New horror project: day seven writing

Four pages today.

Went back and added a scene… we’d had the discovery of the hidden darkroom happen off screen, but decided that was a lame move. We need to see that happen… the secret door, the creepiness of the first entry into the old root cellar. So now we do, thanks to the new scene. And we took it as an opportunity to further define the back story on our writer character, and demonstrate his strong friendship with his buddy’s wife.

Then moved on into a scene where his buddy’s secret plans for the cabin are further revealed.

The past two days have been tough writing days… scenes with more subtlety, that require a certain amount of exposition of information without writing expository dialogue. Definitely the toughest two days so far.

It’s possible that we need to contract our story’s time line by one day… it feels like we’re ready to move into the action sequences, but on the outline, there’s still another day’s worth of discovery and character revelation yet to handle. The pacing to this point feels like we’re past most of that, and ready to go on to some faster, more action oriented scenes.

We’ll decide in our next session whether we can excise that day, just reveal the creatures in all their glory, and start the juggernaut of action and blood and dying and whatnot.

Total pages: 36.5

Total hours (Chip): 38-ish

New horror project: Day five writing

Two new things experimented with:

ONE: Starting not with prewritten dialogue, but a tighter set of plot points for the day’s scenes, grown off the existing outline. It still gave us a head start without sucking the creative satisfaction out of it. We had fun again, actually collaborating, writing from (closer to) scratch.

TWO: Writing in a coffee shop. That I’m not so sure about. It is awfully cool to be able to hang out in one of my favorite places (Java Junction), but there’ s a lot of distraction in noisy kids, screaming espresso machines, grinding smoothie blenders and the like. A lot of distraction. This might be better saved for the outline brainstorming (most of which we do at Seattle’s Best in Borders) or later editing/review bull sessions.

Nevertheless, we did get another 2.5 pages done. We know the creatures are getting more brazen, we’ve learned that one of the husbands is a total douche-nozzle, and we know that the douche-nozzle has convinced his wife that she’s just being paranoid about the possible danger.

And next, we get to write about another bout of hot monkey sex — in the woods!

We’re now at about 28 pages, give or take. According to the initial estimate, this point in the story should be about page 31-32, so we’ve made up some of our overage. Right on track. I feel like I’m jinxing it just talking about it.

Total hours in so far (Chip): 30-ish.

New horror project: Day three writing

Sean spent a little time on his own over the weekend writing some first draft dialogue for the upcoming pages. So when we sat down today to work, we had a kind of a head start. We pasted in his notes, then set about refining and formatting them.

By and large it all worked. He hit all the points the outline called for, the dialogue worked well, it had the appropriate subtext. I hadn’t expected to have that head start, so that’s cool, but I am curious how it might have looked if we’d written it together. But so long as it all works, and we’re making forward progress, I’m not going to stress on it. 🙂

We added 7.5 pages today, so now we”re at about 18.5 pages. According to my early estimates, we should be at about 16.5, so we may be running a little long. But we’re going to save any deep edits for the next draft, and continue forward.

Regarding the story, the secret past relationship between two of our principals has been revealed, they’ve found the first stripped coyote corpse, and had our second (even more strange) interaction with crazy-old-lady.

Now the Ranger is about to appear, setting up a few plot points for later payoff. That’s for Wednesday.

Total hours in so far (Chip): 24.5

New horror project: day 2.5 update

It’s Sunday night and this upcoming week looks less than full of writing… Tuesday I’ve got a lunch with a buddy and great writer from Sacramento to BS about writing, toss around some story ideas, and whatnot.

And since I got the part in the commercial, Friday will be all about the shoot.

So we won’t get five work days in. But I still hope to get 15-20 pages written this week. Too ambitious? We’ll see…

New horror project: Day two writing

Day two of writing done. We’ve taken our principal characters from their meeting with the crazy old lady all the way into the mountains to the old cabin. They’ve gotten the boards off the windows, we’ve established their relationships and personalities a little more, and we’ve finally got them through their first night in the woods. And, we’ve heard the creatures for the first time! Good stuff.

