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Tuesday, July 22, 2003

The Real Responsibilities of a Really Respectable Writer. (Part 1 of ?) 

A little bit about myself: I'm in the Vancouver Film School for advanced writing for film and television. I struggle through it, struggle around it, and struggle trying to find anyone to do justice to the words. Often, in the VFS, it's hard to even find someone to appreciate it as art and not opinion. Once they got you by your opinion, it's game over.

What I don't struggle with is my writing. I'm able to stay far ahead of the curve and very on top in regards to content. Yes, I'm boasting here. If you think I'm full of shit then log on to KickAssScripts.com, read some of my work, and tell me just how wrong you think I am.

Either way, this is a blog about what I think writers need to focus on. First, let's find some motivation for the things we do. Simply put, a writer, or any kind of artist, is looking for an audience. The money and fame and snorting coke with groupies in the hot tub rate a close second; but I think most of us would continue to do what we do so long as we thought there'd be an audience.

Essentially writing is the overlap between performance and structure. We make the moment last, well, for as long as possible. The story that begins in our head, plays itself out eventually in a larger scale for an audience. Am I boring you yet?

Okay, so what's the difference between good and bad writers? It's not the audience, nor their reaction; it's the ability of the storyteller to get their story out and on paper in as honestly a way as possible. Again, we're going to be talking about honesty.

(to be continued)

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Saturday, July 12, 2003

Jackass 

In my sitcom writing class, I have been arguing with the teacher about the value of the movie Jackass. His stand, as far as I understand, is that there's no motivation or goals in the movie (except to shock?), and therefore uninteresting. I, on the other hand, loved Jackass (and some other reality television like the 5th Wheel, and The Osbournes), but haven't thought it through as much and have a tough time defending my view. For the sake of having something to blog (I'm completely exhausted from the demands that the school has been putting on me) I'll try to figure it out now.

I loved Jackass, there are so many absurd, yet layered scenes; to chuckle, chew over, and almost piss my pants laughing at.

If it were only about shock, then yeah, I'd probably hate it even more than my teacher. In fact, a lot of the problems that I have with the sitcom writing, and the cheesy reality shows (Fear Factor, American Idol, Survivor... and others that I've never even watched: Big Brother, The Bachelor, The Mole, Extreme Makeover, The Bachelor, Real World, etc.) is that they are overwritten and shticky... One can say that the motivation for the characters is too defined and controlled.

When people are controlled, and their motivation determined by outside forces, then what you end up with is aggressive manipulation and humiliation. Humiliation, by the way, is very in nowadays; and accounts for the success of many of the shows mentioned above. Many sitcoms resort to humiliation (Sex in the City, Friends, The Drew Carey Show, etc.) and almost nothing else. The levity is contrived, the laughs nervous and artificial. Without consent - and I don't mean just the desire to get rich or famous - humiliation is just ugly and unnecessary. Lazy degrading and dull sitcoms and reality shows humiliate and shock. It's also shocking to watch people make asses out of themselves on Jerry Springer and the Six O'Clock News. Most of the shit out there tries and succeeds at shocking.

I guess the difference is, like everything else I blog here, motivation. When humiliation is directly faced off with either humor or sorrow, it becomes much more, and less. It becomes the obstacle to the persons objective - completeness and integrity. It becomes something to overcome, and transcend.

It's just like the respect that I have for my favorite radio personality Howard Stern. He's been called a shock jock, but it's wrong to do that. Howard, Jackass, and other forms of great reality entertainment don't just shock us, they do more; they surprise us. I think that that's its motivation and why I like it so much. There is method in their madness, the adventures that they put themselves through build and evolve. They actually transcend pain by making it interesting. Enough, I'm going to go see how long I can stand it rolling down a hill in the "doggie duty" bin in the park ;b

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Sunday, July 06, 2003

Terminator 3 & other simulations. 

Went to see Terminator 3, in hopes of sneaking in after to The Italian Job, and blogging both. (I think that we're entitled to go from film to film until we get our money's worth). Screwed up big time, and unless I wanted to stalk around the theatre for almost two hours, The Italian Job would have to wait. So I ended up only seeing T3.

