Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Letter from Pearl Harbor

I've got to put out a quick word for this short film, which is getting released on YouTube tomorrow. I know almost all of the people involved. Two of the actors, Aurora Florence and Shaun Frenza, were in Weighted (my capstone film), and I took an upper-level screenwriting class with Katie Golden, who wrote The Letter from Pearl Harbor. Kristen Hillier, the film's producer, shot my capstone, and Jacob Schwarz (the director) and I have been friends for years.

It's a sure bet the film will be gorgeous and well-acted, so I very much encourage you to check out the trailer (below), and "like"the Facebook page, and watch it when its released online tomorrow.

Monday, November 28, 2011

A List You Won't Care About

Here's what I have to get done this week:

  • 6 script coverages
  • Grade 23 8-page papers
  • Create 9 multiple-choice questions for an exam
  • Redraft 3 short scripts
  • Write the first 10-20 pages of a feature
  • Complete a 6-8 page (single-spaced) analysis of the film Ordinary People
  • Read and critique screenplays from fellow students
  • Study for and take an Acting final (I'm not real worried about this one)
  • Write a final paper for same (again...)
I'm not doing one of those, "Everyone look how busy I am!" things. I just couldn't figure out what to post about, but I really wanted to keep my commitment. So I figured I'd present a good overview of what my experience with grad school will be this week, so close to what other people refer to as "finals." 

Also: as of a couple of days ago, it officially became OK to listen to Christmas music. I began yesterday with "Winter Moon," by Mindy Gledhill. 

If you want movie recommendations for Christmas, I published just such a list last year, when I was writing for Rhombus (which has unfortunately stopped updating entirely.) Here's a link

And here is a not-very-good picture I took:

Somewhere downtown. I can't remember precisely where. It was cold that day.

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Friday 'Stache

'Stache action, go!
Stephen (V.) Nelson told me that Quiet Dignity is super committed to releasing a new video every week. So far, they're 6 for 6. Guys, I'm so, so impressed. Keep it up.

Speaking of Quiet, literally, I was speaking of Quiet dignity to a fellow BU film student, and she responded by showing me this lovely little piece:

Here's what you can do with your Thanksgiving leftovers:

And now that Thanksgiving is officially over, we're all allowed to start listening to Christmas music! This is the newest from Jake Justice. (Seriously, though, that name. Gosh.)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Where have all the film critics gone?

You may not know this, but it is nearly impossible these days to make a living as a film critic. We can thank crowd-sourcing for this. Go jump on Netflix and take a look at the user reviews. Some of them are reasonably well-informed, but even the highest rated reviews betray a kind of stubborn ignorance, in that they almost never break free of the "I liked it"/"I hated it" foundation of commentary. What is usually missing from lay-criticism is careful evaluation of the actual quality of a film, which should account for what the thing was trying to do, and whether it was successful. The personal response of the viewer/reviewer is a factor, but it is not the end-all.

The current landscape for movie reviews is a bit dismal. Film critics almost always get lumped together, as though they are in some kind of club that meets weekly and decides whether they liked a movie or not. I can't tell you how many times I've heard, "I don't usually agree with what the critics say." What does that even mean? Are you aware that "critics" differ vastly from one another, and that their opinions represent a wide spectrum of valuable analytical thought? You can't disagree with all of them. It's not possible.

It is possible, however, to take note of some kind of critical consensus, if and when it happens. If a whole lot of critics seem really enthused about a particular film, it's probably worth some consideration. If you find yourself in love with a film that most critics seem to hate, it might be time to acknowledge that you have  something of a guilty pleasure. Loving a film doesn't make it good, and hating it doesn't make it bad.

I digress. The point is that film criticism is a dying profession. It's now the hobbyist's world, and the hobbyist doesn't have to be any good, just passionate, and Internet-savvy. But it stands to reason that as the professional critics go, so goes the professional criticism.

Thankfully, we've still got Rotten Tomatoes and MetaCritic. Sure, they house a good number of idiots masquerading as film buffs, but those review aggregators are the last bastion of hope for professional film critics. To get included in the "tomatometer" requires significant accreditation, and so Rotten Tomatoes' scores maintain a certain value.

Unfortunately, that value doesn't seem to affect the box office over-dramatically. Here is a telling snapshot:

Striking, is it not?

Anyway, I was motivated to write this ranting, disorganized post because, despite the thanklessness of it, I can't seem to stop writing movie reviews. And while I try my best to make them meaningful, whether I succeed in that effort is not really my call.

Here's my latest. And it provides a great illustration of that thing I mentioned. I had major problems with Hugo, but it's got a 94% on Rotten Tomatoes. Does that mean that I think all critics are wrong and stupid? Of course not.

Anyway. I'm done.

Monday, November 21, 2011

A Man Named John August

Because I am deeply generous, I have decided to share some things I recently found -- they are primarily the brain products of a man named John August. Have you heard of him? I hadn't, until several days ago. Though I probably should have.

Anyway, he's notable because he's doing what I'm sort of trying to do, albeit on a much grander scale. He's working in a craft he loves, and he's doing his best to help out anyone else who's interested in learning from him. I admire this so much I can't even describe it.

Here are the things:

If you have any interest in screenwriting at all, I think these are invaluable resources. Check it all out.

Also, my profile went up over the weekend. WARNING: It has absolutely nothing to do with film studenting. But I am pleased about it nonetheless, and figured I'd share.

Lastly, a picture I took.

Taken with my iPhone, using the Pano app, at the Boston Public Library. Click for full size.
Have a lovely week.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The 'Stache is Back

I know! You've so been missing the Friday 'Stache.



