Friday, April 20, 2018

How to manage your perfectionism as a writer.

When it comes to me being a writer, it's not exactly a secret that I tend to be pretty hard on myself. As a writer, I feel that I have to write good stuff all the time and that I'm not allowed to make mistakes in the process.

Especially when it comes to writing on behalf of others, I feel that I have a responsibility to get things right. I feel that since I'm not just representing myself, making mistakes is unacceptable and makes me a bad person.

So when it comes to me - or anyone else - being this kind of a 'perfectionist', it's obvious that even though it's not a bad thing to set high standards for yourself, it's not always a good thing either. It's not good to always demand too much from yourself.

The biggest problem with being a perfectionist is that even though writing good stuff requires that you try your best, there are days when things won't go your way. No matter how hard you'll try, on some days you won't be able to write good stuff at all.

During these bad days, if you're a perfectionist, you might get so stressed from possibly 'failing', that you might even think that you have failed as a human being. You might think that you're the worst person in the world and that you can't succeed in anything.

So when it comes to these situations when things don't go your way, is there anything that we could do so that we could perhaps avoid them? Is there a way to handle these moments when things just don't seem to work at all?

At least in my opinion, the best way to 'manage' yourself as a perfectionist - unlike what some might say - is actually not to lower your standards. You should not automatically think that you should become a writer that demands less from yourself.

Instead of lowering your standards, a more constructive way to manage your perfectionism would be to become more aware of yourself as a writer. You should become more aware of what your strengths and weakness are.

For example, when I start working on a project, it always helps if I have had previous experience working on my tasks. It helps if I'm routined enough with the processes and have a solid idea on how the writing process is going to work.

By that I mean that as long I'm aware of the mistakes that I'm going to make and how I can fix them, things are going to be okay. As long as I know how long the project is going to take on average and where the obstacles are going to be, I won't get too frustrated.

On the other hand, when it comes to projects that I'm not used to doing at all - like writing stuff using some other language (Finnish in my case), there's more than a good chance that I'm going to run into real problems with my expectations.

For example, when I wrote a thousand word documentation for our team's project last week, I felt really uneasy during the process. I didn't feel comfortable almost at any point during this supposedly 'easy' writing task.

The reason for this feeling was that even though I did have tons of experience in writing articles, I had written all my articles in English. I didn't have a writing routine at all when it comes to using my mother tongue.

So not surprisingly, when I tried to write in Finnish after like a ten year break, I kept running into obstacles all the time. I ran into obstacles, because I didn't know that I would have to adjust and that the two languages weren't completely interchangeable.

Especially when it comes to certain phrases and transitions, I felt completely lost with the project. I had such big problems that I even had to spend more than twice as much time on the project than I usually do when I write in English.

In that sense, when it comes to managing your perfectionism as a whole, it's pretty obvious that the biggest issue with the trait isn't necessarily perfectionism itself. It isn't necessarily a bad thing to keep setting high standards for yourself.

After all, in most cases, as long as you can predict  and control your projects, your perfectionism won't be a problem. As long as you know where the usual pitfalls are going to be and how you fix them, you'll be more than happy to keep pushing.

On the other hand, when it comes to cases where you don't have a realistic idea how much work is going to be required, you'll run into trouble. In these cases, the perfectionist gets overwhelmed from not being able to predict how well things are going to go.

In that sense, as a perfectionist person, I probably shouldn't lower my own 'standards' that much when it comes to writing. I probably shouldn't be thinking that as long as I'll try less, things are going to be okay and that I'll feel better.

After all, even though trying less would be the easy way out, it wouldn't likely be the right thing to do. It wouldn't be right for me to think that the best way would be to slack instead of rethinking my expectations and my abilities.

In that sense, I just wish that I had been less arrogant with my task last week. I wish that I had been less arrogant about myself, because had I been more aware of myself and my challenges, I would have had a much easier task getting the project finished.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

'Paddington 2' is a genuinely wonderful movie.

A couple of days ago me and my friend managed to watch a movie that we had wanted to watch for quite some time. We managed to watch an animated live-action film called 'Paddington 2', a movie about a friendly, talking bear that lives with humans.

The reason that we wanted to watch the film as much as we did was that we had really liked the first 'Paddington' movie. We knew that the first movie was good, so there was a good chance that the sequel would be pretty good too.

So having now seen the second film, it has to be said that our expectations about the movie were more than met. Even though the first 'Paddington' was a good movie, I think it's fairly safe to say that the sequel is even better.

