involved people were with the legal decision and dish out revenge based on that. His final revenge should be a learning experience for Ray. If you see the movie you will understand how I came to my Count comparison. Dude, is a brainiac and very VERY methodical.

Ray should show some legal improvements from his early days to being the big dog in the D.A’s office. There should be improvements in his family life. And Hell should follow him constantly until he understands what law and being a lawyer for the people means. Give him a major character arc. There really needs to be an “Ah-Ha” moment for this guy something on the order of does he want to stay in the legal system and improve it from the inside or does he want to leave completely and start a new life somewhere else.

So, fellow screenwriters when you are working on that fantastic movie coming soon to a theater near us, make sure the hero’s goal is resolved. Make sure that the hero vanquishes all baddies that thwarted their chance to reach the goal in the first place. Make sure that which ever bad guy pushes the hardest gets pushed back just as hard. Remember your early Newtonian physics lessons the Third Law: For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.The bigger the setback or obstacle the bigger the reward for the hero.

Please, and I mean “Pretty, please with sugar on top” don’t get us invested in a hero and then kill them. Halfway through the film, maybe, and the rest of the film better explain why. But never in the last ten minutes! The only time this pays off for us, the audience, is when they die doing their job, like Kurt Russell in Backdraft. Or like Jake Gyllenhaal’s character from Donnie Darko, have the death mean something.

Give your script balance, you know, like The Force.

And I totally went there!!!

Posted by: Greg | February 12, 2010

C’mon, why can’t I have…?

I am a big fan of watching the special features on my DVDs. (I would watch Blu-Ray, but I do not have a TV capable of HD. So, I ignore Blu-Ray players.) It’s nice to get behind the scenes on your favorite film. There are usually commentaries, deleted scenes, and other background information of the actors and director of the movie. Sometimes you get more. In those unfortunate moments you get none, try not to cry, I will gladly do it for you! Now, I give older films a slide like Harvey, Arsenic and Old Lace, and Rear Window, who’s alive to do a commentary? Exactly, there aren’t any actors living to provide anything extra. Oh, well. I only tear up a little.

But me crying over missing special features isn’t the point of the post!

While I laugh and tear up from watching outtakes, I understand the reason for deleted scenes, and I appreciate the background of the actors and directors there SHOULD be two extra things added to the special features section.

First and foremost there should be a commentary section with the writer. The commentary could compare the film and the script. I think it should include things other writers would find intriguing and interesting about the movie making process and how that affects scripts such as: “this character was difficult to flesh out but *fill in actor’s name* really brought them to life”, or “this long scene improved with the actors talking faster” (Quick note: In the director commentary of Big Trouble, by Barry Sonnenfeld, he references that the movie is only 85 minutes, with a 120 page script. He wanted the humor to fly and he told all the actors to say their lines faster.) Now granted not all writers are capable of verbally expressing themselves, but for crying out loud, at least give them the opportunity to speak up on their creation.

This comes to mind because I remember a wonderful commentary I watched for the film “Cabin Fever” by writer / director Eli Roth. (Thank you, Lord Vaako!) Yes, I know it is not the greatest film of all time, but he did an amazing job with the commentary sections. So, I put this guy on a higher pedestal than most others. He had two separate commentaries, director and writer. In the Director commentary he focused on the actors, shooting locations, and funny things that happened on the set. For the Writer commentary he discussed how scenes varied in different drafts and how he ended up with the final cut of the scene and the input from actors on action and dialogue.

The second thing to add to Special Features is the shooting script and the original script. I think these would be small files and nothing too difficult to add. I’m interested in these because you get both sides of the writing process. The script that whetted the appetites of people to get it purchased and the script used to shoot the film. Yes, some of you are thinking, “Why not just watch the movie?” Well, I think reading both versions would be entertaining and enlightening.

And another thing just dawned on me as I finish this up. This is another item that SHOULD BE added to DVDs and I guess Blu-Ray Special Features. Include the film’s soundtrack. Just a very wise thought!

