Saturday, February 25, 2017

Having a short attention span can be a good thing.

Even though I'm a somewhat patient and a persistent person, I have to admit that there are times when I tend to get frustrated. Sometimes it's just really difficult to pay attention to things that aren't interesting or that don't make enough sense.

Whether we're talking about writing something, reading an article or a book,  listening to a podcast or watching an episode of a tv series, I tend to lose my focus fairly easily. If there's no reason to continue and to keep paying attention, I'll move on to something else.

The reason I'm writing about this is because even though everyone talks about the importance of being able to focus and about the ability to concentrate on things, sometimes having a short attention span can actually be a good thing.

For example, when it comes to writing, a very big part of it has to do with rewriting and trying to make your script better. This rewriting process is about having the ability to take a fresh new look at what you've managed to write - over and over again.

In essense, being good at rewriting is almost all about clearing your mind and about you getting a new pair of eyes. It's almost all about getting that new perspective and being able to look objectively at what you've written before.

Once you start rewriting and once you take that fresh look at your material, you should have the ability to see where you went wrong. You should be able to figure out what are the things that don't work and what you could do better.
The truth is that the faster you're able to reset your mind, the faster you'll also be able to make corrections and adjustments to your material. This way you'll be able to notice that you're not making sense and that you have to change things.

If you're not able to see the forest for the trees and if you're not able to get out of your bubble, things aren't going to work out. It's not good if you get too focused and don't notice that you took the wrong route and lost the plot hours ago.

Of course, when it comes to having a short attention span, I'm not saying that it's okay to not pay attention to things and that you don't have to be focused. I'm not saying that you don't have to put in the effort and that writing good stuff is easy.

On the contrary, all of us who care about writing quality material have to be willing to work hard and to be able to concentrate on our tasks. We all have to be willing to spend a lot of time writing before things are going to work.

At the same time, there are clearly times when you just wish that you had figured earlier that you were wrong. You just wish that you would have noticed earlier that you spent most of the day writing stuff that didn't make enough sense.

In these cases, it probably would have helped if you had gotten some fresh new perspective earlier. A shorter attention span and doing something else might have gotten you on the correct path earlier and would have made your task at least a little bit easier.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

You need to have a curious mind as a writer.

One of the most important aspects of being a writer is that you are as truthful as possible. No matter what you're writing about and what your views are, it always helps that your points and opinions are based on facts and reality.

Naturally, being able to be truthful is a lot more difficult than one might think at first. If you want to be able to figure out how things are, you need to have an open mind so that you could find out how the world works.

The reason I'm writing about this is because I don't think most of us are that interested in figuring out how things are. Most of us 'normal' human beings are a bit too willing to look for safe, easy answers and don't care enough about the truth.

For example, when it comes to things that matter, like politics, too many of us don't know what's good for us. We either don't read enough and get good information from quality sources, or we're victims of all kinds of propaganda.

This lack of knowledge and sophistication is a lot more understandable for those who are busy with their lives. It's easier to symphatize with people who are exhausted after a hard day's work and who just want to get relaxed.

After all, what's better than taking it easy after spending your day fixing other people's problems. It's easy to understand why you wouldn't be that interested in knowing what kind of awful things had happened to others that day.

However, when it comes to us writers, it's not okay to not pay attention to things that matter and that are important. It's not okay to think that it's someone else's responsibility to investigate and to figure out how things are.

For us writers, when something interesting and controversial happens, it's our responsibility to start digging. Whether we're talking about things like Trump's cabinet picks or stuff like pizzagate, it's our job to find out what the truth is.

After all, when it comes to writing, usually the only way that you can come up with anything meaningful is to be aware of reality. We can only go so far when it comes to coming up with our own stuff and when it comes to using our imagination.

In the end, if you're someone who wants to be a writer, it's super important that you don't take reality and truth for granted. You need to be curious about how the world works and be aware of what we as people are capable of doing, in good and bad.

As far as I'm concerned, if you're willing to work hard and devote yourself to following human behavior, there's a chance that you could come up with something good. If you have a real talent, there's a chance that you could make a difference.

On the other hand, if you aren't curious about reality, you shouldn't become a writer. You shouldn't become one, because at least in my opinion, there's already enough noise out there that  doesn't make sense and that makes us confused.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

'Snowden' is a genuinely important movie.

Even though I have watched a lot of movies lately,  I wasn't that enthusiastic about watching Oliver Stone's drama film 'Snowden'. I didn't feel that the movie would be able to entertain me and keep me that interested.

Even though the film had gotten a fresh rating at rottentomatoes (62%  positive), I thought that the critics had simply been kind to the movie. It was a bit hard to believe that the film would eventually be worth my time.

Nevertheless, after I finally managed to watch the film last week, it turned out that my expectations had been wrong. 'Snowden' not only is a really well made movie, but it's also a genuinely important film that is full of substance.

When it comes to the film, it's a dramatized version of recent real life events. It's about a fugitive Edward Snowden, who in 2013 disclosed to wikileaks and British newspaper Guardian details about the illegal spying activities that the U.S government was involved in.

The movie begins when we see our idealist main character at a boot camp. Our protagonist, a high school drop-out is trying to become part of United States marine corps, where he could fulfill his duties and responsibilites as a U.S citizen.

When it turns out that he suffers from multiple stress fractures and is physically unfit for service, he has to try something else. Snowden tries to recruit himself to the services of U.S intelligence, where he could use his amateur computer programming skills.

