Archive: Nov 2006

The other arts

Over the past week, I’ve watched just a couple of movies, but I have been steeping myself in other art related activities in New York City.

As someone who comes to film in my thirties, I am a huge believer that to be a good filmmaker you not only need life experiences, but you also need exposure to other forms of art. There is so much to see and so much to learn and watching opera or going to a museum will definitely make you a better filmmaker.

So, that’s what I’ve been doing. Last week was Rigoletto at The Met and this week was the amazing auction at Christies.


Three One-Minute Reviews

One minute review: Royal Tenenbaums

Directed by Wes Anderson, I LOVED this movie. I’d heard mixed reviews, but this film really got to me. It is a mix of happy and sad, touching and quirky. It does an amazing job of using humor and sarcasm to lighten the mood about life’s difficulties and failings. This messed up family of over-achievers deals with love, death, marriage, breakups, addictions and recoveries in this film that will stay with you for at least a little while. I keep thinking back to it and every time I do, I smile. The acting was phenomenal across the board – Angelica Huston, Gene Hackman, Ben Stiller, Gwenyth Paltrow, Owen Wilson, Luke Wilson – all amazing. If you haven’t watched it, do!

One minute review: The Queen

I was really keen to watch The Queen, directed by Stephen Frears because I’d heard such great things about Helen Mirren. And after watching it, I have to agree – she is phenomenal. I felt I was watching the actual Queen (MI-6 should get in touch with her. She could be a great double). Michael Sheen who played Tony Blair and James Cromwell who plays Prince Phillip were also good, but the rest of the cast was average. It is the view from the inside of a week we are all familiar with – a very interesting look at how a monarch learns about how the world has changed, re-acquaints herself with a new generation and the new expectations of her subjects, and emerges as strong as ever. Worth watching for Helen Mirren.

One minute review: Backwaters

Backwaters, by Jagmohan Mundhra, closed the IAAC film festival. It was the worst movie I have ever seen. The entire movie was dubbed poorly (why not use sync-sound??), the acting was, at best, average, the screenplay was TERRIBLE and the lines were the worst I’d seen in a long time. If the director thought some T&A action would save the film, puh-leeze think again. Most people were pissed at having wasted their time. IAAC embarrassed themselves by closing with this film and it didn’t do justice to the better films in the festival. As someone sitting next to me said “A film student would have been embarrassed to have made this”.

Different sites for different types of film? Maybe, maybe not.

I discovered UbuWeb from the Self-Reliant Filmmaking blog. The author’s wish that You Tube was more UbuWeb got me thinking.

UbuWeb is a place where you can watch and learn the techniques of filmmakers who were very innovative in their time. YouTube is a place where you can be entertained, you watch the latest viral gimmick, and discover what innovative, aspiring filmmakers of today are doing.

UbuWeb bills itself as an educational resource and the content is well organized and presented. On the other hand, YouTube can be overwhelming and it can be hard to find stuff you like. But there is always a level of craziness about community generated content (look at eBay for example) and that craziness is what allows the 13 year old with a dream to have his works up there for the world to see.

But with all the craziness (and probably because of it), YouTube also serves as a *great* educational resource. A quick search of YouTube tells me that you can also find wonderfully educational material there — Bunuel, Cassavetes etc. AND you can find this next to films that pay homage to the greats with their own shorts. How cool is that?

So, if anything, little known UbuWeb should use YouTube to get the word out on it’s content. Throw in a few cool videos and draw users to UbuWeb. And, as YouTube grows, it will need to find a way to let the people who are “less inclined to wade through stuff to find what they are looking for” find things more easily. eBay faced similar challenges in its growth – I think all community-content sites do. If YouTube wants to keep all the niche content segments on the site, it could so easily create a “great filmmakers” channel. They could even outsource that to an UbuWeb or another non-profit that exists for that reason.

I am convinced that there will be more filmmakers from the YouTube generation that ever before. Because for the first time in history, you can get relatively inexpensive high-quality equipment and there is a method of distribution that doesn’t involve a small set of gatekeepers (i.e. studios). And that is a very good thing because we will see levels of experimentation we’ve never seen before. And if by some chance, YouTube starts to play gatekeeper, there will be lots of other sites that will eagerly accept the content and the traffic.

How I get myself to write

I’ve started writing again. I love to write, but find it almost impossible to get started. Once I get started, I actually write pretty quickly – at least the first draft stage.

I’ve resorted to little tricks to help myself be productive – faking deadlines, giving myself pep talks, and most importantly feeling like I am part of a group that is in this together.

  • Faking deadlines. I am part of a cool screenwriting workshop that meets once a week. I think it is cool because it is a group of highly non-competitive and very helpful people who spend the 3 hours dedicated to the person who’s work is being read. There are no distractions and everyone provides really great input. Each semester, we sign up for a date on which to bring in our work. I find when the deadline nears, I write like crazy (usually in the two days before) and manage to write 12 to 20 new pages for my script. But the rest of the semester, I do nothing. That’s terrible!!! God, really terrible! I forgave myself while I was till working full-time, but now I have no excuse.
    So, I figured, why not fake the deadlines for myself. I tell myself that I have to email out a draft to someone on X date and I stick to it. I often do end up emailing out the draft to a close confidant to make it more real.
  • Pep Talks. The pep talks take two themes. I either try positive motivation like “Think about the long corporate hours you put in. This is nothing. Just a couple of hours, come on” and if that doesn’t work, then I shame myself with stuff like “This is pathetic. You quit your job for this? You’re going nowhere fast”. The risk with the latter is that I believe it and then I get depressed which kills the ability to write completely!
  • Working with others. The other day, a screenwriter I sometimes read, David Anaxagoras, posted a thread about using the time change to start writing. Basically using that extra hour to write. That was a great idea. I also chatted with a journalist friend in India who’s been procrastinating on her book for a while. And we decided to write for an hour each morning and we fill each other in on whether we did it and how it went. This method works great for me. I remember a few years ago, I wanted to take a 6am spinning class in San Francisco. A colleague of mine from work signed up with me. He lived a little further away and so he drove to my place, picked me up and then we headed to an hour of sheer torture. There were so many mornings that I wanted to just snuggle in and go back to sleep, but the fact that he’d be in his car downstairs forced me out of bed. So, the fact that I committed to my friend that I would write, makes me hold up my end of the bargain.

These are the little tricks I use to get myself to write. What do the other writers out there do?