Monthly Archives: April 2021
Goodfellas – Opening Scene Analysis Video
Finally made something for my channel, and even created the background song. Any views or likes are much appreciated.
A Maze With No Exit
There’s a great video on youtube about this Sushi chef in New York. Customers pay an astounding price to eat at his restaurant. The seating is extremely limited and reservations are made months in advance. I believe the menu is tailored to the specific customers for the day, but I may be mistaken. It’s been a while since I watched it but the important part has stuck with me. The habits that sushi chef had shaped for himself – from arriving hours early, sharpening his knives, and prepping each dish – struck me deeply.
I watched another short documentary recently about a salt farmer in Mexico who is the only person left to keep his family’s tradition of salt making alive. He is poor, breaks his back daily, and has no intent on stopping.
I think about monks from time to time. Each day they rise early and pray. They spend time performing labor-some tasks. They thank God before each meal. Then they go back to work. Each day to them is similar in action, but unique in joy.
Advancements in technology have made information, entertainment, and communication available in a flash. Our minds are jumping every 5 seconds and have been conditioned to demand stimulation at a moment’s notice. Yet we wonder why rates of depression and anxiety continue to climb.
If you’ve ever played a video game, you’re likely familiar with the concept of playing as a single character who continues to improve his skills in order to attain his overarching objective. You retrieve plants and use them to craft medicine and food. You perform tasks and are rewarded with money. You purchase stronger weapons and your enemies are no longer as threatening. It’s fun because it simulates what real life is supposed to be – without the real work.
We can develop habits that place us in the pathway of success. If you want to improve your writing, you can study books. Or you can write. Or you can provide feedback for other writers. If you want to film a special effect you are unfamiliar with, simply type it into youtube and you will find a tutorial that suits your needs.
Each hour of every day we receive the gift of time. We can choose to spend that time developing our own character to progress toward our personal goals, or we can waste that time on consuming the products of others.
There is a generous reward provided to those who routinely devote their time to habitual improvement. The reward is not always the gift of prosperity and acclaim. The reward is found in the joy that comes from living with purpose.
When I find that I am depressed, sad, or anxious, I find that the core of my beliefs has often shifted. I fall so far into consumerism that I have allowed the thoughts, opinions, and products of others shape my worldview. At the center of my flawed belief is the idea that their is no pathway to success, joy, or meaningful production.
I often think of a study that was once conducted with mice. The mice were placed in a maze that had no way to exit. For a time, the mice tried relentlessly. They took new routes and made different turns hoping to find an exit that they had previously passed over. Eventually they stopped searching. Instead they slumped over and rested, finally learning to be content with accepting that escape was an impossibility. But the researchers performing the study waited until this point in time to finally lift a barrier and allow for a clear pathway to freedom. Do you know what the mice did? They remained sleeping, and stopped looking for the exit altogether. They remained trapped, but unbeknownst to them their freedom would have only taken a few more attempts.
Throughout life it’s easy to look back on past efforts and shortcomings and conclude that the success we desire is simply not in the cards for us. “Seek and you shall find.” Though we might not see the path we have been looking for, it does us no good to accept misery as an inevitability. We must get up, we must gather our tools, and we must get to work.
A Cardboard Mask and Other Things
This isn’t going to be a very long post but I haven’t printed anything for days and feel compelled to write something.
Sunday I carried out my meetup group for 2 hours then filmed a short sketch that I thought was funny. It involved me wearing a Diet coke box over my head and impersonating a “mask expert” while being digitally edited into an actual news clip. I thought it was funny, but my close friend didn’t, and my girlfriend didn’t. I guess I just looked like an idiot with a box on his head.
One of the worst feelings in writing comes when you pour your heart into your story and another reader takes for granted the considerations you’ve already made prior to their analysis. I received feedback for my latest draft on Monday and it was overwhelmingly positive. There were no major structural issues and it is ready to film. I was still discouraged, however, to hear a few suggestions that I’d already tried and knew wouldn’t be effective. I am happy to make adjustments as needed but I am disappointed when my vision for the film isn’t effectively conveyed on paper. I have a deep rooted fear that my brain does not operate according to convention and consequently my characters don’t always behave as expected. I am unable to verify their motivations without the input of another so I need diligent readers in order to know it “makes sense.”
So these and a handful of other events demoralized me and I took a few days away from everything I’ve been doing. Yesterday I scheduled a new online meetup event for this Sunday and last night I took down some notes about strengthening my existing character arc. I am hoping to send out for casting, shop for props, and reserve a location next week.
It’s actually great news I’ve just been focused on the negative a lot lately. Have a great day and thank you for reading.
#4 – Don’t be cocky
Be me. Spend 1 night watching every shitty short film you can find online. Narrow them down to 3 criteria – small crew, less than 1000 dollars to make, and quality story.
