Writing dialogue

Notes: So my genius sister, Pam, won a Nicholl Fellowship and does this series on the YouTube, which is worth watching no matter what you write: screenplays, regular plays, novels, newspaper stories or speeches.

First, because we need to tear down the artificial walls between different disciplines of writing. Second, because screenwriters are the absolute best at structure, which is the secret to any sort of writing. And third, because she’s insanely good at cutting through the nonsense and getting at what really matters, which isn’t comma splices and the proper use of gerunds.

Plus she’s funny. Thanks for doing these, sis. Hugs. 🙂

Video

Top 10 movie fights that are so bad, they circle back to good

As a huge fan of movies, especially action movies, I’ve seen a lot of cinematic fights.

Fist fights. Gun fights.

Kickboxing, MMA, ninjas, lightsaber duels, you name it.

And this video brings back memories. Bet I’m not the only person who remembers the mistake known as GYMKATA.

Video

How to format your screenplay’s title page

Notes: So my genius sister, Pam, won a Nicholl Fellowship and does this series on the YouTube, which is worth watching no matter what you write: screenplays, regular plays, novels, newspaper stories or speeches.

First, because we need to tear down the artificial walls between different disciplines of writing. Second, because screenwriters are the absolute best at structure, which is the secret to any sort of writing. And third, because she’s insanely good at cutting through the nonsense and getting at what really matters, which isn’t comma splices and the proper use of gerunds.

Plus she’s funny. Thanks for doing these, sis. Hugs. 🙂

How to sell a screenplay

Notes: So my genius sister, Pam, won a Nicholl Fellowship and does this series on the YouTube, which is worth watching no matter what you write: screenplays, regular plays, novels, newspaper stories or speeches.

First, because we need to tear down the artificial walls between different disciplines of writing. Second, because screenwriters are the absolute best at structure, which is the secret to any sort of writing. And third, because she’s insanely good at cutting through the nonsense and getting at what really matters, which isn’t comma splices and the proper use of gerunds.

Plus she’s funny. Thanks for doing these, sis. Hugs. 🙂

 

Florida Man: Why one state is the absolute mecca for weird news

As a reformed journalist, I have a lifelong fascination with weird news—an addiction that a single state tries hard to satisfy.

Every. Single. DAY.

No other state can hold a candle to Florida.

It’s the only state with its own Fark tag, with so many weird news headlines starting with “Florida man” there’s a Twitter handle that endlessly tweets out insane stories starting with those two words.

I could not love Florida more for this.

Here’s a sample of recent Florida headlines, lovingly curated by fark.com:

Florida Man enters Jacksonville store and chases people with live alligator

Florida teacher quits to become full-time grocery shopper and doubles his salary

Key West mayoral candidate takes a personal cell phone call during a debate. From God

Florida man charged with identity theft after impersonating Backstreet Boy

17-year-old gets attacked by snake while mowing lawn. Gives sage advice: “watch out for snakes”

Police say Florida man planned his suicide for years, making it look like murder by using a weather balloon to carry away the gun

All this craziness packed into a single state begs the question: Why does Florida Man live in Florida?

Theory # 1: Deadly wild animals up the wazoo

Alligators, sharks, pythons invading the Everglades—and those are just the apex predators. You’ll find crazy stories about rabid racoons, bat infestations and all sorts of animal disasters and shenanigans. Yes, that’s the proper spelling. Take note.

Few other states boast the biodiversity needed to generate this much mayhem.

Theory # 2: Dumb criminals

A weird news story’s power gets squared when a stable genius criminal does something truly idiotic only to have karma delivered by the local wildlife.

One great example: man commits a robbery at night and the cops chase him … so he makes the brilliant move of hiding in a nearby pond, where an alligator has him as a midnight snack.

Theory # 3: Paaaaarty time

Florida is seen as a tropical getaway, a place where you go to party on spring break or to retire in the sunshine.

Alcohol and drugs are a common ingredient in weird news stories. Florida gets far more than its fair share of dumb criminals doing dumb things after getting hammered or high. Sometimes both.

Theory # 4: The power of convergence

Every great weird story is a combination of factors, usually (1) men who are (2) drunk or high, doing something risky involving (3) crime, (4) firearms, (5) explosives or (6) wild animals who can kill you.

