Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Ode to My New Vacuum

The German Shepherd-sized dust bunnies were really bad.
For my birthday I received a new vacuum from my dad.
With incredible suction and cyclonic action
The dust bunnies will never again gain traction
Of the now fabulously clean floor I'm a loover
And I owe it all to the Agility of Hoover.
The last line in my poem isn't just referring to the agility of the vacuum that runs itself (the motorized head pulls forward, so vacuuming is lots easier), but also refers to the model of the vacuum.  It's a Hoover Agility with cyclonic action.  
I'm not meaning for this post to sound like a commercial, honestly.  But I do want to say that my new vacuum really does work well.  I can't believe how much dust and hair it picks up. I vacuumed up the house today and the carpet (which looked more like my dog than a rug) now looks like a carpet again.  My only quibble is the dust cup is hard to empty.  But hey, after not having a vacuum for a few weeks since our last one died, I'm not complaining. And I would gladly deal with the dust cup any day over having to buy new bags all of the time.  Well worth the money savings, believe me, when you have a German Shepherd and two kitties that shed bucket-loads year-round.  With a few weeks worth of fur build-up, I was concerned that the vacuum would clog up; it didn't.  Worked like a charm!
Most people probably wouldn't have asked for a vacuum for their birthday, but I did.  And my dad, rather than get me something fun and lighthearted got me what I asked for.  I'm so glad he did, because I really, really wanted one.  What type of person asks for a vacuum for their birthday?  Well, one who needs one like I did, I suspect . 
So, yeah.  Thanks, Dad!!  An awesome birthday present and I'm sooo happy I got it.   :)
 

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Food Coma Blahs

I promised last week I would go over some sites about selling the script yesterday.  Unfortunately, I've been dealing with after-holiday food coma.  Bleah.  Caaaannn't moooove. 

I will endeavor to tackle that subject next week.  My apologies.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Holiday Goodies

For someone trying to eat right and get back in shape, the holidays are a huge struggle.  Everywhere I go, I am inundated with yummy food smells, tempted with delicious candies and cookies, and am desperately trying to maintain control over my will.  It doesn't help that I'm making goodies (because in my family I'm world-famous for them) to give out to my extended family for Christmas presents.  I mean, I have to sample the goods I bake for quality control, right?  Actually, I don't.  My kiddos are eager volunteers for QC.  But still, it is hard not to indulge.

People say that it is okay to eat goodies in moderation, but this time of year there is no such thing as moderation!  I'm surrounded by mountains of chocolate!  This year I'm managing to control my portions much more so than in years past, but it is sooo hard.  My diet is pretty flexible, but also very rigid at the same time.  I can eat pretty much whatever I want, as long as I eat the proper proportions of different types of energy sources, i.e. fats/carbs/proteins with each meal.  It has become ingrained for me to mentally calculate what is in different foods so that I can keep to the proper ratios.

So, I can't help but think of all the fat and sugar I'm consuming when I eat a holiday cookie or bit of chocolate and it is depressing.  With such high carb/fat types of foods, it is very difficult to balance with other healthy stuff to get what I need.  I know from personal experience that when I'm discouraged and depressed I eat more, which of course means that eating anything "bad" in the first place means a downward spiral of eating more.  Grr. 

This is, in part, a mental block. I wish I knew how to break the "I feel bad" and the "I should eat something" link, but I haven't figured it out.  Logically, I know the problem, but the logic can't seem to override the emotion.  Yet.  I'm working on it.

My being discouraged by eating the wrong proportions of foods is also a problem of education.  I'm still figuring out how to eat properly according to my books (The Zone books by Dr. Barry Sears) and it is an issue of continual practice and better understanding.  So I'm fighting and trying, but it is frustrating nonetheless.  I suspect by next year I'll have a much better handle on how to eat properly, but that doesn't help me in the meantime.

Despite the temptations from the goodies and whatnot, I've still managed to lose weight this month.  It's going slower, but it's still happening. Total loss since the beginning of October is 22 lbs.  My grand total is 28 lbs. off my heaviest weight!  So I'm pleased I'm still making some progress.  I think next month things will pick back up again as all the holiday parties are behind me and I can focus a little more easily on what I'm doing.

