Onward and Upward

This weekend we finished post-production on a short film, No Time for Romance. It’s a fourteen minute short about a pregnant wife who must decide to stay with her live-in boyfriend or prepare for the end of the world. It’s really about much more than that though: the rising nuclear tensions and the effects it has on a relationship with differing views.

My producing partner and I shot the film earlier this year. It’s been a long time coming. The production didn’t go as planned and the audio was a mess. There were disagreements on the script (that never fully felt complete by the time of filming). In short, we learned a lot.

Upon finalizing and exporting the film, my partner expressed how much he liked it. How good it felt to be done. I felt the same way, but differently.

I replied, “No one will watch it and we’ll make more. Onward and upward.”

He agreed. This might sound complacent but it’s the opposite.

The film won’t win Oscar. And it most likely won’t launch our careers into quitting our jobs and becoming full-time moviemakers. We had a story and we wanted to tell it. Did it come out EXACTLY the way we wanted? No. But that’s okay. Few things do.

I have boughten into this idea/advice from filmmakers like Mark Duplass (and others) whose motto of “just make movies.”

Every project is another lesson for the next one. We have other projects in the works, both together and separately, my producing partner and I. Writing is the same way. With every project you learn something, you get better, you home your voice, your practice.

And as much as we’d love the fame and attention for our projects, the likes and the shares and the views—we know it’s not about that. It can’t be. If it was, we would have quit a long time ago. It’s about the work, the process, the collaboration, the storytelling.

Just write. Just paint. Just workout. Just sew. Set your goals but know it can’t be about the outcome. It has to be about the work.

When facing that lurking feeling of creative self-doubt, born from resistance, waiting to devour all of your dreams and ambitions—Theo Roosevelt said it best:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Come join us in the arena.

This isn’t our first film and it won’t be our last. The next one will be better, and the next one better than that. Fail again. Fail better.

Check out the film here:  No Time For Romance

Thanks for reading. Always be writing.

 

-REH

Go back to where it all started.

When a good idea comes, I write it down. Eventually the really good ones are turned into a screenplay.

But all these “good ideas” are placed into a folder on the computer.

Often when I begin my outline, I copy and past the very first notes into another word document where I can continue to build the idea, thus leaving the very first starter note as is.

So one long night….
I went back to the starter ideas that were turned into screenplays…

What I found:

Most of the time the notes don’t even apply to the screenplay anymore. But I did find that they are filled with meaning and substance.

On the good screenplays I’ve written, that meaning and substance stuck.

On the bad screenplays, the meaning and substance was clearly lost. Probably in the shuffle of structure, characters and the basic to-do list of a screenplay.

I was also inspired by a lot of the notes. They actually brought on new ideas, which I quickly wrote down. I realized that these starter notes were crucial. I wrote them down for a reason. It’s what inspired me in the first place. And when I write a new story, I need to remember where it all started — where it all came from.

Go back and review your free flowing thoughts. I think you’ll find something. I know I did.

Always be writing. Everyday.

New Orleans Film Festival, here we come!

Good news!

The short film I produced earlier this year was selected for the 2013 NEW ORLEANS FILM FESTIVAL!

I blogged about it about five months ago, just after our kickstarter-funded production wrapped.  The writer, director, and editor, Gus Péwé, is just finishing up the final cut to send it off.

In all honestly, we weren’t expecting to have a final cut until Spring 2014.  You have to understand, this movie is like none other.  One of the characters in this 20 minute film, is completely rotoscoped.  Frame-by-frame animation had to be done.  It’s a total pain in the ass.  Just ask Gus.

To make things easier, I purchased Gus a Wacom Tablet, along with a carpel tunnel wrist guard.  The past month has been long and tedious for him.  I commend his endurance and drive.

So a trip to New Orleans should ease all the pain…

Our big plan was to take our time to finish the cut, and complete the animations.  We would then work the film festival circuit, and try to build a platform for the film.  Then we would release it  online.  From here, we would seek out funding for our next film — a feature Gus is currently writing.

