Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Well, where it came from is a story I want to tell here. How a once-lowly animator has people looking for a screenplay. But it all happened in so many unconnected pieces that putting a form on it would be trickier than writing the actual script.
But I wrote a beginning. And then I didn't post it. Why didn't I post it? Well, I'll get into that after this post, not posted earlier in the year:
This post is the most productive thing I've done all day. I am consumed by worry. It takes over. It prevents any sort of concentration. And it makes me feel ill.
This happens. It used to happen more and I guess I should take it as a good sign that the feeling is not as familiar to me as it once was. Small things would build up in my head and become big things. They'd eat at me. Sometimes, my fears would be completely unwarranted and I'd feel like a tit for spending so much time worrying. Other times, I had damn good reason to worry.
And, sometimes, the act of worrying in itself would create circumstances that would realise all my fears.
This time, it's a meeting. A meeting in which I am going to disappoint someone who has been very supportive I took too much on. My life is too busy and my brain is too small to contain everything. Something has to go. And so I have to meet to say exactly that - that thing you wanted me to do, well, I can't make it happen. Not now, at least.
It's too hot in here. Why is it so hot?
That's the post. I was worried because what happened was that I had dug myself into a hole. I was so busy last year and just kept on adding more and more work like some sort of masochistic nut. And I applied for some local funding to write a script. And I got it. Yay. And I worked at it and worked at it and worked at it and, eventually, realised a few things:
a) My writing was shit.
b) I knew how to make it better.
c) I couldn't ever make something of this story because the problem I had identified in 'a' was so fundamental to how I approached this story, it could never be saved. It was always going to be rubbish.
I tried my damndest to turn it around based on 'b', but I knew it wasn't going to happen. So I had to bite the bullet - I had to meet with the funders and tell them why I couldn't write the script I had convinced them was good. Why I would have to give back the money and leave it there. And the post above is the one I wrote that afternoon.
As for why I didn't post it, well, I decided at the last minute to see how the meeting would turn out. And it turned out with them saying, well now that you've realised you can write a better script, just write one from scratch. And so that's how this all began.
Sunday, March 29, 2009
Go away. To a country where you don't speak the language.
This works in two distinct phases. Phase 1 is the journey. There are very few things more dull on this planet than long trips on airplanes, waiting at airports, checking in, going throuh security and so on. With check-in times getting longer and longer, this experience gets more dull all the time. There is damn-all to do in an airport. Or on an airplane.
At a certain point, your brain gets so utterly bored, it starts making up interesting stuff simply to keep itself from shutting down completely. These are the beginnings of stories. Just embrace the boredom and let them come.
What I don't think I had fully realised before was the importance of Phase 2 - simply being in a country where you have no idea what people are saying. This works on many levels. Firstly, it helps you actually see things. As humans, our process for recognising things is about what is different, not what is the same. A smell, after a while, we'll cease to notice. The ticking of a clock will vanish sooner or later. Our brain takes familiar things and puts them in the 'not important' category. We know an apple from an orange not from what is similar, but from what is different.
Going about our daily grind, we encounter the same things over and over. And, after a while, we don't see them any more. It's hard to be observant. Hard to actually take things in. Everything is just normal and so goes unrecognised.
In an unfamiliar country, and unfamiliar culture, there are differences everywhere. And that wakes up our brain. It forces us to observe. We see buildings, people, objects, signs that we just pass by at home and never take in. But, somewhere different, we take it all in.
And what's even more important is that our brain is given its own space to work these images in, to interpret them and to let things form and flow. Walking down a street at home, we are bombarded with pieces of conversation, radio, television, whatever. There is constant language stimulation. Our inner brain conversations have a hard time being heard. When forming stories and working on writing, language clarity is all important. But that's really tough when words are being thrown at you from all over.
Not so in a country where you don't speak the language. Your brain is alone. Finally. It can work away by itself while actually being observant for once.
And then you just go to wherever you're staying and write. When you get tired, blocked or just fancy something else to do, go for a walk and 40 minutes later, without really doing anything, you'll have more material. Write again. And repeat.
