The craft of writing
for games, TV and movies,
by a working writer
The Crafty Screenwriting, TV and Game Writing Blog
... with forays into
games, life and
Sunday, January 26, 2014
Hunter bought me Stoic's Banner Saga
for Christmas. It is a lovely, lovely game. It's set in a Viking Fimbulwinter world where you must fight obsidian robots called "Dredge" as they swarm across the land. But there is a rich mythology behind them, and their invasion is not what you might think at first.
The game makes the most of its Kickstarted indie budget. (They asked for $100K. They got $725K.) The music is majestic, Viking horns and drums. The visuals are stylized. Outside of combat, you're in a 2.5D world. Cut scenes are stills of the characters. Travel is a tiny line of animated characters walking across a highly stylized landscape. The credits say the world is inspired by the artwork of Eyvind Earle (Disney's Sleeping Beauty
), but I prefer it to his work.
The game has consequences. Characters can die because of your choices. Your daughter can die. Your whole world can die.
To keep your clan alive, you sometimes have to be a bastard. Trusting strangers can get your people killed. Not trusting strangers can get your people killed. Hard to know which is which. So you really feel like a leader of men.
Combat is turn-based tactics, à la XCOM. I love turn-based tactics. I like being able to think out my moves.
What makes a great indie game? Totally delivering the goods on a game that is conceptually fresh but of limited scope. Taking advantage of your limitations to do something new. The stripped-down art style -- the 2D, only half-animated travelogue, for example -- creates a mood that 3D might not have done.
The mythology in this game suggests that there could be a sequel. I'm ready.
I really enjoyed this game. (Thank you, Hunter!) $25 on Steam. Worth every penny.
Sunday, January 12, 2014
I reviewed Avi Shavit's book My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel
on Goodreads. If you're interested in a new book trying to make sense of Israel, its peoples and the pickle it's in, by a prominent peacenik journalist, read my review. Nothing to do with screenwriting, so I won't post it here.
Saturday, January 11, 2014
Q. I am writing to inquire as to how it would be possible to track down the complete series of NAKED JOSH in any visual media format, for purchase. The production company tells me that DVD release is, of course, driven by consumer demand. However in the absence of reruns, Netflix, or the like, it is difficult to see how the series might be brought to old and new viewers. It is one of the very best series produced in Canada of the past decade or so. Television for grown-up viewers. When one considers some of the schlock that's readily available via DVD, VOD, etc, it is unfortunate that a quality production remains in limbo. I'm only one viewer and consumer, but I for one would happily pay for the privilege of revisiting "Naked Josh." If you can offer any direction, I would be entirely grateful. I of course fully understand that much is out of your control even as creator.
Yes, marketing has always been one of the places that Canadian showbiz traditionally falls down. Maybe people would like the show if they knew about it, right? They certainly can't like the show if they don't know about it, can they?
You could, for example, release the pilot on YouTube for free, and see what kind of views it go. Or you could release the whole thing on iTunes, which wouldn't cost very much. Or if Apple charges too much, maybe Amazon would be willing to put it up there. Certainly Netflix ought to be willing to do a deal.
Or what if the network put all their archived content up on their own site, with ads? And then if something really got a lot of views, they could then have the proof of concept to license it to Netflix or sell it on DVD.
One almost gets the impression that the Canadian networks would prefer if they didn't have to distribute any Canadian content at all.
I don't know why you can't get NJ on Netflix or DVD. But thank you for pestering Showcase. Maybe you'll put a bug in their ear, who knows?
Friday, January 10, 2014
Before being a famous singer and Neil Gaiman's main squeeze, Amanda Palmer was a professional living statue. She made enough money to support herself while doing gigs for even less money than you make for standing around covered in paint. She also learned how to ask people for money in a way that gave them something worth more than money.
As I'm fond of pointing out, quite a few enormously successful people went through periods of being huge flops. Stephen King wrote ten novels that didn't sell before he wrote CARRIE. Andie MacDowell, I seem to remember, lived in a car with her mom.
More interestingly is the lesson in asking. People have become very bad at asking. (Not you, dear blog readers. You are still very good at asking.) For one thing, the skill of calling someone on the phone, rather than texting them, has gone out the window.
But there is a weird human truth: if you can get people to do something for you, they often like you better. That's right. They become attached to you. (I believe it has something to do with cognitive dissonance.)
Also, if you get someone in showbiz to do something for you, then you can figure out a favor you can do for them, and now you can call them a friend.
Anyway, no one gets anywhere in showbiz without help. So you should start practicing asking for it.
That doesn't mean asking total strangers to work for you for nothing. It's the people you already know, a little. And you should not ask them, ever, to do anything you can do yourself. Only those things that only they can do for you. Like give you advice. Give you a contact. Teach you how to do something. Explain what you are doing wrong.
It's a lot of work being a good mentee. But most successful people are willing to mentor, if you learn how to ask.
Sunday, January 05, 2014
I'm starting to feel about Peter Jackson the way I feel about George Lucas and Woody Allen. He made a couple of really great movies, but now that he answers to no one, he's become self-indulgent and a bit tedious.
THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG has a little bit of a beginning, but ends abruptly -- about where you might put the end of the second act if the three parts of the trilogy were, in fact, one eight hour movie. That seems to be how PJ has conceived of the Hobbit series. He has padded out the book, which was much shorter than LOTR, with the beginnings of an invented love story (no women in the original) and a gratuitous social-justice story, all to make it slosh into movie theatres in three consecutive waves.
I hope someone out there is working on a Phantom Edit.
I had originally heard a rumor that one of the Hobbit movies was going to be a prequel. That could have been challenging. What section of the vast body of Tolkien's Middle Earth history do you pillage? Do you tell how Smaug took over the Lonely Mountain? That's kind of a downer. Or do you tell one of the stories from the Silmarillion, none of which is much fleshed out? There is The Quest of Erebor, Tolkien's posthumously published tale of what went on behind the scenes during Bilbo's adventure; but it's more or less the same story told from another POV.
However I figured if anyone could do it justice, it would be PJ.
The movie isn't so bad. There's a lot of fun stuff. It's just that things go on too long. Chase scenes go on too long. Dialog scenes go on too long. And instead of making one really amazing 150-minute movie, this is the chest and belly of one monstrously long beast.
At a Roman triumph, they sent the famous general down the boulevard on a chariot, and all Rome applauded him. Meanwhile, a slave was put on the chariot to tell him, from time to time, "Remember, you are only human."
Or as Aaron Sorkin put it, "If you're dumb, hire smart people. If you're smart, hire smart people who disagree with you."
(So, what adventure recently blew your socks off?)