Saturday, August 30, 2008
Thursday, August 21, 2008
When my assistant was in Denver, he visited a Mexican restaurant/attraction called Casa Bonita. He went solely because it was featured prominently in an episode of the television show South Park, where Cartman tries to worm his way into a birthday celebration.
When I saw my assistant’s short film (below) it made me think about how much I admire Trey Parker, the creator of South Park, because he embodies a basic philosophy that I refer to constantly in my class and books, which is fly the plane while you’re building it or, in my lingo: “Don’t Get It Right – Get It Written.”
Unlike other animated programs, like The Simpsons or Family Guy, which are produced 6 to 8 months in advance, the episodes of South Park are regularly created only a few days before they air.
Trey is a man who doesn’t take “no” for an answer. His first live feature, which was about cannibalism in America (certainly a hard sell), was shot on a wing and a prayer. They shot the trailer and used that to raise the money. What made this even more amazing: It was a musical!
My assistant was inspired to make a film about Casa Bonita when he saw the same divers that were featured in the episode of South Park. But instead of worrying about help with the production, he simply pulled out the company flip camera, shot it and posted it online. As a result, we now have, for better or worse, a short film about cliff diving in a Mexican restaurant.
What’s stopping you from doing the same thing with your own subject matter?
Friday, August 15, 2008
"What happens when a couple thousand passionate speakers meet up in the coolest hotel on the busiest street of the most-celebrated city in the world? Well I don't know, but hold on to your bell bottoms, 'cause we're planning a shindig in Times Square that's sure to drop the ball a few months early."
Last weekend I attended the National Speaker's Association Convention. The NSA is a national organization founded in 1973 to help public speakers. It was all that the blurb above promised and more.
I spent 4 days in seminars watching great speakers share their secrets for success and learning everything I could about how to be a more effective public speaker, and how to get my message about writing ("Don't Get It Right - Get It Written") out to more people.
I saw many remarkable speakers with interesting life stories that caused them to become speakers. Among them was Chad Hymas, who had an incredible life story: His life changed instantaneously when a falling one ton bale of hay broke his neck. He was pronounced a quadriplegic, paralyzed from the chest-down, with limited function of his arms and hands. But instead of falling down, under the weight of his bad luck, he transformed his life and became a highly paid and respected speaker whose motto is: "Who Needs Legs When You Have Wings?"
I am reminded of a quote from the very underrated film Zero Effect, in which Gloria Sullivan (Kim Dickens) explains to our hero the mysterious Daryl Zero (as played by Bill Pullman) how the old addage "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger" isn't inaccurate, it's just incomplete, and then explains that she much prefers the motto: "What doesn't kill you defines you."
What inspired me about the convention is that once again art really does imitate life. The great stories that need to be told are out there.
As an exercise, think of a time in your life when you were faced with an obstacle. How did you handle it? Would this make a good movie?
Visit Chad Hymas on YouTube:
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
My assistant asked for a week off to attend the 66th Annual World Science Fiction Convention (aka WorldCon) in Denver, CO. I said, "yes," provided he bring a video camera to document his experiences.
So, armed with just a Flip Video and iMovie on his laptop, off he went. The first short film he sent back was not what I expected:
Friday, August 1, 2008
Yesterday, I visited the Sligo Middle School in Rockville, MD, where my book How to Write a Screenplay Using the Horowitz System™ - the Middle School Edition has been used in the pilot class of the advanced Lights, Camera, Literacy! program developed by Arla Bowers for the Montgomery County Public School system. The class was made up of nine advanced sixth graders who had spent the summer learning to make films, which are being screened today.
The film I viewed, a terrific horror film called The Death Box, was the story of a student - new to his school - who was being stalked by a ghost. The film was complete, with a beginning, a middle and an end, and focused on the hero's fears, as represented by the ghost. I was thrilled with the film because the core of my system is the dance between the action journey and the emotional journey. The fact that these 6th graders had learned such a complex idea in a few short weeks was truly a testament to their intelligence and drive to learn.
The other film, which was being rendered while I was there, is called Friendship and Distress. It's the story of a student who gets a summer job only to learn that her predecessor was fired unfairly. The two team up and get the first girl reinstated, and find a way for both of them to have summer jobs. I loved the idea of an alternate solution where no one had to lose, and that everyone could win in new and unexpected ways.
I hope to be able to print some of their journal entries from this process in a future post.
If you are a teacher or principal, and would like to learn more about this program, please feel free to contact me at email@example.com.