But, we released a short teaser trailer this summer.  Actually two of them.  The second one was more revealing than the first. This is when Gus received a message from the director of the New Orleans Film Festival.  He he had watched the trailer and was very excited to see the final cut.  He  also expressed interest in the possibility of  showing the film in this year’s festival. See, another short Gus made, This Vacuum is Too Loud, was shown there last year.  So Gus knows it is a great festival.

Gus uploaded a very ROUGH cut of Same Ghost.  He sent it over to the director along with an access password.

A couple days later, Gus received a message.

The film was selected and, according to him, everyone at New Orleans was very excited to screen such an original movie.

Despite unedited sound, and animation that wasn’t even close to being done, the film was selected.  A deadline was set, and Gus got to work.

The NOFF staff saw what Gus and I saw when we filmed this movie: an original piece of work.

We are honored to premiere the movie at New Orleans this October.

We just recently purchased train tickets to New Orleans (I don’t fly).  We are ecstatic about the trip.  We are forever grateful for those who donated to our Kickstarter campaign, to those who helped make this possible and most of all, the support we have received from NOFF,  and our family and friends.

Today, we are looking forward to what the future holds.

Be sure to check out the trailer here.

-REH

Be patient. Don’t force it. But be adamant in your search.

Something is missing. It’s flat. It’s boring.

I have had these feelings on various occasions upon finishing a 1st draft of a script.

Even after all that pre-writing and outlining, the story is missing something. Perhaps it’s a bigger plot point, or action or something riveting that really makes the story original.

I didn’t notice when I was prepping the script. I was so excited that I thought the story had it all. This is why rewrites are so important.

Trust that you’ll find that missing piece in the rewriting process…

When this first occurred it was easy to shutdown and give up. I had gone through about five drafts of an old script and it still felt flat. I wanted to scream, even after all that digging and searching, the script didn’t have it. I had options….

I could panic. Throw it away and move on.

Or I could relax. Take a deep breath and be patient.

This recently occurred for a feature I’m writing. The first draft was junk. But I knew I would find it. I took it on with patience. I didn’t force it — forcing it results in a lot of further drafts that will be again, flat and unoriginal. But instead, I stepped back and reviewed everything.

I go back on my original notes for the script. I try and see what sparked the original idea in the first place. Sometimes those little tidbits of great stuff get lost in all the other writing.

I go back to the books. I began researching, looking for loose threads that can lead to somewhere great.

How can I change this story? What can happen? What is missing?

I am patient. I don’t force it. But I am adamant in my search for the missing piece.

I also trust my instinct when I find the missing link. I know it as soon as it pops in my head. Sometimes I’ll be writing something else, or be in the shower, or in bed, playing tennis or with my cats. I immediately find a pen and notebook to jot it down.

If I’m at my desk, alone, I will CHEER to myself. Literally, I clap my hands and say,  “I got it!”

It’s a wonderful feeling. Suddenly all that bore and flatness of the story goes away and the script comes to life and hope is again, rejuvenated.

These are the joys of rewriting. These are joys of molding a story into something you love.

I am sad to say I have given up on one or two scripts, which I couldn’t “find”. That’s okay. Sometimes they still pop in my head, and a loose thread is tied. I write it down and say to myself…I’ll eventually come back to that.

I write on.

Always be writing. Everyday.

-REH

Send a friend a screenwriting book

I’m not much of person who enjoys writing with others. I honestly don’t know how partners do it.

From what I’ve read, writing partnerships only work if you write separately and then send each other drafts for the other to write ALONE. This process continues until you both feel it’s complete.

THIS SOUNDS GREAT.

I would love to minimize the pressures of writing a script — and then add the joys of collaborating and creating with someone else. I’m a team player naturally. I love talking to other writers — only if they’re not in the room dictating my word.

I’m on a search to find that person I can write with.

It’s going to be hard to find someone with the same vision. But what works with writing partnerships is that your visions are combined. Both writers can offer their great stuff to make a killer script.

