How to Make a Movie

The End

This guide is not for the entire film process. For those seeking that, you need money and practice. This is for the first step. The script.

First you need characters that the audience can relate to.

Then you need a setting.

Finally you need a goal, particularly for one character (your antagonist).

Eg: Two managers, in fast food stores, one aiming to make the ideal food (a chiko roll), or a father and son, in outer space, and the father seeks reunion.

To stop that goal being reached there needs to be obstacles.

Eg: a feud or a Jedi battle.

Obstacles can take many forms. The classic process is the Hero’s Journey, where there is conflict, division, self-realistion and atonement (basically every Will Farrell movie), so the character has changed along the way.

So…

Stage one: establish characters, scene, goal, introduce major conflict and a sign of resolution. For a major 90min movie this is all done in the first 10min.

Stage two: make the goal hard to reach, and by the end of this stage it seems impossible. This is the next 70min of a 90min movie.

Stage three: Goal is achieved, and character has learnt a life lesson. The final 10min.

A good example of playing with this format in the Bendigo Comedy podcast was with Tara Bell and Mike Elliott. There the antagonist was an overly happy guy at a store, and he wanted to work at a store closer to town, or the city as he considered it. On his way to the interview was a Mosque protest, and the protesters did not respond well to the happy guy getting on their tram. Despite the conflict, the happy guy made the angry people see that life was good, characters changed, and the happy guy got to his job interview. The end.

It’s a simple structure often repeated. The hard thing is making the pieces of a movie fit, as changing a character’s motivation can change the entire film (eg: it doesn’t make sense for Greedo to shoot first).

Ultimately it’s about building a plot line, because as Alfred Hitchock said, “I’ve written the script, now all I need is the dialogue.”*

*actually I can’t find the actual Hitchock quote. Maybe he didn’t say it. Anyway, it’s a good quote.

Things Learned From the Melbourne International Comedy Festival

Listed in order of seeing them, here are the acts and things I learned during the 2017 Melbourne International Comedy Festival. These thoughts and observations are my own, and as with all advice, it is most applicable to the person giving the advice. Feel free to add you own opinions, advice or corrections in the comments section below.

Dan Connell – Stacks On

The dry voice. There’s a beat to Connell’s delivery. Many comics, and this is not a negative, work at a high tempo. They smile and laugh, intending to encourage the audience to smile and laugh too. Connell doesn’t do this. He does grin (almost winks), with a knowing nod at the punchlines, but he doesn’t bounce around. His delivery is calm, paced, and perfect for his material (more on that later).

Michael Williams – Escape from a 90s Educational CD ROM

Awe inspiring. I’ll be honest, as much as I enjoyed this show many in the audience did not. Williams created a world with a story, and he went through it with character development and analysis – the funny kind. It was not stand-up comedy, but it was a terrific creation with video interaction and effects. It was probably pushing what an audience expect from comedy (again, more on this later), but I thought it great writing, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Factious – Pants Down Tour

Fart jokes and dick jokes. I know that sounds disparaging, and I have no intention of being such, but I saw this show directly after Williams’ and the difference was stark. The Factious trio are new(ish), and produced a show of sketch comedy with occasional stand-up routines. They entertain, and on the night I attended they had more laughter in the crowd than the Williams gig I attended. They also reminded me that polish takes time in front of an audience (more on that later). It will be interesting to see how they develop their show the more they preform.

David Quirk – Cowboy Mouth

Detail is funny. As with Dan Connell, the comedy does not come from engaging the audience – though it’s clear each performer can do this. Instead large parts of their humour is in the events and mundane elements of life – our quirks (if you will). This is also what makes Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell a funny book in parts. It is the odd detail in our bafflingly silly lives.

Danny McGinlay – Banner Man Live

Here’s a guy who can work a crowd. Danny is the endearing comic who wants to make everyone laugh. He had over 200 people in the hall laughing with his crowd interactions and performances – the acting out of comic characters which he sometimes created on stage. He had genuine excitement at showing some of the football banners he had made, and retelling the events around them. There’s not much to be learnt from a Jedi master of this kind of stand-up – except the importance of characters in comedy. Mostly he’s a funny bugger. You can’t replicate that.

