Sunday, July 15, 2018

Know your strengths and weaknesses as a writer.

When it comes to being a good writer, it's really important it is that you know your abilities well as a writer. It's important that you have a good grasp of what you're capable of doing as a writer and that you know what your strengths are when it comes to the craft.

After all, the more you are aware of your capabilities, the easier it becomes to make right decisions. The more aware you are of your skills, the more likely it is that you'll get your projects done they way they should be.

The reason that I'm writing about this is that even though I think I have a relatively solid grasp of my abilities as a writer, this hasn't always been the case. There have been times when I have overestimated my skills and have failed with my tasks. 

For example, years ago, when I tried writing my first movie screenplay (in 2008), I did not get the project completed. I wasn't even close to coming up with a script that made sense and that had potential to become a movie.

The biggest reason for this was that when I tried writing the movie script, I didn't know the fundamentals of storytelling. I didn't know that I was still an amateur and only at the beginning of my journey as a screenwriter.

By that I mean is that when I started writing the movie, as a writer, I had only managed to complete my very first television spec scripts. I had just finished my 'Boston Legal' scripts, which gave me confidence that I could write movies too.

Naturally, even though I felt confident about myself, I was still clueless about the craft as a whole. Even though it took a lot of talent to write tv scripts, I had very little knowledge about the story structure or how to create my own material.

After all, when it comes to those drama specs for Boston Legal, I was writing for an existing television series. I didn't have to know anything about creating characters from scratch, coming up with overarching storylines or anything else.

So not surprisingly, when it came to this movie writing task, it was just a total failure. I spent months writing stuff that had no organic premise, no interesting characters or anything that would have given the story any direction or momentum.

As a whole, the whole thing was such a disaster, that it took almost ten years before I had the courage to try writing movies again. I didn't have the nerve to try again until I had learned more about the craft and felt that I knew enough to give it a go again.

In that sense, when it comes to the craft of storytelling and writing in general, it's so important that you're aware of your strengths and weaknesses as a writer. You should be aware of what you can do and what are the things that you don't know enough about.

After all, even though it's true that you don't need to know everything about the craft before you start writing, you should know at least the basics. Writing movie scripts is too much of a crapshoot if you don't know how the fundamentals work.

In the end, in my case, being so clueless about the fundamentals clearly hurt me as a writer. It was so unfortunate that I didn't know the basics of story structure and that there were so many things that I still needed to learn as a writer.

After all, had I known about the basics of story structure earlier (Blake Snyder's beat sheet for example), that would have helped me immensely as a writer. It would have made my learning curve so much easier than it turned out to be.

In that sense, I can only hope that those who think about writing movies manage to learn the basics first. I hope that they manage to pay attention to the fundamentals of story structure instead of getting too excited about their strengths and abilities as writers.

After all, if they manage to do those things, writing movies will become so much easier for them. It will become so much easier to come up with screenplays that are good enough and that have the potential to be produced for the big screen too.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Review: 'The Death of Stalin'.

Last week me and my friend managed to watch a film  that I thought would be worth watching. We managed to watch 'The Death of Stalin', a historical drama/comedy, that had gotten good reviews from the critics (96% fresh at Rotten Tomatoes).

After all, when a historical movie gets positive reviews, it's not a difficult decision to give the film a chance. There's a pretty good likelihood that you'll enjoy watching it and that you'll learn something new about history and how the world works.

So having now seen 'The Death of Stalin', it has to be said that I have somewhat mixed feelings about it. Even though I don't think that the movie was bad per se, there were some problems with it that shouldn't be overlooked.

When it comes to the flaws in the film, the biggest problem with the movie is that it's simply too long. The film doesn't manage to keep your attention from start to finish, and goes on for at least thirty minutes longer than it should.

By that I mean is that when we get past Stalin dying - the most interesting part of the movie, the film stops being funny. Instead of the film bringing out laughs and entertaining you, it starts to drag and takes itself too seriously.

The most obvious example of the movie getting too serious and running out of ideas is that when we get to the second hour of the film, it becomes too vulgar. There so much foul language in the movie that it becomes distracting to watch it.

This is especially true when we get to Stalin's funeral and the inevitable power struggle that ensues. In these scenes the characters become completely obsessed with spouting lines that are as obscene and as crass as possible - which does not work at all.

This use of foul language as a crutch wasn't actually that surprising, because the writer and the director of the movie - Armando Iannucci - has been known for using this cheap stunt. His show on HBO, 'Veep' is all about cursing and being obscene.

After all, on 'Veep', the lack of substance, interesting characters and plausible storylines on the show are replaced with vulgarity. The show uses foul language and four letter words to distract you and to make you forget that the series isn't about anything meaningful.

