Virtual World Tour

 

So I am a writer of my word. I practised what I preached. I Dared to Suck Dare to Suck and I published my second book, a compilation of my favorite posts from Not My Straitjacket which I only recently realized I hadn’t celebrated the two year anniversary since its creation. If you have read this blog in whole or in part I invite you to rate my book on Amazon.com The official launch date for this book is September 13th, 2017.

Thank you for reading! Time to celebrate and let the virtual world tour begin.

Remember it is said: Sharing is caring.

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D-I-V-O-R-C-E,Commitment and the Writer

weddress

 

I’ve divorced myself from the writing lifestyle. That is to say, I’ve been away from regular hours in the office typing away at a keyboard. I haven’t committed to writing exercises, carrying around books to study the plot and character structure or even just to bask in a café and enjoy the winter scenery of page after page of even my favorite author and I’m not about to apologize. In fact, it is quite possible the healthiest thing I have done for my writing career to date.

Minus a blog here and there it’s been nothing but leisure activities including but not limited to photographing everything under the sun, family time and watching some great flicks. (As long as I can keep my eyes open after the kids are asleep that is). More than one person has suggested and I agree they are right, that perhaps it’s too soon for my little ones to be watching Misery or Carrie so I save the horrors and thrillers for when they are sleeping  CryptTV.com streams some of my favs. Then there’s the action movies I have to choose from and my fav actors to watch. I never tire of films with Johnny Depp or Meryl Streep (Ottawa’s local actors are also quite good but I’m not naming names. You know who you are.)

I love watching One True Thing for the thousandth time. I cry every time I watch Losing Isaiah. The Deep End of the Ocean is a touching drama that will pull at heart strings too, I love that the protagonist is a mother and a photographer. I’m a fan of Finding Forrester. Alice Through the Looking Glass and Maleficent is a go to when I just want to get away from it all. G.I Jane, Far and Away, God Bless the Child, my absolute favorite local film is, I can’t say actually (I have a few preferences) but ottawashortfilms.com has a collection of great shorts.

I’ve been pressed for time to make it to the theatres but I would have loved to see La La Land,

A Monster Calls and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

I drink less coffee and more tea these days, my Stephen King book, Blaze, came in handy when I had to go to the emergency room in a matter where everything worked out; I got to read little more than a paragraph that night. Like I said, I really have not been living the writer’s life as of late.

I meet people in person over chatting online. I talk to strangers but I don’t take notes. I ride the bus but I don’t use my senses to explain the experience of being transported from one end of the city to the other, I don’t bother to take note of the sights, smells and other senses. Instead, I chat with my children playing silly mom and daughter/son games. I speak loudly when it might be better to whisper. I remember who I am when I’m not a writer. I breathe.

Life. It’s all about life and living. But I’m here now, committed once again to the writer’s lifestyle and the dedication and focus I need to recommit to get manuscripts polished and sent out and queries ready for publishers. Really, I went on a Writer’s Vacation, I plan to do it again in the future now that I remember. I remember who I am when I am not a writer.

Sometimes, you just have to say no to the workload and deadlines. Sometimes, you have to choose yourself over your work, your health over a hefty paycheque. Sometimes saying no is what writers’ like me really need to do to really want to say yes when all is said and done. This is what I want. This is what I do.

What do you say?

 

 

 

Hot Topic to kick off 2017

 

I believe there is truth in the statement that art imitates life and some of the most compelling stories ever brought to light in film and novels have been of real people going through real life tragedies.

I have been a freelance journalist for a bigger portion of my life. I have been assigned, thought of and written firsthand accounts of people from all walks of life .Cat’s out of the bag so to speak. I won’t claim that I have *never found at least *one idea from real life that didn’t appeal to me to write as a work of fiction but there were a lot of things I would have taken into consideration *if I had moved forward with writing from real life experiences.

I would also argue that the truth can be a powerful thing in the hands of an experienced writer. Like all things though, the truth can have dark sides that sometimes no one should be privy to and the question becomes, how far would you go to keep a secret if you were asked? When is drawing stories from real life events beneficial or is it possible that long term it could be harmful? What would you do when faced with possibly the biggest story of your career and the subject was someone you knew? The real question is: How ethical are you as a writer in drawing your writing ideas from real life and writing them into existence?

Have you ever had deep conversation with someone about their life and then wanted to tell their story on the page? Is it ever okay to use someone else’s pain for profit? Would you have the guts to ask someone for their permission to write their life story? How would you answer if someone asked if you, ‘wrote them’, into a story without their knowledge?