It’s like baking a cake. Even if most states have an ingredient or two, they don’t have all six, not in the quantities that Florida does. It’s a giant state, one of the biggest, with more people moving there all the time and all those pythons in the Everglades busy laying eggs when they’re not fighting alligators. The weird news will only grow with time.

VERDICT

Florida is an interesting, dynamic place, a semi-tropical paradise that also happens to be home to some of the craziest stories you’ll ever see. We love you, Florida Man—don’t change a thing.

And now for something completely different — THIS IS AMERICA by Childish Gambino

Listen: I grew up watching music videos, back when we had this thing called MTV, which played music videos 25 hours a day, eight days a week.

So there isn’t much that shocks or impresses me, seeing how 99 percent of music videos fall into these categories:

(1) Solo divas belting away while backup dancers go crazy

(2) Boy bands lip-syncing while dancing like crazy

(3) Metal bands in black-and-white videos, trying to look tough, no smiling allowed

(4) Concert videos with screaming, adoring fans

(5) Artistic mini-movies that only prove singers should sing and actors should act

This video is something truly different. Donald Glover can act, sing and dance–and while he’s making a number of political statements in this video, none of them are on-the-nose. You have to rewatch this video three or four times to catch them all, including imagery from GET OUT.

Here, take a look and a listen:

Glover debuted this song live when he hosted SNL, and did a nice job there, too.

VERDICT: I’m shocked and impressed. A tricky thing, trying to send a powerful message through a song and music video without bonking your audience over the head with that message. Pretty easy to be far too heavy or way too subtle. Glover threads the needle with skill and care. I want to see more of his work now, and it’s easy to see why this video has gone beyond viral.

Kygo and Selena Gomez bring it with IT AIN’T ME

As I drive MANY MILES each day, and listen to this thing they used to call the radios, it’s like a blind taste-test for music. You usually don’t know the name of the singer or band, so your reactions are honest.

My reaction to this song on the radio was “play that again.” Put a gun to my head and I would’ve sworn this was some kind of European electro-dance thing, and the singer was maybe somebody like Ellie Goulding.

So it was a shock to learn Selena Gomez sings it. It’s a cut off the new album by Kygo, a Norwegian musical genius.

Let’s take apart why the video works so well with the song.

You care, right away

The trouble with most of music videos is there’s no attempt at making us feel, because the musicians are too busy trying to look cool, tough, rich and/or glamorous while singing about themselves. Nothing is really at stake and there’s no story told, so there’s no reason for the audience to care. It’s just a song, no matter how much gets spent on directors, dancers and the set.

This video has two characters you can relate two, right off, and an actual story with real stakes. You feel bad for this young man in a coma after the motorcycle crash, and you sympathize with the young woman sticking by his side at the hospital. You want him to be OK and for them to be together again.

The inner POV is trippy and beautiful

Loved it when the video switches to the point of view of the man in a coma.

They got truly creative with what it might be like to be trapped in your own body, aware but not awake. The lighting and effects are creative and well done. Impressive.

Genuine setups and payoffs leading to a beautiful ending

There’s a real sense of joy when she starts dancing and puts the headphones on her boyfriend. There’s a contagious sense of joy when she dances in spite of the situation. You can see in his inner POV that he hears the music, that he’s dancing, too, giving you hope that maybe he’ll make it and wake up.

It’s a great bit if storytelling with song that builds up to a classic closing image of him opening his eyes.

 

One final note about the costumes: this is the opposite of most videos, where singers try to show off insane outfits or as much skin as possible. They use crazy costumes for the inner POV sequences, which fits, then everyday outfits for the real life scenes. I was far more impressed with the simple joy of a singer rocking out in T-shirt and jeans, in this video, than all fancy choreography, skimpy costumes and backup dancers you find in other videos. Well done.

Verdict:

A creative music video with a great song and an actual story with a beginning, middle and end. The dream sequences are a special bonus.

TL;DR: I have seen many, many music videos, and this one is special. 10/10 would watch again.

 

 

Battle of the Hollywood Franchises, Week 1— GAME OF THRONES vs THE WALKING DEAD vs WESTWORLD

Right now, you can fire up your phone, computer, 4k television or seven other things with screens to binge upon amazing movies and television shows that make the classics of the ’70s and ’80s look like high school art projects.

