I’m beyond ecstatic to announce “Doctor with the Red Houseware” is live and available for viewing on Tubi. Tubi is a free streaming platform available on all devices. If you’d like to support my work, please click the link above and give it a “thumbs up” when prompted.
Each genre of fiction incorporates specific nuances. Comedy must be ripe with jokes, thrillers constantly elevate the stakes, drama evolves conflicts, and horror unleashes fright. The best writers do not compress their stories to fit within the limitations of a single genre, but often utilize elements that will enhance their own story from parallel genres. When a song is composed it is written with a specific key in mind – but elements of the song will inevitably transition to other keys – relative minors, fifths, parallel minors, etc.
I have yet to write a horror story but look forward to utilize the elements of dread, terror, and shock. I am also certain mystery will be the engine that keeps the viewer captivated. I recently rewatched Pirates of the Caribbean (action) and was shocked to find just how frequently mystery was used to carry the story through each act. Major reveals catapult the first and second act into the third – the pirates on the Black Pearl are all dead, Will Turner is the son of a pirate, the gold medallion is valuable because an Aztec curse was placed upon it, and Jack’s seemingly garbage compass actually works precisely as its supposed to.
These captivating reveals are never dumped as information but occur as payoffs. In the beginning of the film we see Will wearing the medallion but do not know its significance. We know there is a supernatural aura regarding the pirates from the skepticism villagers display. Still, we have no reason to assume they are immortal. Jack Sparrow’s compass appears to move erratically – but he studies it as if its telling him something.
I feel that unfolding a story in this way requires the writer to know the secrets before they are revealed. That may seem obvious, but I remember another show where I am convinced the writers had no idea what the hell they were talking about. That show was “Lost” – where an airplane crash lands onto an island and everyone on board struggles to survive as they encounter supernatural phenomenon. The mystery that jaded me the most was the numbers – 8,16,32,64… something like that. I swear they spent an entire season talking about those goddamn numbers, including a flashback where a character won the lottery with the exact digits. Anyways, I finished the whole series and never found out why those numbers were so important. That left me unfulfilled and quite honestly resentful.
It’s easy to write a mystery when you don’t know the answers to the questions you are presenting. Imagine a rabbit starts eating a treat out of a box then suddenly disappears. Ya, obviously there is motivation for you to keep you reading, but the explanation is the pay off. If I tell you that the treat was a magic invisibility pill I’d wager you’d put the book down. But if that rabbit ate a genetically altered carrot that included a chemical composition discovered at MIT by 3 first year engineer majors, and that same composition is theorized to accelerate redox reactions by electrons, you might believe me. It’s incoherrent bullshit, but at least there is a method to the madness. You’d rightfully anticipate a legitimate explanation to how the rabbit disappeared and why that matters. I feel “The Prestige” is a great example of this specific comparison at work. The payoff was worthwhile, despite remaining unrealistic in accordance with real world science.
So as I begin my course with this story I must choose the information the viewer will receive early and the information that will be delayed. But more importantly than that, I must figure out the elements of fear that will make this story a horror. If I fail to find ideas that are terrifying and disturbing than I am better off writing a science fiction thriller. And those scares must occur repeatedly throughout each scene. Dread, however, is an awesome area, as it basically suspense with the anticipation of terror.
This is the end of my post. One day I will discover the correct way to end them.
I’ve been largely absent from this blog this year. That’s in large part due to my interest in music. I’ve really enjoyed learning more about music theory, production and sound design. After completing “Doctor with the Red Houseware,” I needed some time before I felt ready to tackle another project.
I have a terrible habit of overthinking details. This results in the phenomenon of “Analysis leads to paralysis”. I’ve flirted with several premises I would like to develop but have yet to take the plunge and commit to any of them. There are a few main reasons for this – but the greatest pitfall has been the almighty dollar.
I feel filmmaking is somewhat unique to other branches of entertainment. If you are a great musician, comedian, actor, or even writer, your number one asset is yourself, your number 2 asset is exposure. The creation of a film has much less to do with talent, ability, and skills, and much more to do with budget. You can create an outstanding film with less, sure, and you can use your problem-solving skills to tackle obstacles that pose a risk to production. But at the end of the day, you’re going to need money if you intend to create a film that can rub shoulders with major box office productions. You will want the best camera, best sound, best effects, and most famous actors you can afford.