Writing people we know and turning them into characters in a story is something that hypothetically, could be done. In memoirs, the subject is fact and the people (most of the time) are from real life. As a fiction writer, if you were writing from an idea drawn from a person IRL you could make a few changes to the sex of the character, the dialogue and gender you could absolutely spin a tale about someone you didn’t like or who had wronged you using a storyline you overheard or a conversation you had until that character or someone else you created was in h*ll in a handbasket so to speak and possibly feel no remorse (okay, maybe you might feel remorse) or maybe you want to write someone out of a bad real life ending and conclude the story with some happily-ever-after idea. That’s the great thing about writing. Anything is possible. The power stays with the author during the writing process.

Let’s say Bob tells Jane that Sally left Tom because he’s an alcoholic. Would you go write a story about Tom? Probably not. But, if you know Tom really well then we can safely say you know his mannerisms, his hobbies, that he picks his nose too much and that his hair colour is really blond. Let’s also say for arguments sake, that you’ve decided to write an essay about alcoholism and how it destroys families but you don’t want to call out Tom so as not to embarrass him or Sally should anyone read your work who knows you, here’s how you write about Tom without causing a fuss:

Choose from these: change his age, location, height, weight, gender, social etiquette (so no nose picking throughout the story) hobbies, hair colour, gait, and make his ex-girlfriend the opposite of what your friend Sally is, or also like Sally but a different ethnicity, from a different religion thereby changing the type of activities she’d be involved in or lifestyle she’d leave.

To take storytelling skills a step further I suggest you research more and speak to people who have experienced what you want to know about or who are experts in their field. For instance, I once wanted to speak to people whom had experienced homelessness. I didn’t have to look far on Ottawa’s downtown streets to meet someone who had been displaced. I sat down with this person over coffee (my treat) and asked them what life was really like. It would not have been ethical to write their life story and pitch their head shot for the cover of People Magazine or some other glossy periodical with mass subscribers but it was logical to take general facts about the lifestyle that was described to me and apply it to the character I created from thin air.

Anytime there is a question of what to leave in and what to take out where questioning if it is ethically acceptable to write or print stories with personal material from sources I ask myself two things: Is what I have written defamatory? Is it libelous? (If you do not know what these terms mean I suggest looking them up). When in doubt, take it out, is a popular rule of thumb used by many authors I have met whose writing I admire.

Then there’s what I have described as the question, “Mother may I?” In fact, it is nothing more than my fancy way of saying, would you be comfortable writing this information about your mother or would you be asking “Mother may I include this or that in my story about you?” (Or swap the word mother with another person you respect or admire). If the answer is no, you might be best to not tell it directly if you include it at all and certainly in no way make any reference to the person whose dialogue inspired you but you could perhaps show it in a third-person narrative with a newly developed character, this would make things a lot less personal between the reader and your work.

Writing in the first person is intensely more personal and direct than describing the same information happening to someone else.

So the next time you find yourself listening in on someone else’s conversation whether accidentally, because you are a captive audience or otherwise consider whether there is a story there you want to tell or that is deserving of telling, and sweep up the breadcrumbs you leave behind as you write deeper into your story, unless you are writing a memoir. Even then you may find yourself asking, “Mother may I?”

A Writer’s Resolutions

In 2017 I resolve to write more blogs, revise less, produce more, brainstorm religiously, finish my novella, query traditional publishers, connect with industry professionals, reach a wider audience, set up book signings, write my first play, finish my first feature, draw inspiration from untapped resources, live larger, experience things for the first time and write them into history.

In 2017 I will see more plays, watch more movies, read more books, expand my mind and by doing so increase my database for potential plots. I will drink less coffee. No, I will drink just as much coffee because it makes me happy.

I will reach out to literary agents, go to more writing workshops, network with other creatives. I will eat more Kraft Dinner (because I think it tastes good).

In 2017 I will apply for more grants, encourage new writers, promote other authors, write more reviews, spend more time writing in my office rather than arranging it, let music be an inspiration as I write, watch more films, I will involve my family in the creative process by introducing them more to the writer side of me and not just the wife/mother they know so well.

I will post more sticky notes with encouraging messages, set up more deadlines, meet those deadlines and move on to other projects. I will carry a book with me more often when I go out and read it too, as Stephen King suggests it is a great way to spend time. And well, why not?

