The craft of writing
for games, TV and movies,
by a working writer
The Crafty Game, TV, and Screenwriting Blog
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Wednesday, June 26, 2013
Noah Bradley posts why you should not go to art school
. Short version: it costs almost $250K to go to RISD. He recommends you spend $10K and do it yourself.
This mirrors what I've been saying about film school.
I have no idea what film school costs these days; when I went to UCLA, it cost a fraction of what a private MFA would cost; but you had to finance your own student films, which could get pricey, back in the days of shooting on film.
I continue to believe that the best time to go to film school is after you've worked in the industry for a while, know exactly what you want to make, and have the friends to help you make it. If you're just coming in, get a job at an agency and figure out the biz first. Meanwhile, make films on your own. SAG and ACTRA will cut you a lot of slack if you have no budget.
I can't speak to the value of game design school. Friends of mine in games seem to think a liberal arts education is more useful:
On the other hand, depending on what you're trying to do in games, I would imagine it's going to be easier to learn programming or animation with the help of a professor.
It depends also on what kind of person you are. If you're a great self-motivator, you may not need the structure (and you certainly don't need the debt). If you need a little praise, understanding and/or kicks in the pants, then school will give you that, and the walls of your bedroom will not.
Last night we did the sound mix for my new short film Winter Garden. I'm really stoked about Darren Fung's ssssmokin' crime jazz score. That man can write anything.
Now all we're waiting for is the titles and online session, and we're off to the races.
Tuesday, June 25, 2013
A friend of the blog wrote in to tell me that Online Courses
has a handy compendium of online writing courses, including one on screenwriting from UBC
There have to be more, though, don't there?
Have any of you taken an online writing course, and was it helpful? On one hand, you don't meet your fellow students, so you don't form a "posse" of people you "come up" with. On the other hand, if you're not in a town full of writers, an online writing course may be the most straightforward way to get feedback from a teacher.
Sunday, June 23, 2013
We're re-watching all the ORPHAN BLACK season 1 episodes. They are even cleverer and funnier the second time around. It take a clone show to take bedroom farce to the final frontier.
Orphan Black was developed for a time at the Canadian Film Centre, when Graeme Manson was showrunner-in-residence there in 2009. That means that Graeme brought in the show he'd been developing for half a dozen years already (with his writing partner John Fawcett), and the kids in the Prime Time program developed the show as if they were a for-hire writing room.
A roomful of CFC kids is not a roomful of veterans, obviously, but they are full of talent and ideas, and there's room to take risks -- you get to develop a whole season without worrying that if draft three of episode 2 does not satisfy the exec, the network will pull the plug on development. The series shows the benefits of the system. Many SF shows miss opportunities right and left until they hit their stride; Orphan Black takes those opportunities, whether for drama or pathos or humor.
And then, of course, there's Tatiana Maslany, who is such a chameleon in the show that you have to keep reminding you that the three totally different characters in the frame are all the same actress. I hope she gets her Emmy.
Wednesday, June 19, 2013
It's easy to get caught up in the rush of production. It's important to step back from time to time and remind yourself why exactly you are doing this particular shot, or effect, or moment. It was not until I got out of the sound studio and into the Mexican burrito joint that I realized the direction I should have given to get exactly the result I wanted. But I was trying to be a good boy and not waste anybody's time.
I sometimes think that the reasons people put up with directors throwing fits over things not being perfectly the way they want, is because the alternative can be worse: a director who makes his day but doesn't get the amazing moment because "this is as good as I'm gonna get."
There is no excuse for being a jerk for the sake of your ego. But you also get no prize for being a nice guy at the expense of the picture.
So take a deep breathe, and ask yourself if you've really got exactly what you were looking for, and remind yourself why you wanted this particular moment, or shot, or effect, and make sure you're getting exactly what you wanted. And if you're not, pushing a little bit might be called for.
Monday, June 10, 2013
The Times has a piece about fans who re-edit their favorite series
. In the cases quoted, it seems to be mostly to put out-of-order series like LOST into chronological order. But the possibilities are intriguing. It reminds me of Mike J. Nichols's The Phantom Edit
, a famous remix of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. That trimmed a lot of Jar Jar Binks and tried to make more sense of the story in general, prompting Salon to say "Materialized from out of nowhere was a good film that had been hidden inside the disappointing original one.
Nobody predicted "remix culture," not even John Brunner. No one knew that out in Santa Clarita there was an editor with an arguably better story sense than George Lucas. When Robert Rodriguez made El Mariachi for $9,000 in 1992, it was considered incredible that someone could make a good movie for nothing out in the middle of Texas. Now YouTube and free editing software have unleashed the creative potential of a hundred or a thousand times as many people as actually work in the biz. Used to be, if you wanted to tell stories, you would pretty much write a novel or a script and then show it to your bartender. Now you can make a film and get total strangers to see it.
I keep harping on this because I think we're just at the beginning. Right now there's elementary editing software that will stabilize your shots and give you an optical zoom and make the whole thing look like an Instagram. I think that's like the first word processors that allowed you to cut and paste. Later the software is going to help you build Gangnam Style on your Mac.
This could, in a little while, make it less necessary to go live in LA. Why suffer in LA when you can suffer at home? Come to LA when you've got 250,000 views on YouTube. Then they have
to talk to you. Right?
My friend Jill Golick just got her web series Ruby Skye, P.I., picked up by the CBC. She's been making this series on the web for years,
winning all sorts of writing awards and web awards. It is very easy for a network to pick up a web series. They don't have to guess what the writing will be like, or the tone, or the cast. They can just watch it and decide, "yes, please."
Because so many people will be out there making their own stuff without the benefit of going to film school, some of them will come up with storytelling styles that nobody in Hollywood is coming up with. I'm excited.
Friday, June 07, 2013
How many people are searching for your trailer on Google?
A whitepaper released today by the search giant’s Think Insights group called “Quantifying Movie Magic with Google Search” reveals that trailer-related searches done four weeks before a film’s premier can be used to determine opening weekend revenue. According to the paper, coupling that “key leading indicator” with the current movie season and a film’s “franchise status” — a metric that evaluates whether a movie is part of a top-tier franchise like James Bond films, or a “midnight” blockbuster like a Twilight film — can predict the box office take with 94 percent accuracy.
Oh, Google, is there anything you don't
Tuesday, June 04, 2013
The WGA has posted its list of the best written tv shows evar
, starting with SOPRANOS and SEINFELD and running the gamut from I LOVE LUCY to 30 ROCK.
If you haven't seen the older ones, you might want to check'em out, in case they come up in a conversation.