Screenwriting & Simcity

March 9, 2013 at 7:19 am

Screenwriting Blog | Screenwriting & Simcity

SIMCITY CURES WRITER’S BLOCK?

Without a doubt, SimCity is my favorite game franchises of all time.  I’ve played every version and I’m still just as addicted as I was the first time I played the classic PC version long ago.

Recently, I purchased the brand new SimCity and despite some frustrating bugs, I love it.

Does this bring back memories?

SimCity was more than just a game to me.

I remember bringing paper, pencil crayons and rulers everywhere so I could plan out the cities I wanted to build.  If I wasn’t going to be home, I would simply draw them and recreate my drawings in the game later on.

I was obsessed with SimCity.

Screenwriting Blog | Screenwriting & Simcity

Note: I really wish I had kept some of those drawings…

What does Simcity have to do with Screenwriting?

A lot of it has to do with the creative freedom and power the game gives you.  It provides you with a set of tools and a blank canvas and it’s up to you to create your masterpiece.

In that way, starting a new city is just like staring at a blank first page.  The only difference is the medium and it’s all about creativity and letting your imagination run wild.

Build your world.

When I wrote stories as a child, I used SimCity to visualize the cities where my characters lived.

Why not?

For someone who couldn’t draw very well, it was a perfect way to figure out what these locations would look like.

  • Were they next to water?
  • Surrounded by trees?
  • In the slums?

Truthfully, these cities not only gave me an exciting reason to play my favorite game, it allowed me the chance to think about my story.

Have you ever engaged in an activity that lets your mind wander?  You go through the motions but really your imagination is somewhere else.  Your mind is occupied but your creativity is hard at work.

It’s that trance that I fell in love with.

I may not build the cities in my screenplays anymore but SimCity was around when I began to really take an interest in screenwriting.  I would constantly quit the game to write down whatever I came up with while setting down a police station or a brand new stadium.

Screenwriting Blog | Screenwriting & Simcity

For me, it’s like playing Basketball.  You can shoot a hundred shots in a few hours and plan out an entire script.  A creative ignition.

SimCity has those same qualities.  I can sit back and play for hours without really thinking about what I’m building.  I’m off solving story issues and building characters.  I’m creating stories.

I’ve evolved just as Simcity has over the years.  I may not lose entire afternoons in the newest version of the game but it’s nice to know my old cure for writer’s block is back.

What sparks your creativity?

Life of Pi & The Cinematic Comfort Zone 2: THE REVIEW

November 21, 2012 at 10:35 pm

Life of Pi & The Cinematic Comfort Zone 2: THE REVIEW | Life of Pi Review (2012)

THE RICHARD PARKER SCHOOL OF LIFE

Recently, I wrote about the importance expanding your cinematic comfort zone. Especially when it comes to movies like Life of Pi. People tend to stick to certain types of movies and rarely make exceptions. Furthermore, most people can’t see every new release so they have to pick and choose. Sometimes, movies slip below the radar. They are films that people are curious about but never give them a shot.

The risk is worth the reward. True, there are disappointments but there are also movies that make you wonder why you ever considered missing them in the first place.

A movie you almost skipped could become a movie you’ll never forget.

Well… I’m happy to say that Life of Pi is EXACTLY why you should expand your comfort zone. If you’re on the fence about the film it is my hope to give you the slightest nudge you need to go and see it.

LIFE OF PI IS ONE OF THE BEST FILMS OF THE YEAR

I caught a 3D matinee show on opening day.  There was actually quite a few people there which made me happy.  Then I began scanning the type of people in the theater and estimated that I was the youngest by minimum 30 years.  I was clearly the youngest person in the room. I actually felt a little bit out of place.

There was an adorable older couple that sat next to me. They must have been at least 80. Just before the movie began, the man began debating the pros and cons of a quick bathroom trip.

“You either have to go or you don’t… Do you have to go?”
“So so…” said the man with a wavering hand.

