2017 Screenwriting Research Network Conference

University of Otago in Dunedin, NZ.jpg
By Nathan Hughes Hamilton – https://www.flickr.com/photos/nat507/12468333624/, CC BY 2.0, Link

The past four days have been such a blur of ideas, conversation, food and shockingly warm weather that I’m still having trouble believing it’s Thursday already — I only flew down on Sunday to get a headstart on things and —. Did I say I’m having trouble believing it’s Thursday already?

I was very chuffed to attend the 2017 Screenwriting Research Network (SRN) Conference in Dunedin this week. It took me a good day or so to get my head around what the SRN mean by “rethink[ing] the screenplay in relation to its histories, theories, values and creative practices”.

Screenplays as more than just the starting points for film and television productions. I could dig that. Kind of.

Since Monday, academics and practitioners have rubbed shoulders and broken bread together on the Otago University campus, and I thought everyone played rather nicely together. Highlights included — beware shameless name-dropping:

Big props to organisers Davinia Thornley, Al, Amie, Maureen Lloyd, PippaKatie Baddock, and a small army of volunteers for making the whole occasion smooth sailing.

The next conference is in Milan. How hard can it be to knock up an abstract on Screenwriting as discomfit: at which point did I begin to self-identify as a writer?

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share

Hometoon

I saw Ghost in the Shell the other week. It was fun: it had gunfights, sci fi techy stuff, Beat Takeshi and flashes of me oul’ hometoon of Wellington under layers of set dressing and CGI.

Victoria Street, Wellington. (Photo: www.imfdb.org.)
Victoria Street, Wellington. (Photo: www.filmnz.com.)
Victoria Street alley, Wellington — in a previous life, I worked in the building on the right there. (Photo: www.atlasofwonders.com.)

It made me feel unexpectedly homesick.

Might be time for a visit soon.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share

2016 in Points

Temptation beckons from the Piggery Books store in Whangarei.

I’ve been putting off this post because… it’s been another pathetic year on the page-turning front: 29 titles. This makes 2015 look so much better (but it’s still not good enough as a Writer).

Stand-out reads:

  • My Name Was Judas by C K Stead
  • The Private Eye by Brian K Vaughan, Marcos Martin and Mutsa Vicente
  • The Walking Dead 150–161 by Robert Kirkman and various artists
  • Mississipi Grind (3 March 2014 draft) by Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck
  • Lost Dogs by Jeff Lemire

I know.

I know.

Must. Make. Time.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share

2016 in Pixels

Okay, I’ve been a bit laggardly on the fitness and health side of things but that’s okay: I’ve been investing those ‘lost’ hours in my televisual research (145 titles totalling 496 hours, up a respectable amount from last year).

Mississppi Grind Poster.jpg
By Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use, Link

Enjoyed on the big screen were:

  • Mississippi Grind
  • Deadpool
  • 45 Years
  • The Hunt for the Wilderpeople
  • The Nice Guys
  • La Isla Minima
  • Keanu
  • The Accountant
  • Blood Simple
  • 99 Homes

Honourable mentions: Beach Boy Brian Wilson biopic Love and Mercy, unexpectedly affecting Rocky spin-off Creed, the unlikely and uncompromising Young Adult, the ridiculously fun Central Intelligence, and Florence Foster Jenkins which I was totally prepared to hate but couldn’t because it was so well executed.

The-americans-title-card.png
By DreamWorks Television and/or FX – The Americans, Season one episode five “COMINT“, Public Domain, Link

The small screen offerings held their own:

  • The Americans S01–04
  • The Expanse S01
  • Getting On (UK, 2008) S01–03
  • Better Call Saul S02
  • Low Winter Sun (UK, 2006)
  • Animals Pilot
  • Westworld S01
  • Game of Thrones S06
  • Catastrophe S02
  • The Good Wife S07

Honourable mentions: low key sci-fi robot drama Humans S02, an happy bonus season of Offspring S06, and Transparent S02 which continues to make me scratch my head after each ep but unable to stop pressing the Next button for the next episode.

