Complications Ensue: The Crafty TV and Screenwriting Blog
Complications Ensue:
The Crafty TV and Screenwriting Blog



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Sunday, July 31, 2011

I rented LES HAUTS ET LES BAS DE SOPHIE PAQUIN, the hit hourlong Québec comic drama that was remade as the Canadian comedy SOPHIE.

The problem is, my French is not good enough to watch francophone TV. I can pitch a show to a producer in French, and I can direct a film crew in French. I listen to the news in French in my car. But TV comes at you a bit faster and stronger than someone you're having a conversation with. (Also, my hearing is a bit degraded from too many nights at the Pyramid Club and too many days in the NYC subway system in my wasted youth.) So I was hoping for subtitles.

No subtitles.

How about closed captions? Surely there are closed captions so the hard of hearing can watch? I read French just fine.

It took me half an hour to figure out how to turn on closed captions on my TV, basically because...

... there were no closed captions to turn on.

This is a shame. Québec's TV industry is vibrant. It really speaks to its audience, who don't see themselves reflected in Canadian TV, or French TV, or American TV. It has funny comedies and dramatic dramas. It doesn't pull punches. Why do you think they keep remaking Québec shows?

It's possible that some Canadians might want to watch it, if only out of curiosity. And maybe, with a few subtitles, they could get into the characters and the stories.

Ditto Québecois movies. A lot of those aren't subtitled or closed captioned either.

Of course subtitles cost money, and Québecois TV shows are made on ridiculously tiny budgets -- think $170,000 per half hour instead of $500,000. So producers and distributors are not going to spring for them.

This strikes me as a problem worth throwing government money at. Subsidize subtitles!

Why? I've been deliberately using inflammatory language in this post, in case you didn't notice -- using "Canadian" to refer to Canada outside Québec. Why, you'd almost think I was a sovereigntist. And obviously, having gone to the trouble of immigrating to Canada, I'd like to keep Canada whole.

But I don't see Québec on Canadian TV. And I sure as hell don't see francophones on Canadian TV. It's practically verboten to show anyone with a Québec accent. A British accent, no problem. An Italian accent, no problem. A Turkish accent, no problem. But Québec? Sorry.

My producer and I were told by a funder that if we had anyone speaking French in our romantic comedy, which is set in Montreal, no one would see it outside of Québec. Maybe if Canadians got a little Québec culture now and then, they wouldn't feel it was "pretentious" for a movie to show a little bilingualism.

If francophones never see themselves on Canadian TV, and Canadians can't experience Québec TV unless their French is already perfect, is it any wonder that so many Québeckers feel like they live in a different country already? I get that feeling myself.

Culture binds a society together.

Subtitles are pretty cheap sutures.

UPDATE: The Collaborative for Communication Access via Captioning is an advocacy group for more closed captioning. Check'em out if you're interested.

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Saturday, July 30, 2011


Hmmmm... the price for my novel is $6.99 on Kindle, which is a big discount from the $12.99 paperback.

But would I sell more if it were $4.99? Would I sell five times more if it were $1.99? When there's no actual cost to put the book in someone's hands, you can really set the price anywhere you think demand will meet supply.

There's a lower limit where reducing the price doesn't really help, of course. If I'm interested enough to start reading a book, I'm probably not more likely to buy it for $.99 than I would be for $1.99, and I'm not really much less likely to buu it at $4.99. (But then, I have a pretty good allowance.)

What's the price at which you would just jump in and press "buy" without really worrying about it?

On the other hand, you can read the first chapter free. At the point where you've read the first chapter and you want to keep reading, at what price above which you start thinking hard about whether you need this book, and below which you go, what the hell, gimme the words?

Now be honest, boys and girls...

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Hello friendly LA readers:

I'm going to be in LA to pitch a series. I might possibly organize some drinkin' on the 10th or 11th. If you'd be interested in having a beer, drop me a note and I'll let you know if I put something together.

