The “One Movie A Week” Challenge Part 2

MovieReelBack in March I shared that I had started watching one new movie a week in order to catch up on all that I had missed.  I’m a bad screenwriter.  I wasn’t watching much.

I’m happy to report that I’ve maintained my momentum.

Now that we’re over half way through the year, I thought I’d share part two of my viewings.  This time I’m trying a strict A, B, C rating.  There may be the occasional + or – , but I’m doing my best to limit those half measures.

10. The Breaker Uppers – If you’ve seen Taika Waititi’s charming 2014 film, What We Do in the Shadows, you’ll recognize one of the leads of this film, Jackie van Beek.  Waititi is also a producer of this film about two women who provide a service of helping people break up in elaborate ways, so I had high hopes.  It failed to deliver.  While the two leads obviously have chemistry, the story fell flat.  My rating: C

11. Train to Busan – I had come across a number of positive comments about this zombie thriller, and it lived up to the hype. The story follows a father and his young daughter who have grown apart because of divorce on a train ride to return her to her mother.  Over the course of a tense and dire train ride, human nature is put to the test, and we learn what’s most important.  My rating: A

12. Outlaw King – Despite its historical inaccuracies, Braveheart is still one of my favorite films.  So I was intrigued when this movie showed up on Netflix about the man who would be King of Scotland, Robert the Bruce.  In Braveheart, his father made the alliance with England to secure his throne.  While obviously not made on the same grand scale, this film was still enjoyable and insightful into the life of a man we saw very little of previously.  My only major complaint, why cast an American actor to sell a movie people will most likely watch anyway?  My rating: B

13. A Quiet Place – This was a film that was being referenced quite a bit in screenwriting circles when it was released so it had to be put on my list so I could see what all the hubbub was about.  It opens up without any preamble and you quickly learn how vital silence is in this post-apocalyptic world where humans are under threat from vicious aliens who can hear the slightest sound.  As we watch this family struggle to survive, we have to wonder how long can people live like this?  Try moving around your house without making a sound and see how long you would survive.  My rating: A

14. Kick Ass – This had been on my list for some time, but with streaming services, things come and go, and some times you just miss out.  I miss Blockbuster.  When it popped back up I took the opportunity to watch it.  It’s entertaining, it has heart, and has plenty of action and violence.  Watching a young superhero wannabe come into his own, and getting his ass handed to him repeatedly, is kind of inspiring.  Also watching a small Chloë Grace Moretz be a total bad ass is just fun.  My rating: B

15 & 16. Avengers: Endgame – This will get a proper post, especially now that it’s on DVD.  The Sis missed the first viewing, so saw it twice in a week.  There’s a lot to take in so watching it twice was like watching it again for the first time. 😉  My rating: A

17. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom – I didn’t really plan on watching this, but when my little fur baby had some weird hive reaction all over her face in the middle of the night, I had to stay up and I figured the mindless action would do the trick.  The first Jurassic Park is still amazing but the new franchise is just disappointing.  No matter how endearing Chris Pratt is.  The opening sequence of the island being destroyed by a volcano and the animals fleeing for their lives, no matter the CGI element, was unsettling, and set me off right away.  There are some interesting moments, but overall the highlight of the film is Jeff Goldblum.  My rating: C

18. The Darkest Minds – There are a slew of dystopian teen films out there, and every once in a while, there’a a good one.  Maybe the book is better.  A genetic mutation has occurred in teens that gives them powers.  Now considered a threat, they are sent to camps where the most dangerous are eliminated, or used as weapons.  This is another film that had a few good moments, but overall has nothing to distinguish itself against so many others of its kind.  My rating: C

19. The Losers – One guess why I watched this movie.  Chris Evans and Jeffrey Dean Morgan.  I enjoy elite forces/spy films, and the trailer for this movie showcased its sense of humor, but again, this story had nothing to differentiate it from the horde of other similarly themed films – agents thought dead return for retribution.  My rating: C

20. Their Finest – A period piece about screenwriting?  Sure.  I’m in.  A movie about women making headway in a male dominated industry.  Yeah, I’m in.  Starring Gemma Arterton, who carries the film about creating a propaganda movie during WWII about the evacuation at Dunkirk, is charming and engaging.  The film, overall, is well done and a peek into an aspect of filmmaking that encourages nationalism.  My rating: B

21. Isle of Dogs – The first Wes Anderson I ever saw initially left me confused.  I didn’t quite get his humor but now he’s one of my favorites and I look forward to seeing his name on a project.  He has such style, and a strange sense of humor, and while this story about dogs being quarantined is not my favorite of his, it does highlight our relationship with our furry friends and the loyalty born from it.  Like many of his films, it definitely requires a second viewing, and I’m sure it will grow on me.  My (current) rating: B