Contact the creator. Get permission to make analysis video. Request a script. Receive no response. Shrug it off.
Do some research. Figure out how to download youtube videos. Do some creative thinking. Record audio of film using built-in microsoft screen recorder.
Be at work. Spend your downtime watching the film and recording the action and plot developments at 30 second intervals. Have a list of 40 notes to use during editing today.
Find creators youtube. See that they published a new video today. Hmm, interesting. Video opens to – “A lot of people have been asking about how I made this film.”
It’s a 30 minute video. A breakdown. Using my one comment as an example for why the selected video is a gift from God.
Needless to say I’m upset. I guess the 4th criteria for me providing a video analysis should be “doesn’t suck their own dick.”
That was inappropriate. I’m sorry. I’m just agitated. This video was my plan for the week and I really wanted to release something tomorrow. Now I’m 95% sure I’m just going to start fresh with a new idea.
In other news, I’ve finally hit my goal of trimming my script down to 15 pages. I personally feel it’s ready to go. Just waiting on the go-ahead from a beta reader.
I’m also 80 pages in to one of the features I promised to provide feedback for. I have nothing but respect and support for its author. They may not like the feedback but by God they will receive a thorough assessment. If you actually care about your writing that’s something you should be grateful for.
Do you have any suggestions on what I should do for a new video? Here are the options I’m considering:
- An analysis on a scene from a script that was developed into a hit movie
- A short film about a cat plotting to murder me
- An instructional video about something to do with video editing
- A sketch that’s sure to provide guffaws
- Don’t make a video and pound beers until Kelly gets home from work
If you have any preference please leave them in the comments below.
Writing Intriguing Characters
Let’s discuss dramatic action a little more and how it can develop a 3 dimensional character.
Let’s make one up – we’ll call him “Bob.” Bob loves to feed his golden retriever every day. He takes him on walks where he tosses a frisbee and laughs when others greet him. He’s always got a diet coke in his hand and yes – you guessed it – he’s even got a goatee. He’s not ashamed of his baldness – in fact he jokes about it frequently – but he does wear a “Bass pro shop” cap every day of his life.
We all know someone like Bob.
I hope by now you have a strong inkling of who Bob is and what he is about. Probably a simple man, loving grandfather, and woodworking enthusiasts. Now what would be a dramatic element that could make this character more intriguing? Here’s a few suggestions:
- Bob is actually training his dog for dogfights
- Bob goes on long walks to find the next victim for his serial killing addiction
- Bob maintains a tumblr blog
- Bob mails death threats to celebrities he doesn’t like
- Bob starts taking steroids
- Bob catfishes college girls on tinder
A few of the above qualities are enough to craft an interesting premise from – meaning the bizarre behavior itself could be a plot. The smaller ones – like Bob taking steroids or catfishing on tinder – merely make Bob a more compelling and intriguing character. The actions don’t compute with our stereotypical understanding of Bob, therefore we feel he is a character worthy of a deeper assessment. In other words, he rises from being a side character to a main character. In some cases we even want to follow Bob around and can see him acting as a protagonist.
Let’s take a look at the main character Ryan from my film series Mountain Cult –
He is impatient, obsessive, and a loner. He does not trust others and refuses to let others help even when he should. He is abrasive, controlling, and has tunnel vision for his missing wife. He is also fearless in his pursuit of her. He is stubborn to a fault. He believes that he alone can confront a secretive cult and outsmart members who are much smarter than himself. Ryan’s the type of dude to chug 10 beers then decide to mow the lawn.
Alright, so he’s interesting, not extremely likable, but features bravery, persistence, and loyalty – characteristics that align with a protagonist. Now let me do some out loud brainstorming to figure out what type of actions could result in him being a 3 dimensional character.
- Ryan repeatedly dreams about the same clown kicking his ass while he struggles to punch back
- Ryan writes poems about the sounds leaves make
- Ryan is afraid of flies
- Ryan never learned how to read
- Ryan’s favorite food is veganese
- Ryan only listens to classical music
- Ryan gets jealous of small and scrawny dudes because he’s insecure about being built like a trash can
Even though many of the qualities are comedic to us, they can still serve the story. An important consideration whenever you introduce comedic elements to a story is whether they subtract from the tension in the story (if you are NOT writing comedy). A true comedy is about funny situations, not merely funny character traits. The Marvel movies are a great example of what I’m referring to here – even though they are riddled with funny one-liners, the jokes themselves never reduce the tension in the moment.
Here’s a quick example: Joe enters the store to rob the place. He aims a gun at the man behind the counter and demands money. The man behind the counter squints and says “Joe? I haven’t seen you in forever!”
