Monday, April 17, 2006

All-bran for the brain

(NB: This photograph does not show All Bran. Instead, it's Hubbards cereal (I can't recall which), Crunchy Gronola and banana. But "All-bran for the brain" sounded better to me than "Hubbards, Crunchy Gronola and banana for the brain". Sue me later.)

I used the phrase "All-Bran for the brain" last week to describe to someone what it was like to have a regular time every weekday to write my screenplay. It's particularly helpful when I get stuck - as we all do - and don't know what to do. The temptation is to leave it for later - but you can't do that if you've set an appointment for yourself.

So, you write something - anything. And there's something about rewriting something awful that 99% is easier than writing something from scratch.

Having said that, I failed to keep my appointment on Friday - Good Friday, as it happened. I had it all planned, including this lovely photo and the All-Bran guff. But instead, Marie and I talked and talked and talked all day. I love holidays like that! We didn't have any appointments or anything, so we just talked with each other until one of us realised it was 4pm and we'd better eat something.

That's true love!


I'm currently at about page 70 of my screenplay and frighteningly close to what should be the end. I mean, I could pad like crazy to get it to 100 pages, but that's missing the point. I need to get draft 1 finished so I can go back over it and see where I've underdeveloped.

When I was 14 my high school English teacher Miss Evans said my writing was too concise. She was right (this blog excepted, of course!).

I hear about these scripts, and sometimes finished films, that come out at 3+ hours, and then have to be cut back to 2 hours (or not, if you're Peter Jackson), and think, how? Why? Don't they know not to overwrite?

I guess I've learnt to write lean, which is good, but I need to get expansive again. I've written plenty of 30 second radio spots and only a few 15 - 30 minute programmes in my life. I've written many magazine articles, but nothing more than 3000 words. I've never written a book, and I'm feeling it!

So wish me luck, as I probably finish my first draft today and begin the harrowing process that is... rewriting! :)

News of note:

Over the weekend I saw Sweet Home Alabama, Alien, and, of course, The Passion of the Christ.

Sweet Home Alabama didn't grab me at first, so I spent the two hours listening to the plot while reading about it online. The story - more accurately, the characters - did grab me further into the story, but it wasn't a strong opening. Fifteen minutes before there's any significant conflict!

However, it was a pretty successful film - 10th top romantic comedy of all time - and built Reese Witherspoon's career momentum, coming straight after Legally Blonde.

Alien is as good as everyone says it is, so I'm glad I've ticked that one off my absolutely-must-see-or-it's-embarrassing list. What's greater still is the special features available, which go into amazing detail about just about everything.

Perfect for me was hearing how the story came about, in an interview with Dan O'Bannon the original writer, and Ron Shusett, his writing partner. Here it is in point form:
  • O'Bannon was involved in a feature project in France that fell through
  • He returned penniless to the USA and had to live in Shusett's living room
  • While living in said living room, O'Bannon got the IBM typewriter out and began working on a script about pure fear
  • He wanted to take a comedy script he'd done in 1974, and turn it into a sci-fi/horror flick
  • He drew on many, many sources of inspiration to create the story. He details this in the intro to his first draft script, which is included in its entirety on the DVD. Priceless!
  • He and Shusett sold it to Gordon Carroll, and the other two Alien producers who went on to make the whole series, David Giler and Walter Hill. They changed the character names and some story elements
  • The rest is history
Also interesting was how Ridley Scott, a virtual unknown at the time, got involved. Particularly how his detailed storyboards got Fox to double the budget!

Great story, Alien. And good to see the "behind the scenes" stuff where you realise what a new thing it was at the time, having a truck driver crew instead of the usual, I guess, Star Trek stuff.

And last night we saw The Passion for the first time since seeing it in the cinema 2 years ago. As powerful as ever. Two years ago, it was a religious experience for me; last night I was also seeing it as a film - and a very well-made one as well.

Of course some people didn't like it, the violence was too much, etc. It hasn't worked as many Christians hoped as an evangelism tool, but it is very helpful to Christians to make real what is a very familiar story.

What's remarkable about the Passion is how universally accepted it was within Christian circles. Even adaptations of so-called cult comics divide fans between the "it's great" and the "it's nothing like the real thing", so imagine the difficulty of presenting the Gospel.

As for accusations that the movie is anti-Semitic, what?? I know this is going over old ground but having seen it again last night, I really can't see how anyone can pick up that message either from the movie or from the original Gospel texts. If someone is going to manipulate Christians who should know better to persecute and hate Jews, the truth is not going to get in their way. A movie will not make any difference, and is certainly not the cause of the anti-semitism.

Interesting that this was Mel Gibson's first writing credit. I think he and Benedict Fitzgerald did a fantastic job, considering this is an often-told tale that needed a new angle. I was going to say it didn't conform to three-act structure, but I guess it really does in a very profound way.


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