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Friday, July 29, 2011

Kristine Kazias at the CFC was kind enough to invite me to Paul Feig's master class at the Just For Laughs Comedy Conference yesterday. Paul Feig created FREAKS AND GEEKS and directed BRIDESMAIDS, among other things, so I suppose he knows a thing or two about comedy. Some of the points I found most interesting:

He doesn't try to finish a script before casting. "We get the moves down," then they cast. He feels you can't really write a character until you know who's going to play them. Also, "if someone comes in and is brilliant, but wrong for the part, we change the part." (Note: he almost always says "we.")

He writes audition sides. For many parts, there may not be enough lines to really give them something to audition with. So he writes a scene where the character gets a few meaty speeches. Then he gives an "adjustment" to see what the actor does with direction. And then he has someone run an improv with the actor.

He thinks joke comedy is old hat. He likes "behavioral" comedy. People are used to seeing real people be ridiculous onscreen from reality TV and YouTube. So when you get 8 year olds talking like 40 year olds, it's alienating. Comedy should come from the character and the situation, not the line. This is a constant battle with studio execs, who complain that his scripts don't read funny. And it's a battle with writers, who like to write lines that read funny, especially when they're going to be read by 8 year olds.

He likes to let actors improv on set. That means he cross shoots -- he has cameras on both actors -- otherwise it's too hard to cut together. He'll get the take he wants, and then tell them to "take a take" and do what they want. (Obviously this is easier on a 40 day schedule than a 15 day one.)

He warns that sometimes people audition well in the room, but don't look good on screen, while other times an actor doesn't read well in the room, but "the camera makes sense of their face."

He suggests keeping a comedy script as simple as possible -- "just enough story to keep it going forward." If people get confused, they stop laughing. That's why "I don't understand this" is almost always a valid note, while "I would have done this differently" almost never is.

On BRIDESMAIDS, they did 8 screenings. They'll do a "p" or polished screening -- their best cut. They'll also do an "e" or experimental screening, where they try stuff out. Sometimes there's stuff that doesn't seem like it will work that absolutely "destroys" in front of an audience. The see the movie in terms of "pods." They mix and match various cuts of the pods to see what works best overall.

They always sit in front at screenings, so they can hear the laughter clearly. They also record the screening, so they can sync it up and watch it in the edit room. That way you don't have to remember what worked and what didn't. You can hear it in the editing room.

He says even a comedy has to come out of your own experience. Otherwise you just recycle other movies. "You fail when you chase" the audience. You don't want to try to be commercial as such: "Commercial means people want to see it."

Pretty fun stuff -- all in just an hour. Thanks for organizing this, Kathryn Emslie and her fearless CFC crew!

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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Film maven Joy Loewen says nice things about YOU ARE SO UNDEAD and my various other projects on her blog Exposure Film. Thanks, Joy!

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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A writer friend of mine asked me to show her HEAVY RAIN and some other video games -- she's planning her own detective game. So I played it a little deeper than I did the last time, which wasn't very far. I get Richard Rouse's complaint -- the game makes you its bitch. You don't really control the action at all. You can simple fail the action. I get in a fight with a dude, and I can either hit the right keys or not hit them. If I don't hit them, I lose the fight. But all I'm doing is hitting X when an X flashes on the screen and O when an O flashes. It's not like a proper fight where I can choose to dodge or hit or grapple.

I can see why a lot of hardcore gamers consider this not really a game, even if the critics liked it pretty well.

For me, it's about immersion. In a movie, I'm immersed if the character is someone I care about. (It doesn't help that the dad is such a pathetic, whiny guy -- he's not someone I care about.) But in a game, I'm immersed if I'm making choices for the main character. If I'm just following orders, then I don't get involved emotionally. Emotion (beyond sheer thrill and excitement) is about making moral choices.

When I blow a case in LA NOIRE and convict the wrong guy, I feel a lot worse than I do playing HEAVY RAIN. The setup was taking so long I was yelling at the game, "kidnap the damn kid already, for chrissake! Let's go!"

I'm developing this thought more in a talk I'm giving to the MIGS in November.

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Monday, July 25, 2011

One of the things directors have to watch is the topography of a set. Often you don't have the budget to build an entire set; but you have to film it so that the viewer has a clear sense of what's where.

This article makes the case that Stanley Kubrick did the opposite in THE SHINING: he changed the set, presumably to subtly disorient the viewer.

