Tuesday, November 29, 2005

[lovebites] Information & Strategies

Spend another night going through the boxes of tapes and contracts from the TV series. Lots of information about marketing, lots of correspondence with executives from various companies. A new appreciation of how tough Ainsley’s, Larry’s, Caterina’s and Lindsey Shelton’s jobs were.

Also, I found a possible online release strategy for lovebites, here. Essentially it talks about putting the content online for free and creating the fan base, after which you repackage all of the extra content is created and sell it as a DVD.

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[The Limit] Same ole same ole

Day 1 of this dialogue draft: ½ an hour writing, 1 page done.
Day 2: 2 hours writing, 1 page done.

Day 3 (today): 3 hours writing, not even one page done - but I've made the decision to finish & have fun while writing it.

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Sunday, November 27, 2005

[RPG] Designing 'Desperate Virgins'

I've got two design threads over at the Forge for my new game Desperate Virgins. The first, which has pretty much run its course, is about the voting procedure in the endgame - and some massive changes have come out of that.

This newest thread is about how the characters start the game - but it's really about game balance.

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Saturday, November 26, 2005

Long time, no blog

Hey there,

So, I'm in the midst of trying to find flatmates - and if you know anyone who's trying to find a flat then feel free to send them in our direction.

Yesterday, I finished the big restructure of The Limit & starting either tomorrow or Monday it'll be time to put in the dialogue. Lots of fun, looking forward to it.

Jenni's Mean Girls game was fun. You can read about her & my thoughts on it here, and a synopsis of what happened 4 comments down, here.

Other than that, not much substantive to report or blog about - too busy. But congrats to Svend, Norman and Mark (and everyone else at Weta) for - hopefully - finishing their work on King Kong and now being able to sleep in!

Saturday, November 19, 2005


Huge day yesterday.

10am – Business course on the basics of earning money in business.
1pm – Signed up at Les Mills
2pm – Arranged a script editing assignment.
7pm – Worked my way through about a quarter of this The Limit rewrite.
8pm – Rehearsal for The Wasps.
1am – Watched 24.

Shooting 2 scenes for The Wasps tomorrow.

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[Biz] Promotion, Money Making factors

These are some highlights from the seminar yesterday:

Promotions should be simple. They should directly say what you’re offering the customer. Word of mouth is the most important thing to focus on. And a brand needs to have a story.

Businesses need yardsticks, help & fans.

I need to ruthlessly implement a Learn-Plan-Act cycle. So, yesterday I bought a whiteboard. It will help me.

There are 5 factors you can adjust when it comes to making money:
Prospects (all the people you could sell to)
Conversion (what percentage of people buy from you)
The Number of transactions each buyer makes in a year.
The Average Value of a transaction.
Your Profit Margin on each item.

Those five factors are taken from Brad Sugar’s book Billionaire in Training. I’ll have to post my notes from that sometime soon.

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Friday, November 18, 2005

[RPG] My 'Dirty Virgins' game

OK, I wasn't going to enter this month’s Ronnies, but then – 3 hours before the deadline – I read this game called apocalypse girl (you can read my review of it here, or download it here). And then I read this post from Ron & I don't know. I had to do it. The rough draft of Dirty Virgins (you can download it from here) was written in 43 minutes.

Here's the premise:

A large town in the middle ages. The Dragon will destroy it unless he is given a virgin sacrifice.

You're one of the town's Virgins.

The Dragon is coming tomorrow morning.

The object of the game: get enough mud on your reputation to avoid being killed.

The creative process was a little odd. At the start of the competition I brainstormed about 120 ideas. None of my top 4 (Invasion USSR, The Wing, Dirty Virgins or Swamp Men vs. the Mud Monsters) really grabbed my breeding balls and said "Write me now." So I let it slide.

Then on Tuesday, thinking about Jenni's Super-Cool-Jedi problem, I came up with a system for a game called Double Agents (kind of Alias meets 24 meets Aeon Flux). When I decided I had to write DV, that was the mechanic that swum to mind & I was off.