We added 5.5 pages. That brings us to 11. According to my rough estimate, we should be at 11.5 pages, so we’re a little ahead of the game. At this rate we should be able to finish draft 1 in around 17 working days. And working days for us are far less than 8 hours, what with the family obligations and all.

Unfortunately that won’t be 17 consecutive working days. This week in particular has been less than optimally productive, since it’s Spring Break and my son is home from school all week and I’m Mister Mom. But my awesome wife has had him go to work with her a few times, so that’s been really helpful. Nevertheless, Sean had a doc’s appointment that took him out of town for the day, I had a couple things come up, and Friday is Good Friday. So we’re just getting two days in this week. Next week I hope will be better.

Night of the Living Dead (1968)

Finally saw this movie… it’s one of those that’s such a “classic” and “groundbreaking” film that filmies love to talk about (and some growed up mens still say scares them), figured I’d better see it.

I won’t spend a lot of time talking about it.

Lame.

Sorry. Poorly written, acted and directed. Yes, I get it, it created the genre. Yes, I get it, it had a black lead who didn’t traffic in his blackness. Yes, I get it, the flesh eating zombies were super graphic for their time.

It also had about four lines of dialogue simply repeated throughout the second act: “We should stay downstairs, we’ll be safer.” “We should stay upstairs, we’ll be safer.” “Why do you get to hold the gun?” “Shut up and help.”

And the lead (the black guy) pretty much just kills the whiny pudgy guy for no reason (other than he was just crazy irritating).

But mostly, and it bears repeating here, badly written, acted and directed. And really, since we’re talking about movies, not about good intentions or accidental historical being-in-the-right-place-ness, those are the things a “movie” needs to do right to be simply “competent,” and needs to do expertly and artistically to be “great”.

So yeah. Whatever. I laughed, and barely made it through. I’m glad it opened doors in a variety of ways, but let’s be honest. It’s not a good movie.

It’s not.

New horror project: Day one writing

Day one is in the can (bag? hard drive?).

Zhura‘s online screenplay collaboration tool is working well.

It went quite smoothly… we plugged through the first half of our characters’ first day, getting all four primary’s introduced, learning a bit about the remote mountain locale, and meeting the creepy crazy old lady down the road. 🙂

We ended up with 5.5 pages of completed script, and it read pretty well. We’ll tweak on it, but it’s readable, and that fits in just fine with our “crap but done” goal for draft one (though really, I’m way too anal to accept crap, even in a first draft).

New horror project: the story outline

I had a terrible head cold — pounding cranium, bulging eyes, and all — and there was no adult medication in the house.

I took one of my son’s kiddie meds (a Triaminic I think) and tried to go to bed. It would appear that children’s medication has a very different affect on the adult metabolism, and I found myself utterly wired and oddly hallucinogenic, tossing in bed till 3am. I occupied my mind with some strange and twisted “what if” scenarios (what if someone was in the house, what if they walked by the bedroom door just now, what if they looked like that scary kid that rolls down the stairs in The Grudge) and long story short, ended up outlining most of a movie in my head — including the AWESOME TITLE which would be a spoiler in itself if I gave it up now.  I thought to myself “I wonder if this will still seem like a cool idea when I wake up” and was surprised to find that by and large, it did.

So I wrote down a rough outline, tucked it away, and didn’t think about it.

A few months later my writing partner Sean and I needed a new project. The plan was to pick a genre 180 degrees from what we’ve already done (a drama and a family comedy) — something even more utterly commercial, with franchise opportunities and a juicy role or two to attract talent.

We wanted a horror film… not a slasher gorno (neither of us finds those appealing, though I have to admit to kind of enjoying SAW III) but something a little less dependent on buckets o’ blood, and more dependent on strong characters in an insane situation that still leveraged the familiar set pieces of the genre.

I dragged out this fever-induced outline, and we talked it through.

We developed it more thoroughly: built some strong characters (two couples, a crazy old lady, a forest ranger, some bit players), crafted a creepy, hitherto unused creature based on popular mythology, put them all in an old cabin for a week, and we’ve got ourselves an outline.