Monday, December 19, 2011

More On Screenwriting

Though I suspect we've all had days like this, writing doesn't need to be something we fear.
Last week I wrote about a few excellent books that people interested in writing scripts could read to help them with their craft.  There are many other resources out there that can help people interested becoming better writers, too.  Be sure to check out the Writers Guild of America site--it has all sorts of industry news and information that may be helpful for a career in writing.

If you want to learn more about television writing, you might want to check out Lee Thomson's blog.  In it, you'll find access to different movie pilots, which are invaluable as sources to help one figure out what makes a good television script.  Pilots have to be good, or they don't get picked up by the networks!  Also, TVWriter.com is a handy site.  Yes, it does shill workshops and seminars, but there are great message boards and other resources there, too.  I clicked on some of the topics and found links to all sorts of helpful stuff.

If you want to learn more about the craft of writing film scripts, reading many many scripts is also recommended, just as it is recommended to read TV pilots and other television scripts if you want to write for television.  Script Fly has many film scripts available for a charge.  Script Fly also has scene study and analysis, and resources and links to articles on screenwriting.  You can also find free copies of film scripts here, here, here, and here.  (I almost didn't finish writing this blog because my attention was hijacked by reading the bloody beginning of the Conan script on IMSDb.)  I discovered that the simply scripts site also has copies of TV scripts and film treatments, among other things.

This is a useful site with lots of information on the craft of writing scripts.  It talks about all the different elements of what makes a good script:  plot, pacing, dialogue, characters, structure, etc.  Also, Script Magazine and Hollywood Scriptwriter are good resources, too.  Not just for how-to's on good writing, but for the industry, as well.

Writing groups are very helpful, but exceedingly tricky.  I say it's tricky, because it is hard to find a group of writers who are of as good or better caliber than you, who understands the genre/type of film or TV you prefer to write for, who have schedules that mesh, who are dedicated to the group, who will be punctual and turn in work (both their own and their critiques) on time, who have thick skins and won't start crying when you give hard to hear but necessary criticism, and who have tact, yet have no problems letting you have all the bad news.  

I've discovered a number of wonderful blogs and suggestions on how to create the perfect writing group.  while Holly Lisle is aiming more toward novelists, her advice is just as apropos to screenwriters.  LindaJM is talking novels, too, but she has some suggestions for bringing the group online.  At the end of the article there are some more helpful links, too.  Bryan Fields talks about how you can use a writer's group to benefit you.  Again, what goes for novelists here bennies-wise is still very valid for scriptwriters.  At keepwriting.com, they have a list of many screenwriting groups across America, and links for workshops and whatnot. Meetup is another great resource for finding other writers. In addition to the benefit of making your writing better, meeting with other screenwriters has the added benefit of networking.  People know people who know people.  And in the entertainment business, sometimes who you know can make a difference with your chance of being heard.

I could go on and on at length about the resources out there on the web.  Poking around on the sites I've given here should be helpful and will likely send you exploring the internet elsewhere, too (as it did for me).  Good luck, and I hope you learn as much as I did!

For my next week's blog, I plan to check out resources describing how to pitch your script and get it accepted.

Friday, December 16, 2011

TDC December Update

Planning for my upcoming trip, working on my doc campaign, training, and prepping for Christmas has kept me pretty busy for the last couple of weeks.  Too busy.  I'm getting some of my goals for December done and I managed to get the living room re-arranged finally (which was sort of leftover from my November goals).  So that's good.

It has occurred to me that nitty gritty weekly updates on what I'm doing, especially since it doesn't change much (except at the beginning of the month when I analyze my goals and re-configure them) might get boring.  For some reason, I think people--me included--think their lives are infinitely more interesting to the world than they probably are.  Which is why you can go to most any twitter or facebook account and see all the nitty gritty details of millions of lives every day, right down to what people ate for dinner.  (Tonight my family and I ate tilapia filet sandwiches and carrot chips in fat-free ranch, just in case you were wondering.  You weren't? Oh.  Right-O.)  Yeah.  Anyway, I've realized that my blog doesn't need to do what my facebook page does already.