It's an interesting technique. It leverages the way our brains tend to elide the editing. Even a scene of two people talking is actually multiple conversations shot from different angles and edited together. We generally remember the conversation but not the cuts. We assume that the hotel wouldn't change because we assume what we're seeing is really a hotel and not a series of hotel sets that may or may not join up. So how can we reconcile things when bits of the hotel change? We can't, and that's sort of subliminally alarming.

We've all seen this done explicitly, when the hero comes back to the place he saw the crime and there's no house there, or the house is abandoned and not the new house he was in, etc. This is the first time I've seen a convincing case of someone doing it without drawing attention to it.

How can you apply this technique to writing? You'd probably have to make clear to the reader what you're doing; otherwise the film crew would assume you were just sloppy.

UPDATE: John August says this is "the genius fallacy." It may be. But even Kubrick didn't do it intentionally, you can.

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Sunday, July 24, 2011

Here are some upcoming deadlines for free Canadian money, courtesy of grants consultant Catharine Bird:

Musicians, Managers and Record Labels

July 15, 2011: Marketing, Factor Supported Projects - Factor
July 15, 2011: Video Grant - Factor
July 29, 2011: Video Assistance Program - Country Music Television
July 29, 2011: Tour Support - Factor
July 29, 2011: Business Travel - Factor
August 2, 2011: Music projects - Toronto Arts Council
August 12, 2011: Showcase Support - Factor
August 15, 2011: Concert Music Promotion Program - SOCAN
August 15, 2011: Education Grants - SOCAN
August 15, 2011: Event and Project Grants - SOCAN
August 15, 2011: Publication Grants - SOCAN
August 25, 2011: Marketing & Promotional Support - Starmaker Fund
August 26, 2011: Collective Initiatives - Factor
August 26, 2011: Direct Board Approval - Factor


Artists and Arts Organizations of all Disciplines

July 15, 2011: Community Presenting - Alberta Foundation for the Arts
July 30, 2011: Arts-Based Community Development - B.C. Arts Council
August 1, 2011: Professional Development - B.C. Arts Council
August 1, 2011: Touring initiatives - B.C. Arts Council
August 2, 2011: Organizations and Collective Projects - Toronto Arts Council
August 31, 2011: Core-Funding for Organizations – SOCAN Foundation


Other Artistic Disciplines

August 2, 2011: Theatre Projects - Ontario Arts Council
August 2, 2011: Theatre Projects - Toronto Arts Council
August 2, 2011: Dance Projects - Toronto Arts Council
August 2, 2011: Literary projects - Toronto Arts Council
August 2, 2011: Visual/Media Arts Projects - Toronto Arts Council
August 15, 2011: Rogers Documentary Fund - Rogers Media Production Fund
August 26, 2011: Interactive Digital Media Fund - Ontario Media Development Corporation

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Last night we watched a critically acclaimed Canadian movie. 45 minutes in, we could discern a theme, but no actual story. I've noticed that theme is often the enemy of story. Comparing the ALLY MCBEAL pilot to the BOSTON LEGAL episodes we've been watching, it seemed that AB had a theme and BL does not ... and BL is a far more enjoyable show.

(Granted, David E. Kelley applied what he learned on AB to BL, so there's a more mature showrunner; but maybe one of the things he learned is Don't Worry About Theme.)

When I talk about the Seven Elements of Story (compelling character; opportunity, problem or goal; obstacles and/or antagonists; stakes; jeopardy; audience; medium), theme is not one of them. That's because you can extract a theme from any story, if your teacher insists; but you don't need a theme to make a great story.

In Canadian TV, theme is a cancer eating at shows. We had to jettison perfectly good stories on NAKED JOSH because various people insisted on having a consistent theme. And it comes up over and over in development. Any plot that doesn't relate to the show's theme gets scratched.

If a series is only about one thing, it gets predictable and boring. Theme is fun when it generates story and emotion and meaning, but it can become a millstone around your neck.

Anyway, Blog Reader J wrote on the Crafty Screenwriting Facebook page:
Q. What if all you've got is a theme and building a story about it is such a drag? what can I do? Please do tell me.

