Pegasus Rampant - The Second Draft

Posted Friday, August 29, 2008, 10:01 PM

Writing, they say, is not easy. Just when you think you're on top of things, that you have a great story, an excellent grasp of the characters, and the whole thing is coming together perfectly, something comes along that throws a spanner in the works and totally throws you off your game.

I am halfway through the second draft of my movie script, that I'm writing for my own personal 'writing exercise' experience. I like most of what I'm doing with it; I like my characters; I like the story; I like how many of the scenes unfold and play out; but I have, inevitably, struck a problem. It doesn't, as it stands, work as a movie.

It'd probably be fine if I adapted and expanded the plot into a novel (though it probably wouldn't sell very well and I wouldn't be lauded as the next JK Rowling or anything). And it might work as a comic book, played out episodically. Perhaps. And if I picked a few scenes out to make as a short film it'd be quite promising, I hope. But that's not what I'm doing with it - I'm writing it as an exercise in feature film screenplay writing, so it therefore has to work as a feature film, or else it's a failure.

I noticed early on that the motivations for the characters to go on their adventure were weakly realised, so I knew that in the second draft I would have to add some urgency and intensity to the beginning. I figured out the kind of things I wanted to do but it couldn't be anything too intense, as it would push the rest of the story in directions I didn't want it to go. So it had to be small enough to not impact the story too much, but big enough to add much needed energy to the plot.

Then I realised my bad guy was too static; he wasn't shown as much of a threat until near the end. So I had to introduce his machinations earlier in the story. However, I combined the two problems into one, and now I have my antagonist introduce a sub-plot into the storyline that is continually woven throughout.

But my worst fears are potentially going to be realised: the new sub-plot is threatening to impact the existing storyline, the parts that I already am very happy with. If this means I have to rip out and rearrange that part of the tale, then I will be very disappointed.

Writers will tell you that such things are often the way it goes, and it must be done without sentimentality. Improvement in the final story is all that matters. But, nevertheless, it will be heartbreaking if that's what I have to do.

So I am desperately trying to weave in this sub-plot in ways that will only expand and motivate the characters, and not so it pulls the story down a different track.

The irony is, if I hadn't recognised the problem I saw in the early parts of the story, and had made the finished film as it was in the first draft, it would've been just as good as the B-Movie fantasy flicks that are so often made, as they tend to have plot holes and discrepancies throughout. But my goal is to make something better than that, to prove it can be done if you put the effort in.

And the irony in that is that if I actually sold it and it got made, they'd probably strip out all the things I think are great, and jam in more sword fights and giant monsters, turning it into a mess that doesn't resemble my story hardly at all. Writing scripts is too often a hack and slash exercise, that when it gets released and people dismiss it as rubbish, often blame the poor writing, even though the script they actually put together was a marvellous whimsical joyride of a story, and not the explosion and effects-fest that the idiot director turned it into.

Anyway, the point is I am at a difficult stage of the creative process, and it's stressing me out a little.


Posted Tuesday, August 26, 2008, 12:18 AM

Last weekend I wandered down to Southbank where a friend of mine was filming his very first short film. It was something that I wasn't sure would be fun, but it turned out to be a good way to spend a Sunday.

Pete, or MPS as we call him, wrote this sketch idea a long time ago, and finally has gotten things together to get it made. It was about an audition process for a film, where there were a succession of hopefuls lining up for a part, all turned away. I didn't cameo, though I did do something silly which they caught on camera so you never know.

Anyway, I was there in my capacity as effects supervisor, as there are a couple of funny shots involving 3D, including a rocket shooting along, following someone out the door, and a trapdoor opening up and the poor guy falling through it cartoon-style.

Should be a giggle when it's all done. It was being shot in the Malthouse Theatre, which was for manufacturing malt liquor once, but is now remodelled into a theatre. It's most likely a protected "Listed" building, as it has all its original exterior walls, and a considerable amount of its interior fittings, still existing and intact. Though a lot of it just hovers in mid air without a way to get to them: Stairways lead to nowhere; doors don't open; mezzanines have no access. It's weird, but cool.

