Vague Plan

woman holding a clapperboard

Photo by Ali Pazani on Pexels.com

Everything I need to film my first short film should be arriving within 1 week. After that I will have to build the computer, learn how to use my microphone, and adjust to my new Sony a6300 camera. I will not have any lighting equipment, I will only have one 18-50mm lens, and I’ll be posting the video to youtube for under twenty views. I’m ok with that.

When I regularly posted on wordpress I made it a discipline to primarily grow my blog by posting short stories. I think this is especially important if you are trying to become a writer – the temptation to post writing advice and insights is always strong and enticing. The problem is you will only attract writers who are trying to do the same thing as you. You will not build an actual reading audience, because your followers are coming to learn about writing rather than be entertained. It’s also much easier to analyze another person’s work and figure out what they did wrong or could have done better. There is no shortage of online information available that is focused on the craft. What is especially difficult and rare is the ability to prove your craft through your works. I’m going to try my best to build an audience on youtube for my short films. When I feel my work is qualified, I will start entering competitions or submit through other avenues.

For my current project, I already have a pretty decent plan in place. I have a location – an outdated barnyard – and one friend who is willing to act. My girlfriend will be able to help with handling the equipment during the shoot (she refuses to act in a project unless she is “a homeless person sitting in the corner”).

I’m excited to begin typing out a script. Nothing is more revealing than seeing your pages brought to life – last time I wrote a 1 minute script for fun, I was shocked to discover how difficult it was to deliver some of the lines. I’m going to keep the plot close to the chest for now, because I think it’s a great premise for a 1 location story with limited actors. I think it could work as a multi-episode story, too. The plot forces the MC into isolation and leads the viewer to wonder whether he is crazy or has an object of national importance.

I’ve noticed that the number one thing that engages me as a viewer is early empathy with the main character. I’m thinking I’ll begin my story with the main character writing in a journal. This way, I can provide some voice over to give a little bit of background without making it a reoccuring perspective. I see something very similar to the opening of Chernobyl. From there I can see him playing piano. But there has to be something more – something very unique that makes the viewer say “I want to follow this man’s journey.” All great characters stories have this – a unique action that’s both relatable and unique. A prime example of that – my girlfriend saying she’ll only be in a film if she’s a homeless extra. A great film example would be Parasite, where the family allows the toxins to waft through the windows in order to kill their own bug infestation. They are so poor and have such little regard for their own health that they make this bizarre choice. That was the moment I knew I wanted to follow their journey.  Alright, that’s the end of the rambling for now. I’ll have more information in my next update.

2020 Screenplay Competitions

hamburger

Photo by Griffin Wooldridge on Pexels.com

The computer components will be arriving next week, and most of my film gear is already here. I have 3 screenplays that I need to enter into into contests but spending more money on this toxic relationship I have with writing is the last thing I should be doing. It’s always funny to me how after I spend large sums of cash I skimp on the already cheap stuff. Below are three contests that I intend to enter. They are affordable, reputable, and still open for 2020:

Nicholl Fellowship – $48 March 6th (early deadline)

Scriptapalooza – $60 March 2nd (late deadline)

Breaking Walls Thriller Contest – $60 February 29 (extended deadline)

The first 2 are more well known. The third I’d like to enter because I have a strong thriller and it seems legitimate.

I’m not a big fan of screenplay competitions – in fact I’ve never entered one. I don’t believe winning a competition can actually land you a job in the film industry. I do believe it can get you attention. Winning a big competition seems like a great stride toward some form of representation.

Unfortunately, the world of writing is over-saturated with writers. It is difficult enough to craft a novel or screenplay that is emotionally engaging for the reader. The harsh reality is that this is not where most writers get rejected. Having a professional open your story and read the pages is next level – it’s much more common to complete a clean chunk of work that never even gets opened. That’s why there is so much emphasis on writing a catchy logline and intriguing synopsis. By shooting my own short films I’m finally be able to see how my writing plays out for real world viewers. By entering competitions, I’ll essentially be paying people to read my screenplay. It’s not a decision I’m at peace with but viewing my prospects logically I believe it’s a necessary investment. But for today, my only investment is going to be 2 chicken sandwiches and a small drink from Jack in the Box – for a cool $5 I’ll glad trade the health points.

Building a desktop for Video Editing

After purchasing roughly $1000 in camera & microphone equipment, I’ve come to a jarring realization – my current computer is not strong enough to support video editing.

