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.
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.
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.
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.
A long time ago, before I wrote my first screenplay, I was absolutely fascinated with index cards. That’s a pretty lame thing to say but my passion for screenwriting was in its infancy and I couldn’t get enough. I wanted to try every single technique.
So I went to my local mall and bought a brand new cork board and a couple stacks of colored index cards. Within a few days, I had laid out my entire screenplay. I had to use both sides of the cork board and ran out of pins so the final cards were held up with tape.
It was a story called Hidden and focused on a home invasion that led to a gigantic mafia war featuring three different factions. There were car chases, explosions and an ending that made absolutely no sense at all. I never finished that screenplay but the craft of screenwriting had taken hold.
For years, I kept that board in tact as a reminder of my first attempt at using index cards. It wasn’t until I got to college that I took the cards down in favor of class schedules and reminders.
It was the only screenplay I developed using index cards… Until I discovered Index Card for my iPad.
I was so excited as I planned my latest feature length screenplay. ( A screenplay I completed over the summer.) The Index Card iPad app is fantastic. If you’re a screenwriter, this App does exactly what you need it to do. More importantly, it stays out of your way while you create.
Within minutes, I knew my way around and I was off. There are tons of customization options that you would expect to find as well as some nice surprises. What I love is that Index Card didn’t set out to reinvent the wheel. It’s a simple app that provides limitless creative possibilities for screenwriters.
It’s now an essential app in my collection and has taken a spot on my front page. Right beside Pages for more detailed notes and Celtx.
I was constantly adding new cards and repositioning them as my screenplay evolved. Index Card makes managing your cards simple and effective. You can’t really ask for more.
A few months ago, I spent some time at my parents house going through my old stuff. Boxes and boxes of toys, books, school projects and more filled our basement and next to them were garbage bags and a few bins.
It was time to consolidate. The decisions were tough as I was extremely attached my belongings. Still, the bins that remain really paint a clear picture of how I came to be the person I am today. They are full of seeds that grew into passions and for me and no passion was bigger than screenwriting.
Inside those boxes are action figures I used to act out my masterpieces when I was younger. Cars chases I pictured up on the big screen. However, what really got my eyes watering was my old notebooks.
Looking through my old books, it was easy to see how I became obsessed with movies and writing. I still remember the day I decided that I was too lazy to write novels and decided to give screenwriting a try. I found out pretty quickly that writing screenplays may not require as many words but forces you to choose each word carefully.
It was challenging. It was addictive. It was fun.
The Crash of 2011
My PC crashed recently and again I was forced to go through old files on my dying hard drive and decide what needed to be kept and what could remain backed up and packed away.
This time, I was reminded of how I became a blogger and why it has become a huge part of my life. This blog has given me all new and exciting opportunities to be creative and write about what I love. Movies. Screenwriting.
As I read through my old files, I eventually went back and looked at the evolution of this site and how my writing has evolved. In doing this, I noticed a trend.
I blog like a screenwriter.
Screenplays are made up of small paragraphs that usually represent individual thoughts or ideas. When you read one, each paragraph tends to provide an image or a shot in your mind allowing you to SEE the movie.
My love of screenwriting has definitely influenced how I format my blog posts. Small bursts and short paragraphs that are meant to be read quickly while still communicating my thoughts to readers.
I think when a creative person latches onto their medium of choice, it’s hard to break free and enter a new arena. I’m not sure if that’s a positive or negative when it comes to Screenwriting vs Blogging but I think getting better at one makes me better at the other.
I write everyday because it makes me happy. Whether it’s this site or my latest screenplay I find writing to be my ticket to freedom and I’m excited every time I sit down at my computer. (The one that still works at least.)
Moving forward, I’m still committed to becoming a better writer and blogger but more than that, I’m looking forward to the future.
I’m looking forward to looking back at this time in my life. I can’t wait to find out how the decisions and creative choices I make today will ultimately affect the person I become tomorrow.
It can be difficult sometimes to get a short film project off the ground. There are thousands of elements that have to fall into place. Crew, Locations, Actors, Schedules, Budgets, Equipment…
Above all else, you need to possess a high level of dedication to a project. You have to believe in the film you are producing. You have to be passionate.
Screenwriter and director David Spies has that passion and used it to produce a brand new short film.