It's my ultimate writing tip. And it's not failing me.
Thursday, March 26, 2009
I'm away at the moment. In a whole other time zone, both physically and mentally. I've just had some beers in a tiny pub that apparently has been unchanged for over 40 years. Looking at it, I'd say longer. A shouty musician with an accordian topped off the whole experience. I thought he rocked. I am so going to learn the accordian. Or accordion. Whichever one is spelled correctly. I guess I could do a spell check but, jeez, I'm on holiday. Give me a break.
The poor ol' blog has been crying out for posts though and I don't even have my Wacom with me. So I dug out this old image I did a looooong time ago that I don't think I posted for whatever reason. I don't even remember the context, if there was any.
I was once in an apartment building years ago and one Sunday morning, the neighbours beside me were having very noisy screamy sex. And the neighbours above me. And below me. All at the same time. It was like surround sound. I wonder if everyone in the building all set a time and they just forgot to tell me?
Other things neighbours like to do include painting my side of the fence and hammering at weird times. In fact the guy next door to me (at home, not here) seems to have DIY going all year for the last four years. And the houses are tiny. There's no way there is enough work to keep him busy. I'm almost certain now that he's carving up bodies and burying them in his floorboards. I'm going to end up being that guy interviewed saying, "Well, he kept to himself mostly. A bit of a loner." Thing is, he is. I've never seen anyone else ever go inside his house.
When I get home, I think I might call the police.
I've managed to start writing. That's good.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
I've always hated deadlines. I respect them. I never miss them. But I hate them. They are like this oncoming train and you're standing right on the tracks, trying to build a wall strong enough to stop it before it crushes you.
I've often thought it would be great to have a day to day job. You know, like retail, or something. There are plenty of them - jobs that aren't easy by any means but you've succeeded if you survive the day and you just start it all over again the next day. There are no major events that will make or break you. You can do your day's work, go home and that's it.
Could well be a 'greener grass' thing.
But one thing about long projects and deadlines is that they give you some clear chapter breaks in your life. Time to pause. To re-evaluate. And the opportunity to start fresh.
A major chapter break happened when I moved from advertising to children's programming. I had been diagnosed with depression, was on meds but was really in a bad place. Like, worse than I think anyone including myself knew. It's only looking back on it now that I can know that. And say it. It was a dark time. One way or another, my life was going to change. I didn't know if I'd survive that change. I didn't know if anyone would be with me if I did.
The big problem with depression is that it clouds everything. You can't trust anything in your own mind and that is a frightening prospect. It's dangerous to make any big moves based on clouded judgement and yet a complete change just might be that thing that lifts you.
But I was coming to the end of something.
I took a break. Somewhere, deep down, I think I knew I could never make another ad. They were pointless soul-destroying blots on society, cancers pushed by corporations upon corporations. If you follow the chain of ownership long enough, anyone you work for will turn out to be pure evil. What they were destroyed any and all artistic merit. They were filth.
My last ad was for a product by a company owned by Pfizer.
I was finished.
My career could have ended right there. I was lost. And then life just gave me a break. Said, this guy's had enough, let's give him something better. Things happened simultaneously - meds kicked in doing their thing, I had a break, a holiday that helped take me away from my previous life and, best of all, I was handed the opportunity to work on a children's show that I loved.
And a chapter ended. A new one began.
With the end of the last project, one that wasn't all that enjoyable spread over a very tough year for me, it brings with it a new chapter end. A complete close. A complete new start. We're well into 2009 now but I think only now can I really say goodbye to 2008. Only now can I let it go.
And so I begin again. I wouldn't get that clean a break working in a shop, would I?
Friday, March 20, 2009
Was it Watchmen? Did Watchmen have me count the years back to when I first read it, not as a tiny child but as a young man? Twenty years ago. I wasn't even sure I'd even live to be twenty.
I did though. And then I lived to be thirty in a ridiculously short space of time. I mean, some say it was ten years but, no, it was much shorter than that. I'm now plummetting towards forty. Not long now.
Not long now.