And because I am in a ranting mood one last thought!

I’m not sure why companies would release DVDs without ANY special features. If that is the case those DVDs should be less than other DVDs. Or they should be marked. I am not talking about the “Special Edition” or “2-Disc Set”. This goes for the run of the mill movies. If I pay $20 for the “Special Edition”, then by God the same DVD without any special features should be $15 or less. It’s an arbitrary number, I know, but I assume that all special features require money to be recouped.

Posted by: Greg | January 25, 2010

What Moves You?

My job affords me countless hours of creative freedom, mostly because it is filled with repetitive motions and thoughts. Yay for the right / left brain separation. Earlier in the day, during a fun moment of switching my Pandora channels, I realized that my thoughts and ideas were greatly influenced by the music I was enjoying. (Not a huge surprise, but I wanted to pursue it more) I’m not sure how many writers out there listen to music during their creation sessions. Maybe some consider it a distraction. Do songwriters avoid music during creative moments? Do they watch movies? Do short story writers look through art books? What do other creative minded people do to get the imagination headed to overdrive?

I know that music gets my juices flowing.

So, I started puttering in my head and attempted to figure out what works best for me. On my previous screenplays I would listen regularly to a certain type of music. As the music played I stayed focused and could feel the emotions of the genre. Sometimes as I was writing I would switch channels because I was not feeling the extra energy ready to come out. I know that sounds very stupid, but when I listen to music for some reason a switch goes off in my head. Images are crystal clear. Action leaps out . It’s just like putting puzzle pieces together. I get a giddy feeling and the creativity keeps going. Of course the downside to this is that when the song ends I need to wait for the next one to start. I’ve come to this knowledge in regards to which music goes with which genre. I didn’t just keep trying different styles of music with different genres, but went with what I wanted to hear at the moment of writing the script. Usually, the music would find me and the moment it came the rest of the scene or the emotion of the character would just appear.

My current movie genre to music styles are:
Action – Classic Rock
Suspense / Thriller – Classical
Comedy – Pop Rock
Horror – Heavy Metal or Industrial Rock

I have no idea about Drama or Sci-Fi. I guess I will know more when I get to those scripts.

So, fellow readers during your moments of creativity is there anything that gives you that extra oomph? The additional push? No, really what moves you to keep being creative?
(For all the smart-asses out there energy drinks are out!)

Posted by: Greg | January 22, 2010

Why Screenwriting? Part II…?

The other day I opened up to you wonderful readers about my interest in screenwriting. But I wasn’t completely done with my thoughts. I figured that my interest in movies, creating situations for my movie character friends, and my Mom opening up my eyes to writing for movies would suffice. I even hinted at my Dad throwing me writing prompts, thanks to Kris for pointing out what he was doing, to gin up my interest in reading books and into writing my own story or book.

About those stories that I created, the common viewpoint from my parents, when they would read what I had done so far, usually ended up being “you need more description”. At the time I never really cared what type of car my character drove or what they wore. To me it was unimportant. If I left it vague why couldn’t the reader put in what they thought the character drove or wore? Jump ahead to the first year of college when I had the screenwriting book jump off the shelf towards me. Now the author of that book, and I will paraphrase, explained that descriptions within a screenplay were minimal. If your main character wore a green dress in the script, the director might find it more appealing that they wear a yellow dress or even shorts and a sweater. Huh, that fits my style. But there was one other thing…be descriptive if it is something that comes into play during the rest of the script. OK, I think I can handle that. Sounds like my style. Descriptions are minimal, more important adjectives. Now, this doesn’t hold true for all things. I mean, you want an overworked guy to have a messy desk with stacks of paperwork on it. But you don’t get flowery about the type of desk or lamp or chair this overworked guy plops his butt in. Maybe I should have said it that way…avoid flowery!