Synopsis: Pete Matthews is a writer that hasn’t penned a word in three years. He’s under the pressure of his deadline-driven literary agent Bill Skinner to make a change for the better, or else… Pete sets out on a local journey to find the “muse” that will unlock his once-prevalent creativity. As his panic builds, he wanders through the streets of everyday life in Seattle and discovers that the key to reviving his imagination may just rest with a local liquor mart cashier. After several unsuccessful attempts to find personal inspiration through music, art and nature, Pete is forced to take a second look at the wisdom of this quirky character.
It begins with a screenplay.
“I spent several years living in Northern California, skiing just about every resort in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. I couldn’t tell you how many movie ideas I would brainstorm while riding a chair lift…”
David’s screenwriting journey literally took him to the mountains and back in a process he refers to as ‘self applied therapy’. (I quite like that terminology.) The Seattle based author enjoys writing horror and comedy with ‘A Musing’ being the latter.
“These were my two favorite genres when I was a kid. I figured the best course of action to fuel my creativity would be; write about what scares me and write about what makes me laugh.”
What fascinates me about other screenwriters is learning about their process. Many stick to strict routines while others write only when the mood hits. It all depends on what inspires you.
A Typical Screenwriting Day
“Most days start very early for me. I fire up the espresso machine and brew a triple grande mocha to get my morning started. My wife and kids are off to work and school and I take our dog Mazzy out for her morning walk. It’s during our walk that I brainstorm my current writing project and come up with several ideas around format, plot, characters and dialog. Once we return from our walk, I get on the computer and browse through news articles, local and current events. Believe it or not… I spend a great amount of time on twitter. I like to find those nuggets of information on screenwriting and filmmaking and share them with the world. In between tweets is usually when I start writing. I always write pen to paper until I have written several pages, then I type in Final Draft. A couple days out of the week I make a morning or afternoon trip to my local Starbucks and write for several hours. I like to people watch and pick up on conversations. This usually leads me to creating new characters and fielding ideas for fresh dialog.”
The Muse That Sparked… The Muse
What inspires a screenwriter? It can truly be anything. A casual glance with a stranger on the street or a moment of clarity while you stare at your ceiling before falling asleep. When it came to ‘A Musing’, David found inspiration on a plane.
“I wrote the first draft of “A Musing” while in-flight from Seattle to Phoenix the first week of June 2010. Inspiration is a funny thing; you never know when it’s going to strike. That was the first thought I had while seated in the plane heading to Phoenix. I built off that thought by imagining the most unobvious place that one might find inspiration; a convenience store. Everyone has passed through a convenience store multiple times, but does inspiration strike while inside one? Probably not… What if the clerk at a convenience store was some kind of oracle of knowledge but he really wasn’t… it was at this point, I had the ending for the story before I had even begun to write. I knew I had something worthy to see on film.”
A Musing: The Film
David partnered with cinematographer and editor Phil Seneker. The two combined forces to start gathering all the elements needed to get the film made. The team took their project to Kickstarter hoping to leverage large twitter followings and savvy social media skills to secure the funding they needed.
It’s truly incredible what you can do when you use social media sites like Twitter to your advantage. The filmmaking community online is extremely helpful and through many contacts, websites and other sources of traffic, they reached their goal.
“I built our website www.amusingfilm.com. We received so much support from the filmmaking community on our project, we moved forward with “plan A” the entire duration of our campaign. Julie Keck and Jessica King provided outstanding support for ‘A Musing’ by creating a video just for us! Additional support came from being featured on Rex Sikes Movie Beat. During our radio interview with Rex, we met and exceeded our Kickstarter goal! It was awesome!”
Every film set is different yet they all share many similarities when it comes to scheduling, locations and various unforeseen challenges. True, there are some nightmares every now and then but I truly believe if you surround yourself with passionate and dedicated people, the experience is unforgettable.
It’s what makes filmmaking so much fun.
The one thing that was clear from the beginning is how much David loved the experience of making ‘A Musing’. It’s evident in the amount of detail he offered on the day to day adventures on set.
“I was very impressed with the punctuality and professionalism of the cast and crew every day on set. However, scheduling of scenes was heavily condensed on the first day. Thursday Sept 30th – Our call time was 6:30am at the Sloop Tavern on Market Street. This shoot was seamless and we captured a lot of great takes. Andrew McMasters, Stephanie Hilbert and Mark Carr were great! We wrapped just after 11:00am and had lunch. The cast and crew then made their way over to Greenlake Park for a 12:00pm call time. The backdrop of the park on this warm sunny day made for the perfect shoot. Andrew McMasters and Andy Tribolini were the perfect combination for the park bench scene. We wrapped about 4:00pm then a break for dinner.