So...in the interest in keeping you, well, interested, I've decided not to put that out there anymore and bore you to death.  I think I will only post about my thirty day challenges when something particularly inspiring or difficult comes up, and when I'm jazzed about the possibilities. 

Now to figure out what to write about on Fridays...  Maybe that will be the day that I update my walking blog, at least until my trip comes around.  Hmm...

Monday, December 12, 2011

Pre-Production: The Script

So I've taken the last few weeks to look at the film industry as a whole and checked out some books and websites that cover filmmaking from pre-production all the way to post.  Today, I'm going to start looking more into the actual pre-production part of filmmaking.

With any film, usually, the first thing you have to have is an idea.  Hollywood insiders can get away with having a neat idea, pitching it to producers and Hollywood execs and manage to get studios to get on board with their idea and then go find a writer to write the script for the idea.  For most folks starting out, that just ain't gonna happen.  You don't have the contacts and you don't have the history, so studios aren't going to trust their millions of dollars to an idea some nobody came up with.  Or, they might recognize a great idea, and they will take that idea and run with it and use team of people they do trust to make that idea happen.  Ideas cannot be copyrighted.  Treatments can be registered with the Writers Guild of America, but pitching an idea to an exec who recognizes the worth but who isn't impressed with you means somebody else is going to make it.

However, if you have what you think is a great idea, and you write a great script, you have a lot better chance of selling it and getting credit for it.  Scripts are copyrighted and registering them with the WGA is just one more step to protect yourself from getting your idea and script made into a movie you're not getting credit or paid for.  (And while this can and does happen, having your script stolen and you not getting credit/paid for your work is not actually a horribly common thing, though it seems to be a fear for many writers.)

I'm starting with scripts in the pre-prodution process here, because to make a movie, you have to have a script.  It is possible to gather funds and do other pre-production things on your list before the script is finished, but it is more difficult because until it is done, you don't know exactly what you need.  The script will determine the cast, the need for a stunt department, what type of makeup and wardrobe are necessary, what locations are necessary, and many other details. 

The one exception I can think of where the script doesn't come first (or at least pretty dang close) is for documentaries.  With documentaries, the filmmaker films much of the footage with some kind of structure or theme in mind, but often, the film that is shot ends up changing or surpassing the filmmaker's expectations and what ends up in the final cut may not be at all what the filmmaker originally envisioned.  The people being filmed may end up revealing new details the filmmaker never expected, for example, which may lead to exploration in other areas that weren't planned.  Then the script will be written around the footage at the end.  So with documentaries, it can be kind of backwards.

But with feature narrative films, usually the script is either first or pretty early on.  Because of that, I wanted to talk about some resources for people interested in writing scripts.

My absolute favorite resource is the Save the Cat! series of three books by Blake Snyder.  They are awesome.  StC breaks down all stories (no matter what the genre is) to 10 basic story archetypes.  And no matter how hard I've tried, I can't seem to find any archetypes the author has missed. He breaks down those archetypes, explains how they work and the "rules" behind what makes them work.  He breaks down the story archetypes into 15 beats, explains a handy process that you can use to help you create/write your screenplay, and even has lots of other useful rules regarding plot and story.  The rules have fun, easy to remember names, too, like Pope in the Pool, Laying Pipe, and others.  Once you read them, you won't forget them because of the fun way he has laid them out.  I took five classes regarding writing scripts at college, and I found I learned more from these books, than those classes combined.

The next book I would recommend that I just finally got around to finish reading would be The Screenwriter's Bible by David Trottier.  This book has a primer on how to write a screenplay included in it, but what I found more useful in this book were the formatting rules.  Don't know how to format a telephone conversation in your script?  Do you have a scene labeled on the bottom (you know, like they do in TV when the characters go to some new location and the label for the new location pops up in the corner) and you don't know how to show that in the script?  Do you have a dream sequence or a flashback and you're not sure the best way to format it?  This book tackles all these tough questions.

Next week I'll talk more about this topic, as there are many resources and wonderful ways to learn about screenwriting and how to identify what makes a great script.