Ashley Greblo, Shaun Rosaia, Cody Jones – Three’s a Crowd, not an audience

Practice, practice, practice. Again new(ish) to the scene, these three stand-up comics joined to perform approximately 16min of material each. I have seen them perform regularly, and each act included well-rehearsed (aka often-used) parts in their set. I know from experience that regular performance tightens material, as parts that don’t work for the performer or the audience are removed, and even some parts are expanded on. This gives the act confidence, which adds to the performance. While they have different styles, each knew how to pace their delivery for the punchlines they knew would work.

Sammy J – Hero Complex

A story structure pulls people into the act. Right from the start Sammy J pulls the audience into the narrative by outlining a high stakes mystery. This introduction reminded me of PG Wodehouse, and how those books often use a hook at the beginning. From there Sammy J smiles and performs though a narrative about a series of unlikely connections in a bafflingly real life story, using video and musical elements in the performance. He also interacts with the crowd (at one point making a sexist remark, he reached out to me in the audience for a high five. I didn’t want to but I couldn’t leave the guy hanging so I reached back. He then admonished me for laughing at the joke, thereby making the audience feel better about themselves and getting a bigger laugh from the audience, and also ruining my chances with the three single women sitting next to me. What a jerk. Good show though).

Alastair Trembley-Birchell – F%*# a Duck, Here We Go

Professionalism. ATB (as we like to call him) nails every part of stand-up. Great writing with a smiling, playful, almost whimsy delivery – a blend of the dry and happy. His story about buying his family tortilla instead of pancakes was the funniest thing I saw all Festival. He bumbled a couple of sentences, and forgot a section of his routine so stopped to include it. It was because they were enjoying the fact that he clearly knew what he was doing. A bump in the highway doesn’t ruin a scenic holiday, or some such analogy. Equally, when there are big laughs the audience might think the comic will stop for the adulation, but no, ATB continued because that gives trust that there is more to come. Plough ahead, when the going is great and when the going is tough. That’s professionalism.

A Reason Why I Do Movember

15232146_10154578192560569_8043678542376390879_nLast weekend a mate told me how, three weeks ago, he twisted his knee and felt a sudden, sharp pain. He then hobbled for half a day before the pain reduced to nothing. Now his kneecap feels like it shifts, he can’t turn very well, it feels sore if he runs, and every so often he gets a return of the pain.
He figured it would just fix itself.
I told him if it is a ligament tear, he needs to see a doctor. That injury wont fix itself, and waiting three weeks will only cause the ligament to withdraw, making a full recovery near impossible.
He said he would go see someone.

He revealed this problem ten minutes into a general conversation.

I do Movember because in the world of men, it’s tough to suck it up, eat some concrete, and put up with the pain, while hoping the problem will go away. This applies to mental and physical health.
I believe talking is the most important part of Movember, so don’t send me any cash. Instead, ask a friend how they’re doing. Even if they don’t tell you truthfully, it will be a start, and besides that, you’ll get to talk to a friend – which is a good thing anyway, so do it.

Is Satire Bad?

A year ago Max Gillies gave a talk at the 2015 Bendigo Writers Festival.

He discussed impersonating former Australian Prime Ministers, and lamented the lack of characters in politics today.

The question to ask is, who is to blame for that?

Satire is partly about exposing faults in people so that the imperfection can be laughed at.

It is really about humanising the leaders.

But if people laugh at politicians, then the politicians must lose perceived integrity.

People want to vote for the person with the least faults.

Exposing a politicians faults reduces the idea that the politician can lead, and so less people will vote for them.

Politicians already do not want to show errors, and the fear of being joked about only increases the fear of being themselves.

