All 26 entries tagged Filmmaking

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December 26, 2005

Final Blog Entry

Everything needs a good title.

The screenplay just isn't working, and the reason the film project isn't working is that I don't know how to write the next draft. The last six months working on the screenplay – well, it's like chewing gum. You chew gum for flavour. So you chew and chew, and then the flavour gradually fades away but you continue to believe that you're squeezing out more coz of the residual flavour stuck inside your mouth. At some point even those are gone and you begin to think that you should spit it out – but then people encourage you to keep chewing, "don't give up".

But eventually, you realise that it is completely pointless to continue chewing on a flavour-long-gone gum, no matter how much you delude yourself, how much you want to delude yourself.

And even though this is supposed to be my way out of a boring existence in uni and a way into the film industry – well, I suppose the message is, get real, idiot.

Not that I didn't get the message. Obviously it was obvious that I was just deluding myself the past half year. But when you're trying to write, you tend to throw those thoughts out as far as you can.

So the story of Jeremy Wakeham ends here. He will not appear on celluloid, because he has failed as a sympathetic character, and his story is apparently not worth telling.

And the two things a film must have to succeed are a great script and a great cast. I didn't even get past Test No 1.

And to be honest, even if I do punch out a great script, I'm not confident about getting the right actors. It's not like I have a chance to employ James McAvoy, Jordan Metcalfe or Jonathan Rhys Meyers.

I feel like a fool, even though I'm making this decision with a clearer mind than when I was trying to create scenes in my head. This is how it feels like to have Loser and Failure written on your forehead.

And Peter Jackson gets to make King Kong.

Final Rants And Observations

Malaysia is one of a few non-Western countries with a great love for cinema (what a lie – a great love for movies) with a reasonably high command of English who heard, in KING KONG, Jack Black as Carl Denham uttering the words "I'm a movie producer, you can trust me" and not have any inkling that that was supposed to be funny.

And, as much as I like to see Jamie Bell as rising young star – what the hell is the Jimmy subplot doing in King Kong?

Just went to Australia. The country sucks. I could write a long paragraph about why – or I can keep it to myself.

Chances of more entries appearing in this blog due to sudden influx of inspirations that allows the screenplay to continue to be written, or as a useless site for rants: 50/50.


November 23, 2005

I Am Such A Loser

Just saw Jerry Maguire.

I realised that my script is not compelling enough.

Shit.


November 22, 2005

Screenplay Done

Yeah, it's finally done. I don't know why I feel so happy – it's not like it's the best ending I could punch out, and for most of the last week I just kept thinking the things I thought of just doesn't work. At this point I don't know whether it works, but still, I feel happy.

The bloody screenplay is done.

Now all I need to do is to polish it, and send it off to the relevant people. I hope Bea's done with her own film's post-production …

UPDATE: I've finished my screenplay and now I'm listening to depressing music. What does that say?


November 19, 2005

Is The End In Sight?

Okay, I'm getting very close to completing the script. I've spent most of the whole day today finalising my thoughts and ideas and writing the romantic bits. They're not that romantic, but to be honest, I'm happy enough if I can write something that remotely works, and this one remotely works. In fact, thinking about it, there are faint parallels with the Titanic love story – parallels that have nothing to do with content but underlying structure. So that's basically 20 pages done.

Now comes the next difficult bit … and I really cannot afford to spend another two months to figure this one out.

The final act and the resolution.

The final act I can figure out stuff to include – what I'm worried about is that the audience will very quickly find it unengaging. The problem is the first place is that the story I'm writing flies against the face of conventional script plotting. My protagonist is a passive character – meaning he doesn't move things, things move him, or things try to move him and he doesn't. There is a hero's journey here – but that journey is never obvious. Random stuff happen – all the time, from the beginning of the script to the end; whereas in a 'real film' you need to have a certain linkage between events, a recognisable chain starting from the beginning of the story to the end.

And all those problems are much more acute in the final act, when all I have to show for the audience are the uncomfortable scenes. Those uncomfortable scenes are necessary, in the sense that it is partly what I'm making the film for – to allow the audience to experience frustration and boredom. However, in a 'real film', really, either I must find a way to make frustration and boredom appealing, or yank it out of the movie. And I can't figure out a way to make it appealing.

