The Screenwriting Balance

December 9, 2009 at 1:20 pm

writing vs career

The Moneymaker

I consider myself lucky to have a career that I love.  It really is a dream job is you are a fan of sports and want to work in Television.  It’s been nearly 4 years now and I still love it just as much as my first day.  Yet I’m still trying to find time to write. I’m always thinking about scenes or characters but you can’t call yourself a writer unless you’re in front of a blank screen typing words and sentences.

Over the last few months, I’ve been reorganizing my entire life.  Everything from finances to scheduling to working out more.  I’m in a better position overall now yet I’m still trying to find time to write.

I think it’s different for every writer out there.  Those of us who need to write but can’t find time end up feeling guilty and unproductive.  Or at least, that’s been my experience.  I’ve read every book I can find on screenwriting and nearly every one of them discusses procrastination and how hard it is to find balance.  I think the difference between successful and non-successful writers is the amount of time they are able to find to get the work done. You have to assess your time and prioritize.  I’m currently assessing and prioritizing.

Over the last few weeks, I finally returned to screenwriting after nearly a year away.  While I definitely missed it, I don’t think it was as bad because my career and my company are both creative endeavors so I still had outlets to express myself everyday.

Two weeks ago, I wrote non stop for 2 full days.  I was on fire again.  It was like I never stopped.  Have you ever written so much so fast that you feel like your fingers can’t keep up?  There were so many moments when I actually stood up from my chair because I was too pumped up.  Now, I’m not saying what I’m writing is going to change the world.  I’m just saying writing makes me happy.

Rule 1: Write words and sentences

Since that day, I’ve been having trouble finding time to write.  Finally, I started really examining why I’m not writing pages everyday.  Normally, I don’t work until at least 2pm so I could be writing every morning.  Some weeks I don’t work until 5 or 6 in the evening.  That’s practically a day off with the amount of work I do beyond my career.  So why can’t I find time?  I have a theory.

INT. APARTMENT BEDROOM – MORNING

9:59am.

A young man in his mid twenties is sleeping soundly until 10 o’clock arrives and the alarm blasts music into the room.  The young man, JASON, flies out of bed and across the room to turn the music off.  Just as quickly, he slides back into bed and closes his eyes.

INT. APARTMENT BEDROOM – LATER

12:23pm.

Jason’s eyes open slowly.  This is a well rested individual.  He casually turns his head to look at the clock then lowers it in shame.  He slept in again.

The Screenwriter

That little skit above is an example of what happens when you work until 2 or 3 in the morning.  Sometimes, you just need to sleep.

I’ve learned that I have a unique list of requisites to check off before I feel like I can write effectively.  In the past, the most important factor was having a day off.  For some reason, I find it very hard to sit down and write knowing I only have an hour or two before another part of my life takes over again. When I have a day off with no plans, I usually get a lot accomplished.  I just have to accept the fact that I have a full time job and it’s not going anywhere.  So why not write for a few hours?  It certainly doesn’t make my life worse.

I believe that’s my single biggest problem.  Being unable to write because I have to work later that day sounds more like an excuse to me now.  Those 2 days of writing a few weeks ago taught me that even if I can only write for an hour a day, I’d still be happier than not writing at all.  I think I’ll still struggle with being on a roll and having to leave my desk but perhaps that will make it easier to sit down again once my shift is over.

Every writer with a job has to deal with these problems but finding that balance is the difference maker.  I’m no longer a writer because I’ve written a few scripts here and there.  I’m a writer because I sit down in front of a computer screen and type words and sentences. Doing so causes extreme levels of happiness and satisfaction.  This is what being a writer means to me.

PS: It has occurred to me that writing this post took up some potential screenwriting time.  I don’t feel guilty because I’ve found that balance.  I’ll have some time before my shift tonight.

PS #2:  If not, I always have my iPhone and the screenwriting apps I’ve downloaded. The bus ride to work is always fun now.

The Screenwriting Balance | Screenwriting Blog

The Long Road to… The Road

December 8, 2009 at 1:59 am

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The Athletic Nerd Movie Reviews

I live in Toronto.  It’s a pretty large city I suppose.  Lots of theaters in Toronto…

What I love about this city is access to limited releases like The Road.  I grew up in Northern Ontario and only the biggest films make the long trek through the snow.  Toronto is different and I’m completely okay with that.