One of the best things about this second film is that there's almost nothing mean-spirited about the movie or any of its characters. Even though not all the things that happen in it are uplifting, 'Paddington' manages to have a positive tone throughout the film.

In the movie, the plot is basically about our main character Paddington going to jail after getting framed for a book robbery. He is sentenced to jail after being framed by the villain of the movie, an old school actor Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant).

During his time in prison, our friendly and good natured bear tries to befriend his inmates. While our villain actor Buchanan is trying to locate a long lost treasure, Paddington does his best to get on the good side of the prisoners.

The biggest reason that the story of the film - that may be a bit hokey - works so well is that the movie doesn't take itself too seriously. Instead of being too serious or judgemental, the film manages to be lighthearted in a good way.

In practice, what this means is that in almost every scene, the movie manages to go against the expectations. It intentionally turns things around and surprises us, instead of going through the usual motions that most movies do.

For example, I just couldn't help but to love when Paddington wins over those prison inmates. I couldn't help but to love how his earnest and well intentioned behavior quickly disarms the inmates and the notorious Chef Knuckles (Brendan Gleeson).

In these scenes, the way 'Paddington' manages to get laughs from almost every moment is simply amazing. You can't help but to appreciate how those making the film were able to come up with so many good and funny ideas that work so well.

Still, the biggest surprise in the movie without a doubt has to do with Hugh Grant's character. The veteran actor as the scheming - yet utterly likable - villain Phoenix Buchanan is the single biggest reason that the film works so well.

After all, without his performance as the actor who's trying to find the hidden treasure, there's no way that the movie would be as charming as it is. Without his sense of humor and his willingness to 'ridicule' himself, the film wouldn't work that well.

In that sense, when you look at 'Paddington' as a whole, it's obvious that even though the story could have been a bit better and more organic in certain places, these minor flaws in storytelling don't really hurt the movie much.

After all, even though I had some minor issues with the film, 'Paddington' still manages to bring out all the good qualities that we expect from British movies. It manages to lift your spirits and makes you feel without being too calculating or too sentimental.

In the end, that is something that is extremely rare when it comes to movies that get released nowadays. It's super rare to see a movie that manages to entertain and makes you laugh without being judgemental or mean to anyone.

In that sense, when it comes to 'Paddington' as a film, I couldn't recommend it more. I couldn't recommend it more, because even though it's not a perfect movie, it's still the funniest film that I've seen in a really long time.

Friday, March 30, 2018

'Roseanne's' Season 10 premiere episode.

When it comes to sitcoms on television, it's not exactly a secret that there aren't that many quality shows on tv. Most sitcoms on television simply don't have what it takes to keep us entertained and interested in what's going on.

In reality, most television sitcoms don't work because they aren't based on anything meaningful. Most sitcoms on tv aren't based on situations and characters that we could relate to and that we could find worth following.

In that sense, when I heard that a classic show from the 80s and 90s, 'Roseanne', was coming back for an eight episode revival, I was pretty excited. I was excited that we could get a show on tv that was down to earth and based on reality.

After all, 'Roseanne' as a television sitcom was known for being a series that wasn't afraid of tackling social issues that actually mattered. It was a series that was willing to discuss issues that were important and that people would care about.

So having now seen the first episode of the show's revival, it can be said that 'Roseanne's' season premiere wasn't bad at all. The series clearly has a reason to exist in 2018, even though the premiere wasn't 'perfect' per se.

One of the best things about the new show is that it's still about the Conner family. It's about Dan, Roseanne and the rest of their family trying to get through with their everyday lives and trying to make their ends meet.

On the show, even though all the characters are back and have aged 20 years, things haven't really changed that much for them. They're still struggling economically and it's obvious that they haven't managed to become part of the American dream.

Among other things, the show deals with issues like Dan and Roseanne not being able to afford their medication, Darlene moving back home after losing her job and Becky being so broke that she has decided to become a surrogate mother.

Still, the reason that the show works so well is not just because the series handles these issues and themes. Even though it deals with issues that are relevant, that's not the only reason that Roseanne has been so successful over the years.

In reality, the reason that the series has worked so well is because of the chemistry between the cast members. The acting from talented actors like John Goodman, Laurie Metcalf and Sara Gilbert is so good that you can't help but to admire their authenticity.

After all, without their expertise and their ability to create something magical on the show, there's no chance that 'Roseanne' would have worked so well. There's no chance that without their chemistry, the series would have felt so meaningful.

In that sense, when we think about this season premiere and the upcoming season as a whole, we shouldn't be too worried about some of the problems in the first episode. We shouldn't be too worried about those minor flaws in the story too much.