The worst part – the ending. I actually already have an ending in mind for the last two years – it was one of the first scenes I thought of when beginning to think about a film that tells of a guy who lives different lives each day. Problem is, looking at the ending now, it seems very much an example deus ex machina. The thing about great endings are that, they should always be inherent in the story. Even though it is mostly surprising when presented to the audience, it should nevertheless be plausible – for example, the seeds of the ending should be present throughout the story. Take T2. How do you kill the T-1000? Almost all of the audience would be thinking that question at the end of the movie, when no matter what Arnie does the bloody guy just keeps reassembling. When finally the T-1000 gets thrown into the lava pool, the answer was like, so obvious. It's logical. And – this is the key – potentially, the audience could have thought of that earlier on. (It doesn't matter that it's so coincidental that they end up in an industrial plant with a lava pool, because emotionally the audience is so engrossed in the film that any way to destroy the villain ingeniously and save the characters is welcome.)

So, to come up with the perfect ending – and I keep feeling at the back of my mind that it can't be that far away, that it's barely visible, such that it almost seems like it didn't exist, but it's there – I would need to have dump this one. But then I'm too stuck with this particular idea.

On the other hand, even James Cameron made a mistake and wrote an inappropriate ending for Titanic, which can be seen as an alternate ending in the new 4-DVD release of the film. According to Cameron, the ending works on its own (though I don't think so, but then I didn't write the film so I wasn't thinking in the same terms he was as a writer) – but within the context of the ending of the film it just didn't work, hence the version we currently see now, which works a whole lot better.

I guess, the point is, I can always come up with an ingenious, non-deus ex machina ending. But then that is just plain lazy. But then I don't have time. I'm already three weeks behind schedule.


November 02, 2005

British Short Films

I go to the BBC Film Network from time to time to look at the short films there. Not all are good – my definition of good – but I found some that I liked. Some of them just makes me think that I'm really worthless with my ideas.

Back And Forth by Stephan Talneau
A poignant love story told backwards using Four Tet music. The ending is clearly sad, but what makes it poignant is the fact that the beginning (shown at the end) was so nice. Well made, especially the editing (not just the fact that it's backwards, usually a pretentious device).

The Sound Of Silence by James Appleton
Basically a fable. A writer gets continually distracted by various noises while rushing for a deadline. A magical vinyl record saves the day. But then …

Dumping Elaine by Peter Lydon
Eddie is trying to dump Elaine. A comedy of errors where the story misleads the two protagonists, the cafe waitresses eavesdropping on them – and the audience. Charming comedy with great acting from the cast who play it perfectly balanced.

Dialog by Stephen Irwin
Animation about the Doctor contemplating destroying his creation, a simulation town called Clusterville. Just as he is about to destroy it, the behaviour of a human and a mechanical robot in the town attracts his attention. Weeeeeird stuff.

Oedipus
The story of Oedipus Rex may have been so gross and disturbing such that none of us can ever really relate to it – but hell, this short made it very clear how something that happens daily can, ahem, lead to such a result.


November 01, 2005

Gout Regout

Gout returns.

That's a sentence structure that's usually reserved for super-hero types. Well, gout isn't. It's a pain in the arse. No, a pain in the joints – the heels. I can't walk – completely incapacitated. This after a few days of trying to suppress a chesty cough and on the verge of falling into flu (which I managed to avoid, yay! … oh …).

I must be the only person in Warwick who has gout. Okay, leave out people above 25 … i.e. the lecturers, staff and so on … yeah, okay, there might be students above 25 …

Point is, gout usually affects older people. And as much as I used to take pride at being perceived as older (in Malaysia that's how we say more matured … like, you guys say bowler hats, cap, and so on, we just say hat for all of those), gout almost NEVER happens to people below 30. I'm the freaking outlier.