That line reduces the tension immediately. In changes the story into a comedy. Now imagine the man with the gun slips on a toy upon entering, then carries on with the robbery. We may laugh at the mishap, but the tension is still there – meaning it could be a heist story or thriller. His character made us laugh, but the situation didn’t.
Ok lets mold one more character for the sake of 3. Let’s invent Julie – she’s thirty years old, stocks shelves at the local grocery story, and shrugs at the idea of marriage. She binge watches documentaries about serial killers, eats cereal at any time she chooses, and smokes something every 30 minutes. Her ambition in life is to find the perfect temperature for the air conditioner setting, and she loves her dog named Bucky – who is a German Shepherd (which she bought illegally on the black market through a “friend”).
Julie is a familiar character to me, and someone I could definitely root for. Her lack of ambition is surely a fault, however, her contentment with mediocrity is something that’s both relatable and oddly enticing. Let’s see what dramatic actions she may take that would cause us to reconsider our assessment of her:
- Julie trades stocks at night and has amassed over 3 million in earnings.
- Julie has an uncontrollable attraction to Benjie, the doofus manager who wears glasses, tucks in his shirt, and gets flipped off by her daily.
- Julie once single-handedly cleared and saved a burning bus filled with children
- Julie lends horror DVDs to the kid next door with the overbearing parents
- Julie organizes a funeral after the town drunk dies and gets the entire town to attend
Again, a few of these are story worthy. Some of the ideas (like the last one) require a major character change (arc) for them to occur and be believable. Ideas like her having a crush on Benjie merely make her a more intriguing character.
Anyways, that’s all I got for today. I hope you found some use or chuckles out of these ideas. I also hope that I’ll be able to find a proper dramatic action for my own character in order to make him more appealing. Most of the items that I’ve listed are forms of irony – the proposed characteristics contradict what we anticipate the character would do or care about. That’s what makes them interesting – it adds color to their otherwise black and white demeanor.
I’ve spent my downtime while at work viewing other low budget short films searching for one worth of analysis. Oh boy do I feel better about my own abilities. If you ever want a night of cringe inducing laughter start checking out homemade movies that cost less than $100 to produce.
I’ve contacted one creator so far. Hopefully he will get back to me promptly so I can work on the video this weekend. Aside from that I have continued to reading through the 2 scripts I have from other writers in order to return coverage notes. I am not looking forward to the reception my feedback receives.
Hope you have a great day today and please don’t apply any of these ideas to your own life in hopes to make yourself more interesting. You may get you arrested.
I’ve decided my next youtube video will shine a spotlight on another low budget short film. It will not be as much of a review as a study. I will have to a.) find a film b.) contact its creator and c.) dive in deep. I would like to critique the story in an honest but complimentary way. I feel that bringing attention to another creator who has similar ambitions can help build a community and propel my own viewership. I will either do this or make a video about my girlfriend’s cat and his plot to kill me.
I’ve spent a fair amount of time combing through the scripts I received. I forgot how good a practice critiquing another writers work can be – it’s much easier to recognize faults and areas for improvement. Consequently I’ve been able to return to my own script with a fresh, critical mind. As I read my own pages I realize the dramatic action is lacking.
Drama is the major reason we turn to cinema. Regardless of the genre we love to see characters wrestling over moral grey areas. We find ourselves intrigued by characters who behave against our expectations. And when we find protagonists who overcome their own faults we find hope for overcoming our own short comings.
I’ve condensed my script down to 16 pages. The driving force of the plot revolves around a “who-dunnit” type clue. My character follows this clue to the first suspect, who points him in the right direction. After meeting with a group of potential perpetrators, he narrows down his choice to 1 man – whom he attacks.
This simple plot has me wondering what type of character change best fits the story. To find that I must begin with figuring out what his final dramatic action it is – it may be the attack, the accusation, the assertive decision, or the decision to trust his missing wife over the conclusion he has formed from the notes contents (Ah yes I think I like that one).
So we first figure out what the climatic action will be. It should involve a choice between two options – one option finalizes a change, and the other option is what the protagonists would have chosen as his former self. He must go against his former nature in order to complete his arc. Story is, after all, a study in moral development.
Every scene in a story should involve some form of dramatic action. It is not enough for events to simply occur as characters observe their happenings. Your characters should effect the world in which they live, and the world should effect them. The inciting incident – or occurrence that ignites the plot – should be the event that sparks this change. Each experience that follows should add pressure for the character to change further. The final judgement on who the protagonists becomes can be summarized with the theme of the story.
In short, Kelly is snoring on the couch and this post has helped me clarify my thoughts on how I will approach my edit today. I’m still waiting for feedback on the current draft that is out to a few separate readers. Once I sense that my story has impressed, appealed to, or entertained a reader I will move forward with casting the actors and reserving a location. Moving to this stage has taken me months longer than expected. Though I regret the passage of time, I do feel compelled to enter production with a story that is solid. If you can start with that, you have a chance to make something special. Film a story that is shit on paper and all your effort will produce is shit on a screen.