After all, even though there were some things in the first episode (Trump / Hillary politics) that weren't that well thought out, they weren't that bad. These problems with the writing are not going to hurt the show too much in the upcoming episodes.

In the end, the show is still going to work, because even though there were some thematical flaws in the story, the premise and the characters are still relatable. These likable characters are the ones that are going to keep us watching,

In that sense, even though I was perhaps expecting more, I still can't wait to see the rest of the episodes that are going to air. I can't wait to see them, because even though the series isn't perfect, 'Roseanne' is still better than almost anything on tv at the moment.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Review: Pixar's animated film 'Coco'.

A couple of days ago, me and my friend managed to watch Pixar's animated film 'Coco'. We managed to watch this Academy Award winning film after having postponed watching the movie for quite some time.

After all, we decided to see the film because most of the time Pixar has managed to produce films that are well made. In most cases they have managed to deliver movies that put you on a good mood and that manage to keep you entertained.

So now that we've seen this movie about a Mexican kid "in the land of the dead", how good did the movie turn out to be? How good is the film compared to those other solid Pixar films like Toy Story and Finding Nemo? 

The first thing that needs to be said about 'Coco' is that like every film that Pixar has produced, the movie does look good. There's no denying that a huge amount of effort went into making sure that the film would look as good as possible.

By that I mean that all the characters in the movie look and feel super lively. Both the living and the 'dead' characters in the film look so good that you can only be in awe how well the graphics artists were able to create them.

Not only does the film look good, 'Coco' also sounds really good. It's apparent that all the voice actors in the movie do a good job and the film has a really solid soundtrack that you can't help but to enjoy listening.

Still, just because the movie looks and sounds good, that doesn't automatically mean that the movie is going to be great. Just because all those other aspects in the film work, that doesn't mean that the story is going to be awesome too.

Indeed, when it comes to the story, there are certain things in the film that don't work that well. Even though the story in 'Coco' is kinda okay, the script could have been a lot better than what writers were able to come up with.

Very likely the biggest problem with the story is that it drags too much in certain places. There are clearly moments in the film when the story comes to a standstill and the animation doesn't have a purpose or direction.

For example, when our main character is trying to locate his savior in 'the land of the dead', the movie simply lacks stakes. It feels as if our protagonist doesn't have any real obstacles that would make us interested in what's going on.

This lack of urgency for the protagonist - that might have been caused by a weakish inciting incident - feels so severe that I kept nodding off during the film's second act. I simply could not keep my eyes open during some those weak moments in the movie.

The second issue that I have with the story has to do with the characters and the structure not making sense. In certain scenes it's obvious that it was the story structure driving the characters and not the other way around.

For example, throughout the movie, I couldn't help but to think that 'Hector's' behavior was a bit too inconsistent. His character changed based on what was required in the story, regardless of whether it made sense or not.

This was also obvious in the scenes with our protagonist's savior character (great grandfather). In these scenes where the protagonist interacted with the 'supposed' great grandpa, the story made no sense and really felt muddled and convoluted.

After all, when our protagonist's savior turned out to be the villain - five minutes after heroically saving our protagonist from drowning, that was clearly bad storytelling from the writers. These scenes made no sense and were thematically all over the place.

Still, when it all is said and done, even though there were clearly problems with the film's screenplay, that doesn't mean that these flaws ruined the film. I'm not saying that these story problems were so severe that they outweighed the good things about it.

After all, when you evaluate the movie as a whole, I think it's obvious that 'Coco' still has a lot of redeeming qualities in it. These good qualities, like the film's overall positive message and the writers of the movie trying something new counts too.

In the end, even though the screenplay for the film should have been a lot better, the story is still not bad. The basic story in the film is not bad, even though there are certain problems with script and its characters that are fairly apparent.

In that sense, if you're a person that likes watching animations, 'Coco' is likely going to be a film that you'll enjoy watching. You'll likely enjoy watching it, because despite its flaws, the film still manages to entertain and it manages to put you on a good mood.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Taking another look at shows that I didn't enjoy.

When it comes to most television shows, in most cases it's fairly easy to say that the series in question isn't any good. In most cases you can tell almost right away that a show isn't any good and that you shouldn't waste your time watching it.

After all, most shows tend to be so bad that they have no redeeming qualities about them. They are so bad that you have to wonder what the writers and producers were thinking when they decided to come up with them in the first place.

Still, sometimes when you watch these shows, the truth is that you aren't able to 'get' them right away. In some cases - whether we're talking about comedy or drama - it might take a while before you start appreciating them and find them to be well made.