To start, a lovely new "Worst Roommate Ever" episode from Quiet Dignity (a really funny concept, executed surprisingly well):

My good friend Jake Justice just started his own YouTube channel, and I like it a whole lot. It's all about making dynamic a musical space. Plus, he's really, really good. Enjoy:

Here's a nice little doc about a must-see spot in Utah:

Lastly, Catvertizing (no further explanation needed):

Monday, November 14, 2011

Pulling a fast one on Failure.

What do I mean by that? I mean that I completely forgot about today's post until 10:45pm, which was 26 minutes ago. (The time is 11:11.) I spent all that time trying to figure out how to get scrippets (which is supposed to be, and, I trust, actually is magical) to work for me on Blogger. (Note: soon this blog will move to Wordpress, but until then...) No dice.

So now it's 11:13, and I don't really have any pressing things to talk about.

Well, I had an interesting experience today.

A couple weeks ago, I was in a bad mood in one of my classes. Everything that was happening in the class felt like a frustrating waste of time, and a not insignificant amount of it, too, since the class is three hours long. My bad attitude was largely a product of frustration with my own failure to write consistently, which was subsequently projected on, well, everything else. I'm talking here about a really bad mood. One of those inner-tantrums that you sort of let escalate to the point of not caring if it shows.

This is always bad form, by the way. Such bad form, that I got an honest to goodness email from the TA, suggesting, with respect and affection, that I check myself and get my act together. Thankfully, I wasn't as sour when I got the email, and was therefore able to immediately realize that what he was suggesting was very sound advice. A duality of gratitude and shame washed over me, and I resolved that I would grow up and get over my issues before I invariably burned some important bridges.

Today, two weeks removed from my disrespectful display of insolence, I had a chance to talk to both the professor and his TA. The conversation went very well. I apologized and attempted to explain my behavior, and they encouraged me to come to them often with questions and the like--to use them as the resource they are, with a very personal understanding of how wretchedly difficult this whole business of writing can be.

Things aren't easy yet, nor will they ever be, I imagine. But I am both learning that I need to mature, and finding ways to go about doing it.

Today, I finished yet another first draft of a short script. If I can ever figure out how to more effectively post "scrippets" here, you'll get to read something. Maybe. I make no promises. ... Leave me alone!

So, I consider that I've pulled a fast one on failure, and in several instances. It is 11:24, which means I'll get this post published before the day is out. Is it a great post? Is it an essential addition to this blog, considering all of my interlocking mission statements?

At this point, I don't care. The point is that I promised to post every Monday and Friday, and, so far, I've kept that promise.

Maybe next time I'll remember earlier.

ALSO! I've been wanting to include pictures I take of Boston. I haven't been out playing the photographer like I'd planned, but I have grabbed a shot here and there. So, to that end:

Taken with my iPhone from a bridge over the Charles.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Pick a different thing.

As many of you may know, teaching is still a part of my life. I'm still a TA, and though the circumstances are very different, I'm finding many of the experiences to be very similar.

For instance, I still occasionally have opportunities to talk with students one-on-one, usually about the class, but sometimes not. One of my students came to my "office hour" (I do not have an office) to go over some of her ideas for the next essay. She's interested in becoming a screenwriter, so she's thinking about focusing on certain aspects of that career's development alongside technology for her essay. I told her I think that's a great topic. 

I also told her that screenwriting is an excruciatingly difficult career choice. Let's think about it. You don't get paid unless you're very good, have great connections, and get lucky. No one is ever going to tell you how and when and what to do, so all of your hard work has to be completely self-motivated. In order to get to the point where you're any good at all, you have to bleed your life away at the keyboard, and somehow re-construct yourself into someone who cares more about writing than almost anything else. I should also mention that screenwriting is, quite possibly, the most grueling kind of writing to do well, or even correctly. And since so few people know how or even care to read screenplays, the best stuff you do will be almost totally unappreciated.

But don't worry, because for the first several years of painstaking sacrifice, everything you actually manage to finish will be total crap.

My advice? Pick a different thing. 

If you can't -- if you can't -- then you'd better start in on it now. The sooner you reconstitute your life around a core of daily, substantial writing, the better shot you'll have. 

The good news is, I don't know of many people who sacrifice hours writing every day for the better part of their lives and don't wind up with some degree of success. So the real question is, are you willing to make the offering that the craft demands?

In short, this mantra:

Write away, right away!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Promises, Promises

I'm going to make more promises. Perhaps this is unwise. Perhaps I will fail to keep them. Perhaps perhaps perhaps.

Here's a truth: If I don't make any promises, I'm certain not to keep them. Ha!

Promise #1: I will update this blog every Monday.

Promise #2: I will update this blog every Friday.

Promise #3: The updates can and will be about anything that fits within the admittedly broad context of this blog. Whatever kind of stuff you've seen before will about dictate what future stuff will look like. But I'm not going to be rigid about it. Because I can't handle that.

I guess that last was less a promise than it was a disclaimer. But so it is written, and so it shall be.

In other news, I've been a little better about writing every day. Or, I'll say, I was getting better. Last week. And then the week wound up with some slacking, and this week started with some mental exhaustion, and...

TOMORROW I will begin again my ongoing, gasping commitment to write for two hours every day.

Aside: Tomorrow is my favorite day of the week.

On an entirely unrelated topic, I've been reading "Born to Run," and everyone in the world should read that book. I don't say that lightly. In fact, I say it heavily. Everyone in the world should read that book. People who love running should read it, and people who hate running should read it, and people who don't give a hard little crap about running should read it. Which is a long definition of "everyone," in this context. (-10 points for overusing that word, Jordan.)

Now watch this:

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