I responded:
This is exactly what I'm saying. The theme is getting in the way. To build a story around a theme, think of a character with a main problem related to the theme. Then forget about the theme and write an interesting story. The theme will still be there.

But if you don't like building stories, though, then probably you should focus on some other aspect of storytelling, like editing.
Or if you must have a theme, then be a producer, and keep reading scripts until you find one that has the theme you want, and produce that.

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Friday, July 22, 2011

On the IGDA-Writers listserv, the question came up whether voice actors should get star salaries. Some say no:
"Unless every game uses the immensely expensive and complicated processes Team Bondi and Rockstar Games employed in L.A. Noire, there's only so much a voice actor can do with his or her in-game performance," he told me. "A voice actor can hit all the right emotional notes, but the gestures and facial inflections and other performative tics we expect from a live-action performer are pretty much impossible to capture outside of Pixar- or Disney-style animation."
But as motion capture gets more and more sophisticated, actors will more and more be able to contribute not only their voice, but their physical acting abilities.

Eventually we'll get to the point where they can deliver in a game what they deliver on the big screen. And then, you bet we'll be paying them as stars -- because they'll be delivering sales. But what makes a star isn't their contribution to the artistic product. It's that people will buy the product because they're in it. The difference between a fine character actor and a star is that people will go to see the next Will Smith movie because they love Will Smith. Until Will Smith can put himself into a game so strongly that his Will Smith-itude comes through, we won't be paying star salaries.

The same goes for star writers. The day people will go out and buy the next game that Mary Demarle wrote it, because she wrote it, is the day she adds another zero to her salary. Guess why some game companies won't submit their games for WGA awards?

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If you're not Canadian, so can't take advantage of Bravo!FACT, you might check out CircaLit's latest competition. Best script gets shot by a director. So far as I can tell, entries are free.

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Thursday, July 21, 2011

I've reviewed a couple of the films at Fantasia on my Other Blog.

The Wicker Tree

Ironclad

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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Q. I had a heated discussion recently with someone who said there's really no excuse not to be working in TV these days, with 500 channels on cable actors and writers should be able to beak through somewhere. My response was these 500 channels are owned by 1 or 2 companies getting less revenue than before, and thanks to reality TV hire fewer writers and actors so while there are plenty of opportunities to 'be on TV' for free, actually making a living at it is harder than before, especially in Canada.
I don't know any TV writers who think it's getting easier. If you look at most of those channels, they're reailty shows, game shows and documentary material. There are more channels that air some fiction. But the channels are more distinct. To sell something to HBO, it really has to be an HBO show, and that's different from an AMC show, or, Lord knows, a broadcast show.

If all you want to do is work in TV doing anything at all for any kind of pay, they're kind of right, if obnoxious. But if you want to work in comedy or drama, well, there are a lot of unemployed comedy and drama writers flip-flopping on the strand, gasping for air.

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It occurs to me that generations of Miranda warnings on TV have probably negated the value of the actual warning. I bet most people hear "you have the right to remain silent" and think "I've been arrested" instead of "I should probably shut the hell up then."

I also wonder how many people watching in Europe and Canada assume that they have the same rights -- assume without really thinking about it.

And I wonder what it means to people in, say, Korea or Japan? Does the Miranda warning insidiously promote American values? Or is it just a cool thing that cops get to say?

It would be fun to do a survey in Egypt and see how many people can recite the Miranda rights from memory.

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Monday, July 18, 2011


Borders is going Chapter 11. Stores may start liquidating their stock starting Friday. Yikes.

In showbiz, we talk about how technology disrupts the business, but it's hard to feel on a gut level that the film or TV industry could just blow up.

But ... they probably felt that way about the book business, too.

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At Fantasia I got to see the new Norwegian film TROLL HUNTER, a Blair Witch-style faux-documentary about some college kids who go trying to get an interview with a bear poacher and wind up chasing around with a government troll management specialist.

It's very funny. My Norwegian friends claim there are all sorts of Norwegian in-jokes (e.g. there's a saying, "Trolls have been here" when everything is screwed up), but it's very funny just with the subtitles.

