Tuesday, March 31, 2009

In Awe (Book Review. Yeah, I Read, Too. Don't Faint)

I'm still banging my head against the walls, and my desk, and any other surface available. Because I'm still working on a play/screenplay, darn it.

It's not the same as writing a novel. Different structure, different flow. Lots of things I don't know that need to be done.

I'd quit, but I want to do this. And I also have something that's keeping me going. I have "The Complete Book of Scriptwriting" by the master himself, J. Michael Straczynski.

JMS created "Babylon 5" (all bow and go "oooooooohhhhhh" for a few minutes) and he also was a writer and producer on "Murder, She Wrote" (all bow and go "aaawwwww" for a few minutes). So the man knows of what he speaks.

And the book is great. If you're wanting to break into writing for TV, movies or the stage, this is the book to get. And it's understandable. And he gives examples. This is one of the few 'textbooks' I've hit as an adult where I just want to trot over to the easy chair and have a good, long read of it. It's that engaging.

So, while my screenplay itself is inching along (where is the funny? Where? Why is it on hiatus now?), I'm greatly enjoying learning this aspect of 'the craft' (yeah, it sounds funny to me, too, when I use that term). I give this book two big thumbs up, five stars out of five, wholehearted endorsement, and so on. If you're looking to write anything in script form -- and that includes genres other than science fiction and mystery, I must add -- this is the book to get.

Now, it's back to the reading and the attempting and all that for me. The reading is going much more smoothly, but with JMS's book in hand, I shall overcome.

Hey, at least there's some part of this that's enjoyable and educational. I'm willing to call that a win.

G.J. Koch

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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Dying is Easy

I had an interesting 'discussion' with a friend of mine this evening.

He's a budding filmmaker and since I write, we're doing the old collaboration cha-cha. Possibly.

The thing is, he wants to do a short film. I was excited until he stressed that he wanted me to script it in my own personal idiom, aka, sarcastically. In other words, he wants to make a funny short film. The word "Clerks" was bandied about. And I winced. Because I love that movie. I'm a huge Kevin Smith fan. Dude's a genius. But...that's kind of the reason I winced.

Because comedy's hard, folks. It's hard to write (believe me!) but it's even harder to perform. And I'm not talking standup, which is incredibly hard, but rather making a funny movie. And a short one, at that. Humor has a build, so to do it short, you'd better have a killer of a set up and the best punchlines ever.

Drama is clear. Most people won't argue about something being dramatic unless it's unintentionally funny. "Bloodrayne" easily leaps to mind in this category, particularly since the only good performance in that great epic came from Billy Zane, who was clearly laughing at the entire thing just like the rest of us. (By 'us', of course, I mean those who just had to watch the thing in order to verify that Uwe Boll is indeed the worst director in the history of film. He is.) Comedy, however, requires expert timing, perfect delivery, and even more perfect reactions. Or it just ain't funny.

My friend, naturally, feels that the 'company' (as he's starting to refer to all of us he's roped into this grand scheme of working hard for no pay) is up to the challenge. And, of course, he also mentioned that it all starts with the script. Which, in between everything else I've got on that horrible to-do list of mine, I'm pondering. I have three pages as of tonight, and none of the lines are making me laugh. But maybe in the hands of a group of amateur actors, none of whom ever before expressed a desire to be an actor, they'll shine. And maybe the economy will right itself by the weekend.

Then again, maybe I should try something else, a different tack, so to speak. I'm sort of envisioning something kind of like Bloodrayne, only without Billy Zane. Though, one of the guys in the 'company' is a big, bald guy. Hey, maybe this thing has a shot! The heck with aiming us for a "Clerks"-level debut. If I set our bar at "Bloodrayne", we can only do better than that, right?

G.J. Koch

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