In that sense, when it comes to 'The Death of Stalin', it's unfortunate that the movie resorts to these kinds of cheap tactics. It's unfortunate that it does these things and doesn't pay enough attention to its story and its characters.

After all, when you consider that the premise of the film is pretty interesting, one would have thought that the producers of the movie would have taken their story more 'seriously'. They should have made sure that the script worked from start to finish.

In the end, even though 'The Death of Stalin' obviously isn't a bad movie, it was still pretty disappointing as a whole. It's clear that the film was lacking storywise and that it didn't always know what it was supposed to be about.

After all, considering that the film switched from comedy to drama in its second half, it was hard to care about what was going on after that point. This change in the movie's tone and the excessive amount of cursing in its second half didn't work at all.

In that sense, even though I recommend the film as a history lesson, I don't recommend it as a 'movie'. I don't recommend it as a movie, because even though the film has its moments, there are too many problems with its length, tone, characters and its overall story.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Predicting movie's quality based on its trailer.

When it comes to movie trailers and film previews, it's not a secret that most films have trailers that look pretty good. No matter how bad a film turns out to be, at least the trailer for it is likely going to be pretty solid.

After all, in order to create a solid movie trailer, you only need to find two to three minutes of decent, passable material from your film. In most cases it's not that difficult to find footage from your film that looks good enough.

Nevertheless, there are cases when the trailer just doesn't look that plausible or coherent. There are cases when you can't help but to think that the movie trailer looks lacking and that the story for it won't make much sense.

For example, when I saw the preview for the film 'The Early Man' some months ago, it wasn't difficult to predict that this wasn't going to be a good film. There were simply too many problems in the trailer that had to do with its story.

After all, when you have a movie about cavemen that culminates to them playing modern football, it just doesn't feel right. There's no way that the movie can be organic when it throws all kinds of stuff around that makes no sense at all.

What made the trailer especially disappointing is that previously the studio had come up with solid films like 'Shaun The Sheep' and 'Chicken Run'. All their earlier film productions had more or less been top notch and had delivered the goods.

Not surprisingly, even though critics did give 'The Early Man' fairly positive reviews for the movie, the audience score for it was much lower. Only 52% of the audience (compared to 82% of the critics) thought that the film was worth seeing.

My second example is the upcoming Robert Zemeckis film, 'Welcome to Marwen', starring Steve Carell. This movie is a psychological-biographical comedy-drama about an artist who gets assaulted by a group of violent neo-nazis.

The reason that I'm bringing up this film is because its trailer - that just got released a couple of days ago - wasn't good at all. It was really disappointing and I wasn't able to make any sense of its story when I watched it.

Especially considering that the film is a weird combination of live action stuff and animated parts, it was really hard to follow the preview. There was no clear narrative and it felt like the film had no clue what it was supposed to be about.

What made this trailer so disappointing is that Robert Zemeckis has been known for making solid films over the years. He's the guy who has directed classics like 'Back To The Future', 'Forrest Gump' and 'Contact' among other movies.

In this case though, it seems as if he's fallen in love with special effects and hasn't paid enough attention to the script. It seems as if there's way too many things going on in the trailer and that the parts in it don't fit together.

In the end, I obviously cannot say with certainty that 'Welcome to Marwen' is going to be a bad movie. I can't be absolutely certain that the film is going to be a mess and that it's not going to work when it gets released later this year.

At the same time, considering that the trailer so obviously lacks a coherent narrative, things don't look good here. Things don't look good and it's more than likely that the film is going to be a disappointment and won't be as good as it should be.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Are you going to watch The World Cup?

When it comes to this year's World Cup, even though I wasn't that excited about the tournament at first, I've started watching the games this time too. I have found time in my schedule to watch almost every game that has been played so far.

After all, we're talking about FIFA World Cup, the most widely viewed and followed sporting event in the world. Anyone who's even remotely interested in football is likely going to follow the tournament and watch these games.

So when it comes this year's World Cup, there are two things that people have been talking about before the tournament. Both these things about the tournament have been in the media and have been discussed almost to death.

The first topic, of course, has to do with the fact that the World Cup is being held in Russia. Some in the media have been saying that since Russia is run by Vladimir Putin, they shouldn't be allowed to host the tournament.

After all, ever since the country was sanctioned for their annexation of Crimea four years ago, this topic has been discussed. There have been talks that they shouldn't be allowed to host the most prestigious sporting event in the world.

In terms of sports though, it's safe to say that Russia deserves to host the tournament as much as any other country. Even though they have never won the World Cup, they have won Euro Cup (in 1960) and are known for their world class players (Lev Yashin for example).