Acquiring that money is the obvious challenge, but of course there are unlimited strategies to accomplish that. From watching interviews with other filmmakers online, I’ve arrived at a variety of potentially successful avenues. The common thread for soliciting investments, however, tends to involve having a product worth selling – so obviously you must begin with a completed script.
As any writer knows, each project requires an overwhelming amount of time, effort, and anguish to complete. The major salt on the wound for writers is finding a single reader is even more of a challenge.
Part of the joy I’ve experienced in filmmaking has been the knowledge that I would produce and shoot the scripts that I wrote. As I begin work on a new feature length script I can’t help but confront the obvious – I am going to need external financing to complete a 110-130 page story.
I have developed several daily habits that require 30 minutes or less. I find that the more I limit my time the better I manage it. I’m actively considering ways in which I could post a new video to youtube each day. I feel that developing a fanbase could help me reach my goal in more ways than one. I also fear, however, that I will be tempted to devote more time to each video.
Another habit I am considering implementing has to do with knocking on doors. By routinely networking with other producers, distributors, and production companies, I can greatly improve my odds of having an ear open for me when my story is ready to pitch. I can begin to immerse myself in the business of filmmaking rather than hiding in the fantasy of it all.
I would like to return to the idea of crowdfunding the film. Of course, before I can launch a kickstarter campaign I will need to have the script completed and a sizzle reel shot. The sizzle reel is something I can take care of without any hefty investments. This would include a single location with legitimate actors that provides the overall tone and promise of the story I would like to tell.
Just wanted to share some thoughts today. I hope to do so again tomorrow.
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.
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.
Today I am going through episode 5 page by page. My goal is to establish a purpose of each individual line and delete anything and everything that does not add to the story.
My emphasis today will be on building empathy with my primary character. Common writing advice suggests to have your main character pet a dog or perform a kind gesture early on. If your audience consists of brain dead zombies who need to be told how they should feel then this is the route for you. My goal, however, is to write a story that appeals to individuals who search beneath the surface for an unsaid truth. For that reason I will use a moment of skepticism, frustration, or anti-social behavior for an emotional connection.
I return to work tomorrow for 5 days straight, so I’m going to give as much time as possible today to the script. I want to take it from 21 pages down to 15. I’m going to print it out and write in the changes I’d like to make than retype it later. This is my favorite way to edit because it makes organization much easier.
I did publish a second YouTube video yesterday that was a non short film. It took a few days of work but it has already received more views than the previous upload. My goal is to have a new video out by Sunday, and every Sunday after that. Today I get to write.
Alright, sticking with my strategy of regularly posting videos, I’ve posted another one today. It’s got nothing to do with my web series and it’s more bizarre than funny. But I finished it so now I am required by law to publish it online and here. Check it out and try not to dislike it but if you do I understand. I may even leave a dislike myself.
I had an eventful day yesterday. I worked out some major issues with Episode 5 as well as filmed material for a new YouTube video. I can’t understate how enjoyable it is to be working with a camera again and having something to edit. I’ve found a balance between doing video editing and editing the screenplay. It’s not hard to guess which one I like more.
I’ve taken my 27 page short and condensed it down to 21. I’ve had to significantly limit the amount of lines a few of the minor characters have. I’ve come to believe giving them too much on-screen time adds a whole lot more to their personalities than it does to the question that drives the story. I also think Quentin Tarantino writes this way (and does just fine).
It is so easy to see the ingredients that make up a good plot, yet a challenge to implement them. You must constantly barrage your protagonist with obstacles then look within yourself to figure out how they might overcome them. The lessons they learn become the theme. The training the protagonist does in act 2 should pay off in act 3.
Two new tools I am determined to use in this episode are:
Hermeneutics deals with the interpretation of information. The term came to exist in order to explain how different religious sects came to understand the same biblical text. I featured a post on this subject a while ago that highlighted a video discussion about how Christopher Nolan uses it in his features. When done right, Hermeneutics has a profound effect on viewers. The information does not change, but the protagonist’s understanding of it does. I believe the typical description of a solid mid-point for a story fits this definition. Here’s an example of Hermeneutics in action:
You receive $20 from your grandma as a Birthday gift.
You learn your Grandma is broke and doesn’t have enough money to cover her own electricity bill.
The action, amount, and gesture has not changed. New information, however, has changed your response to the money from excitement to grief.
The second tool on my list is moral uncertainty. I’ve been trying to place my protagonist in situations where he must choose between 2 not so great options. A couple examples of this would be:
Confessing to a widow you had could have saved her spouses life.
Confronting an enemy whose daughter is in a nearby room.
