Stand Alone

Rogue One, A Star Wars Story poster.png
By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=50076808

Despite feeling burned and scammed by the prequel trilogy, then underwhelmed by the first of the sequel trilogy, I’m finding myself watching and rewatching the Rogue One teaser and trailer.

Why am I returning to this franchise after so much disappointment?

One, it’s directed by Gareth Edwards whose Monsters and Godzilla balanced big-creature spectacle with believable characters and emotions.

Two, it has a scrappy band of rebels that includes Forest Whitaker, Donnie Yen, and Jiang Wen.

And three, we know how it ends. The teaser and trailer have a Dirty Dozen or Wild Geese vibe so it’s not so much the destination but the journey.

Hell yeah, I’m in.

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Endings

Two six-ep mini-series were consumed recently:

Both have excellent casts, are slickly directed and written, jet set around the Continent, and are absorbing thrillers with compelling and flawed characters.

So why have I forgotten most of one while still mulling over the contents of the other?

It was the endings that sorted these two out — I was fully invested in each of them through the first five eps. In one show, the final ep was a stomach churner of suspense that followed the main players to inescapable and sometimes bitter resolutions. In the other, what began as a tense finale went limp partway through as it copped out with an ending where good triumphs over evil.

Who am I to say that it copped out? Well… what was I supposed to expect after five eps of betrayals and reversals and sacrifices? It certainly wasn’t what I got, I can tell you.

And what the heck do I know about inescapable and sometimes bitter resolutions? We’re all doing life, aren’t we? And, like it or lump it, betrayals, reversals and sacrifices come at a price.

So: beware endings.

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Box Watch: Offspring

Offspring Logo.jpg
By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=43487416

What possessed me to try this show with The Goddess six years ago? Was it recommended to her and I was humouring her? Was it a weak/apologetic/fawning moment on my part? Was there channel-surfing and we got hooked like I did once upon a Wire?

At first I swore to merely be in the same room with her as she watched it — I’d be doing something (anything) else like knitting, taijutsu or practicing quick-draws — yet as every episode unfolded, I found myself sitting with my beloved as we were pulled into the world of a thirtysomething obstetrician and her family and friends.

Shit ain’t bad, yo.

When it wasn’t renewed after its fifth season we were both a bit bummed at the unfairness of it all.

But ooh, look — and just in time for an anniversary with the Better Half: a sixth season is playing right now.

I suppose the wool, gi and gun leather will have to wait.

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Fill in the Gaps

So I’ve raced ahead with a script but all I have are a beginning and an ending. I’ve avoided and prevaricated but that’s not getting me any closer to meeting a(n admittedly self-imposed) deadline.

Right, then.

Still Life With Chickens is the story of a cranky old woman who reluctantly adopts a barnevelder chicken and learns that there’s more to her sunset years than waiting for death.

I’ve written:

  • the first few scenes where —
    • MAMA tends her GARDEN which is a bit of a haven from caring for her housebound husband;
    • the garden is invaded by CHICKEN who has a taste for silverbeet;
    • Mama catches the chicken, then tries to find its owner to give them a piece of her mind;
    • Mama, unable to find the chicken’s owner, decides to look after it for a few days;
    • CUT TO some time later — like, several weeks later — where Mama and Chicken have come to an arrangement:
      • the old woman has someone to talk to;
      • and the chicken is given parts of the garden to eat and scratch up, as well as kitchen scraps;
  • and the last few scenes where —
    • Mama has mellowed noticeably;
    • Chicken disappears, forcing Mama to interact with her neighbours in search for the chicken;
    • and [A SATISFYING RESOLUTION IS ACHIEVED]*.

Like I said, I’ve tried to launch myself from the tail-end of the first act with no success, while an attempt to work my way backward from that final act has been equally unsuccessful.