Visits From The Family

Posted Tuesday, August 19, 2008, 7:47 PM

I'm from New Zealand. I live in Australia. I've been here since 1999. I came here to get away from a life that had collapsed around me rather suddenly.

I used to have a circle of people who were the best friends I could've hoped for. Fun, funny, creative, we did tons of cool stuff together, though a lot of it never amounted to anything. I was pretty happy, even though I had no money, and not much else to call my own.

But then one of those friends moved away to Wellington. Then another did the same. And a third. Another friend unexpectedly died. The last of the group I hung around with found a cool job that took up all his spare time. I was bereft. When I lost my job, due to serially incompetent management, I saved up what little money I still had and leapt across the Tasman Sea to live in Melbourne, and though it was a struggle at first, I soon found my feet and am happy to be in a place I can call home.

I have no regrets on the move. I have found a new group of friends, who, though not as hilariously funny as my old NZ friends, are much more proactively creative, and are very inclusive in their fun social activities. Some of the things I've been involved with are beyond many of my hopes.

But do I miss my family? I'm pretty close to my family, but not in the way some people are. When we grew up together, my brother and sisters and I got on very well with each other. We rarely had disagreements, and didn't really get into serious trouble. Later in life there were a few run-ins that are best left behind us, but they weren't between each other. Our Mother always tried to keep us in contact, and we'd gather for special occasions a few times a year. My brother was the hardest to corral, as his career took off into jetsetting directions while we were all homebound, but when he visited it was a pretty good evening to be had.

When I left NZ, leaving my family was one of the hardest parts of the journey, but I knew it wasn't a permanent arrangement - visits would occur from both directions, and they have done. Every year either one of them has visited me, or I've gone back to visit them. It gets so frequent that it's sort of boring, sometimes, as there's nothing new to talk about. Last time I visited it was for Christmas 2006, before that it was for my younger sister's wedding. But as my Mum travels around the world a lot, she usually stops by Melbourne on the way there or back so I get to see her a lot. The truth is I don't miss my family, because I see them too often for that.

Which brings me to my point. Today my Mum visited Melbourne again, after a little holiday in South Australia, and she brought her friend Linda (who witnessed my Passport renewal form). We hung out together for a brief lunch and a wander, but there wasn't much to chat about. And it's strange to me that I see her less frequently than I did when I was back in NZ, and yet we have less and less to talk about as so few things develop in our lives as we get older. My life right now is not that dissimilar to how it was three or four years ago, whereas through the 90s it was developing in new directions every year.

Mum brought over a DVD of a NZ film that you can't find anywhere else, which was nice of her. It's called Out Of The Blue and was directed by a friend of mine, Robert Sarkies, who I have done work for on some of his earlier films (some completed, some aborted). It's about the Aramoana Massacre, which happened not far from where I was living at that time, and is one of the worst crimes that has ever happened in New Zealand's history. I hope it's as good as the reviewers claim.

The Astonishing State of Science Fiction TV

Posted Thursday, August 14, 2008, 8:58 PM

Science Fiction and Fantasy on TV has had a chequered history. The 60s was surreal with weird shows like The Avengers, Prisoner, and Thunderbirds. The 70s and 80s had a whole bunch of cookie-cutter adventure shows like Incredible Hulk, Invisible Man, Six Million Dollar Man, Knight Rider. The 90s had an onslaught of shows set in space with aliens, like Star Trek (et al), Babylon 5, Space: Above and Beyond, Earth II, Seaquest DSV, and the silly stuff like Hercules and Xena. Then X-Files and Buffy came along and bucked the trend somewhat.

But it was the onset of Battlestar Galactica and Doctor Who's reimaginings, and the unique Lost, that have set the way for a new breed of Fantasy TV, and it has made me all excited about television again.

