Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Bagels & Roles Production #2

“Bagels and Roles”, the short film I wrote and produced this summer, is now in the editing phase. Aside from the obvious editor-type stuff, (sound design, color corrections, etc.) this project has the potential to be an ongoing effort. Ongoing, as in forever. I’ve worked on the first sixty seconds of it for two days, moving titles and credits, changing speeds and viewpoints, and hoping that what no longer makes sense to me will make sense to others.
I could do this forever.

Once I got past the opening, (which I’m sure I’ll go back to sooner or later), I moved on to my storyboard book. This, beyond all things, will keep me from losing myself in endless tweaking and bumping.

I storyboarded each scene quickly, using little more than stick figures and arrows. It gave me a sense of what to shoot while we were on set, and now provides me with a feeling of safety. Even though I didn’t have a shot list, (which I know I should have made, but I didn’t), and I forgot to get a shot or two, (third and fourth viewpoints mostly), I know what I’m supposed to do as long as I follow the book.

I have the first scene just about done. If I can resist the temptation to go back to the opening and putz around with the music and title some more, I’ll move on to scene two. My goal is to have my first rough cut done by the end of the week, and the final version, ready to debut for the actors and their families by the end of the month.

I hope to have all of the actors and their families come to see it. My first thought was to have them come to my house, but there may be too many people… where the heck will I put twenty or so people? I’ve held showings in our local move theater in the past, (it takes some doing, but it can be done), but the film should only run 15-20 minutes. Hardly worth the effort to get it up on the big screen. I’ll have to figure something out, though. I think a game of Quelf is in order after the big premiere.

I’m trying to stay on task and not look ahead to film festival deadlines and packaging. So far, so good…

Monday, September 2, 2013

Bagels & Roles Production #1

So, all this week, the group of actors I’ve pulled together, led by my son and daughter, have been rehearsing. We’ve been doing read-throughs, blocking and scene rehearsals for a script I wrote. The effort has grown beyond what I was expecting, and has turned into a rather enjoyable experience.

The script was originally called, “The Steps”, because it was supposed to take place outside, on the steps of the middle school most of the actors attend. I changed it based on a lesson learned last year, shooting “A Caterpillar’s Tale”. That lesson was simply this - wind is no friend to dialogue. So, I hedged my bets. I re-wrote the script to take place inside, and I prerecorded the entire script’s dialogue with the actors during our final day of rehearsal.

I batted some names around with the cast and we decided on “Bagels & Roles” as our title. We shot it last night. We came together in a local deli that a friend agreed to let us use. More on that in the next post.

The ages of the actors range from eleven to fourteen, and I learned quite a bit about this age group that I guess I had forgotten since my days in middle school, (a time I’d rather forget, btw). One of the things I re-learned was that there are popular kids and not-so-popular kids. Another thing I learned was that if you create a mix of those groups and pull them out of that element, you can have them work together. And, unless one of them brings up the popular/not- so popular element, they work together as if they saw each other as equals, (for the most part).

One of the things we did besides reading and blocking the script was to play games. We tried a few card games and board games , and while each kid had their favorite, the overwhelming favorite was Quelf.

If you are unfamiliar with Quelf, it is a party game best played with more than four players released by Spin Master Games. Players move avatars to colored spaces based on the roll of a die. Each color corresponds to a card with a rule, an action, and so on. Each thing the players have to do is sillier than the next, and hilarity follows the first few rolls pretty quickly. By forcing the players to be silly, it exposes the kid in them to the other players. You can almost see the class distinctions melt away with each goofy action.

It was quite the sight to see.

I wasn’t a theater kid when I was young, but I wish I had been. These kids are truly theater kids, most having a handful of shows and performances under their belts. Their ability to take direction, understand a character’s motivation and stand and deliver is remarkable for people of any age. I was lucky to have them for this project. But the real joy was watching them play together.

No reward was offered other then a chance to sit around a table and have fun. No wrong answers could be given, no judgments other than peals of laughter were shared.

Because they are kids, forcing them to behave the way a character would behave can be restrictive. Small projects like these can be tough because of the aggressive schedules and focused demands. They have to want to do it.
When they rehearsed, they were “on” and my house rang with dialogue and calls of “Ok, let’s try it this way…”.

But, when they played, my house was filled with the laughter of kids having fun, and that makes any project worth doing.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

What Do You Do With A Bad Review?

