Writing is hard work – and you’ll come up with all sorts of distractions to keep you from it. Don’t feel guilty or bad about this: it’s something which every writer experiences, at least some of the time.
Serious writers, though, know how to help themselves focus.
This choice really doesn’t need much of an explanation. Everyone knows the name Norman Bates. The shower scene was groundbreaking — and still is. Psycho arguably paved the way for the horror genre. It was brutal, creepy, and suspenseful without relying on a lot of gore or “gross-out” FX. Since horror is my genre of choice, it only makes sense that Psycho would be my pick for classic film. This is as close to perfect as it gets.
I’m trying to keep a positive attitude, but it’s hard. I hate not getting a paycheck. I hate not being able to be self-sufficient. I hate the hoops you have to jump through to get a simple office assistant job. I hate the way employers don’t feel a need to call or email. I hate feeling inadequate. And I hate feeling like my life is going nowhere.
I know it’ll pass. I’ve just never been good at waiting things out. It’s especially hard now because I just graduated college and what do I have to show for it? A bipolar car, my childhood bedroom, and a piece of paper with my name on it. The whole reason I went to college was to avoid this, and now I can’t even get a job waiting tables because I don’t have experience doing that? So basically I should’ve just foregone college altogether so I could perfect my food expediting skills? It just feels like 4.5 years of work for nothing.
Oh well, I guess in the meantime I’ll just write. Contest deadlines are coming up fast and I need to start outlining this old idea that I want to revisit. I’m dedicating the next two week to the outlining/characterization process. That should make the first draft go a bit smoother (it always does). I want to knock the first draft out within two weeks so that I have time to revise and edit. First deadline is April 1st — that’s the contest I really want to go for because the categories are separated by genre. This way my horror spec isn’t going head to head with the next Revolutionary Road.
I have been waiting to see this movie since I first heard about it finishing production. So, imagine my excitement when I saw it appear On Demand last night at 3 in the morning.
Dream Home is the story of Cheng Lai (Josie Ho), a young woman working two part-time jobs so that she can afford the flat of her dreams. When the owners of the flat reneg on their price, Cheng Lai takes matters into her own hands. What follows is a gory, apartment-building massacre as Cheng Lai fights for her room with a view.
I’m going to say that despite some flaws that I’m dead set against within my own writing, I really liked this movie. It’s brutal, fast-paced, and fun (if you’re a horror junkie like I am). Josie Ho is great as Cheng Lai—she made me hate her and sympathize with her simultaneously. I think a lot of young people, especially in our current economic climate, can relate to her. No, we don’t go out slaughtering people because we want an apartment but she’s struggling. She has big dreams and it seems out of her control to make them happen. She lives with her ailing father. She works two jobs that aren’t necessarily fulfilling. Because of the way her character was developed, I could see why she went ballistic, and that’s what good character development should do.
The death scenes are amazing. Dramatic, over-the-top, and not for the weak-stomached. Cheng Lai employs everything from golf clubs to vacuum cleaners to bongs in her bloody attempt at prime real estate.
Dream Home jumps back and forth through time a lot. We get to see glimpses of Cheng Lai’s childhood and present-day life up until she goes on her gory rampage. This tactic is risky because some directors think they’re being “clever” or “different” by doing this and use it as a gimmick. However, I think it worked in Dream Home. I liked peeling back more of the layers of Cheng Lai between the scenes of her gutting tenants and suffocating security guards. It gave the movie a more genuine feel rather than a lot of slasher films where we see one person die… then our faceless stalker finds another person to kill… and so on. The time cuts added some variety and kept the pace brisk without feeling forced.
Now, as for what I didn’t like: Cheng Lai was easy to identify with but she was hard to root for. She was an interesting character, but I wasn’t emotionally invested in her reaching her goal (attaining her dream flat). On the flip side of that, the characterization of her victims was PAPER THIN. So on one hand we have Cheng Lai, psychotic house hunter killing innocent people to get what she wants, and on the other, we have a handful of unlikable tenants (a cheating husband, shallow prostitutes, deadbeat druggies). It was hard for me to care when they died, but it was also hard for me to advocate Cheng Lai killing them. I know a lot of people might use the argument that this is a horror film, who needs characterization that deep. I disagree. No matter what genre it is, a movie needs to have characters you CARE about, otherwise what’s the point?
