Thursday, October 22, 2015

Dance scenes that make tv shows & movies better.

Even though I'm a massive fan of figure skating, I'm not necessarily someone who likes to watch people dance in general. In most cases I don't think that dancing alone is visually that appealing, exciting or entertaining.

I mean, I get pretty easily bored if I try to watch modern dance or ballet. Most of the time I don't like musicals that much either and I have problems watching reality dancing programs where people try to show off their moves.

At the same time, I have nothing against dancing as long as it makes sense and there's a reason for it. If it happens when there's something else to it too, I'm usually fine with it. Then it can be something wonderful.

In my opinion, pretty much always the best dancing scenes are the ones that you don't see coming. You don't except to see them, and yet in hindsight they make a lot of sense. Scenes like these are rare and very difficult to pull off well.

In any case, here are some of my favorite dancing scenes from television and movies. At least in my opinion these scenes are fantastic. They fit in so well that you can't help but to wonder how the people in charge managed to come up with them.

1. It's pretty obvious that the dance scenes were one of the best things about David E. Kelley's 'Ally Mcbeal'. No wonder that so many people fell in the love with this show that was full of soul, substance and entertainment. 

2. John Hughes' 'Breakfast Club' is widely considered to be the best teen movie of all time. The film manages to be at the same time funny, dramatic and heart-breaking. It also has a wonderful dance scene that never seems to get old.

3. 'Ferris Bueller's Day Off' (also by John Hughes) is a film that manages to entertain us and is still relevant almost after thirty years. Its dance scene is awesome, makes us happy and fits in perfectly with the rest of the movie.

4. Another classic from the first 'Naked Gun' film. Arguably the best scene in the movie, made even better by 'Leslie Nielsen's' hilarious dance moves. It's too bad that they don't make films like these anymore.

5. Hugh Grant's dance scene from 'Love Actually'. The prime minister dancing to a classic song and not losing his cool. An absolutely hilarious scene from an already classic movie. What could be better than this?

Friday, October 16, 2015

Learning from a bad episode of a quality show.

In my opinion, there's at least one good thing about seeing a bad episode of your favorite series. As a writer, you should figure out what went wrong and learn from the mistakes that the writers of the show made.

In this particular case we're talking about Modern Family's episode 7x04 "She Crazy" that unfortunately disappointed me. I tried to list some of the mistakes and things that are important when you're writing a script.

1) Try to come up with storylines that have substance.

In my opinion, pretty much none of the storylines in this episode had anything to say about anything. They weren't well thought out and didn't make sense. All of them were half-baked at best and gave me a feeling that the writers didn't care about what they were doing.

Probably the worst was the storyline with Cameron and the frat boys. There was no point to anything that happened. For some reason the forty-year-old Cam decided to steal a pet goat in order to appear cool. Where did that idea come from? 

2) Have a clear sense of your episode's time frame. 

One of the most important things to consider when you start writing your spec is to think about when those storylines actually happen. Does the episode happen during the course of a day or even during an afternoon?

In 'She Crazy', I don't think there was a clear idea about when it happened. In the middle of the episode it felt like the whole thing just jumped forward in time. There was no clear sense of time or place and it bothered me quite a bit

3) Don't let your characters overreact too much.

Just about everyone who saw the episode had problems with Gloria's storyline. It was about Gloria meeting her Telenovela idol who for some reason happened to be in town. Understandably, she wanted to meet her.

There's nothing wrong with that, except that when she did get the chance to meet the star, all Gloria was able to do was to appear like a complete idiot. It was not believable in the slightest and it made me feel pretty uncomfortable.

4) If a joke or a situation doesn't work, don't keep pushing it.

It's not the biggest crime to keep jokes in your script that we may have seen somewhere else before. You can't always come up with original stuff that completely makes sense. Every joke and scene doesn't have to be perfect.

At the same time, the 'misunderstanding' between Luke and Mitchell really didn't feel original or organic. What's worse, they kept repeating that exact same 'joke' in the subsequent scenes too, which made the whole thing look embarrassing.

5) Having too many scenes is not a good thing.

There are usually big problems with the script if there are multiple short scenes just for the sake of it. In almost every case they aren't needed because they don't have any meaning behind them - because they are too short.

Every 'Cam-with-new-guests' scene felt unnecessary and made me think that the writers were clueless. Just because it looked flashy doesn't mean that it made sense. In most cases you should stay away from scenes like these.