The only problem is finding a theater close by that’s playing the movie.  I like going to matinees before work.  It’s an inspiring way to start your day but if it’s not playing in a theater near me I can’t see it.  There’s just not enough time.

In the case of The Road, I had to wait an extra week for it to expand to a theater I could actually reach and still make it to work for my shift.  Finally, I found a 2pm showing downtown.  Why couldn’t it be the theater down the road from the studio? It takes about 50 minutes to reach the theater from my house so I had to make sure I was ready to go by about 12:30 when my friend stopped by.  This wasn’t as easy as it sounds.

I did not take into account the morning show shift I worked the night before.  Sundays are usually late nights at the studio and I didn’t get home until 4am.  I then quietly laid in bed, blinked and it was 10:58 in the morning.  The first thing that came to mind was:

“I’m so tired…  Who’s idea was this?  I don’t have to work until 6…  That’s 7 hours and 2 minutes I could be sleeping!”

I took a deep breath.

“I really want to see this movie though…  Do I have to make a lunch for work tonight?  I could just buy a sub or something.  That could get me an extra half hour or so.”

15 minutes later…

“I should get up…”

Do you ever have those morning where every inch of your skin has to be under the covers because it’s freezing.  Those are tough, tough mornings to deal with.  I laid there weighing my options until finally thinking to myself:

“Screw it.  It’ll be worth it.”

I jumped out of bed and into the shower in record time to heat myself up.  It was a really tough decision.

Thankfully, The Road was really was worth it.

The Road

theroadfirstphoto

I went into the theater (after my long 50 minute journey) expecting a great movie and that’s exactly what I got.  It’s an extremely clever and intense ‘end of the world’ movie that focuses on survival at it’s most basic level.  After I left the theater, I asked myself what I would do in that situation.  Would I be able to kill to stay alive?  Could I handle witnessing some of the horrific things that happen in the story?

It’s a chillingly quiet movie.  There’s very little music and limited but effective conversations between father and son.  It’s a style I love and one of the main reasons why I liked the movie.  A lot of screen time is split  between scavenging for supplies and hiding from the ‘bad guys’.  I say bad guys but there really aren’t any major villains.  The Road is about what separates the good guys from the bad and the blurred line between the two.  The fact that we are given glimpses of these bad people is enough to know what fate awaits them should they be caught.

Deep into the film it becomes apparent that the two main characters cannot tell the difference anymore and must trust their instincts on who will hurt them and who they can trust.  There are so many close calls that push them to the edge where they must choose to fight or finally succumb to defeat and take their own lives.  It’s incredible to watch them struggle to choose.  I should really pick up the book.

In the meantime, I’m going to go ahead and highly recommend The Road.  You may not have a theater nearby playing it but find a way.  It’s worth the trip.

XTRA: Top 10 Unanswered Movie Questions

BROTHERS And Annoying Movie Lineups

December 7, 2009 at 3:55 am

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The Athletic Nerd Movie Reviews

Brothers.

10:10pm start time.

Opening weekend.

Saturday Night.

The movie is about to begin.  It’s hard to believe I thought we may not even get tickets a mere minutes ago.

Earlier that night…

I wasn’t sure if the theater would be packed as it was opening weekend for the film so we left 30 minutes early.  I was pretty excited to see Brothers.  It seemed like a really intense movie.

greatmovieannoying

We arrived at the theater and immediately jumped into the express line to buy our tickets.  Only a few people were in front of us so I relaxed.  It didn’t last long as more people piled in after us and those in front were clueless Express-Liners.  Allow me to explain.

First up, The Conversation Guys.

Have you ever encountered these people before?  These 4 guys group around the same machine and proceed to talk and laugh it up while people are waiting.  Who does that?  While they are having a merry time, I’m worried about the movie selling out. While that is going on, people keep entering and blasting horribly cold wind gusts into the entrance where we were all standing.

The Conversation Guys were absolutely oblivious.  Even a kind woman behind us was visibly upset.  Did I mention they bought their tickets separately?  There is express line etiquette on busy nights isn’t there?  One person should step up and pay!  The others can hit an ATM and pay him back.  They are clearly good friends right? Move it along Conversation Guys!

