Category Archives: inspiration

Why I failed. 10 points…

I’ve given up on my screenplay. I hate giving up on anything. During my final screenwriting course session I reflected on why I failed.

1. I can always use the old excuse of life getting in the way. It has been especially busy for the last few weeks at work and participating in the Poetry By Heart competition, but you can always do things if you want to. However, teaching, more than any other job I’ve done, seems to drain you mentally and so I have time, just no brain space.

2. I didn’t love the story I chose. I wasn’t sold on it entirely and couldn’t figure out some of the characters.

3. I have been working on receiving criticism for the last few years. I used to be really bad at it, , but I know it’s a really important thing to get better at. However, I found the way the tutors gave me notes, was contradictory and unhelpful. I have realised that I need a lot of reassurance in my life.

4. I’m really not a writer. At all. I did finish The Hall last year when some friends and I did a writing competition, but it nearly killed me.

However, I have realised a lot of positives from the whole experience:

5. From doing the course, we have found out about a film production course at The Phoenix in May and June, which we may do and I think will be more my thing. I’ve also realised what a great place it is for getting involved, which will be really great when Joey lives here.

6. I have read some really nice books from the reading list. William Goldman and Stephen King have been great inspiration.

7. I’ve found a career I definitely don’t want to do.

8. I have realised that I was teaching screenwriting in a fairly conventional way. Although, maybe with more resources and variety. Two hours in a room with just one voice is tricky…

9. I’ve learnt all about formatting, which is very useful and really enjoyable.

10. It has been really nice doing something creative with Mark and seeing how much he enjoyed the process. I also really like his idea and hope he keeps working on ‘The Gloaming’.

I’ve also realised that I set myself big challenges and maybe I shouldn’t kill myself when I fail. It’s good enough just to try things.

What a sweetie!

Thank you Dirk Malcolm and the Dirk Malcolm Alternative Blog (http://wordpress.com/read/blog/id/13428146/) for your very kind comments. I hope everyone votes on the next challenge and keeps up with Dirk’s progress.

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Screenwriting course – assignments 1 and 2

These are the first two assignments for my screenwriting course. Any feedback is much appreciated.


Assignment 1

The Apartment (1960)
C. C. Baxter, a lowly worker from the masses is squirming his way in to the bosses’ favour by lending them his apartment for their dirty affairs. Miss Kubelik, the cute, damaged elevator girl, is the brightest part of his day. Unfortunately, she knows his home intimately. After cruel misunderstandings and lots of gin rummy, she finally sees the light.


My story:

The effects of war on a relationship. Josie has been married for 6 months to Rob, a UN peacekeeper, when he is blown up by a roadside IED. They go on a journey of recovery, which tests them entirely. Initially, this is physical rehabilitation, but the emotional and mental trauma is a more difficult challenge and they have to find and learn about each other again.


Assignment 2

A character that resonated with me:
I watched Amadeus at about 4 1/2 when I was meant to be tucked up in bed. I was completely engrossed in it and it led to me thinking I was Mozart for a while and wanting to be addressed as him. However, the character that intrigued me was Saliari. His bitterness and honesty were revelatory and his realisation of his own mediocrity was so brutal and adult.


A 1/2 page of my story:

As we see our protagonist Laura have a seemingly loving and sensual encounter, we cross-cut to a soldier being blown up by an IED in Afghanistan. Laura has decided that her six year marriage to an absent soldier is no longer making her happy after an intense liaison with a man from work. She leaves the marital home after writing a note and taking a final glance at the romantic image of how he proposed (candles, stones on a beach spelling out the question). The phone starts ringing as she shuts the door. As she kisses her new partner as he starts to drive her away, her mobile rings. Her husband has been seriously wounded.
At the airport his facial disfigurement is hidden until he gets very close. He is a shell of a man. They start the physical rehabilitation and she throws herself in to it to hide her guilt. However, the mental wounds are harder to heal and he is having continual flashbacks, nightmares and outbursts of anger. She is feeling increasingly isolated and pressured and is thinking of leaving. He finds the letter she wrote (in her panic she had just tucked it in to a book) and is devastated. He recreates the engagement scene in the garden, but with ‘I’m sorry’ and she realises that her husband is in there somewhere and starts a reconciliation.