Have a great day and remember to feed the birds. They die if we do not feed them.
Pancakes On a Wall
The best path forward…. the secret to success… top 5 ways to break in…
It’s all bullshit. About as helpful as dating advice.
It’s 4 am and I am providing coverage on 2 separate scripts. The writers are at different levels of their craft but they both include a lot of scene description. I fucking hate scene description. I don’t care who nods, wears designer shoes, or sleeps in the dark room when each of the 5 characters are as indistinguishable as chicken nuggets.
You might be wondering to yourself “Hey buddy I think your brain may be broken.” And to that I say “My brain is works.”
This post is about the monotony of progress. We know it’s laughable to dwell in the pipedream of thinking our extraordinary talents will spontaneously be realized and thrust into the spotlight. But I argue it is equally delirious to think following some magic guidelines will help us achieve the future we dream about. Every “new method” of advancing to the top of the pack will always be overcrowded with other wolves gnashing over the same objective.
If you’re trying to make a career out of originality, wouldn’t it only make sense to find your own way forward?
It’s 4 am and I am providing coverage for two feature length scripts because the writers will return feedback for my own work. An idiot in my shoes would more than likely be sending an untested scripts out to agencies and producers. A rich idiot would send their work out to a script coverage service and pay for notes.
The major advantage of working with others at the bottom is that you form a relationship and can work toward similar goals. Each person you communicate with becomes a companion along your journey. This is where you make the “connections” that are so important – not through a service that trades your money for their praises.
After I get done with the providing notes on these screenplays, I intend to formulate an idea (and hopefully film) a video for my next YouTube video. Soon I will be cataloging my experience making Mountain Cult Episode 5. Until then, I get to make videos about whatever I would like.
The last video I made, which I’ll post a link to below, was for such a niche audience that I’m pretty sure I only made it to satisfy my own curiosity. I am interested in making my next video more appealing to a mass market, though I’m not yet sure on how. Comedy seems to generate a lot of clicks, but I am trying to stay away from that. Controversy also seems to generate clicks, but that’s not really something I’m comfortable with.
So many people seem to think that success and failure in life can be attributed to a single moment. In reality it is a series of events, often spanning years if not decades. By continuing to push videos out I will build an audience – it’s no different than wordpress. By continuing to discuss my web series I will build up anticipation for its eventual release. By staying up at 4 am to provide feedback on scripts that don’t appeal to me, I am disciplining myself to treat my passion like it is already a career – regardless of the doubtful undercurrent that sweeps up my subconscious.
I hope this post has confused and angered you for ever having read it. If you “get what I’m saying” then I am relieved because I feel my hypotheses are as sturdy as buttered pancakes slapped on an aluminum wall.
Have a great day and make sure to click that star without wasting time bothering to open the actual post.
Script Drafting: Importance of Revisions
I made a video about screenplay revisions and how each draft better prepares a filmmaker for production. It took me longer than I’d prefer but I’m happy I finished it. I really wanted to trash it but felt it was important to post regardless of my internal shame and regret. Check it out below if you’d like:
“Thank you may I have another”
I received feedback yesterday from Katie (plays Diedre) regarding the script. She helped make me aware of a few issues I wasn’t aware of – hitting the audience over the head with clues, handing out bombshell revelations like they’re candy, and removing lines of an earlier draft that made it special.
I’ve become pretty good at accepting criticism over the years. When I began writing receiving feedback felt like getting stabbed in the back. After I learned a few things I became stubborn and distracted by my own rebuttal. It is only after much experience I’ve become comfortable with allowing the reader to speak freely and uninhibited.
Something to keep in mind as a writer is that no story is perfect. You can purchase a movie that has received exemplary reviews and spend the entire 120+ minutes whining about how ridiculous the action is. It’s never about being perfect, but it’s always about producing an enjoyable experience. Just because we scream “You idiot!” during a slasher does not mean we are unhappy.
I’ve began implementing the changes Katie suggested already. When the plot and characters work together logically the story writes itself. Most of my adjustments involve the delete key, which is both easy and exciting (my goal is still 15 pages total). When I am done with this draft I plan to send it out to new readers who will be experience it for the first time. If I receive good reviews from them I can began purchasing tools and equipment, hire actors, and reserve the location I will be using to film.
The next short video I’m going to post is looking decent. If it weren’t for me feeling ill this morning then I could guarantee that I would post it later today. Currently I’m worried that I will feel much worse as more time passes.
We’ve made it to April and the weather is beautiful. Hoping you enjoy your Friday regardless of whether you think you will.