Saturday, March 18, 2006

Some People Besides Me Are Smart

Ah, what a terrible thing to have to admit!

I'm a very judgmental sonofabitch! I think it's a runs-in-the-family type of thing because my sister says she is too and my parents are, but in different ways so, I imagine, the combination of their two types of criticality (incorrect word usage!) have resulted in my sister and I thinking everybody sucks! Me more than her, even. Or maybe I just admit to it more often.

As such, people usually have to prove themselves to be of worth to me pretty early on. If they seem stupid right off the bat, or there's nothing particularly interesting about them, or (and, truly, this is the crux of it) if I can fit them into any sort of social category without much trouble, then I tend to take a stance on them instantly. "This person!" I will say, "THEY ARE NOT FIT TO SPEAK TO I!" And, lo, they shall be permitted to speak regardless, but I will silently reject all that they have to say.

Okay, I don't really REALLY mean this, I suppose. It can be true (with REAL idiots), but, usually, my opinions about people get reversed completely and then go back again based on singular statements. Wow! What am I, bi-polar?! Probably!

Case in point, my screenwriting teacher. I never thought he was dumb. In fact, he seemed really cool. But I was wary of him because, frankly, I've already been an undergrad film major and this is some shoddy "pay some cash and take a course for a few months that gets advertised on the subway" class and the whole orientation thing the first day was laughably disorganized. Plus, a lot of his favorite movies are big, dorky sci-fi classics like Star Wars, Back to the Future, and Ghostbusters. However, he still used a clip of The Conversation (one of my favez!) to illustrate a point in, if I'm not mistaken, our very first class. Additionally, I really like Ghostbusters and Back to the Future so who am I to talk? ANYWAY, conflicting factors resulted in my teacher still having yet to prove himself to be THAT awesome.

Hilariously enough, however, it didn't take long for me to realize I'm learning a LOT more about the fundamentals of screenwriting than I did from my scatterbrained professor (sweet, wonderful lady who I love, but utter confusion was a staple of her wardrobe) for the Intro to Screenwriting class I took in college. Also, I hated my college so, whatever, maybe I shouldn't be so surprised.

Now, I am more stubborn than most, especially when it comes to my writing. I understand most everyone is like this. You have a specific idea or VISION in your head and a point you want to make with it etc. etc. and then some craphead comes in and tells you "CHANGE YOUR DREAM." Understandably, you are resistant (and I tended to be even moreso than other people in the writing classes I took).

Now, with my screenplay idea my teacher has very quickly and succinctly made it clear what issues there are with it. I'm going to have to really rethink some major aspects of it, even a couple of the things that were something I felt were majorly important to leave unchanged.

My ego requires me to mention that, in a manner of speaking, I was aware of a lot of the problems with the story. I'm doing the same thing with my novel. I have a framework for what I want to happen and I even recognize that I'm not yet sure if some of the huge plot points I have in mind are for sure going to work. I tend to just write and deal with the issues as they arise.

Still, my teacher really quickly helped me get to the root of these problems in my screenplay idea and gave me some examples of things I could do that he didn't really expect me to use, but were a very good catalyst for future brainstorming. I think it's really awesome how he laid the issues out so clearly for me and was still, overall, very supportive of my general idea.

I didn't really expect to learn a huge amount from this class. It was more just something to get me writing a screenplay that I could use to get into a grad program. I'm therefore quite pleased that it's actually helping me out a lot. However, a part of me still hates to admit that I maybe wouldn't have been able to reach this same point on my own.

GRR! ARRG! STUBBORN ADOLESCENT ATTITUDE!! I SHALL NEVER LET YOU GO!!!!!

Friday, March 17, 2006

Treatment for my Crazy-Ass Screenplay

Today, for screenwriting class, I had to write a treatment for my script idea.