Eventually, they both decided to go and made it back just in time for an amazing movie.

Life of Pi is about a young man named Pi who leaves India with his family in search of a new life in Canada. After a violent storm strikes, Pi finds himself stranded on a life boat with a tiger named Richard Parker. His entire family gone.

Life of Pi & The Cinematic Comfort Zone 2: THE REVIEW | Life of Pi Review (2012)

At it’s core, Life of Pi is about survival and the search for God. It’s a truly profound tale of courage that is nothing short of breathtaking.

From the moment the movie began and I was captivated. Ang Lee directed an absolutely stunning movie. It’s one of the best looking films I’ve ever seen in my life. There’s just no way I can fully describe how many remarkable shots the director packed into the film. The visual effects in particular are amazing. Richard Parker is shockingly realistic. It makes the various confrontations between Pi and the Tiger all the more memorable. I fell in love with that tiger.

LIFE OF PI IS A BEAUTIFUL MOVIE

Besides the unbelievable visuals, Life of Pi also delivers a phenomenal story. I fully understand why the book is so popular now. (I also understand the scene with the ‘flying’ fish.)  It all comes together in one of the most enjoyable films I’ve seen this year.

Life of Pi & The Cinematic Comfort Zone 2: THE REVIEW | Life of Pi Review (2012)

THE GREAT ONES STICK WITH YOU LONG AFTER THE CREDITS ROLL

There is another reason why Life of Pi resonated with me. As I sat there watching Pi struggle to stay alive, I was thinking about the audience. Could I write a movie that would appeal to this demographic?

I began to think about my newest screenplay and whether or not anyone in the room would enjoy it. I don’t think they would like it. I thought about it more once the movie ended. My new script is a drama about being young parents. What was it that didn’t appeal to people over 60? It was interesting to weigh the options and potential changes I could make.  I’m not saying I will be implementing those changes but Life of Pi got me thinking about my screenplay in a new way. It was exciting.

There was also a woman two seats away from me who was constantly taking notes during the movie. What was she up to? Was she a reviewer? Did she write for a website? Was she a massive fan of the book?  Regardless, Life of Pi made me feel like writing screenplays, it made me think about writing this review and it made me feel creative.

Not bad for a quick trip outside my cinematic comfort zone.

Be sure to check out Life of Pi & The Cinematic Comfort Zone Part 1.

Click here for more reviews.

The Cinematic Comfort Zone

Life of Pi & The Cinematic Comfort Zone 2: THE REVIEW | Life of Pi Review (2012)

What Will I Do With My New Screenplay Now?

November 14, 2012 at 9:46 am

What Will I Do With My New Screenplay Now?

Aug 9, 2012

I’ve had a copy of Strangers beside my bed for a few weeks now.  Every few mornings, I pick it up and skim through it.  I’ve completed my rewrites.  I’m happy with it.  It’s such a great feeling to finally finish a feature length screenplay.  Especially after challenging myself to finish it months ago.

Strangers represents around 6 months of development and writing.  But it also represents a big leap forward when it comes to confidence in my work.  I love the story.  It tackles themes that scare me and centers on stress and anxiety I’ve felt for a long time.

It’s done…

So what now?  What will I do with my screenplay now that it’s finished?

My first instinct was competitions but I’m still hesitant to put myself out there.  The whole point to this summer was to prove to myself that I could finish a script.  But that’s all I’ve got.  ONE script.  Or is it?  I’ve also got a seed for a tale I hope will be infinitely better than Strangers.

So my latest script will be on the bench for the foreseeable future.  At least until I finish another screenplay I can be proud of.  If Strangers is the best thing I’ve ever written than I have to challenge myself to top it.  I still have to get better.

I started developing a brand new script about a week ago.  My main character has a name and a brief history.  I’m getting to know the world I want to create.  I’m having fun.  Hopefully, this new project will be ready in the fall as I want a first draft by the end of 2012.

