Alexander Film Works

Posts Tagged ‘screenwriting’

This Has Not Been A Test…

In blogging, Just Because..., no excuses, writing on June 20, 2015 at 9:48 pm

I should be writing more.

This is something I do not dispute.

Now there’s an incentive for me to write more… The Clarion Writers Workshop, which moved from Michigan State University in East Lansing to the University of California San Diego within the past few years, is holding their sixth Clarion Write-a-Thon.  They explain it using the walkathon model as an example; the more steps toward a goal that the writer gets, the higher total of pledges the writer piles up to go to charity.

My Beautiful Wife, who holds a much higher opinion of my writing talent than I do, has convinced me to sign up to participate in this endeavor; I have set myself a goal of 75 script pages completed by the end of the period – 22 June to 1 August.

For your part, I ask that you go to the site, Clarion Write-a-Thon, and pledge something to my account.  If you pledge fifty cents a page, and I complete all 75 pages I have undertaken to do, you would be donating $37.50 to charity.

Not an exorbitant amount, right?

You are free to pledge any amount you wish, and there are a choice of 69 authors (so far), including myself, who have signed up.  If you don’t want to pledge for me, then maybe there’s another you do want to pledge to.

Hey, I’m easy.

Just do this, okay?  Thanks.

Judgment Day, And Then Some…

In Film and Related, screenplays, writing on December 4, 2014 at 9:50 pm

Well, the scores for Round One of the screenwriting contest I’m in came back this morning.
Early this morning.
Apparently, my five pages weren’t good enough to place in the top fifteen entries, and earn points to be added to the second round scores.


I have read postings of others in my group (very few have uploaded their scripts for peer group review), and I thought I was at least as creative as they… but that might just be my ego talking.
Well, even though my chances are diminished of making it through to the third round, I will be focusing my attention on the second round, which will begin at approximately 11:59 PM (Eastern) tomorrow.

Illegitumi non carborundum!
(Otherwise, “Don’t let the bastards wear you down!”)

Times That Bind…

In blogging, no excuses, screenplays, writing on December 3, 2014 at 10:03 pm

Here it is, early in the month of December, and I haven’t written a post since August.
I could dither about, offer lame-sounding excuses, and try to place blame other than where it belongs… squarely with me.
I have not posted. I have not seriously thought about posting. I have been moving from my ancestral domicile to our new (to us) home, and I was entered into a screenwriting contest where I get a genre, location, and object to use, and have 48 hours to produce 5 pages of script. The first two rounds are judged, scored, and the top 5 scores from each group of writers advances to the next round. After that, the top 5 from Round Three groups advance to the finals in Round Four.
Today, the third, is when the scores from Round One come out… and they probably won’t appear for two more hours, Eastern Standard Time.
Oh, my.

Stringing It Together…

In arts, blogging, Just Because..., no excuses, writing on March 22, 2013 at 10:11 pm

Words, and the way they fit together to make visible our thoughts, have been a preoccupation of mine for most of my life, even before I knew how to do anything of the sort.

The visions that the proper combination of words can produce verges on the magical; in fact, as I’ve heard it defined, magic itself is produced or controlled by the proper combination of words, placed in the proper order.  Like computer programming and magic, writing is entirely dependent on the correct choice of terms, placed in the correct sequence.

“It was a dark and stormy night.”  How often has that phrase, the first in the novel Paul Clifford by Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton, Baronet, been quoted, misquoted, and misattributed?  But it is remembered.

Words can weave a spell to transport the reader to Middle Earth… or to the cradle of the Foundation… or to the outer reaches of a red giant star… or in a General Products hull in a hyperbolic orbit around a neutron star.  Words can create vistas in your mind that a Super-70 mm Ultra Dolby 7.1 3D Imax extravaganza couldn’t match, even with a budget the size of the Gross Planetary Product.

And yet… Reading is becoming less and less popular, from what I hear.  Twitter limits posts to 140 characters, which I exceeded in my third line, if I’m not mistaken.  Attention spans fall dramatically year by year.

