The Buzz of Technology

Web 2.0 has hit us hard and it seems like there is suddenly a rush to participate in anything video or virtual community oriented. But there's a weird dichotomy with technology as I've seen this week. I teach a Digital Storytelling course at Otis College of Art and Design, I decided this semester to do it differently and integrate the virtual community Second Life into the class. In the past, it's strictly been a writing class, but this time, I thought it would be good to try something new. The ideas was that students would propose some type of community to develop in SL, and we would go from there. Well interestingly enough, after my students, all around 20 years old, spent some time in SL, they decided that it sucks. They basically told me, as a group, that they felt that the graphics in SL were far inferior to the games they play, and that SL was for old people who are afraid of the computer. Being a young prof, I actually found their complaints to be very interesting and perhaps valid. On the one hand, SL is not a game--it's a virtual community, you define the experience you have there. On the other hand, if you are not there for a specific reason, then it might be dull. And, for younger people who are extremely tech savvy, SL would probably feel a bit dated. Some folks at Otis were really surprised by the response of the students, but some were not. I've decided to go back to keeping the course writing centered because then students can focus on being creative instead of on technology. Who knew that my students (who usually hate writing) would prefer writing to SL!

On another tip, I had lunch with a friend who is trying to break into TV writing. She is mostly into comedy, but she is also working on drama specs. She is really bright woman, a hustler who has made a good number of contacts, and I have no doubt that it's going to happen for her. She's being hip pocketed by an agent at UTA, and she was saying, she's been on lots of meetings with producers and agents, and right now, the buzz is for TV writers to have a scene from their script (pilot, spec) up on YouTube. She says everyone she's met with has asked her, "So do you have a scene up on YouTube?" She said people no longer want to read specs, they just want to see something. She was feeling very overwhelmed by this because she doesn't have a camera and has never really shot anything before. But, breaking a new writer is tough enough, and now with so many people going out and making films, the competition has gotten more stiff. A good friend of mine who is staffed on a comedy had been running a pretty successful online comic strip for a long time, which I bet helped him break in. Anyway, my other friend has decided to shoot a short sketch from one of her pilots. Technology has certainly made Hollywood an even more cut throat place...


Never Ending Revisions

Screenwriting is definitely a constant process of rewriting. It takes an unusual force of stamina and patience to go through the rewriting process with a script. This is summer and even into the fall, that was all I did--rewrite two scripts that I really wanted to get out there. Now, with Raspberry Magic in the early phases of becoming a movie, there's more rewriting. I'm working with the producers to polish the script, and my mentors are also helping with more notes. Then, with my other script, Kate's Rules, more notes from friends and fellow profs. at Loyola, and luckily one manager who's been responsive to my work has also given me notes. It honestly feels like it'll never end. But it's a good place to be in, getting notes from producers, managers and people who generally seem to know what they are doing. I find, though, that most of my work in terms of rewriting is deepening characters. The plots are all fine and the general story flows, but there can always, always be more work done on character. Here are some ways I've been deepening characters:

1. Add bits of dialogue to clarify a character's perspectives on things or to even reiterate plot point. I try to keep the exposition to a minimal, but a couple of people pointed out some good places for me to add just a tad more to clarify plot.

2. Adding scenes to reveal character. Not too much of this, but a little scene here and there is helpful to reveal a character's happiness, unhappiness or general state of mind. It is particularly helpful when a character goes through a major emotional shift in terms of plot.

3. Using other characters to deepen your protagonist. Audiences learn about your character through how he/she interacts with other people. Sometimes, adding dialogue or even more interesting actions between your protagonist and other characters can really reveal a lot about your protagonist.

4. Deleting uneeded or repetitive scenes. It's always nice to cut, cut, and cut. The tighter a script can be, the better. It's always nice when people read your script and say you can delete things because they get it.


A Long Process

The problem with creative work is that it is a long and never ending process. Even writing a script, you may revise and rewrite it for five years before you actually feel happy with it. I am currently in the process of making Raspberry Magic as my first feature. I've partnered up with a couple of wonderful producers, and now am working on setting up the LLC. Once that's done, we'll start begging for money, so if there is anyone out there who wants to donate, hit me up! But seriously, my producers keep assuring me that we will make this movie, even if it takes us two years to raise the funds. But I do get impatient, sometimes lying awake at night wondering when it will happen. I get excited about all of the creative aspects--shooting, directing, working with composers, developing the title design... I want it to happen right here, right now. But see, with making a feature, you are forced to slow down. Every little piece takes time, and you have to learn to enjoy the process, step by step, moment by moment. It's better to take it slow and make sure every detail is in place, first, so when you get to the shoot, there are as few issues as possible. Presently, I've been working on finding a good entertainment lawyer. I've met with a few people, and in fact, the person I'm meeting with this afternoon looks most promising. He's done a ton of work with indie film, and his rates seem doable. The great thing about this process, though, is that my producers are very knowledgeable and have been excellent in terms of guiding me in the right direction. I guess as long as there is forward motion, the movie will get made... Eventually.