Then it’s my goal to put these two scripts side by side.  Can I write something better?  I want to answer the following question confidently:

“Have you got any other screenplays?”

Perhaps, I’m just delaying putting myself out there?  Perhaps…  I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to wondering if this script has what it takes to become a successful film.  It’s even more tempting knowing that some answers are easily attainable whether they are good or bad.  I just don’t think I’m ready for that yet.

Regardless, I set out to prove something to myself and I’ve done that.  Strangers is finished and I’m on to the next challenge.

The journey continues.

The Summer of Screenwriting: Looking Back

And so…  The Summer of Screenwriting series has come to an end.  What a journey it was.  It’s been 3 months since I officially completed the final draft of Strangers and I’m still proud.  But the sense of accomplishment stretches far beyond FADE OUT.  I laid down the gauntlet.  If I hadn’t taken time away from everything to focus solely on writing, I would still be struggling through my screenplay.

The summer of screenwriting taught me to prioritize.  That’s why I only post 2-3 articles a week on this blog.  It leaves me more time to write.  I’m still working on the same script I mentioned in the post.  It has transformed into an intense drama but also a touching romance and I can’t wait to finish it.

But I’m in no hurry.  I mentioned above that I wanted to have a first draft finished by the end of 2012.  That won’t happen.  This new project has been extremely difficult to develop and I’m not going to rush things.  Maybe I’ll be finished in the Spring.  Regardless, I’m excited about the journey.  I’m happy when I write.  I’m curious to find out what comes next for my screenplay and for myself.

I want to be a better writer.  Someday, I’ll look back on this little summer experiment as a turning point.  The moment when I decided to be a screenwriter again.

Mission Accomplished.

Click here for more screenwriting.

Who Will Read Your Screenplay First?

November 7, 2012 at 10:04 am

Who Will Read Your Screenplay First? | Screenwriting Blog

July 24, 2012

If you’ve read this blog in the past, it’s no secret that I’m slightly terrified of showing people my screenplays.  Considering I haven’t finished a feature length script in a while, you can imagine the unneeded stress I put on myself.  It’s scary to put so much work into something hoping people will like it.  Eventually your work will reach the eyes of someone other than you.

XTRA | Screenwriting vs Anxiety

It’s a moment between terror and excitement.  Perhaps that’s why I’ve always been scared to allow people to read my work.  You spend so much time wondering what people will think.   What if they hate it?  Most of the time, my scripts reach my family and close friends and then I retire them.

But times are changing for me.  Now that I’ve regained a little confidence in my screenwriting abilities, I feel the need to find out where I stand.  Can I write something that a producer will like?  Is it possible to attract an agent?  I don’t know if this is the proper story to showcase my work but I’m getting closer.  I’m getting excited.

Still, somebody has to read this one!  Basically, I need to stop whining and summon the courage to put myself out there…  Since that day has yet to arrive, I gave my script to my good friend Eric.  He is  a massive film fan, an award winning director and an honest critic of my work.

He’s read nearly every screenplay I’ve ever written and has no problem telling me the truth.  Which is why I wait to hear his thoughts before expanding to the rest of my inner circle.

For someone like me, who has trouble sending work out there, having a friend like Eric is vital.

Obviously, the true test is a reader who doesn’t know me.  I think that’s a test for the final draft.  Until that draft is complete, I think the first reader should be someone you know.  Someone you trust.  There are a couple areas in my screenplay that I have doubts about.  I like to bounce ideas and potential changes off my friend.  This allows me to gauge whether or not my concerns are justified.

Then it’s back to rewriting and refining the script.

When that work is done, I expand to others but this script scares me.  I’ve never written anything so personal and thus, my fear will be doubled once people start flipping through the pages.

Speaking of which, I’m pretty sure he’s reading the script as I type this.  Months of work and someone is finally reading it.

I’m excited…  And scared.

WHO READS YOUR SCREENPLAY FIRST?