Nevertheless, even though there has been a lot talk about this political side of the tournament, the other thing that has been talked about has to do with the game itself. It's about making sure that the matches are being judged as fairly as possible.

In this case, FIFA World Cup 2018 will be known for introducing the VAR system. This new system (video assistant referee) means that every important game moment will be reviewed in real time by the video team that will assist the referee on the pitch.

In reality, this is a great improvement, because over the years there have been so many horrible calls by the referees. There have so many horrendous calls by clueless - sometimes even corrupt - umpires that have ruined these games.

After all, when you have decisions that involve things like penalty kicks, red cards, offsides and whether the ball went past the goal line, it's not easy not to make mistakes. It's not easy to make correct split second decisions all the time.

In that sense, now that the tournament has been going on for some days, it's obvious that the new VAR system works. The new system has managed to correct already more than a dozen wrong decisions made by the referees.

After all, even though the VAR system hasn't and won't be able to eliminate all the bad calls in the game, it will eliminate most of the mistakes that the referees make. It makes it much more likely that the right team wins in the end.

In the end, that is what should be the most important thing when it comes to this 'beautiful game'. It should be about making sure that we get to concentrate on the game itself and not on the umpires screwing things up.

After all, even though there are those who say that bad referee calls are an integral part of the game, I don't agree with that. I don't think that we should tolerate awful decisions just because we've gotten used to those over the years.

On the contrary, those bad calls will only hurt the game. They only hurt the game and make us concentrate on all those bad things about the game instead of the good ones that are more important and that actually matter.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

How to manage your writing routines?

Over the last week or so, I've been  working on my latest writing project. I've been adapting my animated movie screenplay into a book, which has turned out to be a more demanding task than I had thought at first.

After all, even though I haven't spent that much time translating the script on a daily basis, it's still been exhausting to keep going. It takes an emotional toll to relive the story, especially considering that the translating process is so slow.

Nevertheless, when it comes to getting this project done, the most important part in the process has had to do with routines. It's absolutely crucial to write on a steady basis and that you write even when you don't feel like doing that.

So when it comes to me setting up my routine for the project, I managed to come up with a daily goal that was both realistic and not too demanding. I set myself a goal that I knew I could do without hurting myself in the process.

Since I wasn't in a hurry, I thought that perhaps thirty days or so would be a fairly realistic estimate for the project. I thought that I would be able to find myself enough time to handle three or so pages per day and that it wouldn't be too much.

What made this project so special is that unlike with my previous projects, this time I was willing to give myself some leeway. I thought that it would be enough if I'd only write during the weekdays and not during the weekends.

After all, since I had already written the original screenplay that included that characters and the storylines, I wouldn't have to stress that much about the adaptation. The 'hardest' part had already been done with the story.

Still, this was not an easy decision, because in every other project before this one, I had always written every day. I had never taken any days off from writing, since I was so afraid that I would stop writing and give up if I'd take a day off.

In that sense, when it comes to managing your projects, it's really that crucial that you know how important it is to have writing routines. It's crucial that you know how demanding and how much creativity is expected from you.

After all, if you're dealing with a project that requires a lot of creativity, you should be aware of how much it takes to get things done. You can't take anything for granted, which means that that you need to be prepared.

Especially if you're not used to writing a full length screenplay, you should write every single day. You should do everything in your power to make sure that you meet your daily quotas and reserve enough time for the process.

In the end, even though there's no guarantee that you'll manage to write a great screenplay, it would be unfortunate if the only reason that you didn't write that script was that you didn't have a writing routine and gave up because of that.

After all, it doesn't really require that much to be able to write every day. You just have to make sure that you're prepared every single time and that you know that you have enough time to get in the zone before you start writing.

In that sense, even though in my case I haven't really enjoyed working on the task, that is still not going to stop me from getting the job done. I'm not going to give up just because I don't feel like writing and because I feel like I'd rather do something else.

On the contrary, the reason that I'll get the project done is because I'll stick to my writing routine. I'll stick to my writing routine and make sure that no matter what happens, I'll keep writing and I won't stop before I've finished the project.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

I finally watched 'The Shape of Water'.

A couple of weeks ago me and my friend had the chance to watch Guillermo del Toro's film 'The Shape of Water'. After having postponed watching the movie for quite some time, we managed to find time to finally watch it.

The reason that we both wanted to watch the film was pretty obvious. Since the movie had won the Academy Award for best picture earlier this year, we thought that it would be a safe bet to watch it and give it a chance.

So having now seen the film, it has to be said that I have somewhat mixed feelings about it. Even though I obviously don't think that the movie is bad per se, there are some aspects about it that didn't work that well.

