Monday, 25 August 2008

Synecdoche, New York

By Charlie Kaufman.

It's the first Kaufman screenplay I've read and I'm in complete awe and respect of the man. I was already aware of his reputation and unique way of story telling so I knew what I had let myself in for. But I was pleasently surprised and pleasently not confused. The verdict is: 'Wow.' I really loved this and wish I could go back and read it again for the first time.

It's an epic at 157 pages long and spans at least tweny years in the life of Caden Cotard as he attempts to put together his next play (which calls for a large set of New York City) and his relationships with a number of women.

The script went by in what seemed like two seconds and I loved both of them. As a whole it reminded me of the play 'Death of a Salesman' and I've found myself adopting the same fondness for it. Caden, the main character is the embodiment of Willie Lowman and his quest for self-fullfilment and happiness. The story offers a sad and moving view on aging and the desperate quest for love and finding a home for oneself. We move through life at such a pace making brief connections with people and by the time you realise what or who you want; your whole life has passed you by.

The screenplay is incredible in every way and portrays realistic characters who jump off the page and come to life. The story carries a great blend of black humour and drama and one that carries tragic undertones. It was a truly unique experience and really inspiring. Its made a big impact on me and I'm sure like 'Death of a Salesman' it will follow me around for the rest of my life.

Charlie Kaufman is also directing the film, which will be his first. So I'm confident that the film will do justice to the version in my head.

I just can't wait to see it.

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Lars And The Real Girl

By Nancy Oliver.

Every time I read a professional screenplay more than often I'm amazed and naturally inspired. But in the case of Lars And The Real Girl, the word is: 'Stunned.'

I've never read a more tragic, moving, funny and original screenplay in my life, and I can't imagine one ever coming close.

I don't think I could distil its essence or summarise its greatness in anyway, so I won't try to. But what I love about it, is - its simplicity and subtlety.

It's such a welcome to have a screenplay that when it begins, doesn't reply on masses of dialogue, description or action, and doesn't try to go out of its way to hit you in the face and hook you in with natural and obvious 'set ups' of characters and events.

The genius of the opening of Lars is in its subtlety and intrigue. Mystery may be more appropriate. It kept you wanting to know more about the main character and his situation, and ultimately, what the story is all about. It was nice that it isn't heavy on dialogue either (or action for that matter) and is the better for it. The characters were vivid and believable and you really felt like you were in the story with them. It's hard to explain its greatness, but moving on...

The story is potentially kind of strange but like the characters in the story they play along with the situation, ultimately to help Lars and in return we as the reader also take on that responsibility by reading on.

There are good people out there...

...and we're reminded of that. It's really nice to see and on however we viewed the story, we are potentially, a good person and we're reminded of that too.

I don't know anything about the author, Nancy Oliver at the moment, or if this is her first screenplay or not. At a guess i'd say it is. But only because the screenplay appears to have been written on a typewriter (or some free script-ware) and strays a little from the conventional professional screenplay format. But somehow it works to its advantage and adds to its charm, which I think is remarkable.

The opening section is one of the most amazing I've read and partly because of the moment the author chose to enter on in the story. We weren't given the 'usual' and 'obvious' characters that were simply set up as their function in the story and a major 'event' or 'indication' to the story. It felt like we were mid-way into something and therefore were a little out of sync. This made it all the more realistic and intriging because you want to catch up and know what's going on. But once you get the smallest indication or info on the situation and Lars, you just know that 'this is it.' There's no putting this thing down and it's going to be unlike a journey you've ever had. And by the end, you won't be the same person as when you first picked up the screenplay.

That's how it felt to me, anyway. And you can't ask for a better experience than that.

A few comments on format: (And note: I'm not mocking it.)

In some instances, the rule 'show don't tell' - was broken quite a few times. But it actually read better and I can't imagine the screenplay without them now. The experience just wouldn't be the same.

I won't ruin any of the story, but some of my favoures of format simplicity and potential errors, are: in the opening when establishing a house and a garage. The house or garage wasn't described at all and the word 'Establishing' was in place of the description, on both consecutive occasions. At first I thought, 'What? Can you do that?' I guess it wasn't a specific type of house or anything. Just what you saw.

Not knowing Lars' age first of when he's introduced was an unconventional moment and for me, I became a little frustrated because I wanted to be able to visualise him. I had a rough idea of his age and it soon became apparent. But while I was wondering and partly frustrated at not knowing his age- I was still reading on and was even more intrigued. Then when I got it I was thankful, which was a nice device, if intended.

Another format favourite is later on with another slug line of a house later and in the description one word sat in front of a line of white space: 'Rain.'

But I've got nothing bad to say about this screenplay and I'm in complete awe and admiration for its writer. I can't wait to read the follow-up and hope that it's as every bit as different and incredible as Lars And The Real Girl.

But first things first: I have to see the film!

Friday, 1 August 2008

Life After Requiem.

Its been a few weeks now since I sent Requiem off to the Emmy script competition... and I did accidentally but completely compulsively read my script back... and I found a few typos, a word missing from the dialogue, and an extra word in an action line. Yeah rather annoying as I was really pleased with it and syked up about sending it in. Plus i put the date on the front cover, which i recently found out you're not supposed to do.

So, ok.

I also know that Requiem may not be completely what they're looking for. But like it was for the assignment, it was a complete gamble and looking back, with some shocking errors in that version, I still received a very good grade. So I'm not taking the competition to to heart. Not anymore.

But overall, it just makes me want to do better and be as close to perfect next time. So I'm not bothered about it all now, not even dreaming on the off chance they'll overlook the mistakes. But the most important thing is that i've got my script to the best point possible at the moment, and so the future is with the script and not the competition.

Although that's not completely true... the statement is right but not together. The script is the future but the competition with a different script, is also the future.

As I'm already thinking to next year's entry and writing a script that's more catered to their criteria and centred around what they're looking for and what I think would impress them. And I didn't have to look far, as its a script I already have planned out.

Its a story I came up with after ditching Requiem last August. I worked on a new one hour drama for a month and managed to write a scene breakdown. It actually topped Requiem in terms of character drama and tragic circumstance. The Requiem at the time that is - but even now it still has the potential to rocket past it. But the main thing is that it's more commercial and I'm sure what the Emmy panel are looking for and will be impressed by. But the story also goes beyond that and hopefully will deliver more than expected. I think it may just be the perfect formula, it may be the wrong way to think about it but its certainly a great contender for next year.

So other than my university assignments and developing two awesome tv shows, that will be the main script i'll be working on. It doesn't actually give me much time but i'm going to give it some time this summer and see how far I get with it. There's also about a month or so before I finish university next year and the competition deadline. So that time may prove very useful.

'You have to believe that life is more than the sum of its parts kiddo.'

-The Untited States Of Leland