I wanted this game to have the spirit of a German boardgame, where the abilities you needed to use in the first phase actually starts to hinder you (or become meaningless) in the endgame. I guess play testing will show me if I succeeded.

Already though, I can see flaws - drawing two cards, no player vs. player, probably the method of figuring out votes is broken. But it was damn fun to write & when it's sorted, I think it'll be damn fun to play.

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Thursday, November 17, 2005

[The Limit] Going well

I’m approaching quarter of the way through the big restructure & today was That Day where I started to get enthused about the work again. I love That Day.

So, I got through about 5 scenes in quick succession. One was the tricky, pivotal conversation between the 2 dads that keeps tripping me up. I want it to be like a verbal fistfight, but in order to stay true to the characters it’s turned out a lot quieter. What’s neat about this scene is that one of the characters completely gives up on what he wants halfway through. I discovered that this morning; it’s a neat & nasty surprise.

Then wrote a quick new husband-and-wife argument scene. I love the wife now. That was never true in previous drafts. And this argument gives an insight into Peter’s fragile sense of masculinity.

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Wednesday, November 16, 2005

We're looking for a flatmate

So, Chris is moving out in about 4 weeks. That means I'm looking for a flatmate. There's a flatfinder ad here (with contact details). In the meantime, the specifics are:

It's the best room in our flat - very large, bay windows, it gets lots of light and there’s loads of built-in storage.

Our flat’s friendly and pretty quiet. It's in Aro Valley - 2 minutes from university, 5 minutes from Cuba Street and & the bus stop right round the corner. We have a nice backyard and the whole place gets lots of sun over summer.

The room’s $140 a week and it's available from December 16. You'd be flatting with me (the scriptwriter) & Maya (the musician).

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[Film] How to make an extraordinary movie

"We're going to have to go out on a limb, and then saw the limb off."

When I read this speech by Jack Lechner (4 years ago) it changed my life. The first section describes my idealistic ambitions when I started making films, the second section relentlessly dismantles my dreams and then the finale offered a way forward that immediately seemed right to me:

When I was at Channel Four in London at the beginning of the '90s, the British film industry was in far worse shape than the American independent film industry is now. When I considered a project to fund, I would ask myself, "If this film works, could it possibly help to save the British film industry?" If the answer was no, I rejected it. If the answer was yes, I advocated it. I wasn't always right, of course, but I know I was at least asking the right question.

We have to ask ourselves a version of that question now. If this film works, could it possibly help to save the American independent film industry? Could it break through the wall of apathy, and reawaken audiences to what movies can do? Could it influence other filmmakers? Could it create such a stir that your parents hear about it -- and not just from you, but from their friends?

Whatever you think of "The Blair Witch Project," it fit those criteria. So did "Reservoir Dogs." So did "She's Gotta Have It." So did "Paris Is Burning." What made these movies stand out? I can tell you in two words -- artistic ambition. I can tell you in one word -- daring. These movies were gambles. The filmmakers were doing something that you hadn't seen a million times before.

Folks, every movie that breaks through from here on out is going to need to do that. Instead of making nice little movies, we're going to have to take outrageous chances. We're going to have to go out on a limb, and then saw the limb off. And if your film can't do that -- if it isn't unique enough, if it isn't extraordinary enough, if it isn't dynamic enough to compete with all the other movies that are out there -- then be prepared for oblivion, because you won't even get the chance to find out.

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Monday, November 14, 2005

This is the news

It looks like things are going to get real hectic here over the next couple of weeks.

Turns out I've got rehearsals for The Wasps this week & a test shoot in the weekend. I've also just reached the end of Act 1 on The Limit, which hopefully means I can enfastenify the speed of my writing now the majority of the tough rewrites are out of the way.

