Movie Trailers

I hate it when movie trailers give away the entire plot. How’s that supposed to make me want to see the movie? There are no surprises left. If I know the story why pay $10 to see it? Then there are the times you see a movie you were looking forward to and realize afterwards that the only good parts were in the trailer. That feels like a ripoff. In those cases I think they are trying to make some money on the movie before the word gets out it’s crap. I recently saw a movie trailer for Paranoia. It sounds like a cross between Wall Street and Duplicity with a strong cast. I put it on my list to see. Then I went to the movies on Friday to see Wolverine (great movie, BTW) and saw another trailer for Paranoia. This time it included a big plot twist. At first I thought, Oh, cool. But then about a second later I thought, Wait a minute. That just gave the whole movie away. It really turned me off. It’s taken all the surprise out of the story for me. Curiously, my friend, Hilari, said it made her more inclined to see the movie. Before, she wasn’t that interested as she didn’t feel the characters had much to recommend them—remember this is about big business, corporate secrets, and greed. I like dark characters so that didn’t affect my interest in seeing the movie. Plus it has a strong cast and I trust certain actors not to sign on for a flop (yes, I know everyone has them in their past...

Getting Ideas

Earlier this year I was struggling to think of a new novel idea. I had been focusing on apps for the past year and a half and I felt it was time to get back into novel writing. But having been working in a different field for so long, I found it very difficult to change gears. I couldn’t think of an idea. I didn’t panic right away. Usually I get ideas from things I see—newspaper articles, news on the TV, a story I don’t like and how I would change it, etc. Generally it’s a buffet of ideas and I pick which one seems the tastiest to work on. Only this time the cupboard was bare. I figured I just needed to open myself up to ideas. I hadn’t had my mind working in that way for too long. I was busy with freelance work so I wasn’t too concerned, but then I realized several months had gone by and I still didn’t have an idea. Now I was starting to get worried. What if I never thought of another good novel idea? Okay, I realize that’s ridiculous, but there is still that little worm of doubt working away at my self-confidence. I decided to change tactics. Instead of waiting to be inspired by an idea, I would simply think of one. I went back to my old idea file to see if anything looked promising. Unfortunately, I had used most of the ideas that were worth developing and my older idea file seemed to have vanished. I think it’s on one of my old external harddrive backups...

Director’s Commentaries

Whenever I get a DVD and I like the movie, I check out the bonus features to see if there’s a director’s commentary. I always find it interesting to listen to the director’s thoughts as he/she takes you through the movie. You learn about the choices they made concerning the story, why they shot the scene the way they did, the ideas they discarded, what came from the script and what came from the actors. I learn a lot listening to how other creative minds approach their work. I recently listened to Joss Whedon’s commentary for the Avengers. He wrote and directed the movie. (Let me just say up front that Joss Whedon is god when it comes to story and dialogue.) He said that Marvel had told him up front they wanted Ironman and Thor to conflict. Whedon said his job wasn’t to create the fight (the storyboards guys did that) but to justify it. There were a lot of suggestions about having one of them under a misapprehension or a spell, but he discarded those. He said those kind of reasons were deadly. If you have guys pounding on each other over a misunderstanding then you are just waiting for them to start talking to one another. “You’re just checking a box. Ironman fights Thor. Done. And you don’t want that.” What you want are two guys with conflicting agendas. What he came up with is something that’s done in a lot of cop movies—you can’t bust the bad guy becomes he’s part of a bigger operation. That gives you an excuse to set them against one another....

Expect Your Audience to be Smart

I recently saw “A Good Day to Die Hard.” I’ve enjoyed all of the Die Hard movies. In particular, “Live Free or Die Hard” was my favorite and I was looking forward to the latest installment. I felt that they had done a good job of reinvigorating the series by bringing his adult kids into the storyline. “A Good Day to Die Hard” had a good premise—John learns his son is in trouble in Russia so he rides to the rescue only to find out that his son purposely got himself arrested so that he could free a Russian prisoner. His son is not the screw-up he thought, but rather a CIA operative. That worked, especially when John shows up in time to mess-up the escape. The corresponding plot double cross worked, too, though it was a bit predictable. The dialogue was okay and the action was good. The movie, overall, was shaping up to be an okay addition to the franchise, until the climax. The location moved to Chernobyl, site of the reactor disaster in 1986. I can only think the people behind the movie figured a nuclear disaster that took place almost 30 years ago would be far enough away in people’s memories that they wouldn’t remember exactly what happened there. News flash, it doesn’t matter if people remember or not. They will remember nuclear disaster and the accompanying radioactivity that necessitated the complete evacuation of the area. Did they really think they could have John and his son go into the area without any protective clothing/equipment and then dismiss it with a joke? “Hey, am I’m...

Too Complicated?

I saw the animated film “Epic” last Friday. The one review I saw said it was a bit complicated. Sometimes I wonder if I see the same movie as critics. The plot wasn’t complicated. In fact it was pretty straightforward. It had some depth and character growth and maybe that was the problem for the reviewer. It wasn’t shallow, one-dimensional. The characters were fun and the artwork was AMAZING. See it in 3-D. It’s an experience. I thank God that the computer is now a tool for the animator/artist. It allows the filmmakers to create scenes that couldn’t be done with hand animation. The drama created by the way the camera moves through a scene is all thanks to the computer. Plus the ability to create multiple crowd scene images also depends on the computer. The “complication” the computer allows the director to add to those scenes multiplies the emotion created by the images. I wonder if reviewers think a children’s movie has to be simple for the audience? They couldn’t be more wrong. Simple movies don’t become classics. Simple movies that lack dimensional characters and plots that matter to the characters, aren’t memorable. Epic is memorable because it offers emotional depth, characters you understand and empathize with, and imagery that takes your breath away. Go see...

Premature Story Ejaculation Treatment

You’ve got a great idea for a story and you can’t wait to start writing. I’m here to caution you against spewing out your story too soon. You need to indulge in plenty of foreplay before you’re ready. Okay, enough sexual innuendo. The truth is that no matter how tempting it is to start your first draft, you need to wait until you’re ready. A story needs to mature before you start writing it. Or, at least for me it does. I’m an outliner. I can’t speak for pantsers—people who sit down and write without knowing where their story is going. I need to know. It helps me build layers of depth in the first draft. If you start writing too soon you will quickly run into a wall. You won’t know where to go next. Your characters will thrash around wasting a lot a time until you figure out the next move. When this happens you end up with passive characters—the story happens to them instead of the characters driving the story. When you take time to think about your story you’ll be able to see how the pieces fit together, how you can strengthen themes, add motivation, create nuances. You can add the subtleties up front that often don’t develop until a third or fourth draft. It saves time and you’ll have a stronger story to work with. But this blog is supposed to be about treatment, so the next time you have a great story idea I want you to open a new document and write down your ideas. And then walk away from it. Keep...