It is disastrous for a politician to have a nervous tick exposed, or a stutter ridiculed, a smoking habit advertised, or to be portrayed as highly impressionable if they ever accept someone else’s idea.

To hold the trust of voters politicians now maintain a dull media controlled image.

The problem is, politicians who do not worry about their image are also those who care least about other people’s opinions and well-being.

Satire has caused dull politics, and in the gap given rise to egotistical politicians.

Is politics too important to laugh about, and should we restrict satire of it?

This is an open question, so while the title suggests an opinion, I’m keen to hear thoughts on if satire is causing more harm than good.

Go ahead.

There’s room below to have an opinion.

Bendigo Writers Council – March workshop 2016 – Wayne Gregson on column writing

Speaking about the newspaper industry, journalism and the distinction of being a writer, Wayne, let’s be honest, painted a bleak outlook. He is known locally for his work at the Bendigo Advertiser, including his Down the Mall column, and has worked with newspapers throughout Victoria, including writing a column that was printed nationally. The dot points that follow are notes from the talk, therefore reflecting Wayne’s opinions. (In some cases my opinions are listed in brackets [aka parentheses].) At the end of this article is a summary of a short talk I had with Wayne on the issues raised.

  • A journalist’s job is to report events, not to send a message that helps form an idea.

  • A writer must communicate an idea, and that is the distinction of a column writer to a journalist.

  • A writer must give honesty and that can be scary for a writer to do.

  • Wayne believes journalists do not work for money, as the money is too low to attract the money seeker. (Though I would argue that it can attract the fame seeker who wants to see their name in the byline and influence society. This is Rupert Murdoch’s key motivation.)

  • Columns are the attractive part of the paper compared to the dry journalism, yet column writers are also poorly paid. (I have seen many people complain about their work and pay. If you are a writer or journalist, or anybody, you’ll unlikely be happy with your pay. So better that you’re happy with your career/work.)

  • The Bendigo Advertiser in the 1990s employed 30 staff to ensure facts and content was accurate. Now it is 12 employees (at most) and content is not always checked for facts or grammar.

  • Column writers can have fun, including word play, which is something journalists don’t do because journalists only do facts and not fun.

  • It is arguable if journalists in newspapers today do, in fact, stick to reporting facts or whether they try to influence opinion. (I suggest taking the same news event as reported in The Age, The Herald Sun and The Australian, and read to see if the use of language could influence opinion)

  • The Herald’s language is/was targeted at someone who didn’t finish school, and therefore the journalist really had to know their topic in order to explain it clearly enough. A journalist for The Age could write to a higher comprehension level but that allowed for some laziness.

  • Back in the day if you got a fact wrong, you personally apologised to the people involved.

  • Reporting is only to be concerned with who, what, when, where, and why.

  • One of the best writers of a column according to Wayne was Lennie Lower, who wrote fun articles, drank heavily, and died young. There is a book of Lower’s articles.

  • In some circles the column is content where advertising should be. (I see that in most circles the blog is where the column have moved.)

  • With the loss of local newspapers there has been seen a reduction of local community involvement. Less people attending events etc.

  • More people read online, but there is so much clutter there, there is less pay. Example: a leading online news service, the Huffington Post, does not pay contributors.

  • Papers are dying because people believe all creativity should be free, because it is free on the internet.

  • Terry Pratchett, a famous writer, was a journalist before having more fun.

  • Dave Barry is a column writer at the LA Times. They pay him and therefore he has time to do a good job at writing.

  • A newspaper should tell you something about the community that you don’t know.

  • Exercise: a message was sent around the room in a whisper, it was returned with great error. Proof that the further from the source you are, the greater need to check facts. This was also shown by the example of a book that analysed newspaper reporting.

At this point the workshop stopped for a tea break and I asked Wayne if, given that newspapers are dying, that journalists and column writers don’t work for money, and if the paper is of high importance to a local community, should papers adopt a Not-for-profit model.

