Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Just a quickie

No, not like that! Well, maybe if you play your cards right, you blog-reader, you!

You'll excuse me while I take a quick break from blogging to get tonnes of stuff done writing-wise, uni-wise and social-wise. Yes you will. Cheers.

Expect the odd post every now and then - will be back full steam ahead in about a month. In the meantime, there's something for everyone below........

Eddie Vedder

Cliff Burton

Edgar Allan Poe



Pinky and the Brain vs Spike and Angel

Friday, 20 August 2010

Rewriting The Matrix, and respecting kids

This is a bit of a wordy post, so feel free to breeze in and out accordingly.

So I spent a few days a couple weeks ago writing the first draft treatment of my children's fantasy film. If all goes to plan, this would be part one of a trilogy.

I've had ideas for this script knocking around for about a year now and I've just let everything settle in my head before I wrote anything down. It worked out well, because I found it very easy to fit everything to Blake Snyder's outline template and write an 11 page outline pretty fast.

As a rule, children's fantasy stories are fairly formulaic. Just look at the striking similarities between Star Wars: A New Hope and the first Harry Potter book - they're essentially the same story.

So you know what I'm talking about, you often get things like:

- A child protagonist with no parents (Luke Skywalker, Harry Potter)
- A very clear mentor character (Obi Wan, Hagrid)
- A villain with strong personal connections to the protagonist (Darth Vader is said to have killed Luke's father, just like Voldemort did)

And so on.
My story does conform to a few of these rules and it pisses on a few others. That's not to say it's complete cliche (though it is in parts since it's only the first treatment draft), but that some of these things are vital for a kids' fantasy film.

You have to have a child protagonist, otherwise, who are the audience going to relate to? You need a kid whose parents take an inactive role or they wouldn't be able to do anything. You need a mentor character to teach a kid (since they can't do everything themselves) and fill that missing parent void. And your hero and villain have to be connected in any story.

So yes, my story has a fair few similarities with Harry Potter. But I noticed, when reading through the treatment, that it's also quite similar to The Matrix. Which drew me to the conclusion that The Matrix is, essentially, a children's fantasy film. Only, without a kid.

- We have a protagonist with no clear family (like every child in fantasy stories)
- He discovers something unusual and leaps into that world with the help of a mentor character (Morpheus)
- There's a very clear training section where our hero learns what they need to do (fighting Morpheus, leaping across buildings, seeking out the Oracle etc)
- Our hero is The Chosen One (Harry Potter, Star Wars, His Dark Materials, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The One)

I could go on. But the point is that my story is pretty similar. Which is a) a good thing, since The Matrix is awesome and is a great example of complex storytelling and b) a terrible thing,'s been done!

But I ain't worried. Everything I write is a little cliche in the first draft, so I'll work it out.

If there's one thing I've tried to do in this story, it's respect a) my child protagonist and b) my child-dominated audience. If reading Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy has taught me anything, it's that kids are smart and can take a lot more than we give them credit for.

I went back and forth with one very tough decision in this story. It's part of the film's trigger/catalyst so vital that I get it right. I'm talking about killing a child's parents on-screen. Not just letting people know that this kid's parents are gonners (Star Wars, Harry Potter), but actually showing them die and allowing my hero to deal with that event.

On one side, I didn't want to scare the audience away, which this can certainly do. You can easily say that killing off a 13-year-old boy's parents in the first 15 minutes of a film is way too dark. But on the other side, I knew that this was the right move for the story. It instantly lets you know what's at stake and gives my hero something to fight for.

So I went back and forth, trying to find other ways of creating the same effect. I even thought about fake-killing them, only to bring them back at the end (don't worry, I punched myself on the nose for that one!). But in the end, there was nothing I could do to say what I wanted. So kill them I did. And I'm firm in my resolve that it's the right decision. Definitely! Which is why I felt the need to blog about it.......

The number one issue (and the thing I've had the most headaches with) is showing how my hero deals with that experience. I can draw on a limited amount of experience of losing loved ones at a young age, but never anything that severe or significant.

It helps that I force my hero into this fantasy world, which in a way, means he doesn't have chance to deal with the loss in a conventional way. He has to focus on surviving first, and only then can he stop and think.

Anyway, I expect many a headache in the future of this script. Looking forward to it!

So, thoughts? Does anyone have an opinion on the whole "killing off a kid's parents" thing? Horror stories about how it can go wrong? Examples where it works perfectly in tone with the story? Let me know what you think.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Great Screen Moments - Beauty and the Beast

What's the matter, Beast? Too kind and gentle to fight back?