I don’t mean if your work gets one, (it happens to us all, sooner or later). I mean what happens if you promise to read someone’s book and it’s just not what you had hoped it would be? It may be full of clich├ęs that make you roll your eyes, or names or characters borrowed from other works that make you blink in astonishment at the audacity of the author.

If that happens, what do you do?

When you are forcibly thrown from a book’s narrative, how many times will you crawl back between the covers to rejoin the story? Words, imagery, being told instead of shown… these are all things that boot us out of a story, reminding us that we are reading a book instead being transported to a new land full of their problems… as opposed to our own.

How do you write a review?

Some people have no problem writing a scathing review. They feel that the anonymity of the internet gives them the power to be “honest”. After all, they say, who wouldn’t want an honest critique of their work, full of constructive tips and helpful hints.

They disregard the fact that they, themselves, are terrible writers, and blur the lines between helpful hints, outright insults and crushing personal attacks.

Still others write glowing reviews of books they haven’t enjoyed. These reviews can be found everywhere. You can spot them by the amount of generalizations in the review. They may say “The story moved well” instead of “The main character, Bill, was a jerk, and got what was coming to him right quick.” People do this with the best of intentions. I’ve done it, my own self. Most will do it so as to avoid hurting someone’s feelings or causing their book to fall in the rankings.

As a writer, I’d like to think that I am tough enough to take the heat, read a review chock full of constructive criticism and move on. The reality is, I would internalize it, obsess over it, run screaming through my house, demanding that the gods strike this moron down for writing something so heinous. How dare they demean my work? They don’t even understand it! How could they? They are little more than emotionally stunted children from questionable parentage and…

Well, you get the idea.

So, what to do? I’ve got one of these books on my Nook right now. I’m hoping it’s going to get better. What would you do?

Monday, January 21, 2013

Thought Leaders

My internet travels take me to some wonderful places, and provide me with information my parents could never have dreamed of having. There is no shortage of stupid, but plenty of real, actual smartness out there to counter balance it.

Of the many trends that we come across on a daily basis out here in the “series of tubes”, is the idea of “thought leaders”. Somehow, we have gotten it into our heads that it’s ok to allow CEOs and really, really rich people to be leaders of thought. The marketing of this nonsense works like this… Mr. X likes this product because, I’m told, it’s new and emerging technology makes it unique within its class. I think to myself, “Well, heck! If he thinks it rocks, then I should check it out!” So, I do. I then either A: buy it, love it, or B: Buy it, hate it.

Do you see the commonality here?

Now, if my experience lines up with Mr. X’s, I’m vindicated, I feel smarter for having recognized the same value as someone obviously successful and worthy of my attention. If my experience doesn’t line up, I agree to disagree, but keep my eye on Mr. X and his recommendations. If he fails too often, I may have to re evaluate his position as a thought leader. Either way, though… I’m buying it.

Sorry. This is nonsense.

Mr. X looks like a cool guy. His business approach seems to be working, but I don’t know him. He could be a really nice guy, or a complete asswipe… I don’t know. I’ll probably never know. So why on this green earth would I want to allow him to lead my thoughts? Why would I allow him to direct my purchases or decide which way I should go in any given decision? Why does this automatically make him worthy of writing a book? And why does it immediately go to #1 on the best seller list?
When did Americans decide that it was ok to not think for themselves? When did it become ok to let anyone decide for us what is good, bad, worthwhile or ridiculous? When did we all become sheep? Why does someone’s financial prowess automatically make them a leader?

Mr. X may have obtained his status as a billionaire through hard work and diligence. He may have inherited a small fortune and turned it into a big fortune. He may have lied, cheated and stole his way to the top, stepping on and crushing the hopes of people all the way up. He may have achieved his personal desires through a mixture of all of these things and more. How does that even come close to making him a thought leader? Why are people following him, waiting with bated breath for every tweet, every Facebook post, every utterance?

Why do we care?

To understand, I look to the political side of this. Following an ideology is much simpler, (and yet more complex) than following an industry thought leader. Politics is based on nothing more than fear. Allowing a “thought leader” to manage your expectations of a particular industry is little more than fear of missing the boat. Not being on the inside of the curve for the next big thing, the next money maker, the next cool trend.

Having my own mind and refusing to allow myself to be swept up in the latest trend puts me outside of the “pulse”. I’ll always be richer for it, as a person, but it’s probably why I’ll never be wealthy.
Or a thought leader.