The Summer of Screenwriting: Looking Back

I’m happy to report that Eric liked the script.  I’m not as thrilled to report that I haven’t sent it to many people since then.  I got stuck on the idea that I need to complete something else.  If you were to ask me how many screenplays I have worth reading I would answer: One.

The scripts I wrote in the past aren’t as good and I need to prove to myself that I can continue to produce pages I’m proud of.  Thankfully, I’m in no rush.  I just like to write.  The Summer of Screenwriting taught me how to eliminate needless pressure I put on myself.

Maybe someday I’ll sell a screenplay.  Scratch that…  Maybe someday I’ll submit a screenplay.

Until then, I’m having so much fun simply because I love to write.  That’s enough for me right now.

What ‘The Matrix’ Screenplay Taught Me

October 10, 2012 at 7:19 am

What 'The Matrix' Screenplay Taught Me

XTRA | Top 10 Matrix Moments

Many years ago, when I first started devouring screenplays, I purchased The Matrix: The Shooting Draft.  A couple hours later, my outlook on screenwriting had changed forever.

What The Matrix Screenplay Taught Me

The Wachowski Brothers’ script literally redefined the way I looked at writing screenplays. Why?

Clarity & Detail

A movie as complicated as The Matrix has to carefully toe the line between originality and confusion.

When you are creating something that no one has ever seen before, you can’t assume that people will know what you are talking about.

I wrote and directed movie a while back that was heavily based on my own sense of humor and inside jokes that only my circle of friends understood.  I wanted to see if they would work on screen and truthfully, while it did work, it was a lot harder to articulate in the script.  Once we were on set, I could do impressions and show the actors what I wanted but it didn’t come across on the page.

SHORT FILM | Watch Playing Through

Imagine how challenging it must have been for the Wachowski brothers to describe their mind blowing action film.  Everything had to be clear in their minds and then expressed in writing.  Not an easy task to accomplish.

All Time Best: Top 10 Matrix Moments | Movie Blog

Clarity

INT. COMPUTER SCREEN

On a computer screen; so close it has no boundaries.

A blinking cursor pulses in the electric darkness like a heart coursing with phosphorous light, burning beneath the derma of black neon glass.

Got an image in your mind?

Neo raises his hands and the bullets, like a cloud of obedient bees, slow and come to a stop.  They hang frozen in space, fixed like stainless steel stars.

What The Matrix Screenplay Taught Me

The brothers really did an incredible job describing the world of The Matrix. I truly wish I had the opportunity to read the screenplay before I saw the movie just to see how close my imagination was to their ultimate vision.

Every single line in the film is useful.  Such an imaginative script could have gotten lost in exposition but it’s paced so well.  Each clearly developed idea building on the one before.  Each page showing you more and more.  Above all else, it’s entertaining.  Forget the movie for a second.  The screenplay itself is an entertaining read.

A light bulb went off in my head.  It was time to really think about how I communicate my vision to the reader.  It was time to put more thought into how I describe the worlds I want to see on screen.  Hopefully, it will be entertaining.

Detail

You really don’t have a ton of space on the page to get your movie out of your mind.  With so little real estate you need to make the most of it.  Yet there is a balance between minimalism and detail.

True, you can’t spend half a page describing a new location but you do have to carefully select which elements NEED to be included.  The Wachowski’s screenplay does this masterfully.  Each and every detail you need to know about is on the page.  There isn’t a single line of fat to trim.

This is one of the most important skills a screenwriter has to learn.  The more original details you put into your screenplay, the richer the experience for the reader.

This was another eye opener for me.

Once I finished the script I immediately printed out my latest draft and restarted.  I was still new to the screenwriting craft and every lesson I learned was so epic and wonderful that I owed it to myself to apply it.

The Matrix was definitely a turning point in my screenwriting and filmmaking career.  I felt so inspired after reading that amazing script.  It’s a feeling I chase everyday.  It fuels my need to learn and push myself to become a better screenwriter.

Awesome screenplay.

PS: Find out how the film itself changed the way I looked at movies forever.