My only objection is, like BLAIR WITCH, it's filmed in RetardoCam™ -- the handheld camera goes all over the place. I had to get up from my seat and move to the back of the theater and watch only a few seconds here or there during the running-from-trolls sequences, otherwise I would have lost my dinner.

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There seem to be more free online documentaries at Documentary Heaven.

This makes me suspect that documentaries may not be the most profitable side of the movie industry.

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Saturday, July 16, 2011

In Which We Confirm That The Murder Arc In Season Two Was a Dumbass Idea:
Jesse Plemons (Landry Clarke): I never imaged Season 2 to go like it did, with the storyline about Landry murdering Tyra's attacker.

Hudgins: We were coming to the end of Season 1, and the show was critically well-received, but the numbers. … So we thought, let's do something big, something shocking and titillating and provocative.

Massett: I kind of felt there was some pressure from the network.

Berg: It was a disaster. I went crazy when I read that. That opening episode, you've got a murder.

Zinman: In retrospect, I think we would all say, "That was a bad call."
Yeah, that knocked us all out of the show for the rest of the season. First of all, it wasn't the show. Second, in Texas, if you beat to death a guy who's trying to rape your girl, the only way you go to jail is if that's where they decide to hold the ceremony where they pin a medal on your chest. I mean, that is a righteous kill. But third of all, it wasn't the damn show.

Glad we've cleared that up.

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Friday, July 15, 2011

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Q. Is there anywhere I can get copies of episodes of Charlie Jade? CJ and the SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES are the shows I'm trying to emulate, structure- and format-wise, with my own show.
So far as I know, CJ is only available in Region 0 (PAL), not Region 1 (NTSC), so you would need a multi-format DVD player to play the disks. You can buy the Australian DVD through Amazon.com, and you can buy it through Amazon.co.uk. No word on when there would be an NTSC release.

I wouldn't necessarily use CJ as an example of a structure or a format. Serial storytelling is a hard sell at present. CJ was not picked up for a second season, and Sarah Connor wasn't picked up for a third. You might be better off with the format of a longer running SF show like FRINGE, which combines episodic stories with a serial arc.

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Thursday, July 14, 2011

Q. I am the owner of a film company based in [non-coastal state]. I have a chance to present ideas to the producers of the X franchise, and maybe have one picked that they will produce with me, funded by the Y agency.

My attorney (who isn't familiar with this industry) has crafted an NDA [non-disclosure agreement] regarding this, but the agent at Y isn't willing to sign it, citing that it's not customary for agents to sign them and that our material is protected by default in California law because agents can't do anything with the ideas anyway. Is this true? Is there a way to protect the treatments we are going to send them? What law is he speaking of?
By California law, agents can't produce. Therefore there is no incentive for agents to steal ideas. What would they do with them?

Agents don't sign NDA's. In fact, no one you want to send your script to will sign an NDA. They will likely ask you to sign a release form that works in the exact opposite direction. The release form protects them if they wind up later being involved in a movie similar to yours.

Mostly, people in showbiz don't steal work. It's so easy to option a screenplay; why let yourself in for a lawsuit? There are occasional high-level cases, often involving stars who think they wrote stuff they didn't write, but they're rare at most levels.

That's not to say that all agents and producers are saints and none of them ever screws* anybody or lies. But even the naughty ones rarely steal. It's just not worth the trouble.

UPDATE: Robin R points out that the whole reason you have an agent is so they'll tell people about your stuff. If you don't want them to tell people about your stuff, why are you hiring an agent?


* As the old joke goes, two producers are walking along Rodeo Drive when they see a hot chick. One says, "Boy, I'd like to screw her!" The other one says, "Out of what?"

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Monday, July 11, 2011

Snag Films is an online library of over two thousand documentaries, all free to watch. I guess the filmmakers are looking for publicity and exposure. Check it out.

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Bill Wyman writing in Slate:
The trouble facing the movie industry right now is the same one the music industry had to confront 10 years ago.

The easiest and most convenient way to see the movies or TV shows you want is to get them illegally.