I haven't yet changed the world. Made it a better place. Maybe next year. First, I've got to write this poxy script.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Nobody really believes the thing about the snakes, do they? I wonder if that's recognised by the church. I mean, he is a saint.
And if we can't trust the snake cover-up, what can we trust?
Yes, Paddy's Day is a dark day for truth.
Monday, March 16, 2009
Man in tights battles the forces of evil. Even as a young teenager, I'd think, how utterly naive. I think the only US comic that drew me in was Neil Gaiman's Sandman, mainly because it didn't treat me like a complete idiot.
Sunday, March 15, 2009
Friday, March 13, 2009
Thursday, March 12, 2009
It was messy. It told two stories, one of which I had no interest in and the other was mostly a montage of clips from previous Saw films. The character of Amanda was notably absent even though events took place around her. I wonder if they couldn't negotiate a deal or she just got bored doing Saw films or something.
This one was directed by a guy called David Hackl. Didn't he create Becker? This wasn't as funny as Becker. Actually there were a couple of unintentionally funny moments and, similarly, there have been some of moments in Becker that were unintentionally unfunny so maybe that fits. Probably not the same guy though. You know, because he would have had no problem getting the actress who plays Amanda... unless there was some dirt on the set of Becker... I think I may have to start some rumours.
But, yeah... not great. Not up to the lofty heights set by Saw III and Saw IV. I'll never understand how they never made the Oscar lists.
Man, they just don't make Saw films like they used to. Well, roll on Saw VI.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Almost a week after finishing work, I'm still not even close to human. Nowhere near it. I'm soooo tired. Every part of me is weak. Exhausted. Is it possible to get a break when you have children? I'm beginning to wonder if I'll ever have energy again or if I'll just collapse and die one day from fatigue. Like maybe Friday.
Blogging will be slow. It's already slow. My morning coffee time before work was my usual blog time. I'm not taking that right now. And my Cintiq is awkward- a big transformer thing, two connections to the computer. It's too much like hard work. The Wacom people should make a self-contained Cintiq. One that is a small enough size and runs Photoshop and some other graphics programmes itself. With maybe a USB or memory card for transferring to a computer later. That way, I could do my little drawings with it on my lap, in front of the telly, while I bitch about how rubbish Battlestar has got. That would be so much easier than the plug and two connections and my endless battle against Vista.
I haven't had a chance to see Watchmen yet. The book meant a huge amount to me as a teen and I want to see the movie but the three hour commitment plus journey time is too much right now. Nah, it will be Saw V on blu-ray for me - guaranteed classic. So I'm rereading Watchmen instead and I'm getting even more from it than I did as a teen. It really is something special.
I thought I was having a heart attack today.
Monday, March 9, 2009
But I can't be the only one who went for tests at some point in his life and was disappointed to find that he was nothing more than just that - human. I think every child dreams about being something more. For girls, it's being adopted and finding out they're a princess. For guys, it's being a robot.
It was a crushing blow the first time I got an MRI and there wasn't one raised eyebrow. No emergency scientists appearing to study me. Just a plain old human body.
Friday, March 6, 2009
This project is finally done. Over. I am currently a free agent. I need to sleep. Lots of sleep. It really wasn't fun. It was a pain in the ass all the way to be honest. I can't think of a project I've worked on that has been as tough as this. Maybe I'm just getting old.
But, you know what? I had to watch all the finished episodes over the last few days and it's actually a pretty damn good show. Better than it has any right to be.
But good or bad, the important thing is that it's finished.
Thursday, March 5, 2009
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
We show a child worlds with no literacy. No letters. And, criminally (as young children love rhyming words and funny words that sound like other words), no wordplay. No puns. Nothing that won't work on a direct word for word translation.
When it comes to language, we present children with a world that is positively backwards.
There is only one reason for this - the hope for international sales and the cost of reversioning. And it's blindingly obvious on many shows. I last caught in on the US show, Timothy Goes To School (about a school of all things, a place where written language should be incredibly important) but it's all over. A show I worked on a few years ago had one pun in one episode, out of about five hours of television. One pun. The distributor told the writer to get rid of it because, otherwise, they couldn't sell the show. One pun out of five hours of children's television.