I put together a quick little short with footage I shot at my son's little league practice.
This wasn't shot with any intention of doing something with it. I make a habit of bringing my camera to every event I go to so I can practice shooting. A few days after the practice I dumped the footage into Premiere because I now had CS5.5 and wanted to see what it could do. The first thing that jumped out at me was that it could use the DSLR footage right out of the box. Previously I had to convert all of my footage with Cineon to get something Premiere CS4 could handle. Even then it was a bit dicey. 5.5 was not put off by my footage at all. It ran smooth as silk. Awesome. It saved a lot of time by not having to convert the footage and it ran so smoothly the edit took no time at all. Love it. And CS6 is supposed to be even better. I can't wait to check that out.
How do you attempt to become a professional writer while still earning a living? That's one of the eternal questions of the aspiring writer. And one I struggle with daily.
For me, the answer is simple. I don't sleep much. It's not a satisfying answer, nor is it the full one. But that's what it boils down to for me.
The novelist Dan Wells put it extremely well. It's a value decision. Do you want to be an author? Then you have to choose to give up things to carve out the time to write. As it turns out, I value becoming a filmmaker more than playing video games, watching much TV and getting a full night's sleep. My time is carved up into my my day job, my family and writing. There's not much else. It sounds sad when I describe it that way but that's not how it feels.
This website started the ball rolling years ago. I added a news section to talk about movies in production. It became a bit of an obsession after a while. Eventually it sank into my rather thick skull that the process of making movies was endlessly fascinating to me. That was the seed that grew into where I am now. Running the site kept putting me in contact with others obsessed with film. Some of them wrote scripts, which struck me as something that could be fun, if only I knew something about writing them.
And then I met a guy who could put actual scripts into my hands. I started reading a lot of them. It would still be a few years before I'd attempt to write one myself. When I finally tried, it was a disaster. It never got past a very shaky outline. Another year passed before I tried again. By then I had read William Goldman's Adventures in the Screen Trade, a wonderful book that taught me the first bits about how to actually write a script. I had the idea to adapt a short story as a practice run, letting me try out writing in this format without having to come up with a story of my own. It worked well as an instructional process, not so well as actual screenwriting.
More time passed before an original idea hit me that I had to put down on paper. It came out of nowhere as two thoughts collided and just like that a story popped into my head. I got out of bed and wrote 8 pages that moment. The rest of the script took me another year. As time has passed, the ideas have come more readily and my writing has accelerated as well. Discovering the power of a rewrite burst the creative dam.
As that learning process unfolded, I started making value choices. Slowly a lot of things fell out of my life, until the present day when I live a pretty stripped down life. Yes, it would be nice to have some variety back. But that has to wait. The need to create is powerful and consuming. I can't give it up for something as trivial as a video game or watching another sitcom. Eventually, my creations should start paying me back, get me out of the cursed day job, and thus let me make different value choices. But it always comes down to those choices.
Do you aspire to something greater? Then you have to figure out just how much you value that and plan accordingly. I'd rather be a filmmaker than get a full night's sleep. And that's why I'm putting this thought down after 4 AM. Friends often see my creations and make the snide comment that I have too much free time on my hands. The truth is, I don't have enough.
There are days when I have a laser fine focus on what I need to do and take down tasks with extreme prejudice. And then there are days like this when I seem to have the attention span of a crack addicted housefly.
I did eventually lay down three pages of my new script. The goal had been ten. Here's what happened instead.
A guy I ran into the previous day recommended I check out a band called Volbeat. I did. I liked their stuff. I bought an album.
In so doing I saw that Nancy Sinatra's album Boots was on sale for $5 at Amazon. I didn't buy it. But it did make me think of a weird TV ad for the Virginia based record stores Plan 9 Music. That ad first introduced me to the song These Boots Are Made For Walkin.' So I listened to that a bunch of times. No amount of searching turned up video of that ad though.
Not entirely happy with the way that TweetDeck worked, I went on a search for a good desktop Twitter client. I didn't find one I liked. So I'm still using the old Adobe Air version.