According to desktop documentaries, there are certain spec requirements for fast and efficient editing, capable of 4k:

 

  • Memory/RAM: 8-32 GB RAM or as much as you can afford (ideally at least 16GB)
  • Processor: Multi-core Intel i5/i7/i9 models (i9 is best). Preferably 4 or more processor cores.
  • Storage: At least 256 GB hard drive, 7200 RPM, preferably SSD (fastest)… buy as much as you can afford, you can always add external hard drives.
  • Graphics card: Depends on video editing software. For example, Premiere Pro and Davinci Resolve do well with both AMD and NVIDIA. (Minimum 2GB memory)
  • Operating System: Windows 7 (64 bit edition), Mac OS X, Linux (Your OS will likely determine the editing software you go with)
  • Nice size screen – 19-21 inch minimum
  • Firewire or Thunderbolt Port built in or as an external dock

I spent the weekend educating myself on computer components and compiled a list of all the accessories I would need to purchase to transform my desktop into a video editing machine. Then I discovered my motherboard is so outdated it will not support any of them, so I might as well build a computer from scratch. I discovered this super helpful video for the low-budget filmmaker and have nearly all of the items “Adam with Tech Dive” recommends waiting in my amazon cart. It will cost me under a thousand dollars but will be capable of doing everything the modern day filmmaker requires. I’m not excited to spend more money, but I don’t have much of a choice. If you are going to build a video editing computer, I highly suggest this man’s helpful video.

Filmmaking

Haven’t been on here hardly at all over the last few years. I’ve been writing regularly and seriously since October. I’ve completed 3 scripts that I’m happy with but haven’t gotten any luck with production. The smart decision would be to enter the scripts into contests, and because that’s the logical choice I’ve decided instead to invest $2000 in film gear and a computer capable of editing 4k footage. I’m very excited because this will not only allow me to learn how to direct, but I’ll have the ability to reach an audience much easier. After writing on and off for about 9 years, I’m really just excited to see my stories unfold on screen. Part of the reason I’ve decided to pursue screenwriting rather than book writing is the efficiency of scripts. You can write a 90 page script in a few days, but a first draft of a novel always took me 3 months. Anyways, I’m going to try and post here daily for updates. I have a tendency to disappear from social media but this is the on account that’s always been significant for me. Have a great Friday.

Jolly the Leprechaun

Jolly

I take the box with me with my eyes set on the rainbow above. I smile gleefully as I travel through the woods, swinging the box at my side. The painstaking hike lasts hours – my sneakers are muddy, my back hurts, and my stomach gurgles. I stop in my tracks – I’ve reached the end of the rainbow.

“Eric,” says Jolly the Leprechaun, eyes at a squint. “I think you’ve gone the wrong way.”

“I want to make a deal,” I tell him. I walk holding my hands up, showing him I’ve got nothing on me besides the power-reversal box. I set it down on the tree stump between us. Jolly shakes as he tries to hide his glimmering gold coins behind his two-foot-eight frame.

“No deal,” he says. Jolly nervously waves a bloody, sharpened stick. I notice the body on the ground next to him. The young man’s mouth is open with eyes on me. He blinks and his chest rises.

Jolly shoves the wooden dagger down into his heart, then twists it. The man on the ground screams in agony until becoming completely motionless.

“You’ll never get me pot of gold, Eric,” says Jolly.

“I’ve actually got something to offer you this time.”

A sharp smile rises from his lip corners. “Do you remember the last time you saw me?”

I scratch my cheek and look away. Jolly continues.

“You told you me it wasn’t right, the way humans treated me. You said you wanted to help me.”

“I did want to help-”

I shake your hand and you grabbed me by the arm, threw me into a tree, then ran off with me pot o’ gold screaming nobody will ever love me.”

“I don’t remember that last part but I’m sorry you’re upset.”

“Oh you don’t remember the last part?” says Jolly, tugging his make-shift spear out from the corpse beside him. He carries it with the sharpened end aimed at me as he approaches. “Do you remember why you never escaped with me pot of gold, eh?”

“Vaguely,” I tell him. “From what I remember, I didn’t have the heart to leave you stuck in the tree. So I stopped running, set your pot of gold down, then returned to make sure you were ok.”

“Oh that’s interesting,” says Jolly. “Because I remember you stopped running when you saw a dead squirrel, picked it up, then returned to find me in the tree just so you could pretend it was making fun of me, using your fingers to move its jaw while you did all the speaking.”

“That was wrong of me,” I say, with sincerity. “But I’m here today with something to offer you. Something that will help you from ever having to deal with people like me again.”

Jolly begins studying me with his hands on his hips.

