Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Daily Productivity Blog #5

Chess legend Bobby Fischer

Day 5 in a row (mostly). How long does it take to form a habit?

Today I took the following actions in pursuit of the cinematic storyteller's craft:

1) I returned two prop guns to the man who was kind enough to lend them to my short film. Way overdue, but better late than never. Because he's such a boss gentleman, I'll give him a shout-out here: Shawn Anderson, a true G&E mensch. Seek him out if you're looking for a gaffer/key grip in the Seattle area. He has a grip truck at reasonable rates.

2) My co-writer and I finally managed to cram in a few hours' long overdue work on our feature script and we managed to accomplish quite a bit. It's really kind of amazing how much shit you can get done when you implement a deadline, however vague, to put a sense of urgency in your work. We made some significant structural changes tonight, locked others in solid, and discovered the nature of the four primary relationships in our film. This discovery necessitated us first admitting that one particular character was a cipher, and not in a good way. Once admitted, everything pretty much locked into place almost instantly. We had to talk it out, but it was amazing how clear the relationships became once we copped to a problem.

3) I watched about a 1/2 hour of John Ford's THE QUIET MAN, and until the later script work was done, I didn't expect anything to rival the revelation that came from watching that movie. I had no idea, til now, that the scene Elliot mirrors in E.T. when he lets all the frogs go, is the beautiful and bold first kiss between John Wayne and Scarlett O'Hara. Once it came up, it was an instant, gut recall: I immediately saw the scene playing on the TV that ET's watching, and Elliot reenacting it. What's truly miraculous about this remembrance is that I haven't seen E.T. in maybe a decade (an error I aim to soon correct). A recall so instantaneously of a film last seen so long ago is a two-fold testament to the iconic power with which Ford staged and filmed the scene in THE QUIET MAN, as well as to the emotional homage Spielberg staged for E.T. It's no Tarantino/Rodriguez ape-ing, it's an honest-to-god rearticulation of that scene for his movie's own emotional purpose. That's how you pay respect. May I have the skill, fortune and sense to do the same, should I ever require an homage. By the way, Republic Pictures' transfer on their QUIET MAN "Special Edition" DVD is easily the worst I've ever seen. Handheld bootlegs re-scans of ALIENS VS PREDATOR in Iraq had better color fidelity and sharper focus. Get on it Criterion!

4) As I was leaving my old edit room tonight, after the 2 hours of story-breaking, I had a sort of revelation about the script-to-production ratio. I was thinking about how my co-writer and I have been working on our story in various forms since the end of July 2010, minus two months we took off so I could focus on reshoots for my short film. Still, with the schedule we've mapped-out for the remainder of our scripting process, by the end we will have put over 15 months of work into the script (at an average of 15 hours' work per week). Surely, this time-span would be comparable to any actual production of the film, from prep- through post-. So let's say that the script-to-production ratio of this film -- should we be so lucky -- is 1 : 1. I then compared this to what the going ratio is on my short film, which will probably end up somewhere in the neighborhood of 1 : 20. There are so many problems I'm having to fix with reshoots and clever editing, that could have easily been fixed at the script stage. Now, I'd like to mention that the first iteration of that short film was my graduating thesis project and I was on an incredibly tight deadline in an academic environment that was at times unsupportive of narrative filmmaking, at others out-right disdainful. And I will also say that the long editing and reshoots process has been extremely educational for me, especially with respect my evolving appreciation of the malleability of visual storytelling. All that said, DESERTERS will be good, but it will be a much costlier and harder-fought "good" than had I taken the time to get the script right. This is not a regret, so much as a cost/benefit analysis. I also think this is true of CAVITY, the last feature script I wrote. If we consider the drafting of it as the actual "production" of the script, and the outlining as the "writing", then that process was probably more like 1 : 100. Had I spent at least half as much time "writing" CAVITY, I wouldn't have to do so much narrative tapdancing and "reshooting". The lesson here is one of the oldest: Proper Planning and Preparation Prevent Piss-Poor Performance. CAVITY is 200 pages long and took me a week of outling and three months to script. On my current script, my co-writer and I have been working eight months on our outline, and don't plan to type a page of script until sometime in late summer/early fall. It will be between 100 and 110 pages. Lesson-learned, bitch.

5) I wrote a blog.

6) I will read a fable.

7) I will study Rockwell.

8) I will go to bed by 12:30.

Rock 'n' roll.

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