Writing insight of the day

When I am stuck trying to build my story (before I even get to outlining), I have a set of questions I answer for myself. It’s like giving myself a pop quiz about the story I’m constructing. Some of the questions are “who is this story about?” (who is the main character?), “What is it the main character wants?”, “What is it the main character actually needs?”

By forcing myself to answer these questions (and there’s about 50 of them) I get a better understanding of what I’m writing. Certainly I’ll find I can’t answer them all at once, but the best part is, that if there is a question I can’t answer, I know I need to think about that aspect more before I sit down and really outline the script.

Anyway, just one of the methods I use to craft story. Everyone has their own way of doing it…what’s yours? What do you do when you struggle with crafting your story?

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This post was written by Shawna on June 30, 2005

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I got an idea!

Okay, so I was over at Lee Goldberg’s blog reading his article about how much most Hollywood films suck and why people aren’t paying to see them and it got me thinking.

How *could* you get people to go to the movies again?

I have a few ideas…

1. DVD window expands to 12-18 months (or more) after release. The studios have it all backwards — they need to wait to release a film on DVD rather than rush it out to stores. If people know it will be awhile, it creates demand. Also, have you seen how well Disney’s “moratorium” process works? The release a “Platinum” (read: more coveted) animated film on video or DVD (they’ve been doing this awhile), make it available for about 18 months and then — *poof*! It’s GONE. NO MORE BUYING “The Lion King”…until the *next* time they release it. It builds demand for the film. People are more apt to see in a theater if they know they won’t get to see buy it/rent it/see it on TV for many many many months.

2. Create a new film pricing structure. I think the theater pricing model is outdated. Arclight, arguably the best movie theater in L.A. charges up to $14 a ticket during “prime time” film viewing hours. Why? a) no commercials (only movie trailers) before the movie. b) you can pick your seat c) a really generous membership program for frequent movie goers which includes using points on concessions or free tickets d) some movies they offer 21+ screenings — NO KIDS. Theses are all innovative strategies. Why stop at creative pricing for matinees? Why not charge a premium for certain films? Maybe some “lesser” films should be offered as ‘2 for 1’ bargains. There was a time when double bills were common. Short films should make a comeback and be shown before features. Which leads to my 3rd point…

3. Offer things the average movie goer cannot get by renting or owning the DVD. Sure, some are shown in IMAX, and that’s about the best and most unique reason to go out of your way to see a film. But why not offer other perks like: a) offer movie going packages. Some theaters are starting to catch on to “combos” and gift cards like AMC’s “night at the movies”, which includes 2 tickets, a tub of popcorn and 2 drinks, but theaters need to embrace these kinds of deals. Make it actually a SAVINGS to buy a package (not just that 50 cents it costs to upgrade to a supersize) b) Start upgrading your damn theaters to digital projection already. Yes, it is costly, but hello, people are watching films in digital AT HOME. You want to catch up already?? Digital big screen will attract an audience. c) Multiplexes should offer a “babysitting” theater. Don’t want to sit with the kids while watching the latest Pokemon movie? Want to go see something else? Send the to Pokemon, where the lights don’t go down entirely and kids are kept in check (sign a waiver of course) and go see a movie in peace. Also, spare the people around you by not having your annoying crying kid piping up every 2 minutes.

Theaters can do a lot to bring people in, but studios have more to do too…

4. Stop making excuses. No one likes to be blamed for your shortcomings. I saw Cinderella Man — it’s a good movie. Face it, your marketing department sucked eggs on promoting the film properly. Stop trying to make it sound “good for us” — tell me why I’ll enjoy seeing it, for crissakes! Studios whine that audiences say they want more family friendly films, but then they don’t perform well. Newsflash, just because you slap a ‘G’ or a ‘PG’ on it doesn’t mean parents will react like automatons and take their children to see it, especially if it looks like torture for the adult. Make GOOD family friendly movies and watch the profits roll in (example: “The Incredibles”). Same rule goes for films for any audience outside men 18-34. Just because a movie has 5 women in it, is labeled “chick flick”, does not mean women will flock. Make it a GOOD chick flick and we’ll talk.

5. Stop insulting your audience. This is a message to some of my fellow screenwriters: The audience is NOT stupid. If you portray characters which closely represent your audience as being stupid, backward, redneck idiots, it will not do well. People will allow themselves to be poked fun at, if it is genuinely good natured. If you are trying to sell a political agenda, red and blue staters can smell it. Tell a good story and everybody wins.

These are just some of my new ideas for getting people back to the theaters. Your thoughts??

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This post was written by Shawna on June 28, 2005

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Getting physical

As becoming as I look in my admittedly outdated photo (not *that* outdated, just…not the most current), I find I need to refocus my efforts to lose weight, get into good shape, etc.

So I’m seeing a trainer tomorrow.

Hoo-boy. I don’t know if I’m ready for this or not, but considering how much time I’ve spent recently in front of a PC and not on a treadmill, I think it’s time.

This is just the ‘consultation’ tomorrow. If I like the place/trainer/etc, I can choose to go as often as I like, when I like — no preset number of sessions, etc. The best part — they claim that one session a week (plus some work on your own) is all you need to get on the path to wellness. I already have a Bally club membership, so I am not looking to spend too much extra dough, but just as with screenwriting, I find discipline in exercise to be helpful. Setting goals and working to achieve them. Sure, you can fall off the wagon occassionally (like, watch a movie instead of write, eat a Krispy Kreme instead of a carrot), but as long as you keep those deviances to a minimum, the goal can be met.

Although no Krispy Kremes. They are evil incarnate. Sweet, sweet evil.