Friday, December 9, 2011

TDC December's First Eight Days

Let's see.  As you may recall, I had a few different thirty day challenges for the month of December.   My first one, which was to log my food intake on Calorie Count again and the last one, the writing a page a day hasn't happened.  I have been extremely busy and haven't hardly been home for over a week (filming, networking, meeting with my writing groups, shopping, etc.).  When I have been home, I've been walking or blogging, usually.  So I'm bummed about not getting them done.  However, the month isn't over yet, so I have time to jump on the bandwagon, so to speak.

My other two challenges I think I've done very well with.  First of all, the walking.  I have been walking a lot.  My goal was to be able to walk five miles regularly, four to five days a week by the end of the month. Well, I did over four miles one day and over 6 miles another day this week and I'll be walking another five miles today.  So I'm right on track to make or beat that challenge.  Sweet! 

My last challenge was to look up a word a day.  I forgot on a couple days, but I have discovered a few new words on the other days that I had never heard of before.  One is pyknic.  Apparently I am pyknic.  That is, a "fat, rounded build or body structure" according to Dictionary.com.  I also learned the words burgoo (a type of oatmeal gruel eaten by sailors, or if you're from TN or KY it's a thick soup or stew), tergiversate (to waffle on issues), obcordate (heart shaped, with pointed end attached to stem, like a leaf), and scrutineer ("someone who scrutinizes the conduct of an election poll").  My favorite one so far has a definition synonymous with the verb "kiss":


os·cu·late

[os-kyuh-leyt] Show IPA verb, -lat·ed, -lat·ing.
verb (used without object)
1.  to come into close contact or union.
2.  Geometry . (of a curve) to touch another curve or another part of the same curve so as to have the same tangent and curvature at the point of contact.
verb (used with object)
3.  to bring into close contact or union.
4.  Geometry . (of a curve) to touch (another curve or another part of the same curve) in osculation.
5.  to kiss.*
 
Hah!  Fun stuff! 
 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Phil Anderson's Film Project

Phil (L) and Wild Bill (R).
Tuesday I spent the day with Phil Anderson, John Hart, and Wild Bill Adams filming a spec commercial for Phil's reel.  It was fun because we got to spend the day outdoors at Alpenrose Dairy at their bicycle velodrome (who knew they had a velodrome?).  For those of you who might not be sure what that is, a velodrome is one of those tracks that tilt at crazy angles on the curves and centrifugal force keeps the bikes from crashing to the pavement as the riders go around them.

Unfortunately, I didn't bring my camera this time around, so I'm posting a pic from Craig Werner's Delayed Justice shoot that we all worked on back in July 2011 so you can see who I'm gabbing about.

I sure wish I had brought my camera, though.  Phil had a couple of internationally known racing cyclists there.  Kirk Whiteman apparently he has been racing internationally for over 25 years.  For the last 11 years he has been a trainer as well and now he has his own team.  One of the women he coaches, Nissy Cobb, was there and he said she is one of the fastest female cyclists in America right now.  I looked up Kirk on the web and found a couple of interesting links.  This guy is good!  He's 46 years old and still beating the hell out of the competition.  First place in the sprints for the USA Cycling Masters Track Nationals this year!  Go Kirk!  I feel honored to have gotten to meet he and Nissy both.

Anyhow, both were riding their super uber expensive bicycles around the velodrome and it was a treat to watch, let alone film.   Their idea of a slow, take-it-easy kind of speed is 18-20 mph.  Hah!  Ten mph is a fast speed for me!  But I shouldn't be surprised.  Top bicycle racers can do 40+ mph.  They were trying to take it a little slow because the velodrome was a bit slippery due to moisture and leaves drifting about. 

We filmed them for much of the afternoon and I got the icicle butt syndrome.  That is, when I am outside in the cold for very long, my butt and hips turn into an icicle.  Even with long johns on (and boy, am I glad I wore them today or else it would have been worse)!  Which is no wonder, because it never got above 36 degrees Fahrenheit today.  I have been home for about two hours now and my heinie is still not quite thawed out.  But the rest of me was pretty toasty while we were out there; I even loaned my gloves to someone else whose hands were cold.

I felt sorry for Kirk and Nissy, though.  They were out in the same weather we were, but in much thinner bicycling gear.  Sure, they were doing laps occasionally trying to keep warm, but there were stretches where we were having them stay in one place to get this or that shot or adjusting the cameras on their bikes or whatnot and I sure hope they weren't freezing as much as my butt was!