“Listen!” I say, shaking the box in front of his face. “See this red button? One push, and I can make you tall, human… maybe even… generous,” I tell him.

“I don’t believe you,” says Jolly. “How tall?”

“You don’t have to! I just need you to agree. I’ll push the button. And if it doesn’t work, then fine! We won’t have a deal.”

“And you want what for it, eh? me pot o’ gold?”

“Yes, that’s all I want.”

“That’s all you want, you sniveling animal,” he says with a sneer. “That pot’s got ten million dollars worth of gold and you have the nerve to say it’s all you want.”

Jolly points his stabbing stick at me as he speaks. He lunges for the box in my hand, but I tug it away like I’m keeping candy from a child.

“Just tell me it’s a deal,” I say, softly. I hold the box out with both hands. “One press, and you can be tall. That’s all it takes Jolly.”

His face burst with redness as his wrinkles contort with anger. The way he glares back makes me certain he dislikes me.

“Please, Jolly,” I say. “This is a win-win for both of us.”

“We’ll try it,” He blurts out, waving his stick ferociously. “But if your button doesn’t work than this stupid deal is off. I am more than willing to kill you for attempting any -”

I push the button on the box and suddenly Jolly shrinks into half his previous size, until he might as well be a leprechaun action figure.

“Oh shit,” I say.

Jolly looks at each of his hands with profound sadness. His defeated gaze slowly tilts up to me.

I hop with my left foot then punt Jolly off into the leaves with my right. I grab the pot of gold sturdy with both hands and begin sprinting away, tongue hanging out my mouth. That’s when I see it.

I stop in my tracks – a skunk, moseying around some leaves all alone. I could easily tape Jolly’s little legs to the skunk and watch him get tossed around like a miniature horse jockey. It will only take a minute, no more than ten. I set down my newfound riches and approach the skunk cautiously.

  • Thomas M. Watt

Mom

gothic_church_by_snowelfwithsun.jpg

He finished through the last row of vines and entered the tower in a blaze of panic. It had been 2 days since his last full glass of water and a meal a few berries. Lenny was in no mood to make new friends.

They smiled at him. Sharp, ear to ear grins.

“Congratulations,” the one with a black pendant necklace said. “We believed in you.”

A colony of men and boys. Heads, eyebrows, and faces all completely shaven. Wearing white, priest-like robes.

Lenny, on the other hand, had a beard, a torn Metallica shirt, and tennis shoes.

“Who are you?” said Lenny.

“I’m your keeper,” said the one with the black pendant. “My name is Sugar.”

“Sugar?” began Lenny, still panting. He grabbed the glass of water before a colony member had offered it and took a swig. “Your momma name you that?”

The colony grinned smugly, but none so much as chuckled.

“No,” said Sugar. He reached out and retrieved the empty glass. “But momma would like to meet you.”

Two of the more husky-looking colony members grabbed Lenny by each of his arms. Lenny resisted, snapping free from their grasps and turning for the door. He was stopped short by a dagger point aimed at his eye. Lenny returned to Sugar.

“I don’t know what this is,” Lenny gritted out. “I don’t remember what happened before I entered that bullshit maze. I just want to go home. I just want to return to my boring life.”

“Meet mom, and you’re free to go,” said Sugar.

Lenny eyed the rest of the room. These bald-headed clowns all displayed the same mindless expression. He’d been kidnapped by a goddamn virgin convention.

“Let’s do it,” said Lenny.

He followed along with the colony outside of the tower. So far he had seen swords and daggers, but no sign of any guns. Even if he was to fight his way free, where would he go? Lenny had fought so hard to escape that maze but he never imagined he’d find himself in a more perilous situation.

The walk from the tower was illuminated with Tiki torches lining the dirt path. The fires ran tall and provided some welcome warmth. White-robed colony members flanked Lenny on all sides as they walked in step-by-step unison toward the Gothic Cathedral. The outdoor area was surrounded by an Iron gate. Arrowed spikes decorated their peaks. Then Lenny spotted something – a gate, appearing badly damaged. It had been busted apart by some kind of army jeep. Whoever had tried to break in hadn’t made it very far – there were pikes still sticking out from the windshield.

“This way!” One of the colony members with a thick, low voice shouted at him.

“You might not be afraid of us,” Sugar said to Lenny. He stopped at the doorway, flashed a devilish smirk, then yanked the fat spiraling door handle to the large door of the cathedral and directed Lenny to enter.

The rest of the colony laughed.

“I ain’t afraid of your fucking mom,” Lenny said.