He believed this was impossible, and a little foolish, as only competition helped generate funds and lowering the revenue expected would lessen pay further and reduce the standard of reporting and writing. He stated that society receives the media that it deserves, and if people are not willing to pay for it, then they should not have one. The only exception that could possibly work is the ABC, and even that has faults.

I proposed a kind of donation system that people pay their local newspaper so that it may continue to operate and that society can continue to have the benefits of a local media service.

He believed this was a good idea.

Bendigo Writers Council – February Workshop 2016: Angela Savage on Crime Writing

This was a great talk with many tips and exercises for writers of all genres. Below is only a fraction of the advice Angela gave to our attendees, and should wet the appetite for those who haven’t attended a Bendigo Writers Council workshop before.

  • Focus on your passion. Do what you want, not what other people are doing.

  • In crime, and everywhere, if the story is good enough the exact facts do not matter.

  • Learn about the world, again good general advice, as it will also improve the scope and believability of your writing.

  • If you are excited by it, others will be too. When writing for your audience, remember that you are your first audience, and if you enjoy and are excited by the writing then others should be too.

  • Angela didn’t like her first novel attempt. It was thin on plot and big on self exploration.

  • The drive of any story is in the idea, character or setting/situation. Decide on one for the theme.

  • Crime writing is fun, you learnt things and people read it.

  • Angela’s first book took five years and seven drafts before acceptance by the publishing.

    • It also had 30,000+ words removed at the line edit stage by the publisher. This was because it lacked pace. Angela’s latest book only had 300 words removed.

  • The first draft is only getting the story down. The second, third, and forth draft is writing.

    • It might take 6 months to write, but then 6 years to edit.

    • If you forget something in a redraft, it probably wasn’t that important.

  • To help with plotting look at moments and consider “what if”. Take your character on a walk before story writing. Where does the idea, character or setting/situation lead. Whenever stuck, revert to that.

I took another four pages of these notes.

For more on crime writing contact Sisters in Crime or Brothers in Crime.

For details on the next Bendigo Writers Council workshop see this link: http://bendigowriterscouncil.weebly.com/

A Guide to Saint Singles Day

On every February 14 couples become insufferable as they post, meme, tweet and balloon how much they weally, weally wuv their partner. This pack of gloating arseholes need to be taken down a peg or two, so here is a guide on how to make the day a better place for singles, and therefore less isolating.

corpseflower
See here, as the Corpse Flower gives the stigma to the public, many who would be couples.

Buy flowers – especially roses

Purchase a hefty load of produce from the local florist, and shove the pretty colours into the compost. That’s where the stock will end up anyway, or rather it should. Most couples are too selfish to care about the environment. That’s why they demand trees be cut down, landscape ruined, oxygen depleted and habitat removed just so they can write “roses are red” poetry on heart shaped cards. Evidently couples are climate change deniers.

Book a table for two

This is one day restaurants look forward to selling a few bottles of champagne. That’s greed, and commerce, and this kind of capitalistic money seeking hunger hasn’t worked too well for the homeless. Spending big on four course meals and fancy drinks also makes couples feel decadent, which is exactly the problem the French had with their Royal Family in the 1790s. By booking a table for two even the poorest single, with their single income, can arrive, have the second place setting removed, order a single entree as a meal, drink a glass of water and get out of the house.

Eat chocolate

It doesn’t matter. Singles don’t have a partner to say, “Hey, are you putting on weight?” There is no-one to impress, no-one appraising their diet, no-one to hide blocks of cheese or rashes of bacon from. Eat the chocolate, drink the beer, smoke the ham, it doesn’t matter. No-one is watching you. No-one cares what you do. No-one. As they say, swinging singles should feel lucky to be so free. That’s not depressing is it? It’s liberating.

note
If you don’t have a phone you could write a letter.

Dial one half of a couple from a private number

Get a voice box alternator so when the person answers, you can tell them you are their secret admirer, wish them well, and say that they are always in your thoughts. At first the person will fear a stalker, so their partner will attempt to calm them by reinforcing their desire to protect and be with their partner. Then curiosity will begin, and as the other half tries to work out who the admirer is jealousy will tear the couple apart.