[snip]

If the studios were smart they'd go to the mat and create a massive one-stop shop for TV and movies, find a price point they can live with and then set programmers loose to make the thing as easy to use and ubiquitous as possible. Instead they've been wasting their time strong-arming the cable companies to help them on a new crusade against illegal downloaders—an unwieldy process that doesn't address the root problem and won't work.
Discuss.

Like Wyman (who is probably not the same guy as the Rolling Stones drummer), I pay a lot to see content in different ways. I've got a satellite TV bill. I've got a DVDs-by-mail bill. And I may sign on to a streaming bill. DVDs by mail has the selection but you can wait months to see a title. Satellite TV gives you a lot of options but you can't watch what you want, only what's on. Streaming is great but the content is minuscule. (Though I'm told there are workarounds to get Netflix US in Canada.) Itunes is good but overpriced. (And why can't I watch the movie again?)

I don't watch pirated content 'cause I wouldn't like to be pirated. But boy, the studios need to get a better video distribution system in place stat, 'cause the audience is going up the learning curve on movie piracy.

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Sunday, July 10, 2011

I lived through a horrific and fascinating event. Various people have encouraged me to translate my reality into a book or movie. My occupation is in IT leadership, and I am by no means suited to write a book or screenplay; however, I would like to get the story out. What should I do?
To get a movie made out of your life, or some events in your life, you will realistically have to write a book. Producers option books, and they option newspaper stories that are in the headlines, but they don't usually option someone's life story unless it has already attracted attention.

Are you sure you're not cut out to write a book? I know a book seems kind of daunting, but if you break it down into chapters, and then pages, they're not that hard to write. Write one page a day, or five pages every weekend, and in a year, you have a book.

But if that seems too daunting, there are various writers out there that specialize in helping people tell their stories. They used to be called ghost writers, but these days they usually get a credit on the book ('as told to') since it turns out no one really expects celebrities and such to write their own books.

Once your book is a bestseller, the movies will come knocking.

Of course there is no guarantee that your book will become a bestseller. But you can hire a publicist and/or marketing people to push it. Your publisher, if you get a good one, might do this, but generally publishers expect authors to do most of the work marketing their book. Try to avoid self-publishing as many venues look down on self-published books. Having a legit novelist working with you will help.

If you want to hire a novelist to co-write a book with you, I can ask around what that would cost. It would depend of course on who, and whether you want them to do all the heavy lifting, or are willing to really collaborate.

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Friday, July 08, 2011

William Goldman:
Learn how not to be dull. It costs no more than a handful of movie tickets and an afternoon of your time. It works like this: “Go see one movie all day long. Go to the 1 o'clock show. Think of it what you will. Go to the 4 o'clock show. You'll see the movie, but you'll start paying attention to the audience. Go to the 8 o'clock show and you'll hate the movie, but you'll listen to the audience and you'll notice they laugh and cry at exactly the same place. And when they go pee and go buy popcorn, that's when the screenwriter is failing. You have to listen to the audience.
(Quoted in this Globe and Mail piece about how screenwriting careers suck more and more, but more and more people are teaching it.)

Goldman's advice sounds like the sort of advice that is obviously right, yet most people probably won't take it, because it is not necessarily fun to do. I put in the same category my own advice that you pitch your movie over and over without notes, to random people: there is really nothing that will improve your plot more, but it is a scary exercise, so everyone is resistant to actually doing it.

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Thursday, July 07, 2011

You can watch YOU ARE SO UNDEAD in Montreal at Fantasia, on Saturday, August 6, at 7 pm.

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I was all excited to play ALAN WAKE, which creeped the heck out of Hunter when he played it. And it is certainly a very, very creepy game.

But after playing through Episode 1 (of 6), I don't feel drawn to play more. It has great tone and scary visuals. The combat sequences are alarming. But in terms of gameplay there don't seem to be a lot of choices. I did almost no investigation, unless you count scrounging for batteries and ammo. Essentially the game shepherds you from one encounter to the next, while the ubiquitous voiceover tells you what Alan Wake is thinking.

Basically, I felt like I was watching a movie, in which I occasionally got to do fight minigames. And videogames don't make great movies. The visuals aren't up to having the characters actually "act".

