The creativity of writing a budget

A yellow flower, common in gardens in Aberystwyth, processed in photography so the colors stand out.
Simple solutions come when you look at things differently.

Creative accounting is wrong, but it’s not wrong to be creative when accounting.

We were putting together some numbers for a project, and the budget started looking, well, bloated.  We hoped to keep total costs down below a certain threshold.  But, the budget for our project was starting to balloon to one and a half times the maximum I hoped it would be, and I hadn’t even finished costing the marketing yet. Continue reading The creativity of writing a budget

Topsy Turvy (1999) Review

Poster with the words "The Mikado on top, and a full length portrait of the character kaisha, in traditional dress and holding a sword, surrounded by flowers.
The Mikado, promotional poster from the Gilbert and Sullivan theatrical production, by Johnathan B. Jeffrey, ca. 1885

I purposely avoided Moliere, Shakespeare in Love, and almost every other movie about a playwright.  I do this because I respect writers like Shakespeare, and I find their period fascinating.  I likewise avoid most movies about Thomas Jefferson.  I prefer the Jefferson that I read in his letters, or from his contemporaries, to the cartoon lecher that Hollywood spoon feeds us with.

It ain’t just reverence and respect for the past, I don’t like the glossy misinterpretations.  Those movies about great people are often like sampling Mozart into some kind of techno elevator music. Continue reading Topsy Turvy (1999) Review

Review: Le Rayon Vert

NAPOLEON DYNAMITE meets AMELIE POULAIN. Or, the grandmother of both films.

Le Rayon Vert is a classic. It’s not black and white, it’s not silent, and you probably never heard of the actors. The director’s name, Eric Rohmer, may easily be confused with a military general.

It’s title is apparently taken from a Jules Verne novel, but this is no sci-fi. No, Le Rayon Vert is the same down to earth, independent filmmaking that made Napoleon Dynamite seems so at home with audiences. And the main character is sort of the kind of hopeless romantic as Amelie. Only, she’s a bit more self-absorbed and socially maladroit, perhaps like young master Dynamite. (Or a female, French version of him.) Continue reading Review: Le Rayon Vert

Mysteries of Lisbon: A historical film.

Like many of today’s historical films, Mysteries of Lisbon is long (very long). Before investing four and a half hours in a movie, it might be an idea to read a review or two.  After I invested my four and a half hours, ideas for reviews kept invading my head. But there are so many things to talk about, the director’s style, the actors, the camera work that one observer called “unobtrusive”, the level of history, it was hard to settle on something.

Sure, I could write a PhD thesis, researching the director’s life and speculating how that influenced the production, but I’m not interested in that. Instead, I’ll answer the two questions I think every reviewer should answer. Did I like the movie? And, how do my readers know if they’ll like it? Continue reading Mysteries of Lisbon: A historical film.

Why screenwriters should grow spines

Harry Longabaugh aka Sundance Kid by De Young Photography Studio three quarter body shot
The Sundance Kid doesn’t think much of spineless screenwriters

William Goldman shares two important lessons in Adventures of the Screen Trade.  First, he claims that Nobody Knows Anything.  Then, he contradicts himself with his strongest piece of advice : Protect Your Story’s Spine To The Death.

Yes, Goldman whines and whinges melodramatically about how screenwriters are on the bottom of the power ladder, how you have to collaborate to the bosses, how stars have too much power, and about how if all you do is write screenplays your life will be unfulfilling.

But, just when he appears to give up all hope of influencing anyone else, Goldman shows how he actually fights to defend the integrity of his films.  We see how a certain number of projects were sunk by the writer, and most importantly, how having the courage to protect the integrity of his screenplay produced the classic Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid  (yes, the film with Robert Redford which inspired the famous film festival). Continue reading Why screenwriters should grow spines

Laura (1944) review

A mystery, filled with red herrings, deceptions and hilarious false leads, but at the end, when it’s all solved, it seems so obvious. The entire plot falls into place. How can anyone claim to forget who the murderer is? Roger Ebert claimed in his review that “I’ve seen the movie seven times, and the murderer still doesn’t immediately spring to mind.” Continue reading Laura (1944) review

Why watching movies can teach us history.

President Richard Nixon smiling, facing front
Richard Nixon inspired a lot of screenwriters

Did you know that both Chinatown and Shawshank Redemption were inspired by President Nixon?  That’s what the “making of” documentation said.  I didn’t get that the first time I watched either of those films, and I wonder if the cinema audience did.  Perhaps I should ask some of my older relatives about it.

What I did get, after watching “Avatar” was one older-than-me man saying “that’s about Iraq.”  Yes, I “knew” that too.  But, the youngest school kids in the audience didn’t have that impression.  To them, it was only about blue people.

I don’t know why some people totally loved or others totally hated Avengers AssembleContinue reading Why watching movies can teach us history.

What started the war of 1812? Canadian and American viewpoints

A sailor being kidnapped by a press gangToday Ptara is joined by two world class historians who give their take on what started the war of 1812.

They examine the speeches of the British Parliament and the US House of Representatives. From Jefferson’s purchase of Louisiana, up to the repeal of the Orders of Council, the US and Britain had shaky relations. Continue reading What started the war of 1812? Canadian and American viewpoints

Should screenwriters use camera directions?

Herbert G Ponting's cameraConventional wisdom* among amateur directors and beginning film lecturers is that camera directions should “never” appear in a film script.  Yet, the camera is probably the one thing that separates a screenplay from a stage-play.  (Okay, so there’s CGI, logos and subtitles, as well as editing overlays, but the stage can have its own version of these effects.  Even animation can be achieved with a giant flip book.)

I’d wax lyrical about Universal studios turning 100, but that’s irrelevant. In the silent era film scenarios looked different than they do today.  Let’s take a look at our experience, and at other scripts for well known films, and at why the myth persists. Continue reading Should screenwriters use camera directions?