So knowing this, I decided to check back on some of those shows that I either didn't like or didn't find to be entertaining enough. I decided to check whether some of these television shows could actually be worth my time this time.

The first series that I decided to give a second chance is sci-fi series 'Star Trek: Discovery' that airs on CBS All Access. This was the show that I couldn't stomach at all when I watched its first two or three episodes last fall.

The reason that I didn't like the show was that it had nothing to do with the original Star Trek. Unlike the original shows that were about hope, benevolence and humanity, this relaunch was all about confrontation, darkness and bellicosity.

So after I managed to give this show another chance (S1E13), it has to be said that things hadn't really changed for the better. I didn't manage to find a single good thing about this series that would have made me appreciate it this time either.

As sad as it is, none of the characters were relatable or likable in the episode that I watched. Our main character Michael Burnham (a female character) was still a sociopathic warmonger who wasn't able to control her emotions at all.

In that sense, it's safe to say that I can stick to watching 'The Orville' instead and not worry about 'Star Trek: Discovery' possibly getting better. There's no reason for me to start watching a series that is a disappointment in almost every possible way. 

The second television series that I decided to give another look is NBC:s comedy series 'The Good Place'. This is a show that I also found to be extremely lacking when it comes to its premise, characters and overall execution.

After all, when I watched the series the first time, I found it to be almost unbelievably juvenile. It felt as if the show about 'a bad person in heaven' was written by preteens who had no clue about life and had nothing meaningful to say about anything.

So when I gave the show another chance and watched the first episode of the show's second season, things unfortunately hadn't gotten any better. 'The Good Place' was still as dumb, unfunny and pointless as it had been in season one.

As unfortunate as it is, not only was the series still irrelevant and awful, it had even retooled its concept. The producers had decided that unlike in season one, the characters were actually in hell this season, which reeks of desperation.

Overall, even though television critics say that the second season is awesome, in reality the producers of the series have no clue what they're doing. They don't know what they're doing, so there's no reason for me to continue watching this show.

Finally, the third and the last series that I decided to give a second chance is HBO's popular 'Game of Thrones'. This a series that I had trouble watching, because I found it to be too violent and because the narrative in it was too fragmented.

By that I mean that when I first watched it, I thought that there were too many characters and too many storylines on the show. I felt that there wasn't anything going on that would have made me care about what happened to these characters.

Still, once I decided to give the series another chance, it has to be said that I have kinda learned to enjoy 'Game of Thrones'. There are certainly redeeming features in it that have given me a reason to watch it every once in a while.

After all, the series does look good and the production values in it are really high. There's no denying that a lot of actual effort has gone into making sure that the show would look as good and as authentic as possible.

In the end, even though it's probably not as good as some say it is, it's not as bad as I had thought at first. It's certainly better than so many other shows on television that have no potential at all and that are completely awful.

Friday, March 9, 2018

The importance of trusting yourself as an artist.

When it comes to me being a writer, one of the most important things about the craft is that I trust myself. As a writer, I have to be confident and believe in myself when it comes to my abilities and my judgement as an artist.

Especially when it comes to my projects, no matter what happens during them, I have to stay calm and not freak out. I have to stay confident and believe that as long as I keep going, things are going to work out.

The reason that I'm writing about this is that during the last few weeks, I've been spending time on a film project. I've been working on a short film that has managed to take me a bit out of my usual comfort zone as a writer.

In a nutshell, me and my team have been working on short film that is going to be used as an advertisement by a non-profit organization. We have spent time working on a short film that deals with rehabilitation and helping people.

One of the reasons that this project has been so challenging is that on this task I wasn't only the writer of the project. I had to do other things than just to be the guy who comes up with the story and the structure for the script.

After all, on this project I had to be involved with almost every aspect of the filmmaking process. I had to be the co-writer, the co-director, the camera operator, the film editor and the person who makes decisions about the music.

Even though it's certainly true that I have had some experience with shooting, editing and putting videos together, making an actual movie was something new to me. This was something that challenged me and put me on a test as a storyteller.

Still, just because I had to be involved with so many aspects of the movie, that itself hasn't been the hardest part of the process. Me being somewhat inexperienced in producing stuff wasn't the most challenging thing about the project.

In reality, the most challenging part of the movie has had to do with us being on a tight schedule. During the filming, we were on a really tight schedule that didn't allow us much time to plan the film and to come up with a detailed screenplay. 

In practice, what this meant is that whenever we arrived on our shooting locations, we more often than not had to improvise based on the stuff that was available there. We had to rely on our creativity and write the needed 'action' on the spot.