That’s not to say that the death scenes aren’t exciting. No one goes down without a fight, and it’s fun to watch. Cheng Lai isn’t Jason Voorhees — she gets cut, bruised, and beaten. I think that added a refreshing element to Dream Home as well. The victims fought back and Cheng Lai wasn’t some unstoppable force of nature.
My final impression is this: despite the thin characters, I liked Dream Home a lot. I like that it dealt with the volatile housing market and the economic collapse. I like the over the top death scenes and the FX. It’s head and shoulders above a lot of American slashers that have come out lately (most of which have been remakes), and I can definitely see myself adding this to my collection once it finds its way onto DVD.
I think a soundtrack should be more than hip, catchy pop songs that give us something to listen to during a montage (though I enjoy those too). In order to be effective I think that a movie’s music needs to add to it and help shape the mood that the movie is trying to convey. I think The Hunger does this perfectly. It’s haunting, elegant, and beautiful. It creates the perfect atmosphere for a film about vampires, their sensuality, and their fear of aging. The music was just as much a part of the film as the writing, directing, and acting—and that’s how it should always be, but unforunately isn’t with a lot of movies. I also want to mention Tron: Legacy as my runner-up for Daft Punk’s talents in bringing that world to life.
I can probably recite this movie from beginning to end. And I still love it every time I watch it. My parents were the kind of people who let the MPAA tell them what I should watch, so it wasn’t until I was like 12 that I actually got to see this for the first time. Scream is iconic and this is the movie that first inspired me to write for film (originally I wanted to do prose). Kevin Williamson was my idol with all his 90’s horror movies (still kind of is, I’ve just added to the list). I like that he writes distinct characters and makes you care about them; these aren’t cardboard cutouts you’re waiting to see slaughtered. The whole series has been pretty consistent and I’m sure Scream 4 will get just as many viewings as the first three.
I’m falling behind on this! Anyway, I don’t know if this necessarily counts as a twist ending or just a complete mind fuck of a movie all together, but either way, of all the movies I considered (Saw, Diabolique, Identity, etc.), this is the one that had me scratching my head the most (that was such a run-on sentence). I think I’m still trying to figure this movie out in its entirety. The first time I saw it I wasn’t sure what to think but it grew on me. It definitely makes you think, and it has some pretty creepy scenes (the homeless man behind the diner haunted me for days).
Do made-for-TV movies still exist outside of Lifetime? I feel like they’re a dying breed, being edged out by the ever-growing crop of reality TV. Anyway, Brink was one of the masterpieces that spawned from the Disney Channel’s Golden Age of Disney Channel Original Movies (before High-School Musical clawed its way into existence). This movie, among others (Smart House, Johnny Tsunami, Miracle in Lane Two), were actually pretty f’n good considering they were… airing on Disney Channel. I could still watch Brink today and enjoy it. It kind of makes me weep for today’s youth… we had gems like this and they get thrown scraps like… The Hannah Montana Movie. Brink takes me back to my childhood, and for that, I love it. I’ll never forget the “Look Before You Leap” montage of him trying to balance skating with his two different crews and working at the dog-washing place, Gabriella’s dramatic “eat it” moment, or the final race. This movie inspired me to rollerblade… but I was too scared to do the hardcore tricks so I quit. Still a great movie though!
I watched this movie every other day the summer before I moved out to go to college. It still holds a very close place in my heart. I’ve loved Elisha Cuthbert forever (I wish she was doing more lately) and I thought she and Emile Hirsch had good chemistry. They didn’t belong together at all, but they still worked. I’m a sucker for “opposites attract” type love stories so her spontaneous nature coupled with his very structured, semi-neurotic personality was perfect for me.