Which really sucked. How do the critics actually find anything of interest in these crappy movies? The only reason why I caved in and dragged my lazy ass there was because it got a decent rating with Rotten Tomatoes. If anyone cares, the movie is all about how we can't cheat our destiny; and that our destiny in terms of movies are dumb plot devices, shallow characters, lots of destruction, constant use of special effects, gimmicky dialog, super-hot chicks, hype, and overanxious critics - truly a rise of the machines.

So with the little money I had gone, the day only half over, and a huge hole in my soul; I finally went back to my other passion - books. In the bookstore I picked up a copy of Simulations by Jean Baudrillard. Don't feed dumb, I had never heard of him either before today. Well, holy G.Orwell brainf*ck, this French guy has taken existentialism right into our technology worshipping society with a vengeance. Here is an excerpt for ya, hold on tight:

“It is no longer a question of imitation, nor of reduplication, nor even of parody. It is rather a question of substituting signs of the real for the real itself, that is, an operation to deter every real process by its operational double, a metastable, programmatic, perfect descriptive machine which provides all the signs of the real and short-circuits all its vicissitudes. Never again will the real have to be produced – this is the vital function of the model in a system of death, or rather of anticipated resurrection which no longer leaves any chance even in the event of death. A hyperreal henceforth sheltered from the imaginary, and from any distinction between the real and the imaginary, leaving room only for the orbital recurrence of models and the simulated generation of difference.”
- Jean Baudrillard, Simulations


Exactly my point about all the sloppy writing I see – like cancer, it kills the truth that everything only resembles truth; by fetishizing and iconizing without any respect to its own function. It has no soul, only a superficial shell highly efficient at redirecting while appearing involved. (Like receiving long lists of internet sites when it's actually interpersonal relationships which are sought.) Everything, especially here inside the entertainment industry, is deferred to other events and situations in hopes of finding meaning, there’s no motivation except to look elsewhere. It's constantly referring to action externally; in other places, in the past, or in the future... can you say b-o-g-u-s?

This "creativity" wears a mask that proclaims *it* is the mask, and it *is* interesting; meanwhile hiding behind and protecting us from nothing. I have previously labeled this as dull, shallow, and self-indulgent; but it actually is much more menacing and important - because from first hand experience I know that it has no respect for the imagination, passion, or humor; leaves no room for new ideas; and has displaced our ability to honestly engage and appreciate each other.

Enough, I’ve got a book to read.

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Saturday, July 05, 2003

The HULK, revisited. 

I went back to see The Hulk again, and am glad I did. It really is a lot of fun, and there's so much good stuff to watch. I'm a really really angry person, and often find myself wishing I could turn green, grow, and SMASH. Oh well, I'm just going to have to settle for blogging; and talking about people behind their backs.

Anyway, this time through I made notes and tried to keep track of the myriad of themes this movie probes. It's actually a good example of too many writers, too many ideas, and being just too damn ambitious a feat for one film to pull off. Here, in point form, are some of the many issues brought up in the two hours:

Spoilers included, so I've set the font to white. If you want to read this post, just select the text by running the mouse along it with it's button down:

\/ Start here \/

- Is repression a sign of strength? Or weakness?
- What happens to repressed emotions? Is it good, or bad, to show self control?
- Does our instinct, when provoked, hate or love women? Men?
- Are forgiveness and responsibility linked in any way to strength?
- Does rage bring about power and freedom?
- Should we fear the protection that our parents offer? Does it just lead to betrayal?
- Does the military promote warfare, or limit it?
- Is it inevitable that we follow in our parent’s footsteps? Can science help us to evolve past this if it is true?
- Does uniqueness lead to alienation and separation? How does society deal with people who are different?
- What is the difference between physical and emotional wounds? Is the healing process different?
- How do we listen to the inner child?
- What is our tolerance for collateral damage?
- How much conscious control do we have over our emotional state?
- Does knowledge, caring, and curiosity about ourselves lead to our downfall? Is there a cure?
- Is the Hulk really just a big super-frog?
- How strong is the power of love? Is this different than the desire of parents to smother?
- Is it possible to kill imperfection? Should we want to? Does imperfection belong? Does it even want to live?
- Do we all live in a superficial shell? What is the interaction between the lies we tell each other and the lies we tell ourselves?
- Are we ruled by petty people? Is there anything we should do about this?
- Are bad dreams/feelings an accurate prediction of what will come?
- Is learning to say sorry the best cure?