Few there are who would even try Nova or Dhalgren by Chip Delany; and I couldn’t think of anyone who would try reading Tolstoy’s War and Peace, or Dostoievski’s Crime and Punishment.  Dickens’s Bleak House, one of his more acclaimed works, is a doorstop in paperback, and even more recent works, like William L. Shirer’s The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, approach it in sheer volume.  Reading tomes such as these is hardly considered as entertainment anymore, and even the shorter-form writers like Fitzgerald and Hemingway get shorter shrift.

It is a crime and a shame to ignore the writers of the past; the stylistic flourishes of a Dickens give way to the spare prose of Hemingway, which inspired writers of more recent times like Capote, Ken Kesey, Thomas Wolfe, Mailer, Gore Vidal, and some we see in magazines today.  Only by reading the words of others with your own “inner ear” can you find the “voice” that informs your writing.  It’s akin to learning to talk by listening to those around you.

I do not condemn others for their lack of breadth in reading, but invite them to widen it on their own.  Read J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, James Joyce, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Edgar Allan Poe, Herman Melville, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Sir Winston Churchill, Ernest Hemingway, Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Mark Twain, Garrison Keillor, Dave Barry, Woodward and Bernstein, Nora Ephron, Erma Bombeck, Robert A. Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, or any number of other authors I could name.  Expand your horizons.  Question your thinking patterns.  Question your choices.

It could be an illuminating experience…


If It Ain’t On The Page…

In Film and Related on September 9, 2011 at 11:30 pm

My screenwriting class this term is more along the lines of the organic development of story, rather than the mechanical following of invariant paradigms.  This is a good thing, since story develops from character, and character is formed by the actions of the story.

Circular reasoning?  You might consider it so, but no less an authority than Henry James codified it.  “What is character,” he observed, “but the determination of incident? What is incident but the illustration of character?”

When you write a character, you end up knowing her or him better than your spouse, better than your kids, possibly even better than you know yourself.  You must be psychologist, anthropologist, sociologist, demographer, accurate recorder of events, able to extrapolate human behavior (or, at least, depictions of human behavior) from inadequate information, to intuit surprises from information that leads a dispassionate observer to expect a totally different outcome.

It’s not an easy job.

Also important is the realization that writing a screenplay is a severely limited form.  There are only two things you can use  in order to put the story on the screen, its ultimate home… what the audience sees, and what the audience hears.

That’s it.

When you do it wrong, you get some piece of dreck like Dude, Where’s My Car?  When you do it right, you get something like The Godfather.

A hard target to hit… but worth the attempt.  If it wasn’t worth it, nobody would do it if they didn’t have to.

“I write for the same reason I breathe – because if I didn’t, I would die.”  Noted writer (on almost every subject in the Dewey Decimal System catalog) Isaac Asimov said this when asked why he wrote.  I am of the same opinion.

This is what I do.  This is who I am.

Focus on the Unfocused

In Film and Related, It Bugs Me on August 28, 2011 at 9:16 pm

In less than one week, I will be starting back at Wayne State University for one of my final terms.  I have most of my books already, and my tuition and fees are paid for as of this point; I just have to pay for my parking permit and determine what my last class will require in the way of textbooks and materials.

I did receive a disheartening bit of news… I did not pass the Math Qualification Exam to allow me to skip taking a math class for my degree.  Since I have taken the exam twice, I am not eligible to take it again.


This term is filled with my major requirement classes, Field Production & Editing, Screenwriting, and Producer’s Workshop, along with a film history class focusing on the 1950’s (declining audience, 3D, widescreen, Technicolor, HUAC, the Blacklist, and the end of the studio system’s golden age).  So, next term it looks as though I have to take an algebra class to make up the last parts of my degree requirements, as well as the last few major classes I need.

Don’t get me wrong, please… I don’t hate math.  I just find anything past what I need to figure out what I need for planning and shooting film a distraction from what I want to do.

Oh, well… the countdown’s on.

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