Meanwhile, the other machine was being occupied by a man who had nothing but problems every step of the way.  The Multi-Swipe. This man must have swiped his card at least a million times.  I know what you’re thinking…  Really?  A million?  Yes…  A million swipes.

hurry

Finally, we moved forward about 6 inches.  I’m growing increasingly anxious but the regular line up is even worse so we have no choice but to wait.  Two girls now stood between us and our tickets. These two went to separate machines and couldn’t decide what movie they wanted to see. Solution?  Why not use the same machine and decide together?  Actually, that doesn’t work because then you’re no better than the conversation guys.  There’s no escaping that one.

We eventually get our turn after standing in line for a while and decide to enter the theater and get seats before the final washroom break and snack planning.  I’m anticipating a fairly packed theater after waiting in line for so long…

Now, I’m not saying the theater was empty but lets just say I didn’t have any cause for concern.

Brothers

brothers

It wasn’t what I expected at all.  The way they marketed the film I thought it was going to be a love triangle story and that’s it.  While there are a few scenes here and there, most of the movie is about coping with war and it’s a shocking tale to say the least.  The story has two very different threads.  On one side of the world, you have Tobey Maguire’s character fighting for his life in Afganistan.  What he goes through is absolutely terrifying.  Back home, his family deals with grief believing he is dead.  This is a sad story about a devastated family trying to support each other and just when they begin to move on, Tobey returns home a different man.

Where the filmmakers surprised me was how they dealt with war, what it can do to someones mind and the impact it has on family members.  It’s a haunting story and definitely intense. When the shattered Maguire returns home the pain he feels is unbearable and it affects everyone around him.  Without spoiling anything, it has a very clear message and a very fitting ending which I loved.  Tobey is awesome in this movie. Actually, the entire cast was incredible especially the two little girls.  I’m a pretty big fan of Jake Gyllenhaal and Natalie Portman and they don’t disappoint either.

Brothers2

I thought about Brothers a lot after we left the theater and after careful consideration, it’s officially one of my favorite movies of 2009.  Great movie.  Well worth dealing with clueless Express-Liners.

Concerning clueless Express-Liners

Here are a few suggestions to take into consideration next time you head out to your local theaters:

Note: These only really apply when there are people waiting behind you.

  1. People are waiting.
  2. Lost your Scene card?  You’re probably right to look through your wallet or purse for 27 minutes.
  3. The Conversation Guys were idiots.  It’s so easy to buy tickets (even one at a time) and enjoy a splendid conversation in the lobby later on.  Avoid becoming one of them.
  4. Card isn’t working?  Sometimes swiping it a million times can work but a quick cancel would be faster right?  Nah continue swiping it’ll work eventually.
  5. People are still waiting.
  6. Want to buy your snacks at the same time?  Is it really a tough decision to pick a size of popcorn?  Nah you may as well have a discussion about Nachos vs Glossettes. (See #3)
  7. Decide what you are going to see in line or at home.  It doesn’t matter to me as long as you aren’t stumped standing in front of the machine with a blank expression.  Pick a movie already.
  8. This is the most important point.  If you are guilty of any of the above you have no right to be annoyed at other people who hold you up.  So really, I should probably keep my mouth shut.

expressline

10 Flicks: Bad Ass Movies

December 4, 2009 at 2:15 pm

10 Flicks: Bad Ass Movies | Top 10 Bad Ass Movies

It’s time for another feature to launch on The Athletic Nerd. Just about every blog about movies has lists.  It’s inevitable.  I’m about to join the team but I’ll be taking a different approach.  By now, many of you are aware I earn a living editing professional sports.  Sports is another area where lists are a must.  On my network we countdown 5 highlights just about every day in categories like plays, misplays, fights, hits etc…

Now, I’m a sports fan in general so I do watch shows on ‘the other guys’ network.  They create a top 10 list everyday that isn’t necessarily based on plays from that week.  They base their list on current events using big news as a spring board to list similar stories.

This is the approach I plan to take with my lists and so in honour of yesterday’s ’44 Inch Chest’ post, here’s are 10 Bad Ass Movies.

XTRA: Bad Ass Movies 2

300

I’m not afraid to go to the movies by myself and those Spartans got me twice for a total of 4 trips to the theater.  From a visual stand point, this movie brought something new to the table that blew my mind.  The fights are incredible and be honest, you’ve yelled it…

‘This is Sparta!’

Terminator 2

One of the best action movies of all time.  Thinking about T2 has me even more excited for Cameron’s Avatar this month.  Terminator 2 is one of the best sequels ever with better action, better effects and better gigantic explosions.  It’s as bad ass as it gets.

