A spot of colour in a B/W world

Oh no! I discovered a new toy…well, new to me.

Using Lightbox, I’ve learned how to convert a photo to black & white and then return to the colour to one or more component of the photo.

And now I’m distracted all to hell. And worse, a friend has a shopping list of images she wants for her apartment.

So, if you don’t hear from me for a while, at least you’ll know why.

PS Who knew all those colouring books would come in handy!?

Too many voices (spoil the screenplay)

Superfluous

Congratulations! You have just outlined your next screenplay. Or maybe you’ve written “Fade Out”. That’s quite an accomplishment and you should be proud of yourself.

Go ahead. Take a moment to luxuriate. I can wait.

Okay, now I need you to kill one of your characters…or two…or maybe even three.

What? Oh, I know you’re not writing a thriller, but murder will be good for you. And even if you are writing a thriller, you’ll feel better after you pull the plug on certain characters.

Having written a few screenplays and having read 50X more, one common thread I find is that writers (me included) create too many characters, some of which are completely unnecessary.

Now, I’m not talking about the red-shirted cannon-fodder that fills the background…the cab driver, the concierge, waiter, ex-boyfriend, whatever. No, I’m talking about those characters just below the protagonist, antagonist, side kick/mentor/love-interest who help move your characters through a plot point (or several) and then disappear completely.

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Let me give you an example from a murder thriller collecting dust on my hard drive…The Children of San Miani.

In my story, a journalist provides a young detective with just enough information to introduce her to the lead suspect, a victim’s rights advocate with a major reason to want the first murder victim dead.

In reviewing my first draft, I realized that the moment the journalist connected the detective and the advocate, he completely disappeared from the story. He became superfluous to (story) need, so I simply stopped talking about him.

This begged the question: Did I need the journalist character at all?

With very little thought, I quickly realized I could accomplish all of the journalist’s plot points without the journalist, either by ascribing his actions to other main characters or to the story itself. And poof, he was gone.

The result was a story that was that much tighter. A story that was a bit less confusing and yet still maintained the mystery I needed for the thriller.

Look at your story. Focus on those second-tier characters.

Are there some that don’t make it to the end of your story; that simply trigger or drive a scene or two forward?

Can those triggers or drives be handled by another character in your story, maybe a main character? Or perhaps those actions can extend the life of another secondary character who just plops into your story from the ether?

In some cases, the answer may be no; that in the grand scheme of things, this character is vital if temporary.

Fine. Keep the character. You are the best judge of what is needed for your story. But I’ll bet at least one character can go.

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Show no mercy. Cut the strings. Release the Kraken. (Oops, sorry. Wrong movie.)

Don’t smother your screenplay. By eliminating the unnecessary, people will better understand and appreciate your story more quickly.

And when you may only get one read (if that), the easier you make it on your audience, the better.

(Images are property of owners and are used here without permission, and may be completely superfluous.)

Beaches Jazz Festival – Toronto

This weekend is the 26th Annual Beaches International Jazz Festival in the east end of Toronto, an oddly named celebration of eclectic music of all origins and stripes…not just jazz. In fact, in two years that I have visited this festival, I have yet to hear jazz more than 10% of the time.

Nonetheless, it is a very well attended party that keeps me largely locked in my home for three nights as it takes up 20+ blocks of street closures.

After being coerced into the melee by a couple of friends today, I offer the following images.

Unlucky Lucy – a review

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What if every time…

Number Line #1

someone tried to tell you something…

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they inserted a photo or video…

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that showed the same thing they said?

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Pretty irritating, eh?

Welcome to the first 30 minutes of Luc Besson’s Lucy, released to theatres this weekend.

(I’ve done my best to avoid spoilers, below.)

What could have been—should have been—an amazing sci-fi thriller about the possible repercussions of a young drug mule who becomes exposed to the drug and slowly finds her brain building to 100% functional capacity, was instead a massive disappointment weighted down by a ton of metaphoric sledgehammers and drowning in a sea of over-exposition.

To be sure, there is a really interesting movie somewhere in the middle of the morass that ironically becomes its own metaphor by the end of the movie. But it’s as though Besson the Director didn’t trust the story written by Besson the Screenwriter to simply let the story explore itself.

As the drug takes hold of Lucy, she goes from being an interesting female character (if a little cliché) to an automaton who simply narrates…literally narrates…what is happening inside her.