Eventually, I can only really focus on two dynamics: the father smothers the son in his own beliefs ("The more you fight, the more of you I take") and refuses to recognize that there's a difference between them: The son is not selfish, not part of the military, and doesn't wish to impose his views on others. The son, however, has not learnt to disown his father and escape, and continues to feed what is essentially his father’s rage ("I wish you had killed me").

Unfortunately, although the "B" plot with the love interest and her father work out their issues, there is no real resolution to the main dilemma - just a random act of violence that Hollywood often uses to wrap up two hours of drawing us in. The father learns nothing, the son neither, and I just want to smash everything (except the film). AAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRGH! GGGGRRRRR! ... lookout :-o

/\ End here./\

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Friday, July 04, 2003

Porn 

(sarcastically) Hey, about time we used the web for what is was designed for.

A fellow student is writing a blog on Courting and Cavorting Forever, which got me thinking about the difference between romantic scenes and pornographic scenes. It's going to have to be motivation, no? What do people want from love? And what from lust?

Let's use some love stories first: Swept From the Sea is about finding the beauty in everything, Bound about trusting your lover, BackBeat about getting over grievances, The Velocity of Gary (who, oddly enough, is a porn star) is about our need to touch each other, What Dreams May Come about accepting imperfection. In all these themes, there is both a power struggle and a power surrender; amplified to the limit just like obstacles and objectives should be. By sharing power, there is a net gain of power. In a love scene, people get more than just "off", they get an understanding of each other, an education.

Which brings us to porn. Porn scenes are the flipside to love scenes; with neither partner interacting very deeply with the other. Instead what we have is mutual masturbation, and power being neither ceded nor gained. What do we learn from porn? Not much, it seems. Often we learn that sex feels good, that it's not imperative to know your partner in order to achieve orgasm, that it's okay to degrade women/men, and that money will get people to do almost anything to themselves. Why do we watch the stuff? Perhaps for the same reasons. Also, many romantic scenes just don't have the ability to go all the way into humiliation (which inhabits the core of intercourse) for fear of having the actors/writers drop out of the scene. It's actually quite hard to be honest with someone when you're busy pumping.

So pornography often treads heavily on dishonesty? Yup. Sure. Hey, we all need a break sometimes. Yet, as a writer, I feel an obligation to avoid it. I don't know who said "Truth at any cost" first, but I think it's worth repeating quite often in our f*cked up society. Much of what I see being produced around me resembles pornography - self-indulgent, self-satisfying garbage that has little relevance, little universal appeal, little exploration, little merit, and little to offer the viewer except an invitation to worship the artist. Brittany Spears *is* a porn star.

The whole idea of everyone telling each other what to do (exemplified by directing the actor) attracts people to this industry who have no understanding of themselves, yet a complete need to control - usually increasing alongside a firmly held belief in their own version of "independence" and "freedom". So which way do you think the motivation is going to be directed? And what will they produce? From my 15 months of experience, almost everything I’ve seen resembles a big circle jerk; without imagination or an ability to motivate. Ask yourself the next time you're being entertained, do I love all my fellow humans more now, or only those that will satisfy me?

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Tuesday, July 01, 2003

Heroes and Heroines 

A real quick plug for one of my favorite guides for creating interesting, motivated, and conflicted characters: The Complete Writer's Guide to Heroes and Heroines
by Tami D. Cowden, Caro LaFever, Sue Viders. It's a lot better than that lame-ass Story crap by McKee; which is all hype and little actual content.

“Those who know they are profound strive for clarity. Those who would like to seem profound to the crowd strive for obscurity."
- Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science

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