The Weight of the Details

In the last couple of days I’ve watched two episodes of Firefly, an episode of Dollhouse, and an episode of BSG.  Timed the scenes.  Looked at the story structure and the act breaks.  I even looked at the action and dialogue – imagined seeing the words on the page.  I saw a handful of scenes that must be 7 – 10 pages in length.  I’m not worried about writing long scenes anymore, so long as the scenes themselves have movement within.

In my case, I’ve come to accept that my entire third act MUST take place in one location with all characters present.  I believe the audience demands it.  I’ve kept them waiting, baiting them and leading them to this singular moment in time.  They need to understand what circumstances brought the characters to this point so they will care what happens next.  I even think I managed to do it without bogging everything down in exposition.

I have a little further to go and I made a point of stopping last night to keep my perspective fresh.  Spent all day long in that scene and all I did was write four new pages.  Kept going back, editing, refining, rethinking, and figuring out how to tie six very complicated lives together in a way that leaves no holes.

It’s funny how three sentences can shape a back story, or how throwing the word, ‘rendezvous’ into one sentence serves to explain a character’s entire arc.  I don’t need to break it down into nitty gritty details all the time.  Doing so would only bog the story down.  Stating simply that someone and someone have somewhere else to be, is enough to explain their heightened sense of urgency.  I don’t have to get into modes of travel, who they’ll meet when they get there, and how they came up with that plan.

This morning I took out Joss Whedon’s  Serenity script and read the first 50 pages.  I was taking a closer look at how he describes action – when he gets into details and when he leaves things to the imagination.  I already see where I’ll be doing some refining.  Just taking a break to write this while my mind makes the adjustment from Serenity to Republic of Doyle.

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Six Characters Stuck in One Place

Spent the whole day pecking away at my script.  It wasn’t a concerted effort.  There was lots of futzing between bouts of musing.  I’m having some serious navigation issues.

I know where this story ends.  The way there has been shored up and reenforced.  I’m at the bottom of page 35 and all these delicious mysteries that I’ve been nurturing have been coming together delightfully well.  Now I’m in a place where I have all my key characters in one location, and I need to find a way to break up the scene, or I’ll wind up stuck with ‘em talking to each other for the next 15 pages.

There’s nowhere to jump to.  I thought about some 1/8 of a page passage of time montages, but that seems a bit cheesy.  Six characters (one who happens to be dead) are at a stand off in a cemetery.  They aren’t completely sure what circumstances brought them there, and they definitely don’t know how to move forward.  They don’t know who among them is trust worthy, and they certainly know that one wrong move will result in bloodshed.

It’s a perfect powder keg right now.  I’m in the exact place where this story will implode on itself if I, as the writer, make the wrong move.

I tried to think of examples in film & television where the entire cast were stuck together for long periods of time in one location.  I watched an episode of Firefly.  Timed the scenes and broke down the story structure.  Went for a walk and shortly thereafter had an epiphany.  One of the characters is not who he claims to be.  Don’t even have to change anything that came before.  If anything, potential holes in the story design have been filled.

That’s great, but I still have a problem figuring out how to pay it all off with out having everyone stand around talking to each other for 15 pages.  How do I translate exposition into action?

Mike and I

My plan yesterday was to quite simply, write and edit.  Same plan as today.  Got a good start on Act III.  Not such a good start with the editing.

Gonna play the family card here.  Started the day off with breakfast and a load of laundry at mom’s.  I just dropped the bag at her feet, like how a cat might leave a dead bird for its owner.  Just looked up and smiled proudly.  “I made that.”

Grama and Papa Lee were also in town.  We ate breakfast together and then I got on with my day.  Later it was Mike’s birthday BBQ at my cousin Pat’s house.  There were still a lot of other family in town from George’s pomana.  Beers, burgers, belly laughs and a bon fire ensued.  Didn’t get home until 1:30am.

I remember riding with Mike in a grain truck on the family farm.  I was 10 and he was 25.  He really took a liking to me, just like how my uncle Paul took a liking to him a generation earlier.  We’ve had a close bond ever since.

I had him up on a pedestal in my early days.  It left a hellova scar when I came to see he didn’t belong on that pedestal.  The scar has since heeled over as I came to learn that no one deserves to be on any pedestal.