However, there is a major problem. Almost none of these shows are shown here! Aargh! If it wasn't for the internet and bittorrent, I would see almost none of this top class entertainment. And most of the time I end up buying the DVDs, so it's to their benefit that they remain available to me this way. I urge you all to check out these shows that I've been watching recently, and marvel at their brilliance:

Should I Get An iPhone?

Posted Wednesday, August 13, 2008, 8:50 PM

I don't have a mobile phone. I have never had a mobile phone. Their ubiquitousness bothers me; their inescapability irritates me; the broad assumption that we all have one frustrates me; the expectation I ought to have one disappoints me.

But I always knew that I would probably get one eventually, when the true need for one arose. Perhaps if I had a family of my own (I can safely predict that's not gonna happen), or was employed in a job that absolutely required one (I am unlikely to be in such a career, but you never know).

And now the iPhone has arrived in Australia, and I am wavering.

I am not a particular fan of Apple's "style over substance" approach to their products. They seem to spend rather too much money on something that looks cool, sometimes at the expense of usability, and usually use it as the centrepiece of their promotion: "Buy this, it's only slightly better than anything else out there, but it looks really pretty!" And a lot of people seem to like the prettiness more than the substance; The new MacBook Air only has its slimline design going for it, at the serious expense of practicality, and yet it's selling well.

I'm not anti-Mac, or pro-PC, I am loyal to PCs only because it's all I've ever known and see no need to change. Re-learning an OS, under the illusory expectation it's better, when it may be much of a muchness for my kind of usage, isn't something I'd want to spend time on.

But the iPhone... just seems to be so cool! And I don't mean in that "style over substance" way I'm decrying, because I wouldn't just give up my principles on a whim. The substance really is what makes it cool - it is usable, functional, full-featured, and, I have to be honest, represents the future of GUI design.

I think that if I do decide to get a mobile phone, it will have to be an iPhone. I won't accept anything less.

Pegasus Rampant - The First Draft

Posted Monday, August 11, 2008, 9:15 PM

I have just completed writing my first ever feature length movie script.

I started it as an experiment to see if I could do it. Having just come off from writing a short film script, and finding it to be a fun and exciting challenge to complete to my own satisfaction, the next step of writing something longer was one I felt enthused by.

A first draft is not going to be very good, but that's deliberate. The trick to it is to just write everything out, the whole story, without refining it too much, just to have it down on paper. As a wise person once said, it's easier to edit existing text, than it is to fill a blank page. So I just wrote it all down with stream-of-consciousness storytelling, because I knew that I would be going back over it again, and again, and perhaps even again, before it's ready to be shown around anywhere.

And it's true, not even halfway through the writing of it, I could see so many things wrong that I would need to adjust and replace and fix up later. Whole plot strands that I thought were important petered out over the course of the story, so I'll have to tidy up those loose ends. Characters I introduced had no follow up, so they'll have to go. Other characters I didn't expect to introduce will need to be referenced earlier in the story to uphold good continuity. Scenes need to be tightened to add excitement and urgency, or lengthened for pacing. And of course, the dialogue will have to be punched up so it sizzles.

But that's the fun of it. As soon as it gets boring I'll stop, but right at this moment I'm rearing to go. I can't wait to get stuck in and make the story better.

I have no illusions that this script would ever get picked up and made. I suppose it might, if I managed to find a way to sell it, but that isn't the point of why I am doing this. It's a personal challenge, a test to see if I am capable of writing a good tale, of completing it to its end, to see if it excites me enough to want to do it a second or third time, and more importantly to see if I can write something that is entirely my own that is as good as (or better than) some of the movies I see actually get made. Can I do it as well as the professionals?

More than likely, if I did manage to sell it, it would be rewritten again by somebody else, then changed again by the Director, and in the Editing, to the point where it wouldn't be the script I wrote after all. That's how the business works, and I have no illusions that my written word is sacrosanct. Even the greatest movies of all time, directed by the greatest movie makers of all time, buggered about with the script to get it into the shape they thought it needed to be. I accept that, though as long as the heart of it was there, if the plot was mostly intact, and if some of the better dialogue was kept, I'd be gloriously happy to see it up on the big screen.

