Learning How to Make a Movie (Part 2)

April 28th, 2016 by

I read an interview some years ago in which James Cameron advised creatives to do this: “Make stuff.” Per Cameron, actually making movies is the single best way to learn, really learn the entire process of cinematic storytelling.

Screenwriter Ian Fowler did just that and wrote a reflection on his experiences making his movie Crazy Right. I am sharing that story with you over the next several days.

Learning How to Make a Movie: Part 2

By Ian Fowler

Jon Meyer is a genius. I do not say that with any lightness or joking. He’s probably the only genius I know personally. He’s amazing. Deciding to make this film I thought long and hard about what I personally wanted to achieve. Yes I wrote it, Yes I produced it, yes I directed it. I weighed the options. If I hired Jon the film would be done in a matter of months. That’s how he worked. He’s insane that way. It would be good. Maybe even brilliant.

But if I hired Jon, in my soul, I knew that no matter whose name was under the “directed by” line, ultimately that it would be his film.

Even with all the risk I had to know that Crazy Right, success or failure, would be my film.

So I turned to another local DP Nathan Coltrane, who I had seen making some beautiful shots for other people’s short and feature films. Nate is also a photographer. A damn good one too. I even recommend my ex-wife hire him for her upcoming wedding.

Nate is a big guy, quiet, unassuming, who knows what he’s doing behind a camera. He’s also a filmmaker. He’s made short films and music videos. He’s damn good at what he does. I sent him a message, we met for coffee, and we decided to have a test shoot with Patrick and Lindsae Klein and Dennis Fitzpatrick, all stars of the film, to see if we could get along. We shot for a day. I basically said “Nate, you’re in charge, make pretty pictures.” He did just that. I loaded everything into my slow ass computer and edited all the footage in about a day. It was easy. Actually I couldn’t believe how easy it was. Everyone did my job for me. I just sat back and watched. Great direction on my part I would have to say kiddingly.

So, amped and pumped and other adjectives that tell you how excited I was to make my first feature film I left my day job after 18 years to pursue a “career” as a filmmaker. I was going to make “my” movies.

It quickly became apparent that I had no idea what “my” movie looked like. We shot for 5 days, everything was going great! The actors were great, Nate was great but as I settled in to edit during our first week long break from shooting (schedule conflicts) I started to feel problems. I started to think, how does this work? How does this go together? This scene is great and cuts together effortlessly, but how does it flow to the next one?

I realized this critical necessity making my first feature. It sucked and Saturday with two additional actors was coming up fast.

Crazy Right Patrick Green Lindsae Klein trimmed

Patrick Green and Lindsae Klein in Crazy Right

I put it behind me. I knew the shots we good, well-constructed, sort of happy accidents because I knew I wanted “cool” shots and Nate happily provided them as I said things like “oh, shoot through that” or “oh, look at that light” or “let’s get high or low or over there” or whatever. I have to say that it was that easy at first because I came from a writing background and nothing perturbed me more than poor structure in script writing. I had memorized it and wrote specifically to character and structure. Nothing else. The story would flow from those two elements. Scenes are just a microcosm of screenplay structure. They had to be well constructed or shooting them was pointless.

Actor Ian Stout showed up for his scene. It was a simple scene where he plays a delivery guy who drops off agoraphobic alcoholic Patrick’s booze and food for the week. But that’s when it happened.

Nate and I were setting up a shot and I said “Oh, it would be cool if we started on that light, in the closet, panned down as we dolly out, land on Patrick, push in on Patrick and then out again as Patrick hears Ian at the door knocking.” Patrick had actually been the one to suggest that the beginning of his character’s psychological break started in the closet and since we were filming the entire movie inside my house we had to use every element we could. So, the closet it was. And Nate and Patrick pulled it off perfectly.

I was excited. I said “Oh, Nate, set up here, shoot that way, get the reverse of that, Patrick, do this, and then that, and then do this and Nate, do that.” I was like a kid again. Truly. I don’t think I have ever been that excited on set. This is also the point where we started using the slider, the dolly and the sticks more. And it looked awesome!

