The Sorrows of Deirdre

So, I had a film called “The Sorrows of Deirdre.”  I noticed something interesting.  Depending on who I pitch it to, my pitch changes.

LinkedIn Pitch:

It’s called “The Sorrows of Deirdre” and it’s based on Celtic mythology. Deirdre has been cursed with such beauty, that men’s desires her threatens to divide Ireland. To settle the issue, she’s promised to the King.

But, Deirdre falls in love with Naoise, and flees with him to Scotland. Their adventures with the natives seem almost more dangerous than staying in Ireland. And, as Naoise and his family grow homesick, it seems that one of the king’s servants can persuade him to return.

However, Deirdre’s prophetic dreams tell her than the return means certain death for her love.

Stage32 pitch:

LOGLINE:Some wish for knowledge. Others desire beauty. She was cursed with both.

SYNOPSIS:

Deirdre can dream about the future, but she can’t change it on her own. All men pretend to want to please her, but none listen. So her fate is to witness the destruction of one of the greatest kingdoms in the ancient world.

When Deirdre finds an prophetic amulet, her dreams lead to the handsome Naoise. However, she had been promised to the king from a young age. In order to save Naoise and his family, Deirdre and her new in-laws are forced to flee.

Unfortunately, the locals don’t take to Naoise and his brothers. They battle savage pics, and strange Britons, but most dangerous of all are devious druids who play to their homesickness.

Why I don’t review short films

Hi Vasco – thanks for sending me your review. I deliberately chose mediocre films, because that’s more of a challenge than describing excellence.

While your review was fun to read, and very well written (actually the best of all the submissions), its tone was far too negative, to the point of sourness, for what I have in mind.

I want the site to be used regularly by the average/casual/new short film fan, not just by sophisticated film-buffs and film-makers. Many people wouldn’t return to a site that did such damning reviews. […]

I also want film-makers to submit, and not many would come knocking if they fear they’ll get taken apart like that!

[…]

So if you feel you could write to a more emollient brief, maybe you could have a go at the other one (or something of your own choosing).


Sourness?  Sourness at what?  Maybe the low rate of pay offered, if I got the job as a film reviewer.  But, I didn’t think that showed.

Okay, so you say, why not just be nice, or emollient?

I was nice.  I said there was a good scene on the bus, and it looked like the actors left the script in their seats, because the film went downhill afterwards.  I discussed its merits, and where it could be improved.  (Within a very short word limit.)  And, sadly, I didn’t get paid a red cent for my work.

I wasn’t being offered enough money to be in marketing, so I didn’t write anything that could be used for publicity.  But, I was honest, fair, and I thought very gentle.

The thing is, if you spend more on the festival submissions than you do on the script, the movie’s probably not going to be very fun to watch.  It’s really hard to find nice things to say, and be honest at the same time, when someone sends you something that was thrown together in a weekend.

Just because you win a festival, that doesn’t mean your film was any good.  It just means the judges thought it was the least bad of the films that were entered. And, you might not have the same taste as the judges anyway.

But, anyway, don’t ask me for honest feedback unless you really want it.

Well, I discussed other films, and to make a long story short, they expected me to watch two films and churn out two reviews in about an hour.  Not only that, find nice warm fuzzy things to say about the films in that time.  All for an unskilled wage, and with a zero hour contract.  And no, I didn’t get paid for “sample” reviews.  No wonder my submission was the best one!  Try being less sour after hearing those working conditions.

Okay, I guess I’ll go back to focusing on fiction and fantasy now.  It seems non-fiction is a bitter pill to swallow.

3 ways to work with a writing partner

Ptara logo above wordcloud artwork

Or, “Three Ways to Collaborate on a Screenplay.”

A lot of people offer advice to screenwriters. We don’t. We write scripts in house, produce our own stories, and provide services to film production companies. So, screenwriters are not our target market.

So far, apart from a few student projects where working as part of a team was part of the grade, I tend to write alone.   I’m not looking for a writing partner, and unless I were hired to work as part of a team I don’t know if I’d work with one.

However, if you do write screenplays, and you have found your writing partner, I can tell you what seems to work for others.

1. Taking turns.
I found this one reading Joe Eszterhas’s autobiography. He did this with a friend and said it was a lot of fun. The resulting film wasn’t one of his biggest hits, but oh well. Taking turns is as simple as it sounds: One writer writes one draft, then sends it to the other writer for the next draft, bouncing it back and forth until they’re both happy with the final result.
2. Alternating scenes.
I also read a book by two comedy writers who’s movies I enjoy, called “writing movies for fun and profit.” I laughed at Ben Garrant and Thomas Lennon’s films (the Pacifier, Night at The Museum, even Balls of Fury), but their scripts were much better than that book. Some jokes just have to be performed to make sense, I suppose.