Perhaps one day that will happen.

Recovery on Schedule

Posted Sunday, August 10, 2008, 6:51 PM

The pain throughout the recovery period from my Wisdom Teeth surgery was sometimes overwhelmingly horrible and uncomfortable, to the point where it was hard to sleep, difficult to eat, and really I couldn't concentrate on much at all for any length of time. My expectation of spending the time reading books or watching DVDs proved optimistic because my headspace was too disturbed by the discomfort. Though, having said that, I have managed to write almost an entire movie script through those days.

And just when I thought I might end up suffering twinges of pain for weeks and weeks, I woke up to a completely pain-free day, early last week, and it's been glorious ever since.

On Friday I returned from my Post-Op Checkup almost $2000 lighter, but also comforted by the Dental Surgeon's assurances that I have recovered remarkably healthily. He said he was surprised how good it looked for only two weeks since the operation. It was a difficult surgery because the teeth were very deep in my jaw, not having erupted (they call those impacted teeth). I think ordinarily they wouldn't've been removed at all in the normal course of events, but as one had a cyst, and another was potentially close to eruption, it was the right thing to do.

All I can say is I'm glad it's over and don't want to have to go through anything like that again any time soon.

Team Sports should not be in the Olympics

Posted Thursday, August 7, 2008, 11:21 PM

So the stupid waste of time that is the Olympics has begun, and already I don't care and wish they'd stop. Apart from them being mostly meaningless, and almost completely no different to any other sports event that happen throughout every year, they are just a big excuse for melodramatic wins and losses.

But team sports should be eliminated from the Olympics. They are so arbitrary in their results, because they're based on a round robin. Anything could happen, the teams are made up of randomly picked competitors, often not from the best athletes (because they're professional and aren't eligible), and it just comes down to who wins a round robin tournament. The point of the Olympics is which individual athlete is the best in the world at their particular sport, and team sports in round robins do not, and can not, demonstrate that. So why have them?

It's bollocks. And it should stop.

And while I'm at it, get rid of rhythmic gymnastics, synchronised swimming, and tennis, as well.

"Horizon" is on the horizon

Posted Monday, August 4, 2008, 2:45 PM

Yesterday I appeared to make a commitment to something, unexpectedly.

I was invited to hang out with a few friends, and we talked of many things, most of which had some kind of movie related theme to them. Dags spoke of his next, Flair. Rob talked of him beginning the editing of Checkpoint. Ads had thoughts about the kinds of movies he would like to see made. And I talked about Horizon as though it was actually going to happen.

Until that point, it was a possibility. But after some of the tests I've done being quite successful, and the trust I have that Adam is capable of building the cockpit set to a cool and realistic degree, I can see how this is all within my grasp.

So I now have to figure out a schedule, a budget, a cast, get some costumes and props, find locations, and commit a few people as a crew. The post production is no problem, it's my least worrisome part of the shoot. But everything else needs to be organised, and I am notoriously poor at organising things.

I don't drive. This limits my ability to organise people. I don't have a mobile phone, which makes me difficult to contact - I prefer using email as my main source of communication, which many of the core team are only haphazard at responding to. Therefore I may have to get a phone. It's probably past due, but so far I've gotten away with it. A car is certainly not going to happen, though maybe I should buy a pushbike or something, to at least give me some additional mobility.

A commitment like this, having to rely on other people, and they have to rely on me, is a scary prospect. It's a challenge I'm not confident I can step up to the plate for, even though at least 50% of what is required, I've demonstrated in the past that I'm capable of. The money doesn't bother me too much, though I'm not going to spend up big. But the time, and the effort, should have a pay off. If I want these people to help me, then I should follow through. I should do it for them, as well as for me.

Horizon isn't a particularly amazing story, as far as it goes. It's short and has a questionable ending, there's no dialogue, and it doesn't have any funny bits, in fact it starts out quite hopeful and then is rapidly destroyed by tragedy. But that's not important - what matters is I have to make my first short film.

I have some organising to do.