Ian delivered his lines perfectly, I gave some directions to the actors and we even got a little magic from both Ian and Patrick and the screen door. I was on top of the world.

Until I started editing.

For Part 1, go here.

Tomorrow in Part 3, Ian does some filmmaking on the fly when he has to recast a major role 8 days into the shoot.

Ian Fowler has been writing scripts professionally for 8 years and began making short films 6 years ago.  He’s written everything from science fiction to comedy for producers from LA to Toronto, original works based on producer’s ideas to books and even a life story.  The best thing about writing so far has been getting paid even though none of the films have been made to date (especially the 100 million dollar sci fi script – hehe) In 2016 he set off to make his first feature film Crazy Right.

The movie’s Facebook page here.

If you have a story about making a movie which you feel Go Into The Story readers would enjoy and benefit from, email me.

Learning How to Make a Movie (Part 1)

April 27th, 2016 by

I read an interview some years ago in which James Cameron advised creatives to do this: “Make stuff.” Per Cameron, actually making movies is the single best way to learn, really learn the entire process of cinematic storytelling.

Screenwriter Ian Fowler did just that and wrote a reflection on his experiences making his movie Crazy Right. I am sharing that story with you over the next several days.

Learning How to Make a Movie: Part 1

By Ian Fowler

Colleen insisted I make movies. I had quit, given up, succumb to the overwhelming fact that I would never get financing for “my” movie(s). Three times I had tried and failed. One guy even had me picked up in a spotless Lexus and driven me to Seattle where he listened for three hours, shook my hand, said we had a deal, and two months later (with no money transferred at all) called me and said the deal was off with no explanation. I had been excited, had started putting everything together, hiring cast and crew and these were phone calls I didn’t want to make.

I had even tried to just sell my scripts. But was told repeatedly that despite how good people thought they were that no one would make quirky, dark, funny, dramatic movies. I heard repeatedly that “my style” didn’t sell.

So, I just wrote scripts for hire. A comedy over here, a drama over there, sci-fi, horror, you name it. Back in the day a producer hired me to write a sci-fi script based on a book he loved as a child. I wrote it for $3,000 dollars. He offered me points on the back end when the film was financed but I turned him down stating the glaring fact that the film would never get privately financed. It was rude, but true and has never been sniffed in anything other than script.

I had made some really good short films, too. I even won an award and a cash prize. Strangely enough, it had become apparent that I really didn’t know what I was doing. I mean, I knew what I wanted to see from actors. I knew how I wanted to frame shots. But if I’m being brutally honest with myself, Jon Meyer (a local writer, director, cinematographer, editor and musician) did most of the heavy lifting. I wrote and directed (sort of) and he did all the other work. “My” films were good.

I sorta in the back of my gut understood this and went off to make some films on my own. At that point I just knew that I wanted to make movies and I had friends wanting to work with
me. So I made a few short films. A futurist mocumentory about serial killers having a #1 show on TV, a silent film about depression and I shot and edited films for other directors and even learned a little about musical choice.

After yet another fake financing deal fell through I just couldn’t take it anymore and sent a note to all my friends that I was leaving the biz.

And I tried to paint. I started my artist “career” in comic book art with my childhood friend Ben in Gastonia, North Carolina. That transitioned to painting with the aid of my high school art teacher Mr. Griffin. Painting did not go so well. I managed only one piece I considered good in two months.

Out of the blue a friend in Toronto asked if I would write a script. She and her boyfriend had ideas, and she’s pretty damn well connected in Hollywood. Amazingly famous brothers. I knew this was something I could do, so I said yes. I finished the script in 2 months and a year later….nothing. No sale, no development, no money, no nothing.

I lost complete faith that I would ever do anything in movies other than hold a boom or move a C stand. It took Colleen months to convince me.