In 2017 I will read more blogs, post more blog reviews, write more often using hashtags. I will set aside the first draft of a piece of work for at least 24 hours before revising it, I will not post impulsively? I will write more status updates on social media.

In 2017 resolve to write and see what happens.

In 2017 I will be a more productive writer. What New Year’s resolutions have you made for your writing career? Inquiring minds want to know.

Screenwriter in the Director’s Seat; From Action to Cut. Hold the press!

 

Since my premiere production I received feedback from a panel of judges who took the time to evaluate my script, Say It Once More with Feeling. I have also taken the last month and continue on my studies in scriptwriting. Here’s what I learned:

In the writing process the story takes on a life of its own. As a writer of many genres I feel all but compelled to include the setting and blocking in the script as I write. That includes writing many fine details including where the props might be placed and the body language the actors’ might use as they perform their dialogue. Using this personal method of writing the producer reads the story they get a mental projection of how I see the story taking shape as it spills onto the page.

Some people criticise that approach and there is reason for and against it. Mainly, when scripts are purchased a director takes over to help the producer create their version of how they see the film and in so doing all those extra tidbits of information, the overflowing cigarette trays the condoms laying used on the kitchen floor, the wife screaming the dialogue while wildly waving her hands become more of an inhibition to getting the script sold than proactive in convincing a producer this is what they want.

In fictional narrative all these minute details are crucial. Minute details paint the story for the reader but film is a visual medium and while the job of the scriptwriter is to write visually. It is becoming clearer to me that it is not necessarily to paint a vision in parentheticals of how the script should work but to make sure that the dialogue and action in the script come across in such a way that the producer and future viewers become emotionally invested in whether or not the child makes it out of the ghetto alive, or whether or not the wife gets away from the abusive husband.

It is hard for me as someone who chooses to write all genres and not specialise in one as many writers do, to not sometimes confuse the rules that come with writing different genres. Fortunately I have the surroundings of a very talented and supportive film community with professionals across the spectrum to help remind me that everyone has a job and place in the making of a production when it comes to script writing.

I went to a filmmakers and actors social recently and was delighted to sit with producers, actors and performers who were uninhibited about sharing their filmmaking experiences and pet peeves about the industry.

Actors who have demonstrated with their craft why parentheticals explaining how they should look or react in a scene become redundant when you see how they apply their skills with their character studies and rehearsals before the shoot.

While as a screenwriter I naturally include parentheticals I have decided to keep these descriptions to a minimal having noticed that in the scripts that I have studied there is no room for lengthy direction for the director or cues for the actors. These people know their jobs and every day I hone my scriptwriting skills just a little bit more.

To be cont’d…

 

How to Speak People

Carrie Hands Something to Stan

SAY IT ONCE MORE WITH FEELING which I produced and wrote and the short ABSTRACT that I wrote both make their premiere screening at Rainbow Cinemas at the St.Laurent mall this Sunday with films starting at 3p.m. A colleague asked me if I was looking forward to the screening to which I gave a long, dramatic, well-thought out (I think) response that if I were reading a book I would hope a witty character would come out with.

“If you consider biting your nails so far back that they start to bleed as any sign of being nervous, then yes, I’m anticipating this Sunday’s premiere,” or something to that affect was what I wrote on social media in response, although it came out much more eloquently when I had just revived my arteries with a fresh cuppa coffee. I quickly reassured this person that my response was meant to be dramatic as only a writer can create such convoluted response. In truth I am quite anticipating the excitement of the premiere. In the meantime, I continue to write.

Producing Say It Once More With Feeling (and the word ‘With’ is deliberately uppercased as a measure of style not grammatical correctness) and writing Abstract have deepened my understanding of the film industry and helped me to realise that in attempting to attain your goals and realise your dreams you are only as limited in life as the people you let hold you back. I had my family’s support from the beginning of this adventure and a lot, and I mean a lot of self-confidence to help me get this off the ground.

Ladies, gents, peeps everywhere: if you’re gonna produce, write and otherwise invest your time in the film industry make sure you are 110% committed to the project because once you jump in there is no turning back. I am so glad I committed to these projects!

What mattered as much as having a supportive family in the creation of writing both films but in particular producing Say It Once More With Feeling was the overwhelming support that the Ottawa film community has shown me. Shout out to Ottawa Filmmakers and The Writers’ Room as well as Ottawa Actors, the list goes on. I am very thankful for their support, knowledge and willingness to support each other and as it happened, their helping me learn the ropes and put together a drama that I am hoping will turn some heads. I am competing with some very fine and talented filmmakers and there is a diversity of actors to watch in these upcoming shorts.