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Sunday, November 13, 2005

Pop culture references

I found this extract from a new book by Leslie Savan pretty interesting. It seems to go a long way towards explaining why I feel satisfied when I use a pop cultural reference & why I often try to not use them, in order to think for myself. There's an interview with the author, here at Alternet.

A couple of movie related quotes:

A friend of mine who rewrites movie scripts is often told to add certain phrases to "punch them up," he says. "It's like McDonald's discovered that people have three basic tastes -- sweet, salty, and fat -- and therefore it never has to create foods for more subtle tastes." Yesss! (the spoonful of sugar in so many movies) takes care of positive, overcoming-the-odds feelings, while Hel-lo?! covers dealing with idiots, I don't think so can stop a fool in his tracks, and so on.

Dozens of ads and movie trailers, particularly, have turned on "Yessss!" Some of the movie trailer producers would tell me that they were so thankful when there was a "Yessss!" in the movie, because they knew they could produce their whole ad on that "Yessss!" They explained that it very consciously says, "Yes, I'll go see this movie." It makes you one of audience, it builds up the excitement and sort of generalizes without saying what the movie is, what the context is, what the characters are.

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24 (5-6m)

Once again, 24 is wrapping up has wrapped up its main plot. The nuclear reactors have been saved, there' s only one more terrorist left to get & only a few interpersonal subplots to play with. On the face of it, there is no reason except for habit that I should watch next week.

But this is the way that 24 works. It radically changes the stakes of this story halfway through each season. Given how much better this first half has been than Season 3's diabolical narco-terrorist plot, I'm actually looking forward to seeing what the writers had planned.

So that's the reason I'm watching. To be surprised.

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Friday, November 11, 2005

[How to: TV] Joining a Team

This post over at The Forge seems filled with common-sense about how to join a new team. Some of the points include: do things their way to start with (2 or 3 months); build friendships & hang out socially; be patient and - eventually - walk away if you're not happy with what you're seeing. All stuff I wish I'd known when I was working on Facelift.

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Wednesday, November 09, 2005

[Film] Doom

** (Average)

It’s the Doom movie that’s better than we deserve & yet seems created by people who have barely played the game.

Way better than I expected it to be – with some interesting characterisations and performances & swiftly getting into the action. But, in increasing order of severity, it:

- Is yet another lesser imitiation of Predator and Aliens

- is boring for large stretches.

- Doesn’t shoot most of its action from BEHIND the soldiers

- It’s a zombie movie.

- Constantly opts for conventional, seen-it-before choices; and

- Doesn’t have enough DOOM action. There’s such a slow build in intensity and variety of monsters that it’s nearly 80 minutes before the first setpiece that fits with the game happens.

To be fair, that’s followed by about 10 minutes of very cool stuff, but still …

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Saturday, November 05, 2005

[TV] 24 (3 - 5pm)


I like how, in this season, removing the President’s storyline has resulted in a more focused show.

This was a nice slow building episode that extends the Tony-Jack reluctant buddy movie vibe. Lots of plot progress – by the time Jack’s demonstrating his special skills with interrogation, I’m hooked once again. It helps that the interrogation plays off personal stories for Jack, Tony & Dina – all have had loved ones threatened before.

(Speaking of loved ones, Edgar saved 50 million people today. Surely they can spare the manpower to rescue his mom?)

Anyway, the episode climaxes by finally bringing CTU & the Araz family together, leaving us in a nice hostage situation that will obviously be the A-story for next ep.


Hostage situation? Boring. Resolve it in 15 minutes and move on to the next thing.

A fairly slow episode filled with exposition and people repeating the same bits of information to each other. It seemed like an ep where pieces were getting manoeuvred into position.

I’ve realised that I don’t really know anything about the writing process for 24. How much of this slowness is due to plotting out the season and how much is due to the individual writer? I mean, the show seems to have a very ‘written by committee’ voice to it. It does conflict and tension exceptionally well but outstanding character moments (of dialogue) are notably rarer.

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