At the admittance tests, it turns out that he manages to pass the programming test faster than anyone else - and gets hired despite lacking formal education. He quickly rises up in the ranks and becomes a system administrator for the CIA.

While working for the 'company', he starts to notice that not everything that occurs seems to be legal or justified. He witnesses cases where it's clear that laws are being broken when it comes to our privacy and our constitutional rights.

Later, when he resigns and starts working for the NSA and its contractors, things don't seem to be any better. He becomes increasingly bothered by the arbitrary drone strikes, the invasion of people's privacy, and the framing of innocent people. 

Eventually, he decides that enough is enough and that something has to be done. He decides that it's his responsibility to become a 'whistleblower', who is willing to risk his own life in order to serve and inform the public.

So when it comes to this film as a whole, in my opinion 'Snowden' does a really good job at keeping us in the audience entertained. At least in my case, I didn't have any problems in following the movie during its two hour plus length.

Very likely the biggest reason that the film works so well is because of its main protagonist Edward Snowden. The film and its expertly written screenplay manages to pay attention to this interesting and courageous character.

The screenplay works because of its structure, which allows the scenes to go back and forth in time between Snowden's career. This storytelling device manages to add to the film, especially when it comes to the meeting with the reporters in Hong Kong.

When it comes to the acting in the film, I was impressed with Joseph Gordon Levitt as Snowden. He not only looks the part and sounds like his real life counterpart, but he also manages to bring understated dignity to his character.

I was also impressed with the supporting characters. Shailene Woodley as Snowden's girlfriend, Rhys Ifans as the high ranking official, Zachary Quinto as Glenn Greenwald and Nicolas Cage as a disillusioned NSA employee were all super solid.

I think it also has to be mentioned that unlike in some other films directed by Oliver Stone, 'Snowden' feels balanced and doesn't try to be too gimmicky or too flashy. It's one of the most low key approaches that the veteran writer-director has managed to take.

As a whole, even though the film looks good and is stylistically shot, there's no sign of JFK's quick cuts or experimentation with different camera lenses. The film has almost a relaxed feel even though it's categorized as a suspense movie.

All in all, when it comes to judging 'Snowden' as a film, I have to admit that I was more than surprised by its quality. Even though I had my doubts about watching it at first, it turned out that I was wrong about how entertaining the movie would be.

As far as I'm concerned, 'Snowden' is a surprisingly well written, well acted and a well directed movie. It's a film that not only manages to thoroughly entertain us, but it also makes us think and inspires us to become better as human beings.

So if you want to see a film about a modern day hero, I couldn't recommend Oliver Stone's 'Snowden' more. It's easily one of the most important films in recent years and it's a film that we all should see at some point.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Less is usually more when it comes to writing.

One of the things that really bothers me as a writer is watching episodes of tv shows that don't make enough sense. Watching these episodes might make you think that you didn't pay enough attention and that there's something wrong with you.

In most cases though, it's not your fault that you didn't 'understand' what happened on your tv screen. Most of the time the blame is on the writers, who for some reason weren't able to deliver coherent and entertaining scripts.

To give you an example, let's look at an episode of Modern Family that aired a couple of weeks ago. This episode, 'Ringmaster Keifth' (S8e10), managed to make very little sense, even though it was packed full of content.

One of the biggest problems with the episode was that it didn't know what it was supposed to be about. The episode had so many things going on and went into so many different directions that it made my head hurt.

The episode basically had three different premises in it:  Phil and Claire were at an amusement park waiting to get on a scary ride, Jay & Gloria were celebrating the new year's day in their backyard, and  Cam & Mitchell were about to roast a full-sized pig. 

These premises by themselves weren't that bad and could have lead to a decent Modern Family episode. Had the writers used their imagination and expanded from these premises organically, we could have seen something entertaining.

Instead, it didn't take more than a couple of minutes before everything fell apart and all the story openings were ditched. Each and every one of these couples got an additional storyline that made it impossible to pay attention to what was going on.

For example, Phil and Claire's storyline about being at the amusement park switched to them coming back to their home. They arrived at their home, where they met Phil's dad with his new girlfriend, who was revealed to be Phil's first crush.

The story thread about Jay and Gloria spending time with their mischievous bulldog switched quickly to them talking about Gloria's past in their attic. This 'new' stuff came from nowhere and I couldn't understand it at all.

Still, by far the worst storyline was the one with Cam and Mitchell preparing that pig. This storyline very quickly switched to them bizarrely ordering another already roasted pig through a phone service - ran by Cam's former boyfriend (Kelsey Grammer).

It made absolutely no sense that - only five minutes in - they would fail at roasting the pig in the ground. Even if they did screw up with the fire, they still had six more hours to get it done - and the pointless melodrama with Frasier could have been avoided.

Needless to say, after the episode ended, all I could think was that the writers had completely dropped the ball when it came to the script. None of the storylines made sense and I don't think I managed to smile even once during the episode.

In the end, I guess what we should learn from the whole thing is that you aren't supposed to mess with your storylines too much. It's not okay to think that just because your original storylines and premise weren't strong enough, you can forget that they even existed.

On the contrary, when it comes to writing, you should always follow your premise and keep things as simple as possible with your storylines. You should make sure that your characters and your situations are going to be as plausible as possible.

If you're not willing to do this, there's almost no chance that your script as a whole is going to work. There's no way that you're going to write a good script based on ideas that aren't coherent and that go in every possible direction.

All in all, in the case of Modern Family's episode S8e10, the writers simply forgot the basics when it came to writing quality stuff. Their script made no sense, the story was impossible to follow and watching the episode made most of us in the audience unhappy.