Well, it wasn’t that simple… it took about a week, meeting a half-dozen times. Maybe 13 hours or so all together. The outline is a 10 page word doc, broken up into 3 acts. Each act contains all the plot points, character arcs, reveals and any other critical story elements in the order in which they need to happen. We further outlined “DAY ONE”, “NIGHT ONE” and so on, so we could keep track of where we were in the week, and whether the sun was up or down.

We chose not to actually define “scenes” with sluglines and locations (like we did in the Grampa outline), so that we’re free during the writing process to organically see whether points want to live in a single scene, be broken into several small scenes, happen indoors/outdoors/in the car/underground, etc. This makes Sean nervous – scared, I think he said (pussy). “Organic” makes him uncomfortable. But I insisted, and he caved, so I win (until it doesn’t work, and then he gets to say “I told you so”).

So what we have looks like this:

ACT 1
DAY 1
Introduce 4 characters. In the car. Video taping going on (Nick)… silliness, lighthearted, but an undercurrent of meanness or inappropriateness. Bethany has two dogs.

Storekeep, map, history, geography. We see the 1948 fire line and the fact that the fire road they will be following empties on to the highway. We can see that Nick plans take the most arduous route to the cabin. Simon calls this route into question but Nick insists that Simon should want to see more of the country side. Infer the “alternate” couples… Simon and Bethany seem well suited, etc.

Final drive to cabin, passing Sarah’s place. They stop briefly and introduce themselves to Sarah. Upon hearing that they are headed up to Jake’s old place Sarah becomes disturbed and slightly incoherent (perhaps carrying on a conversation with an unseen interlocutor).

Arrive cabin. Cat door is boarded up. Perhaps windows are boarded as well. Bethany thinks this a little extreme. Nick thinks nothing of this moth-balling and begins tearing it down.

Unloading, organizing, getting acclimated. Actual couples established. (who’s with whom). We are treated to the marital dynamics. Sheila gently directs Simon. Nick is more intense with Bethany. He does most of the unloading over her diminishing objections. Over time it becomes clear that Nick’s chivalrous acts are designed to remind Bethany of her shortcomings.

Nick Un-blocks cat door. Establish Bethany’s love for the dogs (therapy). Bethany upset that dogs will get lost. Nick doesn’t seem to care. “Dogs find their way home. It’s what they do.”

So that’s it. We gave ourselves 12 weeks to be done (with a strong second or third draft). We start writing Monday. I’ll be tracking the process (without giving up the AWESOME TITLE that would be a spoiler in itself, or any of the actual plot).

Stay tuned.

Last House On The Left (1972)

Just like with Night Of The Living Dead, I felt I had to see Last House cuz it gets such rave reviews from horror fans as an important genre film.

Just like with Night Of The Living Dead, I won’t spend too much time on it. In fact, I’ll spend less.

Lame.

Sorry. Yeah, I know, it broke new ground and opened creative doors yadda yadda yadda.

What a waste of time. No story. Badly directed. Laughable acting. God, was it edited by Helen Keller? It’s billed as the “story of what happens to bad guys when the victim’s parents trap them in their house” (to paraphrase), but that part comes in the last four or five minutes, after essentially watching a snuff film.

Whatever. Blegh. There’s 72 minutes that felt like 4 hours of my life that I’ll never get back.

RIP Bob Wilkins

Rest In Peace.

Bob Wilkins, the cigar-wielding host of “Creature Features,” the late-night movie show that aired on KTVU’s Channel 2 through the 1970s, died Wednesday in Reno from complications of Alzheimer’s disease, his family said. He was 76.

For a generation of science fiction and B-movie enthusiasts, Mr. Wilkins was the bespectacled TV host who drolly introduced underground flicks with titles such as “Attack of the Mushroom People.”

“Don’t stay up tonight,” Mr. Wilkins sometimes told viewers. “It’s not worth it.”

I grew up on Bob’s shows, was baptised by monster slime, had night terrors seeded by the images from his movies.

I had the privilege of meeting Bob once… at 15 I entered a local sand sculpture contest, of which Bob was a judge. He walked past, gave an approving nod, and shook my hand.

He’ll be missed.