New horror project: day eighteen writing

Another day online through Zhura. Got a kinda late start… Sean’s Aunt needed a cast. Long story. Ends with a broken fibula. Another time.

Pounded through 5 pages… saved our heroes from the mountain lion, took them up the mountain trail, and trapped them as the beasties advance. Gave them a harrowing adventure crossing a gorge to get to safety… lost the gun… and ended with a joke.

Interesting note: The “adventure crossing a gorge” was one of the three trials we arranged for our heroes on their journey to safety. We’d promised ourselves no “deus ex machina” moments… that these dramatic road blocks should ring organic and true. (Yeah, I know, deus ex machina is usually reserved for unlikely convenient salvation. I’m using it to mean any unlikely convenient event, good or bad, that clearly simply exists as a plot device).

Anyways, we ended up creating this “gorge crossing” via an old rusted cable/pully/two man bucket type thing. We don’t know exactly what it does, but we borrowed the general idea from The River Wild (who has any idea what that old cable doohickey is that David Strathairn uses to flip the raft?) and it does exactly what we need it to do. So is it deus ex machina?

We think not… our heroes have just passed through an old abandoned mill. We’ve established that the area is BLM forestry land, had been logged (and probably mined) in the first half of the 1900’s, that the old woman was familiar with the mill and knew the mechanism was there. So there’s an organic precedent for the device. We don’t believe it “feels” contrived, because it seems to grow out of the elements already in place in the story… even if we don’t know exactly what the device is.

Nevertheless, we’ve lovingly come to refer to the mechanism as the “rusty plot device”. And it’ll probably always remain so.

At this point my biggest concern is that the pacing is reading as it should. We’re doing our best to keep the left-margin to short declarative sentences, one sentence per line to establish a ‘shot shot shot’ quality, and the dialogue is sparse and without subtext.

We’ve always got future revs in which to edit, of course. But I’d like this first version to be readable enough to send it to the prodco discussed earlier. I know it’s close. But I’m never satisfied.

Added 5 pages today.

Total Pages: 76

Hours (chip): 78

New horror project: day seventeen writing

Now we’re cookin’ with gas… 7 pages down today!

We’ve had the truck break down on the road, had to take off into the woods on foot, gotten lost, been chased through a wide open meadow by beasties, come across an abandoned mill, and been trapped by a mountain lion!

Serious shit.

Writing this action sequence has been really interesting… we can fly along, since our outline is pretty solid. We know the sequence of events, and the left-margin, to keep the pacing flowing, is by necessity very Hemingway-esque… no Literary flourish.

The lion advances.

She takes aim.

The cat sniffs the air, growls.

Her trigger finger tenses.

Like that. Very short and sweet.

Similarly, our dialogue through these passages goes quickly, since at this point there is no subtext — when people shout “Look out! Run!” that’s pretty much what they mean. We don’t have to struggle with finding their hidden meanings, with finding subtle ways to communicate unspoken intentions. So the pages are flying by.

Pages: 71

Hours (chip): 75

Twitter introduces me and John August

John August
John August

Something cool happened on Twitter.

Yeah, I know. I didn’t see it coming either.

John August, amazingly successful and talented screenwriter of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Go, The Nines, Big Fish, and others, is working on an idea for a “long short story or short novella”. He put the word out via his Twitter feed, looking for 11 people to read the first draft and offer feedback.

I didn’t see the posting in time, but he promised a call for a second round, so I kept my eyes peeled. Sho’ nuff, a couple days later he posted again, looking for another 11 people to read the second draft. As I was obsessively monitoring for said posting, I jumped on it, and got in.

John kindly provided a PDF of his small project (25 pages), a list of specific questions he’d like us to address, and was also open to any other feedback we might have.

It was cool to read something of his that was not a screenplay. It’s always a treat to have a chance to interact with professionals whom you respect, in a field you fancy yourself a part of.

I’m hopeful that my feedback was indeed valuable, and I tried not to be a fawning sycophant. I got a little obsessed with one passage that didn’t work for me, and provided lengthy notes on why I thought it needed changing. It may have read as thorough, or it may have read as a bit OCD. I’m hoping the former.

Certainly, this is something that could have happened without Twitter — he could have reached out to people on his mailing list (should he have one) or visitors to his blog. He could have posted on craigslist. Twitter didn’t make this event possible… but it did facilitate the event in this case, and I’m glad of it.

So thanks, Twitter. That was a bit of all right. You don’t suck quite as hard as I said you do.

Inktip lead – a new urgency to finish the script

So we’ve got one or two scripts up on InkTip.com… have had many prodcos read the synopses, one or two read the script. No earth shattering leads from the service so far.