22. Always Be My Maybe – A film about childhood friends finding love years later is not a new concept, and yet this romantic comedy hit the mark.  So many of my friends were talking about it, so I gave it a watch.  Surprisingly, it was just the right amount of cute and funny with two likable leads.  Then there’s Keanu Reeves who steals the show.  My rating: B+

23. Z for Zachariah – I like apocalyptic movies.  I’m not sure why.  Maybe because people are awful and it’s interesting to watch what they’re willing to do and wonder what I might do in the same situation.  This film has an Adam and Eve aspect to it as two people are trying to survive in the only habitable place left, but even in the end times, a rivalry for the woman’s hand was the most pressing matter.  My rating: C

24. Swiss Army Man – What a strange and unique film about the power of imagination and learning to accept yourself.  Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe make a good team, even when the humor was a little off-color.  The ending is open to interpretation and was the only part of the film that disappointed me.  As we’ve all learned (looking at you, GoT), endings are difficult.  My rating: B

25. IO: Last on Earth – Another apocalyptic movie in a sea of similarly themed tales that failed to deliver.  The world has become toxic and people have fled to the stars, save one young woman, a scientist who is carrying on her father’s work to save the world.  MCU’s Anthony Mackie is one of the only remaining humans left who, no matter how charming, has absolutely no chemistry with the last woman on Earth.  My rating: C

26. Rim of the World – Maybe because I never went to summer camp, I’m drawn to movies about the possibilities that camp and the nostalgia of youth they offer.  Of course, I’m not sure how I would have responded to aliens attacking when I was 13.  This movie was inspired by a number of its sci-fi predecessors and is clearly meant for a younger audience.  While not great, by any means, it was kind of fun, and at least gives the viewer hope that the younger generation will step up.  My rating: C

27. The Spy Who Dumped Me – Well this one took me by surprise.  A buddy/spy comedy starring two women that handle sh*t on their own?  I’m a fan of Kate McKinnon, she steals the show at every turn, and this movie about two best friends who wind up in an international conspiracy is no different.  There are some outlandish (pun intended for Sam Heughan?) moments, but the chemistry between the two leads keeps the movie afloat.   My rating: B

28. Lady Bird – I don’t know what it feels like to be so fearless and opinionated.  I grew up trying to keep the peace and always putting on a happy face.  Maybe this is why I, personally, had a hard time relating to Saoirse Ronan’s Lady Bird.  She’s an angsty teenager trying to figure herself out while dealing with her strong willed mother.  My rating: B

29. BlacKkKlansman – By far the best movie I’ve seen all year.  The premise was, of course, interesting – the first black officer in Colorado Springs in the 70s infiltrates the KKK by using a white counterpart – and completely deserving of its accolades.  It’s an important movie, especially in these turbulent times, and the ending sequence is disturbing and thought provoking.  And it’s true.  My rating: A+

30. Early Man – As you may know, from reading a previous review, I’m a fan of Aardman Animations’ Wallace and Gromit.  The Curse of the Were-Rabbit is a favorite.  Early Man stars my future husband, Tom Hiddleston, so it was always going to be on my watch list.  While the animation is still superb, the comedy just didn’t do it for me this time around, and especially since the entire movie basically revolves around a game of soccer/football, I sort of tuned out.  Maybe I’ll give it another watch at some point and see if it grows on me.  My rating: B

I started this post a couple of weeks ago, so there are more movies to add…for the next one. :). Any suggestions on what I should watch next?

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Quote Monday on a Tuesday

Although yesterday passed before I had an opportunity to post, it’s still early enough in the week to share some inspiration.  In fact, today is my Saturday, so if you work odd shifts like I do, then it really doesn’t matter what day you choose to celebrate #MotivationMonday. 😉

BeliefInSanta

We are our biggest critics, so it’s good to be reminded that we can also choose to be our biggest supporters.  No matter what you’re passionate about, if you’re chasing your dream, then believe in yourself that you can and will make it happen.  In the end, should we succeed or fail, it is up to us.

There’s another quote I’ve shared before that I feel is a good bookend for the above, “What would you do if you knew you could not fail.”  Believe in yourself and find out!

What Kind of Screenwriter Are You?