For those who do not know, a treatment is basically like a rough outline of the whole movie. A more professional person could probably tell you if there is a standardized way of writing one but I personally have learned two completely different styles at this point. Anyway, I don't know how very interesting this will be, but here's the first bit of the treatment for my fucked-up screenplay. You get the logline (one or two sentences that sum up the main tension of the movie), the setting, the character synopses (what they "want" and what they "need" are supposed to be important), and the first act of the story synopsis because I do not want to ruin all of my wonderful plot secrets.

This may not be the most proper treatment as I'll have to present it in class tomorrow and find out what's wrong with it.

Incidentally, you'll see my characters do have some back-story (I was complaining about this recently) but I am in no way trying to provide a concrete justification for their behavior.

In the middle of all the evil and violence, please enjoy picking out the bits of cheesy humor I've included! And a Simpsons reference to boot!!!! GO:

TREATMENT

Logline: In a post-apocalyptic, survival-of-the-fittest society, Kat travels to a place where, based on a radio broadcast, she believes a better life lies. She attempts to murder all those who stand in her way before her conscience can catch up with her.

Setting: An almost entirely collapsed near future of broken-down buildings and dead countryside. Police are all but extinct. Money is still considered relatively important yet nobody seems to have any. Some people have subscribed to the every-man-for-himself type of survival, while others still cling to the last shreds of an ordered society.

Character Synopsis:

Kat – An attractive, African-American woman in her 30s with a rampant violent streak. Grew up in a gas station/mechanics shop as society crumbled around her. Human life is largely dispensable to her, with the exception of children, as she witnessed the murder of her younger sister when she was still a kid. She tends to only kill people who threaten her or get in her way.

She wants to escape to the area from where the radio station is broadcasting. She needs to stop killing people.

Doug – A white guy in his 40s with no regard to any life but his own and, seemingly, Kat’s. He’s not particularly good-looking, but he’s clearly pretty strong. He grew up in one of the first areas to fall into total chaos and has known little besides how to kill for most of his existence. He enjoys it far more than Kat and will murder for kicks! He is in his natural state when killing but is awkward and nervous otherwise. Watches quite a lot of TV, even though they only air the same three movies over and over again.

He wants to kill. He needs (and also wants but will not openly admit to it) a companion.

Story Synopsis:

ACT I

Inciting Incident: Three guys in a bar come on to Kat much too strongly, so she kills them, loots the place, and commandeers a nearby car.

New Opportunity: While in the car, Kat hears a radio broadcast claiming to be from “beautiful North Haverbrook” and, checking a road map, makes it her goal to travel there. Not long after this, she meets and finds a formidable ally in Doug.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

THIS AIN'T NO BANK ROBBERY!!!



The Inside Man is a movie coming out next Friday. It's directed by Spike Lee but there's very little about it that makes me think "Spike Lee" (although I honestly haven't seen more than a few clips from some of his movies). It stars Denzel Washington and the only thing I gleaned from the commercials was that it was another Denzel-style thriller so I have no real interest in seeing it.

The important thing here is the last shot you're shown in these TV spots. It is of Denzel in front of the doors of a bank shouting, "THIS AIN'T NO BANK ROBBERY!"

I certainly can't be the only one who finds this funny? The line itself is funny in what a standard Denzel Washington thriller line it is (sort of the same feeling I got when I saw the preview for I, Robot where Will Smith said "Aw, hellll no!"), but he's also screaming it at a door. Okay, so maybe there's someone on the other side of that door (in fact if you download the trailer that pretty much gets answered so it's almost better if you don't) but as far as I'm concerned based on the information the commercial is giving me, Denzel is just screaming futilely at a door. No one is listening, Denzel! NO ONE!

I saw a post on IMDB where someone guessed the plot twist was that Denzel is a schizophrenic and one side of him is robbing the bank and the other is trying to stop him. That works for me!

Monday, March 13, 2006

EVERYONE WILL DIE.