There’s a lot of miles in them thar memories.  As people trickled off, the fire grew dimmer, and soon it was just Mike and I.  We don’t get to see much of each other and as the years come and go, I’m learning to keep these moments in a special place.  Tomorrow is promised to no one.

Beers Buds Burgers and Trophies

Beers, buds, burgers and football.  Ain’t nothin’ better than having friends over for a feast of football and ground up dead cows on the bbq.  It’s the first time I’ve actually had people over since I moved.  Can’t believe it took me so long.  Even better, they really liked my place.  Spent virtually all of the non-football watching time out on my balcony watching the view pass by.

Even better, the Riders upset Montreal in Montreal.  Been saying they would all week.  No one believed me.  I’m now owed two pints of beer and I won my week in the football pool.

The day got off to a good start as well.  Went to church for Uncle George’s pomana.  It’s a special prayer service for loved ones (like George) who passed away recently.  There’s always friends, family and food at these things.  I saw my dad for the first time in months.  Funny how time passes.  I guess it’s the same with myself and Jazz.

She flies in next week.  I’ve got camping equipment in the trunk of my car all cued up and ready for action.  Haven’t put much more thought into it other than that.  Thinking about her makes missing her all the more powerful.  Don’t need those kinds of thoughts in my life — not when I’m going to be seeing her soon.

Saturday was my 20 year high school reunion.  I saw faces I hadn’t seen in a couple decades.  Some faces I don’t even remember seeing the first time around.  It was still a good time.  Much better than the time I had in high school.

I was a tall skinny geek with no confidence.  The jocks ate me alive.  One of them was there on Saturday.  His date liked me better than him.  I wound up getting her number.

I realize how petty that sounds.  High School reunions are all about seeing who’s fat, who’s successful, who’s cool and who’s not.  It’s about measuring yourself against yourself from 20 years ago.  Some of us grow.  Some of us… not so much.

In the case of the trophy phone number, I guess I’ll permit myself a bit of vanity for just a few minutes in this space.  It’s favour I figure I owe to 18 year-old me.

Back to the humility project now.

Nice And Easy

Today feels like a nice easy day.  Woke up nice and easy and after a nice easy morning at home, took a nice and easy walk over to Atlantis for the usual coffee and a scone.

The only responsibility I have today is to make my way down to the sound stage and interview Rhonda Baker, the Saskatchewan producer on Rabbit.  After that, it’s all editing.

InJustice is getting attention.  Canamedia made a sale of Season I to an internet broadcaster, which should be good for international exposure.  Another distributor is interested in picking it up as well and seeing what they could do.  Maybe this will all lead to a Season II.

I’m going to split my time between editing and writing over the next two weeks.  Gotta finish my script and get it out the door.  I won’t have time otherwise if I’m on a movie next month.  Finished Act II a couple days ago and with a concerted effort, I should be able to finish it in a week.

Well… that’s about it for this entry.  No big news.  Nice and easy.

Jennifer Lynch

Jennifer Lynch walked into the bar last night after wrap.  It was the end of a long day — the end of a long arduous shoot.  Some on the crew had gone 11 straight days with no time off.  No overtime.  No union scale wages.  Just a low budget psychological thriller with something special going for it.

Jennifer Lynch walked into the bar last night and her crew, exhausted as they were, rose to their feet and clapped their hands to show their love for her.  No director ever moved a crew to such an ovation before.  Not in these parts anyway.

Vincent D’Onofrio told me the only reason he took his role, was to work with Jen.  Julia Ormond came because of Jen.  Neither were paid anything close to what they make on other movies.

Over the course of the production, Jennifer reached out to every single member of the crew and made that person feel special.  She inspires love and affection.  Crew move heaven and earth for her.

I’ve learned a lot from watching her and I am a better person for knowing her.  I am left with a string good memories and glowing things to say about a number of people.  I’ll try to catch up over the next few days.

Last Day

Feels longer — the time I’ve taken between writing articles.  I spent a bunch of time on set, and a little bit of time in the edit suite working with the footage.  Cut a nice little segment together with Eamon Ferron and Conor Leslie.  Some powerful acting there.  Jen let me get in nice and close for the blocking and I got some great shots.  I wanted to thank her by providing the fruits of my labour this morning.

It’s three o’clock and we’ll be shooting ‘til midnight or later.  While I’m always interested in more dramatic moments, I’m focusing on finishing off my interviews today and tomorrow.  I have over 1 TB of footage already.  More than enough to tell the story of this movie.