10. ‘Aguirre, God of Wrath’ creative

Fit For Purpose Diary

Monday 17th June 2013

I imagine (and hope) it is not going to be as grueling as filming with Herzog, but I have decided to keep a diary of my last filmmaking adventure at Robert Smyth in homage to the diary style of Aguirre, God of Wrath.  Every year for the last four years Gavin and I, with the help of some very good people, have made a film during the summer exam leave.  This is designed to make me better at filmmaking so I can confidently teach it and to create useful resources when teaching filmmaking to the students.  I say all that, but really it is a way to have some fun, which we are unbelievably being paid for, during the weeks off teaching and because it really is the most amazing feeling when it goes well.  In previous years, we have made a music video, trailers, a horror scene, an example of continuity editing and and arthouse one shot film.  They are all available on my YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/hhurdley/videos

Anyway, this year we have decided to make a short film as it is something we haven’t done and we need one as a resource for the A2 film students.  Gavin has also had a bad knee for a while now and I thought I would base it on that.  We are looking for it to be three to five minutes long (to be honest, we’ll be lucky to get to three minutes) and we always like using foley in a fun way.  Last week I started to plan the story very roughly and today I storyboarded properly.  I was feeling a bit funny all morning and I thought a bit of drawing and planning would help my brain focus.  I am having problems with the concept of leaving Robert Smyth, even though I know I am ready to go, and doing this will help me have something to remember and concentrate on so I don’t start getting too emotional too early.

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I’ve checked it with Gavin (although I don’t think he’s looked at it properly, I bet Klaus Kinski was exactly the same) and he seems fine with it.  It is a fairly lo-fi film and I think we should be able to film it within the next few days and then we can start working on foley and editing, which may take longer.  We are normally one or two take people and it isn’t going to require a huge amount of props.  I am obviously anxious about getting it finished before I leave!

Tuesday 18th June

Today we worked on the production of props and final organisation before we start shooting tomorrow.  For some reason I am quite nervous about starting filming, maybe because I know it means I’m closer to going.  I have figured out a shooting schedule and that always makes me feel calmer.  After work yesterday I went and got some travel cosmetic bottles and they have now turned in to this:

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Wednesday 19th June

We started filming!  We have done some of the early shots of H Mann opening and receiving the letter and the title sequence.  I am having to do the filming, which is not my normal job and I have finally worked out about focus, which is a major breakthrough for me.  I just hope I have done it all right.  Gavin was not very Kinskiish, but he did seem quite nervous throughout the process.  He reckons he is not a good performer, but his acting of Eminem in the Lose Yourself video would disprove this.

Gavin camera

Thursday 20th June

Today we made excellent progress.  Gavin wasn’t here during period 1 to go to a doctor’s appointment about his knee problem (this film is completely meta) and then I was buying plane and train tickets during period 2, with a whole saga about fraud and HSBC.  Anyway.  We then realised that we had periods 3 and 4 and lunch to work on it only and Gavin is away doing some community work tomorrow.  So, we suddenly shot into action. We filmed the entire rest of the film in three different location, with different costumes and fairly complicated props.  At lunch we even managed to start editing, pretty good progress!  I honestly don’t know what these proper filmmakers do with their time and money.  I also really enjoyed having a white coat on, I felt  it imbued me with some extra power.

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storyboard doctor

Next week we need to finish our editing and start work on the sound.  I will obviously post results when they are finished.

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It was pretty uneventful really, I’m certainly no Herzog, but Gavin does have a few Kinski tendencies… Unfortunately, he has to do some outreach work tomorrow with dementia sufferers, so we can’t get any further.  So selfish!

10. Joint 90th – ‘Aguirre, God of Wrath’ (1972)

I have to admit that I have been putting off watching Aguirre, Wrath of God.  I had only watched Herzog’s documentaries and enjoyed them, but was slightly nervous about watching this from its legendary, should I say notorious, status.  I had heard a lot about this film and Fitzcarraldo, especially concerning the volatile relationship between Herzog and Klaus Kinski. I had also heard about the influence it had had on Apocalypse Now in 1979, which didn’t help as I’m not a huge fan of that film, with its bloated storytelling and self-indulgence, so I started watching with trepidation.

Watching Aguirre

As soon as I did, aided by a very old DVD that immediately started the film, I felt plunged  in to the incredible landscapes, actually feel slightly anxious for the actors involved, especially watching them come down the rapids on rafts in full armour or carrying a sedan chair through mud.  Herzog seems to like making his actors and crew work for their money, almost as if the suffering won’t be genuine if they aren’t experiencing it.  I’m not convinced and this kind of realism debate reminds me of the filming of Marathon Man when Dustin Hoffman was jogging around to appear tired and Laurence Olivier suggested he ‘try acting, dear boy’.   Although it does clearly works for this film and I’m not surprised that Cecilia Rivera, the actress playing Aguirre’s daughter, never made a film again!

This style  mirrors this physicality of production and some shots have water flying in to the lens or obscuring the shot.  These are contrasted with very static shots when focusing on the human story or the controlled spiraling around the boat towards the end. Kinski is also frenetic. He never seems to stand upright, but is constantly leaning over or tilted.  It reminds me of Olivier’s Richard III, not sure why he is in my mind so much this week… Kinski  is also always so close to the other actors. His face is strangely hypnotic, a constantly invading presence.

The story line is actually a very easy diary format, this simple narrative thread allows an episodic structure and gives some coherence for the audience to allow the madness to unfold.  That it contains maniacal, egotistical and ambitious men seems suitably matched to the humble diary format, it shows them off and allows their obsessive dreams to be described, rather than prescribed.