Sorry, minor digression of my elation at limited descriptions…sory, miniscule words on flowery descriptions. I thought it was important because it helps explain why screenplays appeal to me more than just novels. But I was aiming more for my Dad’s desire to try and get me to write my own stories, like the ones I enjoy reading, as another reason for my love of screenplays. The common idea or statement from my wide variety of screenwriting books “Write what you want to see”. I find that interesting and worthy of creativity. I like all sorts of movies. For those more adventurous out there, look over some of my raw ideas in other posts. (It would only take ten to twenty seconds to look over one sentence, if that!) So, creative endeavours abound with a challenge! I find it worthy of creativity because looking over the the groups of writers I like they focus on one genre of films. (That could be a hint to me!) But I like all of those genres. So, creatively I should be able to write a script in each genre I like. Right? Yeah, it seems like a tall order, but sometimes you have to test yourself. Right now I have a suspense film, which after three rewrites and extreme pain over rereading, needs some more work. There are some serious stops in story progression and a couple of scenes that could be redone to something more visially friendly. I have a horror film which has been reread and marked up for rewriting. And currently I am starting on a comedy. What is nice about having each type out there I can see how my writing has changed. The first screenplay I finished in 2003. And looking back I can see major rooms for improvement of story, character, and imagery. I think I will always need help in dialogue!

So, I have juggling going on in my head all the time. But I want to see if I can do it. I want to prove to myself that I am more than a one trick pony…of course I dunno what my current one trick could be!

And one last thing before my creative Ipecac wears off, after completing the post the other day I had a very strange dream. In the awkward part of the dream  I was typing up a screenplay but was continually interrupted by the phone or the doorbell. Nothing more frustrating to a writer or the creative process than non-stop interruptions!!! What kept the dream interesting and not a waste was the distractions. My distractions were from actors calling up or coming over and wanting to know what I was working on and if I had any parts they might be interested in. So, when I woke up feeling refreshed and somewhat confused I made a list of actors I would love to hear say my lines. I kind of look at it as putting extra icing on a cake. Just humor me!

Tom Hanks
Dwayne Johnson
Bette Midler
Gene Hackman
Robert Deniro
Juliette Binoche
Denzel Washington
Kelsey Grammer
Will Patton
Laura Linney
Edward Norton
Kathy Bates
Nathan Fillion
Kurt Russell

Yes, I meant to put down Dwayne Johnson!!! I can have a big goofy guy on the screen…I can dream! So, I was thinking about his role in “Be Cool”!

Posted by: Greg | January 20, 2010

Why Screenwriting?

A recent internet acquaintance, The Athletic Nerd, did a blog entry due to my comments and interest in his love for movies. The basic question “What are your top 10 movies you watch yearly?” seemed something very straight forward and I quickly made a little list to myself of my picks. His response went a bit further than I could have guessed. He selected his Top 10, but selected movies that make him feel like writing. This kind of took me by surprise because I never really thought of the question, or my Top 10, in that way. But in thinking it through further I started thinking of movies that drew my interest into screenwriting. Nothing came to mind.

I could not believe that someone like me could not think of a movie that inspired my desire to write. So, I pondered on that for the evening, while I actually worked on a screenplay. Before I stopped writing for the evening, I noodled through a few things and discovered how I came to this point.

To keep the basics of my screenwriting desire to a paragraph I will start from the first mention of me being a screenwriter. In the fall of ’97, during a trip home from college, I enjoyed an evening out with my Mom. (Dad was out umpiring Fall baseball/softball) During our simple meal Mom asked me the usual questions parents ask their college bound kids, do you have a major? Do you like your roommates? How are your teachers? Blah blah blah. I was never one to elaborate on myself or details of myself. But the long and short to those above answers were “No, major”, “They’re ok”, and “Interesting”. Oh, boy was I a word-a-holic!!! Lookout writing here I come. So, Mom tried a different tactic, knowing full well that detailed questions yield the lowest return of answer. Her new and only questions was this, “What do you like to do?” That was a question with unlimited possibilities and right off the bat movies, reading, and writing. I’m sailing now! From that answer she asked about being a writer or someone who writes for the movies. I never thought about it up to that point not knowing what was involved or how one would go about learning more. Visit ended and I went back up to school. My first day back and also my first day of working in the bookstore clinched this fate I’ve created for myself. As I was walking along looking over the books one book jumped out. The book was Screenwriting: The Art, Craft and Business of Film and Television Writing by Richard Walter.