I'm surprised that the game got such awesome reviews. TIME thought it was the best game of 2010. I have to confess I'm with Eurogamer's Ellie Gibson, who said, "All the same, there's a weekend's worth of fun here for action-adventure fans who aren't too bothered about innovative concepts and varied gameplay, and don't mind a lot of repetition. Alan Wake is an accessible, undemanding game with a neat combat mechanic and decent visuals. It's just not a very original game, it's certainly not an exceptional one, and it's a shame it wasn't ready a few years ago."

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Friend of the Blog William McGrath expands on my theory that Ophelia is pregnant.

I talk about the idea that Hamlet has actually come on stage at the beginning of Act III, scene 1, and therefore hears the King set Ophelia to spy on him: "For we have closely sent for Hamlet hither, that he, as 'twere by accident, may here affront Ophelia." That would explain why Hamlet is so cruel to her after his soliloquy.

But McGrath points out that Hamlet doesn't need to have overheard the King. He's a clever guy; he's been to University at Wittenburg. He's on a "thee" and "thou" basis with Ophelia. That's how he addresses her in love letters. And that's how he first addresses her: "Nymph, in thy orisons be all my sins remembered." ('Be sure to pray for all the sins we've committed together.')

But she addresses him as "you": "How does your Lordship for this many a day?"

Hamlet immediately can tell something's up. The only reason she would speak so formally to him is if someone's watching.

From then on, he addresses her as "you.": "I humbly thank you. Well, well, well."

Any Frenchman would immediately notice if his girlfriend called him "vous" instead of "tu."

McGrath:
It would be the equivalent of my lover calling me Mr McGrath. She goes all proper on him. He answers all proper, with a "you" and a big WTF on his mind which the audience must see. For Hamlet it's an a-ha moment. No doubt he looks around and spots some tell-tale sign of somebody hiding behind the curtain. He had been willing to marry her before, but now he feels betrayed. He asks, "Are you honest?" knowing she's not, and then tells her to go to hell, as who wouldn't?
Wow, yes, that makes sense.

I love Shakespeare. The plays are practically bulletproof, if you just read them carefully enough.

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Wednesday, July 06, 2011

A Friend of the Blog sends in a link to an article in Reconstruction, a language magazine, examining language use in BON COP BAD COP.
Woolard’s notion of bivalency, mentioned above, is an interesting one but proves difficult to apply to the text of Bon Cop, Bad Cop. While some important words in the film, such as “hockey” and “tattoo,” are identical in French and English, they do not provide a point of intrasentential transition from one language to another as they do in her Catalan/Castilian examples. Nevertheless, we can look at instances of interlingual borrowing and codeswitching. Again, David and Martin show contrasting approaches to language use. Martin keeps the two languages separate and uses a formal register in both, for the most part. This is in keeping with his rules-oriented, organized characterization; his use of languages is one of his many skills and he values his linguistic competence in a similar way to his other professional abilities. David, by contrast, uses an informal register and borrows freely from English even in his conversations with other Francophones; despite his many borrowings, however, it is clear when he says to his boss, “Ah come on, c’est mon journée off,” for example, that he is in fact speaking French.
I hope you take notes when reading it, because this will be on the exam.

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I just got off a long chat with the customer service guys at Zip. They've been totally caught off guard by the Canada Post strike, because who could see that coming. Now 9 days after the end of the strike, they still apparently haven't processed the backlog of movies that people watched during the 13 day strike and sent back after it was over.

Their attitude is that not having enough employees to handle the backlog, and not having enough discs to send out to customers, is "beyond their control."

It is, of course, entirely within their control to remedy the situation. They just don't want to.

Anyone can have good customer service in normal times. What makes a company excellent is rising to new challenges. Zip, not so much. Boo.

Well, Netflix will probably put them out of business, so I guess it's a temporary problem.

UPDATE: They also have a weird system where when you've sent them a disc, and they haven't received it after a couple of weeks, you have to report it "stolen," even though the "stolen" disc is either wandering around Canada Post or wandering around their warehouse, and not stolen at all. You can't report a disc "lost," only "stolen."