Thoughts:
A metaphor of  the trap of power, money and religion, shown by the ridiculous difference between the emperor and the soldiers.

I question why Herzog wants to punish himself, his actors and his crew so much? I love that Herzog shot it in sequence to show the deterioration.

Love the oneiric qualities of the final scene, the monkeys are amazing.

The soundtrack felt strange and difficult at first, but seemed to make sense by the end.

Creative:
Diary format
Landscapes with obscured parts
Too close or tilted images of the world.

7. ‘The Seventh Seal’ creative

A moody, glossy black and white of a landscape in La Palma

'The Seventh Seal'

6. Joint 93rd – ‘Intolerance’

1916, D. W. Griffiths, starring up to 3,000 extras, but also Lillian Gish and Constance Talmadge (who I still have a thing against because she was the sister of Buster Keaton’s mean wife Natalie).  I watched this online and at school waiting for my French class.  I have to admit that I wasn’t necessarily looking forward to the three hour run time, but realise that it is a crucial film to help me understand the progression of film.  This is the only D W Griffith on the BFI list, I presume the distasteful nature of The Birth of a Nation made sure it wouldn’t make it.

Intolerance

This film constantly refers to itself as a ‘play’.  I’m not sure if that is because it considered itself a photoplay or that it added some more gravitas.  The idea of a play is continued in the stagey (if lush) sets and the mostly long-shot static camera (although excited to read the book I have just got on the cinematographer Billy Bitzer)  However, there are some great forward tracking shots (to create the zoom effect that wasn’t around until 1932 for film cameras) and close-ups.  I really like the painterly, soft-focus way that faces, especially the female faces have been filmed. I can see an enormous influence for F W Murnau in them. It feels like an ancient religious icon and you can see why people have classed this as a great piece of universal art, along with Beethoven’s 5th.  It does have a timeless quality to it, despite not being well-received initially.

The narrative involves four different plots, that of ancient Babylon, Jerusalem in the time of Jesus, Renaissance France and modern America.  I’m not sure that I would have spent my energy on all four as the modern day story is by far the most engaging because of the human interest.  The Babylonian one has some amazing sets and I love the slaves opening the enormous gates and some of the fight sequences, but the French and Jerusalem settings do seem to  be filling in time (oh so much time!) without adding much to the response.  I definitely think I would agree with David Thomson’s analysis:

‘The cross-cutting, self-interrupting format is wearisome…. The sheer pretension is a roadblock, and one longs for the “Modern Story” to hold the screen…. [That story] is still very exciting in terms of its cross-cutting in the attempt to save the boy from the gallows. This episode is what Griffith did best: brilliant, modern suspense, geared up to rapidity — whenever Griffith let himself slow down he was yielding to bathos…. Anyone concerned with film history has to see Intolerance, and pass on’.

Other key things I liked or noticed:
  • Griffiths creates easy pathos – ‘the little dear one’ and ‘brown eyes’ as names for some of the female characters.  It also means it is universal, but also makes sure the spectator is aware of the response they should be having.
  • Recurring theme of the cradle rocking to indicate universality.
  • Impressive editing – love the irising, the complex cross-cutting and cross dissolves
  • A lot of intertitles – have recently re-watched ‘Sunrise’ and am so impressed in the ability to not use them. Amazing matte paintings
  • The dear one reminded me of Emily Watson
  • Typical view of Jesus, liked the use of lighting on him
  • In the harem dancing sequences, I liked the more realistic female bodies
  • It is weird to think that this was going on at the same time as WW1
  • Gets really exciting towards the end when they are trying to stop The Boy’s execution. Loved the camera following the speeding train.

Creative ideas:

A list of my intolerances (probably not as serious or universal, but I have many…)

A picture in soft focus.

A moving image that focuses on the set.

4. 93rd – ‘The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp’ creative

I have created a word collage of what I feel is Britishness:

Britishness wordle

Tagged

The plan.

Film and creative challenges are a passion.  For the last three years I have been using flickr to remind me to be creative.  I have completed the 365 challenge, a topic a week and a photographer a month – results on http://www.flickr.com/photos/hhurdley/

I would love to do an MA in film, but until I have the funding and the time I thought I could start making an effort to widen my film knowledge here.  But, I don’t want to consider film in a purely academic, critical way.

So – the plan.  I will use the critics’ choice top 100 from the 2012 Sight and Sound poll as a guide.  I will watch and write something (maybe a review, focus on an area of film language, consider some theory) and then use it as a springboard for creativity – possibly a photograph, poem, collage, alternate poster.  Theory into practice, practice into theory.

This is a big challenge and may take me a while, but all learning is good learning.  I will also document any books I read or other films I see of interest.

I thought I would start off the creativity by posting one of my photos from the Film exhibition by Tacita Dean.

At the Tate Modern