In my time of slack, I accumulated hundreds of emails that required at least a fleeting glance.  In my time of focus, I think I’ve cut that number down to about 60 that will require a slightly longer look-see.  Not too bad given the short amount of time dedicated in that direction.  During this time, I came across a personality quiz for screenwriters from Stephanie Palmer’s Good in a Room site.

writingmemeI feel like I know who I am as a writer.  I don’t outline much; I “generally” know where it’s going to go though, before I sit down.  I like happy endings, my characters are often sarcastic and they’re always do-gooders (the protagonists anyway), and because of my genre choice, I have some freedom to let my imagination run wild.  I listen to my characters.  I alternate between procrastination and binge.  I like to write some things by hand (my fanfiction has almost entirely been written by writermemehand, oddly enough), but the computer monitor allows me more space to “see” (hence, all my screenplays have been written via the modern age).  Plus I type much faster than my hand can write to keep up with my brain (which is why some of my fanfiction looks like chicken scrawl).

I realize that my style of writing will some times write me into corners, but often ideamemetimes, I discover alternate paths and ideas that I never would have seen had I not allowed my story to just unfold.  I have literally found myself astounded with what I’ve unearthed this way.

So I wasn’t surprised by my results upon taking the quiz – Gardener Heartwarmer.  Even the name sounds right.  Here are some of the highlights from the break down:

  • You are good at generating new ideas and following them courageously wherever they lead. You work best when they have the time and the confidence to allow their creativity to spring forth without judgement.
  • You combine new ideas in unusual ways and can make unexpected, quantum creative leaps. You also function well when ideas are in a murkier state – and this is often the case when a screenwriting project is in earlier stages of development.  You create strong, complex characters and stories which contain emotionally powerful moments – the cinematic moments we remember forever.
  • Drama requires conflict, and this means putting characters in the worst possible moments of their lives. This can actually be difficult for you because you are experiencing the emotional journey of your characters so poignantly.

And then there were a few helpful tips.  This one, in particular, struck me:

Your creative work is going to take you to some deep, dark places. Make sure you’re writing at the right time of day (or night) so that you have the freedom and the strength to go where you need to go.

I used to like to write at night, when the world grew quiet.  The Sis would be asleep with the furkids snuggled up beside her, my phone was silent, and there was less likely to be something to sidetrack me because The Sis was asleep and I didn’t want to disturb her.  I’ve been trying to write during the day, and I find too many distractions.  I need to get back to the old routine, where I can be more productive.

So, are you ready to learn how well you know yourself as a screenwriter?  Take the quick, six question quiz here.  Share your results below.

Writing Prompt #106

Yes.  It’s true.  Your eyes do not deceive you.

Two posts in two days.

It’s Wednesday, and while I know it’s been some time, Wednesdays equal Writing Prompt Days!  Remember? 😉  This one made me giggle.

GiveMeAMinute

I see a couple of people bracing against a door with an incoming horde threatening to overwhelm them.  I’m not sure why, but as we know, our minds are unusual things.

So, are you feeling inspired?  Please be sure to share your work so we can all enjoy!

Happy Writing!

Quote Monday on a Tuesday

Well, hello!

I’m not going to make excuses for how absent I’ve been here.  I mean I could mention how busy work has been now that I’ve been promoted, and how my days off were scattered and inconsistent.  I could mention how it’s time for yet another move and all the stress and prep that goes into that…but I won’t.

Times flies whether you’re having fun or not, and suddenly it’s the middle of October and you’re feeling a bit concerned because of how little you have to show considering nearly another year has passed.  I had such big plans at the beginning of the year too.

The only way to get back on track and refocus my attention is by getting back to the routine I once cherished and held dear.  Sooo, let’s get back to one of my favorite things, quotes!

OneDayOrDayOne

I have to find a way of reconciling my new schedule.  I must find a balance between the day job, the dream job, and everything else.  I’ve said “one day” more often than I’d like to admit recently, and I don’t care for how it feels.

How have you balanced your life and found time to do the thing you love?

What To Do In The In-Between Time

IdeaLightBulb(jeffbullassite)Draft after draft.  Rewrite after rewrite.  Sometimes it feels like all we’re doing is writing in circles.

When you need a break from your beloved, it’s hard to decide what to do in that downtime.  I know I’m usually at a loss.  I try to find a new story idea, or consider rewriting one of my other screenplays, but sometimes you just need to do different work for the same story.

Bang2Write is a great resource for writers, and if you aren’t subscribing to Lucy V Hay’s site, as a screenwriter I would recommend it.  I have found loads of truly useful information, like the following – 7 Useful Things You Can Do Between Drafts.

Using my sci-fi pilot, The Demeter as an example, I’ll go through the steps and show you what I’m thinking about in my own downtime.