Enter Patrick Green. A Portland actor and friend who wanted to make a good movie. The problem with the low budget world is that there are “filmmakers” (I do use the term loosely) who think they know what they’re doing. They don’t know anything about how to make a movie other than their vibrato. It’s rampant. Actors get sucked into this crap all the time. Itsucks. Actors get used and thrown away for the express purpose of some idiot’s wet dream. Patrick was no exception. He and I had talked at length about it and how troubling it was/is and how there’s nothing actors trying to get any kind of exposure can do about it, especially if it pays a little, because then you’re a “real” actor, getting paid to do what you love…only, it rarely turn out well.

Crazy Right 1 Patrick Wakman One trimmed

Patrick Green in the movie Crazy Right

I sent him the original script for “Crazy Right” which was a fractured wet dream 120 pages in length. It was sorta an alcoholic pissing himself, having sex, drinking, arguing and ultimately finding no peace what so ever script. It was about me. I had written it erase demons of the nearly two decades I had spent at the bottom of a bottle. Patrick loved the script and as we started talking about how to make it a reality with no budget, we quickly realized we had to rewrite the script to actually make it work.

We got rid of any locations that weren’t really needed. We consolidated characters. We added agoraphobia so the character couldn’t leave the house. We needed a way to introduce his psychological break and enter his delusions so we came up with a Walkman. How else can you have a character recount the past when everything has already been done? I’m sure this has been done too, but it worked.

We had a 75 page script that we really liked.

Tomorrow in Part 2, Ian starts shooting his movie and learns some big lessons up front in the process.

Ian Fowler has been writing scripts professionally for 8 years and began making short films 6 years ago.  He’s written everything from science fiction to comedy for producers from LA to Toronto, original works based on producer’s ideas to books and even a life story.  The best thing about writing so far has been getting paid even though none of the films have been made to date (especially the 100 million dollar sci fi script – hehe) In 2016 he set off to make his first feature film Crazy Right.

The movie’s Facebook page here.

If you have a story about making a movie which you feel Go Into The Story readers would enjoy and benefit from, email me.

Dispatch From The Quest: Paul Wie

October 25th, 2013 by

Over the course of the 24 weeks I am working with the writers in The Quest, each will write a weekly dispatch to share with the GITS community. There are several reasons for doing this, the main one educational: Hopefully you will learn something of value for your own understanding of the craft from the experiences of the Questers. I should also add they are a great group of people, so I expect you will enjoy getting to know them.

Today: Paul reflects on where he is as he heads into his first draft:

This last week was a culmination of all our prep work — outlines. Writing mine took longer than I expected with numerous late-night sessions; but now that I’ve gotten some rest and feel good about what I’ve created, I’m excited to go into the page writing. Regardless of how difficult this past week has been, outlining has reaffirmed my passion for my story. It’s given me a sneak preview of my movie, and it’s a movie I’d love to watch. Outlining has also reaffirmed my love for preparation. As much fun as improvising can be, my best work comes from having a strong plan A I can riff off of. Being rigorously prepared gives me the confidence to take risks and seize inspired moments when I see it. Even when I’m directing, I love creating very detailed shot-lists and storyboards, because not only do they help sustain my vision and save time/money on set, they free me up to improve my vision when better ideas come along. And when filming or writing, beautiful accidents happen all the time. Actors will give you a great line or look you didn’t anticipate, the sun will shine a certain way inspiring you to film the scene in a whole new light, and characters will emerge on the page saying or doing things you could never have planned beforehand.

So as prepared as I can be, I dive into my scenes, excited to write what I’ve outlined and excited for the new and unforeseen to come. All in all, I look forward to these next ten weeks of creative storytelling. Best of luck and inspiration to my fellow Questers and every writer going on their own journeys. Let’s write great scripts!

Thanks, Paul, for your Dispatches!

About Paul: Director + Writer. Loves Spielberg, Truffaut, Abrams, Kurosawa, Attack the Block, cinematic stories beautifully told. @paulhwie.