So anyway, when I tell people who are familiar with gout – mostly my medic friends – that I'm having to deal with it, they always seem to come up with a sentence that includes these five words, "... so young already got gout ah …" (that last one doesn't count, it's a phatic utterance in Malaysian English). For my medic friends, the next thing they say is exactly the same as well, except I can't reproduce it … they give me a list of symptoms, treatment, prevention, diet information about it, and it's all the same information. I'm always surprised by that, because they all give the information in the same order. But on the other hand, I guess it's comforting that the doctors of the future are all agreeing with each other. (Except when they happen to be wrong.)

As for the script, yet another idea.

Make it like A Beautiful Mind. In that film, the audience is led to believe one thing, then the story twists inside out. That is not done because Ron Howard and co. are being coy. It's done because it's the best way to represent the disease of schizophrenia to the audience – we are being led to experience exactly what it is like to be told that your best friend, career, etc doesn't actually exist.

So, what I think would be interesting, is to present the story first not through Jeremy's POV. We present it through the eyes and thoughts of those he meets when his lives start changing. So yeah, the audience wouldn't know what is going on at first. Maybe we play out three different days – some will have gotten the hint by then. Then, halfway through the film, we switch to Jeremy's POV - and he begins telling the story from before everything happened.

This is a radical departure from the story I first had in my head, and also quite a radical departure from my storytelling principles. You see, making the story like that, I'll have to utilise techniques that give the film a Chris Nolan feel. Nolan's latest film is Batman Begins (lucky bastard) … but that's not the point. In his first movie, Following, he jumps the story back and forth seemingly without any reason. Basically it makes the audience think harder, because they have to spend some minutes figuring out where the scene lies chronologically. And I guess that works because if he hadn't done that, the story would have been real boring. (It already is, even at 70 mins.) Then he does Memento, the much-loved Memento (freaking no. 22 at IMDb.com), which you probably know, goes backwards. And how does he do transitions for such chronologically screwed up movies?

He straight cuts to black for a few seconds, then straight cuts to the next scene. I didn't exactly like that. I mean, it works, but it rings pretentious to me.

But then, the guy got to direct a multi-millon dollar film in Hollywood. For his fourth film. Maybe I should take the hint.

So yeah, I would have to mess up the storyline a little. Just to make it more interesting. And after all I said about Nolan, no it isn't exactly like what Nolan was doing.

But then, maybe after I've made it, I won't be loved. Critics will call me a hack – that technique's overdone, they say.

You can't please everyone.


October 25, 2005

Time For Assessment

The deadline I set for myself to complete the script is this weekend. Probability of that happening: zero. Now that is a serious claim. Probability of one dying in a plane crash is not zero. Probability of one dying along with the rest of the world due to asteroid impact is also not zero. Get the point?

So I think it is fair to bring myself down and face facts.

The script is too difficult to write – maybe it would never work, even if you give it to Kaufman or Haggis. Maybe that's how impossible it is to write the script.

Now, I don't want to say that I'm giving up. Coz then friends would be saying stuff like, oh, don't give up, just try harder, don't be so hard on yourself … I wish, I don't have any friends like that. They couldn't fucking care less what the fuck I'm doing – I'm just a laughing stock, an imbecile who wishes he could be in Hollywood and talks about films all the time; in other words, someone to avoid.

The problem could be this though – I'm supposed to be giving up, but I'm not.

Coz the fact is this – I'm beginning to think that I'm not mature enough to write this script. What, you ask – isn't this a film about a student? I think when I presented this idea to a few people, the film they imagine in their head is, yes, a student production.

Hell, no. I'd rather not do it if it turns out to be just another cheap-ass student film. Anyone can make student films. Not everyone can make a serious, mature, thought-provoking and at the same time, emotional film. Yes, this is the nature of the film I'm making. It has to be good enough that people remember it, think about it. It cannot be a forgettable story.

Which brings me to the next point. You probably read that and felt – well, yeah, everyone wants to do the best film they can. That's not the point – the problem is, I couldn't articulate the point. Half the time when I talk to people my mind goes blank. In the first place, the ideas in my head are muddled – it's like locating for stars in a galaxy: there are billions of them, but they are so far apart that you can only see one clearly at a time, and you can't see the relation and association between them unless you see the big picture; but if you finally do see the big picture, the details get obscured.