Untitled Theory on the Difficulties of Language

Words can never carry the right meaning. When written they are an approximation of our elaborate grunts – the sounds we make to hopefully be understood. This hope is necessary, as hope is what we have for other people. We can not completely know or control another’s reaction when we release our words onto them. Be it a declaration of love, a quip of a joke, or an instruction to a classroom we must hope that our words will be received with the right intention. Lawyers, politicians, and marketers must take care in their use of words, as they attempt to elicit a clear response to their use.

It is common for a cost to have resulted from the wrong choice of words. From the loss of money to the loss of a romance, it is likely that we have all had separation caused by the selection of words, and it is even evident that people go to war because of rival interpretations of words. With such destruction possible it is easy to question why anyone would use words at all.

We could use images, merging colours and shapes to display concepts. Some people will find this beneficial, and even advantageous, though time in preparation is one clear limit to this appeal. Tonal sound is another method of expression, and it can have a great ability to connect with emotion. For example, words alone would very rarely make people spontaneously dance. Indeed it is music that draws out this movement from emotion. While words are based on sounded grunts, the sound from constructed instruments can avoid the misinterpretation of words, and aim to connect straight to the expression of an emotion. Yet ambiguity is still an issue in sounding simple and complicated ideas, and it too is reliant on hope.

The range of expression possible in tones, images and even mathematics also seems to be less than we can express in words. So what if we did not attempt to use any of these languages?

Imagine the touch of sun light on your face. A soft breeze passes, and a strand of hair shifts on your cheek. There is freshly cut grass underfoot, and the sky is blue with puffs of white. You are warm, calm and still. If you don’t translate this simple pleasure into words, it is only possible to have the joy of the experience, and it is true to say that the experience is greater than any description. Cells shifting around the skin, perhaps jostling towards warmth, is a physical affect that is greater than an imagined response triggered by the ordering of words. Despite this failing that words will always have, and the threat of sorrow they present, we will continue to use them.

Humans will still aim to convince others of opinions, and endeavour to replicate events through words. With the risks of communication we will also continue to use words in an attempt to build knowledge and communities, and with the inadequacy of words we will continue to expose ourselves and our thoughts. We will use words to record messages for the future and send those messages across great distances. Importantly we will also rise amongst doubt and speak, perhaps against a crime or in favour of an idea, even when we fear that we do not quite know what to say.

It has been said that it is better to remain silent and be considered a fool, than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt, but even though the words can fail us, it can be more important to speak when you are afraid of the result than at any other point.

Bendigo Writers Festival: In Praise of Short – with Zoe Dattner, Cate Kennedy, David Musgrave, David Astle, and Carmel Bird

This panel praised short story writing, though in essence they truly praised concise and deliberate writing of any length. While it could be (though wasn’t) argued that in a novel a writer is forgiven for occasional lose prose, yet there is no place to hide or waste in a short story. In the short story, words are often used at their most selective. This is a skill short story writers learn, and it also applies to their choice of setting and events. The whole construct can be challenged due to the exposure. This is writing that would benefit a novel. Words and sentences should alwyas be considered, and not wasted.

Bendigo Writers Festival: I’m Watching Closely – with Anne Howard and Max Gillies

The entertaining comedic character actor Max Gillies spoke well on his concerns and interests on the state of satire, aided by Anne Howard’s engaging questions. While topics of history, future, appropriateness and morality of the use of satire and the fine line of mocking people, and the great use of identifying detail in comedy, I would like to ask another question: In comedy, especially satire, a character should be ignorant of their flaws, though in exposing someone’s flaws a person’s perceived respect and trustworthiness can reduce and so decrease the chance people will vote for them, therefore politicians and people are now suing comedians and why they are so careful in the presentation of themselves, thus is comedy harmful to the political process, and would the public be willing to vote for someone who admits their flaws?