Dispatch From The Quest: Troy Klith

October 24th, 2013 by

Over the course of the 24 weeks I am working with the writers in The Quest, each will write a weekly dispatch to share with the GITS community. There are several reasons for doing this, the main one educational: Hopefully you will learn something of value for your own understanding of the craft from the experiences of the Questers. I should also add they are a great group of people, so I expect you will enjoy getting to know them.

Today: Troy reflects on where he is as he heads into his first draft:

The first draft adventure is about to begin. Narrative Throughline is finished. Bags are packed. Supply lists checked.

For the most part, I think I’m ready for the journey. My biggest concern is character development. Fortunately, the Quest process is character-driven, which I’m thankful for, but I’ve learned this is my weakest area. I’m decent enough at putting my heroine in jeopardy and then throwing some obstacles her way, but I still worry if she’s likeable enough for a reader/audience to care. For some reason, I struggle to create a protagonist who opens in a state of disunity without also making her boring or bitchy or any other number of unappealing characteristics. But I’m working on it, and using the Quest process to get my protagonist where she needs to be. I’ll also lean on the other Questers to help me. For now, as Waka said, I’m taking the “I’ll fix it later” approach and moving forward.

Since this is our final dispatch, I’d like to send a huge, public “Thank you!” to all of the Questers and to Scott. Questers, thanks for your invaluable help over the last 14 weeks. And Scott, I can’t express how grateful I am to learn your process – it will not only serve as a guide for this current adventure, but will continue to chart the course for the many journeys to come. Onward.

Thanks, Troy, for your Dispatches!

Tomorrow: Another Dispatch From The Quest.

About Troy: Born Midwesterner with heart in San Francisco, but nothing beats NYC. Entrepreneur. Writer. Lover of the underdog. Grateful father of 3. @troyklith.

Dispatch From The Quest: Waka Brown

October 23rd, 2013 by

Over the course of the 24 weeks I am working with the writers in The Quest, each will write a weekly dispatch to share with the GITS community. There are several reasons for doing this, the main one educational: Hopefully you will learn something of value for your own understanding of the craft from the experiences of the Questers. I should also add they are a great group of people, so I expect you will enjoy getting to know them.

Today: Waka reflects on where she is as she heads into her first draft:

Can it be? Can we already be at the last week of Prep, our last week before FADE IN?

This week, we created our outlines for our screenplays. It was a rather daunting assignment but, having learned my lesson in Master Brainstorming List week, I plugged away early and came up with something I think I can work with. Miranda mentioned in her Dispatch that she found the subplots to be the hardest part. I agree, but I’m pretty sure in my situation, I have too many. That’s OK. Several years ago, a screenwriting instructor imparted me with this mantra to use when I’m not sure what to do:

“I’ll fix it later.”

Simple words, but I can’t tell you how many times these words have kept me going, powering me through a draft. So, my outline is imperfect, but you know what? I’ll fix it later.

In addition to this being our last week of Prep, can this really be our last week of required Dispatches? I must say, I had no idea what “weekly Dispatches” entailed at first but I’ve actually really enjoyed writing them. I don’t think I’ve ever reflected so much on my writing in my life! I’ve appreciated all of you who’ve reflected alongside me, tolerated my tangents, and offered words of encouragement. Many thanks also to Scott for letting us use his blog as our weekly soapbox. You may hear from me again at the very end of this Quest (I don’t even want to think about it, sniff, sniff), but goodbye for now – the next time you hear from me, I’ll have a first draft! Wish me luck and best of luck to all of you, too. Now…. pages!!!

Thanks, Waka, for your Dispatches!

Tomorrow: Another Dispatch From The Quest.

About Waka: Kansan turned Californian turned Oregonian. Fan of Nat Faxon & Jim Rash, Richard Curtis, Tina Fey (who isn’t?), & I still use a $30 Tracfone @wakatb.

Dispatch From The Quest: Miranda Sajdak

October 22nd, 2013 by

Over the course of the 24 weeks I am working with the writers in The Quest, each will write a weekly dispatch to share with the GITS community. There are several reasons for doing this, the main one educational: Hopefully you will learn something of value for your own understanding of the craft from the experiences of the Questers. I should also add they are a great group of people, so I expect you will enjoy getting to know them.