Point is, I can't talk to people articulately. How am I supposed to direct if I can't talk to people, express what is inside my head?

So basically, I can't write, and I can't direct. Maybe, maybe not. But at this point that looks to be the case.

I tried, tried so hard to think about what could happen in university – but I can't, becoz I happen to think that university is boring. Nothing much happens here. What can happen here that is dramatic? Yet real? I mean, it's so much easier for me to engineer a story about a virus spreading in the university … if I can blow up some buildings, even easier. But to write an ultra-serious story that requires dramatic moments to work, but not being able to find them coz I'm locating it in a place where nothing much interesting happens (within a day) … I'm screwed.

And, I realised, that as much as I want to make this film a bit of a thesis about why university is a complete waste of time - I can't even reason out why I dislike university so much. I know it's partly because I'm not doing as well academically as I used to be, partly because I don't have any close friends around, no one to spar and debate with on the same level, and partly because I didn't achieve anything here. But that is just me. For this film, I have to find a reason why we all don't belong here. All this while, I know that university is pointless, that we should all find different paths into our careers instead – but when I tried to find the reasons in my head:

COMPLETE BLANK.

You might say – well, that's coz you're wrong, uni is a great place, a fun place, best years of our lives, plus we need the degree to survive in the work place today – the usual cliched reasons one writes into high school-type essays.

My answer to that would be that university doesn't do a lot in terms of giving you the necessary knowledge to survive in the real world. You're here for three years and more – and what comes out of it? Thousands upon thousands of whiny graduates who lament about being in debt, at the same time lamenting that they spent too much, most of them without a clue what financial health is, hence the insecurity about debt. We're not taught the practical knowledge in schools. We have to learn them by ourselves from others who don't have much clue as well in university. Then the real learning starts in professional/unemployed life – a few years too late.

Your reasoning's flawed, you say. University can be a sort of training ground to prepare us for the real world. A time to build up networks, when we have time to do so. Who knows, the guy next to you might be an MP and might come in handy in future times? It is a time where we can make mistakes – and not having to suffer too much from it.

And there goes my flimsy reasoning right out of the window. Along with the film. Scrapped.

And yet I was so sure I had the answer to that in my head a few months ago. Serves me right for not writing it down.

So what now? Scrap it and go back to a life I hate into a future that my university education did not prepare me for because I chose to come here when I did not belong here?

I'm saying no to that. But saying isn't anything. So what if I say no to that – what am I going to do about it? Sit there for a few more months trying to think of what else I'm trying to say through my script?

Should I consider turning it into a short? Should I consider writing a new story, something easier? No, writing anything's hard. I've had this story in my head for two fucking years. Should I just abandon it?

I'm really trying to say no.

I can't do this for long. Something must happen, and soon.

(Fog of disillusionment and hopelessness sets in. Author gets buried deeper and deeper like quicksand. Slowly he begins to give up hope and accepts his death.)


October 23, 2005

The Naked Revelation

Okay, so I've been listening to Big Right from Newman's Cinderella Man, over and over again, and this idea came bubbling up … and a weird one too.

First of all, Big Right is used at the end of the film, the climax, when the protagonist winning looks like a possibility, and the entire crowd stands up and looks on in awe of something they didn't quite expect to happen happening before their eyes, some with mouths gaping. The music is uplifting, dramatic, soaring.

And the scene I have in my head, with this piece of music accommpanying, is this. The protagonist of my story, for whatever reason, begins to realise something. It is a PROFOUND realisation. And, with a DETERMINED look on his face, he begins to walk, confident stride. He takes off his jacket and flings it away. He unbuttons his clothes, still walking. He flings that away. People are beginning to notice him. His eyes are always looking to the front. He grabs his shoes and pulls out his socks, fling those as well. He pulls down his pants, and eventually his boxers - everything, gone. Flings it as hard as he can, and immediately begins to run - run to somewhere.

Does this sound dramatic? If I can provide the reasoning, does this sound like something the audience will root for, something the audience feels like clapping to? (If porn comes anywhere near this, I don't want to hear it. It's not like that. You know it.)