Last night when I said I was going to bed at 12 so that I could get up at 8 for my meeting at the temp agency… yeah. Ended up not going to sleep until 4. It wasn’t my fault though—I got in bed. I closed my eyes. And I laid there. Sleep refused to come. It’s no surprise considering how messed up I’ve made my sleep habits. So when my alarm went off at 8 it wasn’t a pretty sight.
I seriously considered staying in bed and just blowing off my meeting. Seriously, seriously considered it. However, upon further thought, I realized that if I did that then I’d be the very things I complain about—lazy, entitled, slacking, half-assed. So I hauled my ass out of bed and got ready. And I have to say that once I was up and alert, it did feel kind of good to join the world of the living (but that could be simply because I knew I could come home right after my meeting and crawl back into bed).
Last night, my dad took my car to—where else?—a prayer meeting at church and left me with less than a quarter tank of gas. Thanks to my momentary lapse in responsible decision-making where I laid in bed an extra five minutes debating on whether or not I should go to the temp agency, I was too behind to stop and get gas so I was freaking out about that on my way to the temp agency. I was also freaking out about the possibility of my car overheating again because the gage kept rising… but then I’d blast the heat and it would be fine. Point is: it was a stressful drive.
Then, I couldn’t find the place. It ended up being in this dinky little plaza that looked like it housed a place for crackheads to squat. It was next to a Subway and a BBQ/soul food place that just looked so… sad. Sitting in the car, I had another moment of debate. I was tempted to leave, but then I told myself that I didn’t drive over here for nothing. I didn’t wake up at 8 in the morning for nothing. Just get it over with.
I went inside and the people ended up being really nice. Like REALLY nice. I was expecting some attitude (probably because the place was so brokedown looking; don’t judge) but I was pleasantly surprised. The woman I talked with seemed very eager to help. She told me I have a strong resume and that she could probably find me something in a temp-for-hire position. I’m hoping she can because Lord knows I need it!
I’m also going to apply at a hotel that a friend of my mother’s used to work at tomorrow. She told me to ask for the manager by name and tell him that she recommended me; she even gave me her number to use as a reference. I’m hoping that something comes from that. I’ve learned to not freak out about this. It’s out of my control. That doesn’t mean I’m not going to keep trying, but I can’t spiral into a depression if I don’t land something.
All in all, it feels good. I have the temp agency looking out for me as well as myself now so I’m content. Still hoping to have some kind of cashflow by mid-March. That’s the goal, people!
In more saddening news, I found out today that the Borders right by my house is shutting down. I’m OBSESSED with Borders, so having one literally five minutes away was my idea of Heaven. Now it’s gone. I’ll have to go back one more time to pay my respects and shed a tear—so many memories there. That was my safe haven when I was just bored and wanted to entertain myself or had to go relax. Fuck you, recession!
Martyrs is a hard film to watch. You may not have a soul if you’re not the least bit moved by the time the credits end. It’s so stressful, depressing, and nihilistic. It starts with a bang (literally) and never lets up. A religious organization, in an effort to discover what life is after death, kidnaps young girls and tortures them until they can surpass the pain and see the afterlife, thus becoming martyrs. Lucie (Mylene Jampanoi) escapes their captivity as a girl and seeks revenge on the people who tortured her years later. What ultimately follows are some very disturbing scenes that honestly haunted me for days after watching it. It’s not OVERLY gory and it’s not necessarily sickening in its imagery… it’s just relentless. I think the scene of Anna (wonderfully played by the gorgeous Morjana Alaoui) being beaten over the soundtrack of Goldmund’s “My Neighborhood” and a VO of her childhood conversation with Lucie even brought a tear to my eye. The friendship between the two leads is touching and heartbreaking. I think a friend of mine described it best when he said Martyrs was the best movie he’ll never watch again. It was good, it was thoughtful, and it brought a lot more to the table than your usual horror fare, but I can do without a second viewing.
"I've written myself into a corner" Oh man, that is my worst nightmare. On my first screenplay I did that and I learned my lesson reeeeaaal fast. I now spend at a MINIMUM of one month in the outlining/treatment process. I write an outline of every scene in chronological order until I'm happy with it, then I expand it into about a 20 page treatment.