In this blog I wrote a few days ago I was discussing how I'm planning to write a screenplay with lots of violent, disturbing content. Well, today I pitched my idea to my class and the teacher sort of shot down one of the major aspects of my idea. I get what he's saying but I also think he is WRONG and I wanted to talk about what happened.

Basically, the protagonist of my story is a woman who kills people indiscriminantly! Now, see, that's sort of simplifying it and that's probably part of why my teacher was telling me I had to develop it further, but, at the same time, to some degree it is sort of still that she just kills people all willy-nilly.

The thing is that my teacher (although he's only in his thirties) seems pretty grounded in the notion of direct storytelling with motivation and character development and all that nonsense. He doesn't even seem to take into consideration that this is the era of the indie film, in which you can get away with ponderous pseudo-narratives with no definite point or clear drive! Now I'm not excusing bad storytelling here. I'm just saying that I feel as though some things can be left up to the viewer's imagination and have far more impact that way. This is not a new concept, obviously, but look at what I'm dealing with here:

My story is going to take place in a post-apocalyptic, kill-or-be-killed type setting. I plan to establish the rules of the society through various externalizations pretty much immediately. I think it will become apparent that the main character's only killing people who threaten her or get in her way or try to kill her. Granted, it will still seem extreme at first, but I think eventually (in the context of the film, mind you) her behavior will appear to be somewhat justified. It's a crappy future! Everyone's against everyone...yeah! Kill some people! It's easier.

I actually presented this idea initially to an introduction to screenwriting class I had in college. My current teacher behaved basically just like the students in that class with their "WHATS!" and "NOS!" and "YOU CAN'TS!" but when I actually wrote the opening to the thing, they really liked it. They still thought my character needed some motivation established, however.

Now, believe it or not, I thought of this idea before I saw any of the movies it immediately recalls, like Natural Born Killers. The reasoning for the murderous nature of the characters in that movie (which I'm no huge fan of) is that they had horribly abusive, weird-ass childhoods. My sister pointed out that she thought this was kind of lame because lots of people have horribly abusive childhoods and they don't grow up killers. Unless you were literally raised by a crazy person (and how'd they get crazy) with some sort of belief system built on killing others, what makes a person into a serial killer? INSANITY IS WHAT.

Crazy people are CRAZY and you can't pretend like you know from crazy unless you ARE! Slapping some kind of backstory on there just seems like a lame attempt to pad out your movie in the appropriate manner because, if you think about it, it doesn't REALLY explain anything. The reason I want to leave my character's murderous nature open to interpretation is that then you'll have to wonder, "What the hell screwed her up so bad?" and make it up for yourself and whatever you come up with is certainly going to be a lot more sensible than anything I could muster.

That said, I'm not going to leave the character totally flat. She's not a Terminator (which is what my teacher kept saying she seemed like). She's got other dimensions to her and even turns out to be human. IN FACT, I largely want it to be about how she's lost all of her humanity but it comes back to her by the end of the film (obviously, after all she's done, it's devastating). I just want to make it clear to people that THIS IS HOW SHE IS. I don't want a crappy backstory. I just want it to BE. Hopefully, you grow to like her based on her other characteristics and the human parts of her that do show through. There'll even be a little backstory for a later event but, as for the killing, I don't think anything I do is going to ring true, so hell if I'm doing it.

Incidentally, the movie Badlands is about a couple fleeing across the country. The guy kills anyone who might be a threat to their getaway and the movie makes no attempt to judge them. The girl had a controlling father, certainly, but there's absolutely nothing trying to justify the guy's murdering streak. In fact, he's a really nice guy who gets along with all the police after he's arrested.