I’m on a mission to find that someone I can send a draft too, and in three or four weeks I’ll get another draft back better than it was before.

My plan is to send a friend a screenwriting book. I already have a few people in mind.

Of course I could find a practicing screenwriter. Or I could find a fresh mind who aspires to write, but doesn’t “practice”. It’s almost like I’m trying to discover new talent.

My list of known screenwriters is lean.

I have to know the person really well to trust their “writer’s instinct”. They have to love movies of course. They have to be good readers and number one, they have to be able to sacrifice time to write.

With these restrictions I think I have found that friend.

I’m on Amazon searching for the right book to send. I’ll send it as a gift and it’ll be on the person’s doorstep in 5 to 7 days. They won’t even see it coming.

Hopefully the book will show them how “easy” screenwriting really is (I wish). I can hope and pray that they’ll open it up, and say “I can do this” just like I did some four years ago. Then I can hope and pray they’ll go to their computer download Celtx the free script software and start writing. Before you know it, we’d be exchanging drafts, talking story, and discussing the latest hottest script on the market that we should had written.

All this by just sending a screenwriting book? It’s more than just writing. It’s a process of doing and not just saying.

I’m going to give it go. Wish me luck. Hope and pray I find my writing collaborator.

Always be Writing. Every day.

-REH.

Our Next Movie

So hopefully you guys all took the time to watch the latest film I produced called THE BIG WEST.  It was directed and written by one of the more talented people I know, Gus Péwé.

We shot the film for relatively cheap, and seeing as we’re students with minimal wage jobs, I think we produced something very special.  The film is awaiting notification of qualification in The Frozen Film Fest and The New Orleans Fest (Both are festivals where Gus’ previous films have shown).

We have since moved on from THE BIG WEST.  We just finished shooting a music video for a musician, neat beats.  It’s a montage of pretty ladies in lingerie, bathtubs, and twirling around with hula-hoops — editing should be finished at the end of the month.  During this shoot, Gus and I started talking about our next project.

He says it’s his longest script to date — 11 pages.

SAME GHOST EVERY NIGHT, will be the biggest budget movie we have yet to do.

We lined out a budget, secured our locations, paid for insurance out of our pockets, and found our actors.  As of now, we are in massive debt and a camera has yet to be lifted.  If you follow the link below — we have set up a kickstarter campaign.  Look it over and pass it along.  I appreciate any pledge you can make, if any at all.

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/352866711/same-ghost-every-night-a-short-film

Thanks for the time.

-REH

Get back to Basics

When I was first started writing, I stumbled upon a great book that taught me the basics of screenwriting.

Today, after three years, 12+ features later, I keep that book by desk, because I know, the secret to writing a good movie is in the basics.

Watch Avatar or Titanic — both are written by James Cameron. These movies are based on the most basic plot ever written (Romeo & Juliet).  They are universal stories retold in different fashion. Both movies killed at the box office, with huge budgets and plenty of kudos to James Cameron.

He told a story and people enjoyed it. They really enjoyed it. That’s the basic reason for writing a movie, for people to enjoy it. To be moved. To be changed.

I sometimes I take that book to bed with me. After a long day, I browse it late at night under a small light. I skim through structure, good dialogue, building characters and how to rewrite. Reviewing the basics gives me confidence in writing screenplays.

Often I spend a lot of time, digging into my characters, building subtext and fine-tuning my three-act structure. Through all this I sometimes lose focus on the basics.

Like an athlete, musician, or an artist, we carry a basic skill set that got us where we our. These skills are the foundation to our talent. If that foundation is forgotten, it often leads to unsatisfying work.

Of course it takes much more than basics to be successful in this business. My point is that we often worry about things when we shouldn’t. We have to take time and rewind, go back to where we started, and remember what skills got us here in the first place. Fine tune those skills and press forward. It’s a mindset.

Always be writing. Everyday.

-REH

The book: http://www.amazon.com/Teach-Yourself-Screenwriting-Third-Edition/dp/0071621008/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1362066390&sr=8-1&keywords=teach+yourself+screenwriting