In any case, when it comes to the film, 'The Shape of Water', is a story about a relationship between a lonely mute cleaning lady and a mysterious sea creature. It's a fairy tale that takes place during the cold war in a high security laboratory in the U.S. 

When it comes to the story in the film, there's no denying that during its first half, the movie manages to be really entertaining and charming. It manages to keep you interested and you want to know more about the world the you're being introduced to.

After all, the first half of the movie is when I enjoyed watching all the things that happened in the movie. I found the stuff to be fascinating and it's obvious that a lot of work went into making sure that everything would look as 'authentic' as possible.

When it comes to the characters in the movie, this is the part when it's easy to feel for the main characters too. You can't help but to feel for the main protagonist lady who is trying to save the sea creature from being killed.

Not surprisingly, when the escape from the high security installment eventually happens, the movie is at its best. This is when it feels like you're watching a film that really knows what it's about and that it can't do anything wrong.

Unfortunately, it's during the second half of the movie when the story more or less runs out of steam. This is when the script goes on an autopilot and the writers are only able to come up with story beats that are predictable and lazy.

By that I mean that in the second half of the movie, there are too many moments where the characters make very little sense. In these scenes it's the plot of the movie that drives the characters instead of the characters driving the plot.

Especially when it comes to the scene where the doctor who helped our cleaning lady gives out crucial information to the villain, I just couldn't help but to be disappointed. This forced plot driven scene in my opinion made no sense at all.

In that sense, when I think about the film as a whole, it's really unfortunate that there are problems in the film's script. It's really disappointing that the story gets unimaginative and that the writers took the 'easy' way out.

After all, had the writers decided to get a bit more creative in their decisions, the movie would have been better. Had they taken some risks and had they cut some of the needless 'villain' scenes, the story would have been much more coherent.

In the end, I can't but help to be slightly underwhelmed by 'The Shape of Water'. I can't help but to think that the movie - despite being well received - is a bit underwhelming and that the writers should have done their jobs better.

After all, even though there are a lot of good things about the movie, as a whole, there are too many flaws in the story. These problems that have to do with the film's screenplay weigh the movie down a bit too much.

In that sense, I can't help but to wonder how the film managed to win the best picture award at the Oscars. I can't help but to wonder how it did that, because at least in my opinion, the movie just isn't that good and doesn't live up to its reputation.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

I'm adapting my screenplay into a book.

A couple of weeks ago I received an e-mail from one of the publishers that I had contacted earlier this year. I had inquired whether there was any chance that they could adapt my animated movie screenplay into a children's book.

After all, my script - at least in my opinion - was pretty well written and had universal appeal as a story. I thought that the story as a whole was good enough and that it deserved to be published in print form too.

So when it comes to the publisher's response, the representative of the company told me that I had some work to do. In their answer they told me that the screenplay would have to be written in Finnish, before they would read it.

Naturally, I thought that this policy that they had didn't make much sense. Why on earth would I have to translate a story from English to Finnish, considering that they all understood English and could evaluate the story based on that?

Besides, the screenplay that I wrote wouldn't be published in its current form anyway. In case they wanted to get the story adapted and published, the original screenplay would merely be used as a blueprint for the novel.

Not surprisingly, I didn't feel like spending time translating the script. Even though I certainly could have translated the story, I thought it would probably be better if I'd manage to come up with a better solution myself.

So when it comes to thinking about what to do with my script, it didn't take that long before I managed to come up with an idea. I thought that perhaps it could be me who could write the book adaptation of the screenplay.

The biggest reason for this is that since I had written the original 'film' version, I likely had the talent to write book version too. Since I had already done the hardest part of the project, I might as well do the rest of the things too.

After all, in the adaptation one would more or less only have to follow the script and write based on that. It wouldn't require the writer to  come up with any new themes, characters, storylines or anything else that mattered.

In that sense, now that I'm going to do the writing myself, I shouldn't be that worried about the process. I shouldn't be worried just because I lack experience in writing novels and just because I have to learn some basics about the craft.

After all, considering that screenwriting is universally considered to be harder than writing novels, things don't look that bad here. The fact that I've written scripts that are tight makes writing novels a lot easier when it comes to quality storytelling.

In the end, even though I'm not necessarily that excited about the upcoming project, writing a novel is a really good challenge for me. It's certainly going to challenge me and make me better as an all-around writer.

Especially considering that I don't have that many bigger projects going on at the moment, I finally have something to look forward to. I get to learn something new about writing and I'll also get out of my comfort zone.

In that sense, I can only hope that things will go well with this task. I can only hope that I'll be able to come up with a solid adaptation, because if I'm able to do that, there's a good chance that the book is going to be published and that it's going to be a hit.