UPDATE: I've figured out now why the character would do that. So obvious …


Another Eureka Moment

Yes, another one has arrived, but I'm not as euphoric as the last time now. Every eureka moment is cautiously followed – I might be led down another sinkhole, another dead end. It is also a potentially liberating thread of thought.

I was thinking, what could a man without a past and a future do?

The most obvious answer is, to help people, regardless of who they are, whether you know them (chances are you don't).

But hey, noble stuff. Also the stuff that makes people go "That's incredulous!" and laugh at the screen. We have sceptics for audiences these days.

Then it hit me.

The Book Of Jonah.

Whatever his mission is – and this is the part that still needs figuring out … if a man with no past and future has to do something, what is it? if not to help others, what is it? something heroic, something decisive, something dramatic, something that the score track Big Right from Newman's Cinderella Man can support – he is running away from it, or he doesn't know what it is and is searching for it in the first half of the film.

And the climax is when he sees, clearly, what the mission is, that he has to accept it, and accepts his mission.

Now, it takes another eureka moment to get to what that mission is.

Stay tuned.


October 20, 2005

The Two Hollywoods

(And yet another entry with words from William Goldman. Sorry, just couldn't resist. In case this isn't clear, all the quotes are taken from Which Lie Did I Tell?: More Adventures In The Screen Trade.)

There are really two kinds of flicks – what we now call generic Hollywood movies, and what we now call Independent films.

Hollywood films – and this is crucial to screenwriters – all have in common this: they want to tell us truths we already know or a falsehood we want to believe in.

Hollywood films reinforce, reassure.

Independent films, which used to be called "art" films, have a different agenda. They want to tell us things we don't want to know.

Independent films unsettle.

Understand, we are not talking here of art and commerce. Hollywood films can be, and often are, art. Independent films, most of them, for me anyway, are pretentious and boring.

And yes, I know my definitions are simplistic. Hollywood films can unsettle, Independent films can reassure. But in general, for this discussion, let's go with them.

One quick example to be mentioned here – Shakespeare In Love, art flick or Hollywood?

I might be tempted to say, my God, it's Shakespeare, how can it not be an art film? Plus those costumes, Dame Judi, all the other British accents. If ever there was an art film, doesn't it have to be this baby?

Not even close. Because what Shakespeare In Love tells us is that the love of a good woman makes everything wonderful. Well, I don't know about you, but I want to believe that. I want to have a shot at Gwyneth's sweet boobies, because I just know they can change the world.

… We want to believe. Life would be just so much happier a place if only that were so. But alas, it's Hollywood horseshit. (Although I sure wanted to believe it when I was in the theater.)

Does the fact of the two Hollywoods affect screenwriters? … It does and it doesn't.

It does not remotely affect how we tell our stories. It totally affects which stories we choose to tell.

Famous cartoon from fifty years back. A couple are at the original run of Death Of A Salesman. The man turns to the woman, here's what he says: "I'll get you for this!"

The point is that most of us work all day, often at something we don't much love anymore but we do it till we drop. At the end of our average days, we want peace, we want relaxation, maybe a bite of food, a few kind words. We do not want to watch Willy Loman's suicide.

What we are really dealing with when we talk of the two Hollywoods is audience size.

Most people want to be told nice things. That we really are decent human beings, that God will smile on us, that there is true love and it is waiting for you, just around the next corner. That the meek really will inherit the earth.

Most people want to be told nice things. I cannot repeat that too often to anyone who wants to screenwrite for a living. You can be Bergman if you have the talent, you can tell sad human stories – but do not expect Mr. Time Warner to give you $100 million to make your movie.

The studios are in business for only one great and proper reason – to stay in business. If you want to tell a reassuring story, no reason not to shoot for a studio flick with all the, yes, good things that entails. If you want to tell a different story, write it wonderfully but write it small. Avoid car chases and star parts and special effects.

Great careers are possible in Independent film. The Coens and John Sayles are as good as anybody operating anywhere.

Join them. God knows we can use you.


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