The drug lord Mr. Jang has the emotional range of complete indifference to mild irritation, which no doubt also expresses the feelings of acclaimed actor Min-Sik Choi, who portrayed him.

Even the calming voice and reason of Morgan Freeman’s Prof. Norman quickly gives way to befuddled camera-mugging and WTF?

The only truly interesting character was French police detective Pierre Del Rio, played beautifully by Amr Waked, who clearly functions as the eyes of the audience. As a friend of mine pointed out, even he at one point turns to Lucy and asks “What do you need me for?” What, indeed.

Lucy cast

To be certain, the visual effects in several parts of the movie were stunning, but as with so many movies I’ve seen in the past few years (e.g., Prometheus, Transcendence), the visual effects have become sleight-of-hand to keep you (or try) from seeing the weaknesses of plot and character.

The action sequences highlighted in the trailers take about as much time in the full movie as they did in the trailer, and so little is ever in doubt with the plot that the movie truly cannot be described a thriller.

But perhaps where the movie was most disappointing was in its promise to explore the nature of what it is to be human when faced with super-human capabilities. THIS is what the movie should have been about!

But Besson largely discards the question as quickly as he raises it in two short scenes involving a call home to mom and a simple kiss. And in both cases, Lucy coldly explains her conundrum, her human fears represented by the odd tear drop down an otherwise lifeless cheek. Rather than see Lucy struggle with her transformation, we watch her turn into a robot bent on a mission…a mission that she basically accomplishes without struggle.

But just to be sure we get the great metaphysical concepts behind the story, Besson then reverts to his earlier legerdemain, smacking the audience around with a brutally metaphoric journey through time and space. I give you intergalactic sperm meteors…you’ll know then when you see them.

And all this rancour without even touching on the biochemical, biomedical, anthropological and astronomical issues that run rampant in this mere 90 minutes.

This could have been an amazing movie. It wasn’t.

(Images are property of owners and are used here without permission.)

Stop denying compliments

You’re a really nice person for coming to read my blog, and I really appreciate it.

I just wanted you to know that. You deserve to hear nice things about yourself.

feel good

It’s been a really good week or so for me on the compliment front as two previously unknown people have taken a moment to offer nice comments about my magazine writing.

In reference to a past commentary, Diane wanted me to know:

You’re a superb writer—love the line “One need only look at any war-torn region of the world today to realize that in the middle of a conflict, bullets take precedence over bandages.”

Similarly, Martina offered me her thoughts on a recent interview I conducted:

This was a great interview and a pleasure to listen to it. I don’t hear too many interviews with writers and editors so well prepared.

I tell you this not to say that you should love my work too, but rather to note that it wasn’t that long ago when I would have completely dismissed these lovely comments. Not because I am a dick, but because I am not worthy of such praise.

Throughout my life, I have had a lot of self-worth and self-image problems…still do, to be completely honest. I couldn’t believe that anyone would like me or my work because I and it had no value. Anything nice they had to say was just an effort to…I dunno…I have no idea why they said it.

But it wasn’t true. If it wasn’t a lie, it was a mistake.

As I’ve gotten better with myself over the last several years, I’ve noticed a lot of other people share this problem. They can’t, or perhaps more accurately won’t take a compliment.

dont deny

Please stop! Let people offer you their compliments. And then, say “Thank you.”

Simply say “Thank you” when someone gives you a compliment…no eye roll, no looking away or down, no self-deprecation. Just take it and acknowledge it! It sounds trite, but it isn’t.

A big part of being able to move past self-worth and self-image issues and slowly diminish their impact in my life has been the idea of accepting compliments from other people as more than politeness.

If it works for you as it did for me, at first you just go through the motions…but then slowly, as you take the compliments in and hear them more often–really, really hear them–you begin to think they may be based on something…they may be true. I’m sure they are.

I gave a dear friend of mine similar advice yesterday when she blogged about her vulnerability.

I then proceeded to give her about half-a-dozen compliments in short order to demonstrate my love and appreciation for her, to let her know she was worthy of praise.

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Without knowing which of you is reading when, it is a little difficult for me to do the same right now, other than to let you know that you too are worthy of praise.

So let people praise you…and then, just say “Thank you”.

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(These beautiful images are the property of their owners and are used here without permission, but deepest appreciation.)