A set of hands shoved Lenny from behind, and he fell onto his hands and knees inside the building. The door shut behind him, and he was filled with cold dread.

The pews were of old wood, vacant of any church parishioners. The statues inside were nothing like the Catholic saints he had seen growing up – these were of dragons flying, wolves eating, and at the front one giant black leopard, in the pouncing position.

“Hello,” said Lenny, surveying the empty building as his voice echoed through the chambers. His foot struck something – a spotted dog, with a knife in its head. Blood pooled around it.

The sound of glass shattering brought Lenny to jump. It had come from up ahead.

Lenny knelt down, rubbed the bloody dog behind its ear, then tugged the knife out from its skull. He stuffed the blade into the waste of his jeans, then adjusted his ragged shirt to hide the handle.

“Lenny,” said the voice ahead. It was a sort of whispered moan. The type of voice you’d expect to hear from a dying creature. “Bow down to me.”

“Fuck you.”

“Bow down to me!”

The smoke from the candles inside swirled together, materialized into a sort of foggy witch, then sucked the knife out from Lenny’s waistband and plunged it straight through his foot, nailing him where he stood.

“Arrgh!” grunted Lenny. He gripped the knife but a sort of magnetic energy kept him from withdrawing it. The black smoke dispersed into a cloud of locust, swarming the inside of the church. Lenny slapped as they attacked at his face, and when he opened his mouth two crammed their way into his throat. Lenny coughed them out.

The locust dissolved into dust, floating like a dark cloud throughout the empty church.

“You’ve caused me great distress.”

Lenny shook his head, and returned his focus to the knife. He couldn’t get it to budge as his own blood puddled around his foot.

“You entered and were never invited. You destroyed my gate, and have brought with you a curse upon my sons. You will die for this, Lenny.”

  • Return for Part II tomorrow
    • Thomas M. Watt

 

 

The Old Man and the Tree – Part 2

fallen tree

*If you missed part 1, start here!

“You’ve got to be goddamn kidding me,” He said.

Harker was in disbelief that the neighbor’s kid had brought along four others, all around his age. They were all worthless when it came to removing a tree the size of the one on Harker’s lawn.

“What do you kids want? I don’t have any Nintendos.”

The children looked at one another with confusion.

“We want to help you,” said Jhonny, who had returned with his friends. Jhonny wore black rubber boots that ran all the way past his knees. They were adult sized.

“Help me?” Said Harker, with a haughty laugh. “No thanks. I’d rather get rid of this tree on my own.”

“But you can’t,” said Jhonny. “It’s too big for one person.”

Harker’s eye caught hold of Gerri-anne as she walked by with her three dogs. She walked her three dogs every morning and always donned a white tennis jacket.

“Hello Harker, how are you?” she said with a wave.

“Good Gerri-anne, how are you?” said Harker.

She smirked and continued on her way.

He had met Gerri-anne a few years earlier, shortly after her husband had passed away. He was a son-of-a bitch and left her with nothing, spoiled their kids everything. Her kids never visited or called, he had heard. Still, Gerri-anne always kept in shape and managed to smile. Her lawn was a mess though, but that wasn’t really her fault.

Harker shook his head, then returned to Jhonny. “Well you’re too small to do any good,” said Harker. “This job requires men.”

“We’re men,” said Jhonny.

“Oh yeah?” said Harker. “Saw that trunk for me.”

Harker dropped the saw on the lawn and laughed.

“Let’s go Jhonny,” said the little boy with the blue cap, named Fred. “This guy’s a dick.”

The children turned around and started walking away as Harker laughed. Jhonny began walking with them, then stopped abrubtly. He returned and grabbed the saw, than began sawing.

“What the hell are you doing!” yelled Harker. He jumped and grabbed the saw away from Jhonny. “Don’t you see the edge on this thing? It’s too sharp and dangerous for you.”

“But you said-”

“Don’t put words in my mouth, son! Why don’t you go on with your friends and play paddleball or something?”

“Jhonny, c’mon!” said Fred. “He doesn’t want our help, he said it himself.”

“I’m staying,” responded Jhonny.

Jeremy, the biggest of the kids, wrapped his hands around his mouth and hollered: “Stop trying to replace your dad, Jhonny! He’s dead, and this guy’s more of a grandpa, anyway!”

The other children erupted with laughter as Jhonny gazed down at his rubber boots. He itched his eye and started walking away.

“Good luck,” he muttered to Harker, without bothering to face him.

Harker scratched the back of his head.

To be continued…

  • Thomas M. Watt