Honestly, it wasn't the greatest film but I accepted that this was how the guy was, even though there was no apparent reason for it. Thing was, this movie was based on the story of an actual couple. So if I just slap "Based on a True Story from the Future" on the beginning of my movie, I think I can get away with pretty much anything.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

I've Figured it Out! (The Problem with The Internet)

Ah, ah, ah! I believe I've made my love-hate relationship with the internet plenty clear in various places at various times on the...uh...internet. I really dislike how much of my time it consumes, as well as how it's probably single-handedly screwed up my social life. I basically grew up on this piece of crap. (I've said before I'm probably part of one of the earliest generations for such a thing to be possible. I wasn't breastfed by the monster but it definitely took me over through adolescence.)

Now! One of my specific shames with the internet is that there's something inherently shameful and embarassing about being so involved with it. I want to LATCH onto that specific aspect and explore why it is. WHY IT IS???

I not long ago read some interview with these two people who wrote a book about internet culture and how kids are growing up on it and so forth. These people were very optimistic about the whole thing and acted like "Oh, what is the difference? Some people have their sports and their clubs and their going outside and having sex and some people go the way of the internet!" as though it were just a different outlet for sociality.

Okay, I can see that making sense for people who fit in with, like, some certain group. Like people who love the role-playing games can CERTAINLY find people they will enjoy fraternizing with internet style, fine. I still don't think it particularly healthy. It certainly does decrease any sort of physical activity (not that kids like this are so partial to such a thing and I myself am not, but still it impressively manages to render movement even further obsolete for us). Still, for people like this, I suppose there's no reason to really feel ashamed. Sure, other, more social people are still gonna think you are a loser but if you love them online RPGs and you like the type of people you play them with, you really have no reason to care what the "popular" types think.

BUT HERE IS WHY IT'S SHAMEFUL FOR ME.

I believe at this point we've all seen that wonderful little picture of a retarded child crossing a finish line with the caption "Arguing on the internet is like competing in the Special Olympics. Even if you win, you're still retarded." This is the root of the internet problem! Why exactly is it that arguing with someone on the internet is so retarded? Yes, you aren't seeing each other face to face but you're still a human being on your end and they're still some sort of organism that can type on their end. You're seperated by quite a distance, but an argument's an argument is it not?

NO. IT'S NOT. AND THIS IS WHY:

I think everyone is pretty aware of the internet's tendency to allow people to open up a lot more than they normally would. There's anonymity! You can say whatever the hell you want and pretend to be whatever you like and no one is the wiser! Additionally, you're likely so far away from whoever it is you're interacting with and they know so little real information about you that they can't very well come kick your ass can they? Well, maybe with some research they can, but ostensibly and for the purposes of this argument, no, they cannot. So here is the problem.

Let's say you're arguing with a person on the internet about hot dogs brands. You think Sabrett is the best (you're right, by the way, and you should fucking wreck anyone who defies you!) and the other person is all about Ball Parks (idiot!). Like many debates, you and this person are both set in your ways and are unlikely to change no matter how much ranting and raving goes down. However, it's the internet, isn't it? You've got nothing to lose and just not responding would be like admitting defeat, would it not? So you go back and forth on hot dogs for days on end and achieve shit nothing overall!

This is VERY DIFFERENT FROM REAL LIFE.

The fact is if you ran into this person in real life, the chances you'd even get into a discussion with them regarding their hot dog preference are slim to nil! You'd probably walk past each other on a street with nary a nod to acknowledge one another's presences!! This is why the internet is wrong.

The internet puts you in contact with people you would normally not even afford a second glance.

Yes, you're talking to people, but they're people who in real life you'd spot, you'd say "I don't know them and therefore couldn't care less about them" and you'd move on. Again, if you join a specific internet club filled with the type of people you like, that's fine. I'm sure you'll have a ball. Personally, I avoid any sort of club functions (or, indeed, any gathering of more than ten people) like the plague on crack. However, the internet serves to basically put me in touch with a series of little clubs, filled with jerks I'd hate if I ever had to be around in person.

This is why it's shameful. I'm wasting time (whether arguing or interacting in any other way) on people whom I hate. I don't do this in real life. Why should I do it on the internet? I shouldn't.

And that's the problem.