Today: Miranda reflects on where he is as he heads into his first draft:

Wow, outlines. So, this week was serious outline week. And, boy, did it prove how helpful the last few months have been in narrowing down our full story. When we sat down to do our outline, the biggest element of fear was subplots. We felt we had the overall skeleton there, but subplots were the hardest part – and we’re still not entirely sure we have them fully locked down.

Once again, our trusty Questers were exceptionally helpful in pointing out areas that needed to be fleshed out, places where we might need some set-up to assist in our ultimate pay-off, and other arenas that might be useful to our final story. All in all, we feel pretty good about getting down to pages – but, of course, there are always those last-minute doubts before the words actually begin (ok, to be honest, there are doubts even AFTER the words are on the page).

Fortunately, the outline should be helpful in guiding us on our journey, and I’m actually feeling more prepared than I anticipated, and, finally, ready for FADE IN.

Thanks, Miranda, for your Dispatches!

Tomorrow: Another Dispatch From The Quest.

About Miranda: New Englander turned Angeleno by way of New York. Enjoys: high-powered action films, dark dramas, and ’90s legal thrillers. Does not enjoy: the dentist. Mushrooms. @ScriptChix.

Dispatch From The Quest: Christian Fontenot

October 21st, 2013 by

For the last 14 weeks, the Questers have been sharing their experiences with us through weekly Dispatches. Now that they are typing FADE IN and plunging into the page-writing part of the process, I have absolved them of this responsibility in order to focus on the task at hand. If inspired, they may post an occasional Dispatch over the next 10 weeks… or not.

Today: Christian reflects on where he is as he heads into his first draft:

This week’s quest was discovering our Narrative Throughline / Outline.  As someone who gets paid for his project management skills, I see great value in planning.  In fact, spending more time in planning makes for the smoothest execution.  Through this process I have learned that the same is true for screenwriting. That being said, the final step in planning is the project plan or the outline.  Surprisingly, this has been the most difficult for me.  My left side brain feels like it takes some of the magic out of the process; but my right side brain loves having a road map.

My left side brain keeps trying to sabotage this process.  He really wanted to “zen” out; just “let it happen” and let the magic flow.  My right side brain isn’t any nicer to my outline.  He sits in his high pulpit judging everything I write down: “Is that a strong enough open?” “Does that capture the theme?” “Would my protagonist really do that?”  “Do you need that character?” “Is that funny enough?”

In the end, my arbitration skills failed miserable as I wasn’t able to get the brain halves to come to any agreements or compromises and so my outline is lacking.  SHIT!  New voices in my head, and now this; might be time to talk to my doc to up my meds.  So my only nugget of wisdom this week is to quote screenwriter Barbie, “Outlines are hard.”

All right, 14 weeks are in the books and “Fade In” starts this week.  This could be my last dispatch; unless of course there is some need to vent or share other random observations / pseudo-wisdom with you fine people of the internet.   Here are some quick hits for you before I disappear back into Shadowlands of the Ethernet:

+ Rereading my dispatches and according to my daughter, I sound like a drunk.  Truth is I haven’t had milk, caffeine, or alcohol in about 6 months, and honestly, milk has been the hardest.  Try drinking sparkling water with a brownie.

+ I got a lot of shit from my family about the “shanty” reference in my first dispatch.  So to clear that up, I was raised in a wooden townhouse about a mile away from a swamp, and actually, outside of the Audubon Zoo, I’ve probably seen maybe 4 alligators “in the wild” and maybe a couple were really a floating log or something.

+ I really do totally think that tubas rock!

+ And last, working with a group of writers and with Scott “work-shopping” my story has been an amazing process.  My story would not be a hundredth as good without these awesome people.  I’m looking forward to spending the next ten weeks writing with them.

Ready, set, “FADE IN.”

Thanks, Christian, for your Dispatches!

Tomorrow: Another Dispatch From The Quest.