I feel that using these emotional triggers will help to draw the viewer in. I am eager to move away from the basic methods of conflict, time constraints, and variable successes from effort. I am also trying to push the theme and character arc more into my subconscious. The protagonist’s reaction to the story as it occurs should change him over time. As long as I can end with a different set of values then I begin with, I anticipate a character arc will be there.
That’s all I’ve got for now. I’m hoping to complete my next YouTube upload today or tomorrow. I’ll keep you posted.
Story is one of the most complex yet simple art forms in existence. It isn’t until you attempt to tell one that you realize how difficult it is to keep an audience interested.
I often think about the natural growth of a story. The more you focus on a single character and dramatic incident the more clear and concise your story will be. At our core we turn to story to learn about the world around us. Despite the human mind having the ability to understand great complexities and details, it will always require extra effort to do so – effort your audience isn’t looking to produce when they are seeking to be entertained. The more your story is packaged in a centralized question the more digestible your story will be.
My favorite thing about screenwriting has been the impact and significance required for each line. There is no place for waste, laziness, or meaningless repetition. Because screenwriting requires more dialogue than description, I have a bad habit of “hearing the conversation” and writing according to how I imagine it might play out. This isn’t a fundamental error, as it improves the natural flow, but it becomes easy for a character to repeat themselves and shine a spotlight on their personality rather than the problem that is being overcome. Furthermore, the natural progression of a conversation does not incorporate any character change or overwhelming obstacles. The most memorable and impactful moments of any story are the actions your character performs that betray what their former self would do. How common is it for a parent to be petrified of their child drinking, smoking, or using drugs? Yet the origin of that fear often comes from knowledge of our their own experience and how it affected their lives. That is a character change.
I do feel our most fascinating ideas and concepts should always reserve page space in what we write. One of the most entertaining shows of the last 20 years is South Park. It is easy to watch this show, enjoy it, and feel it is nothing more than an escape from the pressures of the world. But in reality South Park incorporates a 3 act structure, a climax, and a theme. One item that differentiates South Park from other comedies that fail to hold our attention is the constant comedic gems. Family guy, on the other hand, is all comedic gems with no importance given to the story. I am convinced each episode of South Park is guided by an absurdist idea that brings the writers to crack up laughing. They know their idea is hilarious and find a way to make it a staple that falls within the necessity of the story requirements.
I feel there are far too many suspense, mystery, and action stories that stray so close to plot points that they lose sight of what keeps viewers interested in the first place. Your audience will never be a soulless academic who marks off a story-checklist with each page that they turn. You’ve got to include the good stuff that makes your audience uncertain about how they would handle a similar situation. Such is the conflict that produces an intriguing premise.
On top of writing this morning, I am hoping to record the content for another YouTube video. I return to work tonight and will be preoccupied with the daily grind for the following week and a half. I am eager to make the major changes to my script today in order to begin casting the roles and finding my locations. Enjoy your own daily pursuit and make the most of the hours you have been given.
Today I have the apartment to myself and no work obligations.
I completed my first non short film style YouTube video yesterday and posted it. It doesn’t have many views, though I wasn’t really expecting it to. I have been hosting online meetup zoom meetings for the past 2 months every Sunday. It has been an awesome experience to see the same faces show up regularly. We have also had new members stop by each week. The plan was simple – host an informal, low pressure event routinely and allow the attendance to grow naturally. So far, it has worked.
I’m going to apply the same methodology to my short YouTube videos. I will regularly update my progress on Episode 5 and discuss whatever part of the process I am currently developing. I intend to build a gradual increase in viewership from posting consistently. If I were still writing novels rather than screenplays I would do the same thing. It’s an easy and low cost way to grow your following.
This does, however, increase my overall workload. My friend suggested a while back that I create a schedule for production and stick to it. I haven’t been able to generate that timetable because I’m still stuck in the writing process. I do feel that a good script cannot be rushed – creativity is not something we control, it is something we express.
So this fine March day I have the place to myself and can sit down and work through some of the major bugs in my script. I may completely rewrite the opening scene with a centralized focus on the plot’s greater mystery. Rewriting my opening scene would be ironic considering the current scene was the object of discussion in my last YouTube upload. I would also like to learn more about crowdfunding platforms such as Patreon, Twitch, Indie gogo, and paypal (general). It would be wise for me to find a way to make items from the show available for sale.
Anyway, I hope you have a fine day doing what you love, or at least figure out a way to pretend to love doing that which you are forced to do.