With a great crew and a phenomenal cast for Say It Once More With Feeling (don’t miss Julianne Carioto or Richard Groen in this one of a kind drama) and listen to an original score by Stephan LaCasse. I also want to send a shout out to the hard working cast and crew of the script Abstract that I wrote, I am really looking forward to seeing as many supportive familiar and friendly faces at this event as possible and looking forward to meeting some newcomers as well. Funds are being raised for the Canadian Cancer Society through this event. For more information see the website spartafilmchallenge.com

Sunday’s around the corner. It’s a big premiere for many. Will you be there?

Film Production For Writers

 

I have been writing scripts just shy of a year now and loving it. No one told me what I was getting into when I decided to sit in the producer’s seat for my own short. Taking the leap from writer to producer taught me a great deal about the elements of writing while I simultaneously took a crash course in filmmaking. The beauty of this lesson in writing is that I didn’t have to type a word, other than the script of course. Think you want to improve your writing skills while trying your hand at film producing? Here are a few things I learned that you might consider:

Stage one: Acquiring a script. So, unless you are a scriptwriter you are going to want to acquire a script and seek out permissions from the writer to produce said project. This can seem like an easy task but while sitting in the producers seat I had the opportunity to lend my ear to other producers in the biz who have confessed it’s not enough for you to have a bunch of words on a piece of paper and call it a script, by George, so to speak.

There had better be something more to Mary shooting Damian than the simple fact that she was pissed off. She had better have a motive for said action, and that motive better draw the viewer in. That is to say, you’ve got to have a compelling plot or no one, not even and not especially the producer, is going to think twice about putting your script on the big screen.

Rule Number two: There are no hard and fast rules about producing your first short other than: thou shalt fake it ‘til you maketh it. That’s right, get your director’s and indie filmmakers books, big boots and blogs out now and keep them handy. You will learn hard and fast that you are not just the producer of your film, you are sometimes also the catering service, the electrician on the set, the improv audio person, grip, DOP and so forth until your services for yourself are no longer required.

If you are lucky you either have a big budget and great insurance or a great group of people on your cast and crew. Releases will cover a lot of potential problems so make sure you print them up and get them signed by all involved. And before getting craft services check if anyone has any special diet requirements.

Rule no. 3: It’s a wrap does not mean the hard work is done. Well, it does for the cast and the most of the crew but understand you still have a film to edit now and that means you will either want to have your own software and be proficient at your own video editing or know someone else who does this and does this well that you can count on. And write up those special credits and thanks starting now so in case you forget anyone in the first round you will hopefully notice be the time edits are almost done.

Rule no.4. You may not have your cake and eat it too, so to speak (I like Black Forest) you must keep writing, or whatever it is you do for a living while your film goes through the final production stages. And when that is done, there’s the marketing for your short. You’ll need stills from your footage to design movie posters and if you don’t have a huge budget them social media can be your best friend. Pump word out to those you know of your upcoming production and count on them to share the word with others of your project. Say It Once More With Feeling, Sparta 2016 #Ahem, friends.

Rule #5. If you don’t like producing you can keep your day job. What I like about writing, is that it’s not producing. It’s the creative process over the technical, the artistic over the directorial. It is engaging the heart and mind with a medium other than the screen. It results in something that can be shared with audiences who will no doubt give honest, critical feedback. It can help you learn about their experience of watching your work and the work of countless hard working talented individuals who helped your script come alive #SayItOnceMoreWithFeeling #Thanksguys! At the same time, it will show you where the plot holes may or may not be in your script, viewing the edits shows you where the acting was so good it made you cry and you’ll remember to bring a bunch of tissue to hand out for the after party no doubt. Audience reactions are something great to anticipate. They come from somewhere personal, where a connection was or wasn’t made with the viewer. Learning how and why people react the way they do to receiving or rejecting a film is much more personal experience than reading a review of one’s work on the internet. I’m looking forward to audience feedback this March 6th at Rainbow Cinemas.

Rule #6 if you do like producing you can always consider making more movies in the future.

I’m overdue to see The Fault in our Stars, so I may just bake a chocolate cake now and have it too. Because, I can. Writing my next script can wait for morning.