Alright history lesson of Greg is over. Now, I know a few of you out there are wondering where the movie list or movies for that matter come into play. Calm down.

In reliving that moment of clarity I began to wonder about how I even showed an interest in movies. Most kids I grew up with did not watch many movies and even fewer would watch a movie more than once. Growing up I played baseball and basketball. (And when I say “growing up” I’m referring to the age of 5-12. My teenage years were spent studying and playing sports, very little movie watching, crazy International Baccalaureate school.) But there were a few movies that I watched endlessly, and literally to the point of memory. Ghostbusters, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Remo Williams, Major League, Lethal Weapon, Die Hard, and Night Shift. I watched those movies so many times that I would break the VHS tape. My friends were Ray Stantz, Pete Venkman, Remo and Chiun, ‘Wildthing’ Vaughn, Murtaugh & Riggs, John McClane, Bill, and Chuck. While my school friends were busy doing their homework, which I already completed in school, I would be hanging out with my other friends. I knew their mannerisms. I would create other situations for them to hang out with me. (Yes, I think we can all agree I was a little strange.) Any movie that came on TV or cable I would watch. That’s probably why I know so many 80’s films compared to other people my age. But I really enjoyed movies. I enjoyed the places they would take me. How many people felt a part of the Goonies? Or how many people tried to pedal faster to get Elliott and E.T. higher during the bicycle scene? I always enjoyed the escape and entertainment aspect.

So, I enjoyed movies and would try to see and go to as many as I could. But this also held true for books. I started reading at an early age and my parents would give me a few books here and there. Every year my elementary school would publish a book we wrote during one of our classes. (And when I say publish I mean they would make a small book and put a cover on it.) Every year I would look forward to that story time. And every year I would proudly show off my story. What’s funny now looking back on those little books is that there were two pages in the back with lines for people to write down their names. The first couple of years I would go around and get anyone and everyone to read the story just to get their name in my book. Just having a name in there was nice, but I wanted more. I wanted feedback. So, the last two years I made sure to tell people that they could write down a one word review. Good, Bad, funny, sad, crap like that. I got much better results understanding how people viewed my stories. As I grew older my Dad would start a story and want me to expand on it or follow it through. Usually he would get a paragraph down and let me run with it. There has to be twenty to thirty of those somewhere on 3.5 floppy disks hidden in some sort of landfill or erased in someone’s basement.

So, looking back on Mom’s weird question and how I answered came the idea for this post. I actually went back and looked through what movies I watched as a kid and my current movie collection and came across a few names repeatedly. In my opinion these are the movies I want to write and have other people enjoy. So, if any of these are movies you enjoyed I’m on the right track.

Harold Ramis
-Caddyshack
-Animal House
-Stripes
-Ghostbusters
-Armed and Dangerous
-Groundhog Day

Dan Aykroyd
-Blues Brothers
-Ghostbusters
-Spies Like Us (also written with Babaloo Mandel and Lowell Ganz, they should have their own special place…but I just learned of everything they’ve done an hour ago…probably will be another post.)