Our next location was the Locks Deli & Grocery on Market Street. We had a 9:30pm call time. This is when it started getting interesting… After being up all day and night, we stretched our production into the following morning. Things were getting a little fuzzy… washing down Baklava from the display case with convenience store drip coffee is what kept most of us going… There were multiple takes due to framing, blocking and lighting. The lighting technicians did a fantastic job on toning down the hard fluorescent light with a mix of incandescent bulbs and filters. By the end of this shoot, I did learn that one aspect of the AD’s position is like a parrot with a stopwatch. It always followed me around… We wrapped an hour over schedule at 3:30am.
Our next location was 1 Union downtown Seattle for the office scenes. We had a 10:00am call time. I recognized some little issues while on set, such as improvising scene shots due to location space, lighting and props. During an office scene an actor’s RF MIC disconnected. There were about 10 of us in a 12×14 office. The audio tech was picking up the ambient as well as the direct sound from the other actors MIC, so we didn’t notice until well after the shoot. It wasn’t anything that couldn’t be fixed later in post. Paul Eenhoorn and Andrew McMasters performed exceptionally well during the office scenes. They really seemed to hit it off and that created a perfect dynamic for the scenes.
My favorite of all scenes was at Art Forte in Pioneer Square, downtown Seattle. The lighting was warm and inviting and the artwork was perfect for our shoot. Andrew McMasters and Tonya Yorke were the perfect match for the art gallery scene. You could feel the chemistry in the air. We wrapped our final scene about 10:00pm. It was a wonderful experience working with the entire cast and crew of A Musing.”
The Finished Film
“Phil and his sound team have been working on editing and music for some time. It became a long process as there were several changes to the film edit and music along the way. In addition to editing A Musing, Phil also dedicated his time to color correction and has indicated that A Musing Film is complete as of Feb 2, 2011!”
‘A Musing’ will now take on the festival circuit.
“I’ve written another short and currently laying the groundwork to fund this project. I plan to cast two of the main roles prior to releasing any details.”
What’s Your Muse?
“My muse is all around me. It’s a collection of thoughts, ideas and experiences that I come into contact with on a daily basis. It’s when serendipity strikes that my muse is born. It’s being in the right place at the right time, developing your thoughts and building off experience. It’s a matter of recognizing those unique moments in life and capturing them, writing them down on paper before they are lost.”
Finding your muse can be difficult for some and easy for others. No matter which category you fall into, what really counts is the incredible rush of creative energy you feel when inspiration hits. It’s all built on a foundation of passion and belief that you can create anything you want. You just have to do it!
Special thanks to David Spies and the ‘A Musing’ cast and crew.
I haven’t touched on music much on this blog but it’s an extremely important aspect in my screenwriting process. Absolutely vital.
Forgive the expression but I believe you need to ‘hear the music’ in your script as you write it.
Experiment: Think about your latest screenplay. Picture each scene with whatever soundtrack you have in your head. Lets say you’re writing an action adventure with hard rock blasting in your mind. Now picture the same scenes with something completely different like opera or jazz. Changes things doesn’t it?
Subconsciously, I think every screenwriter has a basic idea of the kind of music they feel would fit in their movie. These songs inform your decisions and can help you pace the story in your mind.
But there is another way to use music to your advantage.
Sometimes, a song that has no business in your story keeps popping up. You know it will never fit and yet you can’t stop playing it while you work.
It inspires you.
Diddy – Dirty Money is a perfect example of a random tune that inspired me. I’m not sure why but I’m happy it did.
‘Coming Home’ has virtually nothing to do with the style of story I’m currently developing. Or does it? I suppose you can never really know when you are in the development stage.
Maybe it’s perfect?
Essentially, this leads me to two conclusions: Either the song really does have a place in this movie and I just don’t see it yet or it’s fate that the song came along right when I needed a source of inspiration.
Inspiration that will ultimately make my screenplay better.
The point is, you can never predict which tunes will fit or which will inspire you. You just need to be thankful that they exist.
I’ll never know why this song makes me think of my new script. Perhaps I never will. But years from now, I’ll randomly hear this song and it will remind me of my story and my passion for writing screenplays.