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This post was written by Shawna on June 28, 2005

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Deadline freakout

5 days. I’ve got 5 days to get this spec in decent shape to submit for the ABC Fellowship. Not only that, I need to be coherent on the application. I need to be eloquent and profound. It’s too much!

I haven’t gotten any of the feedback from my “tough love” friends either. I’ve cajoled but nada. So, I’ll be revising today with some good notes, but probably not a comprehensive set of notes.

The Artful Writer now has a forum in operation. I recommend dropping by and registering. I registered there yesterday and the place is already hoppin’. If I’m in the chat room, I’m TeelaJBrown. Otherwise, you’ll see my real name.

Hey, maybe we can schedule a chat sometime?? Okay, enough procrastination…

…or not. My sister just came in the room and deemed it necessary for us to get manicures and pedicures this morning. Dangit, I wasn’t ready to go out in public. Now I have to shower and that’s 2 hours I’ll lose on revising. I am making art woman!! I do not need pretty toenails to make art!

Now she’s testy. To the shower I go. See you later.

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This post was written by Shawna on June 25, 2005

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Radio silence

Sorry it’s been so quiet this week. I’ve been slammed with work, HOA stuff and tweaking my draft. So far the notes have been constructive and overall the feedback is pretty positive. Of course, so far I’ve given it to people who are kind. I’m waiting to hear from the ‘tough crowd’ I’ve solicited for feedback.

Criticism is hard. I always have to remind myself that it isn’t personal. I have asked these people to give me their honest feedback and notes so I can make my work better. Still, sometimes it feels like genius to idiot in less than five seconds once someone opens their mouth.

Between genius and idiot, I think I’m floating along as mortal. I’ll settle for that.

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This post was written by Shawna on June 24, 2005

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Finished!

Last night I finished my first draft for my “Lost” spec script. It came in at 52 pages. Clearly I have some work to do on the second draft, but what a great feeling to finish this weekend, when I had hoped to finish. I had to push through about 21 pages or so yesterday, but the pages came (helped by listening to ‘Light Classical’ on my Dish Network radio dial).

Now to register and rewrite. Only 11 days until the ABC deadline!

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This post was written by Shawna on June 20, 2005

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Spec progress

Just a quick note, because I’m still writing tonight, trying to reach the finish line. I am almost done with Act IV. I am on page 45 with 12-15 pages left to go. I’ve already written about 12 pages today and I won’t finish until I can get to the end. Then the rewriting starts.

I’m not sure who I’m going to have read this thing and provide comments back. I’ll need feedback quickly, since I’m trying to get it in good enough shape to submit for the ABC Fellowship. The deadline for that is the end of the month.

Still, feeling good with the progress today. Dang, I need to do laundry…

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This post was written by Shawna on June 19, 2005

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Book Meme: My Turn

Rick tagged me with the book meme that’s going around the blogs like a virus. Okay, fine, I’ll bite.

Total number of books owned: I think I’m at around 300 right now. I shed about 100 books or so between my last two moves, so I could be down to 250. I haven’t counted in awhile and books are like weeds a new one pops up every time I think I’ve got them all.

Last book I bought: Crafty Screenwriting by one of my favorite bloggers Alex Epstein.

Last book I read: Besides the one I just mentioned, I read a lot of screenwriting books. The last non-fiction book I read was Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom by Cory Doctorow (frequent contributor to Boing Boing.

Five books that mean a lot to me:

The Number of the Beast by Robert Heinlein. This was my first real sci-fi book given to me by my father. After all of the other Heinlein books I’ve read, this is the one I always come back to, simply because it was my first.

Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson. It’s actually a tough call between this one and Cryptonomicon which I also love, but again, I go with sentimentality. My first real boyfriend gave me Snow Crash and it blew my mind (this after he had already turned me on to Pournelle and Niven books). I loan out Snow Crash often — I just never get it back. I’ve bought at least five copies of this book since I first read it. I’m currently without a copy.

Mort by Terry Pratchett. I had no idea how funny fantasy could be. I had read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and I knew sci-fi could be funny (this book almost makes the cut for the top 5). Interestingly enough, I was turned on to Mort by Colin Baker at a Dr. Who convention. Yes, in my very young years I attended Dr. Who conventions and took book reading advice from actors. Still, this one was a great one and the entire series of Discworld novels are to this day one of my prized possessions (which continues to grow since the man is still writing them). Mort is actually the 4th Discworld book, but I still recommend it as the best introduction to the series.

Writing Screenplays that Sell by Michael Hauge. This was the first screenwriting book I bought which made me feel I could actually be a writer. I was further encouraged when I listened to him speak at the very first Screenwriting Expo in 2002.

Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery. It may seem corny to you, but I was already a voracious reader when I discovered the Anne Shirley books. I would say that prior to seeing Anne of Green Gables on PBS (which, tragically, may have its funding cut because they can’t seem to stop serving a liberal agenda — okay, I’ll stop) I had already fallen in love with this character and the story. It made me want to tell stories.

Hmmm, who should I tag with this meme… 5 others, the rules say.

E.B. Langton

Kid Sis

Joshua James

Moviequill

Moses

Anybody else can jump in too!

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This post was written by Shawna on June 18, 2005

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Hollywood Momentum

This should provide some new entertainment. Let’s learn all about the assistant life!

(Hat tip: Defamer)

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This post was written by Shawna on June 15, 2005

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Bomb Threat at WGA?

Defamer had the breaking news. Turns out it was a hoax (not surprising).

I wonder how many times people have been talking about films (as bombs)and it has been mistaken as a terror threat…

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This post was written by Shawna on June 15, 2005

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