Shane Black
-Lethal Weapon
-The Last Boy Scout
-Last Action Hero
-Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

David Koepp
-Jurassic Park
-Mission Impossible
-Stir of Echoes
-Spider-Man

Scott Frank
-Plain Clothes
-Dead Again
-Get Shorty
-Out of Sight

John Hughes
-National Lampoon’s Vacation
-Sixteen Candles
-Weird Science
-Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
-Uncle Buck
-Christmas Vacation

Posted by: Greg | January 15, 2010

Superhero Powers and Life and/or Haiti

The was a post I was pondering more as a creative exercise to explore what superpowers I find interesting and also what other people find interesting.  (The problem with watching Heroes Season 4)  This morning after hearing a very sad story from Haiti (yes, all the stories are sad, but this one got me hard) the thought of completing this post became very important to me.  There are only so many times you can feel good about texting Yele to 501501 (Wyclef Jean’s charity) or Haiti to 90999 (American Red Cross).  Charity goes only so far and when you want to help then what?  When there are people in need of help…what superpower do I want?  (So, I’m a nerd!)

The basic part of the story is that of a husband standing outside of a collapsed market receiving texts from his wife inside the rubble. (If I find out that this is a hoax…a pox on their family!)  Knowing the lack of heavy machinery and the 72 hour magic timeline of surviving without water this story struck me.  What would I do?  Would I corral people on the street and have them help me move rubble?  What would I text to her?

So, with that story in mind and the overall damage in Haiti, what superpower would you want to have to help people down there? And on top of that what power would you want to have in your daily life? I leave the options open but I would prefer that you only select one power.  Use anything from DC or Marvel or any other superpower from other sources you want.

Please comment with what superpower in Haiti  you want, why that power and also your daily life superpower, and why.

Right now I am leaning towards telekinesis as my power in Haiti.  The idea of assisting in removing the rubble without the need for heavy machinery sounds awesome.  The ability to move pallets of food, water, medical supplies from the airport to the locations that need them the most without having to worry about traffic jams or people jams.  Plus, this would assist in getting the planes unloaded quickly and back in the air to get more supplies.  I would hope the power would be strong enough to allow whole floors to be reassembled letting rescue workers inside to rescue and/or recover people within.

As for daily life, I’ve told a friend of mine about this (thx Manlapas) and by far I would like to have the ability to duplicate myself.  What a great way to learn new skills? Hey I can learn the piano and astro-physics and chiropractic services and judo.  I guess this would also require the duplication process to be reversed and all knowledge and skills absorbed.  Then again I think I want that power because of all the things I want to learn about and experience.

So, how about you folks?

Posted by: Greg | January 12, 2010

Conan the Defiant

Now, I will be the first to admit, I don’t watch The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien or Jay Leno’s new show…er, cancelled show.  I find this a useful first statement simply because I have no preference and this gives the reader the appearance that I am impartial, which I am.  Also, my bedtime is around 10 and I am not awake to watch either show.  I’m way out of the loop! What I can add to the growing entertainment snafu over Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien is blame.   Yes, I said it.   BLAME.   And to follow-up the blame game I will throw down some shame.

My knowledge of The Tonight Show comes from Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader.  I would recommend reading it…I think it is better than Wikipedia’s article on it.  I know that there have been five hosts Steve Allen, Jack Paar, Johnny Carson, Jay Leno, and now Conan.  I know this is a nighttime television staple for over 45 years.  (I do not know the exact number off the top of my head!)  What I don’t completely understand is the new plan set forth by NBC which is causing all the problems.

If anyone is upset by this totally inane plan, which is really a grasping at straws moment, blame NBC first.  The past couple years of no “Must See TV” shows created the hole which brought about Jay Leno’s show.  It was a great idea, but is not what made the broadcast behemoth famous.  If you think about it further, NBC, by putting Leno on at 10, cut out about 4 to 5 new show possibilities, probably dramas up there with ER.  But instead we are here.   Hey, congrats NBC you saved some money and don’t have to worry about cancelling shows!  Now, that idea came around and bit you in the bum.  With Jay Leno’s show not doing very well, and affiliates threatening to have other programming on at that time, NBC is left in an awkward situation.  They need to get 4 to 5 new shows up and running to fill the vacant time slot.  NBC if you had stuck with what made you famous in the first place this could have been avoided.  So, I lay the blame on you first for creating the situation.  (Oh, and if you want something to fill in the gap and bring you some money, talk with Vivendi Universal closely and politely ask them to run Battlestar Galactica!  I think a few more people would watch that while you get new shows set up and running!!!)