Anyway, since the book is mostly written tongue in cheek (their films grossed a billion worldwide perhaps, but they’ve only seen a tiny fraction of that), I can’t be sure that this is really their working method, but it might work. First, you sit together in a room, and rack your brains until you come up with an outline. Then, each writer writes a scene for part of that outline. They claim the outline is the hard part. After you’ve written the odd scenes and your partner the even scenes, you switch and polish off the other writer’s work.

3. Lyrics and rhythm.
I often hear teacher of music composition express doubt that creative collaboration is possible. When confronted with great collaborators, they assume one artist wrote the lyrics and the other composed the melody, or something like that.
This can work in musicals, as illustrated in Topsy Turvy, and sort of reflects the way the famous 1930s Wizard of Oz was written.With a non-musical script, it’s a little more tricky. But, it can be done. French films have two kinds of writing credits, one for the story line or treatment, and one for the writer who does the dialogue.

Now, before you approach me or anyone else with one of these, consider that all work best if you know your writing partner well, or if you have an existing working relationship with the writers. Do you share the same taste in films and stories? Do you have a story that you both want to tell in the same way? If you’re not on the same page, it probably won’t work.

Also, unless you’re both loaded, you’ll probably need some money to sustain yourselves while writing, or extra patience while your partner tries to find time to write. The reality is multitasking celebrities usually get ghost writers to write for them, and even a full time screenwriters would normally take 3 months, 6 months, even a year to complete a script. The mythical stories about someone writing a draft in three days leave out all the months that went into preparing that first draft and the additional months that went into writing the more careful second draft.

5 Remakes that pass for originals

We’re growing tired of remakes.  Some rehashes claim to be better than the original, but we’re not sure “better” is the right word.

Do we need another Karate Kid, another Dr Doolittle, another Ghostbusters, another Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, another Steel Magnolias?  What was wrong with the first film?

(The second Karate Kid was okay,  but “Pick up your coat” is incredibly lazy compared to “wax on, wax off.”)

However, some remakes add something, and in some ways improve upon the original.  A few, in fact, are so good that we sometimes think that the remake is the original. Continue reading 5 Remakes that pass for originals

Apocalypse Now Redux: review

Walter Murch, yes the Walter Murch, travelled all the way to Aberystwyth to take questions on his film, Apocalypse Now.

Okay, so Murch was only the sound stylist, right? An editor, not a director, star, screenwriter or even a producer. Producers take home the best picture award, directors get to be thought of the auteur, actors get famous, screenwriters can say they thought it all up, but without people working below the line there’s only so much you can do.

Continue reading Apocalypse Now Redux: review

List of movies

Love them or hate them, here’s a list of movies. It’s not a good list, or a bad list, just a list.

Some have won awards and become classics. Others have been largely forgotten.

Some we watched on the recommendation of friends.  Others we had to see for class. Still others just happened to be playing at a one screen cinema.

Some we like and can recommend. Others we find boring and annoying.

However, our taste might not be the same as yours.

(Some related films and listed as a group. Consider seeing these as double or triple features, or with a festival pass.) Continue reading List of movies

The Disaster Artist (review)

At Ptara, I directed two microbudget feature films. Make that nanobudget.

One had a crew of two (excluding the three actors, who also crewed, and a few kids who helped out on sound one day), the other was basically me editing a large variety of footage to make it coherent. There were challenges in both, and everyone learned a lot.  And, what these films lack in production values is made up for in performance and story line.

By contrast, Tommy Wiseau’s “The Room” had a budget that was about 1000 times either of my films.  He worked with much more expensive kit and a more experienced cast and crew. Yet, “The Room” was filled with continuity errors, bad acting, and an incoherent plot.

Continue reading The Disaster Artist (review)

Our own version of Tay

I hate the tech-heavy narcissism of the Internet.

Yes, Shakespeare mentioned the theatre in his plays, but none of his protagonists were full-time stage actors.  Montaigne acknowledged what he was doing, but he didn’t go on  and on about the craft of writing essays.  Did Caxton repeatedly publish books about publishing?  No.  Not even film is this self-reflective of a medium.

In many cases, the medium has become the message, but not in the way that Marshall McLuhan meant. It’s not just that the Internet and social media have influenced the way we talk, they have become almost all that some people talk about.  The medium is narcissistic. Continue reading Our own version of Tay