The list of viewing choices is incredible: WESTWORLD, a Marvel superhero movie every time you sneeze, THE WALKING DEAD, a new STAR WARS movie once a year, GAME OF THRONES, BREAKING BAD, BROADCHURCH and the SHERLOCK series starring Khan/Dr. Strange and his hobbit friend.

It’s an embarrassment of quality. And meta-story is the key reason why.

Because it’s not just the quality of special effects, sets and acting at work here. It’s how well that meta-story is told that affects whether you (a) stay up until 3 a.m. binging the entire series or (b) keep flipping through shows and movies before you give up and watch YouTube clips of animals being bros.

I can’t remember any TV shows or movies back in the day that told a fully story, start to finish, with a concrete end to the series, except for the original three STAR WARS movies. (Note: the prequels are dead to me.)

Back in the ‘80s, the shows I watched and loved had the same hero and sidekicks and a Villain of the Week, unless it was a sitcom.

A-TEAM, REMINGTON STEELE, AIRWOLF – all these shows you could watch in any order, unlike the meta-stories of today, where if you miss 15 minutes, you might get lost.

It seemed pretty clear that showrunners back then were content to keep making new seasons until the ratings went south.

They kept going until the network ended the money train, which was reflected in the sudden demise of most TV shows where loose ends tended to stay loose.

So where are the new giants of meta-storytelling doing it right, and where are they tripping up?

Week 1—GAME OF THRONES vs THE WALKING DEAD vs WESTWORLD

All three of these are sprawling adventures with ensemble casts and no clear hero or villain.

But they are true meta stories. There’s nothing episodic about either show. Things constantly change and both are building up to a climax versus the old model of “petering out when they cancel us.”

A big strength for all three? Constant surprises. Anybody might die in any episode, except for Rick Grimes, who never dies for some reason, while Westworld reserves the resurrect any character as a robot and Game of Thrones can’t part with Captain Good Hair Who Lives Among the Snow.

All three series are full of deadly betrayal and high stakes. There are no cartoonish white hats and black hats. Each character tends to be a little good and a lot of bad.

You also don’t have to find a new job if your big star, the hero, decides to leave the series to try movies, or gets drunk and slams his Rolls Royce into the side of a cliff.

HOWEVER: The lack of bedrock heroes and villains can make the audience confused and scared off from getting attached to characters they like, seeing how at any minute they could get stabbed in the back, nom-nom-nommed by a zombie or shot by the Man in Black.

This sort of story also has problems with villains, because they tend to die off and need to get replaced.

GAME OF THRONES and THE WALKING DEAD have the advantage of known their destination, since the original authors mapped out the story in printed form using these things I like to call “words” placed inside these archaic, beautiful things they call “books.”

WESTWORLD will have to find its own way to the climax, since it’s based on a single movie from the ’70s. However: Season 1 was a brilliant start.

Verdict: GAME OF THRONES is the odds-on champion here, with a huge audience and a definite climax in the cards. THE WALKING DEAD feels a bit too uneven and small scale at times. How can they top Negan?

WESTWORLD is the hipster choice of these three, the one that feels most like a movie. Each episode shot and scored beautifully. It’s just harder to see where it goes after Season 1. But if they can pull it off, WESTWORLD will live forever as a classic.

Next week: D.C. versus Marvel, also known as ‘D.C. just can’t win’

Week 3—STAR WARS vs STAR TREK

Week 4—JAMES BOND vs JASON BOURNE

Week 5—HOUSE OF CARDS vs BREAKING BAD

Week 6—HARRY POTTER vs LORD OF THE RINGS

The Avalanches get weird with FRONTIER PSYCHIATRIST

OK, I have seen music videos from around the world.

Mediocre videos of singers dancing around.

Miniature movies, with actual acting and production values.

And then there are videos like these that are just flat-out weird.

It’s interesting, but only in a “Let’s drink coffee at Denny’s until five in the morning with my friend who’s an art teacher and his girlfriend, the philosophy professor, as we try to divine the deeper meanings of this thing.”

I’m not sure there really is a deeper meaning to this video and song. But yeah, this one is different enough to be special.