(I’d actually already watched the first two seasons of The Americans but made the mistake of introducing the Goddess to the pilot. It was a hard slog rewatching those first two seasons, I tell you.) (It wasn’t a hard slog — it’s a damned good show.)

Bring on 2017!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share

BSS

Late last month I attended the 2016 Big Screen Symposium in Auckland. It was the second network-y thing I’ve done this year (ah yes, I neglected to mention I attended the 2016 PANNZ Arts Market in Wellington in March).

Cue shameless name-dropping as I saw:

As for the speakers, highlights were:

  • creative couple Cate Shortland (SomersaultThe Slap) and Tony Krawitz (Devil’s PlaygroundThe Kettering Incident) on writing and directing Australian television drama;
  • Jonathon Raymond on screenwriting for Kelly Reichardt (Wendy and Lucy, Meek’s Cutoff) and Todd Haynes (Far From HeavenMildred Pierce); and
  • producer and BSS keynote speaker Heather Rae (Frozen River) on decolonising the screen.

Nice work, all around.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share

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.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share

Go To

Contrary to popular belief, when energy, motivation, and/or creativity is low in the Writing Cave Keep, I do not resort to singing along with Ms Krall ad infinitum.

If it’s a technical challenge, I turn to the writing library, top most being William Goldman‘s Which Lie Did I Tell?, Alex Epstein‘s Crafty Screenwriting and Stephen King‘s On Writing.

If a project has certain constraints or is more long-form, there’s these classics to crib from:

  • Joss Whedon‘s Buffy the Vampire Slayer — not just a scantily-clad teen-girl who can kick serious demon ass1;
  • Jed Mercurio‘s Bodies — a visceral and heartbreaking look at just how little separates life and death in a maternity ward; and
  • David Simon‘s The Wire — its novelistic approach to presenting a criminal investigation, showing us every shade of grey between the police and their adversaries, as well as the world in which both operate, is something to which I can only dare aspire.

The words "The Wire" in white lettering on a black background. Below it a waveform spectrum in blue.
And if it’s all too much and/or I want to procrastinate for hours I just need a little kick, I never go wrong with any of these:

  • James Cameron‘s Aliens — a war movie in space;
  • Quentin Tarantino‘s Jackie Brown — a small-time crook’s One Final Score;
  • and David Mamet‘s Spartan — a rogue agent’s attempt to Do The Right Thing.

Spartan movie.jpg
It’s not necessarily the story I worry about — it’s how I’m going to make it interesting. I want to grab and hold the reader’s — and, eventually, the paying audience’s — attention, take ’em for a ride, and then afterwards, drop ’em back in their seat, exhilarated, exhausted, and begging for more.

All of the above touchstones do exactly that.

Most times, soon after referring to any of the above, I’m back at the keyboard, writing.

 

1   But oh how The Goddess rolls her eyes when I talk about superior subtextual story-telling amidst well-choreographed ass-kicking.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share

Box Watch: Marvel’s Jessica Jones

By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=47431125

Ten episodes in and I feel like I’m on a hamster wheel where:

  • our heroine, Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter)  catches her nemesis, Kilgrave (David Tennant);
  • Jones’ Greek chorus of friends, family and/or acquaintances sing, Kill Kilgrave else he will continue to murder people;
  • Jones counterpoints with, No, I must not kill him yet somehow he must still pay — wait one while I ponder…;
  • Kilgrave escapes — trimming Jones’ chorus by one enroute — and continues his murdering ways;
  • Jones catches Kilgrave…

Do this catch-and-release routine once and if the heroine learns from the experience, it’s a learning experience.

Do it twice, and if the heroine prevails in the end, it’s one of those rule-of-three narrative devices.

Do it three times and there’s still three goddamned eps to go in the season, one begins to wonder: are the writers undercover wingnuts highlighting the inherent weakness of liberals in this harsh, harsh world? or have I just been inured by decades of Old Testament-moral-style action films in which all manner of personal, societal and political problems can be resolved in a hail of lead?

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share