  1. Compare/Contrast to “Like” stories – Like the Doctor of Doctor Who, I want my human protagonist to not hold any immediate prejudice because of what an alien might look like (although easier said than done. We humans scare easily.).  The video game Mass Effect inspired the idea behind the human/alien interactions and romance options.  It’s unlike shows such as Firefly because not all the characters are human and not all stories are about human problems.  Star Wars and Star Trek are obvious go-tos, but other than the military connection, which won’t be overly used until season 2, I want to stay away from any ideas influenced by either.
  2. Think it Over – The pilot needs to foreshadow more of the ideas I have for the first season.  In addition to a different opening scene, I need to show the “shady” nature of the ship’s captain so the viewer is unsure for some time whether or not he can be trusted.  Early feedback suggested I integrate an image of where the show “might” go aka Battlestar Galactica always showed Earth as the final destination.  Where do I want the show to go?
  3. Work on Craft – Feedback also recommended I adjust the pacing.  Determine the best course to improve this.
  4. Make Contacts – Besides social media…think outside the box on making contact with those in the industry – Meetups, retreats (within reason), writer’s groups?
  5. Feedback – Build relationships of give and take.  Giving feedback will help my writing as well.  Get back on Zoetrope.
  6. Submission Strategy – I’m already using a calendar to keep track of contest deadlines, but could be better arranged for the whole year.  FilmFreeway is a good resource to use more fully.  Get more than one script ready for submission.
  7. Nothing.  Relax…for a minute. 😉

I hope you find this information as useful as I did.  Happy Writing!

Writing Prompt #104

Yes, it’s been awhile.

I have a couple of things to share with you this week, but first, let’s get back to writing!  This amazing piece is by Pascal Campion, an artist I’ve pinned a number of times, and from the first moment I saw it, I was sort of smitten.

Tougher than the rest (campion)

It actually gives me an idea for my tv series, so maybe I’ll write about that for this challenge.  What does it inspire in you?

Happy Writing!

Quote of the Week

CelebrateEmojiGood afternoon, my friends!

I am riding on a new kind of high – the one in which you learn that your original TV pilot has advanced to the finals of one of the contests you entered.  What an amazing feeling!

I struggled for some time (I still do), and I think as creatives, we all have a tendency, at times, to doubt our abilities.  Sometimes it takes years to obtain any outside validation, and I think that’s something we need a little bit of in order to keep moving forward.  One can only stay positive, on their own, for so long.

That’s why this week, I’ve decided to share the following quote:

NeverLettheOdds

I’ve known people who gave up on their dreams, and they’ll never know how close they were to getting what they wanted.  We need to remember why we started, and all those other quotes on positivity that keep us motivated!

Wherever your passion lies, fan the flames, and keep the dream alive!

Screenwriting Tips for Submission Season

HelpfulTipsLast week I shared a list of the 10 prominent screenwriting contests and their approaching deadlines to give you a heads up of what to expect the next few months.  Hopefully, you’re not like me, in the middle of a major rewrite instead of just a polish.

Ah, the sweet agony of a deadline.

This week I thought I would share a few tips on how to be best prepared to submit.  I’m not sure where I originally found this checklist – my apologies to whoever created it.  It’s a list of 10 things to look over/be aware of before you hit send.

  1. Opening image
  2. Opening line
  3. First scene’s setting
  4. Genre/Tone
  5. Character roles
  6. Character motivations
  7. Structure
  8. Scene focus
  9. Spelling/Grammar
  10. Concept/Logline

*If you’re interested, I can expand on each of these in more detail.  Just let me know in the comments below.

One of my favorite pieces of advice came from Good in a Room‘s Stephanie Palmer who suggests –

Choose a contest and a deadline. Then, submit at least one script to one of the top screenwriting contests I recommend.

If the script gets recognized in any way (i.e., it doesn’t win but it makes the second round, or top 10%, etc), revise it and submit to three different contests.

If the script doesn’t get recognized, then keep it in your library of projects, pick something new from your development slate, and write something else.

Instead of submitting multiple projects to several contests (which can get expensive), you only make multiple submissions when you have objective evidence that your work is good enough to have a chance to win, and you spend more of your valuable time writing new material.

That’s plenty of work, I know.

And it doesn’t take into account the other aspects of how to be a professional writer that have nothing to do with writing…

But over time, if you write and submit at least one script every year to one of the best contests, you will get better and your material will get better. If you submit multiple scripts only when they have received positive feedback, your chances of being successful go up.

I hope you find this helpful, and I wish you all the best this submission season!