Especially considering that our actor in the movie was only available for two days, we almost always had to be fast with everything. We had no choice except to be as fast as possible, write on the go and try not to screw things up.

So based on all these challenges with the project, one might think that we were bound to be in fairly big trouble with our film. It wouldn't come as surprise if we would have had problems getting things done with the movie.

Yet, perhaps surprisingly, the reality is that even though we did have some minor problems with the production, we managed get lucky most of the time. We managed to get creative and made the best out of the situations that we found ourselves in.

In that sense, now that we are in the post production phase of the movie and are soon ready to show the raw version to our test audience, things look pretty good here. It really looks like we have managed to put together something solid.

After all, even though we didn't get everything exactly the way we wanted, we still managed to get the basics right. We managed to pay attention to the basics and managed to make sure that our story structure worked from start to finish. 

In the end, getting the story to work is probably what is always going to count the most when it comes to making a film that has merit. Coming up a with a solid story structure is what is going to be the most important part in the process. 

After all, even though all those other aspects of filmmaking matter too (acting, directing, cinematography, editing, music etc.), nothing is going to count more than your story. Nothing is going to count more than a script that gives you confidence and direction.

In that sense, when it comes to my team, we can only be grateful that we managed to come up with a solid blueprint for our film. We can only be grateful that we came up with a premise that was strong enough and that we had confidence in what we we're going to do.

After all, had we not come up with a solid story, there's no chance that we would have succeeded with our project. Had we not made the right decisions before we started filming, there's no chance that we would have made a quality short film.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

The 2018 Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang.

Like millions of others, I have tried to watch the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang as much as possible. Ever since the games started more than two weeks ago, I've tried my best to follow almost every event that has been on.

So far during these fifteen days, I've managed to watch tons of stuff: events like curling, biathlon, cross-country skiing, slalom, half-pipe, nordic combined, ski jumping, speed skating, luge, freestyle and ice-hockey among other events.

Still, when it comes to my very favorite event at PyeonChang, there's one sport that I have preferred watching over the others. Of all the events that I have followed during these games, I have loved watching figure skating the most.

The reason that I have enjoyed watching figure skating so much is that figure skating is not just a sport - it's also an art form. It's an art form that manages to combine skating, spins, step sequences and jumps with music and choreography.

In figure skating, even though winning and competing is obviously important, it's not the only thing that counts. The main reason to watch - at least for many of us in the audience - is not that much about who wins or who places on the podium.

In reality, it's the artistic side of figure skating that draws us to the sport and makes it so popular. It's the jumps, the moves and the music combined with the performer's charisma and personality that matters the most.

Instead of us simply watching the athletes performing and winning or losing, in figure skating we get to forget the 'competition' and enjoy the performances. We get to listen to the music and enjoy their skating programs with our souls.

Compared to the rest of the sports, figure skating is such a fresh exception, because almost every other event is only about winning and being the best. They are only about being the best and getting to the podium to hear the national anthem.

After all, ice hockey for example is all about winning and your team scoring more goals than your opponent's team. It doesn't really have that much of a special 'meaning' or purpose as a game when you think about it.

The same can also be said about a physically demanding sport like cross-country skiing. There's not that much meaning or artistic merit in being faster than the rest of the athletes and reaching the finish line before everyone else.

Still, just because I'm being critical of these other events, I'm obviously not to say that there's anything wrong with watching these other sports. I'm not saying that you're not supposed to or not allowed to enjoy watching them at all.

After all, I myself have watched almost every event during these Olympic games. I have spent countless hours cheering for my countrymen while hoping that they would succeed and win medals in their respective events.

At the same time, it cannot be denied that a sport like figure skating manages to be a bit different. It manages to remind us that there's more to sports than just competing and being best based on points or numbers.

In that sense, as we're reaching the last days of the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, we should keep in mind that the Olympics are not supposed to be only about winning. They are not only about who's supposedly the best in the world.

After all, the real purpose of the Olympics is to bring people together from all over the world. These games are supposed to be about uniting us so that we would forget the differences that we supposedly have as human beings. 

In the end, the truth is that who eventually turns out to be the winner in any of these events isn't really that important. It's not that important who manages to win the gold medal in these more than hundred events that they have there.

After all, even though it does feel great to watch your fellow countryman win a gold medal or place on the podium, that's not all there is to it. There are other aspects too that are important and that matter in sports.

In that sense, we should be grateful that a wonderful sport like figure skating exists. We should be grateful, because it's a sport that shows that it's not all about winning and that as an athlete, you don't always have to win in order to be considered a winner.