BUT we do subscribe to the InkTip newsletter, in which we get leads on prodcos who are looking for specific kinds of writers or scripts. This week’s newsletter came through, and there’s a surprisingly good fit for this current project we’re working on…

We can’t give away the details of our creature, but I think it’s safe to say this: our story follows two young couples who buy a cabin in the Northern California woods, only to find the woods are teeming with strange mythological beasties.

Today’s InkTip lead is from a prodco looking for a horror film that takes place in Northern California, and features beasties of a mythological type.

So we ask ourselves — how many people are there with scripts that specifically suited to this prodco’s request? We’re hoping, “few”.

Problem is, we can’t respond to the InkTip posting without having the script completed and WGA registered (InkTip rules). So we’ve made a renewed commitment to complete the script in one week. We’ve got 61 pages done, so if we can average 4-5 pages a day, we can be at our 90 goal inside 7 days. Hopefully in time to contact said prodco.

And if we don’t get in with them, we’ll still be done – which is always a good thing.

So afterburners on…

WGA: Sundance screenwriters on writing for indies

Thanks to my good friend Jeff Palmer for this link:

WGA’s Angle On series features a video interview of several screenwriters at Sundance, discussing the constraints and advantages of writing for indie film, and some of the best advice they’ve gotten in their careers.

New horror project: day thirteen/fourteen writing

Good progress past two days. Got nearly 7 pages done… The cabin has burned down. Our heroes have survived, made their way to a nearby house, and are hammering on the door looking for help. The door is opened and…

We’re in the middle of what we’re calling the “juggernaut” — the high energy run through the third act while pursued by bloodthirsty creatures. This is just the beginning…

Pages: 61

Hours (chip): 63

New horror project: day twelve writing

Excellent progress today. Knocked out 5.5 pages.

We’ve really turned a corner with our main female lead… she started out as damaged goods with an asshole husband, and is now in charge of that relationship and really seems to see him for what he is.

We’ve stitched up the gaping head wound, gathered supplies in preparation for the next day’s trek through the woods, and….

Had the creatures attack and kill the a-hole, and the cabin is on fire.

Now the creatures are clearly a mortal threat, our shelter is disappearing, and it’s dark out.

In pretty good shape page-count wise…

We’re on page 54. Outline says 55. Right on track.

Hours (chip): 58

Zhura.com update

[follow up to this follow up here]

As you know, we’re using Zhura.com‘s online screenwriting collaboration tools to write our latest (untitled) feature project.

And as you know, it’s proven less than perfect.

What came out of the research around “why is this thing so buggy” is that we had cut and pasted our original outline from MS Word, which Zhura apparently gets terribly confused by. The answer, according to at least some of the postings we found on their discussion forums, should be to “copy the current script, paste it into a plain text doc, and then upload that plain text doc into a new Zhura file”.

So that’s what I did today. Of course, it worked less than perfectly. Though it recognized “int.” and “ext.” as sluglines and formatted them so, it didn’t recognize any character names or dialogue, so everything is formatted as action. We’ll have to go through and manually reformat all those elements (kiss a couple hours goodbye – again).

But once that’s done, all should be good, right?

We’re crossing our fingers that this will keep the bugginess to a minimum.

We’ll keep you posted.

*EDIT – A post on John August’s blog offers a video capture rundown of some of the new FD8 features, the Project Manager from FD chimes in, and the comments include some thoughts on CeltX.

[follow up to this follow up here]

New horror project: day eleven writing

Sweet. Another day down. More productive today… Sean was at his desk, so we were both seeing the Zhura interface at the same time.

Added three new pages today. Our heroes, freaked out by the brutal death of the dog, tried to escape the mountain only to wreck their car, one of them badly injured as a result.

They had to walk back to the cabin, while being paced (stalked?) by the creatures.

Along the way, we learned (via the videotape) just how the creatures hunt, and now they seem to be more active during the daylight hours.

So we’re at page 48.3.

Outline says 47.75 — so we used a few more pages for today’s scenes than anticipated. But we’re plenty close enough to our goal.

Hours (chip): 53.5

New horror project: day ten writing

We’ve had the money shot!

Today was a tough day logistically… Sean planned to work remotely via Zhura, but ended up with errands to run and participated largely by phone while picking up prescriptions and other such mundane tasks. He did his valiant best to stay focused, especially considering he wasn’t able to see the screen and keep up with my edits in real time (save for a few minutes he stopped at a Starbucks for the wifi) and I had to read back to him, get his comments, edit a bit and read back, and so on. We did manage to get some work done, but it wasn’t the most creatively satisfying session we’ve had, for either of us.

Nevertheless, we added some good stuff, and got to the “money shot” — the first clear shot of the creature. Killing the cute puppy. Then everybody freaks out, and the group decides to drive down off the mountain.

Wrote 4.5 pages.

Page 44.5. Outline says we should be at about 46.

Still ahead of schedule!

Hours (chip): 50