I listed some stepping stones:

  1. [OPENING SCENES]
  2. Something Happens
  3. Something Else Happens
  4. Crunch Time!
  5. [CLOSING SCENES]

My stomach tensing with the possibility of knocking this bastard off — and recognising Joe’s 11-Step Programme — I sketched in some more details:

  1. [OPENING SCENES]
  2. Something Happens
    1. Could grandchildren visit? They’d love the chicken! Excellent opportunity for variations on If you really loved me, you would visit more often;
  3. Something Else Happens
    1. Mama attends the funeral of a contemporary, and sees the shrinking circle of peers;
  4. Crunch Time
    1. Mama’s husband is taken to hospital, leaving Mama feeling very alone, maybe?
  5. [CLOSING SCENES]

Mm.

I could be onto something here.

 

* I know this is one of those dry technical posts but I can’t bring myself to spoil the ending.

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Poultry Deja Vu

Ghost Dog and Friends
Ghost Dog hangin’ with his shorties (circa 2014).

You’ve already been introduced to our resident rooster, Ghost Dog. He does a pretty good job of looking after his girls: he points out food that he finds (whereupon he’s winged aside by his female companions), and now that we’re out in the country, he keeps an eye out for trouble.

There was something familiar about him and his harem that nagged at the back of my brain for some time.

And then I flashed on this:

Kid Creole and the Coconuts, “Tropical Gangsters” (1982) (Pic courtesy www.musicstack.com)

Of course.

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Gird

‘S quite a hassle, isn’t it? Hoist, gather, pull, gather, and tie. I suppose it’s a small price to pay for speed and manoeuvrability when things get exciting, but.

Things’ve been a bit quiet in the last month but soon it’ll be time to uh, swaddle up.

There’s deadlines to meet.

Confidence is high.

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A to Z

Okay, so all I’ve got is a beginning and ending.

No problem, I tell myself. I’ve no idea specifically what happens between the beginning and ending I’ve written but all I need do is reread what I have a few times to get a sense of the direction my subconscious is heading in, then catch the Narrative Momentum Train that’s due just as that last “CUT TO” hits.

I begin with high spirits —

CUT TO:

EXT. THE PLANET MARS -- TIMELESS

— then have second thoughts about the direction —

CUT TO:

INT. HOME -- NIGHT

... dammit.

— until I find myself staring at something like this:

CUT TO:

INT. PHUCKNOSE H.Q. -- I-HAVE-STOPPED-CARING TIME

... shit happens.

Dammitdammitdammitdammit

No hay problema, I tell myself. I’ve got a vague idea of how things got to the ending that I’ve written — all I have to do is work backwards from there because some kind of inevitable logic has led to the ending I’ve written, and hallelujah, all the clues are in the first act.

I get cracking, determined to fill this:

 

 

CUT TO:

— with action, character and plot.

Alas, after some amount of time has elapsed, all I have to show is this:

... something interesting should lead up to this point.

I have no idea what.

I hate this script.

CUT TO:

Right, then, I grimace to myself, time to break out the big guns.

But first, a little time out with some youtubing.

 

(For ages I thought the Hyundai Atoz was pronounced “Aye-tozz”. Until I saw a London A-Z map book and went, Duh!)

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Hop — Jump

Beijing Olympics Men's Triple Jump — by Richard Giles of Perth, Australia
By Richard Giles from Perth, Australia – Beijing Olympics: Men’s Triple Jump Panorama of Idowu Phillips, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4638191

Some projects come about as follows:

  • I write the first act in an exhiliarating blitzkrieg of creativity;
  • then, either unable or unwilling to grind through the second act, I skip it all together; and
  • I write the final act in a creative deluge that’s equal parts excitement and desperation.

At the end of this awfully quick process, I show my efforts to The Goddess, certain that, in that moment and on that day, My Work Here Is Done.

Nah-ah.

I’ve only written a beginning and an ending.

There’s no journey, no arc, no incremental building of character or drama.

Just a —

FADE IN:

— and a —

FADE OUT.

I have to work at my ending — not just fine tune how the music swells, and tweak the moment when I want tears to form in the audience’s eyes — I have to build up to it.

I have to write the rest of the damned thing.

But at least I know where the story starts and ends.

 

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