Today is the last day of shooting.  Aside from more time spent in the edit suite, and more time spent with my script, I’m not sure what my next paying gig will look like.  Not really worried about it.  Got a feeling things are gonna fall into place.

Overall, this has been a good experience.  Learned lots about myself that I hadn’t expected to learn.  Made some new friends.  Kept the channel open with old ones.  Scratched some itches along the way.

I’m left with a powerful need to write.  Finished act two yesterday.  This script’s gonna be a gooder.

Clarity While Waiting

Back in the production office.  It’s been a good day.  Still a lot of standing around, but this time I stood around with vigour.  Vincent D’Onofrio flies out today and I absolutely had to make getting his interview a priority.

Stalk Vincent all day.   The mission was crystal clear.  I like that about crystal clear missions.  They’re very very clear.  Like crystal.

Clarity makes problems surmountable.  Obstacles aren’t really obstacles — they’re just things to deal with.  The camera department wanted my camera.  They found another.  The camera department wanted my SD cards.  I found another.  Vincent only had a narrow window available to talk.  I stood patiently and waited for it.  Finding time to shoot Vincent on set would be next to impossible.  I slipped in and out and got four shots.  Nothing to do now but wait for wrap.

The trick to this clarity was not to compliment it with other tasks.  Multitasking clouds clarity.  It makes the crystal opaque.

Gotta apply more of that to the rest of my life.

We also took a picture of Daniel with a knife stuck in his neck while waiting.  It helped to pass the time.

Standing Laundry List of Past Events

I’m sitting in the production office, stealing time away from the day to put some words together.  As I’ve said many times in this space, I get twitchy when too much time passes between articles.

So… what to say?  Lots has happened since Wednesday.  I took in a spoken word performance on Thursday.  Found it quite moving.  Words are powerful things, and when a spoken word artist wraps them with the embrace of their touch, they become something more.

Friday was spent on set, spending time watching time being spent.  I shot an interview with Evan Bird and stood around a lot while sharing my camera with the camera department.  Not much could be done about that arrangement, but it was still a bit frustrating.  I have a hard time watching people work when I’m not doing anything.

Three movies are crewing right now.  There’s a place for me on each of them.  Only one of me to go around though.  I don’t quite know where the best place is for me to wind up.  Perhaps I’ll just leap and see where I land.

I’m learning a lot about myself these last few weeks.  My ego is something that continues to get in the way of my happiness.  I need to feel like I’m in charge of something, cuz then I’d be important.  How fucked up is that?  I look back on my life and I can see that type of thinking woven into every major decision I ever made.

Gotta get a handle on that.  I also gotta get another scene written soon.  It’s been on my mind quite a bit.

Well… back to it!  I’m interviewing Vincent in spurts through out the day while trying hard NOT to be in anyone’s way.  Funny.  I was so nervous about interviewing Julia Ormond last week.  Now it just feels like a routine — not that I’m belittling the experience.  I guess it’s just the difference between ‘being in the moment’ and ‘worrying about the future’ presenting themselves for display.

Affirmation

Two days in a row now, I found time to steal away from the rest of my day to write.  Got other things done too.  The producers on Rabbit are impressed with my work.  Might be some doors opening there too.

My headspace is generally good, so long as I can keep up this pace.  Mostly I just need to feel like I’m doing something towards accomplishing my goals.  Monday’s musings really helped.

I’m not on set today, so after I’m done my bit of writing, I’ll be looking through footage at home.  If I eat my Wheaties, I might even be able to cut a few more segments together out of Damian’s interview.  That would be ambitious though, so I won’t make any promises.

[several minutes pass]

Vincent D’Onofrio just walked into Atlantis.  We fell into a conversation about the shit that was going through my mind on Monday.  He talked about his own issues with juggling projects — making decisions about when to let some go, and when keep others on the plate.  He said it’s something you just learn with age.  It’s the most I talked to him this whole show.  More than that, he actually seemed interested in talking to me.

I’ve been watching him work and I’ve never been more impressed with an actor on a set (or stage).  You could learn so much about the craft, just watching him figure out his blocking.  I have a whole thing that I’m planning to write about him later.  Won’t get into it now.

Mostly, I feel a burning need to get into my script.  I need to write something!