About Christian: From Louisiana, now in Seattle. Turns off street lights with his mind. Regrets not learning the tuba – TUBAS ROCK! Storyteller. @cmfontenot.

Dispatch From The Quest: Christian Fontenot

October 19th, 2013 by

Over the course of the 24 weeks I am working with the writers in The Quest, each will write a weekly dispatch to share with the GITS community. There are several reasons for doing this, the main one educational: Hopefully you will learn something of value for your own understanding of the craft from the experiences of the Questers. I should also add they are a great group of people, so I expect you will enjoy getting to know them.

Today: Christian confronts a nebulous Act Two:

Trust the process.  Trust the process.  Trust the process?

On the eve of “Fade In”, I doubt my ability to pull this thing off.  Don’t get me wrong; trusting the Quest process, I probably know more about my main characters and theme at this stage of the game than I ever have before. I also have a pretty clear vision of my “tent pole” scenes.  I even may have even finally cracked a true unique, narrative tone.

However, connecting all these dots into a Narrative Themeline has been much harder than I ever expected.   I have a rock solid outline for Act 1 and Act 3, but Act 2 is still in it’s Jell-O phase and could go in so many different directions, and the unknown of all that is causing an anxiety fueled explosion of great feels.  But I can hear Scott’s voice in my head (not that I need another voice in my old coconut)– “let your characters guide the way”.

So come on characters, tell me your stories.  Let’s get this going!  Time for a walk.

Trust the process?  Trust the process.  Trust the process!

It’s always Act Two. That’s the bear.

Anyone can write a first act. That’s primarily setting up the story.

Almost anyone can write an ending. The drive to FADE OUT can compel us to pound out those final pages.

But the middle of the story? That’s a challenge. All those scenes. Subplots. How to build and sustain narrative drive? How to handle cross-cutting the action?

Sometimes the middle of the story feels much more like a muddle.

So yes… trust the process. Reach out to your characters. See where they take you. It helps if you have a clear sense of the Protagonist’s metamorphosis as that can help steer the psychological arc of the story.

At some point, give yourself over to page-writing. The first draft is a journey of discovery. Commit to finishing that draft no matter what. Eventually the story will become clear to you.

Good luck, Questers, and everyone else who will be typing FADE IN on Monday.

Go wrangle some magic!

Starting Monday, the last week of Dispatches From The Quest, this to allow the Questers a chance to focus on their writing.

About Christian: From Louisiana, now in Seattle. Turns off street lights with his mind. Regrets not learning the tuba – TUBAS ROCK! Storyteller. @cmfontenot.

Dispatch From The Quest: Paul Wie

October 18th, 2013 by

Over the course of the 24 weeks I am working with the writers in The Quest, each will write a weekly dispatch to share with the GITS community. There are several reasons for doing this, the main one educational: Hopefully you will learn something of value for your own understanding of the craft from the experiences of the Questers. I should also add they are a great group of people, so I expect you will enjoy getting to know them.

Today: Paul Wie ponders a new generation of storytellers:

For the past twenty years, I’ve been a cinephile, immersing myself in a century of movies up to its present day, so I could understand the art form inside and out and one day be part of its future. The future of film excites me more than anything, because I believe cinema has yet to reach its artistic peak, it has yet to go through its true Renaissance. With new technologies and bigger canvases, the freedom of cinematic storytelling has now become synonymous to the freedom of writing — the limits of our art are only defined by the limits of our imagination. So the question I’ve often asked myself, especially in these last two weeks of prepping my story, is how can we, a new generation of storytellers, make movies that will be richer, more compelling, more beautiful, and more powerful than those that have come before us?

I believe a part of the answer lies in the great achievements of our older art forms: music, literature, and painting. In works such as Mozart and Bach’s concertos, Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, Carvaggio’s The Calling of St. Matthew, and Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, a common thread seems to bind them together. At a glance, these masterpieces are beautiful expressions of the human experience; they capture with incredible artistry and feeling the joys and pains of living in this world. But what elevates these works to another level is their ability to fulfill our profound need for transcendence — to go beyond ourselves and be in union with something or someone greater than our own lives. Regardless of one’s religion or faith, I believe this spiritual sensibility, this very human longing for a transcendent love and understanding will make a work stand the test of time.