Instead of being a P.A., which sounds all fancy, I should have the official title of Schlepper. 'Cuz that's what I was really doing.  Schlepping things, holding reflectors and what not.  Phil was calling me Holly the Kung Fu Grip for a while, since I was hauling around the sandbag and affixing it to the tripod, but I still say I was really just schlepping.  All in all, it was a cold, but fun day meeting new folks, hanging out with filmmaker friends and schlepping film equipment.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Film Production Forms

This last weekend I worked on filming my pitch video for the Kickstarter campaign I'm going to be putting up soon.  As I scrabbled about making lists and checking them twice (and no, not because it's close to Christmas, but because I would forget my head if it wasn't attached to my body--I'm a big list person; lists keep me functional), I reflected on the volumes of paperwork involved in filmmaking.  This was just a simple little thing I was working on, yet I had sent I don't know how many emails, called several people, made a bunch of lists, had to write and re-write my script, create personal release forms, go over shot lists and other things.  It's a lot of work keeping things organized!

I'm thinking there has to be a better way.  And there is.  There is actually software that can help with the coordination of the logistics of production.  Celtx, the scriptwriting software I prefer to use (like it better than Final Draft, actually) can help with some of this.  In the Reel to Deal book I reviewed earlier, there were all sorts of tools listed that can help out, including books and software.

One of the books recommended was The Complete Film Production Handbook by Eve Light Honthaner.  It's in its fourth edition, and I just so happen to own a copy.  Now, I created my own personal release forms by changing around somebody else's to suit my own needs.  But this book has that and tons more.  This book has pretty much any form for filmmaking recordkeeping and organization that you could ever dream of. There is even a walkie-talkie sign out sheet!  I mean, who would think of that?  I didn't.  I don't know why I didn't check this book out more BEFORE I started preparation for filming.  It probably would have been very helpful.  Pages 26-28 list all the different kinds of forms you can find in the book for blank forms and files for features/movies/television/cable/internet. The chapter talks about the method behind the organization of the different files and forms. 

I know for my documentary, which will be a long, on-going project over the next couple of years, I will likely be using a number of forms in this book.  The handbook is geared toward those who want to make a feature film, but much of it is still helpful to people making documentaries or television too.

If you want to make a film and you don't know where to start, I highly recommend you check out this book! 

Friday, December 2, 2011

November Thirty Day Challenge Recap and December's Challenges

Yesterday I reported on my walking blog that I walked three miles.  The day before, I walked 3.25 miles.  As it turned out, after I wrote that blog, I ended up walking another couple of miles plus because of a meeting I had to go to.  So all told yesterday I walked more than five miles.  Whoa!

Today is the first day I've walked up after a walk and have felt my muscles in my legs being moderately sore and stiff.  Prior to now, my muscles were never sore, it was always my joints because I had so much weight on them, that they were screaming in protest at the exercise.  Well, my hips ankles and knees are fine.  So, I'm pretty stoked.  This is good!

It also means that I blew my 30 day walking goal for November out of the water.  Yay me!  I was only planning on being able to walk two miles a day by the end of November and I beat that by a long ways.  In fact, tomorrow I'm planning on trying myself out on a five mile urban hike around Oaks Park to see how I do at that distance.  Whee!

My other two challenges I didn't do as well.  I had vowed to keep on logging my food intake into calorie count for the month, but during that 10 or 11 days that I was sick over Thanksgiving, and the following days after that I didn't do it at all.  I also didn't manage to make my NaNoWriMo goal of 50,000 words, either.  But at least I'm almost 8000 words higher than I was before!

So now I'm looking at December and trying to figure out what my goals will be for his month.  Hmm.

I think I'll go with the following:

1) I'll get back on track with logging my food intake.
2) I'm going to be able to walk 5 miles regularly, four to five days a week by the end of the month.
3) I want to learn one new word a day from the dictionary and use it properly in a sentence.  That could be fun!
4) I will write one page a day in my novel or in one of my scripts.  As long as I keep writing daily, hopefully it will help me get in that habit, even if it's just a little bit.  I'm terrible at sitting my butt down and doing it!  

 What are your 30 day challenges for December?