THEN I start working on the SP. I do all that before writing a single word in celtx so I never hit any roadblocks!
Good luck with your screenplay, man! I hope my process of working can give you a little help too! :)
Man, it sucks. I’ve been thinking about it all night and day. It’s going to take some serious restructuring during the revision process to bring it all together, which I’m totally fine with. I love revising and rewriting. I usually do like you and have an extensive preliminary process of making a quick beat sheet, expanding on that with a brief outline, and then expanding on that with an in-depth treatment.
I didn’t do that this time. I just threw caution to the wind and went with my idea. And from pages 1-60 it was feeling like GOLD. Now, the final act feels forced. Hopefully after a nap, inspiration will come.
Thanks for the reply! Happy writing to you and don’t be a stranger.
Let me preface this by saying that I appreciate my family. They’ve all done a lot for me in various ways. I appreciate the fact that I don’t have to freak out over not having a job right now, that my parents don’t try to control everything I do, and that I’m not going to be going hungry anytime soon.
However, I’m tired. I’m moody (I get lost inside my own head sometimes and it stresses me out). I want to be left alone. Also, I’m SO TIRED of the praying. I believe in God. I believe in the principles that the Bible teaches (you shouldn’t lie, you shouldn’t steal, etc.), but no the more outrageous ones (homosexuality is wrong, tattoos will send you to hell, etc.). I also believe in prayer… I believe it can work, but I also wonder…
If God has our whole lives figured out and knows exactly what’s going to happen to us and when we’re going to die and how… then, what’s the use of praying? Whatever’s going to happen is going to happen regardless because that’s how God planned it. Or am I missing something?
I also don’t understand the concept of asking over and over again for what you want to see happen. I feel like one prayer is enough. You’ve sent your letter up to God and He’s received it. He’ll do with it what He will *shrug*
But my parents seem to think prayer is a vital process for every day (or every other day) occurrence. They’ve also sucked my brother into this habit (though I think he does it more to suck up). So then when they want to have their little prayer time (where each of them takes a good 15 minutes to just jabber on and on and on) I’m kind of obliged to join or else I’m the asshole who doesn’t want to pray.
Tonight I just wasn’t in the mood. And I’m tired of being surrounded by the corniness and the fakeness. The prayers also feel so insincere and for show to me. I never portray myself as something I’m not and I’m not going to pretend I’m some prayer machine just to make people happy. I’ll pray for you ON MY OWN. And you can kindly do the same.
/rant. Excuse any typos.
edit: Wow, I was in a TERRIBLE mood when I wrote this. My family is not a group of holy rollers like this makes them sound lol they’re pretty normal, cool people. And I know they’re prayers are sincere, I don’t know why I said that they didn’t feel that way (bitterness? bad mood?) but it can be tiresome. Anyway, I’m not going to delete it because that’s how I felt at the time, but this is how I feel now so… there :p
I’m almost finished with The Guests (very, very tentative title). I know exactly how I want it to end. I know exactly what needs to happen to get there except for this ONE scene. I think I may have given my protagonist too big of an advantage? I also don’t know exactly how she’s going to find this missing little girl she’s looking for (that’s a subplot that needs to be tied up… like now). I think I may just take a step back from this script tonight so that I can plot my next move. It just sucks because I was making such progress so fast. I think I’m going to make my deadline to have this first draft finished be Friday. Then Saturday I can go out and celebrate with drinks :)
I don’t believe in not writing ANYTHING just because you’ve hit a wall (I’m a firm believer in writing every day if possible). So, I usually have more than one screenplay in some various stage of progress whether it be writing, rewriting, revising, or polishing. I wrote the first scene of Blind Date in lieu of The Guests being a little bitch tonight so that made me feel better. Hopefully everything comes together tomorrow.