In recent memory, I can point to three movies that have had this impact on me: Schindler’s List, The New World, In the Mood for Love. These films, now timeless classics of cinema, left me in an emotional state of awe after watching them. Even today, moments and moods from these movies linger in my memory, because they struck some deeper chord in me that I can’t even fully articulate. So what separates these works from a movie like The Avengers (which I enjoyed immensely in theaters, but can now hardly remember the story or even one truly memorable scene) is that these storytellers, Spielberg, Malick, and Wong, working at the height of their artistic powers, crafted a cinematic experience that transported their audience beyond the emotions of their characters and elevated their journeys to a higher plateau where their lives resonated beyond their time. Because these stories chose to end their films with this spiritual, more universal view of the human experience, I felt the stories had a bigger, deeper impact on me than they would have had otherwise.

Three of the greatest filmmakers in the last century — Andrei Tarkovsky, Federico Fellini, Ingmar Bergman — came to similar conclusions about the spiritual fabric of films. Tarkovsky stated, “I believe that an enormous task has been entrusted to art. This is the task of resurrecting spirituality.” It’s clear from Tarkovsky’s films such as Andrey Rublev and Mirror that he made movies with this sense of purpose — he wanted his work to reflect a spiritual view of the world that was both relevant to his time and went beyond it. Fellini also expressed this idea. He said: “What is an artist? A provincial who finds himself somewhere between a physical reality and a metaphysical one. It’s this in-between that I’m a calling a province, this frontier country between the tangible world and the intangible one — which is really the realm of the artist.” Fellini’s films such as 8 1/2 and La Strada lie very much in this province — where a man’s personal concerns are dramatized and juxtaposed against the expanse of time and memory. So in this vision and spirit, Fellini’s films have gone beyond their own time — they ring true today as they did in the past. Lastly and ironically, it’s Ingmar Bergman, an atheist, who gives the most detailed statement about his spiritual approach to movies. He said:

“People ask what are my intentions with my films — my aims. It is a difficult and dangerous question, and I usually give an evasive answer: I try to tell the truth about the human condition, the truth as I see it. This answer seems to satisfy everyone, but it is not quite correct. It is my opinion that art lost its basic creative drive the moment it was separated from worship. It severed an umbilical cord and now lives its own sterile life, generating and degenerating itself. In former days, the artist remained unknown and his work was to the glory of God. Today the individual has become the highest form and the greatest bane of artistic creation. The smallest wound or pain of the ego is examined under a microscope as if it were of eternal importance. The artist considers his isolation, his subjectivity, his individualism almost holy. We walk in circles, so limited by our own anxieties that we can no longer distinguish between true and false, between the gangster’s whim and the purest ideal. Thus if I am asked what I would like the general purpose of my films to be, I would reply that I want to be one of the artists in the cathedral on the great plain. I want to make a dragon’s head, an angel, a devil— or perhaps a saint— out of stone. It does not matter which; it is the sense of satisfaction that counts. Regardless of whether I believe or not, whether I am a Christian or not, I would play my part in the collective building of the cathedral.”

Bergman’s cathedral was an incredible body of work that grappled with almost every idea from death to war to love to familial struggles, but through this attitude of revering not the individual, but a narrative experience that could enlighten and expand our understanding of life, Bergman left one of the most enduring legacies in cinema history.

So my point of all this is that the future of cinema will be a great one if we can do two things: 1) master storytelling — the craft of entertaining an audience and 2) use that mastery to tell universal stories with genuine beauty, power, and meaning — meaning which can only come from a deep, spiritual appreciation of life. So with in this mind, I really have big hopes for our new generation who now have the ability to tell any story they want, on any size canvas, with any tool imaginable. We owe it to ourselves and the world to make works worthy of this amazing artistic freedom, to create the new masterpieces, to build the Sistine Chapels and Notre Dames of the future.