I saw a tweet from Ryan Johnson, the writer/director of Brick, which I adore and The Brothers Bloom, which I merely like quite a bit. The tweet reminded me of the trailer for his next movie, Looper, which looks awesome. I watched that trailer several times. The music was pretty cool, so I tried to find out who made it. Turned out to be this guy.
Then I saw this video about Adobe's Production Premium CS6 and did some serious drooling.
Finally, there was this video. Which pretty much summed up the evening.
The key part of all this is that in spite of this pitiful display, I still managed to get some actual writing done. There was a day when the procrastination would have just flat out thumped my ass and nothing productive would happen. It reminds me of a pitcher who goes and just doesn't have his best stuff. But he fights on and manages to at least not get blown out of the water so the team still has a shot at winning.
And on that note, I'll suggest that the stuff I did write tonight was awesome.
The writing grinder that is NaNoWriMo is one that I enjoyed enough to tackle its lesser known sister, Script Frenzy. It's the same basic idea. Instead of writing a 50,000 page novel in 30 days you attempt to write a 100 page script in 30 days. Being a screenwriter, this was more than a little appealing. Last year I considered doing it but being part way into a script at that point, it seemed like the wrong time. This year I was prepped, lubed up and ready to dive in.
The first thing required is a story idea. Not a problem. Ideas are cheap and easy to come by. Having great ideas is not the mark of a great writer. Executing on those ideas is. So I decided to take an idea that I had tried on three different occasions to turn into a script. None of them had made it past thirty pages. Pretty poor execution. I began to kick around ways to finally get the job done. Broke down previous failures. Game planned the approach this time around.
And then I threw the whole thing out. Maybe I'll take another stab at it some day. It's a good idea, I'm just not ready for it.
Something else drifted in from the ether. Well that's not true. I sat through a Die Hard movie marathon. What followed was a vivid and bizarre dream in which I found myself paired up with Bruce Willis as we stumbled through a series of misadventures. The next morning that dream loomed large in my mind. The details quickly faded, leaving me with just images and the final moment before waking up. In it, Bruce and I trudged through a snow covered field. We were bruised and bloodied, clothes tattered. And he looked at me and said, "I'm actually just a security guard."
For the next couple weeks I brainstormed based on those fragments of dreams. I watched a lot of action movies, mostly from the 80s. I watched East Bound and Down. Listened to my vast collection of podcasts, especially Writing Excuses and Creative Screenwriting. The goal was to turn my brain into a particle collider, a mental equivalent to CERN's LHC. I fed material in as fast as possible and waited for random ideas to collide and come up with something new. When April 1st rolled around, I had a pretty good mental outline.
As I write this, the script is at 68 pages. It has no title yet. And I don't know what the ending will be. That's a concern as I usually write toward a specific ending. But I have that snow covered field in mind. Maybe that's the ending.
What I've come to love about NaNoWriMo and ScriptFrenzy is that it provides pressure. Without pressure, a deadline of some sort, it's easy to put the work aside. The feeling that you can take a day off is always there. Having a goal to reach by a certain date means not having an excuse not to write. Most writers seem to excel at finding reasons not to write. Writing every day is anathema. But it shouldn't be. Watching a project grow steadily under daily attention is a huge source of satisfaction. And most important, the deadline forces you to finish. No endless tinkering. No constant rewrites of page one or chapter one. Just get in and plow straight forward to the end.
Rewriting is, for me at least, the most satisfying part of writing. The first draft is just to establish the vague idea of the script. Every draft after that fixes a problem, fills a hole, deepens a character, strengthens theme or cranks up tension or comedy. That's the real fun. But you can't have that fun without a finished first draft. So, what I'm saying is that I'd like NaNo and ScriptFrenzy to happen more often. At least until I get paid to do this, which provides a different sort of deadline.
That felt like a rambling speech but I'm not going to save it and come back later to refine it. This blog needs to update more often. To get there, I will accept some sloppiness. Plus, I'm curious what everyone thinks I sound like when I'm writing at 4 AM.