Cross-border puppetry – Puppet Up!

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As many of you well know, I am interested in puppetry and am currently working as a writer on a sketch comedy television show in development called SomeTV! that involves both human (fleshies) and puppet actors (felties). More on this later.

In the meantime, I am also striving to get an irreverent show called Puppet Up! to come to Canada (more specifically Toronto) and perform. A product of Henson Alternative, these people have taken the inside humour of the Muppet Show and ratcheted it up a thousand-fold.

I’ll let them describe the show:

What happens when Henson puppeteers are unleashed? You get a new breed of intelligent nonsense that is “Puppet Up: Uncensored” – a live, outrageous, comedy, variety show for adults only. Enjoy an unpredictable evening when six talented, hilarious, expert puppeteers will improvise songs and sketches based on your suggestions! With a motley group of characters brought to life by the world renowned puppeteers of The Jim Henson Company, this is not your average night at the improv and it is definitely not for children. But all others are welcome to enjoy the uninhibited anarchy of live puppet performance as never seen before!

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Strangely, it seems the show is bashful and so I am asking for everyone’s help to encourage them to come to Toronto with a social media campaign entitled: Bring Puppet Up to Toronto. (How’s that for imaginative!?)

I’ve set up a Facebook page that I ask you to “Like” and “Share” with your friends, colleagues, and that guy you met once who glommed onto your page when you weren’t looking.

As well, please visit the Puppet Up! Facebook page and let them know they should visit Toronto…even if you don’t live here.

And if you follow me on Twitter, please retweet and favourite the relevant posts…most of the other posts are completely irrelevant.

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As Animal is my witness, I will wear them down and they will either have to come to Toronto or file an injunction!

And even if you don’t do any of these things (I feel tears coming on), then at least enjoy these YouTube videos…they are very funny and you should get something for having read this far.

Thanks.

12 Awkward Days of Christmas – Miskreant Puppets

Puppet Up! Hit the Streets of Edinburgh

Neil Patrick Harris and Nathan Filion in Doctor’s Office – Neil’s Puppet Dreams

Where do babies come from – Puppet Up!

Another year, another AFF Second Rounder

20th AFF poster

So, it would seem that rewrites work.

Last year, I entered my screenplay Tank’s into the Austin Film Festival screenplay competition and other than some amazing notes, it went nowhere in the competition. (My spec teleplay of The Big Bang Theory, however, reached the second round before bowing out.)

Fast-forward a year and four rounds of revisions, I just learned that the same screenplay made it to the second round of the competition before bowing out…Tank’s made it to the top 10% of its category, which feels pretty good considering the AFF received more than 8,600 screen- and teleplays this year, its highest submission rate ever.

Aside from the $200+ refund on my registration fee, what makes this really awesome is the esteem in which Second Rounders and higher are held at the screenwriting conference portion of the film festival. You see, the Austin Film Festival is more than just a whack of movie screens and Hollywood A-listers (like my own Toronto International Film Festival; on now). The AFF is also a 4-day screenwriters’ conference and love-fest, as 400+ introverts try to get just drunk enough to come out of their shells and commune with Hollywood screenwriters and film-makers.

If you are a screenwriter and have never been to the AFF, GO! It is worth the money.

Sure, some of the sessions amount to little more than hero-worship where you’ll hear questions like: “Remember that scene in X-Files when Mulder gave Scully that look? Did you write that, because that was awesome?” But most of the sessions are actually helpful discussions and learning opportunities with the film and television world’s elite writers…and best of all, these Gods not only stick around, but they’ll actually talk to you at the BBQ or in the bars. It’s like they give a shit about your shit.

Last year was my first AFF, and I was the introvert amongst introverts looking for the closest corner in which to nurse my beer or G&T. This year will be different. This year, I will move out of the corner and occupy the middle of the room…who knows, I may even talk to someone. (God, I need a drink!)

Oh, the Austin Film Festival runs October 24-31 from the Driskill Hotel.

PS If you think I’m bragging, my prowess is kept in check by a friend I met at AFF who had two Second Rounders and one Semifinalist screenplay in last year’s competition alone.

Not for nothing – REQUEST FOR HELP

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How do you write about nothing?

I know how to not write. In fact, I was very good at that in the past, but gratefully not writing is no longer much of an option for me.

I’m not talking about not writing, however. Instead, I am talking about writing scenes where superficially nothing happens, where a character walks through the mundane actions of life. What they are doing is unimportant to them, a robotic response to an overwhelming thought or scenario. There is an astronomic exchange of information and yet no words are spoken.

In a novel or short story, you can have an inner dialogue, revealing the character’s thoughts, but in a film, you have only silence. Sure, there’s always the trusty voiceover, but I personally think that unless the character is recalling a past statement, voiceovers are a crutch. And a voiceover weakens a scene when you compare it with silence.

Think of the last time you were faced with silence in response to something you said or did. Think of the dis-ease (yes, that’s where “disease” comes from) you experienced as you tried to figure out what the other party was thinking. In many of those situations, I bet that shouting would have been preferable to silence.

In an improv class I took—I am sorry that this is my version of “This one time, in band camp…”—we were doing a status exercise wherein one character would try to take status away from the other one, proving themselves superior through statement or action. While many student pairs would do their best to out-pompous, out-preen or out-bravado each other, I took a different tack. I went completely silent.

No matter what my partner said or did, I faced him stoically or indifferently, deigning to give him the merest glance on occasion while going about my activities. And the louder or larger he got, the less I minded or acknowledged him. The more he talked, the weaker he appeared.

Silence is powerful. And even if the silence is due to idiocy, it comes across as thoughtfulness.

Think of scenes in movies where a character has chosen to deal with a problem by thinking about it. With a good actor, you can see all the thoughts as they play out in his or her mind. The body, the face, the eyes tell you all you need to know about the emotional swells washing through the actor. A single word breaks that tension and weakens the moment. As a storyteller, why would you ever give that up?

Which brings me back to my original question: How do you write nothing?

Perhaps I am delving too far into the domains of the director and actor, but there has to be a way to ensure both those artists know what you, the writer, intend. But I’ll be damned if I know how.

So, I open the question to you, my fellow artists.

What do you do, what have you learned, what have you seen that tells you how to write nothing and yet convey a world of thought and feeling?

Please share your thoughts here as I can’t be the only one who wants to know.