Interesting to see how the Questers have gotten quite reflective with this last set of Dispatches, posting about Big Issues. I wonder if this is the result of them ending Prep and getting ready — on Monday! – to type FADE IN. Having gone through the rigorous process they have, now a chance to put things into perspective to help them find the proper perspective for the page-writing part of the process.

To Paul’s point, I do think there is a new wave of talented filmmakers and storytellers. It’s an exciting time to be involved in the entertainment business.

Here’s to the Questers and everyone who will Go On Your Own Quest. May you nail your script and find your way into Hollywood.

Tomorrow: Another Dispatch From The Quest.

About Paul: Director + Writer. Loves Spielberg, Truffaut, Abrams, Kurosawa, Attack the Block, cinematic stories beautifully told. @paulhwie.

Dispatch From The Quest: Sandy Leviton

October 17th, 2013 by

Over the course of the 24 weeks I am working with the writers in The Quest, each will write a weekly dispatch to share with the GITS community. There are several reasons for doing this, the main one educational: Hopefully you will learn something of value for your own understanding of the craft from the experiences of the Questers. I should also add they are a great group of people, so I expect you will enjoy getting to know them.

Today: Sandy reflects on her experiences thus far in The Quest:

As we wind down our final weeks of prep and head into FADE IN, I’ve been reflecting on the process of The Quest. It’s been a thrilling ride; Intellectual, emotional, and illuminating. My background is predominantly in television – I’ve worked at agencies and at a network for a number of years. I’ve been the gatekeeper, the note-giver, and the messenger of both good and bad news for writers. This is my first time on the other side of the coin and thanks to Scott and the other Questers, I’ve learned so much about myself and my writing style.

I’ve learned just how much my television background informs my writing in terms of pacing, subplots, and character. I like to get into stories quickly, have big moments early on, and not waste time on any scenes or characters that don’t propel the story forward. Tangents are a pet peeve of mine; I’m waiting for the next meaty scene. It’s been great having the others remind me (us) that there can be value in these moments.

Being on the receiving end of notes has also been a great experience. It’s like an extended brainstorming session and I wholeheartedly enjoy it. Debates and new ideas infuse such life into our stories. Even when we don’t agree, those moments will always spark something new and exciting.

I’m so happy that I have had this opportunity to work with everyone and cannot wait to jump head first into our script. Miranda and I both have itchy fingers and FADE IN cannot come soon enough. Thank you to everyone for making the prep process so wonderful!

Beyond all the screenwriting theory and workshopping that goes on in The Quest, there is this: My attempt to convey to writers the degree of commitment, time and focus required to write professionally in Hollywood.

There are between 20,000-30,000 scripts funneled into and through the Hollywood development system each year. And 95% of them are substandard, most of them considerably so.

There are many reasons why this is so including obvious one such as lack of talent, lack of experience, and so on. But one thing I see over and over is that the writer has delivered an undercooked story. There very well may be ‘something’ there, but the writer needed to spend more time digging into the characters, generating more and better plot elements, more nuanced and well-handled dialogue, and on and on.

So while the Questers are all champing at the proverbial bit to get to FADE IN – and justifiably so! – part of the method to The Quest madness is simply to keep pushing them and pushing them to go deeper into the story.

That is not a guarantee of success, but it’s likely no script sells unless the writer has committed ample time – and then some — and then some more – before handing in a final draft.

So to all the Questers – and any of you involved in the Go On Your Own Quest initiative – beyond what you have learned about your stories, and hopefully will bring to bear in the writing of this first draft, I trust you have also come to understand even more the necessity of going beyond the call when you write a script.

Tomorrow: Another Dispatch From The Quest.

About Sandy: Bostonian that learned how to pronounce “R’s” upon moving to LA. A lefty that loves the unusual. Dreams of owning a taxidermy dodo bird. @scriptchix & @lil_sjl.