Written by: Linda Woolverton

Friday, 13 August 2010

Double Mumbo Jumbo

For those who don't know, Double Mumbo Jumbo is something Blake Snyder talks about in Save the Cat:
audiences will only accept one piece of magic per movie. It's The Law. You cannot see aliens from outer space land in a UFO and then be bitten by a vampire and now be both aliens and undead.
The example Snyder uses is from Signs:
In M. Night Shyamalan's Signs, we are asked to believe that aliens from outer space have invaded Earth. The movie is about Mel Gibson's crisis of faith in God. Huh?! I'd say proof of an alien intelligence outside our solar system sorta trumps all discussion about faith in God, don't you think? But M. asks us to juggle both. And it's a mess. Well, God and aliens don't mix. Why? Because it's two sets of different kinds of magic. It's Double Mumbo Jumbo.
It's hard to disagree with Snyder at the best of times and he makes a pretty solid point here. How can we be expected to believe two different, seemingly contradicting, sets of magic? It's a problem.

However, are there occasions where it's acceptable? Another example Blake uses is Spider-Man. At one end of NYC, Peter Parker is bitten by a radioactive spider, giving him superpowers. Ok. Then at the other end of NYC, an experiment gives Norman Osborn different powers. Ok.......

But I think superhero movies are allowed to bend the rules. Because as we enter into a superhero world, our believability expands and what it is "realistic" goes out the window.

This'll be interesting when the Avengers movie is released, since it will combine a variety of supers, all made that way through different means - Norse Gods, super-soldier serums, growth experiments, high-tech suits of armour et al. This sort of thing has worked in comics for going on 70 years, so should it be a problem at all?

One thing that really pissed me off during Supernatural's latest season is that Sam and Dean were fighting Lucifer. As in - Christian mythology. Then they encounter gods from a bunch of other religions - Islam, Greek, Norse etc. Surely the existence of the Christian deity directly proves that every other religion is tosh? There's your Double Mumbo Jumbo!

Never mind the fact that Balder was in charge, while Odin (Balder's Viking superior) took orders! And Lucifer managed to kill Odin and Zeus?! Please! Anyway, I digress....

So Double Mumbo Jumbo happens. A lot. What say you? Does it really bother you that they use it? I'm a huge fan of Signs, despite that obvious flaw. And I think Spider-Man is one of the best superhero movies.

Let me know what you think - are there times when Double Mumbo Jumbo is acceptable? Or even welcomed? Do you want to see Merlin do battle with Emperor Zod? Or see Thor slug it out against Freddy Kreuger? Share your thoughts......

Monday, 9 August 2010

It all started when....

I've randomly decided to go down one of those "write a blog post on something and tag a few other people to do the same thing" posts.

I know a lot of people have talked about their long journey to screenwriter, but I just felt the need to talk about that initial moment where you decided that this was something you could/should/would do. So here's mine:

Early 2008 during a creative writing seminar at uni. I think the module was called Verse & Narrative and was very much the basics of writing. The main focus was to get you to understand story structure, characters, voice etc. This particular was (if memory serves) on dialogue and our tutor (the Texan lady who later guided me through my first feature script) presented us with a few pages of Trottier's Screenwriter's Bible.

After 90 minutes of reading through it and lots of thinking, I realised that writing screenplays could be majorly fun! So I bought the book, read it in one weekend and got to work on the whole writing thingy. By the summer of that year, I decided I was ready to write a feature script. I wasn't, because what I produced was an 80-page piece of (in a word) shit.

But I can remember exactly where I was when I wrote the words "FADE TO BLACK" and hit save. It printed it out and it was one of the most awesome feelings ever!

And that was the moment I knew that screenwriting was what I wanted to do. There wasn't any other option. Yep, it's all very cliché. But, as my writing tutor told me repeatedly last year, I'm a huge fan of cliché!

So, I hereby tag Miss Michelle Goode, Mr John Hunter and Miss Manda Diaz to tell the world how they knew they wanted to be a writer......

Friday, 6 August 2010

Great Screen Moments - The Lion King

"Scar! Brother, help me!"
"Long live the King."

Written by: Irene Mecchi and Jonathan Roberts and Linda Woolverton

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Great Screen Moments - Serenity

"Love. You can know all the math in the 'verse, you take a boat in the air you don't love, she'll shake you off just as sure as a turn in the worlds. Love keeps her in the air when she oughta fall down, tells you she's hurting 'fore she keens. Makes her a home."

Written by: Joss Whedon