“There’s a giant group of people who want to be writers, and a smaller group who actually write, and an even smaller group who are actually going to strive so hard that someone’s going to pay attention to them.”—Steve Koren, Tales from the Script (via screenwench)
There are multiple movies that make me really happy, but I chose this one because for as happy as it makes me, I watch it the least. I hate watching “Christmas” movies any other time of year besides… Christmastime. Not that this is a “Christmas” movie per se, but it takes place around Christmas and that’s enough to bother me if I’m watching it in April. However, from the days of November 26-December 25 I watch this almost two times a day so that I can get my fill. I LOVE this movie. It’s another one that I feel is underrated; the cast is great and so many scenes crack me up every time I see them, no matter how many times I watch this (“What the HELL are you doing? This is a PONTIAC GRAND PRIX!”). So many quotable moments. I’m getting happier just writing about this movie!
I chose Saving Silverman as my most underrated movie because 9 times out of 10, whenever I bring it up the person I’m talking to has no idea what movie I’m talking about. It definitely doesn’t get as much recognition as other light, somewhat raunchy comedies in the late 90’s-early 00’s era. I think it’s hilarious and has a hook that people can relate to. Who hasn’t ever wanted to fake their best-friend’s bitchy girlfriend’s death? Oh, not you? Lame. Great movie and widely under-recognized considering some pretty big names were in it (Jack Black, Amanda Peet, R. Lee Ermey). A personal favorite.
All in all, I’ve got to admit that you’ve made your point: Working “off-script” is the way to go. I mean, look at all the terrible movies featuring actresses who respect the written word, losers like Annette Bening and Meryl Streep and Hilary Swank and Kate Winslet. Has any one them made something likeHoney or Into the Blue? You bet they haven’t!
I know this is old, but the following article cracked me up: Jessica Alba, Screenwriters Don’t Need You Either. It’s a response to Jessica Alba’s erroneous claim that good actors don’t use the script, they just “say what they want to say” (article can be found here with more hilarious commentary). If Alba is going by her own logic that good actors don’t need scripts then… she better be studying the scripts she gets like an overcaffeinated law student prepping for the Bar Exam.
I used to like Alba. I gave her the benefit of the doubt when it came to her acting abilities (I didn’t think she was quite as terrible as everyone makes her out to be—most of her roles are meant simply for eye candy anyway) but the arrogance coupled with the ignorance is just astounding. She’s been in flop after flop after flop so I really don’t think she has any room to say was constitutes making a good movie. Her comments also cheapen all the work, time, and dedication that goes into crafting a screenplay. I would say I’m going on strike against her movies but the only ones I’ve liked (Machete, Sin City) weren’t because of her and she had pretty small parts in both (surprise, surprise).
Message to Jessica Alba: FOLLOW THE SCRIPT! Or do something like modeling where you just have to stand there, look pretty. Ugh, never mind. You kind of already do that with every role you play. Just had to sound off on that now that I have a platform to do so :)
It was a slow year for movies (to me). Most of the movies I saw ranged from mediocre to horrible. I actually put off seeing The Town for as long as possible despite the glowing reviews and constant recommendations. Not even the amazing cast of some of my favorites (Jon Hamm, Jeremy Renner, Rebecca Hall) drew me to it. I just didn’t think it was going to appeal to me. I’m not a huge fan of heist/crime movies so I kind of just dismissed it when it initially came out in theaters. I finally bit the bullet and rented it on a slow Friday night and LOVED it. Great script, great acting, TONS of conflict and incredibly entertaining. I’m not sure if I’m giving this best movie of the last year because I enjoyed it so much (I did) or because I had such low expectations. Either way, The Town gets my Day 1 spot.
(And I’m using the French poster because I like it better than the American one)
The loudest family on this street. While my dad is downstairs blasting ESPN, Mom is humming along with her iPod at a dull roar, and my brother is charging into the house bellowing the chorus to Cee-lo’s “Fuck You” (the edited version).
I need to move out. Like yesterday.
Must get job by mid-March. Must get apartment by mid-May.
And now that I’ve shut myself away in my room and drowned out the nonsense with Beethoven: time to get back to writing. Hoping to get 10 pages done tonight.
edit: Never mind, my family wants to “pray” for a “few minutes.” So now I have to listen to my Dad and his 15 minute long ramblings.