Next up for some blame is Jay Leno.  You might be a real stand up guy and mean well, but it doesn’t come across that way.  I don’t know if you find it necessary to keep your NBC money flowing but if your show gets  cancelled due to poor ratings go with the flow.   I think you met with some NBC folks and held them to their contractual obligations you set up and coerced them into keeping you on somehow.  The result of this strong-arm, or coercion, tactic is the current plan from NBC.  Be a better man and put your ego aside.  You retired and handed the reins of The Tonight Show over to Conan.  Tell NBC to put you in a different spot.  Don’t mess up a night-time tradition for people because you want to be on tv or can’t handle the fact your show was doing poorly.   You’ve been on NBC long enough.  Retire and have fun with your cars.

Shame on NBC for caving into Jay Leno’s pressure, their inability to get new shows up and running, and for coming up with an idiotic plan.

Shame on Jay Leno for trying to stay in the spotlight despite low ratings pointing out the obvious and for strong arming NBC into keeping you in primtime.  Do like Seinfeld and leave peacefully and make special appearances, we the viewers will love it.

Back off Jay!

Conan, we the people of Earth, thank you for your defiant stand.  Do not let this happen.  I won’t be able to stay up and watch your show, my bed is too comfortable, but in spirit I support you and your team.  As an aspiring writer I applaud your work and thank you for showing that goofy looking guys with senses of humor can make it in the world!

Posted by: Greg | January 8, 2010

The Idea Ether

I’ve been in a mood lately.  On one side of my brain I am working through re-reading my NaNoWriMo novel.  On the other side of my brain I am starting work on the softball screenplay.  But that is not the reason for my mood.  Nope, nothing so wonderful as editing and creating put me this way.  The simple fact of finding a movie on Netflix pushed me here.

This is not a defeated mood.  It’s just simply a mood.  I can’t feel one way or another about how it happened or why.  Early last month in my celebratory triumph of surviving the novel push I decided to watch something on Netflix.  I looked through my queue and nothing I have down is available for “Watch Instantly”.  Super stinks!  So, the next route would be to go through the tab of “Movies You’ll Heart”.  (Note: My fiancee and I share a Netflix account. She gets to have the “Watch Instantly” ability for her login and we each get to have one movie out at a time.  I think it’s a nice deal.)  A movie popped up in my comedy selection called Stuntmen.  I moved along to another selection.  I spotted a few I wanted to watch and so I logged in as my sweetie.  (Yes, she gave me her password!)  As I looked for the movies I wanted to “Watch Instantly” this movie came up again, Stuntmen.  Now my interest is piqued. WTF, is it already?

According to IMDB: When the industry’s two biggest stuntmen are nominated for Stuntman of the Year, an over-ambitious documentarian reignites a dormant rivalry between the two men that results in an all out press war.

I had to pause for a second.  I bring this up because of a little post, emphasis on little, back in June.  The Post albeit two short sentences kind of alludes to something along these lines.  To make matters worse the “pad of paper” mentioned is somewhere in a box in the garage waiting to be unearthed.  On that pad of paper, from three years ago, when I lived in my apartment, detailed a story of a group of stuntmen being interviewed before the stuntman of the year award was presented to them.  I had four characters, unlike this movies two main characters.  But my sweetie knew about this idea, she kind of cultivated the idea of an action mockumentary.  So, the “pause for a second” was a solid string of curses.  My sweetie showed concern at my sudden outburst and I read her the plot for the movie and she instantly knew why I acted that way.