6) Don't build anything that isn't needed (sets etc.).

Finally, I have never been someone who likes to build stuff in my scripts. I try not to imagine things that aren't really needed.  In most cases, everything that is needed can be acquired easily and won't cost much, if anything at all.

Therefore, I honestly cannot understand why they built Phil's 'duck town'. Who would build that kind of a miniature set? It was just a waste of time and money and didn't make the end product any better.
Never, ever try to do that as a spec writer.

Friday, October 9, 2015

How to deal with bad writing days?

Last week I thought I would have one of the worst writing days of my life. To me it felt like everything was falling apart and that I had no clue what I was doing. Pretty much nothing that I wrote made sense anymore and I felt that I was going crazy.

At that moment I didn't know what to do. I wasn't really used to having bad writing days. Usually I'm somewhat confident that I can rewrite and fix things relatively easily. This experience was something that I felt was pretty new to me.

I didn't really feel like continuing writing, because I thought things would only get worse.  If I'd continue doing what I was doing, I was afraid I would hit the rock bottom. That could only lead to bad things happening to me.
So I decided to do something else so that I could relax a bit.  I went out to get some fresh air because I had to get away from what I was trying to do. Even if the break would only last for like ten or fifteen minutes, it might help.

Fortunately that little break helped to clear my thoughts a bit and made me feel less anxious about what I was supposed to do. I didn't feel as overwhelmed about my task -  a task that wasn't really that complicated. I managed to get back to work again.

I thought about why the stuff that I wrote didn't work. I came to a realization that just because what I wrote had initially looked good, it didn't mean that it made sense in reality. It mostly made sense in my imagination.
I was willing to reconsider my thoughts and I was willing to adjust. No matter what it would take, I would make my stuff work again. Nothing would be off limits this time. After all, I wasn't married to my initial thoughts anymore.

I would take out things that didn't work. I would be willing to kill all my darlings that weren't as good as I thought they were. I'd also be willing to just write and I wouldn't set the bar too high for myself this time.  

So I tried again - and about two or three hours later I had managed to almost finish my task. I had fixed most of the problems that had made me feel desperate and hopeless just a few hours ago. What I had written made a lot more sense now.

It wasn't exactly the best thing that I had written, but the end result was probaly still good enough. I had managed to overcome my obstacles - and luckily enough, didn't have to suffer from having a really, really bad writing day.

Friday, October 2, 2015

I'm not someone who likes violent movies.

It's not a secret that I have a problem with movies that are violent for the sake of being violent.  Over the years I have had no desire to watch movies that I have found - based on the trailers - to be too graphic for my tastes. 

I don't think I would be able to stomach watching these movies from start to finish. Watching characters getting butchered for the sake of entertainment makes me sad and depressed. I don't understand why anyone would produce films like these.

So one might wonder why I decided to watch a movie called 'Kingsman'. After all, this film is not only super violent but also seems to be really unapologetic about it. Why would I voluntarily watch a movie like this then?

To be honest, I watched the film because I had no idea what I was about to see. All I knew was that it had Colin Firth in it, so I think I had a decent reason to watch it. He's awesome in just about everything that he's been in, so why not, I asked myself.

Besides, it wasn't obvious based on the trailers how violent the movie would be. I didn't find anything that  would have warned me about the level of violence in the film. The trailer for 'Kingsman' looked pretty good actually.

Yet, that's not how it went with the movie. Pretty much the first thing that happened in the film was that one of the characters got cut in half. This was just a massive turn-off that made me want to quit watching it. I did not see that coming at all.

It pretty much instantly made me feel bad inside. It reminded me about why I have a hard time watching movies that have purposeless violence in them.  It was just too much of an overkill and ruined the experience for me.

As a supposedly talented screenwriter, I don't think showing excessive violence is how you get the audience invested in the movie. It's not how you make us care about the characters, the story or about anything else concerning the film. It doesn't work that way.

I mean, even though there were some redeeming qualities with the movie, I couldn't help but to judge the film mostly based on the first five minutes. I had had enough and nothing could save the film, not even Colin Firth nor the great Michael Caine.

At least in my opinion, there are very few movies where the violence actually works in favor of the film. In the case of 'Kingsman', the excessive violence made the movie almost too difficult to sit through. It did not make the film any better.