“Come with me if you want to live.”

In Bruges

This movie made my list purely because of story.  A simple concept told well and it all started with an original and hilarious script by Writer/Director Martin McDonagh.  (I’m a big fan of original scripts.  There’s only so many remakes and sequels I can take.) I bought this movie without seeing it thinking it could be good but I never thought it would become one of my all time favorites.

Predator

Oh Arnold, so many awesome movies.  Predator is one of those movies that every bad ass movie fan has seen at least 457 times.  Give or take.  Don’t believe me?  Stand in front of a group of people and yell:

“Get to the choppah!”

You’ll find out who the fans are.  They’ll be the ones laughing.  However, make sure you set it up.  Don’t just randomly yell it because there is a chance you could look like an idiot.  Attempt at your own risk.

“Soon the hunt will begin…”  That old school voice over guy really doesn’t read with much enthusiasm does he?

Boondock Saints

I saw this movie years after it was released.  The story of how it was produced is absolutely fascinating.  I highly recommend you watch the documentary Overnight as well.  Regardless of the trouble surrounding the production, Troy Duffy’s movie has so many memorable moments, it’s hard to ignore.

Not sure if I’m ready to see the new movie though…

Resevoir Dogs

Admit it, when you saw the title of this post, you knew Tarantino would show up eventually.  What more needs to be said?

Snatch

I really didn’t know what to expect when I first saw this movie.  A friend of mine showed it to me one day and I went out and bought it a few days later.  It’s one of those movies that makes you ask a question I consider to be one of the highest compliments you can give a filmmaker.

“How did you come up with that?”

Such a good flick.

Goodfellas

Admit it, when you saw the title of this post, you knew Scorsese would show up eventually.  What more needs to be said?

Seven

Story.  I’m all about story.  In my opinion, Seven has one of the best endings in the history of film.  If you haven’t seen this movie and it hasn’t been ruined for you go out and buy it.  I’m literally jealous of everyone who hasn’t experienced Seven yet.  I would love to experience it for the first time again.

“What’s in the box!”

Pulp Fiction

Tarantino again.  Is anybody else shocked two of his films made this list?  Pulp Fiction is a true classic bad ass movie.  It changed the way people looked at films and inspired young filmmakers everywhere.  There have been countless emulators out there and while none have truly duplicated Tarantino, we still have him to thank some pretty great movies.  It’s the bad ass flick that started it all, for me at least.

There it is.  My top 10 Bad Ass flicks. I’m sure there are people out there who disagree.  I recommend commenting below. I probably overlooked about a million movies.  That’s the beauty of runnin my own site.  I’ll just make another list.

Did 2012 Make Me Sick?

November 20, 2009 at 2:29 pm

The Athletic Nerd Movie Reviews

The short answer?  No.  I thought the movie was pretty entertaining.

In reality, 2012 made history for me.  It was the first time I felt like I was going to be sick and had to LEAVE the theater.  6 days later, I’m still feeling the effects that began that night.  However, the fever and dizzy spells are gone and I’m finally able to get back to being productive.

2012 was almost exactly what I expected.

2012

I knew it was going to be full of giant action sequences filled with destruction and mayhem.  In that respect, the flick didn’t disappoint.  I don’t think this movie will win the Oscar for VFX but it definitely deserves to be nominated.  The destruction looks incredible.  I did have a complaint though.  There are way too many close calls in planes.  We’ve all seen these moments in films.  The plane is about to be engulfed in flames or runs off a cliff and disappears.  Did it make it?  Will it fly?  Of course it does.  This happens 4 separate times in 2012.  3 too many for me.  Just once I’d like to have a plane go off a cliff and disappear.  We would hold on the empty shot and just when you think the plane will return, tilt down and see the flaming wreckage below.  Nice.

What I didn’t expect from the film was the direction it took after the destruction had begun.  There are a lot of really cool science fiction ideas in this story.  Humanity’s fate is actually a pretty realistic one and I’m happy it was believable. (Within the context of the movie of course.)

I’m a big fan of VFX documentaries on DVDs.  This is one I will buy the second it comes out to see how they destroyed the world.  It’s pretty amazing and I’m happy I saw it on the big screen…  Even if I had to leave briefly.

PS: It’s a scary thought thinking you might be sick in front of hundreds of people.  It didn’t happen but the odds didn’t favor me.

XTRA: The Day After Independence Day