My mood is one of elation and despair in that another idea I had for a movie is a movie.  Honestly, I lean heavily towards the elation side of things.  This gives me more confidence that my ideas can be Hollywood bound.  If anything this Idea Ether is forcing me to follow through and complete my screenplays.  Everyone had ideas.  Some are creative and unique.  Some are creative and improve on an old style.  The problem with people and their ideas is that if everyone has them what makes mine so special? What about my ideas stands out from the crowd?  As of right now nothing.  But if I have a winning idea AND a story or script to go with it I am on a pedestal and at the front of the class.  (I think the only reason I wouldn’t be first is if Jerry Bruckheimer had the same idea.  I’m pretty sure even with a script in my hands and a star to be in the film Jerry gets in the door first.  And you know what?  I am totally cool with that.  It’s Jerry Bruckheimer fer chrissakes!!!)

I have no fear of someone else taking an idea already listed in previous posts and writing a story or movie.  Because I know full well that no matter what happens if we turned in a script at the same time they would not be the same.  Only the idea that created the story would be the same. I think that is the beauty of ideas and the Idea Ether.  The positive side of the Idea Ether, or collective conscious, is that collaborators with the same idea could produce one heck of story or script.  I’m hoping someone out there thinks like I do…scratch that. I hope that someone out there has ideas like I do!

(And in case you were wondering the other idea I had for a movie. The A-Team. Yes, I know this was a tv show from the 80’s.  The moment I heard that Transformers was going to be live-action I thought of the other 80’s show that stuck in my head, The A-Team.  It took another two years before it even got off the ground.  So, maybe it isn’t really an idea but more of a “called it” moment.  Either way I’m happy.  I just hope that The Fall Guy doesn’t show up soon.)

Posted by: Greg | December 1, 2009

On the other side of 50,000

Well, the days flew by. The hours even faster. At the wonderful time of 11:35pm on November 30, 2009 I entered a new realm of excitement for myself and my future as a writer.

National Novel Writing Month is over for me. I completed my task. I suffered through weight gain. Not seeing my fiancee regularly. Ignoring my pets. Ignoring movies and tv. All the things I normally do when the work day is over…never happened this past month. Any free time was used sitting in front of a computer spewing forth words and phrases in the simple hope that over time they would become a novel. Hell, I missed talking with relaitves I only see once a year because of this. All the bad things I just listed are now over. For those reading this and thinking that nothing good happens during this time I would be a horrible conveyor of truth to neglect those amazing nuggets that emerge.

The wonderful things this month long task brought me is a novel. Yes, it is a very rough novel. A novel that needs serious work. A novel that sort of finishes the overall story but does not close all the chapters properly. The knowledge that novels are a very large undertaking and should never be just a sit down and hammer it out type of endeavor. The knowledge that I prefer screenplays and their simplicity over the unwielding nature of a novel and all the various styles embedded. Dialogue in novels is very difficult, there are only so many times a person can have “said” next to their name. (The punctuation is something I would very much prefer to learn though.) Vampires, no matter how cool they are in your head, turn out to be emo-bitches when then get to paper or the keyboard. Zombies are scarier when they are slow, make no noise, and come at you in large groups. Some characters you think are cool when they appear, just never quite make it back to the novel. (I have a whole group of people that I would love to do a movie about or at least a graphic novel about.) Really unique bad guys are difficult to create, especially when they are the foe for your protagonist. Having multiple bad things affecting your hero limit your time with secondary characters and their overall development with each other and the hero. (There are only a few decent characters that get any sort of blurb in the novel.) People are very supportive of you when you inform them of your intentions. The only way to do this on a regular basis and enjoy it is with the love and support of friends and family.

What the future holds for the vampire / zombie novel is uncertain. This NaNoWriMo novel needs serious work. As I worked on the outline a couple of days before starting I figured that thirty chapters would be enough for 50,000 words. The turned in version has 16 chapters, some where incomplete, some had serious holes in continuity, and some were not to my liking. I think a good two months of working on the chapters and making them stand out would be the best way to get it finished. But the other issue is that I was not writing this novel to get published. I was using this a kick start for my creativity and screenplays.

I think knowing what I can accomplish when my brain is tested gives me hope for working on and completing screenplays. Next up in my growing completed pile – my softball screenplay.

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