UPDATE: They suggested that I burn up some of my "ZipReward" points, sort of "frequent renter" points which allow you to order additional disks for free. Clever boys, that way they'll get everyone to burn up their rewards. Especially since I did, and they still haven't sent me my free disc.

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Q. What should a newbie do to break in?
Well really, it depends what you want to do. If you want to do features, normally, you write a spec feature. If TV, it used to be you write a spec script. These days, and especially in Canada, a lot of people are getting traction with spec pilots. But a great spec pilot is so much harder to write, I tend to encourage people to start with spec scripts.

The other way in, these days, is to make your own really eye-catching viral YouTube. If you can come up with the next Annoying Orange, a lot of people are going to know your name. (And what is Annoying Orange but the next Têtes-à-Claques*?) This really works best in comedy, of course. It's much easier to score with a 2 minute comedy than a 2 minute drama. (Though: LonelyGirl15.) It wasn't really practical to do that 10 years ago, what with there being no YouTube, among other things, but now a lot of people are making their own low-rez product and breaking in/out that way.

We spent this morning on a script for a 2 minute YouTube, so there you go.

The real question you gotta ask yourself is: am I ready to amaze people, or should I learn more first? If you think you're not ready for prime time, then write a spec, 'cause that's probably still the best way to learn. There's no shame in taking the time to learn your craft. But if you feel you're ready to amaze, then go do whatever it is you're the most amazing at. You'll always get where you're going faster doing what you're best at, than doing what you're merely good at. (And that's why I quit Computer Science.)

*Here's the English version, though take my word for it that the Québecois version is way funnier.

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Jason Zinoman posts a provocative essay in Slate that says that monsters are scarier when you know as little as possible about them, certainly about their past.
The wisest sentence ever written about horror is the first line in H.P. Lovecraft's 1927 literary history of the genre, Supernatural Horror in Literature: "The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown." If our greatest fear is of the unknown, then too much explanation is usually the enemy of truly frightening horror. What distinguished [the film] HALLOWEEN from its imitators is that its relentless killer is impossible to explain. Michael Myers has no psychology or motivation and barely any back story. The scariest thing about him is the suggestion that his mask isn't hiding anything. Rather, that's all there is.
Discuss.

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Tuesday, July 05, 2011

I just watched I AM LEGEND (2008). It's a smart, dark, dark, movie about the last man to survive a viral apocalypse which has killed almost everyone and turned the rest into sort-of vampires.

In the end -- well, the movie doesn't do much with what it's set up about the characters and the situation and the history and the vampires.

But there was an original ending, more in keeping with the novel, and the title. Test audiences didn't like it, I guess. What do you mean, Will Smith isn't exactly a hero? So they reshot it. Here's the original ending from the two-disc DVD.

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Monday, July 04, 2011

Lisa and I are looking for an animator / editor / After Effects maven who would like to work with us on an Annoying Orange-style short, for fun and glory.

Ideally Montreal/Ottawa/Toronto, but open to people elsewhere if we can figure out how to do it.

Interested? Let me know.

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After trying Netflix in the States, I'm trying out Netflix Canada. The selection is really terrible. Of the fifteen movies I have on my Zip queue, Netflix had only one, CRONOS. And my Zip queue isn't that obscure. I have INCENDIES (Canada's Oscar nominee this year); Antonioni's classic L'AVVENTURA (Cannes Jury Prize 1960); THE DESCENT; BAD INFLUENCE; Neal Jordan's A COMPANY OF WOLVES; DIARY OF A MAD HOUSEWIFE; Bertolucci's THE CONFORMIST; and I AM LEGEND, starring Will Smith.

Netflix.ca seems to be good for people who want to watch something. It's not for people who want to watch something in particular.

Although they do have all those VEGGIE TALES for Jesse.

I also had a technical issue with CRONOS. It looked jerky, as if only ever other frame was showing. (It looked step-framed.) My guess is that, rather than reducing the image quality when the bandwidth is insufficient, they just transmit fewer frames. It's pretty hard to watch. If you google "netflix streaming jerky," you get a lot of hits, but the solutions available are for PC's; if you're streaming to your brand new DVD player, you're hosed.

So far, this is very much not a cable killer. It could be, but it's far from there.

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